Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bolzano Apple Cake (Torta di Mela di Bolzano)

Bolzano is the provincial capital of Alto Adige (South Tyrol) located in the northernmost part of Italy on the border with Switzerland and Austria. It is also the province of Italy where Northern European architecture, language and gastronomy blend harmoniously with Mediterranean styles. This apple cake is just an example of this cultural melting pot as it is similar to an apple strudel in flavor but it is way easier to make. Perfect for the holidays!

- 2 1/4 pound Granny Smith apples, about 6
- 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick butter; melted and cooled
- 180 ml milk
- 4 oz flour (you can also use rice flour for a gluten free option)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter a rectangular baking pan with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Peel, core and slice apples very thin with a mandolin. Add the juice of one lemon and mix them up.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until double its size. Add the vanilla, the butter and the milk.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and add it to the egg mixture. Mix everything together until combined.
Add the apples and mix them very gently.

Por the batter in the prepared pan and bake it for 45 min.

Serve it at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Art of Risotto

The most important part of any good risotto is to pick the right rice. Varieties like arborio, carnaroli, or less commonly, vialone are the best choices. They are short-grain varieties that will result in a creamy risotto with a slight bite to each grain. Long-grain rice varieties will produce a mushy mass.

Another important ingredient is the broth or stock. As always, homemade stock is better, but a low-sodium store bought stock will work fine. Make sure you have the stock on a low simmer as you prepare the rice. This step is very important because you don't want to cool down the rice while is cooking. Use vegetable stock for vegetable-based risottos. For risottos with meat and poultry, try to use stock of the same meat or poultry. 

Any risotto follows four basic steps:

The first step of risotto is sautéing onions (or shallots) in butter or olive oil until soft and transparent.

The second step is tostatura which means “to toast” the rice to seal the starches inside the grain. In this step you add the rice to the soffritto with no liquid, so that each grain gets coated with the oil. You don't want to brown the rice. Instead, you want to see a transparent ring around each grain This would take about 1 min. At this point you can add a glass of wine and stir until it evaporates completely before moving to the next step.

The third step is adding the brodo or stock little by little.  Make sure the stock is simmering before starting to add it to the rice. Add 1/2 cup of stock at the time stirring the rice constantly until the stock is almost completely absorbed before each addition.  After 16 minutes of starting to add the stock check the rice . It should be "al dente".

When the rice is ready add butter Parmiggiano to give the rice its creamy consistence.

Basic Risotto Recipe

  • 4 ¼ cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, thinly chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 5 ounces Parmiggiano cheese
Sauté onions with olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the rice and toast for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Stir until evaporated, 30 seconds. Stirring frequently add broth 1/2 cup at the time and simmer until the rice is absorbed but it still al dente (about 17-20 minutes). Stir in the butter and parmesan. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How to make pumpkin puree at home

After trying this recipe you won't ever buy canned pumpkin puree again. It is so easy to make and so tasty. In my opinion, it is the main secret ingredient to create flavorful pumpkin pies, soups or any other recipe that call for pumpkin puree. You can make this recipe with any variety of winter squash. After cooling the puree you can place it in airtight container and freeze it. It will keep for at least three months.

Homemade Pumpkin puree
Cut one pumpkin in half. Take the seeds off with a spoon.

Put each half cut side down in a baking pan. Fill it with one inch water. Bake it in a 350 oven until soft (for about one hour for a medium size pumpkin)
Let the pumpkin cool and spoon out its meat in a mixing bowl. 

Puree the meat with a fork or in a food processor. Enjoy in your favorite recipe.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Vendemmia: Taralucci al Montepulciano

Those cookies are traditionally made in Abruzzo to celebrate the Vemmdemia or Wine Harvest in October. I usually make this recipe with a dry wine wine but this cookie with Montepulciano d' Abruzzo  is really addictive.

  • 2 ½ cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • ¾ cup Montepulciano
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix all the ingredients together until you obtain a dough that's firm but fairly soft.
 Form the dough into a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest in the refrigerator for ½ hour. Cut the dough in small pieces that you can roll it into logs and then shape into rings. 

Dredge the cookies in granulated sugar, and put them on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake them until they are lightly golden brown (around 25 minutes). Cool them on a rack and serve them at room temperature with a glass of wine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Stracciatella Gelato

Stracciatella is an Italian popular plain gelato (similar to vanilla) that has shreds of bittersweet chocolates in it. The gelato base doesn't contain eggs. Instead, a mixture of cream, milk and sugar are placed in an ice cream machine until creamy. Them melted bittersweet chocolate is folded over the ice cream to make shreds. I like to serve it with pizzelli or toasted nuts.

Stracciatella Gelato 
Makes 1 quart

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 cups cream 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Mix 1/2 cup of milk with cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. Place the rest of the milk with the cream, the sugar, the honey and the salt in a cooking pan. Heat it up on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Turn it off and add the cornstarch milk mixture, whisking constantly. 

Return the heat to medium and cook until the gelato base thicken slightly. Strain the mixture and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
Pour the base into the bowl of an ice cream maker and spin it according to the machine instruction.

Melt the chocolate. when the ice cream is ready place it in a mixing bowl. Drizzle the chocolate over the frozen gelato in strands. fold the chocolate into the gelato. 

As the chocolate harden cut it slightly with a spatula. Freeze the gelato and serve.