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Friday
Jul312015

Easy Blueberry Crostata

Have you ever made a crostata?  You might have been scared off because it requires making dough, but if you have a food processor, you can use my 60-second pie dough recipe, and that makes this a super quick and easy dessert to make.  You can use whatever fruit you like, but the blueberries are so great right now that I used those. 

One of the nice things about crostata is that it is free form - there is no crust to crimp or pan to line perfectly. You just roll out the dough, place the filling in the middle and fold the dough up around the filling.  Also, you can make this dessert earlier in the day and let it sit in the fridge until you're ready to bake it.  Love that!

Blueberry Crostata

for a printable recipe, click here
serves 6-8

I use salted butter in my pie dough recipe, so you don't need to add additional salt

for the dough:
1¾ cups AP flour
1 Tablespoon sugar 
1½ sticks butter (not unsalted), cut into slices
¼ cup (scant) ice cold water

for the filling and topping:
3 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar or just turbinado sugar (an unprocessed, coarse sugar)

Make the pie dough: 
Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and give it a whirl to blend. Add the slices of butter and process again, pulsing until the butter is all broken up.  Add half the ice water and pulse.  Keep pulsing until the dough gathers together into a ball. If it doesn't, add a little bit more of the water and pulse.  You may not use all the water. Give it a minute to gather up.  Place the dough on a floured piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Flour the top of the dough, wrap it up and place it the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  You can make this dough ahead and just keep it in the fridge if you want. 

Make the filling:
Place the blueberries in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, place the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and juice and cinnamon and blend well with a fork or whisk. Pour over the blueberries and toss to coat thoroughly.  At this point, you can also place the filling in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the dessert for baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Place a piece of baking parchment on a rimmed baking sheet.  Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it and let it sit for a good 15 minutes on the plastic wrap.  Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough (flour the dough a little).  With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch disc.  I like to smack the dough with my rolling pin to flatten it a little to get it started.  If the dough is hard to roll out, let it sit for about 5 minutes and it will relax.  Come back to it and it will roll out easily.  The plastic wrap will keep it from sticking to the counter and the rolling pin.  Wrap the dough a little over the rolling pin and transfer it to the baking parchment.  

Place the filling on top of the dough, leaving at least a 2-inch border of dough with no filling.  Dot the filling with the butter and fold the dough over the filling, leaving the center with no dough.  Brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.  Bake for about 45 - 55 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit and cool before you serve it.  It's great with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

Thursday
Jul092015

Appetizer of Eggplant, Tomato and Burrata with Anchovy Breadcrumbs

If you have plans in the future to visit San Francisco and wonder where to eat, let me recommend a couple of restaurants to you that are really exceptional - A16 and SPQR.  They are sister restaurants, with the same owner, Shelly Lindgren, at the helm.  They are both Italian restaurants and serve outstanding food and wine.  I guarantee you will not have a bad meal at either place.  A16 focuses on the food and wine of the Campania (Naples) region of Italy.  A16 is the name of the road that runs through that part of Italy.  SPQR, if you have ever been to Rome, are the initials that are stamped into everything in the city - from manhole covers to coins. It means "The Senate and People of Rome".  Tip: if you go to SPQR, sit at the Cook's Counter and watch them prepare the food. 

When Shelly Lindgren and the other original owners opened A16 back in 2004, they wanted to open a great wine bar that served Neapolitan style pizza, something lacking in the Bay area.  Since then, A16 has become much more, with incredible handmade pastas and other dishes on the menu. It's wine service and menu is so outstanding it won a James Beard award this year.   Yet this little place is unpretentious and casual but the food will knock your socks off.  The servers do an excellent job of helping you choose a wine - they steered us to a little known organic wine from Puglia that we had never heard of and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  

The last time we were here, we had an appetizer of eggplant, tomatoes, burrata and anchovy breadcrumbs that I absolutely loved.  It inspired me to try to recreate it. Here's my version.  It's simple and easy to whip up - no frying of the eggplant, just a quick roast in the oven.  If you've never had Burrata cheese, it's actually much easier to find now in the grocery stores.  It's fresh mozzarella balls that have cream in the middle.  It's super luscious.  Then you add raw tomatoes, fresh basil and divine crunchy breadcrumbs that are crisped up in a little olive oil and melted anchovy. Don't let the anchovy scare you - it adds a layer of flavor to the breadcrumbs that you absolutely want.  Be brave.  Give it a try.

Open up a great red wine and enjoy.

 

Eggplant, Tomato and Burrata with Anchovy Breadcrumbs

for a printable recipe click here

serves 4-6 as an appetizer

for the eggplant:
2 small eggplant, cubed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt 
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

for the tomatoes:
28 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 

for the breadcrumbs:
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
1 anchovy filet
½ cup freshly grated breadcrumbs (you can use a coarse cheese grater or a food processor)
¼ teaspoon sea salt 

a few leaves of fresh basil
4-6 ounces of fresh Burrata
sea salt 

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Toss the eggplant in a medium bowl with the other ingredients for the eggplant.  Spread on the baking sheet. (Don't wash the bowl. ) Roast for about 20 minutes. Spread the eggplant on a serving platter and allow to cool slightly. 

In the same bowl, toss the tomatoes with the vinegar, sea salt and olive oil.  Allow to sit while you prepare the breadcrumbs.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil and gently fry the anchovy until it dissolves.  Add the breadcrumbs and salt and fry until golden brown. Remove from heat and spread on a plate to cool.

Layer the tomatoes on top of the eggplant.  Shred basil leaves over the top.  Take the balls of Burrata and pull apart and lay on top of the tomatoes.  Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of the Burrata. Sprinkle the anchovy breadcrumbs on top. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday
May272015

Artisan Bread Update and a Bread Cloche Giveaway!

In all the years of writing this blog, the most popular post ever has been the one I wrote about No-Knead Artisan Bread.  This method, popularized by Zoe Francois and Jeffrey Hertzberg, revolutionized homemade bread baking.  Instead of making up a batch of dough every time you want to bake bread, you make up a large batch of very wet dough and let it do a long, cold fermentation in the refrigerator - no kneading, no fuss. You can store the dough in the fridge for up to two weeks, tear a hunk of dough off and make bread whenever you feel like it. A variation of this method was also developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was making homemade bread with these methods.  In the five years since I wrote that post, I've learned a few things and tweaked the recipe a little.  I thought it was time to do an update.  

Zoe and Jeffrey's approach is to make a very wet dough, let it rise and then let it sit overnight in the fridge. You then shape a piece of the dough, let it rise and then bake it on a pizza stone in the oven.  They liked to place a cup of water into a pan beneath the rack with the bread, creating a little steam for the crust.  In Jim Lahey's version, a smaller batch of wet dough is worked up and allowed to rise about 18 hours then wrapped in a towel to rise again and baked in a heavy cast iron or ceramic pot.  Both methods are terrific.  I like making up a larger batch of dough so I can keep it in the fridge and just make bread or rolls whenever I want.  I was baking my bread on a pizza stone but then tried Lahey's version of baking it in my Le Creuset pot. I really liked doing it this way and that's how I've been doing it for a while.

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