White Bean Soup | Zuppa di Fagioli

Here I sit at the (usually) hottest part of the year, and as I write it is a cool day, and wet. So we find ourselves wanting Autumnal food. Having made a risotto yesterday, I am using the remainder of the stock to make a white bean soup – luckily I had the forethought to soak the beans overnight. You have to bless the Italians, right? Simple food with great flavours.

This soup is just gorgeous because the beans just seem to float in this gorgeous broth.

White beans are great – versatile for Summer in Salads, and in Winter for Soups, pasta sauces and more hearty dishes. Use cannellini or haricot beans when white beans are specified. Keep them in your pantry year-round.

Other White Bean recipes include: Grilled Eggplant Salad with Pine Nuts, White Beans and Pita Chips, Florentine Beans, and Tuscan Beans with Sage and Lemon.

All of our Cannellini Bean recipes are here, and our Haricot Bean recipes here.  See all of our Italian recipes. Or browse our wonderful Soups. Our easy Mid Autumn recipes are all here.

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Cheese and Eggplant Torte | Cheesy Eggplant Layers

Yet another divine use for eggplant – such a versatile vegetable. This time it is a cheesy torte – eggplants layered, Italian style, with cheeses, baked, allowed to rest and firm up, then cut into wedges to serve. What could be better? It makes a great lunch or supper, or works very well in a tapas spread, mezze or antipasto. It even makes a great any-time snack.

Eggplant is so flexible, and very variation tastes so good. You can bake it, simmer it, steam it, BBQ it, grill it, roast it, saute it and deep fry it. I hope you try some of these recipes.

It makes great Indian style Chutney, Curries, Salads, Fritters, Pasta Sauces, Rice dishes, and gentle dishes.

As well as all of these Eggplant recipes, you might like to also browse our Italian recipes and our easy Late Summer dishes.

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Hand Made Pesto | Zeffirino Pesto

Hand made, home made pesto is the most exquisite of creations. Do try it.

I first made it long ago, when I took a cooking class with Bill Grainger of the famous Bills Restaurants in Sydney, and author of many Sydney-style cookbooks. He made pesto by hand in the class. At home, Bill didn’t keep a lot of gadgets in his kitchen and didn’t have a blender!! So at home he always made it by hand. A man after my own heart – Meditation in the kitchen through manual grinding. There is something about pesto that you make yourself, especially if you grow your own basil.

This recipe is enough to make you reach for the basil plant, and bring the mortar and pestle out of the cupboard. You can smell the basil even while reading the recipe…. and taste the pasta.

Are you looking for pasta sauces? Try Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, Baked Tomato Pasta Sauce, and Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomato.

You might also like our Pesto recipes here and here. All of our Pasta Sauce recipes are here. Or you might like to browse our Italian recipes here and here. Alternatively, take some time to check out our easy Mid Summer recipes.

Feel free to browse other recipes from our Retro Recipes series – vegetarian recipes from our first blog from 1995 – 2006.

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Chickpea Fingers with Tomato Salsa

Shallow fried chickpea flour bite sized snacks

A really nice snack to have when you are hot or tired or jet lagged, made with chickpea flour. It takes about 30 mins including cooling time.

Chickpea flour, also called besan or gram flour, is an essential ingredient in the kitchen, especially for Indian cooking. It makes a great batter, thickener, thin fritter or pan cake style pudla/cheela, and other goodies. Why not also try Pudla with Green Coriander and Mung Sprouts, Crispy Battered Onion Rings, and Gram Flour Vada. Going Italian, try the wonderful Farinata with Tomatoes and Onion. If it is desserts that you are after, try this Besan Custard.

Feel free to browse all of our Chickpea Flour recipes here and here. Our Salsa recipes are here. Or you might like to browse Snack recipes here and here. Check out our easy Mid Summer Recipes.

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Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce

Secrets from an Italian Kitchen

I have been reading the book The Everlasting Meal . The thing about The Everlasting Meal is that it has me thinking a lot about my approach to the kitchen. It resonates a lot. Yet, Tamar discusses a very Mediterranean-Italian approach to food so there are differences. I have been discussing her book with my Italian friends, and discovering more and more secrets. Like this one — and it amazes me that this is not general knowledge in Australia, given that we have adopted so much of the Italian approach to food here. Italian in Australia is like Indian in the UK.

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Beetroot and Pinot Risotto

Like rubies, real rubies, the Prince of Vegetables – such is the humble beetroot. This is another beetroot risotto, a perfect combination of the earthy taste of beetroot with the creaminess of risotto. Such an unusual colour! It is beautiful served on white or green plates. A splendour of colour! Stand back and wait for the spontaneous applause which is sure to come.

You might like to explore other Risotto recipes here and here. Our Beetroot recipes are here and here. Or browse our Italian dishes here and here. If you are after Spring recipes, our Mid Spring dishes are here.

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Orange and Olive Salad with Mint and Basil

Bounce into (almost) summer with a sweet citrus salad with Italian flavours. Simply mix herbs with orange, onion and olives – what a wonderful homage to this stunning weather. May there be much more of it. This is the time to enjoy eating outside under the shade of a tree with a carafe of white wine, salads and fresh flatbread, and lots of fruits with creme fraiche. For this salad, use navel oranges if they are of good quality (easy to peel), but grab some more seasonal ones if they look better and juicier.

You might like to browse our other Orange Salads here, our Citrus Salads, or our other Salad Recipes here and here (we have a lot!) Our Italian dishes are here and here. Or simply explore our recipes for Early Summer.

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Asparagus Risotto with Basil

Perfectly Spring.

Here is a beautiful spring risotto, made with asparagus. This gorgeous, simple and delicious green risotto really shows off the flavours of the asparagus.

What is it about this risotto? It is the first of the season’s asparagus that is looked forward to by Italians with a lot of joy. Asparagus risotto, with its melting creaminess offset against the chew of the rice and the delicacy of young asparagus, enriched with butter and  parmesan which is whipped into the rice at the end, is a joy to create and a pleasure to eat.

The secret to the dish is softened asparagus, properly cooked rice and using good risotto rice. Strictly an entree dish in Northern Italy, in Australia we have turned this into a one-course meal. It pairs well with a fresh green garden salad.

Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series. You might also like our Risotto recipes here and here. Or you might like to browse Asparagus recipes here and here. Check out our easy Spring recipes here and here.

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Florentine Beans | Fagioli alla Fiorentina

Tuscans are known as mangiafagioli, bean eaters. White beans are a way of life, and a traditional Tuscan meal often starts with a thick bean soup that has been cooked in a terracotta pot, flavoured with herbs and heavily anointed with olive oil. This one is cooked on the stove top for convenience, and is flavoured with sage, garlic and olive oil.

Eat these Tuscan beans with thick slices of real bread – one with a delicious crust and a chewy interior. If you like, spoon the beans over bread, slightly toasted. You will love it.

You might also like Tuscan Beans Baked with Lemon and Sage. Browse our Cannellini Bean recipes and here; and our Italian recipes here and here. Or simply explore our Late Spring dishes.

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Italian Tomato Sauce

A very versatile Italian Sauce

This is a gorgeously herby tomato sauce with an Italian swagger. It cooks slowly down then is blended well (using a blender) or coarsely (with an immersion blender), and the sauce can be frozen. It pairs delightfully with cheeses like fontina, can serve as a fresh chutney, used as a spread in layered sandwiches and toasties, and of course serves as a sauce as well.

It was my daughter who first pointed out how good this recipe is. It has been in use in our household since 1998. That is how good it is!

Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series. You might also like our Tomato recipes here and here. Or you might like to browse Sauce recipes here and here. Check out our easy Autumn recipes here and here.

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Elegant Orzo Pasta with Wilted Spinach and Pine Nuts

A wonderful salad

A spinachy and great dish shared recently with a friend was a beautiful orzo salad. In this recipe, the orzo we are using is a Greek, rice-shaped pasta, similar to the Italian Risoni. Don’t confuse it with the Italian orzo, which is barley.

You might like to browse our other Salad recipes here and here, and Spinach Salads here. Our Pasta recipes are here and here. Or explore the Spinach recipes here and here.

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Italian Farmhouse Barley and Vegetable Soup | Zuppa di Orzo

A creamy and hearty soup for mid to late Winter, even into the cold of Spring

In October, 2001, I shifted back to cold Adelaide from temperate Sydney, and the cold weather was a shock! It had me craving soups. In Sydney I was not so keen on the more traditional English and heavy European food any longer – I had turned towards more Indian, Asian and Spicy food. However, coming back into the cold in Adelaide from warm Sydney made me hunger for hearty food – pasties, puddings and soups. How much heartier can you get than Barley Soup?

This really  is a hearty soup, made with caramelised vegetables that come together with the barley (some whole and some pureed) to make a great, Italian soup. Beautifully creamy, it is a delight for cold nights and wet weekends.

If you have been preserving and freezing foods in Autumn for Winter, this is a time to use chillies, garlic and tomatoes from your freezer. It makes it sooo easy.

It can be a tad confusing, as orzo in Italian is barley while in Greek it is rice shaped pasta. For this recipe, we are definitely using barley.

You might also like our Soup recipes here and here. We have a few Barley Recipes which will be published in the coming months. Our Italian recipes are here and here. Check out our easy Winter recipes here and here. And feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series.

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Farinata with Tomato, Onions and Cheese

A beautiful Italian snack

The use of chickpea flour for endless varieties of dishes fascinates me. Having made pudla again for lunch yesterday, I remembered that we hadn’t made farinata for a long time. It is great for a brunch with some salads.

The toppings for farinata are endless and only limited by your imagination. The key is to avoid juicy toppings. Today we added olive paste to the batter and topped the farinata with cheese.

You might also like to make Simple Farinata, and Farinata “Pizza”. Browse all of our Farinata recipes here. Or explore our Italian recipes here and here. We have other Chickpea Flour recipes here and here.

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A Indian-Rasam Style Spicy Tomato and Dal Soup

Ingredients from the freezer – Lunch is prepared in 15 minutes.

Every county has the concept of fusion cooking. Close to country borders, techniques, ingredients and dishes from neighbouring countries are adopted. Food fashion makes dishes from a different country popular and elements of their cuisine are adopted nationally. A great example is the initial influx of Chinese style food into Australia. No-one from China would have recognised the popular Chinese food – it was a fusion of Chinese techniques and tastes adapted for Australian preferences. The story repeats for the introduction of Italian, Greek, SE Asian, Vietnamese etc food, and the same process is repeated around the world. The food is always adapted for the strong preferences of the local population.

In this household we have tastebuds attuned at least a little to Italian, French and South East Asian flavours, not to mention the Australian preferences for flavour combinations. So sometimes I play with my beloved Indian flavours to create a dish close to but just not quite traditionally Indian.

Feel free to browse our Rasam recipes here and here.  Or you might be interested in our Indian recipes here and here. We have a number of tomato soup recipes here and here. Or get inspiration from our Summer dishes here and here.

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Seasonal Cooking | 6 Ways to Cook and Eat for Healthy Living in Spring

For those parts of the world that are moving into Spring, inspiration for healthy spring eating.

Maintaining a balanced diet is the first casualty of a busy lifestyle. I often wonder what on earth we women did when we left the home and went out to work. (Please, no spam about this. I am ancient enough to have been a part of that movement and I will bore you to death with stories should you dare spam me about this. It was an exciting, exhilarating time for women. But now? We rock the cradle, clean the house AND run a business.) Continue reading “Seasonal Cooking | 6 Ways to Cook and Eat for Healthy Living in Spring”