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Cherry Clafoutis

Monday, May 31, 2010
Cherry Clafoutis

Leave every hope, cherries who enter (in my place).
(One Girl In The Kitchen)

I believe in destiny, of cherries. As far as I'm concerned, three are their options:

A) Preserved in their syrup;
B) Jam;
C) Clafoutis.

May it be clafoutis.
I think the sun must have gone to my head, today I feel like a little dictator.

Cherry Clafoutis
for a 9-inch round baking pan

cherries about 400-450 gr.
eggs 2
sugar 50 gr. + 3 tablespoons
flour 30 gr.
almond flour 1 tablespoon
heavy whipping cream 70 gr.
butter 1 tablespoon
vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
cinnamon, grated lemon peel, salt to taste
confectioners' sugar, to dust to taste

Not only a dictator, but even fundamentalist. There are a million of clafoutis recipes, the variations are as many as the stars in the sky, but one thing is certain. Purists say that to make clafoutis you must leave the pit to the cherries, because the dessert will have a more intense flavour and it will taste sligthly like almond. And we don't want to make it strange, do we?

Wash the cherries and cut the stalk. In a large pan, melt the butter, add the cherries, 50 gr. of sugar, grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cook for a little less than 10 minutes, until sugar has dissolved and the juice has thickened. Place cherries on the bottom of a 9-inch round baking pan (or use two smaller ones).
Beat the yolks with 3 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add cream, flour and almond flour and mix well. In another bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, and gently fold them in the egg-flour mixture. Pour the batter over the cherries and, if necessary, stir it a bit so that cherries won't end up all on the bottom.
Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, until the surface turns a golden color. Let it cool slightly and dust with powdered sugar.

NoA: I recommend you remember telling your friends that the cherries still have the pit!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad garlic?

Preserved Cherries

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Preserved Cherries

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (... but, what about a limoncello instead?). When life throws you tomatoes, make marinara sauce. If they're apples, then strudel. And when life gives you cherries, you listen to me. Place them tight in a jar, a few tablespoons of sugar and then forget about them until the fall. I promise you, when the days will get dark and cold, the sky will become gray with clouds, and baby blue flip flops will be only a vague memory, to the lemons of life you'll be able to reply with a spoonful of syrup.
I.P. (Intense Pleasure).

May the cherry be with you.

Preserved Cherries

This recipe has been was the virtual obsession of a May of three years ago, and I totally owe my initiation to Clelia, a friend from the CI forum (online forum of the Cucina Italiana Magazine, ed). I remember that spring very well, 'cause a little afterwards I would have gone home for two months full of sunshine and vacation days. Call it Intense Pleasure.... And the cherries! In the meantime they were sitting there working for me, and coming back I would find them juicy and perfectly alcoholic, the right antidote to the slight nostalgia of the return.

Nothing simpler than this: get some ripe and firm cherries, wash them and pat them dry. Arrange them in layers in previously sterilized glass jars, alternating with spoonfuls of sugar (the amount of sugar will be more or less half of that of the cherries). Close the jars and place them in the pantry in a cool, dark place. Every now and then give them a good shake, or turn the jars upside down every other week (in this case, be careful, because the syrup will tend to come out).
Let the cherries macerate more or less until October. A thick syrup will form, and the cherries will become slightly alcoholic. You can use them on ice cream, to pair chocolate desserts, or just as they are, one by one straight from the jar. And the syrup.... call it Intense Pleasure!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Life is just a bowl of cherries.

Baby Zucchini Salad

Friday, May 21, 2010
Baby Zucchini Salad

It was better when we were worse off.
(Chinese proverb, approx. XXI century)

One day the inevitable happens: your Internet connection goes down for no reason, the world around seems to be collapsing all at once, and the meaning of life is dramatically put to test. The electromagnetic wave on which your life has been riding brave and fearless, has all of a sudden crashed against some unexpected cyberrock. You keep repeating yourself there's nothing tragic, it's only a return to prehistoric times, and yet why are you feeling so bad?

The idea of a dark, cold, and mute future starts taking shape, a slow journey into the unknown without the constant sound of your distant radio, a world where friendship cannot be confirmed or rejected by pushing a button, and where there isn't any cat playing the piano or wandering around the house on top of a vacuum cleaner. You start wondering if life will ever be the same without those embarrassing encounters on chatroulette, without feeling obligated to update your status on a thousand different places, and without the comfort of the weekly emails from Sacks, Apple and Abercrombie, who call you by name and just like old friends seem to know everyone of your weaknesses. Suddenly you start panicking 'cause you don't remember how to buy a movie ticket, flip through the pages of a newspaper, and search for a phone number.

You take heart and decide that the best cure for this anxiety is going to the farmer's market, walking of course, and letting yourself being seduced by the seasonal zucchini. Pure and simple, as nature made them. Two tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and few parmigiano cheese shavings, and there you go, the world starts turning in the right direction again.

Sweet Pea Soup

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Sweet Pea Soup

I don't know why, but I have a feeling of a déjà vu.
Enough with the nonsense, today we're doing it short and sweet.

Sweet Pea Soup
for 4

fresh peas, to be shelled about 1.5 kg.
onion 1
butter lettuce 1 small head (about 200 gr)
olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice to taste
yogurt, mint leaves to serve to taste

Shell the peas and use the pods to make the stock: place them in a large pot covered with water, add one carrot, one onion, one celery stalk, few peppercorns, a little bit of parsley and some salt. Bring to boil and let it simmer for about 40 minutes. Drain the stock discarding the vegetables and the pods.
For the soup, chop the onion and sauté it in a litle bit of olive oil until it becomes translucent. Add the peas, the lettuce cut in pieces, a pinch each of salt and pepper and cover with the stock. Bring back to boil and let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until peas are tender. Puree with a blender, bring back to boil and adjust the flavor with some lemon juice, and more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve it with a spoon of yogurt mixed with few minced mint leaves.

Homemade Cured Salmon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Homemade Cured Salmon

Ever thought of doing it yourself? Me neither, at least until two days ago, when, coming back from a Saturday in Big Sur and from the necessary stop at Big Sur Bakery, which I've already told you about, here, I've rediscovered this old friend. For the first time, glancing at the wonderful pictures and the unreproducible delicacies, I wasn't tempted by scones, cookies or any other sweet, but my eyes fell on the description of the process to make your own cured salmon. It's extremely easy, I'm sure if you try it you'll never let it go again. The only advice is that it doesn't last long, two weeks at the most, so it's better not to let it get out of hand and choose a piece of salmon of manageable size.

P.S: Sometimes it's really encouraging realizing that all those books on the shelves have a reason to be, you almost feel like going on with the collection for ever...
Now, I'd say we need a bagel. Or a nice Christmas Eve.

Homemade Cured Salmon

salmon fillet, skin on and no bones about 300 gr.
sea salt about 350 gr.
sugar 50 gr.
black peppercorns 1 tablespoon
fresh dill to taste

Crack the peppercorns in a mortar. Mix together salt and sugar and place half of the mixture on the bottom of a container large enough to hold the piece of salmon. Place salmon on top, skin side down, cover it with pepper and few dill sprigs and then pour the rest of the salt mixture on top of it, so that the fish is covered all over. Cover it with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Marinating time will depend on the thickness of the fillet. After two days, check for doneness: pressing it in the middle with your finger, it should feel pretty firm. Otherwise, leave it in the brine for one more day. Rinse salmon very quickly under water, to wash away salt, pat it dry with paper towels and slice it very thin.

In my extra-fluo version, I’ve paired it with purple potatoes, boiled and sliced, and I’ve dressed it with a simple caper sauce (capers, lemon juice and olive oil, mixed together in the mortar). But, as I mentioned before, it would be perfect on top of a nice bagel, toasted and spread with cream cheese, maybe even with a thin slice of red onion and a couple of capers…

Fava Bean Pesto

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Bruschetta With Fava Bean Pesto

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

[I hate and I love. Why do I do it, perchance you might ask?
I don't know, but I feel it happening to me and I'm burning up.
(C.V. Catullus, Carmen LXXXV)

Dedicated to the fava bean.

Dear fava, I love you because:
1) You're transient and ephemeral. Available only few weeks a year, you're a treasured fruit, a true delicacy. When you come, it's a feast;
2) Protected even by two precious pods, you're intriguing and mysterious. With reason, you're hiding from the outside world, giving yourself only to those who take you really seriously;
3) You're of such a nice pastel green that it instantly makes one happy;
4) You're a spontaneous and wholesome lady, with all the taste of the old world;
5) You're really good.

Dear fava, I hate you because:
1) You're confusing and erratic. One never knows when you're about to arrive, and one can't even look for a recipe that you've already disappeared;
2) Protected even by two hairy skins, you're arrogant and deceitful. You're snobbish with no reason, giving me - from two miserable bags - only one pathetic jar of pesto;
3) You're of such a greenish color that it's a little scary;
4) You're just a poor fava, and you make me do all this work?
5) Reluctantly, I have to admit you're always right: you're really good.

I could have never imagined I'd dedicate the wonderful poem above to a green creature. This is called a foodblogger's delirium. Don't pay attention to it, it'll go away soon, just like the very brief fava season.

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

(C.V. Catullus, Carmen LXXXV)

Fava Bean Pesto
fava beans, net about 150 gr.
garlic 1 small clove
grated pecorino cheese 2-3 tablespoons
lemon juice 1 tablespoon
olive oil 3 tablespoons
fresh mint 6-8 leaves
salt, pepper to taste

NOTE: To get 150 gr net of shelled fava beans, I think I started from approximately one and a half kilo of fresh ones (now you understand my delirium?).

Shell fava beans, blanch them briefly in boiling water, then rinse them under cool water and remove their inner skin. At this point, if you love fava beans, take all the ingredients and crush them with love in a mortar. If, instead, you're more on the hate side, take all the ingredients and throw them in a blender for two minutes, just like I did.
Spread the pesto on top of toasted bread slices, or use it for pasta.

Dear fava, I'll see you again next year. Me, I've already done enough.

Bow Tie Pasta with Carrots

Friday, May 7, 2010
Bow Tie Pasta With Carrots

How could I forget? I fall on my knees and ask your forgiveness for this inexplicable mistake.
When I told you about my personal Top Five (aka, the five flavors most bound up with my college years and a lifestyle of leisure...ehm...no, of crazy and desperate studying), I've totally ignored this pasta dish.
But here is my official excuse: at that time it was never me the one in charge of making it, and I preferred to be sweetly spoiled by my friend and companion in culinary/historiographical adventures. In between a Paleolithic potsherd, a couple of yogurts on sale, and one aorist passive tense, sometimes this cheerful and unconventional pasta was just the right thing.
Today, on this side of the world, they'd even call it vegan and it'd be oh so chic. Who would have thought we were so ahead of time?

Bow Tie Pasta with Carrots
for 4

carrots 4-5
bow tie pasta 320 gr.
vegetable bouillon cube 1/2
dry white wine 1/2 cup
garlic 1 clove
salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley to taste

Peel and grate carrots. Heat some olive oil in a saucepan and saute the garlic clove, cut in half, and the half vegetable bouillon cube; then add the carrots with a little bit of water. Cook for about 10 minutes, add wine, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes longer. Add cooked bow tie pasta to the pan and saute for one minute, adding some fresh minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Spring Salad. Asparagus, Fava Beans and Sweet Peas

Monday, May 3, 2010
Spring Salad. Asparagus, Fava Beans and Sweet Peas

...it's a sunny day today
nothing can hurt me

[...] he bought a house
painted it with the colors of the rainbow
he saw on TV that even when it rains
somewhere else the sky is clear
it's a sunny day today

(L. Cherubini, Sunny Day)

There are certain things that make you feel good, no matter what. Small gestures, colors and thoughts that cherish your mind and make you smile. Waking up on a sunny day, buying daisy flowers, crossing a stranger's cheerful eyes. Ten minutes of happiness. Just like the beginning of the weekend, like singing under the shower or wetting your feet in the sea.
Just like eating strawberries or shelling peas. For few moments you forget about the uncertainties, the stress, the gas price increase, the bills to pay and the tooth ache. Life becomes as simple as a bike ride and you realize it's finally springtime.
It's a sunny day and nothing can hurt you.

Ehm...today I felt this way, what do you want me to say?

Asparagus, Fava Beans & Sweet Peas Salad
for 3

asparagus 500 gr.
fava beans, unshelled (otherwise, where's the fun?) 500 gr.
fresh sweet peas, to be shelled (see above) 500 gr.
salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine q.b.
wild arugula 2 handfuls

Wash asparagus and cut the ends. Dress them with a tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash of white wine. Place them on a baking pan and bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes, until tender, turning them once or twice. Let them cool down, cut them in pieces about 1 inch long, keeping the tips intact. Set them aside. Meanwhile shell the peas and cook them in little boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Drain and cool them under cold water.
Shell the fava beans as well, blanch them for two minutes and then cool them under cold water. Discard the inner skin and set them aside.
Wash arugula, mix it with asparagus, fava beans and peas. Dress it with salt, pepper, olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. If you wish, you can add some shaved pecorino cheese.

Sunday tip: don't discard the empty pea shells, but use them to make vegetable broth. Simply put them in a large pot, cover with water, add half a onion, one carrot, half celery stalk, few peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Better than this!!!

...it's a sunny day today
nothing can hurt me.