Every Mother’s Day, our family always gets together to plan and cook dinner for me. This year, I decided to surprise them and prepare my favorite dishes for everyone to enjoy.
The dishes I am making remind me of our wonderful Italian journeys. I remember one year in Tuscany, in the spring, when all the fresh-picked fava beans filled the market place and there was a mad dash by locals to fill their baskets.
We have fava beans growing alongside our bocce court that are ready to harvest, and this is the best time to prepare Fava Beans With Pecorino Cheese. They are now available at the farmers markets. Cook them, add diced fresh pecorino cheese and olive oil for a special treat.
I love fresh asparagus in the spring. When we are in Italy during asparagus season, it is always a joy to see how many delightful ways Italians serve this vegetable. So perfect for a Mother’s Day menu.
The first time we had the amazing and simple dish Prinz Grill Asparagus and Fried Eggs was at the Prinz Grill, a restaurant in Biella, Italy, and we kept going back for more. As a matter of fact, you can find it in my cookbook “Italy Cooks.”
A trip to Barolo wine country, in the Piedmont region, was the first time we enjoyed a new way to prepare risotto. Try Barolo Wine Confetti Risotto, and you will love it as much as we do.
Homemade ricotta cheese is one of my favorite desserts. When I explain to friends that making fresh ricotta is as fast and simple as it takes to boil milk and cream, they can’t believe it. Just add lemon juice and, presto, you have fresh ricotta cheese to serve with olive oil, honey or fresh fruit.
I plan to have copies of the recipes available for my family, since so many of them love to cook.
FAVA BEANS WITH PECORINO CHEESE
This can be made with raw fava beans, as long as they are fresh. Blanching them quickly makes them much easier to peel.
3 cups shelled fresh fava beans (from about 3 pounds in the pods)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh pecorino cheese, shaved or coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper
Using fresh fava beans, cook in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, transfer to a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Drain and peel off outer shell of the beans.
Toss beans, olive oil and cheese in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and spoon into small bowls.
Serves 6 to 8.
“When we are in Italy during asparagus season, it is always a joy to see how many delightful ways Italians serve this vegetable.”
PRINZ GRILL ASPARAGUS AND FRIED EGGS
48 asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine
1 garlic clove, minced
8 eggs (or 16 quail eggs)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
Tie the asparagus in a bundle with kitchen string and steam it standing up in a pot of simmering water. When it is tender-crisp, drain the asparagus, remove the string and place 6 spears each on 8 heated plates.
In a large skillet, melt half of the butter with half of the garlic over medium heat and fry 4 eggs sunny-side up, with the yolk slightly runny. With a metal spatula, carefully transfer the eggs and place on top of the asparagus. Repeat with the remaining eggs, and spoon the butter and garlic over all. Season with salt and pepper, and top with Parmesan cheese.
BAROLO WINE CONFETTI RISOTTO
Sautéed Confetti Vegetables (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or nondairy margarine)
1 1/2 cups finely diced leeks, white and tender green parts, cleaned
2 1/2 cups Arborio rice (or short-grain pearl rice)
2 cups Barolo wine
6 to 8 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Prepare the Sauteed Confetti Vegetables and keep warm.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat (melt) butter and add leeks. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute to coat with butter. Add wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When all the wine has been added and reduced, begin to add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Wait until each addition of stock is almost completely absorbed before adding the next cup. Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at a time, until all of it is absorbed (total cooking time is 18-20 minutes). Taste the risotto frequently toward the end of the cooking process (rice should be tender). Just before the risotto is done, add the sautéed vegetables, Parmesan cheese and cream, and stir gently. Add salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into warm bowls and sprinkle parsley on top.
Serves 8 to 10.
SAUTEED CONFETTI VEGETABLES
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup chopped carrots, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 cup chopped zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 cup chopped red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch dice
In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat and sauté the carrots, zucchini and bell pepper until tender but crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Keep warm.
Makes about 2 cups.
JUDY’S FRESH RICOTTA CHEESE
If you can’t travel to Panzano, Italy, to have the village cheesemaker, Signora Grazia’s ricotta, here is my simple and quick recipe that creates a smooth, velvety ricotta cheese. It is delicious with honey or olive oil for a breakfast, lunch or dinner treat.
1/2 gallon milk
1 cup cream
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Honey for garnish
Heat the milk, cream and salt over low heat until liquid is about to boil. Add lemon juice, stir a few times and when mixture begins to curdle, remove from the heat. Let curds rest for a couple of minutes. Using a slotted spoon, skim the ricotta curds from the whey and place them in a colander or wire sieve lined with cheesecloth. Drain for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a drizzle of honey.
Makes about 1 pound.
Judy Zeidler is a cooking teacher and cookbook author.