Pancakes con mele e ricotta / Fuji Apple and Ricotta Pancakes
Pancakes di granoturco con caprino e salsa ai peperoni / Cornmeal Pancakes with Chevre and Red Pepper Sauce
Quesadillas con papaya e brie / Papaya and brie quesadillas
Sunday, September 16, 2007
As I already said in the previous posts, there are two events centered on grapes this month, so I'm experimenting various recipes hoping I can get two that are good enough.
This jam I made a few weeks ago was really good, so I'm going to present this for the 'A fruit a month' event hosted by Swapna at Swad this month!
Here in California the season of strawberry lasts forever. During the whole summer we've had amazingly good strawberries for really cheap. So when the season of grapes arrived, it overlapped with the strawberries! That's why I decided to try to make this jam.
Marmellata di fragole e uva rossa / Strawberry and red grapes preserve
It was really easy: just clean and cut ~2 lb ripe strawberries, place them in a pan and add ~4-6 tbsp sugar and ~1 lb red seedless grapes. Squeeze the juice of one lime in it. Cook for ~ 1h, covered. You don't need to add any water. After one hour, blend everything with an immersion blender. Cook for another ~30 min, uncovered, or until it gets to a nice spreadable consistency. It's absolutely delicious.
In the picture above, it's served on a spelt/tapioca bread that I baked with a recipe that I made up (I can post it if someone is interested, it was a really good bread). But it goes wonderfully well also with pancakes, such as in the example below:
I'll give you the complimentary recipe of the pancakes, as they were particularly good. It's taken from one of the books I like the best, 'San Francisco Flavors', by the Junior League of San Francisco.
Pancakes con mele e ricotta / Fuji Apple and Ricotta Pancakes
Combine 1 cup ricotta, 2 Fuji apples, grated, 3/4 cup flour, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp chopped almonds, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate (I used fresh lemonade). On a side, beat 4 egg whites till stiff, and then fold them in the previous mixture. Melt a little bit of butter on a pan, pour ~1/4 cup of mixture when the pan is hot, and cook until the pancake becomes dry near edges and bubbles form all over the surface. Flip and cook for another minute or so. Do so for all the mixture, and serve the pancakes hot, with maple syrup or preserve such as the delicious strawberry-grapes described above!!
I hope I'll have time to make another good grape-centered recipe for my own event 'Fresh Produce of the Month'.. there's still some time before the deadline (Oct. 15th) - so if you also have cravings for grapes this month, please share your delicious ideas with us!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
There are two blog events dedicated to grapes this month, so I decided I wanted to post two different recipes. One of my ideas was chocolate-grapes. I wanted to dip grapes in chocolate and have them covered by it, let them cool down, and eat them as delicious chocolates. Sounds intriguing, right?
I tried, and here is my result :(
I haven't been able to produce a nice smooth coverage. I repeated the coating twice, hoping that it would improve, but it didn't. They are actually really good and if possible more addictive than regular chocolates, but I cannot present them for a dinner. Does anyone have any helpful suggestions about how to improve it?
What I did was to take some baker's chocolate, add sugar to it, melt it with a tiny bit of milk and dip the grapes in it. Then I let them cool down overnight and repeated the procedure. The chocolate breaks into pieces on the surface of the grapes, and part of it remains attached to the dish where I put them to cool down, so part of the grapes is not covered by chocolate when I lift them.. Sigh :( :( As I said, Lucas and I are trying to restrain ourselves from finishing them all at once, which implies that the idea is good.. but how do I make it presentable? HELP!!!!
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Meeta's Monthly Mingle is called 'Liquid dreams' this month.. and the theme is, as you can easily imagine, drinks!
I'm going to present here this variation on the 'Caipirinha' theme that I created a few nights ago. Does everyone know what Caipirinha is? Actually, I found out not too long ago, when our friend Elif gave us a bottle of Cachaca that she bought for us in Brasil! Cachaca is a very good liquor, similar to rum but with a different flavor. Hard to describe if you haven't tried it.. Check out the wikipedia description. So, Caipirinha is made with Cachaca, lime juice, sugar and ice. I like it, but it's very strong for me. So, a few nights ago I created my
To prepare it, mix in a blender ~4 cubes of ice, 1/4 cup cachaca, 6 large strawberries, juice of one lime, 1 tbsp sugar and a few mint leaves. Blend and serve in cups decorated with lime. This makes about two cups. Of course if you like it stronger, add more cachaca. I'm a light weight! But I gave the second cup to Lucas and he really liked it! I think it's almost impossible not to like this refreshing and cheerful drink. :)
Thanks Meeta for hosting such a great event again!
(Do you like my drink image above? I modified my picture with Gimp (freeware wonderful software), since I didn't like my background - but if you want to see the 'real' colors, here is the original image on the left)
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The deadline has expired and I'm free enough to post the longed for roundup of.. the Fresh Produce of the Month! This month the theme was tomatoes, and you'll see - we have an amazing collection of recipes!!!
Namratha blogs about 'Finger Licking Food' and shares with us a finger licking Tomato Dum!. It's a great looking tomato curry, and she suggests to decorate with eggs and eat it with nan, chapatis or kulcha. She also tells us that 'it preserves for a long time so it makes a great dish to carry while traveling'.. Mmm.. maybe I should make some for lunch tomorrow. :)
Happy Cook posting from 'My kitchen treasures' prepared Spaghetti with Aubergine. An authentic Italian recipe also known as Spaghetti alla Bellini or Spaghetti alla Norma. Happy Cook started her blog recently, so she dedicates this recipe to Sharmi, who's the first person who left a comment for her! How sweet - so go check out her newborn great blog!
Ruth from the famous 'Once Upon a Feast' gives us a recipe for a beautifully colored Tomato and Bread Salad, which she serves with Grilled Tilapia. This salad looks delicious and it's a great way to use stale bread! I love this type of recipes. :)
Ferdzy has a wonderful blog called 'Seasonal Ontario Food', where she posts recipes made with local and seasonal food. Perfect match for the spirit behind the 'Fresh Produce of the Month' event! She gives us a recipe for Green beans in tomato sauce. Hear what she tells us: 'Versions of this dish are found all around the Mediterranean, as well as in many other places... I'm classifying this as a side dish, although we are inclined to serve these over brown rice and call it supper.' Sounds like a great supper to me!
Asha posts delicious foods with great 'Aroma!' :) - and her Tomato, Fennel Bulb, Basil-Walnut Pesto Pasta is definitely a great example of it. Not only is her pasta mouth watering, but moreover, her tomatoes are home grown!! What can be more fresh than that? Check out the pictures of her harvest this year. They are a joy for the eyes.
Meeta from the amazing blog 'What's for lunch honey?' shares with us another of her masterpieces: Caramelized Homegrown Tomatoes on Homemade Gnocchi. As Asha did, also Meeta uses homegrown tomatoes.. But in this case, she didn't grow them herself - rather, they were given to her by a fascinating neighbor that she has the luck to know. :) Go check out her post - not only does the food look delicious and beautiful, but also, the post is really funny :)
I'm so happy that for this roundup we have many Indian recipes. I love Indian food and I want to learn how to cook it. So I really appreciated when Praveena from Simply Spicy sent me a recipe for Tomato Pachadi. It's a delicious mixture of tomatoes, spices, buttermilk and yogurt, to eat with rice. Praveena tells us that it's very easy to make.. so I'm going to try it!
Another terrific Indian recipe is given to us by Aarti from 'Aarti's corner'. It's called 'Green Tomato Sabji'. Listen to her explanation: 'Hirvya Tomatochi Bhaaji is a maharashtrian vegetable prepeared using raw tomatoes.. This is my mom's recipe and she made it a point to bring these tomatoes whenever they were in market just to make this sabji or chutney!' I'm so honored she shared it with us for this event. Another Indian delicacy to try.
Viji from Malabar Ruchi shares with us the purest tomato-centered recipe: Tomato Soup! I'm glad she sent this recipe, we would be really missing a classic, otherwise! And I'm looking forward to trying it myself. :)
Then, here is my contribution: Torta di pomodori e carciofini (Artichoke and Tomato Tart). I found the recipe from the great cookbook 'San Francisco Flavors', and I used heirloom tomatoes. It was quite good, it would be nice to serve it as appetizer at a dinner.
Last but not least, we have another great contribution from Nags at 'For the cook in me'! I'm really sorry I missed her emails, but I'm glad we got in touch in the end, so we can all appreciate her wonderful Pacha Thakkali Thoran. She explains that this version is a bit different from the usual versions, because of the presence of the green tomatoes. It looks delicious, and I'd really like to try it! I don't think I ever had anything similar and I cannot imagine the taste... Mmm.. Nags, could you send me some over? :) :)
I'm SOO happy about the outcome of this event. It's a collection of amazing recipes, with a great variety of flavors centered on one of my favorite summer produces. So, I'm hoping that we'll have a similarly great turnaround for the next event, which I'm going to announce now...............................Fresh Produce of the Month #4 will be focused on.................Grapes!!
Typical of the end of the summer, grapes also come in a number of variety. Of course, the fact that wine comes from grapes should be enough to show the importance of this fruit. :) But there are also many delicious foods that are made with grapes - jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, tarts, desserts of every kind.. and I'm sure your fantasy will inspire you something super good! I'm already looking forward to the roundup. If you're interested in participating, follow these simple rules:
1) Put a post on your blog with a recipe involving grapes. If you live somewhere where grapes are not in season, raisins are acceptable too! Add a link to this post on my blog and mention that it's an entry for the 'Fresh produce of the month' event. If you like it, feel free to place the logo of the event on your post.
2) Send me an email with a link to your post, your blog homepage and your name. My email address is chemcookitATgmailDOTcom. Specify 'Fresh produce of the month' as subject.
3) If you don't have a blog just send me an email with your recipe and if you have a picture of the food you made, that's even better. I will add it to the round-up as well.
The deadline for this event will be October 15th... (why so late, you may wonder? I'll be in Italy for 2 weeks, before then!) I will post the round-up the weekend after. I'm looking forward to your entries!!
Important note: if you send me an entry and I don't reply to your email or leave a comment on your blog, it means that I didn't get it.. in that case, just leave a comment anywhere on the blog and I'll definitely see it!! Thanks and sorry about this in advance.
This month's logo:
Feel free to use it on your posts if you like it!
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I've been collecting pictures of food I ordered in good restaurants here in Berkeley and closeby, and now I think it's a good moment to post a little summary of a few of them. The theme of this post is going to be 'Asian Restaurants in (or very close to) Berkeley'. I'll describe a Szechuan Chinese, a Nepalese and a Modern Vietnamese restaurant that I went to in the past few months.
This is a Chinese restaurant serving very traditional Szechuan cuisine, located on 1335 Solano Ave (Albany). From the outside, it doesn't look very pretty (or at least, not as pretty as all the other restaurants on Solano). Still, I went here because one of my Chinese groupmates told me that it was the BEST chinese restaurant in the whole Bay Area, the most authentic one. I've been there twice, and I must say, it hasn't disappointed my expectations of authenticity. It's completely different from any other Chinese restaurant I've been to. The food is quite spicy and oily. This is the characteristic of Szechuan cuisine, and you have to keep it in mind. You can find some non spicy food, but you have to look for it.
One of the best things we had were this wonderful bread:
In my ignorance, I didn't know that Chinese had also such good bread. All the restaurants I've been to always served rice. This bread is quite soft, and stuffed with vegetables. A must-try if you go to this place.
The best dish we had was a wonderful pork roast, which unfortunately I didn't take a picture of and I don't remember the exact name. The description said that it was cooked for hours in a special mixture of spices. It's spicy and sweet and cinnamony and soft - even for someone who's not that big on meat like I am, it was delicious.
I must tell you, though, to follow the suggestions of the waiters. The will tell you what is really very chinese and they don't think that Westerners will like. We tried some stew which was really chewy for us.. and I really wanted to try 'bitter melon', so I ordered 'bitter melon with eggs'. The plate looked great:
So colorful. But the bitter melon is really bitter! It was like eating a medicine, in the first bites. I tried to finish it (at home), and I finally ate it, mixed up with other vegetables and sauces, but it took me a while to get used to it. So, if you're vegetarian and you don't want to try this .. interesting experience..., I'd recommend getting the eggplant with soy bean paste - they were really good.
So, pay attention to what you order.. everything will be an experience - in the end, it's nice to have something that's really authentic, to understand what people eat far away in the world.
Prices: low - also because I'd recommend sharing your dishes (one is usually more than enough for two people or more..)
Service: variable - depends on how many people there are, but in general, ok. There is a guy who seems to be more like the owner, who was suggesting to us what to have and what not to have, at some point.
Yak and Yeti
This is a recently opened Nepalese restaurant located on 2985 College Avenue, Berkeley. It's owned by the same people who own the small shop 'Derby' that's a few blocks from our place - we like them, and they really insisted on us trying their restaurant. Of course, I was curious, and we went. It was a delicious experience. They serve only organic food. He recommended to us 'Chicken Momo', these great dumplings, as appetizers:
They were very good. Then, he suggested to have the specials - I had a vegeterian one and Lucas the lamb version. Unfortunately I don't remember the names, but they have only four specials in their menu - and I promise I'll update this post as soon as I go back to the restaurant. They came with rice, and some greens and various sauces. It was really good, especially Lucas's (mine was a bit less intriguing). The taste was slightly similar to an Indian dish, if you want to have a comparison, but the spices were somewhat different, and it was less greasy than most Indian restaurants around.
So.. we'll definitely go back! Ah, and one more thing: if you go to the upstairs floor, the ambiance is very particular: the tables are very low, and you eat seated on cushions! My friend told me it's the usual way they have their meals.. so, one more plus for the authentic experience!
Prices: moderate (~$20-25 a meal, depending on what you get)
Service: good (a little slow, but it was good to feel relaxed - sometimes they didn't seem to understand 100% what we were saying though)
This is another restaurant on Solano Avenue (1647 Solano Ave, Berkeley). It's defined 'Modern Vietnamese cuisine' - we went there last week, after our trip to Sonoma.
The atmosphere is very elegant, and the food is presented very nicely. It's definitely the most 'upscale' in this small collection. We went there with Sonya, whose mom had explained to her some tricks of Vietnamese cuisine. So we had some fried rolls with meat and vegetables, as appetizers, which we were explained by Sonya how to eat: take a piece of a leaf of the lettuce that comes with the dish, put a piece of roll and a leaflet of mint inside, and wrap the lettuce around. Dip in the sauce and eat! It was very good.
All the entrees we had were also delicious, although I think mine was the best:
It was 'basa' (a fish, similar to bass but not bass), broiled with some delicious spices around, served with mango salad. I really liked it. Sonya had some filet, and Lucas a curried duck. Also their dishes were very good. We also shared a Creme Brulee with lime as dessert - this was wonderful, served with a leaf of basil! So, I'd recommend this place especially if you're in the mood of something a bit 'special', or for a date.
Prices: moderate/high (~30 dollar a meal tip included, no wine)
Service: perfect - the waitress was super attentive and not overwhelming
Saturday, September 01, 2007
I was really sorry I couldn't participate to the previous edition of the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. The theme was intriguing (DVD and dinner), but I didn't have enough time to seriously think about it. But this time, it's really easy for me: the theme is 'Show and Tell' , and the idea is to choose a recipe from a cookbook you particularly like or you have some special reason to show it. And I do have at least three cookbooks I'd love to show (my new Mexican cookbook given by Romelia, the 'San Francisco flavors' cookbook given by Stefano, and 'In Nonna's kitchen' given by Giovanna). I already posted recipes for the first two, so maybe someone already saw how glad I am to have them. I decided to use 'In Nonna's kitchen' for this event, because the idea behind this cookbook is definitely worth speaking about.
The author, Carol Field, went for a trip to Italy and interviewed many 'nonne', i.e. grandmas. They talked to her about their lives, their food traditions, and they gave her a few recipes they really loved. I really like this idea, and that's what I'm going to do next time I go to Italy and meet my grandmothers. In the book, there are pictures and interviews with 16 grandmas. The stories are really interesting - the women come from different regions of Italy, and their age varies between 60 and more than 80! So both the lives and the recipes are quite different.
What makes this book also unique, is that one of the grandmas interviewed is Giovanna's! She told me when she gave me the book. So, I feel like this book is very precious, and I enjoy reading it. I'd recommend it to every American who wants to know some of really traditional Italian cuisine. For me, some recipes are so 'obvious' that I don't even need to read them, it's just the way my own mom taught me. So, I'm sure someone who hasn't been trained by an Italian mother would find this book really helpful.
I'll post here about two recipes I prepared: 'Torta di porri e zucca' (Leek and Butternut squash tart) , and 'Crostini con le fave' (Crostini with pureed fava beans) .
Torta di porri e zucca (Leek and Butternut squash tart)
This recipe is given by Rina Ramponi, and is from the Norther Tuscany. It's very good and it was eaten too quickly for me to take a picture of the whole tart. :)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 tbsp cold water
3 tbsp olive oil
4 medium leaks
3/4 lb butternut squash (cut into 3/4 inch cubes) - total ~2 cups
1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese (I used pecorino romano)
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the dough: mix flour, salt, olive oil and slowly add the water, till the dough is smooth. Make a ball out of it and leave it wrapped in plastic wrap for 30 min at room temperature.
For the filling: heat olive oil and add the leeks, cut into thin slices. Cook for ~ 10 minutes. Add the butternut squash (there were also ~8 oz chard leaves that I didn't have, to add at this point). Cook for another 5 minutes (I cooked it longer, at least 10 min), then add the cheese, salt and pepper.
Divide the dough in two parts (one slightly larger). Spread the larger one in a ~13 inch circle with a rolling pin. Place in a 9 inch baking pan (previously oiled), covering the bottom and the borders. Then add the vegetable filling. Spread in a circle the other piece of dough, and place on top. Fold the borders from the bottom circle on top of the upper circle of dough, and cut extra dough away. Add olive oil on top, pierce the crust to allow steam to escape, and bake at 375 F for ~50 min, making sure it's baked evenly all around.
Serve as appetizer or main dish, depending on how many people you have at dinner! It's very good and quite unusual.
Crostini con le fave (Crostini with pureed fava beans)
This recipe was given by Nella Galletti, and it's an Umbrian variation on the traditional Tuscan Bruschetta.
To prepare it, she uses dried fava beans, but I had some fresh ones, so instead of 1 1/2 cups dried beans, I used ~10 big fava beans, and I cooked both the beans and the skins, cut into pieces. The skin part has some strings in it, so if you want to serve the crostini to guests that you think may be bothered by them, just stick to the beans. But in my opinion, though, the skin part has even more taste than the beans..
Roughly cut 1 medium onion, and saute it in 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the beans (previously soaked overnight if they were dried), and the skins, if you're using them. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, and enough water to cover the beans. Cook for ~ 30 minutes. The water should not be all consumed, so add more if necessary, so you have some left when done.
When done, drain the beans, reserve the extra water, and puree the beans with 2 more tbsp of olive oil.
Grill slices of bread, then spread garlic on them and sprinkle olive oil on top. Add a few tsp of the cooking water, and then spoon some of the bean mixture. Serve warm.. They are very good, and again, a taste quite different from usual bruschetta :)