Skate wings alla Milanese

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Cotoletta alla Milanese, like the name suggests, is a typical dish from Milan.
Similar to Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, is a bone-in veal cutlet which is pounded to make it thinner and more tender before being coated in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (in this order) and then shallow fried in butter and/or oil.

Skate (razza, for the Italian readers) is, in my opinion one of the most underrated fish of all (although I won’t complain because this keeps its price low).
The structure of the wing is a rib to which a layer of cartilaginous bones is attached, and those gelatinous bones inside the wing is something that puts many people off. In spite of the fact that when the fish is cooked the meat will come off very easily, I have to admit that I do not like eating skate with those bones either. For this reason, I started to fillet the wing, getting one fillet for each side.

However, the problem is that the two sides are not symmetrical and I ended up with a fillet which is much bigger and thicker than the other.
Therefore, I started to fillet it keeping the flesh attached to the rib (see below), and then cutting the bone with scissors.

The result is a ‘bone-in skate steak’.
At this point it can be cooked like Cotoletta alla Milanese; the only difference is that, unlike a veal cutlet, skate cannot be pounded (but it’s extremely tender and juicy anyway, so it won’t need it) before cooking.
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INGREDIENTS:
1 large skate wing (about 400-450 g), cut in half
1 tbsp. flour
1 egg, beaten

3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
2 tsp. finely chopped parsley
Salt (to taste)
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  1. First, fillet the skate: using a very sharp knife, separate the flesh from the cartilaginous bones, on both sides, making sure you don’t cut it on the rib side
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  2. Using scissors, cut off the bones, as below
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  3. Mix the breadcrumbs with all the other igredients listed
  4. Now that you’ve got your skate steak, coat it in flour and then pass it in the beaten egg
  5. Shake off the excess egg and coat with the aromatic breadcrumbs
  6. Heat the oil on medium heat, with the butter.
  7. The butter will start foaming;
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    when it stops, add the skate and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side.
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    Here is worth noting two things

    • I don’t usually cook with butter, but here I find it very useful because, when it stops foaming (which means that all the water it contains has evaporated), it will be at the right temperature. This is very important to make the outside crispy and golden. It is virtually impossible to understand the temperature of the oil when shallow frying (unlike deep-frying, where a thermometer can be used), and this it crucial because if the fat is too hot it will burn the batter, if it’s not hot enough it will make it soggy
    • The fish is ready when the inside is white
  8. Serve it with a squeeze of lemon

Shirataki & prawns stir fry

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This is a very simple way to make noodles; in this recipe I use Shirataki for a low-calorie, low-carb dish, but it will work perfectly with other types of noodles, as long as you follow the proper cooking instructions.

I love stir-frying, I’ve always been fascinated by this technique; in my area there is an Oriental restaurant with an open plan kitchen, and when I go there I enjoy watching the cooks using their woks to produce excellent dishes at an incredible speed.
If you are not able to do the proper stir fry (it requires some skill), you can simply stir the ingredients using a spoon. There are only two tips that I would like to give you:
First, the sides of the wok will get hotter than the bottom, so try to make the food slide on the sides as well to cook it more quickly and enhance the flavours
Second: when you stir fry you will need to add some liquid. When you do it, add it little by little, not all at once. This is a fried dish, you don’t want boiled vegetables!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
600 g shirataki noodles
100 g baby corn
100 g mange-tout
1/2 medium red onion
1 carrot
200 g bean sprouts
16 prawn tails, deveined
Rapeseed oil

For the sauce:
1 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 tbsp. Dark soy sauce
2 tsp. white sugar
2 tsp. tomato paste
150 ml vegetable stock (or slightly salted hot water if good quality stock is not available)
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  1. Cut the vegetables:
    Cut the mange-tout in half, lengthwise
    Quarter the baby corn lengthwise
    Cut the carrot a julienne
    Finely slice the onion
    The bean sprouts do not need any cutting
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  2. Heat the oil in the wok on high heat and, when hot, add the veggies
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  3. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes on high heat, adding the liquid little by little as indicate above
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  4. As the veggies start softening up, add the shirataki and the prawns and cook for 3 minutes, still adding the liquid a little at a time
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Obviously, you can use any type of noodles for this recipe, just follow the instructions on the packaging

Taramasalata

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Taramasalata is a thick, creamy dip, popular in Greek cuisine, made with salted fish roe and oil, usually served as a meze dish or as a starter.

When looking for recipes for a traditional dish that I have never made, I normally check different versions and compare them, and then I make my own version based on a comparison of what I’ve found, adding my twist if I believe that improvements can be made.
For tamarasalata, as usual, I have found some elements that pretty much all recipes have in common (fish roe, olive oil and some bread for the texture), and others that were used only in certain versions (some use garlic, others onion or shallot, others milk or cream).
Since I actually believe that all of this ingredients can give something to this dish, as long as they are treated in the right way and used in the right proportion, I have decided to include all of them, but with some changes:
Garlic: all the recipes I’ve found call for raw garlic; since raw garlic can be overpowering, a technique that can be used to make it milder is blanching: simply put the garlic cloves in a pot with cold water and bring it to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling, transfer the garlic in a bowl of cold (or even iced) water. This operation should be repeated three times.
Milk: for this recipe, however, I have boiled the garlic in water twice; the third time I have boiled it in milk and cooked it until the milk was reduced by half; this leaves soft garlic cloves that have lost all of their aggressive (so to speak) character, and a nicely scented garlic-infused milk
Onion: all the recipes that I’ve seen used raw onion or shallot. Raw onion, a bit like garlic, has got a very strong flavour and is not everyone’s cup of tea (and definitely not mine). The only type of onion that I eat raw in salads is red onion; furthermore, taramasalata should have a nice pinkish colour, and red onion contributes to this as well.

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INGREDIENTS:

200g salted cod roe
50g stale white bread, crusts removed
50ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml semi skimmed milk*
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp. red onion, finely chopped
1 pinch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice

*: NOTE: that is the initial quantity, but it should be reduced by half when you use it
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The process is quite simple:

  • Soak the roe in cold water for about an hour
  • In the meantime, blanche the garlic as described above and let the milk cool down
  • Soak the bread in the milk
  • Rinse and drain the roe thoroughly, cut in half lengthways, then, with the skin side down on a board, scrape the roe off the skin with a knife
  • Places the roe, garlic, onion and bread in a food processor and blend
  • Add the lemon juice and the oil in a thin stream and keep blending until the desired texture has been reached
  • Taste to adjust the seasoning if it’s the case

You can serve it with toasted pitta bread and/or crudités

Shirataki (Zero calorie noodles)

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Shirataki is the name of a type of noodles, originally from Japan, that have a very interesting characteristic: they contain virtually no calories and, for this reason, they are very suitable for whoever needs to control his/her weight.

These noodles are made from the flour obtained from the root of a plant called konjac; they are made out of water for the 97% and also contain Glucomannan, a dietary fibre believed to help in weight loss.
The name means ‘white waterfall’, a reference to their translucent appearance; they have little flavour of their own and a gelatinous, pleasantly chewy texture, and can be used as a low-carb (or rather no-carb) replacement for pasta (mainly spaghetti) or other types of noodles.

I came across this ingredient reading a Dukan book.

I am not a big fan of the Dukan diet as such, but it contains a few principles that I like and, although I have never embraced the method, I have to say that reading the introduction of his book changed, to the better, the way I look at food and eat (after all, Pierre Dukan is a nutritionist, therefore he’s got a very deep knowledge of the matter). Although the conclusions he draws are  too extreme in my opinion, the idea of selecting the food you eat so that you can keep the calories low whilst not feeling hungry (which is the very foundation of the Dukan method) is a good way to lose weight healthily and maintain the results.

Shirataki noodles do exactly this, as they will fill you up with virtually no calories, and can be used, for example, for having a light dinner without going to bed hungry. The typical scenario I have in mind is someone with a sedentary job, coming back home after a day at work where all the physical activity was those 2 flights of stairs to reach the office.
We will still need food, but not so much as we would like to eat, because our body hasn’t used a lot of energy: something like shirataki is perfect in this kind of situation, and that’s when I eat them (for example a Shirataki stir fry with some veggies and meat or seafood), whilst I tend to have something more substantial when I exercise.

I will post more detailed recipes; for now, bear in mind that:

  • They can replace other types of noodles or even spaghetti (although the difference in texture is huge)
  • If you buy the wet ones, which come in water inside a sealed package, rinse them before cooking
  • ,They can be boiled or stir-fried and the cooking time is quite short (about 3 minutes)