Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anchovies In Italian Food

Anchovies are a very important part of the flavor of Italian food. However, many people, even fans of Italian food claim to not like anchovies. Some people have bad memories of smelly little fish on pizza that have forever tainted their view of Italian food that includes anchovies. Unbeknownst to many of these people is the fact that anchovies are widely used in Italian food and it's likely that some of their favorite Italian food dishes are made with anchovies.

These small and often misunderstood fish are used extensively in Italian food and there comes a point when it is impossible to enjoy Italian food without running into these little guys. Anchovies are a small saltwater fish. They are only about three inches long but pack quite a flavor. There are six different species of anchovies that are used in Italian food. From April to September is the Sicilian anchovy season and these species are lighter in flavor than the Spanish anchovies that make up a bulk of the anchovies used in Italian food.

Anchovies must quickly be preserved in order to keep the flavor that is wanted for Italian food intact. The most traditional way to preserve anchovies is packed in salt. This is the best way to guarantee an authentic Italian food flavor. Soon after the fish are caught they are cleaned and washed in salt brine and then set out to dry. The fish are then layered in round tins with sea salt in between each layer. The tins are then left to season for up to two months. A weight is placed on top of the tins in order to compress the fish and remove any extra fluids and fat from the fish. After the curing time is up they are sealed up and shipped off to be used in different Italian food dishes around the world.

Another way to preserve anchovies is to pack them in olive oil. This is similar to the above method of preserving, except that after the seasoning period is over the fish are again washed and the scales, skin, and bones are removed before placing the fish in jars or tins of olive oil. There are other ways to preserve anchovies for use in Italian food, but none are as popular as these first two. Anchovy paste is readily available, however this paste does not have the anchovy flavor that is desired for Italian food and instead ends up tasting just plain salty.

When using anchovies in Italian food it is important to rinse them first. They are much too salty the way you buy them and you want to wash away some of the excess salt. If you are shopping for anchovies to use in a specific Italian food dish, make sure to buy just enough for the meal you are planning. Anchovies do not last very long once opened and should be used right away to ensure the flavor. If you have leftover anchovies then wash them and put them in a jar of olive oil. Seal the jar and place it in the refrigerator. This will only buy you five more days but if the fish are left in the tin after opening they will begin to get a metallic flavor that will ruin your Italian food.

Now you know a little more about this Italian food favorite. The next time you see anchovies listed as an ingredient at your favorite Italian food restaurant go on and give it a try; you might be surprised at how good it is.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Making Italian Food With Pasta

For many Italian food lovers and aspiring Italian food chefs, the first dish to be attempted from home is typically a pasta dish. Pasta is known as an Italian food that is easy to make. However, homemade Italian food dishes with pasta often end up falling flat. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing pasta at home. First of all, your attempt at Italian food will only be as good as the pasta you use to make it with. When shopping for your pasta make sure you are buying a good brand that uses only quality ingredients. For instance, if buying dried pasta you should only buy brands that use just semolina flour. Any other type of dried pasta will taste like counterfeit Italian food. A good quality pasta will have a rough surface.

The texture of the pasta will determine if it will be able to hold onto the sauce that it is served with. Smooth pasta is an instant indicator that you are dealing with an inferior brand. It is also important that the pasta be dense and heavy for its size.

If the pasta is too light it will fall apart when it is cooked. You want to make sure to avoid the mass produced and cheap pasta; otherwise your Italian food will not be satisfying. When shopping for fresh pasta you want to make sure that you pay attention to the expiration date, unlike dried pasta, fresh pasta does not have a long shelf life. Take a look at the pasta and if it looks cheap then it is. If it looks to have a good quality color and texture and is heavy, then that is the pasta that will give you the best tasting Italian food. The best bet when shopping for pasta is to see if there is a bakery that specializes in Italian food. Many such bakeries make pasta fresh daily and the quality will far out do anything that you will find at the store. The best way to get authentic Italian food is to get it from Italians.

Once you have bought your pasta you are halfway to enjoying good Italian food. The most important thing to remember when cooking pasta is to not overcook it. Mushy pasta is never good. For good tasting Italian food you want the pasta to be tender, yet firm to the teeth. Fresh pasta will take less time to cook than dried pasta. You want to make sure and use a large pot with an abundance of water. Bring the water to a boil and then liberally add salt.

If you don't salt the water then the pasta will taste bland compared to the sauce it is served with. After you've salted the water it is time to add the pasta. If you have plenty of water that is brought to a vigorous boil before adding the pasta then you shouldn't have problems with the pasta sticking and it should cook evenly. Good Italian food sauce makes use of the water that was used to boil the pasta, so make sure to save a cup of it to add to the sauce. Also, don't ever rinse the pasta after you've cooked it, otherwise you will be stripping away the flavor of your Italian food.

Hopefully these tips will help you make better Italian food. If you haven't tried preparing Italian food yourself then give it a try starting with the most fundamental Italian food, pasta.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tuscan Italian Food

Tuscany is one of the most well known regions in Italy. Many Italian food lovers find some of their favorite dishes in Tuscany. People love the simplicity of Tuscan Italian food and the region has its own very distinct style of cuisine.

One appeal of Tuscan Italian food is that it is generally healthy. This is due in large part to its use of olive oil. There are many different varieties of olives that are grown in the area and used extensively in the cooking. Beans are also widely used as are vegetables, seasonal fruits, and mushrooms. Of course the area also has the cheeses that are a signature of Italian food. In October and November the people are up for a real treat because this is when the famous white truffles of the area appear. Contrasting this lighter side of the Italian food is the extensive use of meat in Tuscany. High quality beef can be found in the region.

There is even a specific breed used for the famous t-bone steaks that are known as Florentine steak. Pork is also used a source of protein in the Tuscan Italian food. One of the reasons for their famed use of meat has historical roots. When the country started relying heavily on polenta and other corn products, many people began dying due to malnutrition. It was discovered that the thousands of deaths were tied to a lack of protein and other nutrients. Since that time the Italians have taken care to add more variety to their diet than just pasta.

Tuscany has perhaps more unique Italian food dishes than any other region. Some popular dishes include fresh vegetables either raw or slightly cooked and served with olive oil that is seasoned for dipping. Tuscany is also known for a reheated vegetable soup dish. The meat dishes that are most unique to the area include Tuscan-style veal shank and T-bone steak. The Italian food that features pork in the area includes creamed bacon and a complicated dish of pig's liver stuffed into a pig's stomach and then slowly baked with stock and red wine.

The real Italian food gem in Tuscany is not just the unique entrees, but the unique breads. There are specific breads for specific holidays and seasons in Tuscany. On Good Friday bread that is baked on a bed of chestnut leaves is served. They also have breads made from maize, fried in olive oil, made with sweet chestnut flour with rosemary leaves, breads made from a mixture of different flours; the list goes on and on. Usually Italian food makes one think of all the different forms of pasta, but in Tuscany the Italian food of variety is the bread. On Easter Sunday special bread that is made with raisins, saffron, and other spices is consecrated in church before being served. It has a high fat content and is served with eggs. There are also sweet rolls that are eaten on the St. Anthony feast day. Who knew that Italian food included so many different breads? Just as there are many different cheeses in Italian food, there are just as many Italian food breads to serve with them.

Tuscany is a treasure trove of Italian food. Try eating at a Tuscan inspired Italian food restaurant, or make sure to visit Tuscany while in Italy to try all the different unique Italian food dishes that they have to share.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Learn To Make Italian Food

Italian food has long been amongst the most popular food in the world. Everyday people all over the world sit down to meals of fresh Italian food that tastes so good it's hard to imagine making it yourself. However, there are some people who are up to the challenge of learning to make quality Italian food. For some it is not just enough to enjoy Italian food, they need to create Italian food. There are many options today for learning to cook Italian food. Some people live in areas where there are no Italian food cooking classes. Others may feel too self conscious in order to go to an Italian food class. But there is an option for everyone that wants to learn to cook Italian food whether they want to become a world class chef or if they just want to not be intimidated by a pot of boiling water and a handful of spaghetti. The great thing about Italian food is that it has great dishes that are simple to make for the beginner and complex dishes that take world class chefs years to master. There really is something for everyone.

The first option to learn to cook Italian food is cooking classes or cooking school. If you want to become a professional Italian food chef then you will want to attend an accredited cooking school. There are many different culinary institutes in the United States and around the world that can help you specialize in Italian food. Research the different options and decide which will be best for you and will help you meet your goals. Some things to consider are tuition and location. You can attend school abroad or in your local area. If you want to start work right away after graduation at an Italian food restaurant, then see what kind of help the different schools give in job placement after graduation.

Going to school to become a professional Italian food chef is very challenging but in the end it is extremely rewarding to know that you can craft some of the finest Italian food in the world. For those not wanting to necessarily become professionals, you can look into local cooking schools or community centers that offer lessons in cooking Italian food. You can learn to make specific regional Italian food or just take a few classes to teach you how to cook a meal for a special occasion to impress friends or family.

Another great option in today's world is to learn how to cook Italian food right from home. Today it is possible to take classes in cooking Italian food off of the internet. This is a great option for people who are self conscious or like to take things at their own speed in a comfortable environment. There are both paid and free cooking classes online that can help you with your Italian food skills. Research the different programs available and see what is right for you. Be sure to also check out reviews of online programs and see if previous students feel that they really learned how to cook Italian food from the course.

You can never be too careful online, but once you find a school that you like that has good reviews, don't hesitate to jump right in. Before long you'll cooking up fabulous Italian food dishes that previously seemed impossible.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Spaghetti Etiquette In Italian Food

The most popular and widely recognized Italian food today is spaghetti. However, it seems that no other Italian food has caused such consternation in figuring out the polite way to eat it. It has become so bad that when taking a date to eat Italian food, both parties will avoid the spaghetti in order avoid making a mess or looking less than attractive while eating it. Spaghetti is a delicious Italian food and there doesn't need to be all this stress associated with eating it in public. Forget what you've been told what follows is how you eat spaghetti.

First off, if you are fortunate to be eating at an Italian food restaurant or Italian home that is actually in Italy, then you need to keep your hands on the table. Now when I say hands, I mean hands, still no elbows. Also, be sure to wait until everyone is served before you start to eat. The most often repeated Italian food advice given is to use a spoon to aid in eating spaghetti. Unfortunately this is also the most widely spread Italian food myth. Whatever you do, don't use a spoon. It is considered very bad form. Just use your fork, I'll explain how to do it and keep your Italian food on your fork and not on the table or your shirt. Another oft repeated word of advice is to simply cut the spaghetti noodles shorter. Again, this is erroneous. Spaghetti is about ten inches long and is the right length, you should never cut it. It's also important not to slurp the spaghetti.

Any sounds you make while eating are considered rude. Italian food is known for its wonderful sauces, be careful not to splatter them all over the table and your clothes. On this note, don't ever wear a napkin like a bib; it is very tacky and inappropriate. While spaghetti might be your favorite Italian food, it is not a dish that should be served for large or formal parties, largely because of the issues that cause an article of this nature to be written. Choose instead to serve an Italian food comprised of short pasta that is easier to serve and eat.

Now it is time to teach you the proper technique to use when eating that ever popular Italian food, spaghetti. Spaghetti is served in a bowl with a rim. You want to push the spaghetti to the center of the bowl, making room at the front. Now take a little bit of the spaghetti with your fork and push it to the front of the bowl. Now hold your fork vertically with the prongs against the rim and turn the fork clockwise in order to wrap the noodles around the fork. Then lift your fork and examine the length of the noodles hanging to see if it's a good idea to proceed with putting it in your mouth. It is always best to err on the side of caution and put too little rather than too much spaghetti on your fork.

If you need to, lower the fork back down and take a smaller bunch of noodles and twirl them again. Better to take a little time than to end up with Italian food all over the place. Following these tips will ensure that you impress your friends at an Italian food restaurant and get invited back to eat Italian food at a family's home.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tiramisu - The Italian Food Dessert

Today Tiramisu is the most popular of Italian food desserts. It graces the menu of nearly every Italian food restaurant. However, its rise to fame has been meteoric; it wasn't even invented until the 1970's in the Veneto region of Italy. It didn't even gain widespread popularity until the early 1990's. It is a unique blend of ingredients that separately seem to not go together at all. However, when correctly blended together they form one of the treasures of Italian food.

The first ingredient is Mascarpone cheese. This cheese has very deep roots in Italian food. It was made as far back as the 13th century in the region of Lombardy. This cheese is concentrated milk cream and has a very high fat content, getting up to seventy-five percent. It is a smooth and creamy cheese. Traditionally it has been considered to be more of a winter dish and therefore shows up in more of the seasonal Italian food dishes. This is mainly because of its high calories and the fact that when it was first produced there was no refrigeration and this delicate cheese does not keep well in hot temperatures. Like many other Italian foods, the best Mascarpone cheese comes directly from Italy. However, it you're an Italian food lover making Tiramisu at home, there are plenty of makers of Mascarpone cheese in America.

The next ingredient is Zabaglione cream. This is a true classic Italian food dessert. It hails from the world renowned kitchens of Venice. When it originally became a popular Italian food dessert it was made with yolks, honey, and a sweet Cyprus wine. However, today the cream has taken on a new flavor. To begin with sugar is substituted for the original honey. The most stated difference in taste though, comes from the use of Marsala wine instead of the sweet Cyprus wine. This cream can be made from home and is easier to make than most Italian food chefs let on.

The third ingredient is the most distinctive factor of Tiramisu, espresso. This shot of caffeine is where the dessert gets its name, which means "pick me up". This is a coffee that is true to Italian food and is much stronger than American coffee. Espresso is the most important coffee in Italian food and can be seen following many Italian meals.

The fourth and final ingredient is Ladyfingers. These popular cookies originated in Italy and have made numerous appearances in not only Italian food, but in many other national cuisines. These cookies are remarkably light due to the fact that the dough with which they are made is rich with whipped egg white. They are immensely popular and one of the most appreciated Italian food desserts in Italy.

These four ingredients blended together just right and topped off with chocolate make an Italian food dessert that is as popular as the individual ingredients. Make sure when you prepare this at home that you take great care in choosing the ingredients, it will really make a difference in the quality of Tiramisu. Now that you know the correct quality and the origin of the ingredients you will surely impress your friends with you Italian food knowledge.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cheap Italian Food In Milan

One of the highlights of traveling to Italy is naturally the Italian food. Milan in particular is a fashion and food capital of the world. With so many choices for good quality Italian food it can be hard to decide where to eat at times. Travelers are also frequently overwhelmed with how much there is to do in Milan or may only be in the city for a few days. The food here can also be very expensive and not for the budget conscious traveler. However, there must be an alternative to the ever ubiquitous McDonald's? Surely there is a way to eat cheap Italian food in Milan? Time and budget constraints often prevent tourists from enjoying good Italian food, but that need not be the case in Milan.

Milan is home to yet another Italian food innovation. It is quite simply known as Ciao. Ciao is a fast Italian food restaurant that serves up fresh Italian food made on the spot with a friendly price tag. Unlike American fast food chains, Ciao serves quality Italian food. For those a little leery of anyplace claiming to have quality Italian food fast, let me point out that there is not set menu at Ciao. The menu changes daily in order to provide the freshest Italian food that is in season. Ciao serves all manner of hot Italian foods along with snacks, alcohol, and espresso. It's a self service restaurant so you just fill up your plate and then pay at the register. With the low price tag Ciao also presents tourists with an opportunity to try different Italian foods without worrying about the money should you not like it.

Another great feature of Ciao that endears it to American tourists is the fact that it is open all day. Ciao is one of the only options for Italian food after lunch and before dinner. In Italy many of the Italian food establishments close between meals leaving only the American fast food imports open. If you're a tourist and visiting Milan for the first time, then it can be hard to fit everything into your schedule and get meal times in when most of the restaurants are open. Plus, many people don't want to spend the time it takes to eat at a typical Italian food restaurant, choosing to instead see the sites. It's a real shame that people save up for vacations to Italy and end up eating at McDonald's because of lack of time or money.

Many people don't know a place like Ciao exists before they leave home so take this opportunity to plan it into your Italian vacation now. In fact, you won't even have to stop looking at the sites while eating quality Italian food at Ciao. Be sure to check out the Ciao outlet at Piazza Duomo. Get your food and head over to the third floor of the Duomo Center and grab a table. The view from this vantage point is simply amazing and will provide a nice backdrop to your meal. Italian food doesn't have to be expensive when in Milan and you don't have to carve large blocks of time out of your vacation in order to experience fresh Italian food, just go to the nearest Ciao and soon you will be dining on quality Italian food in the heart of Milan.