Monday, December 12, 2016

Fritti di Patate (Italian potato donuts)

These are donuts shaped fritters from Abruzzo, called fritti di patate.  Along with panettone and torrone,  fritti di patate was part of my family holiday tradition. They are also known as Graffe in Napoli and as Ciambelle in other parts of Italy. Having potatoes as part of the dough in this particular family recipe
make a lighter and softer pastry. Happy holidays!

Fritti di Patate

  • 300 grams flour (about 2 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon)
  • 75 grams whole milk (about 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 150 grams potatoes, boiled, peeled and smashed (about 1 big size potato) 
  • The grated peel of 1 large organic lemon
  • 2 egg
  • 25 grams sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 50 grams butter (about 1/4 of stick), room temperature
  • 1 liter canola oil
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar, for decoration

Pour warm milk (110°F) over the yeast in a mixing bowl; whisk and let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).

Add the flour, the eggs, the rest of the milk, the smashed potato, the grated lemon, and the sugar and mix everything together until the dough is elastic and even (this can take 10 to 15 minutes). Add the salt and the butter in small pieces and continue mixing until incorporated. The dough is going to be slightly sticky).

Let it rest, covered with plastic wrap, until it doubles in size (about 1 to 2 hours).
Cut pieces of parchment paper into squares (about the size of each pastry). This will help to transfer the pastry into the boiling oil.

Place the dough on a flat surface dusted with flour. Punch it down and roll it until it is 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into discs using 2 round cutters, a large one and a very small one.
Place the Ciambelle over the parchment paper squares. Let them rest until they double their size (this will take 15-25 minutes).
Bring the oil to 350 F. Fry the Ciambelle until they turn golden brown.

Dry each pastry with a paper towels and place it in the granulated sugar, cover both sides with the sugar.

Place the Ciambelle on a serving plate and serve them warm.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Apple Tart

This is a great tart to serve for Thanksgiving or for any dinner party!   
  • 1 cup all purpose flour 
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 sticks) cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg beaten
  • About 100 ml iced water
  • 3 tablespoon apricot preserve
  • 4 medium apples (granny smith or golden delicious)
  • 1/2 cup sugar  

To make the pastry, put the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, salt, baking powder and butter into a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until it is mealy and resembles fine breadcrumbs, with some larger pieces of butter still visible. Pour the beaten egg and 100 ml of iced water into the bowl. Quickly knead the dough until it comes together, the dough will be soft, a bit sticky and a little rough looking. Wrap the dough and allow it to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour (better overnight).

Roll out the dough into a rough rectangle about 11″ by 16″ and transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the fridge for 30minutes.

 Peel the apples and slice themy thin (1/8 inch thick). Spread the apricot preserve in a thin layer on the top of the pastry dough. Arrange the slices in 4 or 5 rows over the pastry overlapping. Allow it to rest in the fridge until you are ready to bake.
 Preheat the oven to 400F. Sprinkle the extra sugar over the apples and then bake the tart for about 45mins or until the pastry is crisp and the apples are soft and golden.Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Zucca Ripiena (Stuffed Butternut Squash)

This was a favorite dish in my last class: "Italian Fall Farmer's Table" at Draeger's. This stuffed butternut squash could be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu. It looks beautiful on a plate and it is very easy to make. You can substitute the meat with mushrooms for a vegetarian option.

Stuffed Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions, Sausage

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • Ground nutmeg to taste
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
Wash the butternut squash and cut it in half (lengthwise). Using a spoon, take off the seeds. Season it with olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bake the halves for 35-40 min in a 475F preheated oven, covered with parchment paper.

While squashes are being baked, you can prepare the filling. In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in olive oil until soft and brown. Add sausage, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and cook it for around 20-30 minutes, or until completely browned. Deglaze the pan with wine and continue cooking until the wine is evaporated. Add parsley and salt if necessary.
Let the butternut squashes cool down until they can be handle with your hands.

Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/2 inch around the edges to keep the squash intact. Combine squashes flesh with sausage filling and half of parmigiano. Stuff the squash shells with this filling. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake Stuffed Butternut Squashes in a preheated oven, under 350F, for 20-25 or until the cheese is melting.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Calamari Fritti (Fried Calamari)

The trick for lighter fried food is heating the oil to the right temperature (between 350F and 375F). It is helpful to have a candy thermometer to check the temperature. It is also important to use oil with high smoking point, like grape seeds oil or canola oil.
  • 1 pound clean squid with tentacles, bodies cut into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (or semolina)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Canola Oil or Grape seed oil for deep frying

Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Working in small batches, toss the squid into the flour mixture to coat. 

Pour about 2 inches of oil in a saucepan. Heat the oil to 350F on medium heat.

Carefully add the squid to the oil and fry until crisp and golden, about 1 minute per batch. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the fried calamari to a rack on top of baking pan lined with paper towels to drain.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Marmellata di Prugne al Forno (Baked Plum Jam)

This is an easy recipe to make at home with impressive results when plums are in season. It doesn't need too much attention and it is practically ready in 1 1/2 hour. I like to serve this jam on toast or as the filling for crostatas or tart.

Baked Plum Jam

  • 5 pounds plums
  • 1 1/2 pounds of sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • zest of one orange

Pit and slice the plums and mix them with all the sugar.

Let the mixture macerate overnight covered with plastic wrap. 
The next day,  place the mixture in a baking dish and add one cinnamon stick and orange zest. 
Bake for 90 minutes at 420 F.

Store in jars in the fridge for 2 weeks

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Strawberry Conserve (Fragole allo sciroppo)

I went with my kids to "Swanton Farm" in Santa Cruz to pick organic strawberries, and we bought way more than we could eat in a week. I was looking for a way to preserve them, and found a terrific strawberry conserve recipe from the "Canal House Cooks Every Day" cookbook. You only need three ingredients to make it: strawberry, sugar and lemons. The syrup gets thicken up by the natural pectin from the fruit and the lemon (specially from the pith). After the conserve is ready you can served it on toast, as a garnish with cakes and ice cream, or as the author suggested with jamon serrano (Spanish version of prosciutto) on toast. In my opinion, it is also great with any cheese.

Strawberry Conserve
Adapted from Canal House Cooks Every Day
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 pound sugar
  • peel (including the white pith) of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon (this wasn't in the original recipe)
Fold half of the sugar into the strawberries in a large, wide pot. I also added the juice of one lemon to add some liquid at the beginning of the cooking process as it was hard to fold all the sugar into the fruit.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then continue to boil for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Fold in the remaining sugar, return the pot to the heat and return to a boil. Boil for two minutes and remove from the heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the strawberries and spread them on a plate to cool (I placed then in a pan lined with parchment paper). 
Return the pot with the syrup to the heat and add the lemon peel. Bring to a boil over medium high for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the syrup settle, and skim off any foam on the surface. 
Once the syrup has cooled, return the berries to the pot. Cover and set aside until set, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove the lemon peel and place the conserve into clean jars and refrigerate

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Zucchini blosson Fritters

This is a great appetizer for the Summer. The only hard part of making them is is to find them (Berkeley bowl, your garden or order them at Draeger's). 

For the filling
  • 1 cup ricotta, drained
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the batter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
Other ingredients
  • 16 zucchini blossoms
  • canola or olive oil for frying
Wash and dry the flowers carefully, take the steam off.

Make a filling with ricotta, mint, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Fill each flower with the ricotta mixture (a pastry bag can make this task easier). Close the flower by twisting the top.

Make the batter by mixing all the ingredients. 

Heat 1/2 inch oil to 375°F. Dip blossoms in batter to thinly coat. Fry coated blossoms, turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes total. Transfer with tongs to a rack covered with paper towels to drain. Season with salt. 

I served with a puree of sun dried tomatoes and olive oil.