Celebrity Italian Table - a Free Cookbook with a Cause

I was reading one of my favorite blogs and was attracted to her latest entries. Pinch My Salt came across this site from a fellow blogger Spicy Salty Sweet and it offers a free cookbook. WOW!

The Celebrity Italian Table offers a free download of their cookbook which features celebrated-known personalities from the America, famous Italian chefs and prominent U.S. party planners. The cookbook offers special wonderful pasta dishes and are accompanied with a beautiful and creative table setting concepts to match.

Not only does this delight cook enthusiasts such as moi, but it also allows us to help feed the unfortunate. Barilla's program, which is on its second year, promotes awareness and money to support America's Second Harvest, a US charity that donates 2 billion pounds of food products annually. For each downloaded copy, Barilla will donate $1, up to $100,000, and this will help reach out and feed the less fortunate. The cookbook will be available for the whole month of February, 2008 in PDF format.

Corn Soup

Japanese sweet corn is served boiled, buttered and lightly salted at home. It is sometimes added to dishes like Bulalo or Nilagang Baka (boiled beef stew) that gives a sweetness to the dish. At home, when ever we would get fresh corn ears, we would either just boil them or make corn soup. It is one of the comfort foods that is enjoyed with fried or grilled foods.

The Ingredients;
3-4 ears of fresh sweet corn, cleaned
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, minced
1/2 - 1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 teaspoon corn oil
3-4 cups of water or broth
a handful (approximately 2/3 cup) of chile pepper or cayenne leaves (dahon ng siling labuyo)
salt and white pepper to taste.

Cooking Procedure:
Remove the corn kernels from the cob by running a sharp knife through it. If you want a chunky style corn soup, run the knife as close as you can get through the cob. If you wish a more finer and creamier version, run the knife through the kernels, scraping the top slightly. Repeat for 4-5 times until you get all of the kernels and pulp. You may notice a white kind of liquid coming out, this is the "milk" that makes the soup creamier. Set this aside.

Saute ginger slices, onions and garlic in 1 teaspoon of corn oil. Heat through until the onions and garlic are tender but not burnt. Add in the shredded corn and saute thoroughly for 3-4 minutes. Pour in liquid and season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture simmer until the corn is cooked. Add in the chile pepper or cayenne leaves and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot with croutons or as is.

My Notes:
- You may add 1/2 cup of shrimps, bacon, ham or pancetta for a more flavorful soup. You may add these after you saute the ginger, onions and garlic or add this in the end. For the raw shrimps, add them after sauting the aromatics until they slightly turn pink. As for the ham, bacon or pancetta, cook them until they caramelize with the aromatics. Then add in the corn and continue with the rest of the procedure.

- Use a blender or food processor if you wish to have a more smoother consistency.

- A 250ml all-purpose cream or full cream milk may be added to make a creamier corn soup. Add this towards the end of the cooking process. Let it simmer until it reaches to the preferred consistency.

- If chile pepper or cayenne leaves are not available, you may substitute with onion leeks, parsley or cilantro. But the taste would not be the same since it may lack the "slight peppery" flavor.


Dean & DeLuca

My brother brought home a couple of chocolate pieces and he brought these bars. This reminded me of the defunk tv series Felicity where the main character Felicity Porter (Keri Russell) worked for a coffee shop called Dean & DeLuca through out her college years.

During my visits in the US, I never had the chance of visiting the coffee shop since I have never had the chance of visiting New York. Maybe on my next visit, I would drop by and try them out. And in relation to the actress that played Felicity, Keri Russell starred in a movie titled "Waitress". She is again portraying a role of a waitress, but this time in a small dinner which specializes in all types of pies. She creates all these unique creations of pies and dreams of having her own place and live a better life away from her possessive husband. An inspiring flick that encourages adventure in creating different pies.

Spinach DIp

When mom came home, she brought 2 small tubs of spinach dip from Trader Joe's. She said that it was her latest addiction. So when both containers were found in the dish washer, I know I had to find a recipe that was similar to Trader Joe's. After a couple of trials, I finally was able to find one that is if not exactly the same, it was the closest it could get.

It is a pretty easy recipe to follow. This may be served with baked pita chips, Nachos or vegetable sticks.

The Ingredients:
1 10 oz frozen spinach, defrosted or 500 grams fresh spinach
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dill, chopped
1/2 teaspoon onion salt (if this is not available, add 1/4 cup finely chopped onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt*)
1/4 cup spring green onions, minced
1 8oz. water chestnuts, drained, minced or 1 cup singkamas, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced (optional)

Cooking Procedure:
For fresh spinach: Remove spinach leaves from stems and clean over running water. Blanch the fresh spinach leaves for a minute to two, if there are no precooked spinach available. Take out from the heat and place it in an ice cold bath (a bowl of cold water with ice) to stop the cooking process.

Squeeze out the excess liquid from the leaves then loosen them over a towel. Make the sure the towel has absorbed most of the leaves' moisture. Once they have been fully drained, chopped the leaves finely and place in a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients.

Mix all ingredients together and chill for at least 4 hours. Serve cold with chips or fresh vegetables.

My Notes:
I add the salt last so I could control the amount of sodium added into the recipe. I add a pinch or 1/8 teaspoon at a time.


Going Calamares

Look how time flies when your busy with work, errands and other things. I do apologize for being gone for a long time. I have been busy with work and running errands for my family and friends. My aunt who came visiting just went back to the USA last week. So I have been running around looking for gifts that she will bring back. At the same time my brother came home to visit. Not only that I am helping a HS girlfriend with her wedding preparations. As a result, I have a ton of photos that need editing, posts that needs to be written and entries that I still plan to make. So things have been pretty hectic.

As for this entry, I would like to share with you one of our favorite dishes. Calamares is made out of squid's body that is skinned, cleaned, sliced into rings, coated with corn or potato flour, dipped in beaten eggs and deep fried until crisp. This is paired off with either tartar sauce, sweet chilli sauce or mayo mustard dip. Personally I prefer using potato starch or flour than corn flour. It produces a more crunchier and crispier calamares.

Did I mention that it is made out of squid body? You might be wondering what about the head. We add that too and fry it as well. But we make sure that the squid heads are dried well else it would be too moist and would not turn into crispy pieces.

The Ingredients:
1/2 kilo fresh squid, skinned, cleaned and ink sacs removed
salt and pepper
2 tsp. lemon juice
ginger slices
1 beaten egg
potato flour
cooking oil

Cooking Procedure:
After cleaning, detach the head from the body of the squid. Slice the body into rings by 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch wide. Marinated in lemon juice and ginger slices to remove the fishy smell for about 20 minutes. Remove from the lemon juice and ginger and lay out on a rack to air dry a bit. Lightly coat with potato flour each piece, dip in the beaten egg then coat again with the potato flour. Fry by batches in very hot oil. Once the crust has turned golden brown, take it out of the oil and drain. Make sure that you do not over cook the squid else them may become tough.

Place drained cooked calamares on a dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with sweet chili sauce, ketchup, vinegar or tartar sauce.

My Notes:
- Use potato flour instead of corn starch. But if it is not available, cornstarch or corn flour.
- After cleaning the squid, air dry the squid to lessen the moisture.
- When cooking, the oil should be hot enough and the squid should be cooked in batches. Do not over-crowd the pan because this may cause the oil's temperature to drop.
- For a spicier approach, sprinkle salt, ground pepper and pepper flakes over hot cooked calamares.


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