Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking

first

March 25, 2017
paninigirl

4 comments

“I Cracker” And A Giveaway

cracker

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rome lately in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Italy. As J. says “Rome is like an onion. You just keep peeling back layers and there’s always more to discover.” Of course there are endless sights that I hope to some day see, but I can’t help myself from dreaming about the meals we will eat. As a traveler I am not one to plan every second of every day, but I do like to have some idea of where we should dine. There’s nothing worse than wandering around hungry (sometimes also clueless) and then being turned away for not having a reservation.

With that being said, I’ve done a fair amount of reading lately on Rome and its food. I follow three blogs-Elizabeth Minchilli In RomeKatie Parla and An American in Rome– where each of the  Rome based  writers share their favorite spots for dining, among other tips about the city. I’ve made a mental list of places I’d love to try and find myself wondering just how many meals we can realistically fit into our time there.

Today I came to the decision that rather than just reading about the food of Rome it was time to do some cooking. I turned to Katie’s recently published cookbook-Tasting Rome. The book includes recipes for traditional Roman dishes in addition to contemporary interpretations. The photos are stunning, the recipes are tailored for the home kitchen and the narrative will make you want to jump on a plane to Rome.

Today I tried a starter and an entree. The cracker recipe is a twist on taralli- round crackers served with drinks around southern Italy. They are fairly easy to put together, especially if you have a pasta machine. The second dish was Torta Rustica, a savory vegetable pie that it very similar to the Erbazzone from Liguria which I love.

Leave me a comment here between now and April 2nd to be entered to win copy of Tasting Rome.

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I Cracker (Italian for “crackers”)

1-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (5 grams)

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (90 milliliters) warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (300 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon (5 grams) sea salt

Flavorings of your choice (optional): coarsely ground pepper, red pepper flakes, finely chopped fresh rosemary

In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and set aside until dissolved, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl or on the countertop, sift together the flour and salt, then mix with the flavorings. Make a well in the center. Pout the olive oil into the well along with an additional 5 tablespoons water and then the yeast mixture. Mix with your hands to pull together a ball of dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, until the dough is supple and smooth. Form into a ball, cover it with an inverted medium bowl, and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the dough into eight equal pieces. Flatten one piece with your hands and lightly dust with flour, leaving the remaining dough under the bowl until you’re ready to use it. Feed the dough through a pasta machine, starting on the largest setting, gradually reaching the thickness of four stacked playing cards. If you’re using flavorings in your dough stop a setting or two before to prevent tearing (I went to setting 5 on my machine). Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough.

Prick the dough with a fork to make small holes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cracker has bubbled up and browned in places and is cooked through. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.

 

 

 

 

March 11, 2017
paninigirl

6 comments

Broccoli With Burrata

burrata

****I’ve made a correction to the ingredients in the recipe so if you receive this by email please use this version. Sorry!

If you only need one recipe for broccoli, this is it. I discovered it a few years back when I purchased what was to become one of my favorite cookbooks-Sunday Suppers at Lucques-written by the illustrious Los Angeles chef, chef Suzanne Goin. I haven’t made it to any of her restaurants, but I have had a great time cooking my way through her book. I’ve yet to be anything but thrilled by each and every recipe that I’ve tried.

This is a great do-ahead dish as you can blanch the broccoli and make both the anchovy butter and the breadcrumbs ahead of time and put it all together right before serving. Each bite is the perfect combination of crunchy breadcrumbs and salty butter mingled with the very creamy burrata. It’s a match made in heaven.

Broccoli  with Burrata

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon sliced flat-leaf parsley
1 pound Italian broccoli, sprouting broccoli, or broccoli, trimmed
2 teaspoons minced salt-packed anchovy

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 chile de àrbol, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 pound burrata or fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup sliced shallots
1 lemon, for juicing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.

Toss the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown and crispy.

Spread the pine nuts on another baking sheet, and toast them 4 to 5 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Crush half the pine nuts, and combine them with the whole pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and parsley in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Blanch the broccoli in the rapidly boiling water 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender. Drain, and cool on a baking sheet.

Heat the remaining olive oil and the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the anchovies and chili and cook 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon as the anchovy melts into the sauce. Add the garlic and thyme and turn off the heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cut the burrata into 6 slices and arrange on 6 dinner plates.

Heat a large sautè pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the anchovy butter, shallots, and broccoli and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Toss well to warm the broccoli and coat it with the anchovy butter.

Taste for seasoning and plate next to the burrata. Shower the pine nut breadcrumbs over the top. Serves:6

Here are some of my other favorites from Sunday Suppers at Lucques:

Hazelnut Cake

Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cinnamon

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Horseradish Cream

 

March 10, 2017
paninigirl

2 comments

Broccoli With Burrata

burrata

If you only need one recipe for broccoli, this is it. I discovered it a few years back when I purchased what was to become one of my favorite cookbooks-Sunday Suppers at Lucques-written by the illustrious Los Angeles chef, chef Suzanne Goin. I haven’t made it to any of her restaurants, but I have had a great time cooking my way through her book. I’ve yet to be anything but thrilled by each and every recipe that I’ve tried.

This is a great do-ahead dish as you can blanch the broccoli and make both the anchovy butter and the breadcrumbs ahead of time and put it all together right before serving. Each bite is the perfect combination of crunchy breadcrumbs and salty butter mingled with the very creamy burrata. It’s a match made in heaven.

Broccoli  with Burrata

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon sliced flat-leaf parsley
1 pound Italian broccoli, sprouting broccoli, or broccoli, trimmed
2 teaspoons minced salt-packed anchovy

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 chile de àrbol, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 pound burrata or fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup sliced shallots
1 lemon, for juicing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.

Toss the breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown and crispy.

Spread the pine nuts on another baking sheet, and toast them 4 to 5 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Crush half the pine nuts, and combine them with the whole pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and parsley in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Blanch the broccoli in the rapidly boiling water 2 to 3 minutes, until just tender. Drain, and cool on a baking sheet.

Heat the remaining olive oil and the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the anchovies and chili and cook 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon as the anchovy melts into the sauce. Add the garlic and thyme and turn off the heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cut the burrata into 6 slices and arrange on 6 dinner plates.

Heat a large sautè pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the anchovy butter, shallots, and broccoli and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Toss well to warm the broccoli and coat it with the anchovy butter.

Taste for seasoning and plate next to the burrata. Shower the pine nut breadcrumbs over the top. Serves:6

Here are some of my other favorites from Sunday Suppers at Lucques:

Hazelnut Cake

Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Cinnamon

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Horseradish Cream

 

February 27, 2017
paninigirl

16 comments

Calitri Bound

 

 

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It’s been a long time coming, but I can finally say that in just a few months we will be headed to Calitri. Since spending one night there 12 years ago I’ve been longing to return and really get to know the birthplace of my maternal grandparents. Both my grandfather and grandmother emigrated from this small hilltop town located in southern Campania not far from both the borders of Puglia to the east and Basilicata to the south.

building

At the time of our visit much of the old “borgo” was in the beginning stages of renovation. After the earthquake of 1980 that rocked much of the surrounding area, many of Calitri’s residents left the old town which had been damaged and relocated to a newer buildings across the valley. Twelve years later the centro storico is thriving. Families have moved back into the refurbished homes and foreigners have relocated and made Calitri their home. We are thrilled to be staying in a rental right in this part of town.

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Using Calitri as a base we hope to explore many of the surrounding towns visiting restaurants, bakeries, wineries and hopefully a farm or two where cheese is produced. More importantly my dream is locate possible relatives. When we visited in 2005 we stopped into a bakery where the owner and his daughter were behind the counter. They spoke a little English, queried us as to what we were doing in town and when I explained my family came from there they asked for my family name. When I told him that my grandmother was a Maffucci  he exclaimed “Maffucci, I am Maffucci, we are all Maffucci here!” So we will see what we can turn up.

After the unification of Italy, Calitri shared a similar destiny to any other town in the south of Italy: banditry, baronial land command and peasant struggles for the division of land. One can only imagine how hard life was in the early twentieth century when many parents put their children on a ship to travel to a new life in America. My grandmother was a mere thirteen years old (I think) when she left for New York to live with an aunt. We found a monument (pictured above) while walking around town dedicated to the thousands who left Calitri. I’m fairly certain that my grandmother never envisioned that I would make the journey back to her birthplace.

February 17, 2017
paninigirl

4 comments

Mushroom & Taleggio Pie

tart

I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use this box of puff pastry that I bought at Surfas-the restaurant supply store. Since it was sort of pricey I was hoping that it would be a step above the Pepperidge Farm brand that I usually pick up at the grocery store. I was cleaning up some files on my computer when I came across what looked like would be the perfect recipe to put the pastry to the test.

I made this as an appetizer to serve with a little champagne, but it would make a great light lunch paired with a mixed green salad with a mustardy vinaigrette. You can prepare this right before your guests arrive and then pop it in the oven as you’re pouring drinks. The mushrooms can be sautéed earlier in the day and all you’ll need to do is slice the cheese and assemble the pie.

Speaking of the cheese-do try to get taleggio if you can. Hopefully you have an Italian market nearby and they should carry taleggio. If you haven’t had it before I’m sure you’ll  love it. Taleggio is a semi-soft cheese and at first you will notice its strong aroma, but the flavor is actually quite mild and it’s a great cheese for melting. If you can’t find taleggio, Italian fontina is a good substitute.

As for the pastry-the Dufour brand- was definitely a step up from Pepperidge Farm. It puffed up quite nicely and was wonderfully flaky. I had some taleggio leftover so a few days later I made a another version. I added caramelized onions and assembled it open faced like a crostata-just as good!

Mushroom & Taleggio Cheese Pie

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 sheet puff pastry
Arugula-a good handful
1/2 pound Taleggio, sliced
1 egg, beaten

Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Reduce the heat, add the garlic and thyme leaves. Season with pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Take off the heat & leave to cool.

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface into a rectangular shape. Try to make it as long as you can so that you have enough space to spread the filling quite thinly. Scatter the arugula  over 1 half of the pastry, then top with the mushrooms and sliced Taleggio. Brush the pastry edges with egg and fold the pastry in half over the filling, pressing to seal.

Put on a baking sheet and prick the pastry with a fork.  Set the pie aside to rest while you preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the the pastry with the egg wash and decorate as you wish. Make a few slashes in the top before putting it in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Serve hot!

February 12, 2017
paninigirl

4 comments

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies

cookie

I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but it took me four days to finish one of these cookies. A friend made them, gave me one and being the chocoholic that I am, I took a big bite. After I oohed and aahed and swooned with delight, I realized that one bite was enough and I put the cookie away.  This could be one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. It is rich, incredibly chocolatey, a little bit nutty and filled with creamy ganache. After I finished it a few days later I decided that I wanted to bake a batch myself.

The original recipe states that it makes 16 filled cookies. Considering that this cookie is pretty intense, I thought it might be wiser to make them a little bit smaller. The other thing I discovered is that the cookie on its own without the ganache filling is also pretty amazing. Serve with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and wow your guests.

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies (from Sunset Magazine)

10 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Put chopped chocolates and butter in a metal bowl and set bowl over (not touching) simmering water in a pot. Cook, stirring, until melted, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Whisk eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla into chocolate mixture. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture until evenly mixed, then stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Wrap dough airtight and chill until firm enough to hold its shape, 50 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make ganache: Put chopped chocolate and cream in a medium metal bowl and set bowl over (not touching) simmering water in a pot. Cook, stirring, until melted, then let cool. Cover and chill, stirring occasionally, until firm enough to spread, about 1 3/4 hours. If ganache becomes too firm to spread, transfer to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for a few seconds to soften, stir.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop 2-tbsp. portions of dough onto sheets, spaced about 1 in. apart. Press dough to flatten into even 1/2-in.-thick rounds. Bake until cookies no longer look wet and you can feel a slight crust on top, about 10 minutes (don’t overbake); switch position of baking sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on racks.

Generously spread flat sides of half of cookies with ganache and top with remaining cookies. (You may have a little leftover ganache.)

Make ahead: Dough and ganache, up to 2 days, chilled. Filled cookies, up to 2 days, chilled, or 2 months, frozen. Serve at room temperature.

February 2, 2017
paninigirl

6 comments

Royal Wedding Scones

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I thought I had my absolute favorite scone recipe and it’s still right up near the top of my list, but there’s a serious contender for the title-the royal wedding scone-that I found on Food 52. I saw it a while back and hesitated trying it, thinking that it couldn’t come near to my old stand by. I’m not sure why I finally gave in and baked them, but I’m sure glad that I did.

I was skeptical when I first read the recipe seeing that it had a lot less butter than my usual scone and whole lot of cream. I wondered what the texture would be like. I have a thing about most of the scones that you find in coffee shops-for the most part they are heavy and taste like they were made at least a few days before. Well, I shouldn’t have worried. These scones are light, soft, a little bit crispy and packed with blueberries.

By the way, the name-Royal Scones-was penned by the baker who posted this recipe on Food 52. She baked them to share with friends the week of the Royal Wedding.

scones

Royal Wedding Scones
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling on tops of scones
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup frozen wild Maine blueberries (I used fresh blueberries)
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing on tops of scones
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, place the dry ingredients and pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse about 10 or so times. You want to retain some small pieces of butter. Don’t blitz the heck out of it. Transfer the flour mixture to a large mixing bowl. If you’ve got some really large butter lumps, just squish them with the back of a fork.

Gently toss the blueberries into the flour mixture. In a large measuring cup, place the heavy cream, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into flour mixture. With a dinner fork, fold the wet into the dry as you gradually turn the bowl. It’s a folding motion you’re shooting for, not a stirring motion. When dough begins to gather, use a plastic bowl scraper to gently knead the dough into a ball shape. If there is still a lot of loose flour in the bottom of the bowl, drizzle in a bit more cream, like a teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

Transfer the dough ball to a floured board. Gently pat into a 6” or 7″ circle. With a pastry scraper or large chef’s knife, cut into 8 triangles.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place scones on a parchment-lined sheet pan, about 1 inch apart. Brush with cream. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar. Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, turning pan halfway through. They are done when a wooden skewer comes out clean. Serve with clotted cream, creme fraiche, and jam if you wish. I thought they were perfect with lemon curd.