Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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Is the humble cauliflower enjoying a new renaissance? Whether you work in food or simply enjoy your home-cooking time, it appears that this pearly white cluster of florets is now proudly sitting at the forefront of the pantry. We have devised creative ways to turn it into cous cous and have compounded it into pizza bases (although the jury is still out on that one…), we are using it as a potato substitute in thick, wintery soups and enjoy it raw, thinly sliced like a carpaccio. Is there anything cauliflower can’t do? It turns out, you can also roast it until deliciously caramelized and crunchy, but still tender to the bite. With the added nutritional boost provided by vitamin C, K, B6 and folate, I am pretty much convinced that cauliflower wears the crown as the healthiest cruciferous!

INGREDIENTS, SERVES 4

1 cauliflower heard, cut into florets

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of baby capers, roughly chopped

2 anchovy fillets, thinly chopped

1-2 French shallots, finely chopped

1 small chillie, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

2 more tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper for seasoning

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METHOD

1. Pre-heat you oven to 200 C (395 F)

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil  and cook the cauliflower florets for 5-8 minutes, or until soft but still retaining some firmness. Drain well then tumble onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Season with oil, salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until golden.

3. Make the dressing by mixing together baby capers, anchovies, chillies, vinegar and oil. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. Pour the dressing over the roasted cauliflower florets and scatter fresh herbs on top. Enjoy warm or at room temperature as a light lunch or a side dish.

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Farfalle with Walnut and Zucchini Pesto and Beans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you have a vegan friend come over for lunch? Look no further! This pasta dish epitomizes Italian home-cooking at its best and it so happens that is it ticks all the boxes when it comes to catering for particular dietary needs. This dish is a perfect balance of protein, fibre, vitamins and carbohydrates, combined together to create a tasty and highly nutritious meal. A generous topping of lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper will give these vegan-friendly bow ties a burst of flavour that will obliterate the memory of meat or dairy!

INGREDIENTS Serves 4

1 cup of shelled walnuts

1/4 clove of garlic

1 cup of basil

1/3 cup of mint

1 medium zucchini

1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tin of cannellini beans, well drained

380 gr of farfalle pasta (or any short pasta you like)

basil and mint leaves

lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper

HOW TO

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

2. Boil the zucchini for 2 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon. Drop in the pasta and stir well

3. While the pasta is cooking, make your pesto by blitzing the zucchini, garlic, walnuts, herbs and olive oil in a food processor. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly

4. Combine the pesto and the beans in a large bowl and mix well. When the pasta is ready, drain it, but reserve a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water. Mix the pasta with the sauce and beans. If too dry, add the pasta cooking water. Dust with pepper and thinly grated lemon zest, top with a few leaves and serve hot

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Watch Made in Italy with Silvia Collocaon DVD

Silvia’s Cucina the cookbook is available in stores and online!

Silvia’s new book Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca is on sale now!

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Healthy brown Quinoa, grilled Chicken and Walnut Salad

DSC_1250Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride and excitement that I present to you a spectacular bowl of HEALTH! The mega properties of quinoa have been unveiled by fervent nutritionists all over the globe, but for those you have missed out on the latest food craze, here is a little insight on why this seed is soon to become you new best friend: quinoa is incredibly high in protein, is rich is dietary fiber and phosphorous, and is an excellent source of iron and magnesium, as well as calcium. Good news is that it is gluten-free and suitable for vegans and those who need to keep away from wheat. But, best of all, it tastes beautiful when paired with a few fresh ingredients and gently coated with luscious extra-virgin olive oil.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

1 cup of uncooked brown quinoa

4 skinless chicken thighs

1 cup of green beans, topped and tailed

1/2 cup of shelled walnuts

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

a squeeze of lemon

HOW TO

1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water, place in a pot covered with water by 2 cm (1 1/2 inch). Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid and cook over low heat for 12-14 minutes or according to packet instructions. Turn off the heat and allow to cook a bit more with the residual heat from the pot. I like quinoa to have  a bit of a bite, shall we say and Al Dente personality, but feel free to cook it longer if you favour a softer texture.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, steam or blanch the green beans. I like to cook them for 3-4 minutes and then rinse them under cold water to preserve their vibrant green hue.

3. Grill the chicken thighs on the BBQ or on a griddle pan, over medium high heat, until nicely caramelized and cooked through. Rest on a plate for 5 minutes to allow the flesh to relax. For a meat-free option, you can replace the chicken with poached eggs or grilled tofu.

4. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan until they smell fragrant. Set aside.

5. To serve, mix quinoa, beans, parsley, walnuts in a bowl and season with 3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter, top with grilled chicken (or eggs, or tofu) and enjoy!

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Leek, Potato and Cannellini Beans Soup (Zuppa di Porri, Patate e Cannellini)

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As the winter season approaches here in Sydney, I feel a fervent yearning for heart-warming food, the kind that will nourish you body and will comfort your soul as you perfume the house with scented candles, dim the lights and snuggle under a blanket to catch your favourite show or, in my case, read a cookery book. I am more of a summer person, and yet I find myself happily surrendering to the inevitable winter chills and shorter days as I head to the stove to make scalding hot soups, ready to be enriched with seasonal goods.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced and well washed

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 celery stick, sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 small handful of smoked speck or pancetta (or chorizo), cut into cubes, omit for a vegetarian/vegan option

1 tin of cannellini beans, well drained and rinsed

3/4 cup of baby pasta (ditalini, orzo, risoni…)

salt and pepper to taste

chillies and celery leaves to serve, optional

HOW TO

1. Heat up the oil in a medium saucepan, drop in the leeks and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes or until soft.

2. Add the potatoes and celery along with the garlic  and pancetta and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the beans and cover with water. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

4. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

5. Puree 1/3 of the soup in a food processor or blender then add it back to the pot. Add the baby pasta and cook in the soup until al dente (you may need to add a little water to the pot, just enough to make sure the pasta is well covered)

6. Serve drizzled with evoo, back pepper and celery leaves and some freshly chopped chillies for a little extra kick.

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Minestrone con Cavolo Nero, (Tuscan Kale Vegetable Soup) Super food in a bowl!

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This is the ultimate Italian winter meal. You may call it minestrone, I have dubbed it “super food in a bowl”! How can you go wrong when your meal is packed-full of dark green, robust leaves, antioxidants and vitamins? With the added nutrients of borlotti beans, extra-virgin olive oil and the kick of chillie, you have secured yourself a spa treatment for your insides that is sure to keep you warm from the first winter chill. Minestrone with cavolo nero is so much more than just a soup, so rich of  revitalizing and hearty deliciousness, you feel restored and healthier after each mouthful.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 leek, well washed and thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 small carrot, sliced

1 celery stick, sliced

1 chunk of parmesan cheese crust (optional, omit for a vegan version)

2 potatoes

1 small handful of diced pancetta or speck (omit for a vegetarian, vegan version)

2 cups of fresh borlotti beans (or two tins, well rinsed. Alternatively, soak  2 cups of dried beans for 12 hours, then cook in simmering water for 2 hours)

2/3 cup tin tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup of Brussel sprouts, quartered and outer leaves removed

4-5 cavolo nero leaves, stalk removed, shredded

3/4 of baby pasta (such as ditalini, orzo, macaroni)

Extra-virgin olive oil (or Chillie oil) to serve

HOW TO

1. Sautee’ the sliced and chopped vegetables with the oil in a large saucepan. Add the pancetta and cheese crust (if using)

2. Add the potatoes and the beans, the tomatoes and cover with water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the beans are tender. (if using tinned beans, only add them 25 minutes into cooking the potatoes with the rest of the vegetables)

3. Add salt and pepper (only salt the beans after they are cooked, or they will wrinkle up)

4. Add a handful of Brussel Sprouts, the shredded cavolo nero and 3/4 cup of baby pasta (I used ditalini)

5. Cook for 7-8 minutes or until the pasta is nicely al dente. Turn off the heat.

6. Serve hot with a good swirl of extra-virgin olive oil or chillie oil.

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I am not feeling the cold tonight…

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