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Ayva Dolmasi. A Turkish Affair, aka Lamb Stuffed Quinces

Monday, November 30, 2009
Ayva Dolmasi. Lamb Stuffed Quinces

I pack everything up and move to Turkey. I leave you a legacy of 153 cookbooks, many of which are still virgins, 74 types of cookie cutters, a pantry full of jams enough for the next 5 years, 12 types of flour, a notebook full of recipes, and an empty fridge. Yes, 'cause I decided I really like Turkish things, all of them, lamb, rose water, charred eggplants that are turned into puree, dried fruit mixed with chicken or red meat dishes, the barrels of yogurt, the spicy meatballs cooked on the grill.
I'm going to abandon my igloo and fly to the Aegean; I'll give up the never-ending Starbucks coffee and its paper cup for a nice cup of Kahve, black and strong; goodbye to spaghetti and tagliatelle, from now on only bulgur and pilaf.
At least until the next craze, Thai or Vietnamese, who knows?

Ayva Dolmasi
for 3

quinces, medium size 3
ground lamb about 1 lb.
onion, medium size 1
pine nuts 3 tablespoons
olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice to taste

The recipe comes from my last mindless appropriation, Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, & Lebanon, which won me over amidst another 200 books for its turquoise cover. No comment.

Wash the quinces, removing their downy coating, pat them dry and place them in a baking pan covered with aluminum. Bake at 320 for one or two hours (baking time will depend on the size of the quinces), until they're soft to the touch. Allow to cool down.
Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and sautee it in a little olive oil, until it becomes translucent. Add the pine nuts and toast them lightly. In a separate bowl, mix the lamb with salt, freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Add the onion with the pine nuts and stir well until you get a smooth mixture.
Cut quinces in half lengthwise and remove their core with a sharp knife. Scoop out the interior with a spoon, removing about 1/3. Chop the pulp you've obtained and add it to meat. Lightly salt the quinces halves and fill each one with a couple of tablespoons of the meat mixture, pressing lightly. Place them in baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for about half hour.
If there's some filling left, you can make meatballs and bake them in the same pan with the quinces (or in a separate one) for the same baking time.

Tart with Grapes and Frangipane Cream

Sunday, November 29, 2009
Grape Tart with Frangipane Cream

Frangipane cream always makes an impression. It has a beautiful name to begin with, so sweet and intriguing at the same time. Frangi what?, they usually ask me when I make it. I don't quite know what it is, but the name sounds good. Eh eh eh....
And it's really good indeed, so almondiciously good that I recommend you always make plenty of it. Because, even raw, it disappears by the spoonful...

Grape Tart
with Frangipane Cream

For the Tart Dough
flour 250 gr.
sugar 100 gr.
butter 100 gr.
eggs 1
baking powder 8 gr.
vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of salt

Sift flour and baking powder on the table. Take butter out of the fridge, cut it in small pieces and rub it with the flour using your fingers, until you get a crumbly dough. Make a dwell in the middle and put sugar, egg, vanilla extract and salt. Lightly beat these ingredients with a fork, then start mixing them with the flour using a spatula. Work the dough until it gets smooth, trying to be as quick as possible so that it won't get warm. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least two hours before using it. You can also prepare the tart dough one or two days in advance and keep it in the fridge until ready to use it.

For the Frangipane Cream
butter 80 gr.
sugar 100 gr.
blanched almonds 100 gr.
eggs 2
flour 40 gr.
almond extract 1 tablespoon

To Finish
seedless red grape two or three handfuls
slivered almonds, confectioners' sugar to taste

For the cream: toast blanched almonds in the oven for few minutes, making sure they don't get too dark. Grind them finely in a food processor until they turn into flour. Beat eggs with sugar until they are fluffy, add butter cut in small pieces and keep mixing at high speed. Add flour, almond flour and almond extract and mix until you get a smooth cream. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
To bake the tart: roll out the dough and place it in the baking pan (I used a rectangular pan, approximately 14x4"), cover with parchment paper and put ceramic weights on top (you can also use some dried beans instead), so that the crust won't rise too much. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, take out the weights and parchment paper and cover with a thick layer of frangipane cream. Wash grapes and dry them thoroughly. Cut them in half and place them on top of the cream with cut side down, pressing them slightly. Cover with slivered almonds. Put the tart back in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes more, until crust and cream turn a nice golden color.
Let it cool completely, then dust the surface with confectioners' sugar.

No-Knead Walnut Bread

Monday, November 23, 2009
No-Knead Walnut Bread

- Sieti pronti...? Sieti pronti?
- Bene, anch'io.
- Sieti gia' caldi?
- Beeene, anch'io.
- Are you ready...? E allora, andiamo!

(Madonna L.V. Ciccone, Concert in Turin, September 4th, 1987)

By universal demand, here comes again, the No-Knead Bread. And it arrives together with lots and lots of walnuts. Don't pull your hair, don't throw stuff on the stage, don't push, please. Instead, take a little flour, salt, water, and add walnuts to taste. Then sit back, relax, and be patient.
The recipe - obviously - comes once more from Jim Lahey and his My Bread, The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method, but this time I made some adjustments. The original recipe, as from the book, is the Laheyian version of Tuscan Pan co' Santi, made with walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and freshly ground black pepper. I simply took out raisins and cinnamon and add more walnuts.
So, Are you ready? Let's go!!

No-Knead Walnut Bread

bread flour 450 gr.
walnuts 120 gr.
salt 8 gr.
instant dry yeast 2 gr.
cool water (55-65 degrees F) 350 gr.
freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix flour, chopped walnuts, salt, yeast and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Add water and mix by hand or with a wooden spoon just until ingredients come together to form a slightly wet ball (you only need about 30 seconds). Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles and the surface is covered with bubbles (18 hours or more). This time, since my so-called-kitchen has all of a sudden become a walk-in refrigerator, I had to wait 25 hours before the dough was ready, so much for all my plans. The length of the first rise depends on the room temperature; when the surface is all covered with bubbles, the dough is ready.
Generously dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough on top, shape it into a ball and fold it in thirds. Place a kitchen towel on the work surface, dust it with wheat bran or flour and place the bread on top of it, seam side down.
If the dough is too wet, dust it with more flour or wheat bran. Fold the towel over it and let it rise one or two more hours. It should double. The dough is ready when, poking it with one finger, it holds the impression without springing back. I had to leave it there for 3 hours, again because of the polar temperature of my castle.
About half hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees with a heavy pot inside: it should be super hot when you're ready to bake. Using the towel to help, quickly invert the dough into the pan, with the seam side up, cover with the lid and place it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes until the crust turns dark brown and crunchy. Let it cool on a rack before slicing it.

No-Knead Walnut Bread

I wanna see everybody dancing... Balli con me, cantate con me...
You can dance, you can dance if you want to. Get into the groove!
You can dance, you can dance if you want to. And you can dance!
For inspiration. Are you ready? Come on! [...]
Get up on your feet. Yeah step to the beat. Boy what will it be.

(Madonna L.V. Ciccone, Into The Groove, Concert in Turin, September 4th, 1987)

Cranberry Orange Jam

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Cranberry Orange Jam

Cranberries are here, and I mean the real ones! After putting up with the dried ones for 10 months, in muffins, quick breads and more or less yummy salads, and after drinking liters of them in a juice form, finally here they come to the produce stores' shelves, plain and simple, just like Nature originally conceived them.
So forgive me, but now you'll have to put up with this jam. And if you don't find them in Italy, is this my fault?

Cranberry Orange Jam

fresh cranberries 1,200 gr.
sugar 700 gr.
granny smith apples 3
lemons 3
oranges 3
cinnamon, nutmeg to taste

Peel the apples and reserve their skin, drizzling it with some lemon juice.
Cut them in small cubes and mix them with cranberries, sugar, juice from the lemons, juice and grated peel from the oranges. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, cook the fruit mixture adding the spices and the reserved apple peel, which will be discarded in the end. Cook at low-medium heat, skimming when needed.
When the jam reaches the desired thickness, pour it in the previously sterilized glass jars, seal them and let them boil, covered with water, for 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let them cool in the same water to create the vacuum.

Roasted Yams with Cinnamon and Cranberries

Thursday, November 12, 2009
Roasted Yams with Cinnamon and Cranberries

Tell me something: why is that, that one buys maple syrup to make pancakes and cranberries to make muffins, and instead out of the kitchen come these potatoes? And how come that even before the potatoes are out of the oven, other recipes start sneaking into my schedule, pushing muffins and pancakes more and more down the list?
How hard is the life of a foodblogger...

Roasted Yams
with Cinnamon and Cranberries

for two

yams or sweet potatoes 1 large or 2 smaller ones
cinnamon, nutmeg, freshly grated ginger, salt, pepper, olive oil, fresh rosemary to taste
cranberries 1 handful
maple syrup 1 tablespoon
Dijon mustard 1 teaspoon
balsamic vinegar 2 or 3 tablespoons

Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges. Mix them with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and rosemary. Arrange them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake at 425 for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Meanwhile, mix maple syrup with vinegar and mustard and add one more tablespoon of olive oil. Pour the sauce over the potatoes, add the cranberries and stir. Bake for another 5 minutes and serve.

Beet Salad with Parmigiano and Ginger

Friday, November 6, 2009
Beet Salad with Parmigiano and Ginger

With 26.2 miles in my legs and the fifth marathon in my pocket, we slowly go back to the old habits.

Beside the medal, new aches and an undefined number of books that I purchased with no shame, this year I bring back again the memory of the notes of New York, New York that mark the start of the run on this side of the Verrazzano Bridge, of the sound of thousands of steps on Queensboro Bridge, of the screaming crowd that welcomes you warmer than ever at the entrance in Manhattan, of that 1st Avenue, slightly uphill, so long and exhausting, that you'd think it'll never end, of the excitement of entering Central Park feeling like you were the main hero, of the last 400 meters when you run through all your energies, and of the congratulations of people while you walk home in the late afternoon, wearing the unique medal around the neck.

To feel the excitement again and to be still under the illusion of living in Manhattan, I made myself this salad, tasted and tasted again in a very cool place in the Lower East Side. A pinch of ginger and the harmless addition of a little onion give a special touch that create the atmosphere of a calm New York night.

Beet Salad
with Parmigiano and Ginger

for two people

arugula and mix greens
beet, possibly of two colors(red and golden) 2
shaved parmigiano cheese
small red onion 1/2
freshly grated ginger to taste
salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar to taste

Clean the beets by cutting the leaves and pairing the edges. Put them in a small baking pan, cover with water half way through and bake at 400 for about 45 minutes or until they are tender. While they are baking, turn them around every once in a while and add more water if needed. Let them cool off, then peel and cut them in small cubes. You can also boil them in water instead, but if roasted, the flavor is more intense.
Peel the onion and mince it finely. Add it to the greens and mix well. Prepare a vinaigrette by mixing olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly grated ginger, and dress the salad greens with it. Cover with beet cubes and shaved parmigiano cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.