Romantic Italian Dinner for Two

Visit with Fed Magnotta of Fred Magnotta, LLC, who is a premiere importer and distributor of  fine Italian wines and food specialties, and Italy tour expert.  Fred prepares a romantic dinner for two including Veal Shanks with Vegetables, Stuffed Asparagus with Prosciutto, Risotto and a fantastic cream with fresh berries dessert.

Veal Shanks (serves 2)
2 veal shanks(remove membrane)
1/2 cup coarsely cut carrots
1/2 cup coarsely cut onions
1/2 cup coarsely cut celery
1 cup flour
1 can beef stock
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Method:
Dust shanks with flour. In skillet, brown each side in vegetable oil (3 tablespoons).  When brown, remove from pan and place in deep baking dish.  Set aside.  Put chopped vegetables in the skillet add 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup beef broth. Simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat.  Pour mixture into pan with veal shank.  Place in the oven uncovered at 275 degrees for 4-5 hours.

Stuffed Asparagus
1 bunch thin asparagus
fresh parsley
4 slices of prosciutto
small container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano or domestic parmesan cheese
1 egg
olive oil
Method:
Stuffing: Mix 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 cup loosely chopped parsley.
Place prosciutto on flat surface.  Place 6 sprigs of asparagus on prosciutto, top with 2 tablespoons of filling.  Roll up and place on an oiled baking sheet ( or Parchment).  Cook at 350 degrees for 30 to forty minutes.

Simple Marinara Sauce
4 medium tomatoes coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic whole
fresh basil
Method:
Heat olive oil in Sauce pan add onions and garlic cook until transparent.
Add 1/2 cup of white wine and tomatoes.  Cook with lid for 1/2  hour or longer.
When asparagus is done, put generous amount of fresh sauce on  top and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Risotto
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup onions
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tblsp. butter
1 1/2 cup of arborio rice
1 packet saffron
1 tblsp. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 cans of chicken broth.
In a saucepan heat and maintain, 3 cans of chicken broth.
In saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat, then add onions, and parsley cook until onions are transparent.  Then add 1 cup of white wine.   Let cook for 3 minutes, then add rice.  Stir until thoroughly coated.  Start adding chicken broth 1 ladle at a time.  Stir and cook for 20 minutes, add broth as needed.  When  done add parmesan cheese, saffron and 1 tablespoon mascarpone.  Stir until well mixed.

Vegetables
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup white wine
Vegetables 1/2 cup each of: baby zucchini, oyster mushrooms, skinned pearl onions.
Method:
In large skillet combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, baby zucchini, oyster mushrooms, skinned pearl onions.   Saute’ and finish with 1/4 cup of white wine.  When alcohol is cooked out it is ready to serve.

Plate veal: Place a large ladle of risotto in center of plate put veal shank on top. Place vegetables around the plate.  Drizzle with liquid of the shank and garnish with rosemary sprig.

Cream with Berries (Panna Cotta)

2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin*
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cups heavy cream**
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean (2-inches long and split lengthwise with a knife) or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh berries, gently washed, drained, and sweetened to taste***
6 sprigs fresh mint

* It is always best to measure the the amount of gelatin needed as the envelopes of gelatin can vary.

** Half & half, buttermilk, whole milk, and/or sour cream may be substituted for part of the cream.

*** Any assortment of fresh, seasonal fruit may be served with panna cotta, but berries are especially nice. To use other ripe, soft fruits, such as cherries, peaches or apricots, just remove the stones and peels as necessary and cut them into thin slices or bite-size pieces.


Preparation:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup milk; let stand until the gelatin is softened, about 5 minutes.

In a large saucepan, combine heavy cream and sugar. Add vanilla extract or vanilla bean. If using a vanilla bean, slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into cream (add whole bean to cream for additional flavor). Bring cream just to a simmer (do not let it boil), whisking occasionally until sugar has completely dissolved; remove from heat and remove vanilla bean pod. Add the softened gelatin mixture and whisk to completely dissolve the gelatin.

Strain hot cream mixture into a large glass measuring cup with a pouring spout; pour into ramekins or custard cups. NOTE: Don’t skip the straining step as it removes any bits of un-dissolved gelatin and insures a nice smooth dessert. Also, don’t let the cream mixture cool before straining. If using a vanilla bean, lightly swirl the cream to distribute the seeds evenly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To unmold and serve, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly. Run a thin knife around edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl. Wipe the outside of the mold dry and place on individual chilled serving plate (topside down). Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin (shake gently to release).

Garnish with berries or fruit of your choice. See Topping Variations below.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (depending on size of the custard cups).

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