Tag Archives: Food

Kitchen: An Italian Brunch

I’ve been wanting to make this brunch for my parents for a long time. It is composed of many of my favorite things: crisp prosciutto, polenta loaded with parmegianno regiano and goat cheese, and perfectly poached eggs. It may sound intimidating, but it isn’t, trust me. The polenta took about 3 minutes, if that. You follow the package directions, then add whatever you want at the end (in this case, a couple of cheeses) The prosciutto was put on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until it reached my desired crispiness.

The trick for me here was the poached eggs, as I’ve never made them before. It’s my favorite way to eat an egg, all softly textured with the rich, creamy yolk, but I only get them when I’m at a restaurant that will make them for me. I did what any curious cook with the internet should do: I googled and YouTubed how to make poached eggs. Some said to swirl the cooking liquid, some said it isn’t necessary. Some said add vinegar, some said it’s unnecessary.

I wound up cracking one egg at a time into a small, mesh sieve. This drains away all the loose whites that make poached eggs look raggedy. I then gently laid it into a large pan of simmering water. All I put in the water was salt, no vinegar. I then left the eggs alone, no stirring, no poking; I just kept an eye on them until all the whites had firmed up and there was no “clear” egg in the water. I surprised myself with delightful results.

Let me tell you, there are few things so decadent as a perfectly poached egg broken over a bowl of cheesy polenta. This meal stays with you for a long time.

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Behold the glory of a breakfast I wish I could eat every morning:

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Cooking: Pear Crostada

This rustic tart looks gorgeous, but is so simple to make! I used Guy Fieri’s recipe (except I used granulated sugar instead of turbinado because what middle class citizen buys a special kind of sugar for one recipe?) As far as the pears go, Bosc pears are my favorite. This dessert is a crowd pleaser at dinner parties.

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WORTH IT. (serve with vanilla ice cream)

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Cooking: Butternut Risotto

This is one of those recipes that results in the flavors of autumn. It is a “comfort food” in our home, and one of my parents’ favorite things I cook. Here is what you need:

Two cups of diced butternut squash: you will need an ice pack for your wrist after chopping up a butternut squash, unless you have an extremely sharp knife or, perhaps, an axe. I toss my squash in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast it in the oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. You don’t have to do this, but I like how the flavors become concentrated and the sugars are caramelized.

You also need the following: 4 cups of chicken stock/broth, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 4 or more (I always use more) of pancetta or bacon (the real, good stuff, not the thin, pre-cooked stuff), 2 medium shallots, minced, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1-1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice, 2 teaspoons of sage, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the chicken broth and wine in a pot and begin warming it. You want it to be hot when as you add it to the risotto, but not boiling. I like to squeeze the juice of a lemon into mine as well.

Now, Arborio is a delightfully fat & starchy rice that makes the risotto hearty. I also use it for rice puddings.

You will also need a really good, dry white wine. Please use something you would drink, people. You need to stay hydrated while you cook this marathon dish. I use my all-time favorite dry white wine, Orvieto Classico:

You’ll want to cook up your pancetta in a little olive oil until it’s awesomely crispy, then let it drain on paper towels:

Cook up your shallots until softened and add the garlic. Throw in the Arborio & squash and stir it together for about a minute, getting the rice all coated and toasted. Add one cup of the chicken stock & wine-y goodness. Stir continually, and sing softly to your risotto, if you so desire. Enjoying some of that wine will help with this.

This is the long part: continue to add the broth mixture, a ladle-full at a time. Stir continually until each ladle-full is almost completely absorbed before adding another ladle. Slowly, the rice will begin to give up its starches and your risotto will thicken and become wonderful. Near the end, the risotto should be creamy, but still “toothsome”, so you actually have some bite to it, and it isn’t just mush:

At the end, crumble the pancetta and add the sage into the risotto. Mix in the cheese and remove the pot from the heat.

Plate it up! Serve it with a nice salad and warm bread and the rest of that wine, if there is any left. If you want some nice color contrast, throw some parsley on top of it, but I don’t like green plants in my risotto, so I leave it out. Enjoy the comforting goodness!

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Birthdays, graduation parties, bridal showers, a job, photo shoots, and my sister’s wedding.  That was my summer.  That’s where I’ve been.  It’s no excuse, but by the end of the day, I was just too dang tired to blog.  I had to pack up my studio space to make way for wedding gifts, so I don’t even have a painting to share.  Hopefully, the photos below will suffice.  Please forgive me; I’ve missed you all and I’ll try to be more consistent!

So. Many. Bridal. Showers.

 

 

PLENTY of opportunities to photograph food!

Family photo shoot for an adoption agency.

A peek at the second engagement session with my sister & (now) brother-in-law.

A rehearsal dinner……

……and a perfect wedding!

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Pasquetta

My favorite day in Italy was Pasquetta.  In Italian culture, this is the Monday after Easter, in which families picnic in the countryside.  Friends of our program, Kay & Chubba, live in a villa in the hills across from Orvieto.  They invited all of us students to join them at their home for Pasquetta.  The day after Easter, we all hiked up to their villa, carrying food and books and journals and cameras.  The weather was glorious, food was in abundance, and Kay & Chubba opened the wine made from their vineyard.  We ate and talked and ate and laughed and ate and took naps and ate and explored.  I just remember how incredible the weather was, how breathtaking the view of the city from Kay & Chubba’s villa, and how happy everyone was.  It’s a shame we don’t have such a tradition in the States: a day to simply do nothing but be together, enjoying good food and the beautiful world around us.

Buona Pasquetta!!!

Seriously, this is the view of gorgeous Orvieto from where all of us are sitting in the picture above.  See why we stayed there all day?!

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Madeleines

Having purchased my longed-for Madeleine baking pan, I finally made the delicate cookie-cakes a few days ago.  No one, on either side of the family, has ever made Madeleines, so I had no idea what to expect.  The only thing I had to go on was my memory of how incredibly delightful were the Madeleines made by the mom of my dear friend, Christine.  I carefully followed the recipe below:

2 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

pinch of salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted, and slightly cooled

powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray Madeleine pan with cooking spray or generously butter.  Using electric mixer, beat the eggs and 2/3 cup of sugar in a large bowl just until blended.  Beat in vanilla, lemon zest and salt.  Add flour; beat just until blended.  Gradually add cooled melted butter in a steady stream, beating until just blended.

NOTE:  At this point, I freaked out a little, as my “cookie-ish” batter suddenly turned in a runnier “cakey” batter.  I tried to have a little faith in myself, and after baking the first batch, I realized that is what is supposed to happen to the batter.

Carefully spoon batter into each Madeleine indentation in the pan, like this:

Bake until puffed and browned around the edges: 6-8 minutes for small Madeleines, 14-16 minutes for large Madeleines.  Cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove each Madeleine from the pan.  Repeat the process, spraying or buttering the pan before each batch.

For a final, yummy flair, dust the cooled Madeleines with powdered sugar.  Now, my mom has this gorgeous, scalloped China plate with exquisite little blue flowers on it, and I dug it out.  See, I believe that elegant little cookie-cakes deserve an elegant presentation.

These are so light and delightful and go fabulously with black coffee or tea.  It is not possible to eat just one.

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