Chocolate and Parmesan Cake

A salty chocolate truffle is almost impossible to resist. The combination of contrasting flavours molds an intriguing taste where opposites, salty and sweet, become complementary.
Last week I decided to invent my own salty chocolate cake.  What a challenge!

Inspirations from the Markets

What a gastronomic adventure strolling around the street markets is. The vegetable and fruit stalls define the regional cuisines, outline the change of the seasons and inspire new recipes.

Torta Pasqualina

Torta Pasqualina, the popular pie from Genoa, is traditionally served on Easter day as an appetiser. Usually prepared with several layers of homemade thin sheets of pastry – sort of phyllo -, the pie is stuffed with vegetables, ricotta, Parmesan, marjoram and eggs. The Swiss chard is the main ingredient but you can find different versions of the dish with both chard and artichokes or with only artichokes. Each family has its own recipe in Genoa. A true inspiration.

Chickpea Fatte / Fattet Hummos

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a lady called Catherine, telling me that she bought both Lentils and Chickpeas, cooked many of the recipes and was pleased with the result. She also kindly offered to share her own chickpea tips, which help make them more digestible. I followed her instructions and found them useful.
Here is what she said:  (obviously she bought the French version):

'1. On peut les amener à ébullition quelques minutes dans leur 2e eau de trempage, puis écumer, les égoutter, les rincer, et les remettre à cuire définitivement dans une 2e eau salée.
2. J'ajoute un petit morceau d'algue kombu (3 cm environ) à la 2e eau de cuisson, en plus du sel. C'est une algue qu'on utilise en cuisine japonaise (pour la soupe miso par exemple). Elle ne donne pas de goût aux pois chiches mais apporte des minéraux et est réputée pour les rendre plus digestes.'

This is roughly what it means:

Stuffed vine Leaves or Mehshe Warak Inab

Food has it's own unsuspecting language; we use it everyday not only to nourish but also to bring people together, to express affection and to break barriers. When my Lebanese cousin married his Italian girlfriend, he took the Libaliano concept to an extreme.   To celebrate this momentous event, I hosted a lunch for family and friends. It was on the first day of spring and the weather promised sunshine and the option to sit out in the garden.

We started the celebrations with champagne and nibbles. I made pastry triangles filled with spinach and pine nuts - fatayer, which I served warm next to, minced meat and pine nut pastries or lahm bi ajeen. Later we ate rakakat bi jebne- crisp filo cheese rolls and - my favourite- pumpkin kibbe- plump little rolls made with burghol and pumpkin, stuffed with Swiss chard and walnuts.

Passatelli Asciutti

I had never thought of passatelli asciutti until last week, when I tasted them in a restaurant up in the Dolomites. I had them served with melted butter, sage, pumpkin and radicchio: a true delicacy, an original alternative to the classic passatelli in brodo, one of my favourite soups from Romagna.

Fusilli Pepe e Zafferano

Fusilli Pepe e Zafferano
Black pepper and saffron pasta sauce

With two spices, a bit of butter and plenty of Parmesan, I created a last minute pasta sauce, full of colour and flavour.
My inspiration was the spaghetti Cacio e pepe, one of the most classical dishes from Rome. The flavour simply comes from cheese (cacio) and black pepper (pepe), but it is the addition of few tablespoons of starchy pasta water that creates the creaminess of the sauce. As I wanted a full creaminess, I cooked my pasta in a small amount of water to keep all its starch.  I chose fusilli, as they are easy to stir, but any other short pasta would have worked.
This is a different way of cooking pasta, which needs care but gives an extraordinary final result.

Risotto Radicchio e Pera

I enjoy playing with risotto and its countless variations. Even the traditional Risotto alla Milanese appears in three different versions in the first Italian cookery book  La scienza della cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene, by Pellegrino Artusi. Let's be inventive with this delicious and versatile dish.

The Libaliano Kitchen turns up in Milan

On Wednesday 19th February 2014, during the glamorous fashion week, Libaliano Kitchen showed up in Milan to present its books on Lentils and Chickpeas.

Kitchen Victim hosted us in their beautiful and cheerful space, where we served up a recipe tasting from our books.

Artichokes and Potatoes

Artichokes and potatoes is a classic combination for a delicate winter side dish. I cook the two ingredients separately, and I only combine them at the end to keep the individual flavours and textures. The fresh rosemary is the perfect binding with its pungent aroma.

Risotto's Secrets

Risotto giallo con porcini secchi
(Saffron risotto with dried porcini mushrooms)

Risotto is  global. Restaurants and Risotterie serve many varieties of risotto around the world.  Risotto is a comfort food so versatile that it pleases almost everyone and it can be easily made at home as well, if you know the rules and secrets. A perfect risotto needs to have the right texture and flavour.
The choice of ingredients is vital.

Our 'Chickpeas' Journey - Beirut, 5th November 2013

'Chickpeas: traditional and contemporary recipes from the Mediterranean' was published by Tamyras, almost to the day, a year after 'Lentils'. On 5th November 2013, we had a signing at the Salon du Livre Francophone in Beirut and we were delighted to see many friends, familiar faces as well as the unexpected visit of Valerie Trierweiler who promptly took our book and graciously posed for a photo holding 'Chickpeas' well in view!
The format of 'Lentils' proved popular so 'Chickpeas' looks very much the same with the addition of sweet recipes such as cakes, biscuits and puddings.