Comfort in a Bowl

Polenta with Mushrooms, Cavalo Nero and Gorganzola

I am sure everyone is wondering where I have been for the last two months. I wish I could give you some glamorous answer, but the truth is that life got in my way: work deadlines and a trip to London; and I had a cold which then turned into the flu over the holidays. Now I am back and raring to go.

Winter has finally reared its head here in Israel and all I could think of was making comfort in a bowl. First, I made us a big pot of hearty chicken soup which nurtured Mr BT and me through the cold-flu episode. It healed us, warmed us and comforted us as it always does. Good old chicken soup.

When I finally had the energy to cook again, I decided to make the second best comfort in a bowl recipe, polenta. Soft polenta, stirred clockwise with a wooden paddle over a low flame and served with sautéed White Button mushrooms, King Oyster mushrooms, homegrown Cavolo Nero from my garden and creamy Gorgonzola cheese. Life can’t get much better than that.

I am looking forward to an interesting 2012, filled with new recipes, new adventures and some lovely surprises.

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Leeks, Cavolo Nero and Gorgonzola

Serving Size: 6 as main course

For the polenta:

4 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta (not instant)

For the vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large leek, pale and green parts only, rinsed and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small bunch of Cavolo Nero, kale or Swiss Chard, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 package White Button or Cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 large King Oyster mushrooms, cut in half and then cut lengthwise

1/4 dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme

100g (3.5 oz) Gorgonzola Dolce

Place the water and salt in a large saucepan over a low flame. Immediately add the polenta in a steady stream while stirring constantly in a clockwise motion to avoid lumps. Stir ever few minutes in a clockwise motion until all the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is thick, approximately 30-40 minutes. The polenta should be soft and creamy, not grainy.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic and Cavolo Nero. Saute until the leeks are slightly soft and barely golden, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, cooking until they are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the leek mixture and the white wine to the pan. When the wine is cooked down slightly, add the chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the polenta has finished cooking, crumble in half of the Gorgonzola and mix through. Place the polenta on a large platter and form a well in the center. Place the mushroom mixture in the well and crumble the rest of the Gorgonzola on top.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/01/14/comfort-in-a-bowl/

Lemon and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli

Lemon Goat Cheese Ravioli

Italians are passionate about just about everything, but when it comes to food, they have a passion for the ingredients that make up a dish as much as for the final result. I was recently speaking to a friend of mine from Firenze about garlic while he was making spaghetti con aglio, olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers). Although he was chopping up the Chinese garlic that is the most commonly available kind in Israel, he told me, “I only cook with Italian garlic or red garlic from France!” I explained to him that I only cook with local Israeli garlic that I buy fresh in season at the shuk. At that moment it hit me that I too am passionate about my ingredients.

If I am making homemade pasta, I will only make it with ’00’ flour, which is finally readily available here. And the reason for that is not because I am a flour snob, but that the all-purpose flour here in Israel behaves differently from flour in the US or the UK. I remember going to a cooking shop in Tel Aviv about 10 years ago that carries special ingredients for cooks and asking them if they had ’00’ flour. They had no idea what I was talking about, so I explained that doppio zero is a high protein flour that is the most highly refined and is talcum-powder soft. A few months later they ordered some and it has been available ever since. Even Stybel, a local flour mill, is offering it (Stybel 9 pasta flour).

My pasta maker was out of commission for several years because the handle was misplaced in one of our moves. I finally ordered the handle in the States and a friend’s parents were kind enough to bring it with them when they flew to Israel. What better way to try out the handle than whipping up a batch of pasta dough. The pasta dough recipe comes from a wonderful Italian cookbook called Two Greedy Italians: Carluccio and Contaldo’s Return to Italy by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo, which Mr BT brought back from London as a “just because” surprise. This is Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe with the exception of the turmeric and the lemon zest.

I changed Yotam’s recipe a little by serving the pasta with a drizzle of  homemade basil oil. It was a nice addition and didn’t overpower the lemon in the ravioli.

Lemon Goat Cheese Ravioli

Lemon and Goat's Cheese Ravioli

Serving Size: 4 as a starter

Pasta dough

300g (3 cups) Italian '00' flour

100g (1 cup) semolina

1/4 tsp turmeric

Grated zest of 3 lemons

4 eggs

Filling

300g (11 oz) soft goat's cheese

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of chilli flakes

Black pepper

1 egg white, beaten

To Serve

2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, finely crushed

1 teaspoon chopped tarragon

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil (see recipe below)

Lemon juice (optional)

Mix the flour, semolina, tumeric and lemon zest together on a clean work surface or in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. With a fork, gradually mix the flour into the eggs until combined and then knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and pliable, but not sticky. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Flatten the dough and dust each side with flour before placing it in your pasta machine. Set your machine to the widest setting and roll the pasta dough through. Turn up the setting on the machine by one and repeat the process until you get to number 10 (or follow your manufacturer's instructions) and your dough is almost wafer-thin. When the pasta sheet is rolled out, keep it under a moist towel so it does not dry out.

Use a 7cm (3 inch) round ravioli stamp or the rim of a glass to stamp out discs from the sheets of pasta. Brush a disc with a little egg white and place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center. Place another disc on top and gently press any air as you seal the edges of the raviolo. Place the ravioli on a tea towel or tray, sprinkled with semolina, and leave to dry for 10-15 minutes or cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator for one day.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, tarragon, and lemon zest. Drizzle with rapeseed, olive oil or basil oil, sprinkle with salt and a squirt of lemon juice.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/11/12/lemon-and-goats-cheese-ravioli/

Basil Oil

Yield: About 1 cup

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

3/4 cup olive oil

Add the basil and oil to a blender; puree until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2011/11/12/lemon-and-goats-cheese-ravioli/

Fritelle di Mele – Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

The holidays always make me think of the fun family gatherings we used to have. With most of the older generation no longer with us, it makes me think even more about the holiday foods I used to watch my paternal grandmother make. Before Hannukah, my grandmother was busy making her famous square chocolate cake, butter cookies, candied almonds, Butter-Mandel Kuchen, which she called Hefeteig (yeast dough) and Schnecken. But one of the treats that we all looked forward to were the fresh apple fritters she would make. The house would smell of sweet oil, apples, cinnamon and powdered sugar. I can smell them now as I am writing this post.

I decided to introduce my family’s tradition of apple fritters for Hannukah to Mr. BT and by the smile on his face, I think it will be a tradition we will continue.

Fritelle di Mele – Apple Fritters

Yield: 10 fritters

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup beer (lager or pilsner)

1 large firm baking apple, such as Granny Smith

1/4 cup rum, brandy or calvados

Peanut or safflower oil, for frying

Icing sugar

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the beer to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beer in two additions; whisk well to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Peel, core, and slice the apple into ten 1/3 cm-(1/8 inch)-thick rings. Spread out the rings on a large plate or shallow pan, and pour the rum over the apple slices. Let the slices sit for 20 minutes to macerate in the rum.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold them gently into the batter.

Fill a high-sided skillet or wide pot with 5 centimeters (2 inches) of oil, and heat the oil to 190C (375F). In batches, dip the apple rings into the batter to coat both sides, and fry, turning once, until the apple fritters are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle icing sugar on top, and serve warm.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/12/07/fritelle-di-mele-apple-fritters/

Chicken with Pasta

We’re having a heatwave.
A tropical heatwave.
The temperature’s rising,
It isn’t surprising,
We’re having a heatwave.

Okay, I changed the last line…

It is really hard to be motivated to cook in this heat right now, but I am trying to make things that I can either make ahead of time or make something that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen for too long. This pasta dish looks time consuming, but you can make the chicken stock ahead of time and freeze it.

Hope everyone is staying cool and enjoying the last dog days of summer. It is time to start planning for the holidays and I will be posting some Rosh Hashana ideas in the coming days and weeks.

Chicken with Pasta

Chicken with Pasta

Serving Size: 6

by Dr. Eli Landau and Haim Cohen

1 whole chicken

1 bundle of herbs (10 sprigs parsley, 10 sprigs dill, 2 bay leaves, 5 sprigs thyme)

2 carrots (1 chopped and 1 whole)

2 onions (1 chopped and 1 whole)

5 black pepper corns

3 juniper berries

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Flour, for dredging

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of rosemary, chopped

2 sage leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon thyme, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup green peas

1 kg penne, rigatoni, gemelli or other short hollow pasta

For the stock:

Remove the wings and necks from the chicken and place in a medium size pot with the herbs, the whole carrot and the onion, black pepper corns, juniper berries and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour and a half. Discard the vegetables and herbs, and set aside the chicken pieces. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock and set stock aside.

For the chicken:

Remove the fat that is on the inside of the chicken cavity and chop it coarsely. Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken into eight pieces, dredge them lightly into flour, and set aside. Put a half a cup of olive oil and the chopped chicken fat in a large dutch oven or deep frying pan with a cover on medium-high heat. When the chicken fat begins to dissolve, place the chicken pieces in the pot, in small batches, and brown on all sides. Set the chicken aside.

Put the chopped vegetables (carrot, onion and garlic) in the pot and saute for three to four minutes. Add the chopped herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme) and continue stirring for two more minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and stir. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot. When the wine evaporates, add enough chicken stock to cover, bring to a boil, lower the fire, season with a little salt and black pepper, stir once and simmer uncovered. Every so often, add a ladle of stock and stir. The cooking time will be an hour and a half to two hours, at the end of which the stock will be gone and the dish will be dense and nicely browned. Add the green peas at the very last minute and cook until heated through.

Cook the pasta al dente in lightly salted water according to instructions on the package; drain. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Place the chicken with its sauce on top, stir gently and serve.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/08/28/chicken-with-pasta/

Garum – Roman Ketchup

While perusing in my new favorite cookbook looking for something interesting to do with the fresh salmon I had just ordered, I found an interesting sauce for fish called Garum. When I asked Mr. BT if he would like this sauce, he yelled out “GARUM? Do you know what that is?!” I said no and he explained that it is an ancient Roman fish sauce made from stinky, rotten fish. I gasped and said, this recipe is a very watered-down version with olives and 4 anchovies. He said, “ok, how bad can that be.”

So, in my curiosity about the history of cuisine, I found out that garum is the ancient Roman ketchup. They put it on everything, and I mean everything! I found a recipe for Pear Patina, an ancient Roman dessert, that called for garum. I guess that is where the expression, “he puts ketchup on everything” probably came from, replacing ketchup with garum.

Historian Brian Fagan, an archaeologist, author and professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara wrote this about garum in his fascinating book, Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and Discovery of the New World:

Roman cooks placed great emphasis on sauces and flavors, but none was more ubiquitous than garum–fish sauce. The modern equivalent would be tomato ketchup or Tabasco sauce, utilitarian products used to enhance all manner of dishes, both lavish and prosaic…today’s global cuisine provides an equivalent to garum in readily available Asian fish sauces (such as nuoc nam, nam-pla). There were many garums (also known as liquamen) so there was no universal recipe, much depending on the catch at hand.

There were hundreds of recipes for garum, few of which survive, for each manufacturer–each fishing family–had its own favorite blend. The third-century writer Gargilious Martialis gives an example in his De medicine et virtue herbarum:

“Use fatty fish, for example, sardines, and a container, whose inside is sealed with pitch, with a 26-35 quart capacity. Add dried, aromatic herbs, possessing a strong flavor, such as dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others in a layer on the bottom of the container; then put down a layer of fish (if small, leave them whole, if large, use pieces) and over this, add a layer of salt two fingers high. Repeat the layers until the container is filled. Let it rest for seven days in the sun. Then mix the sauce daily for 20 days. After that, it becomes a liquid.”

This modernised garum is neither rotting nor stinky and is a delicious sauce for most firm fish. You could serve it with hot or cold fish.

Garum – Roman Ketchup

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Recipe from Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark

200g olives, a mixture of firm green and black/purple, stoned

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano

4 salted anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sweet red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Finely chop the olives and place them in a bowl. Add the garlic, herbs, anchovies, and vinegar. Mix well and add the olive oil. Add black pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve over a grilled firm fish.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/07/17/garum-roman-ketchup/

Tiramisu – A Little Pick Me Up

There are many stories about the origin of this recipe, but the Italians from the Veneto region claim this luscious dessert as their own. I learned to make it from a drop-dead gorgeous chef at a 3-day cooking course I attended in Riva di Garda, Italy almost 20 years ago. Don’t tell Mr BT, but between you and me, the chef could have made boiled newspaper and I would have left that course a happy woman. I have been promising to make this dessert ever since Mr BT and I met almost 10 years ago, and I promised I would make it for Shavuot, but alas he had to go on a business trip abroad. So, I made it, just because.

Tiramisu is a dessert that you make to wow a new boyfriend, bring a smile to your family or friends, or for that romantic candle-lit  dinner with the one you love.

Traditional tiramisu is made with raw eggs and no alcohol, so if you are elderly, sick, or pregnant, you can make a zabaglione, cool it, beat in the mascarpone, and then fold in whipped cream. It is not authentic, but it will still be creamy and delicious.

Tiramisu

Serving Size: 6 to 8

5 very fresh, organic eggs, separated

5 tablespoons icing (powdered) sugar

500g (18oz) Mascarpone cheese

1 package of Savoiardi biscuits

300ml (1-1/4 cup) very strong espresso coffee, cooled

3 tablespoons Marsala wine, sweet sherry, or rum

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Whisk the egg yolks and the icing sugar until they are double in volume and pale. Add the mascarpone and beat until combined.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the mascarpone mixture. Mix the cooled coffee and Marsala in a medium size bowl. Dip both sides of the Savoiardi biscuits into the coffee, arranging them in a single layer in a medium size square dish. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture, repeat with a layer of biscuits and cover with the remaining cheese mixture.

Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight. Sift cocoa powder on top before serving.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/06/06/tiramisu-a-little-pick-me-up/

Shavuot Ideas – Saffron Semifreddo with a Dried Cherry-Cardamom Sauce and Almond-Orange Financiers

Chocolate is most people’s guilty pleasure, but my guilty pleasure is ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but luscious Italian gelato, preferably eaten in Italy at one of my favorite gelateria, Perche No!, in Firenze, or in Israel at Gelateria Siciliana on Ibn Givrol in Tel Aviv.

I also enjoy making my own ice cream and sorbet at home, which I have blogged in several posts here.

The final course for the dinner party last week was a recipe for semifreddo that intrigued me from the moment I saw it on the Food52 website. Semifreddo literally means “half-frozen” and is a frozen dessert that has a mousse-like texture from equal parts of ice cream custard and whipped double (heavy) cream.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe at all and even made the salted-honey hazelnuts, but in the rush of trying to serve the dessert, I forgot to plate them. It was actually better in the end because it would have been too much of a taste contrast with the mini almond-orange financiers I served on the side. The dessert was a huge hit, which made me very happy since Mimi was afraid that some of the guests might not like the taste of saffron. I used a very high quality saffron that I had been keeping for a special occasion.

Sarah, from Foodbridge, brought a large bag filled with Surinam Cherries, also known as Pitanga in Brazil. They were a perfect decoration for the top of the semifreddo and were also quite delicious. I had never had them before but they  remind me of cherries, which as my faithful readers know is one of my favorite fruits.

Mimi suggested that we serve an alternative to the semifreddo, so I decided to make mini financiers which I baked in a silcone chocolate mold that can withstand up to 220C (425F). Financiers are a light teacake, similar to sponge cake, and are usually made of almond flour, a beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, icing sugar and flour. Financiers are often baked in rectangular-shaped molds which are suppose to resemble a bars of gold. You can find these molds in cooking shops, such as 4Chef, in Tel Aviv.

The dessert was a huge hit and I will definitely make this again. I made the semifreddo a couple of days in advance and made the financiers the day before, but you could easily make these several days before and freeze them.

The dessert was served with Mimi’s delicious homemade liqueurs. On offer were lemoncello, geranium, apricot, strawberry and coffee. I love all of them, but my personal favorite is apricot.

Saffron Semifreddo with Cherry Cardamom Syrup and Salted Honey Hazelnuts

Serving Size: 6

For the Saffron semifreddo:

5 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon high quality saffron threads

1 tablespoon sweet vermouth

1 cup double (heavy) cream

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

1/2 cup dried, unsweetened cherries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cardamom, toasted

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup filtered water

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons honey

For the Saffron semifreddo:

Bring a small saucepan or double boiler with water to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Have an ice water bath big enough for the base of the double boiler or mixing bowl on standby.

In a medium glass bowl or the pan of a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and saffron threads. Place the bowl or pan over the simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick and doubled in volume.

Remove from heat and submerge in the ice water bath, continuing to stir to bring down the temperature. If the mixture gets too cold and is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it will release easily if you run hot water on the outside of the bowl.

Beat the heavy cream in a mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Place the egg yolk mixture and the sweet vermouth in the bowl of mixer with a whip attachment, and whip until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color.

Add a third of the whipped cream to the egg mixture and stir together gently. Fold in the remaining whipped cream into the egg mixture. When this is done, you can spoon the mixture into 6 individual ramekins, or place it in a plastic cellophane lined loaf pan, or decorative silicone mold of your choice. Cover the ramekins or other container with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. To serve, run a butter knife under hot water and cut around the edge of the ramekin to invert the semifreddo onto individual plates. Serve with the cherry-cardamom syrup and salted honey-hazelnuts (recipes to follow).

For cherry-cardamom syrup:

Combine all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced by half and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

For the salted honey-hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) degrees.

Place the hazelnuts in a small mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil and sea salt. Add honey and toss once more to coat. Transfer the nuts to a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring at least once, until the nuts are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Once the hazelnuts have cooled, roughly chop the nuts and serve alongside the semifreddo.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

 

Almond-Orange Financiers

Yield: 21 5 x 10-cm (2 x 4-inch) financiers or 50 mini

30g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, for buttering 21 financier molds

140g (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground blanched almonds

210g (1-2/3 cups) icing (confectioner's) sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Zest of one large orange

Pinch of salt

5 large egg whites

185 g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F).

With a pastry brush, butter the financier molds with the 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Arrange them side-by-side, but not touching, on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the buttered molds in the freezer to re-solidify the butter and make the financiers easier to unmold.

In a large bowl, combine the almonds, sugar, flour, orange zest and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the 3/4 cup of butter and mix until blended. The mixture will be fairly thin and pourable.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake until the financiers just being to rise, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C (400F). Bake until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up, about another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm, about another 7 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financiers cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.

(Note: If you are using metal Financier molds, then wash them immediately with a stiff brush in hot water without detergent so that they retain their seasoning.) The financiers may be stored in an airtight container for several days.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/05/16/shavuot-ideas-saffron-semifreddo-with-a-dried-cherry-cardamom-sauce-and-almond-orange-financiers/

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta Keeps the Vampires Away

Well, not really, but fresh garlic on your front porch does!

This past Friday I went to Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem with two foodie girlfriends, Mimi from Israeli Kitchen and Sarah from Foodbridge. We had a great time exploring the market finding all sorts of goodies to try. I came home with fontina, mahleb, pear cider from Normandy, a loaf of currant and walnut bread, artichokes, and 6 kilos of braided fresh garlic. I thought Mr. BT was going to kill me for buying so much garlic, but his Hungarian side was pleased as a peasant in the countryside. I thought my car was going to smell like a Romanian kitchen, but it wasn’t too bad, or maybe I just like the smell of garlic. We hung the beautiful braid on our shady front porch to dry.

I am always looking for quick dishes to make during the week and I had some ricotta and spinach I bought to use during Passover, but never got around to using. So, I used them to make a very quick, light and delicious Italian dish called Malfatti. It is a Tuscan dish made with ingredients that are used to fill ravioli. In fact it was probably concocted when someone had made too much ravioli filling. There are various versions of this dish, including one served with a brown butter and sage sauce, but I served mine with a tomato and fresh garlic sauce. They are like little soft pillows in your mouth, but without having to pick the feathers from between your teeth.

Malfatti di Spinaci e Ricotta

Serving Size: 4 to 6 serving as a light main course and 6 to 8 a

(Spinach and Ricotta Malfatti)

500g (1lb) ricotta

2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and moisture squeezed out

100g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

1/4 cup semolina, plus more for shaping

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

1 large whole egg

Freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese

Put a teaspoon of semolina into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to add more semolina) You can freeze them at this point.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Drain malfatti and place on plates or in a flat bowl. Serve with tomato sauce or a brown butter and sage sauce, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/04/13/malfatti-di-spinaci-e-ricotta-keeps-the-vampires-away/

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

We have had a lovely Pesach with family and friends. We went to a powerful and moving play at the Susan Dellal Center for Dance and Theatre in Neve Tzedek, called Silver Spoons. It is performed by members of non-profit group called Knafayim (‘Wings’). This organization provides an opportunity for artistically talented people with special needs to train to be actors, dancers, musicians and artists.

The play is about a group of actors who are mentally disabled, mainly with Down’s Syndrome. Each actor tells a true story about themselves, some of them quite disturbing, such as the women who spoke about being raped. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered for their courage and their amazing talent. But, the most important thing you walk away with is that they just wanted to be respected like any other human being. They have dreams just like you and me. They dream of being a professional dancer, a taxi driver, an actress,  and a bride. I think everyone in Israel should attend the wonderful play and more importantly help this organization realize their dream of  having a center for the arts.

For the final evening of Pesach, I made a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, roasted lamb shoulder with baby artichokes. I marinated the lamb for over 24 hours in red wine, fresh herbs, cinnamon and white wine vinegar. Mr. BT is a very happy man tonight. I hope that you all had a lovely Pesach or Easter celebration with your family.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Baby Artichokes

Serving Size: 6

2.5kg (6lbs) lamb shoulder, cut into 4 very thick chops, about 1/2kg (1.5lbs) each

2 medium carrots, cut in 2.5cm (1-inch) chunks, (about 2 cups)

2 medium onions, cut in large chunks (about 3 cups)

1 cinnamon stick, 7.5cm (3-inches) long

6 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

4 small branches of fresh rosemary

8 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh za'atar

1/2 teaspoon coarsely black pepper

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups light chicken stock

12 baby artichokes

DSC04204

Trim most of the fat from the chops, leaving only a very thin layer on the outside surface. Put the meat in a large bowl with all of the ingredients except for the stock and the artichokes. Toss well to distribute all of the seasonings, and submerge the meat in the marinade. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Turn the meat occasionally.

DSC04250

Heat the oven to 180C (350F). Arrange the meat in a roasting pan, spread the marinade all around them, and pour in the stock. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast for 3 hours, basting and turning the meat every 30 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven, turn the oven up to 200C (400F).

Cut the artichokes in half, removing the choke and place them in the pan. Put the pan back in the oven, cover with foil, and cook for another hour or until the lamb is tender. Serve with the pan juices.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/04/04/roasted-lamb-shoulder-with-baby-artichokes/

Sgonfiotti di Castagne (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

If you have been following me for a while, you know by now that I like to try something different each year for Hannukah as well as other holidays in the Jewish calendar. Most of the time they turn out great and sometimes they don’t turn out so great. Usually I don’t blog about the disasters. I tried making pumpkin fritters for the first night of Hannukah. They smelled great, they looked good, but they tasted like fried goo. Thank goodness I had a lovely gargantuan fresh mango for Plan B.

I had bought chestnut flour a while back and kept forgetting to make something with it. I found all sorts of interesting recipes only to find out they tasted terrible. Either they were dry and tasteless or wet and gooey. I found an Italian recipe for chestnuts puffs and thought I would give them a try. The worst that could happen was that I will never buy chestnut flour again.

The dough did not rise very much and I didn’t have high hopes on the dough puffing up at all, but lo and behold, the dough did work. The taste is very interesting, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. They have the faint sweetness of fresh chestnut. Mr BT loved them. They are not very sweet, they almost taste like a fried graham cracker, but not. I am still on the fence about whether I really like them or not, but buying more chestnut flour is a great excuse for going to Umbria on another holiday. Maybe I do like the puffs after all.

Sgonfiotti di Castagne - (Hannukah Chestnut Puffs)

Yield: Approximately 40 puffs

1/2 cup warm water

2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

1-1/4 chestnut flour

1/4 icing sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 large egg

1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil

Mix the warm water and yeast in mixing bowl of an electric mixer. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup of chestnut flour, the icing sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

In the mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 chestnut flour, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, butter, egg, and salt. Beat at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 45 minutes.

Heat about 7cm (3 inches) of oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough to 3mm (1/8-inch) thick. Cut rounds using a floured 38mm (1-1/2 inch) round cutter.

Fry the rounds, about 10 at a time, turning once until puffed golden, 30 to 45 seconds. Drain on a paper towel. Dust with the reserved chestnut-sugar mixture and serve warm or a room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2009/12/15/sgonfiotti-di-castagne-hannuka-chestnut-puffs/

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