Friday, October 31, 2008

Italian Dinner Part 2: Primi of Lobster Crab Ravioli & Yam Chestnut Ravioli. Secondi-Veal Saltimbocca w/ Chanterelles

Lobster Crab Ravioli & Yam Chestnut Ravioli w/ Roasted Orange Bell Pepper Sauce, Peppercress, Fresh Ricotta and Tiger, Teardrop and Cherry Tomatoes
While I was at Bosa Foods I picked up some Lobster Crab Ravioli and Chestnut Yam Ravioli. I had just come from the Trout Lake Farmers Market where I picked up a humongo bag of orange bell peppers and knew just what to do with them when I saw the pasta. Make a sauce! The great thing about using vegetables for a sauce is once you puree it, you really only need to add a splash of cream to finish it off.

Trout Lake Farmers Market
$4.00 for a bag of the sweetest bell peppers ever

Veal Saltimbocca w/ fresh Chanterelles in a Garlic, White Wine Cream Sauce
Ack! you can see, little effort went into this plate presentation. At least it tasted good...!


I had contemplated panna cotta and tiramisu but after menu planning the other three courses, time got the best of me! In the end I threw together ricotta cheese, local honey, Bernard Callebaut chocolate chips and topped it with crushed Amaretti Cookies.

Yellow Bell Pepper Sauce
10 orange bell peppers (or yellow or red)
1 small onion, fine diced
6 cloves garlic, fine diced
3 cups chicken broth (approx)
s+p t.t (to taste)
sugar t.t
1/4 cup cream (optional)

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. Toss peppers in oil and roast for 1hr or until evenly charred (turn peppers to help char evenly). Place peppers in a bowl and cover with saran wrap for 5 minutes. Discard the skin and seeds and roughly chop
3. In a pot sweat onion and garlic just until translucent. Add peppers and 1/2 of chicken stock. Using a hand blender or food processor puree mixture until smooth. Add enough remaining stock until it reaches consistency of a sauce. Season w/ s+p and sugar if needed. Finish with cream
*Note* Just add more chicken stock to make yellow bell pepper soup

Veal Saltimbocca w/ Fresh Chanterelles
2 pieces veal pounded thin (can ask your butcher or find it already ready in the meat section)
4 pieces prosciutto
4 fresh sage leaves
flour (for coating)
1 tbsp butter

1/2 lb fresh chanterelles
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream

1.Wrap 2 pieces of prosciutto around veal. Use a toothpick to secure the sage onto the veal, 2 pieces of sage/piece
2. Season flour with pepper.
3. Preheat pan on med-high with butter and a little olive oil
4. Coat veal in seasoned flour, dusting off any excess. Pan fry veal, sage side down and flip when the prosciutto starts to turn crispy
5. Repeat on other side, until prosciutto is crispy and golden brown. Let rest on a plate. Add a bit more butter or olive oil to pan.
6. Add chanterelles then garlic and saute for 2 minutes
7. Add wine, to deglaze the pan and scrape any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of pan. Let the alcohol evaporate and reduce down. Finish with cream and s+p.
8. Remove toothpicks from veal and serve with the chanterelles

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Italian Dinner Part 1: Antipasti-Bresaola w/ apple, mizzuna, radicchio and shaved grano padano

I have been meaning to check out Bosa Foods for sometime now and finally got a chance last weekend. It may be a good thing that this store is so far away because I would be there every week buying things! This store is great, from their massive meat and deli section to their free samples (after 3 cannoli samples, a couple cookies and numerous cheese and cracker samples I was kinda full!) they have it all. I went on a Saturday afternoon and it was PACKED. I noticed all these cute little Nona's wandering around speaking Italian to their husbands, I just wanted to follow them around to see what they were putting in their carts! Okay, if we're being completely honest here what I really would have liked is if I could have asked one of them to take me home with them so they could show me how to make their secret family recipes! Besides wanting to check out the store I did have another reason for wanting to go, Bresaola! I have been meaning to try it for so long now and I just knew they would have it. Similar to prosciutto, it is dry cured beef instead of pork. This antipasti came together inspired by things I had just bought from my local farmers market, a nice tart granny smith apple, a sweet and crisp gala apple and some local greens, which was a nice balance to the salty bresaola. A good tip at your local deli, if you've never tried something before and are curious about it, it never hurts to ask for a sample. Stay tuned for the rest of this meal!

Bresaola Antipasti
14 slices of bresaola
Mizuna Greens ( Arugula would be nice too)
Radicchio, julienne (optional, just used for more color)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Apple, julienne (I used Granny Smith and Gala)
Lemon Juice
Grano Padano Cheese, finely grated with a microplane and shaved with a peeler (or Parmigiana-Reggiano)

1. Toss Mizzuna and Radicchio with balsamic, olive oil and s+p
2. Toss apple with lemon juce and finely grated grano padano
3. Lay bresaola on a plate, overlapping. Top with greens, then apple and finish with shaved grano padano

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apple Ricotta Almond Muffins

I'm still on my ricotta kick and when I came across an Apple Ricotta Almond Muffin at this cafe called the Little Nest which I frequent when I'm in the area, I just had to try it! Still warm from the oven I got it to go but it didn't last very long! You know when you keep it in the paper bag and think ohhh I'll just have a little taste and save the rest for later..then u keep eating pieces of it until you realize you have eaten the whole thing and are extremely disappointed that there is nothing left in the bag!? Really though, is there anything better than fresh out of the oven baking! Even better was that this muffin had the BEST muffin top! This weekend I was on my way to the farmers market and was close by the cafe, so I called to ask if they had any Apple Ricotta Muffins, the girl said why yes we have one left...! I asked her if she could put that muffin on hold for me and she laughed and said uhh okay...! Serious addiction here people...! I did realize if I keep eating these I too, will have a muffin top!! So I decided to make my own rendition of them at home. Incorporating apples fresh from the farmers market (it's apple season and the variety of apples at the farmers market is ridiculous!), whole wheat flour, unrefined sugar and buttermilk made these muffins moist, sweet and taste just like the ones from the cafe! My only regret is not filling them if you make these, forget the rule to fill the batter 3/4 full, and go ahead and mound the batter into the muffin tin, this makes the best muffins in the world because it creates that crispy muffin top which we all know is the best part!
A dollop of ricotta in the middle of the batter makes these muffins soo good
I learned my lesson from the first batch, so on my second batch I filled the batter to the top to get a crispy muffin top
Apple Ricotta Almond Muffins (Makes approx 12 muffins)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cup white flour
1/2 cup unrefined sugar (rapadura sugar)
1/2 cup white sugar (or 1 cup white sugar if u don't have unrefined sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 apples, small dice (I used Ambrosia and Gala)
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almonds (sliced)
Icing sugar
1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl or mixer combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In another bowl mix together eggs, egg whites, buttermilk, milk, 1/3 cup ricotta cheese, oil and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients just till incorporated. Stir in apples.
2. Fill muffin pan with liners and grease the top of the pan. Fill each cup 1/2 way with batter, add a dollop of ricotta cheese and fill to the top with more batter. Combine the topping of cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top. Follow with almonds. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. When cooled down, dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Carrot and Chickpea Soup w/ Crispy Pancetta and Truffled Honey Popcorn

Okay here goes, I’m about to tell you how my brain works when I come up with new ideas! It’s definitely soup season here and I’ve been meaning to make a carrot soup, of course not just any ol carrot soup! Actually the more I think about it I know exactly how this particular dish evolved…it started this afternoon when I was eating roasted vegetable hummus and thought chickpeas, that would be good with carrots! I thought it would add some body to the soup as well as a bit of creaminess without having to add cream. Later I was at the gym doing my cardio while watching the food network (It’s extremely tragic that I don’t have cable at the moment, so this is the only chance I get to watch my food tv!) and was watching caramel popcorn being made when I thought popcorn…that could definitely work as a garnish! It would add some crunch to the creamy soup, as well visual appeal. Thinking about popcorn reminded me of this time I had popcorn drizzled with truffle oil. (This is where the wheels really started turning) and I remembered I had some truffled honey that I brought back from Italy and both truffles and honey would work nicely with carrots. I needed something to hold the popcorn garnish so it wouldn't get all soggy and melt into the soup, when I thought of pancetta, which would add a nice saltiness and crispy texture to the smooth soup as well. Visualizing how I would serve it, I realized it needed a bit more color then the orange soup, red pancetta and white popcorn which made me think of dill, which goes great with carrots and would add a nice touch of green. Soo that is my thought process! Sometimes I think it's a great concern how much I think about food...! Above is a pic of the delicious truffled honey which I drizzled on the popcorn. I could eat this stuff by the spoonfuls!
Carrot and Chickpea Soup w/ Crispy Pancetta and Truffled Honey Popcorn
8 local carrots, small diced
1 white onion, small diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, small diced
2 cups cooked chickpeas (if using canned, drain and rinse)
8 cups chicken stock (I used organic veg stock this time)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped, reserve some for garnish
honey to taste (regular honey, optional depending on how sweet your carrots are)
pancetta, pan fried (or baked) till crispy
truffled honey (or regular honey)
fresh dill
*another option is to finish the soup with truffle oil or fresh truffles if you can get your hands on them*

1. Heat oil in a big pot and sweat off onions, then carrot and celery, then garlic and ginger until soft. Add in chickpeas
2. Add stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Use a hand blender, regular blender or food processor, puree until smooth.
3. Season to taste and finish with dill.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grilled Flatbread w/ Fresh Ricotta, Artichokes, Anchovies and Wine Soaked Olives

Fresh ricotta...! I really think it's underrated. Cool and creamy with a slight hint of sweetness, I think it adds a nice balance to other strong flavors, in this case olives and anchovies. I can't seem to get enough of these kalamata olives, marinated in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, vinegar and herbs, if you can find them, buy 10 jars! They are THAT good! Rewinding a bit I had originally picked up this ricotta from my local Italian store for this breakfast panini I wanted to make. Ricotta in a breakfast panini? Hear me out! Also stuffed with medjool dates, hazelnut butter and mashed banana the warmth of the panini press makes the hazelnut butter, banana and ricotta get a bit gooey and melty. It's almost like a sweet version of a grilled cheese! Okay that sounds so wrong but I swear its soo good! Another favorite of mine is fresh ricotta drizzled with local honey, a sprinkle of chocolate chunks and crushed up amaretti cookies. Sweet, creamy and crunchy. Back to the savory usage of ricotta, I really wasn't in the mood for a cheesy pizza but something lighter, so flatbread seemed like the way to go. Moral of the story? Go get some ricotta and put it on everything....sweet or savory!

Grilled Flatbread w/ Fresh Ricotta, Artichokes, Anchovies and Wine Soaked Olives (Makes 1 flatbread)
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
1 1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white flour)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 1 tsp to grease the bowl you proof it in
1. Combine yeast, warm water and sugar, let sit 5-10 min till the yeast puffs up
2. Place yeast mixture in mixer, add olive oil and mix. (Start with paddle attachment), or if by hand, start with a spoon and then use your hands to incorporate the rest.
3. Slowly add ½ the flour, add salt and add in the rest of the flour. Change to dough hook
4. Mix for 1 minute until dough comes together, might have to add a bit more flour, should be soft but not to sticky. Knead by hand for 20 seconds
5. Place in a bowl coated with the remaining oil, make sure to coat dough in oil as well, place saran wrap over top and let proof (rise) for about 1 hr to 1½ hrs.

Toppings (all optional):
Light base of San Marzano tomato sauce
Fresh Ricotta Cheese
Kalamata Olives
Roasted Red Bell Peppers
Fresh basil
Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

1.Preheat bbq on high
2.Roll out dough until thin, can be odd shaped, coat both sides of dough with olive oil and cornmeal. Place on baking sheet
3.Place dough on grill and cover lid for 1-1 1/2 min, bottom side should have grill marks but not be completely burnt, flip dough over and cook the other side with bbq lid down. Dough is done when you can knock on it and it sounds hollow.
4. Place toppings on flatbread and warm through. (I usually do this in the oven). Finish with shaved parm and fresh torn basil.