So we are going to go back in time a little with this post. I hope you all don’t mind the time warp this blog sometimes is! It is hard sometimes figuring out when to post what! The life of a food blogger is all about organization…and sometimes the lack thereof.
Anyway, as you all know, the week before our wedding, Anna, Roberto’s mom came to stay with us. She is a food blogger and member of The Foodie Blogroll!
Her blog AnnaGarau.com features recipes from her native Sardinia. It is a great blog, full of wonderful anecdotes about Sardinia as well as beautiful pictures and she is quite the chef. It is in Italian, so if you want to check it out, and I recommend that you do, use one of those handy dandy translators like this translator from Google. You can even watch a video of traditional Sardinian dancing and singing – something Sardinians are known for. When she was here at our house, she was updating that post and we were having such a good time. I was really pleased to be able to have a “private” lesson with this great Italian cook in my own kitchen when she was here visiting us from Rome.
When I ask Roberto about his favorite foods that he remembers his mom making, the first thing out of his mouth is always Involtini or stuffed, rolled beef. However, he is always vague about exactly what her involtini are stuffed with. Out of desperation, once, I made these “involtini” stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, spinach and feta cheese.
They were delicious, but not involtini. So I was thrilled when Anna was here that she was delighted to show me how to make her involtini. She also made these fabulous eggplant patties that were very tasty. I am certainly making both of these again…in fact in honor of writing this post we are having leftover involtini tonight (The day I post this, may not be the day I wrote this…you know how the time warp is…)
It was very interesting going to the grocery store with Anna to get the ingredients. Many things that she is used to cooking with, just doesn’t exist here, or are not easily found, like pancetta (bacon that is not smoked) and butchers for that matter who can slice the meat super thin for involtini. So we had to be inventive. We got the thinest slices of beef we could find and we had to settle for bacon.
The first thing she did was chop a large handful of fresh herbs – parsley and basil. She mixed it with finely chopped onions, a minced clove of garlic and salt and pepper. There might have been a little bit of olive oil too… then she put a bit of this mixture, a thin slice of carrot and a thin slice of high quality parmesan cheese (thankfully we do have that!) onto each piece of meat and rolled the meat up, securing it with toothpicks.
Then she heated some olive oil and a little bit of butter in my cast iron skillet, placed a few sage leaves and then seared the involtini on all sides, cooking for about 10 minutes in a covered pan. Then she added a large drinking glass of white wine and another of water to cover the involtini and then cooked everything, uncovered, over a medium high heat until it reduced down into a “creamy” sauce, turning the involtini every few minutes to ensure even cooking.
The sauce isn’t really what I would call creamy, but it is a little frothy, especially with the cheese inside the involtini melting out and mixing with the wine. Anna says she always cooks beef with white wine, as it makes the reductions creamier and gives the meat a lighter taste and she just likes it better that way! We ate these involtini with my Pap’s Potatoes and Swiss Chard.
Then she also made a favorite of mine, meatless meatballs, made from eggplant. They were so good, I wish we still had some in the freezer…
Anyway, for this dish, she baked a whole eggplant in the oven at 400 F for about 40 minutes. Then after it cooled down a bit, she removed most of the seeds and put the eggplant pulp in the food processor. She added 2 eggs, some breadcrumbs, a large handful of fresh parsley, salt and pepper (there are no exact amounts here guys, just a occhio, to the eye) to the eggplant and processed it all together until it was well mixed, although still a bit chunky. Then she formed them into balls and dredged them in more breadcrumbs, smooshed them into patties, then placed them in the cast iron skillet with hot oil and pan fried them until they were crispy on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside. They were soooo good. It made about a dozen.
She also made these lovely Sardinian pastries – it was cheese, soft cheese without flavor (we used havarti since the cheese she usually gets was unavailable), mixed with saffron and stuffed into a thin dough, kind of like phyllo, although the dough we made was a bit thicker. These pastries were then fried in a skillet in olive oil and served with a drizzle of honey. I wish we had pictures of this, but we did a video instead. They were great, froze well and made wonderful breakfasts when we got back from the honeymoon.
All I can say was that in this busy week leading up to the wedding, it was wonderful to be an on-looker and let someone else do the cooking. It was especially nice that it was Roberto’s mom. It was a great time for mother and son to bond in the kitchen and for both of us to learn some new dishes from La Cocina di Anna.
So I will just say Grazie, Anna! Bacione!