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Honey Roasted Eggplants with Green Chilies

Friday, February 26, 2010
Honey Roasted Eggplants with Green Chlies

Today I'll go directly to the point. No long, useless speeches, just a simple little recipe for a sweet but spicy week-end.

Roasted Eggplants
with Honey & Green Chilies

eggplants, long 3
fresh green chilies 4
extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons
honey 3-4 full tablespoons
salt, pepper to taste

Cut the eggplants in few pieces, then cut each one in half lengthwise. Cut chilies in half and discard the seeds. Toss with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Place vegetables on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for about half hour, turning them after 15 minutes.

Crumble Cake with Ricotta and Amaretti

Thursday, February 25, 2010
Crumble Cake with Ricotta and Amaretti

If you decide to make yourself a bowl of ricotta (or ricotta-like stuff, call it the way you want...), you'd better have an action plan ready in order to get the most out of it. And if by any chance these past two days some of you have been losing sleep trying to figure out what happened to my home-made batch, here's the answer.
The recipe is by Elena di Giovanni, and it's been in the Hit Parade of CI forum (the online forum of the Cucina Italiana Magazine, ed) for long time. I think it has circled around the blogosphere more than a thousand times, but if, for some reason, some of you don't know it yet, I suggest you immediately run in the kitchen and get down to work. I'm almost going back myself...

Crumble Cake
with Ricotta & Amaretti

for a round cake pan of 9" diameter

For the Dough
flour 300 gr.
butter, at room temperature 100 gr.
egg 1
sugar 100 gr.
baking powder 1 package (16 gr.)
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
milk as needed

For the Filling
fresh ricotta 300 gr.
egg 1
sugar 90 gr.
amaretti about 20

For the filling, mix the ricotta with the egg and sugar, beat well until the mixture is smooth and homogeneous. Crumble the amaretti and mix them with the filling. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
For the dough, mix the flour, butter, egg and sugar until large crumbs form. Add baking powder and vanilla and, if necessary, a couple of tablespoons of milk, which will help to blend the mixture and to get large crumbs. Grease the pan with butter and dust it with flour (I've used 4 smaller pans instead), then cover the bottom with about half of the crumbs, leveling the layer with a slight pressure of your hands. Spread the ricotta mixture on top, leaving a free border of about half inch. Cover with the rest of the crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle some confectioners' sugar on top before serving.

Homemade Ricotta

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Homemade Ricotta

VINCENT: But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
JULES: What?
VINCENT: It's the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they're a little different.
JULES: Examples?
VINCENT: Well, in Amsterdam, you can buy beer in a movie theatre. And I don't mean in a paper cup either. They give you a glass of beer, like in a bar. In Paris, you can buy beer at MacDonald's. Also, you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
JULES: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
VINCENT: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
JULES: What'd they call it?
VINCENT: Royale with Cheese.
JULES: Royale with Cheese. What'd they call a Big Mac?
VINCENT: Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
JULES: Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?
VINCENT: I dunno, I didn't go into a Burger King. But you know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?
JULES: What?
VINCENT: Mayonnaise.
JULES: Goddamn!
VINCENT: I seen 'em do it. And I don't mean a little bit on the side of the plate, they fuckin' drown 'em in it.
JULES: Uuccch!

(J. Travolta & S. L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, second scene; if you...ehm...care for the Italian version, take a look here)

Ah, the little differences. How nice it'd be if one day I could drive around Hollywood in that old Chevy with Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield. We could talk for hours about the little differences: ice cold drinks, salted butter, coffee in a paper cup, peanut butter & jam sandwiches.
One can get used to everything, mayo with french fries and triple, no-foam cappuccinos (???). But ricotta ...ehm..., sorry but on this one I'd have something to say. The little difference in this case becomes an abyss of taste and creaminess. Vincent, I swear. If Marsellus by any chance sends you over to Europe one more time, get yourself a dose of fresh ricotta, and then let's talk about it.
As for me, since there's nothing better around here, I cheer up with this.

Homemade Ricotta
for about 1 lb. of ricotta

milk 2 quarts
heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup
white wine vinegar 5 tablespoons
salt a pinch

To be precise, this is not really ricotta, since ri-cotta (as the name says, literally re-cooked) should be made by the cooking a second time the whey that's left over from making cheese. Regardless of the name, this thing is really good, and most of all, it's far better than any version I've been able to find at the supermarket.
In a large pot, mix milk, cream, vinegar and salt. Put on the stove at medium heat until it reaches between 195 and 205 degrees (what? you still don't have a cooking thermometer?). It'll take about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for approximately 20 minutes in the same pot, without ever touching it, so that milk can curdle and coagulate. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer ricotta in a fine sieve (even better if it's lined with cheesecloth) and let it drain until it reaches the desired consistency. Adjust with salt and keep it in the fridge.

Beef Tagliata

Sunday, February 21, 2010
Beef Tagliata

Or, How tagliata went back in fashion, from Milan to San Francisco.

As soon as I've seen this beautiful black thing, here, I said to myself I want it! And as soon as I've seen this beautiful recipe, again here, I said to myself I'll make it! There are some instincts you can't really resist, and if you do, please let me know how you manage because I'm really not able to.

Few days later, I was fated to run into a sheet of slate while browsing through a gardening store, thinking of everything else than my duties In The Kitchen. Apparently one cannot escape his own fate, or at least this was the official excuse I gave myself to justify the purchase of yet another triviality. Two minutes later - it goes without saying - I was at the butcher shop, because she had told me imagine how nice it'd be the tagliata on top of a slate sheet....

So, what you think, you like it?
Yes? So do I!!

Beef Tagliata

one piece of beef, sirloin or roast beef, about one inch thick
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste
fresh rosemary, thyme, marjoram to taste

For the recipe I've followed exactly Lydia's instructions. Put a non stick pan over high heat. When burning hot, add a tiny bit of olive oil. Season meat with salt and pepper on both sides, then place it in the pan and let it cook for two minutes per side.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to the minimum temperature (about 120 degrees) and prepare a piece of foil lined with a kitchen towel. Put the herbs on the kitchen towel. Remove meat from the pan and wrap it in the foil as if it were a package.
Place it in the warm oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes. As explained here, this step allows both to absorb the blood so that meat becomes more tender, and to warm up the center, which otherwise could be still cold.
Remove meat from the oven and cut it in slices a little less than 1/4 of an inch thick. Serve on a bed of arugula with few cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Orange Cake

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Orange Cake

I've followed him for weeks, I've been making eyes at him, I kept smiling at him while drinking his coffee, and in the end I've made it! The owner of the coffee shop near my work finally forked out the recipe of those little round cheese breads that I'd never been able to decipher. I then found out that Pao de Queijo is a Brazilian specialty, eaten as a snack or with coffee.
And what does this have to do with the post? The thing is, while I was busy copying the recipe of Pao de Queijo, handwritten on a Post-It stuck on the wall behind the cash register, my eyes fell inadvertently...ehm...more or less inadvertently on a series of ingredients listed under the words Orange Cake.
And while I haven't been able to make the cheese rolls yet (you have to use special tapioca flour, which - believe it or not - I still don't have...), for this cake I din't have to think twice. Quick, simple and all in all pretty light as well. Et voila'.

Orange Cake
for a 9" diameter pan

organic orange, large 1
sugar 250 gr.
eggs, room temperature 4
vegetable oil 100 gr.
water 50 gr.
flour 225 gr.
baking powder 1/4 teaspoon
baking soda 3/4 teaspoon
salt a pinch
powdered sugar for dusting to taste

Puree orange in a food processor (the whole thing, with the skin, yes, yes, for this cake nothing gets wasted, and obviously the orange must be organic). In a large bowl beat egg yolks with sugar until you light and smooth, add oil, water, pureed orange and salt. Mix well, then add flour sifted with baking powder and baking soda, and stir well. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and then fold them gently in the batter. Pour everything in the cake pan, properly buttered and floured, and bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes. Let the cake cool off, then dust it with powdered sugar.

Pomegranate Syrup

Saturday, February 13, 2010
Pomegranate Syrup

Few days ago, I promised I'd palm you off with a post on this syrup. This way, I can further expand the category of Recipes-Non-Recipes, the ones requiring zero effort. Since pomegranate is already out, I didn't even have to squeeze the fruit by myself, and all I had to do was getting a bottle of pure 100% juice, which one can find pretty easily at the supermarket. Why then fresh juice is available even when the fruit it comes from is totally out of season, is a mystery, and it may be better not to investigate. For now.

Pomegranate Syrup

pomegranate juice 1 450ml-bottle
sugar 50 gr.
lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon

In a small pan mix all ingredients. Heat it up slowly and let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until you reach the desired consistency. The syrup gets thicker when cooling down, so it's better not to trust its appearance and to boil it for not too much time, otherwise instead of syrup you'll end up with a much thicker molasses. Let it cool completely and then refrigerate it.

Sesame Crusted Tuna

Monday, February 8, 2010
Sesame Crusted Tuna

This is the classic secret weapon, a very easy and superfast recipe that you can show off with nonchalance even in emergencies. Success is guaranteed, even for those who've been scared for years to confront fish dishes, like me.

The most difficult thing, if anything, is to go conquer the tuna. And also to go through the cash register without looking at the total, dropping the card and signing the receipt with your eyes closed : )

Sesame Crusted Tuna
with Mango Salsa

For The Tuna
fresh tuna steak, about 1 inch thick
balsamic vinegar, ginger, salt, black and white sesame seeds, olive oil to taste

For the Mango Salsa
mango 1/2
fresh pineapple 1-2 slices
red bell pepper, small 1/2
green chili pepper 1/2
salt, pepper, lime juice, fresh cilantro to taste

Rub tuna with the freshly grated ginger and let it marinate for about one hour with some balsamic vinegar, turning it around few times.
Drain from marinade and then coat both sides in the sesame seeds, previously combined in a bowl. Press slightly on all sides, so that the seeds will stick and form a nice thick crust.
Using a paper napkin, lightly grease a non stick pan with oil, and heat it up until it gets really hot. Turn the heat down and place the tuna on top of it, cooking it for about one minute each side. Season with salt and let it cool down before slicing it.
For the mango salsa, cut mango, pineapple, red bell pepper and green chili pepper in very small cubes. Put them in a bowl, mix well and season with salt, pepper, fresh cilantro and lime juice. Let it sit for at least one hour before serving.

Romanesco Broccoli And Its Spaghetti

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Romanesco Broccoli

Do you think it's normal that one has to wait until in San Francisco to meet this thing for the first time? I don't know about you, but I'd never seen romanesco broccoli face to face before, and I didn't know what I was missing. It's so beautiful, one almost feels guilty to chop it up.

It's not worth to keep puzzling over the best way to use it. To me, broccoli - romanesco or not - means spaghetti with anchovies and bread crumbs: it's sort of the poor (and ignorant) man's version of the pasta coi broccoli arriminati, which just few days ago won second place in the contest promoted by my friends over at Tzatziki a Colazione.

I'd say very very ignorant in comparison, but so good though!!

Spaghetti with Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco Broccoli Spaghetti
with Anchovies & Bread Crumbs

for 4 people

spaghetti 320 gr
romanesco broccoli 1
salt cured anchovy fillet 2-3
garlic 2 cloves
olive oil, red hot chili pepper, salt, pepper, bread crumbs to taste

Divide broccoli into florets and boil them briefly in salted water (about 5 minutes or less, they should stay crunchy). Drain and put them on the side, reserving the cooking water, which you'll use to cook pasta.
In a large skillet, heat garlic and red hot chili pepper with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Rinse and dry anchovies, eliminate their bone, then add them to the pan and let them dissolve in the oil. Add reserved broccoli florets and cook for few minutes, adding some of the pasta cooking water, until they are tender and the sauce gets creamy. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Drain spaghetti al dente and saute them briefly in the same skillet with the sauce. Toast bread crumbs in another pan and sprinkle them on top of pasta. Serve immediately.

Almond Cake

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Almond Cake

This cake is really a bomb. Of calories and tastiness. I've been bringing the recipe along ever since I started working in a coffee-shop in Berkeley, which I'd already told you about, here. Over the years, I've changed it a little bit to better suite my taste, reducing both the amount of sugar and that of almond paste.

Yesterday I decided to make it again and pair it with pomegranate syrup, to ease the almonds’ sweetness with the fruit's tangy taste. To tell you the truth, everything started off with the syrup, or rather, even further back, with a bottle of pure pomegranate juice that wanted to slip at all costs in the cart while I was grocery shopping. At home, it begged me not to waste it for an ordinary glass of juice and to give it a second chance instead. Fair enough. I gave in and turned it in syrup, thinking that that was it. Instead even this one started whining and to make it shut up I had to put something next to it, for it to slide down. This is how I eventually got to the cake.
Now tell me, does this happen to you as well?

Almond Cake
for a 9" diameter round pan

almond paste 1 200 gr-package
sugar 200 gr
butter, room temperature 250 gr
eggs, room temperature 6
flour 150 gr
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
salt one pinch
baking powder 1 and 1/2 teaspoon
sugar, water, slivered almond and powdered sugar to finish to taste

Work sugar with almond paste, and break this apart very well (I recommend using the Kitchen Aid rather then the electric mixer for this). Add softened butter and vanilla extract and mix well until the batter is smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well before adding the next one. Add flour, sifted with baking powder and salt. Mix well, then pour the batter in the pan, properly buttered and floured, and bake at 320 for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Let cool on a rack. Meanwhile toast the slivered almond in the oven and make a light syrup dissolving two tablespoons of sugar in a pan with some water.
Brush the syrup on top of the cake, sprinkle with almonds and dust with powdered sugar (you can also skip the almond covering and simply dust the cake with powdered sugar). Serve with pomegranate syrup or another sauce of your choice.
I'll post the syrup next time : )