Thursday, September 29, 2016

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, APRICOTS, & OLIVES

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that your whole family will enjoy. Serve the chicken with wild rice or roasted sweet potatoes and a green salad. This is a perfect autumn dinner.


4 bone-in chicken breasts, cut in half
4 small chicken legs with thighs
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 whole lemon, cut into 8 wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced fresh rosemary
2 t fresh or freeze-dried oregano
2 t fresh or freeze-dried basil
½ t red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 cup dry white wine

½ cup stuffed Manzanilla olives
½ cup Italian black olives, pitted
¼ cup capers, drained
2 medium onions, cut into small wedges
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried plums (prunes)
Lemon slices, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the chicken in a large heavy baking pan. Do not crowd the chicken.
Brush the chicken with balsamic vinegar.

Squeeze the juice from 3 lemon wedges over the chicken.
Tuck in the rest of the wedges around the chicken.

Place the garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. 
Mix together and evenly sprinkle over the chicken.

Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, pour wine around chicken, and bake for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes, remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.
Sprinkle the olives, capers, onions, apricots, and prunes around the chicken.
Baste with pan juices and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, until chicken is a deep golden brown.

Transfer all of the ingredients to a warm baking pan or dish to take to the table.
Pour the pan juices over and tuck in a few lemon slices.

Serves 6


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CHOCOLATE, ESPRESSO & BRANDY SYLLABUB

Syllabub is a mousse-like dessert popular in Europe in the 16th through the 19th centuries. The dessert is made with wine, cider, or brandy. I added espresso to give it an Italian flavor and chocolate...because it made it even better!!



½ cup hot espresso
¼ cup dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips  
½ cup granulated or light brown sugar
½ cup brandy  
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Orange zest strips, for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the hot espresso, chocolate, sugar, orange zest, and brandy.
Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter until cool.

When espresso mixture is cool, pour heavy cream into a large bowl and whip until medium-firm peaks form.
Spoon out about ½ cup of the whipped cream into another bowl, to use for garnish.
Slowly mix the coffee mixture into the large bowl of whipped cream.
Spoon into glasses and refrigerate until well chilled.
Top with a dollop of whipped cream and orange zest strips.

Serves 4 to 6 (depending upon the size of your serving glasses)

Friday, September 23, 2016

SICILIAN RICOTTA CHEESECAKE - Torta di Ricotta

Ricotta cheesecakes are easy to make and they are so very delicious. This one has a graham cracker crust on the bottom and partially up the sides. I found a box of graham cracker crumbs in the supermarket. This saved me from crushing them in my food processor. It's always nice to save a step if you can.
I also posted the ingredients to change this cheesecake into an Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake. 


1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs or about 20 graham crackers, finely crushed
½ cup melted unsalted butter
32 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ t sea salt
Grated zest of 1 large organic or carefully washed orange
2 T orange juice
1 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs with the butter.
Firmly press graham cracker crumbs into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of a 7 to 8-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, zest, juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix until completely combined.

Pour batter into pan and place on a baking sheet or pizza pan.
Place in center of the oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
Turn oven off and let cheesecake sit in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, until firm throughout.

Let cool on the counter, and then refrigerate for 2 hours to set.

Remove from springform pan to a cake plate and decorate with confectioners’ sugar or more grated orange zest, if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

Almond-Amaretti Cheesecake Crust
¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
10 amaretti cookies
4 whole graham crackers
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 T unsalted butter, melted

Place above ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and process for a few seconds.

Filling

In place of the orange zest and juice, add the zest and juice of 1 lemon.
In place of the vanilla extract, add 1 t of pure almond extract.





Sunday, September 18, 2016

CASA FRITTATA WITH RICOTTA, FONTINA, PARMIGIANO, & MUSHROOMS

The French have the omelette, the Spanish have the tortilla de patata, and the Italians have the frittata (frittate, plural in the Italian language). A Frittata is an egg dish that can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a midnight snack. Make it your own frittata by substituting a few of the ingredients with a few of your own favorites. Be creative!



2 oz diced pancetta or 4 slices good quality bacon, diced
8 to 10 cremini or white mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 t extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, cut in half and thinly sliced
4 T unsalted butter
8 large eggs
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup fontina cheese, diced
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 T chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In 10 or 12-inch ovenproof non-stick skillet, cook the pancetta or bacon over medium heat until crisp.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl.
Discard all but a couple of teaspoons of the grease, and add the mushrooms.
Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring often.
Remove mushrooms to the bowl with the pancetta or bacon.
Add the potatoes to the skillet, cover, and cook, for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
Remove lid, raise heat to medium, and cook potatoes another 3 to 5 minutes until golden and crisp.
Lower the heat, add the shallot and cook a couple more minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, fontina, Parmigiano, and basil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper

Return the mushrooms and bacon to the skillet, add the butter and let melt.
Adjust heat to low and add the beaten egg mixture.

Place the skillet in the center of the oven and bake the frittata until it is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
The frittata should be mostly firm in the middle, but don't cook until center is dry.

Cut into 8 wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 8




Friday, September 16, 2016

AMALFI COAST LEMON-VANILLA GELATO - Limone Gelato alla Vaniglia

In my cookbook, I have two recipes for Sicilian Gelato. Sicilians use cornstarch as a stabilizer instead of egg yolks. This gelato reminds me of the lemony flavors of the beautiful Amalfi Coast.
Turn off or stop churning your ice cream maker before it gets to the thickness of ice cream. Scoop into a container and freeze until ready to serve. Before serving, take the container of gelato out of the freezer and let sit on your counter for 15 minutes. This softens the gelato to the consistency of gelato in Italy. Gelato is ideally served with a gelato spatula instead of an ice cream scoop.


3 cups whole milk
1 small vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
Peel from 2 organic lemons or carefully washed lemons
4 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of the milk, lemon peel, and vanilla bean to a simmer. 
Turn off heat and let sit.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks along with the remaining 1 cup of milk and sugar.
A little at a time, stir into the hot milk mixture.  
Return the pan to heat and slowly simmer, whisking until mixture thickens slightly about 3 to 5 minutes.
Let cool for 30 minutes, then pour through a fine mesh strainer into a covered container and refrigerate until completely chilled.

When cold, pour into a gelato or ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Another Serving Idea:
To serve as affogato "drowned in coffee".
Put a scoop of gelato in a cup or small glass. Add one or two shots of espresso and enjoy!



AFFOGATO