Take a pumpkin…… how to cook pumpkin

Pumpkins would have to be one of my favourite ingredients: their magical and enchanting connotations, their golden, almost jewel sparkle when cut and their sweet clean flavour.

Cook a pumpkin - recipe from Chef Dominique Rizzo's "My Taste Of Sicily"

The versatility of the pumpkin is not to be sneezed at either, taking it from savoury to sweet in any nationality of cuisine.

The history of the pumpkin dates back over 7000 years ago with its origin coming from the squash family and a relative of the cucumber. Known all over the world, Antarctica is the only continent where the pumpkin is not grown.

The pumpkin and its many varieties Queensland Blue, butternut, Jarrahdale, Jap, Golden nugget, are widely used as ravioli fillings, soups, gnocchi, scones, pies, stews, curries and really just about anything as its delicate flavour lends itself to all manner of dishes, cooking methods, flavour combinations and additional spices.

Rich in beta-carotene, high in fibre and potassium the pumpkin, like all other orange coloured fruit and vegetables, is a great antioxidant. So versatile is it that even the shells of the pumpkin have been used and woven into mats.

The flowers like those of the zucchini are also edible. When cooking, steaming or roasting is preferred to boiling which makes them rather wet and not so appealing.

For intense flavour, pan-frying, roasting or char grilling over moderate to high heat is best as it caramelises the natural sugars. You can now purchase pumpkin seed meal, oil and pestos that are ideal for salads, dressings and baking.

How to cook pumpkin

Tip for a nutritious snack:

Dry seeds on paper towel and then toss with a little oil and sea salt or tamari or soy sauce and roast in the oven until dry to touch.

Tip for a perfect side dish:

Zucca Fritta Con Cannella Ed Aglio
Fried Pumpkin with Cinnamon and Garlic

Serves 4

Ingredients:
• 125 ml olive oil
• 700 g kent (jap) pumpkin (peeled, seeded and cut into 5 ml thick slices)
• 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 1 ½ tbsps. White-wine vinegar
• 3 tsps. White sugar
• ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steps:
1. Heat a small amount of the olive oil in a shallow frying pan over medium heat and cook the pumpkin in batches for 30 seconds on each side of until golden brown. You may need to add a little more olive oil to the pan. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pumpkin to a serving dish.
2. Keeping about ¼ cup (60 ml) of oil in the pan, gently fry the garlic over low heat for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn it. Remove the pan from the heat and from yourself as it may splutter when you add the vinegar. Add the vinegar, sugar and cinnamon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 30 seconds, and then pour the mixture over the pumpkin.
3. Set the pumpkin aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavours to infuse. Serve at room temperature.

This how to cook pumpkin recipe is taken from “My Taste of Sicily” cookbook.

How to cook pumpkin - My taste of Sicily

Buy local this season’s best

Having just got back from overseas and a gluttony of all things food I have come back not only with renewed vigour, ideas and recipes but also an acute consciousness to again get onto the buy local, eat seasonal with a focus on healthy winter vegetarian food with flair.

Carrot oranges and ginger soup
Our winter crops are bursting with lighter skinned Sharwil avocados, lettuces, turnips, Swedes, baby beetroot and large eggplants. We as the consumers are needing to be more aware of our seasons bounty and when and what to buy locally.
Eating what’s in season is almost the norm in most European countries and it almost defines their menus even in family households who only eat what they can buy that day. I would recommend limiting your purchases and sticking to what’s in great supply.
All citrus, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, melons are in good supply and don’t be a perfectionist when it comes to your fruit and veg, the perfect fruit often costs more, those melons with a slight blemish on the skin is just as good in eating and can sometimes save you quite substantially especially if you are buying direct from the farmers.
Winter is the time to experiment in the kitchen with baby turnips, carrots, beetroots, swedes and radish.
Here is a easy soup recipe to try using what’s in season!

Carrot, orange & ginger soup recipe

CEO CookOff Dominique Rizzo with Brisbane's top chefs

CEO CookOff 2016 w Dominique Rizzo – That was some meal!

Brisbane 2016 CEO CookOff

CEO CookOff Chef Dominique Rizzo

At the inaugural Brisbane 2016 CEO CookOff, it was a different night than many of our special guests were used to of late. A few hundred people who are doing it pretty rough at the moment, were served a pretty incredible dinner cooked by a team of amazing CEO’s and ten of Brisbane’s top chefs.CEO CookOff with Dominique RizzoYes it was the OzHarvest CEO CookOff 2016!

It was an awesome experience being involved and working with a team of very keen CEO’s, taking them through their paces to produce hundreds and hundreds of plates of the three-course dinner.

CEO CookOff preparing to serve meals

For starters we served two mixed bruschetta options – one was mushroom and whipped feta and the other tomato and fresh basil. By the time that everyone finished his or her entrée the buzz of conversation was starting to fill the hall.    CEO CookOff preparing meals

CEO CookOff by Chef Dominique Rizzo

While OZHarvest provided the entrée and dessert of mini meringues with whipped cream, each of the ten chefs designed their own main dish. Middle Eastern was my cuisine, featuring spicy grilled chicken on a homemade flatbread with pumpkin hummus, fresh vegetable slaw drizzled with a yoghurt and herb dressing. It was a hit.

By then the buzz of chatting and laughter was getting louder; photos were being snapped of shy smiles and big smiles, as chefs and CEOs wandered around the dining tables meeting their guests.

The best news is the Brisbane CEO Cook Off raised $157,998 for OzHarvest to continue with their amazing work of rescuing good food from being wasted and delivering it to those in need.

 

Be a part of it next year!!! Putting it out there now, calling on Brisbane CEOs to sign up now for the 2017 CEO Cook Off and join with me in giving a hand to those going through rough times.

CEO CookOff

5 Tips to get you out of a food rut

5 Tips to get you out of a food rut

Recently I did a radio interview discussing how many of us as stuck in a food rut and a study showing that 51% of people rotate between 5 meals or less for their weekly menu. I had to agree with the survey as I have found that many of us are all excited about the cooking shows and slightly addicted but when it comes to actually getting into the kitchen and putting some of this into practice we shy away and stick to the staples. Now there is nothing wrong with roast on Sundays, Bolognese on Tuesday and steak and veg on Wednesday with a quick stir fry for Friday, but folks there is more to your food life than 4-5 family specials. Here are 5 tips to get you out of a food rut and easy ideas to get the gourmet going in your kitchen:

  1. I know we are all time poor and that you all have shelves of cook books that are being used as dust catchers more than they are being used for
    5 Tips Get you out of food rut - Dominique's Cook Book

    Dominique’s Cook Book

    cooking. So to ease you into the game, pick up the first 3 books you lay your hands on, grab the family or housemates and flick through the pages choosing 2 meals that everyone likes from each cook book, try and choose recipes that you have never tried before. Jot down the ingredients and on the next shop make it a point to include the new recipe, even better get the family or all members of the house in on the cooking.

  2. If recipe books are a little scarce, key in an ingredient or recipe that you have always wanted to try into good old google and let your fingers do the searching. If you start small by integrating one different dish per week you will soon be cooking up a collection of wonderful creations.
  3. We as Australians are such a wonderful melting pot of cultures so if you are even stuck for an ingredient that you haven’t tried, try looking for a cuisine that you have always wanted to taste. When shopping we often go on automatic pilot filling the trolly with the same staples every week. I understand that the husband may only like 2 vegetables and the kids will only eat potato, it may be that they have tried everything else and not liked anything or maybe that they have never tasted any other vegetables so get creative and incorporate one or two new items of food into the trolley per week.
  4. If you are really in a corner with fussy eaters then use what you normally 5 Tips Get you out of food rut - Middle Eastern Banquetget and pick up some different spices, seasonings, herbs and alternate some different cooking methods to bring a little pizzazz back onto the plate.
  5. A wonderful basic recipe can be found everywhere and we are surrounded by fresh produce and many professionals such as butchers, fruit vendors, deli operators who are more than happy to not only give you advice on what to buy and the best deals, they will even give you a taste and also a couple of recipes to take home.

All you need is some simple planning, an hour a week… which is nothing and you could be sizzling up your kitchen with the best of us using these 5 tips to get you out of a food rut.

8 Tips for organising your fridge

Make you fridge the sanctuary of your kitchen…

To me a healthy, organised and clean fridge means a healthy body and an organised kitchen! If you have stumbled with your new year’s resolutions of starting the year on the right foot and making some changes in your eating and lifestyle, and your fridge is still full of left over pizza, soft drink and something unrecognizable growing in the vegetable crisper, then I am here to help. These 8 tips for organising your fridge will have you on the way to cooking with ease, eating a wider variety of healthy foods and give you all the pleasure that you will need from your chilled kitchen companion.

  1. Start by going through all those little bottles and jars in the fridge door, check the use by dates and decide if the ones that8 Tips for organising your fridgeyou haven’t used in the past 3-4 months are ever going to get used…if not then I hate to say but its time to say goodbye. Those of them that you use regularly, sit them where you can see them and if you have two or more of the same product open, then combine them into one jar and think where you can incorporate the relish, mustard, condiment in your next dish, it could be added as a marinade for grilled or barbeque meats, as a condiment to have on the side of your next roast or mixed with olive oil and a little vinegar as a tasty dressing for your salad.
  2. Home made salad dressings are so easy to have on hand and can use up the bits and pieces of left over herbs that you have lying around as well.
  3. Keep all your dairy items together and incorporate a wide variety including yoghurts, cottage cheese, hard cheeses, quark (a German cream cheese – very low in fat and extremely versatile for dips, desserts and spreads) ricotta, cream cheese.
  4. For quick snacks and even quicker dinners have your celery, carrots, capsicum and any other vegetables that you enjoy, prepped, peeled and cut into batons, store them in containers that allow the air to circulate and stay fresh, that way they are ready for you to dice, slice or simply munch on when you get hungry.
  5. Keep a variety of cherry tomatoes, round and gourmet tomatoes for salads, sandwiches and adding to vegetable or side dishes.8 Tips for organising your fridge - vegetables
  6. Instead of having whole fruit in the fridge which I find boring at times to eat, buy one each of your favourite fruits and make a container of fruit salad, keep it stored in an airtight container and it will last the week, that way you have a wonderful mixture of flavours and colours as a high fibre low fat snack to take to work, for the kids at school of for a simple dessert with ice cream or yoghurt.
  7. When you buy your lettuce whole, wash it and break it up into leaves storing it in a lettuce crisper so that it’s easier for you to toss together a delicious salad.
  8. Along with your basic vegetables commit to buying 3-4 other vegetables that you haven’t tried and change them weekly to give you variety. You will eventually make it through all of our wonderful vegetables we have on offer and build up your repertoire of recipes. Aim to cook a different vegetable dish every night using up to 4 different vegetables.

Taking on these 8 tips for organising your fridge you will notice a huge difference in the way you feel, and the ease of which you can prepare your meals. Aim for a clean out the fridge day every week or fortnight depending on when you go shopping to use up the leftover fruit and vegetables, that way you will not only keep your fridge fresh, you will save money, save on wastage and you body and wallet will thank you.

Get rid of the kitchen clutter! Here are my fantastic tips on how to clean up your kitchen life, save money, save time and breeze into 2016 with a smile and a happy household.

So lets start from the beginning and Get rid of kitchen clutter
Get rid of kitchen clutter - Pantry shelf

 

With the festive season and Australia Day out of the way, we can all finally breath a sigh of relief that again we have made it through another season of celebrations. Although it should no longer come as a surprise and I am not sure why we all seem to get so stressed and exhausted by it all. It happens every year! We should be used to it and have the whole festive season running like a well-oiled machine. Well, with my handy tips you will.

So now what? We have re-worked the leftovers with the handy tips from foodie magazines and chefs alike, put away the decorations and are back to work, back to school and back to life as it was before the holidays.

A new year has always been a fresh start for me. I take the whole New Year’s resolution very seriously, although not so much a resolution but some thoughts on what can I do this year to de stress, de-frazzle and delight my life and I think I have found it.

Get rid of the kitchen clutter with these eight tips.
Get rid of kitchen clutter - shelf plates, teatowels and tea

1. Prepare containers and labels

• When organising and cleaning out the pantry stack cans, jars and packets with labels facing forwards so they are easy to read.
• Stack like items with like so all your tinned tomatoes, tinned vegetables, legumes, dried flours, nuts, in the same areas that way you can see clearly what you have making it easy for restocking and shopping.
• Take foods out of open packets and boxes and store in airtight containers and jars for better storage and more space.

2. Spice up your life
• Spice jars always seem to get lost so use split level handy storage shelves to give you more space.
• Spice racks on doors or walls assist with organising and storing smaller jars.
• Sort alphabetically or by popularity of use
• Store them in a cool area in airtight plastic or glass containers.
• If you only use spices occasionally, buy them in small quantities or buy whole spices to roast and then grind them fresh when you need them as they will last longer and roasting them gives you better flavour.

3. Rethink that deep back corner in your cupboard:
• Depending on your style of pantry or food storage cupboard, corners can be like black holes where you completely forget about what is in there.
• Store larger bulkier items that you don’t use on a daily basis there.
• Use trays or containers in the corners so that it is easier to pull out the whole tray than a lot of individual items.

4. Plan recipes around current pantry items:
• Aim to cook 2-3 meals a week using at least 3 items from your pantry so that you keep all your pantry items rotating and fresh.
• Look up recipes that you wouldn’t normally cook with ingredients that you bought thinking “one day” and create that one-day dish.

5. Reorder when restocking

• When restocking your pantry, make sure that you bring all the old items forward and place the new items at the back if you have several of each item.

6. Recycle or ditch
• Recycle old jam jars, condiment jars and bottles for use in your pantry for spices, homemade dressings, grains and legumes, label with a sticker, write with permanent pen or place a small labelled piece of paper into the jar.
• Any items that you haven’t used in the past year, you will never use so if they are still within their use-by date, drop them off at a food bank for someone else to enjoy or throw them out.

7. Clean and refresh
• Pantry moths love cardboard, paper and thin plastic bags so transfer your cardboard items into plastic or glass containers or jars sealed tightly either with a lid or with clamps or rubber gaskets;
• Clean down the shelves once every 6 months with eucalyptus oil mixed with a little water to prevent moths from laying eggs, as they seem to dislike the smell.

8. Update your online calendar for a reminder
• To reorganise your pantry every 4-5 months.

 

Getting the Know How on Perfect Lettuce Pesto and Broccoli and Cauliflower Fritters

Broccoli and Cauliflower fritters rsz 

Listen to the interview on 612 ABC Brisbane here:  Lettuce pesto and Broccoli and Cauliflower fritters

 

And follow the recipes here:

Broccoli and Cauliflower Fritters

Makes 20 -25 fritters depending on the size

These are a fantastic vegetarian fritter in which you can use just about any vegetable, I have also made these with sautéed chopped mushrooms and they taste delicious. They make a great addition to a light dinner, as a starter to have with drinks and ideal for kids for the school lunches as you can mask the vegetables that they may not like. Adapt the ingredients to suit your taste buds and make your own fantastic combinations. You could also spray these with olive oil and bake them in an oven of 180c for about 15 minutes until golden.

 

  • 250g broccoli, cut into florets (about 1 small head)
  • 230g cauliflower, cut into florets (about ½ a cauliflower)
  • 2 tbsp. Gourmet Garden Parsley or ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. Gourmet Garden garlic
  • ¾ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 80g cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra bread crumbs
  • About ½ cup Light olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

 

  1. Cook the broccoli and the cauliflower in boiling water until tender and almost breaking apart. Drain and rinse with cold water allowing the vegetables to drain completely before using. In a food processor pulse the vegetables until just combined but not puree; you can also do this with a potato masher, mash the cauliflower and the broccoli until just broken up.
  2. Place the combined vegetables into a bowl and add in the chopped parsley, minced garlic, grated cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs and cream cheese. Season well with salt and pepper and with your hands combine the mix until it sticks together. Taste the mix and adjust the seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap and sit the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour, you will find that the mixture will harden slightly and the fritters will be easier to manage and fry if they are a little firm.  Place the extra bread crumbs into a bowl and take a spoonful of the mixture, roll it in the breadcrumbs and then into a small ball, flattening it slightly with your fingers.
  3. When you are ready to cook them, heat a large fry pan with oil and fry the fritters on all sides until golden about 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper towel and serve hot or room temperature with a squeeze of lemon and with salad if you are making a meal out of these.

Lettuce pesto
Lettuce pesto with crackers rsz
Makes 2 cups

 

I love this pesto, it’s so easy to throw together especially if you are growing your own lettuce and have abundance and can’t keep up with the harvest. You can use any type of mixed leaves and even the softer outer leaves that are not great for a salad. You can add in some of your favorite ingredients such as olives, anchovies, chopped salami, and substitute the parmesan for feta, ricotta and even cream cheese or blue cheese… whatever you have in the fridge.  Use this as a dip, stirred through pasta, tossed through a salad… yes that’s right lettuce pesto with lettuce, you may want to add a splash of vinegar to loosen it up for a dressing. This is also great to spoon through a medley of steamed vegetables. So I will leave it up to your imagination on how many ways you can make use of this tasty pesto… it will also make a great picnic spread for bread or crackers.

 

  • 2 big handful of mixed lettuce leaves ( about 4-5 cups, try and use a mixture of leaves, Cos, ice berg, red coral, butter head, red coral, green coral)
  • 1 tbsp. capers, drained
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Handful of lemon basil leaves or basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil, if you want a looser pesto add a little more oil
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

 

  1. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined and chopped together. Adjust the seasoning and store in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for about 3 weeks. If the top is covered with oil the pesto will stay fresher for longer.

 

WASTE LESS, SAVE MONEY; 8 Tips for maximising left overs

All the time and energy we put into our sumptuous festive banquets need not go to waste when the day is over, with some careful planning and a little inspiration your following day festivities can also keep the taste buds excited.

Left over’s are a wonderful treat not only because for some reason they always seem to taste just that little bit better the next day they can definitely save you dollars in the pocket and time in the kitchen.

OzHarvest logoThis year I’m participating in Brisbane’s first OzHarvest’s CEO CookOff, where top CEOs, chefs and companies work together to make a difference to Australia’s most vulnerable and reduce food waste. We’d love your support! Click here to donate online to OzHarvest!

8 Tips for maximising left overs   Here are 8 tips for maximising left overs and reducing food wastage!

Meat

  1. Left over roast meats like chicken, lamb, turkey can easily be turned into delicious, pastas, sandwiches or rolls, topping for pizzas and of course a mixed array of salads.
  2. With the addition of wonderfully spiced or zesty dressings, some salad leaves and perhaps the addition of rice, cous cous or burghal or your favourite grain you have a nutritious, filling meal that could feed the multitudes.
  3. Roast meats also make great pies, pasties or filo’s for a quick lunch snack. Saute the meats with onions, leeks, herbs and a white sauce or rich gravy wrap in pastry and bake.

Seafood

  1. Prawns and the seafood platter that may be lingering around can also be used for beautiful seafood crepes for breakfast, tossed through some freshly cooked pasta with a dressing of lemon juice, sliced cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic and a touch of chilli makes a quick healthy pasta salad or warm pasta dish for dinner.
  2. Fresh prawns, peeled and served with avocado on toast make a delightful brunch idea or even chopping up the prawns and mixing them with a little mayonnaise, splash of champagne, squeeze of lemon, diced cucumber, avocado and chives and served as a entree or quick lunch with some crusty bread.

Fruits

  1. Our summer fruits lend them selves to these hot days although if you find that you have an excess, chop them up and puree them folding them through vanilla ice cream and re freezing for a dessert treat, simmering pitted cherries, sliced peaches or plums with a little sugar, splash of your favourite wine and a cinnamon stick until they soften and caramelise and serving them with French toast and a dollop of yoghurt cream.
  2. Peaches are also great in salads with some of your sliced turkey, rocket or salad leaves and a chutney dressing of your favourite chutney, a little olive oil, verjuice or splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon.
  3. Toss this through your salad and enjoy. If you have over indulged on the alcohol, create a fruit spritzer with chopped cherries, peaches, pineapple and any other fruits that you have, add in some soda water, your favourite cordial or some chilled tea and a squeeze of lime, sit back and relax.

Follow these 8 tips for maximising left overs and reduce food wastage!

MY TASTE OF SICILY

Looking for the perfect cookbook to add to your collection this Christmas? Chef Dominique Rizzo’s ‘My Taste of Sicily’ is now fullyChristmas Gift My Taste of Sicly stocked and ready for purchase in store for $39.95. Featuring a selection of traditional Sicilian recipes taken from Dominique’s heritage and recreated with modern flair. Available online, Dominique will also be available to personally sign your copy in-store at her restaurant Putia Pure Food Kitchen or make it out to someone special. You can also find a copy of her book inside our fantastic festive Christmas hampers along with a selection of all natural hand and home products together with a handmade fresh fruit and fig Christmas cake.

It is always refreshing to see passionate home cooks share their love for food and Francesca Morgan has done just that. Recently written on her blog ‘Almost Italian’ Francesca has shared her love for the recipe cuddureddi siciliani biscuits that are featured in My Taste of Sicily. As an avid collector of Italian cookbooks, she described this recipe as ‘the most appealing of all the versions in my collection’ and noted the biscuits ‘contain all the essence of Sicily in one Christmassy filling: almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, figs, sultanas and currants, orange peel and marmalade, cinnamon and cloves, dark chocolate and vanilla, with a pastry moistened with Marsala’. We would like to thank Francesca for sharing such a wonderful piece of writing with the online community and at such a great time of the year. You can read more of Francesca’s great work and the full article including the biscuit recipe at https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/.

Lavazza Film Festival 2015

 

RSZ BW

The 2015 Lavazza film festival opened with a bang and on opening night we were

Foodshowered with Lavazza gift packs, Bucci pulled porchetta snacks and a delicious cannoli with the engaging theme of “but first coffee” – always such sound advice to live by. Oh and those Lavazza coffee martinis were divine.

Lavazza film festival 2015 -Dominique at the Film Festival

Dominique Rizzo

Best new director at the Italian Oscars, Edwardo Falcone, treated us to a burst of real Italian energy with the hilarious film “God Willing”.

God Willing

It is one of those gorgeous Italian films with handsome charismatic characters set in a modern family thrown into chaos with an unexpected announcement by his son. Set in Rome, there are wonderful shots of the Roman countryside as well as the fabulous apartment interiors, where in typical Italian fashion, the wealthy parents live in one apartment and their children are in a neighboring apartment with lots of traffic between the two. The array of hand gestures; pouting and posturing that are so wonderfully Italian, enhance the story so well. It’s a feel good movie where the father in particular learns, albeit reluctantly at first, to accept the changes in their lives.

The festival has film styles for everyone featuring love stories, drama and even the family friendly movie “Italo” with the big shaggy dog that is sure to tug at your heartstrings.     Italo

Not to be missed is another comedy, the movie “So Far So Good” that won the Audience Award at the Rome Film Festival in 2014. With that recommendation you have to see it too.

Latinlover

Nor can you not see “Latin Lover” the mid-festival special movie about the life of Saverio Crispo, a famous Italian actor that is so engaging that it prompted The Hollywood Reporter to describe it as “heavenly moments”.

The 2015 festival in Brisbane wraps up on the 18 October the confirmist2015 with the 1970 Oscar nominated film “The Conformist” described by Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice as “An orgasm of coolness”.

That’s a brilliant choice too.Official

What’s next? A Lavazza of course, and back to the movies!

Lavazza film festival 2015- promo poster