Category Archives: Italian

Lemon Goat cheese Ravioli

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Lemon Goat cheese Ravioli

I have been a part of this cook book club and I am loving it. I feel its great because you are getting inspiration from the book and your co-chefs. Its amazing to see everyone’s take on the same dish, be it swapping out ingredients, cooking techniques or even plating.

This month’s author is  Yotam Ottolenghi and we are cooking from various books of his. I must tell you, you will fall in love with his book. I will be sharing many recipes, some just like he makes, some my variations.

Jerusalem is one of my favorite cook books, Yotam takes us down the lanes of Jerusalem. You can smell the breads from the bakery and halva on the streets.

I love the fact that he is so connected to his roots and that his cooking is simple. It speaks to you because the ingredients are honest and so are the techniques. There is a clear sense of sharing the recipes and it touches me. It focuses on various vegetables that we get through out the year and not limited to just carrots and bell peppers

Today I am sharing one of the recipes from his book Plenty. This has been my inspiration to making pasta and also make other things that I will be sharing soon.

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For the pasta

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3 tbsp olive oil
3 medium eggs
330g ’00’ flour, plus more for rolling
½ tsp turmeric
Grated zest of 3 lemons

For the filling

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300g creamy, mild goat’s cheese
½ tsp  sea salt
1 pinch chilli flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg white, beaten

To serve

2 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp roughly chopped tarragon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Lemon juice (optional)

Method

Mix the oil and eggs. Put the flour, turmeric and zest in a food processor, add the oil and egg mix, and blend to a crumbly dough (it may require extra flour or oil).

Once the dough has come together and is smooth (you may need to work it a little by hand, too), divide it into four thick, rectangular blocks.

Wrap in clingfilm and chill for anything from 30 minutes to two days.

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Dust a work surface with flour. Take a piece of dough and flatten with a rolling pin. Set a pasta machine to its widest setting and pass through. Repeat, narrowing the setting a notch each time, until you reach the lowest setting. Place pasta sheets flat under a moist towel, so they don’t dry out.

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Use a fork to crush all the filling ingredients together, apart from the egg white. Use a pastry cutter (or rim of a glass) to stamp out pasta circles roughly 7cm in diameter. Brush each with egg white and place a heaped teaspoon of filling in its centre. Place another disc on top and, with fingers dipped in flour, squeeze out any air as you bring the edges of the discs together. You should end up with a pillow-shaped centre surrounded by a 1cm edge. Tighten the edges until you can’t see a seam. Repeat with the rest of the dough, place the ravioli on a tray sprinkled with semolina, and leave to dry for 15 minutes. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for a day or two.

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To serve, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta for two to three minutes, until al dente, drain and divide between four plates. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns, tarragon and lemon zest. Drizzle with rapeseed oil, add salt and a squirt of lemon juice, and serve piping hot.

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Coffee-Almond biscotti

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This year is supposed to be a El Niño year, which means a lot of rain is expected. We have been hoping that it rains a lot and gives a relief from the drought situation in California. It has rained but not too much, so when this weekend it poured, everyone was super happy.

Rain always makes us think of Pakodas( fried lentil fritters), a cup of ginger tea. Rain makes everything look so pretty. Spring is in the air, flowers everywhere. The wisteria in our garden is looking gorgeous, vibrant with purple chandeliers.

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It was a very relaxing weekend, we had an amazing lunch at our favorite ethiopian place. They make such incredible food, especially their chicken is cooked so well. We ended that meal with a ethiopian coffee, which is always accompanied with a fragrant herb, ‘rue’. You let the herb seep in it’s flavors in the coffee before you drink it.

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Talking about coffee, recently my family has been obsessed with coffee. My son has been taking very scientific approach to coffee making. Weighing the coffee beans, freshly ground with handheld steel coffee grinder, water temperature measured by thermometer, even the pour has to be perfect. He looks like Alton Brown every time he makes coffee. He made me a macchiato with a little heart a few weekends ago, so perfectly made.

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On my recent trip to Guatemala, I visited this coffee shop which not only serves amazing coffee but also sells beans from the neighbouring areas. I picked a few pounds from there and we also replicated the same set up at home. It made such an amazing cup of coffee.

IMG_4349I love coffee in many forms whether it is coffee ice cream or Tiramisu or even Tiramisu french toast for breakfast, I love it all. So when we were talking about some cookie to go with the coffee, I decided to make this Biscotti. I love making biscotti for many reasons, you can make it ahead of time, you can make so many variations and they are not fragile so they transport well.

Since I love the coffee flavor, I decided to add it to the biscotti as well.

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Ingredients

2 3/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 stick of unsalted butter softened

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3 eggs at room temperature

1 pinch of salt

3 tsp instant granulated coffee

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup of almonds roughly chopped

Chocolate dip

5 oz of dark chocolate chips

crushed almonds or sliced almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together.

Cream the softened butter with sugar.

Add coffee granules and vanilla mix a little more.

Add one egg at a time while the mixer is running.

Scrape down the liquid ingredients.

Add the flour mixture a little at a time. The dough will be sticky at this point. Keep the dough in the fridge so it will firm up and will be easier to handle.

Take the dough out and divide in two parts.

Form two logs of about 2 inch by 8 inch. Remember this will spread as they bake so dont make them wider than 2 inches.

Place the logs on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Bake for 25-30 mins.

Take it out of the oven and cool for 30 mins.

Biscotti means baked twice. So as the name suggests, we will be baking these twice.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut in 1 inch slices.

Arrange these slices cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake again for 15-20 mins. Remember that these will harden as they cool so be careful to not overcook these.

After baking it the second time, let them cook on a rack.

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Chocolate sauce

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave, heating in the 30 sec intervals, stirring in between.

Dip one end of the cooled biscotti in the melted chocolate and sprinkle with crushed almonds. Layer them back on the parchment paper till the chocolate is solid again.

These store very well in a airtight container.

Serve with your favorite cup of coffee.

 

Variation:

You can skip the coffee granules in the batter, and add 1/4 cup of cocoa instead.

You can also make these with no chocolate or cocoa or almonds in the batter, and add 1 tsp of Anise seeds, 1/2 cup of cranberries & 1/2 cup of pistachio instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Two cheese Gnocchi with Brown butter-sage sauce

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I love making things from scratch. Although in this day and age where everything is instant and easy, I feel that there is very special when it is made at home from scratch. Agreed that it involves time and effort, but I feel that if I can not spend time and effort on my happiness then what is the point. My grandma used to say in Marathi ( my mother tongue) ,” कशासाठी  पोटासाठी ” which roughly translates to ” everything is for your stomach”. It is so true. You work hard to earn money so you can eat well and be healthy. So I think this extra effort is worth it when it means the health and happiness of you and the loved one.

Also, I think there is something immensely satisfying about working the dough with your hands, so I decided to make the Gnocchi at home. When you think of Gnocchi, you think of these tiny little dumpling that are made with some kind of potato and flour. However the potato was introduced to Europe only in the 16th century but history of Gnocchi goes back much further than that. Gnocchi was made with flour of some kind, egg and some kind of cheese. So when I wanted to do a series of posts on Ricotta, I decided to make the gnocchi with Ricotta.  I found this recipe on Wisconsin cheese site, and looked very tempting. When I read that it was by Michael Symon, I was sure that it would turn out good.

I am plan to post a series on Ricotta cheese.

So here is ‘Two cheese Gnocchi with brown butter sage sauce’- my first dish from the series on Ricotta cheese.

Brown Butter sauce-sage Gnochhi

Brown Butter sauce-sage Gnochhi

INGREDIENTS:

For the gnocchi:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1/4 cup (3 ounces) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 cup (8 ounces) Part-skim ricotta cheese, drained
1 egg

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
12 sage leaves
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
12 fresh parsley leaves

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Ingredients for the sauce

Method:

Make the gnocchi:

Combine flour, parmesan and lemon zest in bowl. Add ricotta and egg. Mix well with wooden spoon or your fingers until dough just comes together. Do not overwork or dough can toughen.

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Dough

Scrape dough onto a well-floured surface and form into a roll. Cut dough into fourths, using bench scraper or knife. Gently roll each piece into foot-long ropes, about an inch in diameter, flouring as needed to prevent dough from sticking to surface.

Place dough ropes on lightly floured platter or sheet pan; refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to two hours, uncovered, to rest. As you may know, anything that uses flour should be allowed to rest a while. This allows the flour to bloom.

Place ropes on floured surface; cut into 1/2-inch pieces with scraper or knife.

Typically gnocchis are curled on a board or with the fork. Since we are using the ricotta cheese, the dough is very delicate so instead of using the curling method, we will just cut the dough.

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Finish the dish

Heat butter over medium-high heat in sauté pan large enough to accommodate all gnocchi without crowding.

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When butter foams, add gnocchi—do not crowd—and cook, turning as necessary, until brown and crisped on all sides, 5-6 minutes.

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When gnocchi are almost cooked, lower heat to medium and add shallot and sage leaves.

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Cook briefly to release flavors; then add garlic, lemon juice and water.

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Cook briefly, allowing sauce to emulsify and thicken a bit. Add 1/3 cup parmesan and parsley leaves. Toss to coat gnocchi. Spoon gnocchi and sauce into shallow bowls.

Serve immediately else you will end up eating all of it.

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Gnocchi

Gnochhi

Gnocchi

Today I served it with grilled marinated portabella mushrooms.

Mushrooms and vinegar

Mushrooms and vinegar

Focaccia with fennel seeds

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Focaccia with fennel seeds

I love this time of the year, after a long winter when you start seeing flowers blossoming on the bare tree branches, you see birds busy building nests  and the mercury starts going up. So this is the time when I am again motivated to cook a few dishes that need fermentation. In India the weather is always warm and you dont have to think if your batter will ferment or not, or if your bread will rise or not, but here one has to plan. It can be quite frustrating when you plan to make Dosa ( Indian crepe made from ground rice & lentil batter) and the batter does not ferment or when you are trying to make Yogurt and it does not set because you forgot to keep it in the oven and so on.

So as soon as I found out that it is going to be warm I decided to make my favorite Focaccia. I lvoe Focaccia especially when it is topped with sea salt and some fragrant herbs. I like it plain just out of the oven or with some nice vinegar. I love fruity vinegars like Fig Vinegar. There is a shop in the Ferry Building and they have some amazing varieties of Olive oils & Vinegars. I love their Meyer Lemon loive oil with Fig Balsamic…I could eat a whole loaf of bread with that.

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Coming back to focaccia, as you may know I like making things from scratch, I feel it makes me appreciate what I am eating more and appreciate all the efforts when someone makes it for me. I like to bake breads but it does not come naturally. Growing up in India, most of the breads are made without any yeast and don’t require any proofing, so I started baking breads when I came to California.

This is a very simple recipe but needs patience. There may be a shorter way to make this but I like the way this turns out so I don’t mind spending the time. It is funny where I got this recipe. I had gone to London for work and it was frigid cold. I still remember that I went out to grab a bite and I thought my fingers are going to fall off, it was that cold. Anyway, since it was cold I was in my hotel room watching TV. A cooking show came on and how can I forget, it was an Italian Chef. I did not understand what he was saying but he was so cute that I decided to watch the program any way. He had made this focaccia and to my surprise at the end of the show they shared the recipe in English..I have made this recipe quite a few times with variations of toppings and each time it comes out good.

Focaccia with fennel seeds & caramelized onions

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Ingredients:

2 cups of  bread flour ( I have made it with regular flour and it is not bad)

1/2 cup Semolina ( Rava/Sooji)

1tsp salt

1 packet Regular Yeast

3/4 cup water at 75F

1/4 cup olive oil

 

Method:

Mix all the dry ingredients.

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Add half of the olive oil, add water and knead a soft dough. Knead for 5 mins, this is absolutely critical for the gluten to develop.

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Before First Rise

 

 

First Rise: Oil a large bowl and out the ball of dough in it. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 45 mins.

First rise

After First rise

Second rise: After 45 mins, take out the dough on a board and flatten it out. Make a sort of envelope and out it back in the bowl for another 45 mins

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Before Second Rise

Second Rise

After Second Rise

 

Third Rise: After 45 mins, take the dough and place it in the skillet or baking tray you plan to bake it in. Let it rise again for 45 mins

Before Third Rise

Before Third Rise

After Third Rise

After Third Rise

Fourth Rise: You will see that the dough is again doubled. Using the fingers poke holes in eat and spread it around to the edges of the skillet. Spread a couple of tsp of olive oil to keep the dough moist. Let it rise for another 45 mins.

Forth rise

After Forth rise

Bake: Now take a toothpick and pierce the dough in a few places to release the air.  Brush more oilve oil on top. Sprinkle with sea salt & herbs, I used Fennel seeds, crushed red pepper.

Poked with Toothpick

Poked with Toothpick

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Bake it at 500F for 15-18 mins until it is golden brown

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Chicken marsala- sounds like masala but so much different

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Chicken marsala- sounds like masala but so much different

I love Chicken Marsala, it is flavorful not heavy and very easy to make. Another reason I like it is that it has mushrooms, and I love mushrooms.

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

I have always loved mushrooms. But when I ate Portabella mushrooms, I fell in love with them. I like the fact that it holds its shape even after cooking and does not melt away.

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I feel that everyone should be like that, try to adapt to the situation without giving up your own. I feel very strongly about it since in India where I grew up, it is expected that  when a woman gets married she forgets her past, her existence and gives herself to the new family, adapts to the new customs and mold herself to the liking of her husband and her in laws. I think it is not fair..not only because she has to make so many adjustments but that she can not be herself any more. Change of name, wearing symbols showing she is married, keeping fast for her husband…all are one sided adjustments that are expected of a woman and very rarely reciprocated.

I guess Women rights is is not the topic of this post, mushrooms are, so moving on…

In winter when the farmers market sort of shrinks, there are very few vegetables, a star like mushroom comes to the rescue. And a dish like ‘Chicken Marsala’ showcases the mushrooms very well.

I had watched a food network show where a chef ( I think it was Giada)made Chicken Marsala, I thought it is so easy and have been making it for a while now.

The recipe itself is very simple, very few ingredients and comes together very quickly. It also looks very fancy so makes a great candidate when you have company. It can be made ahead and kept warm.

Ingredients:

For the chicken cutlets

2 Boneless skinless Organic Chicken breasts

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Salt & Pepper to taste

Oil

Sauce

4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms

1/2 cup Sweet Marsala wine

1/2 cup organic chicken stock

3 oz prosciutto chopped in small pieces

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped Parsley

Method:

Chicken Cutlets

Slice the chicken in half horizontally, or cut like butterfly. Put in on a cutting board, cover with plastic and pound  it with a mallet till it is nice thickness.

Season with salt & pepper.

Take flour in a wider bowl & season with salt & pepper generously.

Heat a skillet on medium heat.

Drench chicken in the flour mixture well. Shake off the excess flour.

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Add olive oil to the skillet and add the flour covered chicken pieces.

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Cook till it is nice and brown on both sides, about 4-5 mins on each side. If the chicken piece is thicker, it might take longer.

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Remove and keep aside on a plate. Keep it covered so it stays warm.

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In the same pan add the chopped prosciutto on medium heat. It will gives out some fat, after it browns.

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Add the sliced mushrooms.

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Cook the mushrooms until they are a bit softer. Season with some pepper.

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Add the marsala and cook till the alcohol burns.

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I like to flambe the mushrooms at this point. I think it adds a nice flavor to the mushrooms & helps burn the alcohol off.

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Add the chicken stock and cook a few mins.

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Add the chicken cutlets and heat through. Add butter and stir well.

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Add chopped parsley.

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I like to serve it with something like orzo, mashed potatoes.

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I think these serve like a blank canvas, take on the flavors of the main dish, in this case the Chicken Marsala.

Tiramisu…need I say anything more?

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I grew up in India and came to the United States after my marriage. I knew no cooking so I eagerly looked forward to eating at restaurants. The first restaurant I went to after coming to the US was ‘Florentines’, an Italian restaurant. Until then, I had never eaten Italian food but I loved all the new dishes I tried. However my most favorite dish, which often is true for me…was the dessert. I tried Tiramisu…and I fell in love with it.

Tiramisu which translates to ‘pick me up’ in Italian is my favorite. I love the coffee flavor and the lightness of this dessert. It looks elegant, tastes great and can be made ahead, what more can you ask for? In fact, if you make it a day or two ahead, I feel it tastes better.

I experimented with many recipes and then settled on this one which combines the best parts of various recipes.

Two important ingredients to make good tiramisu are a good quality mascarpone cheese and a good cup of espresso. The traditional recipe also calls for raw eggs, but I have included a workaround if you want to avoid eating uncooked eggs.

My kids love Tiramisu, this is by far their most favorite dessert. They think that I make the best tiramisu and that is quite a compliment since we have been to many nice italian restaurants. 🙂

 

Tiramisu

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Ingredients

2 packets of lady fingers

2 packs of mascarpone cheese( about  400 g) at room temp

5 egg yolks ( at room temp)

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream

6 shots of espresso ( about 1 1/2 cup) cooled

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Method:

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Keep aside in a bowl.

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Mix the egg yolks and sugar till pale yellow in color.

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Add the mascarpone cheese and mix till everything is blended well. When blended well, add 1/4 cup of espresso and mix well. This time I used ‪#‎CafeUbuntu‬‪#‎sharedfate‬ from Whole Foods, I must say it is a good cup of coffee for a great cause.

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Take the whipped cream and fold into the mascarpone cheese mixture.

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Arrange the lady fingers in a tray.

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Soak them with generous amount of coffee.

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Spread with the cream mixture. Alternate till you have the top layer of cream.

Sprinkle some dark cocoa and chill in the refrigerator.  Ideally you should make it at least a day ahead, I feel that it lets the flavor mingle and marry.

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Notes:

1. If you dont have access to espresso, make strong instant coffee and use that instead

2. You can use lightly sweetened pound cake in place of lady fingers if you can not find lady fingers.

3. If you are trying to make a no egg version, just leave the eggs out. Add 1/2 cup of whipping cream. I have also heard people using custard powder. I have not tried that myself.