Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
After living in a foreign country for a while, once the honeymoon phase is over, one starts to see things and people through a different, sometimes critical eye. Years ago, the first time I stepped foot in Italy, I thought everything and everyone was gorgeous and I romanticized that image for years in my head. It was summertime, and strolling through historic Rome in the light of dusk, the women were all so beautiful with their sun dresses, and their flowing hair, and the men were all groomed and dashing. When we returned to actually live here, I discovered that Italians come in all shapes and sizes just like anywhere else! Reality had just set in.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I got a lot of strange looks around town when I proudly announced I was planning on making my own panettone. I can understand in part why people find it strange. In Italy, there is more panettone than people could possibly consume this season. According to the press, the price went up 19% on this and other Christmas food items compared to last year! I thought it would be nice to master it this year, so that next year, when I'm living in the States again, I know I can have fresh panettone without the price tag.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
You know when homemade food tastes like love? Do you ever say it? I do, and I don't know if it's just one of my idiosyncracies, or if people actually say this. In order to say it, you have to feel it- be pretty darn passionate about food I guess.
Today we had another Sunday lunch with friends. An "epic" Sunday lunch that I spent my whole week planning, shopping for, marinating, stewing, simmering, whipping, well, you get the picture. Oh, and by shopping, I should elaborate. I push a 20 pound stroller with a 26 pound baby and 15 pounds worth of groceries uphill over ridiculously bad sidewalks, all the crosswalks blocked by illegally parked cars, and every second sidewalk blocked for some sort of construction work. I think I earned the right to eat heavily on Sundays. Go triceps.
I've sort of been on a roll of cooking with ingredients that I've never used before. This week I chose chestnuts. In Paris in early November, my friend served me a chestnut and porcini soup, that I kept thinking about. It had a richness to it, and a sweetness at the same time, and I finally decided to make my own to serve for today's starter. It's the perfect late fall, early winter soup because it's thick, velvety, hearty, comforting...the kind of soup that makes me say, "this tastes like love."
Roasted Chestnut and Porcini Soup
Adapted from Sara's Secrets on the Food Network
I was pretty intimidated by roasting the chestnuts. Now that I've done it, it's not so bad at all, it was just slightly painful to peel hot chestnuts but I suppose I could have let them cool more. The work was worth it, as this is a luxurious tasting soup, slightly sweet from the chestnuts and the parsnip, while the porcini add a whole other layer of complexity and richness.
1 1/4 lbs roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium carrot
1 stalk of celery
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken stock (I used my recently made turkey stock.)
2 tablespoons dried sherry (I used white wine)
Creme fraiche for garnish
To roast the chestnuts, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place each chestnut flat side down on a clean dishtowel and with a medium size, very sharp knife, make an x in the shell of each chestnut before roasting (or they may explode in the oven.) Roast them for about 20-25 minutes until the skins have peeled back where you made the incision and they are golden in color.
When they are cool enough to touch, peel them, removing both the hard shell and inner skin. (don't leave them too long, or peeling will be difficult). Then coarsely chop and get on with the rest of the soup.
Place the porcini in a bowl and cover with two cups of boiling water. Let steep for 20 minutes.
Dice the carrot, celery, parsnip and shallots. In a sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the vegetables until tender. Add the thyme, bay leaf and the stock. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to the sauce pan. Then transfer the porcini soaking liquid to the sauce pan, making sure to drain out any gritty sediment before adding. Add your chestnuts, bring to a boil and then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Working in batches, puree the soup until velvety and return to the saucepan. Add sherry or white wine. Bring to a simmer and add salt and pepper to suit your taste buds. Before serving, add a dollop of creme fraiche, that your guests can then swirl into the soup and swoon over. Can be made one day in advance.
Rosemary Walnut Biscotti
After last week's biscotti, I wanted to make some savory biscotti accompany this soup. I started with a savory biscotti recipe by Giada di Laurentis and added rosemary and walnuts. They were not as crunchy as my regular biscotti, they were softer and I really enjoyed having something to nibble alongside the soup.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons chopped Rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, beaten, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, rosemary, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and goat cheese together until smooth. Beat in the sugar and eggs. In batches, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, then incorporate the walnuts. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. With damp hands, form the dough into a 13 inch-long, 3 1/2 inch-wide loaf. Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 300. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes, then flip the biscotti and bake for another 15 minutes on the opposite side. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
My mother used to make these biscotti in the 80's and she had never been to Italy. In fact, I've come to think that she traveled by cooking. Dinners were feijoada from Brazil, dal from India, empanadas from South America and Polish stuffed cabbage and she had never been to any of those places. If she had, I'm sure she would have been like me, eager to try and adapt local dishes, incorporating all of those flavors, foreign and familiar, into her life.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sunday we were treated to the perfect excuse to stay inside and eat all day - a massive rainstorm. Luckily, we had been planning for guests and I spent the morning cooking. P. entertained Roman and I had a few hours of kitchen "therapy," chopping, simmering, roasting, stirring. By the time our guests arrived, I was overwhelmed with excitement. It had been a while since I had put together a meal of this calibre and instead of tiring me out, it gave me a real boost of positive energy.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Last fall, as a very small Roman and I began to visit Rome's markets, an orange-rosy hued fruit caught my eye. Not that I'm shy, but it took me several months before I decided to ask one of the merchants what they were and how to eat them. Persimmons, or kaki as they are called in Italy, were officially in my life.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
A long, long time ago, my friend Fanny made me pain perdu, or French toast as we Americans call it, in her Parisian kitchen. I had eaten plenty of French toast, but this was different. I asked her recently how she made it, and she said it was pretty improvised, like any good French toast! Knowing how to make something without a recipe is like having a trick up your sleeve. In the fog of morning, before coffee is even made, a few standard ingredients get mixed together and utter deliciousness comes out. The right bread, thickly sliced, beautiful organic eggs and milk, and that's it? Sitting down to a plate of this makes morning special, and with the holidays at our doorstep, I think we all need a little bit of just that.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup sesame seeds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 300°.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the raisins. Mix thoroughly and spread the mixture evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and well toasted.
Once the granola is cooled, transfer to a large bowl and stir in the raisins.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Sunday morning when we're up before the sun is a good time to put up some bread to rise. It's a good way to take advantage of the day. I learned this in my childhood, growing up with parents who loved to bake. Weekends at home involved lots of flour spilled on the floor, wildly delicious scents coming from the oven and (much to my embarrassment) opera played way too loud with all the windows open for the neighbors to hear.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
It was a long week with Roman's first virus and all of the extra care that went into getting through several long nights with a fever. He's fully recovered and seems to have bounced back even stronger than before. I can now return to the kitchen for short periods while he plays happily with his dad. For this and other reasons, I'm jumping for joy! I discovered a new dish that is sure to become a regular at our dinner table. It's called a sformato and it's like a cross between a soufflé and a vegetable fritatta, but it has no eggs although your taste buds won't believe it! It's made with chickpea flour, so for a vegetarian dish, there's plenty of protein in there. Served along side a salad, it makes a lovely lunch, brunch or light dinner. This new discovery put me in a seriously good mood. Food, and voracious 13 month olds can do that for me.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Birthdays have always been momentous occasions for me. Today was Roman's first birthday and there was a lot to celebrate. His first time around the sun. First words (mama, papa, "yum") first steps (we're up to 8), the innumerable list of skills he seems to acquire daily.