Tuesday, July 28, 2009

daring bakers :: July milanos

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

My whole family loves milanos. Get a bag in the house and between all six of us they can easily be done in a night... or just an hour... who are we kidding, 15 minutes. I was happy to see that this was an option for this months Daring bakers.

This recipe was pretty simple and quick to make, but I really didn't find that it substituted for the texture of a true milano. My cookies were soft in the middle, even though the edges were browned. If you've never tasted a milano, you'd never know that they failed. But with that comparison, I don't think I would make them again - if my goal was a milano. Because I sensed that I wouldn't be successful with the cookie, I turned to the filling for satisfacation.

A few things contributed to this flavor combo. I'm late again for my posting which I'm frustrated about. And I'm in that summer kind of mood where Reeses peanut butter cups call to me in my dreams. (Someone recently told me that they make the best smores.) So I'm here to say that a little ganache plus a generous spread of peanut butter makes the best sandwich cookie you'll ever have, even if it is a little soft.

four cheese calzones

So this whole ricotta adventure started because when I was back in Jersey, we went to a pizzeria called Italian Village. It's the best in Madison after all. My sister ordered a cheese calzone that I coveted. It was full of the freshest ricotta and loads of mozzarella. A cheese lover's paradise. And THIS was my vision and mission statement, starting even at step one of ricotta making.

One of my favorite Italian-American cookbooks is Lidia Bastianich's Italian American kitchen. The pizza dough recipe in there is fairly simple - the ratio seems to work really well in my kitchen as well as hers.

Dough recipe (for pizza and calzones)
based on recipe by Lidia Bastianich

  1. Dissolve 1 tsp yeast in 1 cup warm water in bottom of mixing bowl with paddle attachment.
  2. After yeast has bloomed add 1 tablespoon each honey and olive oil (my addition, for flavor)
  3. Combine 2 tsp (or up to 1tbsp) salt with 3 cups flour. Sprinkle dry ingredients over wet ingredients
  4. Mix until combined.
  5. Switch to dough hook. Knead for 10 minutes in machine.
  6. Move dough to an oiled bowl. Cover top loosely with a damp towel. Let proof until doubled about 2 hours.
  7. Separate into smaller balls of dough for individual pizzas or calzones.
  8. Let proof again in refrigerator for 8-24 hours.
  9. Allow this to come to room temperature before stretching for pizza or calzones.
I made this dough early in the morning. It's pretty easy to knock off during breakfast time. Then it proofed, once and twice, while the day's controlled chaos swirled around it. This recipe made me six reasonably sized calzones, of which a hungry man could have had two.

Cheese calzone filling (for one calzone)
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 generous slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano
  • one slice mild provolone
  1. Stretch dough into a circle
  2. Put above filling into half of calzone
  3. Fold half over top of filling.
  4. Fold edges over each other to prevent filling from leaking out.
  5. Bake at 450deg (convection if you have it) for 12-15 minutes, or until browned.

Served above with garlic wilted kale and a simple tomato salad.

Monday, July 27, 2009

fresh ricotta

When most mothers of four get their little ones settled into various rest time activities, (sleeping, reading, multiplication practice, painting) I imagine that they also sit down and read, or even better, switch on Oprah. Not me. For some reason that mental flashing red light which warns of a future sore back or aching head is broken. Alas, I use my ninety minutes in the kitchen when I could be resting.

This afternoon I banged out vanilla syrup (for iced coffees), Paula's banana bread (best this side of the Mississippi) and here's the best.... homemade ricotta cheese. I've had a few people suggest to me how easy this is, and after following this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, I can say this is almost as easy as cracking open a pint of Polly-O.

Basically you bring to a boil one part buttermilk to four parts whole milk. 101 Cookbooks calls for 1 quart buttermilk to a gallon of whole milk, but I halved it because I only had 2 cups buttermilk. Stir until mixture is steaming, & when it gets hot enough (roughly 175 degrees), the curds will come to the top. At this point, you pour it through 6 layers of cheesecloth and drain for 10 -15 minutes depending on the texture you desire.

Back in the mother country, New Jersey, we pronounce this wonderful soft cheese, with two distinct shortened syllables : re - goat, not the typical WASP, ri-cot-tah. As I was stuffing the cheese calzones that I was making for dinner, scenes from the Sopranos flashed into my mind, making me reminisce the good old Italian-New Jersey-American kitchen.

If you're making any dinner that involves or more importantly revolves around high-quality ricotta, this is definitely a trick you're going to want to have up your sleeve.

I don't usually put these playlists directly on here, but I just can't help myself with this one.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Detroit's Eastern Market

Today we took a little road trip downtown Detroit (De-TWOI) to Eastern Market, what they claim to be the largest public market district in the country. I suppose they can't really call it a farmers' market because there are wholesalers and other retailers there as well as the real honest farmers.

Yes, I had the whole family down there. To clarify, the whole HUNGRY family, and shoes on that were more fashionable than comfortable, as I'm sometimes prone to doing. However, we were in luck because we found a parking spot in a small lot on Russell Street.

And I spotted a pizzeria sign. So I made a dash across Russell and ended up with the best pizza I've had since I moved to the midwest 11 years ago. The pizza of the day was ligurian pesto with potato and red onion. Fantastic combination. The textures were perfect; potatoes were sliced paper thin, adding to the complete package.

After we'd had our fill, we moved on through the main sheds of Eastern market. I was surely impressed with the size of the public market. Up and down the main drag, you see fairly typical (read: boring) mid-summer produce. But, to be fair I didn't really get the chance to go up and down every alley to pay close attention to the specialty booths.

After stumbling around for forty minutes, with a sleepy 30 lb toddler on his back, my husband declared that the pizza was probably the best part of this trip. Granted, he doesn't quite get the same kick out of a good farmers' market. (Even though I'd probably agree with him.) We made out with three different kinds of cherries, cherry vinaigrette, sunflowers, and a large bag each of pistachios and roasted peanuts.

Next time, I'll be back, by myself (or with an adult friend) and sneakers, and I'll be able to do a more thorough exploring of the whole district. Plus I'll have to get some more of that Supino Pizza. For REAL.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Garden update :: July 10

So yeah, I've got a Tantre Farm CSA, and I love popping into Westside. I'm addicted to Morgan and York, Plum Market, Zingerman's deli, and occasionally Whole Foods and all those sweet little shops in Kerrytown.

But I love more than anything growing my own food. As soon as the ground freezes I start thinking about putting miniscule dormant seeds deep in the soil, inside them the genetic codes hiding for all kinds of flavors and textures. Frankly it amazes me. Every time I get as excited as if it were the first.

This summer is no exception. I love walking out to my plot and surveying the growth in the morning, gently balancing my coffee. Don't ask my why it gives me such pleasure. The weeding I could give or take, but even that in the right mood, I can get into.

Several days ago I took a few snapshots of the current state of the garden. Much is still in the premature stages, artichokes, eggplants, watermelon, pumpkins, and tomatoes all have a few weeks before they are bursting with flavor.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

fava bean fritters

My crop share has been wonderful so far - six weeks of sweet local produce from Tantre Farm in Chelsea, Michigan. Sometimes it's even too much for one week, and then I'm left pondering how best to preserve these goodies for when they would no longer be in season.

I've been saving up fava beans for three weeks. So some were a little less than fresh, but the armor that is naturally on these suckers seems like it could protect them from a lot. The size of the fava bean untouched looks like there is much more food in it than there really is. Eight or ten cups (hard to measure these suckers) of unshelled beans really yields way less than half shelled.

They have to be processed in two ways. First they need to be shelled from the pod. Please employ your small children for this task. Either that or do it yourself, if you are like me and find that kind of work mind-numbing and relaxing. Then they need to be boiled for about six minutes and peeled again. If you put them into a ice water bath, they are much easier to handle and peel.

At this point they can be eaten as is, or tossed with thinly shaven red onion and a viniagrette and chilled for a salad. But last night I was looking for something warm, so I made fava bean fritters based on a recipe from Martha Stewart. I wouldn't call them fritters in the truest sense of the word, but I would say they were more like patties - which sounds much less appetizing.

Fava Bean Fritters
based on a recipe from Martha Stewart

Six cups of fava beans, shelled, boiled in salted water, roughly chopped in food processor
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup pecorino romano
3 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh parsley minced
salt, pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together. Saute in olive oil, approximately 3-4 minutes per side over med-high heat. Serve with a side of marinara sauce.