Archives for March 2008

DARING BAKERS


PERFECT PARTY CAKE

This month’s Daring Baker challenge comes courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s cook book called, Baking from My Home to Yours. In the exact words of Dorie herself, “The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature; it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen- no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste- special!!” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Our Hostess this month, Morven, over at Food Art and Random thoughts, challenged us all to make this delicious cake.Please check out her blog to get the complete recipe.

What I liked about this challenge was that we were able to put our own stamp on it. We all had to make the basic white cake, cut it into layers, and either frost it with buttercream or fresh whipped cream, and between the layers, some kind of preserves or fresh fruit.

I chose to make mine with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, frankly, I didn’t think I could pull off the buttercream (I’ve heard some horror stories in the past) and besides my family really does prefer a whipped cream cake.

Between the layers I added strawberry preserves, fresh strawberries, and enough Amaretto to make a nice glaze. Instead of vanilla in my whipped cream, I added Amaretto to flavor it. A little toasted almonds around the whole cake added a little crunch, and went along with my almond theme.


It just so happened that the day I made this was also our friends Anniversary, so I gently packed it up, and brought it over and we all shared it together. By the way, everyone loved it!!

I would definately make this cake again, I can honestly say I had no problems with it. Hope you give it a try!!

Check out the other Daring Bakers party cakes here.

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"FESTA ITALIANA" THE ROUNDUP!!!

Our Festa Italiana, certainly was a celebration of the “sweet life”. All our amazing friends gathered with us bringing the most delicious food and drink! Our table was a true Italian feast!!!
We gathered until the wee hours of the night, talking, eating, drinking, as the music played all night long! Please take the time to browse all these wonderful blogs to see what everyone brought to our table. And thank you, thank you, to all who participated!!!
I only wish this could happen in the real world!!

Val at More Than Burnt Toast brought Wrapped Bocconcini Spiedini.

Susan at Porcini Chronicles brought Escarole and Beans.

Lori Lynn at Taste with the Eyes brought Pistachio Crusted Lamb, Pomegranate Glaze.

Linda at Milanese Masala brought Frittata Verde con Pancetta.

Gloria at Canela’s Kitchen brought Tortoni di Mandorla.

Amy at Familia Bencomo brought Cozze Italiano

Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy brought Pizza Rustica.

Laurie at Dalla Mia Cucina brought Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Crema di Fontina.

Lisa at La Mia Cucina brought Italian Chicken Wings and Potatoes.

Jenn at The Leftover Queen brought Polenta Lasagna with Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

Haalo at Cook Almost Anything at Least Once brought Torta Meringata con Mele.

Harmony at Wholesome Feasts brought Utica Tomatoe Pie.

Lorraine at Italian Foodies brought Minestrone Soup.

Ohio Mom at Cooking in Cleveland brought Calcioni Piccanti.

Neen and Do at Post-Collegiate Cooking a’Deux brought Pasta Arrabiata with Argula.

Jenny at Picky Palate brought Double Mozzarella Turkey Burgers with an Artichoke Remoulade & Crispy Pancetta.

Anna at Morsels & Musings brought Cassata Gelata.

Jerry at Jerry’s Thoughts, Musings, and Rants brought Jamie Oliver’s Slow Cooked Duck Pasta.

Barbara at Barbarba Bakes brought Lighter Chicken Parmesan.

Claudia at Eternal Rewards brought Fettucine Alfredo.

Dellene at Cooking and The City brought Chicken Cacciatore.

Ben at What’s Cooking? brought Italian Stuffed Zucchini.

Judy at Judy’s Gross Eats brought Neopolitan Panna Cotta.

Roopa at My Kitchen Treats brought Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Katie at Thyme For Cooking brought Piccata al Marsala.

Theresa at Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine brought Tagliatelle Bolognese.

Anne at Cooking with Anne brought Lasagna Rolls on Sauce Bechamal.

Imma at Caffeine for 2 brought Cinnamon “Angelica”

Deeba at Passionate about Baking brought Coffee Chocolate Panna Cotta.

Wandering Chopsticks brought Penne with “Italian Sausage” and Fennel.

Kitchenetta at Got No Milk brought Peasant Polenta Pie.

Lisa at Food and Spice brought Cannellini Bean Soup with Fontina Gremolata.

Mansi Desai at Fun and Food brought Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Garlic-Basil Tomato Sauce.

Saralynn at Happy Baker brought Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, sorry a photo wasn’t included.

Sandi at Whistle Stop Cafe Cooking brought Tiramisu

Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen brought Calzones

And finally my addition was my Braciole

I want to thank my dear friend Maryann, who hosted this event with me, it was so much fun to do it together! Please go over to her blog, Finding La Dolce Vita, to view the other half of these amazing dishes that were brought to the “Festa” If we goofed and missed your dish please let us know right away, we don’t want to forget anybody!

Thanks again, each and everyone of you!!!!

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VEGETALI ALLA MARIE!!

This is a great side dish that I make for special occasions. It is a highly requested vegetable dish, that my family loves. Every time I make it, the whole thing gets eaten up! and believe me I make a lot! I think it goes great with a ham, pork,a roast of any kind. I make it as a side with any baked pasta dish, like a lasagna, or stuffed shells, you get my point, pretty much anything you make for a special meal. I think its a combination of flavors, and the choice of veggies that makes this taste so good! This is an old family recipe that I’ve been making for years, and we never get tired of it!

Here’s the ingredients, and by the way, you use all frozen veggies!! ( Of course you can use fresh if you want to) Make as much as you want, maybe a bag or 2 of each vegetable, I’m sorry but I never measure, it all depends on how many people you are serving. I fill a huge pan and always use extra artichokes. There is no set rule, you can adjust the amount as you wish. 🙂

Italian flat beans
Artichoke hearts
Asparagus
Lima beans

1/2lb. of meaty bacon (diced up small)
Garlic flavored olive oil ( a must!)

First thing you do is to take all the veggies and put them in a strainer and let them defrost.

In a large saute pan, cook your bacon until real crispy, hopefully there won’t be a lot of fat in the pan cause you bought meaty bacon,:-) but if there is, drain it off, and leave all the crispy bits. Next coat the pan with some garlic olive oil, this is a must! Then, put all the veggies in the pan all together,and on a med high heat, turn often till coated with the bacon and garlic oil, blending and scraping up the crispy bits. Salt and pepper it to taste, and you can even add a little regular extra virgin olive oil for some added flavor.
You really have to keep tasting this as it cooks, for enough salt and pepper, and enough olive oil flavor.

When everything is heated through, and all the flavors blend together, its done! There’s something about the combination of the artichokes with the lima beans and all the other ingredients that make this taste so good!!

Buon Appetito

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"MOONSTRUCK" EGGS!!

I’m a sucker for romantic comedy’s, and “Moonstruck” is one of my all time favorites! It’s a story about love, life, passion, and strong family bonds. Being Italian American I can certainly relate to many of the scenes in the movie, which make me laugh every time I watch it.

Not only do I love the music, and the characters in “Moonstruck” I also love some of the food scenes. Families sitting together sharing coffee, eating oatmeal deep in conversation. Loretta and her Mom Rose, cooking up some eggs for breakfast in the midst of discussing important life issues.

Today is March 17th, not only is it St.Patrick’s day, but it’s also my wedding anniversary! Yes, 2 Italians got married on St. Patrick’s day many “moons” ago!! Married at age 19, and still going strong!

So, for a little anniversary breakfast I decided to make some “Moonstruck eggs”. If you never cooked an egg in a little olive oil, you have to try it. The eggs take on a new dimension of flavor.
In the movie they had some red pepper on the side, I sauteed red pepper, green pepper, onions, and sliced potatoes for some nice color and flavor to go with the eggs.

Here is the recipe!

Take some good Italian bread, make a hole in the middle.
Pour a little olive oil in a pan and brown one side of bread, flip it over when browned, crack your eggs in it, and cook them like you want to. I didn’t flip them over cause I thought the picture would look messy, so I kept them sunnyside up, and placed a cover over them to cook the yoke.

It’s nice way to make a simple egg just a bit more fancy!!

Happy Anniversary “T” xxooxo!!

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BRACIOLE!!

Braciole is something I don’t make very often, except maybe for a special occasion, so therefore I thought it would be fitting that I bring this dish to our “Festa Italiana.” Please join Maryann and I, if you haven’t already done so. There’s still plenty of time to bring your favorite Italian dish or drink, you have till March 22nd. Shortly after that we will display all the wonderful things we “tasted” at the Festa! Everything looks fantastic so far!!! ( click for details on top of my blog)

I make my braciole simply with thin cut round steak.

In a bowl I mix together bread crumbs, fresh chopped parsley, chopped garlic,a little salt, lots of pepper,and a generous amount of grated cheese.(I used romano)

Layer prosciutto, (or you can use bacon) all over the round steak, then generously sprinkle the bread crumb mixture all over the prosciutto.

Roll them up and tie them so all the filling stays inside. Cook them in your favorite home made sauce, but be sure to add some red wine, it gives them a nice rich flavor. Simmer till tender.

With every bite you will taste the prosciutto, cheese, and that moist and flavorful bread crumb mixture!

I couldn’t resist stopping by my favorite Italian bakery,and picking up a tray of these for all of you to try at our Festa. Their called Zeppole, out here in Chicagoland, and they only come out for a few weeks every March, after St. Joseph’s day you won’t find them anywhere. We often have to wait in long lines to get these little gems, but believe me they are worth the wait!!

It’s a light, fresh pastry dough, filled with the most delicious custard cream, aren’t they pretty? Can’t wait till you get to try them!

Buon Appetito!!

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PIZZA DOUGH!!! UNO, DUE, TRE!

SAUSAGE BREAD

I love having pizza dough in my freezer at all times, whether I make home made, or I buy it from my local Italian grocery, which by the way makes excellent dough! All you have to do is defrost it on your counter, and let it get to room temperature and your good to go!
This recipe of sausage bread I remember way back when I was a kid, I remember my Mom making this and we would eat it slice by slice. It’s sort of like a stromboli, but we always called it sausage bread. I like using hot Italian sausage because, between the dough and the cheese, it sort of cancels out some of the heat, and leaves a lot of flavor. There are many variations but mine is simply hot sausage, Fontina cheese, and lots of grated cheese like Romano.

Roll dough out and layer all ingredients on top (pre cook sausage) roll up jelly roll style.
Make 3 slits on top, brush with olive oil and sprinkled cheese. Bake at 375 degreesF till golden about 1/2 hour.

WHITE PIZZA

Traditional pizza is always a given, but sometimes we crave this white pizza, no sauce thank you! Again, I would imagine there are a ton of different variations, but mine was made with a blending of roasted garlic, Ricotta cheese, and a grated combo of Asiago, Fontina, Provolone, and Parmesan cheese’s. Make it like you would a regular pizza. It’s out of the norm, but quite delicious!!

CALZONE

Of course you can stuff these guys with anything you want, the skys the limit!! This one I made all veggie with a little mushroom, eggplant, and artichoke, add some sauce and mozzarella, fold it up and bake like a pizza. When you bite into it all those flavors come oozing out! Mmmmm

Buon Appetito!!

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SPAGHETTI WITH OVEN BAKED CLAMS!!!

This recipe is courtesy of Tyler Florence, and all I can say is… THANK YOU TYLER! I knew this was going to be good the first time I saw him make it. I love how rustic it’s made. Every thing’s made in a huge roasting pan, the kind you’d make a turkey in. It fits 5 lbs. of clams and a pound of pasta, and everything else just fine! Plenty of room for the clams to open up and spread out!

My trip to Costco on Saturday really convinced me into making this dish. They happen to have the best littleneck clams there, flown in fresh every week from the North Atlantic ocean, and fresh they were!

RECIPE
40 littleneck clams ( 5 lbs.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
10 garlic clove, smashed with the back of a knife ( Yes 10!!!)
1/4 lb. pancetta, small dice
Handful of fresh basil
Red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of white wine (I used more)
2 pints of cherry tomatoes ( I bought the big container from Costco)
Lots of fresh ground pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. ( I raised it to 425)
Make sure clams are cleaned and discard any that are open. In the meantime get your water boiling for your spaghetti.

On top of stove put your roasting pan over 2 burners. Add oil, garlic, pancetta, red pepper, cook till pancetta renders. Add the clams, wine, tomatoes, and a good amount of pepper and toss all together. Transfer pan into the oven and roast till clams open up. The recipe said about 10 min. but it took mine about 1/2 hr. or so, maybe because of the size of the clams. The key is wait till they open!

When clams do open, throw your cooked pasta right into the same roasting pan to soak up all the good juices and intense flavors. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, lots of pepper, and an extra drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Make sure you have some good crusty bread to soak up the juices too. I highly recommend this! You will not be disappointed!

Buon Appetito!
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