Monthly Archive for October, 2010

cookie-o-logy

A friendship that can go the distance is worth waiting for. It had been four score and umpteen days since my former Florentine roomie had visited the San Francisco Bay Area. We had seen each other in between, and talked as often as life would permit, but having her here made each morsel taste more flavorful. As is often the case, my memories are provoked by food related stories. This story would start the same, but to the keen eye there are differences. We were two young American brown-eye’d girls living in Florence, and life was just FUN. Our apartment, the nicest I had ever had, was on Piazza D’Azeglio and it was a location that completed the vision of what life in urban Tuscany was like. Funds were often quite limited, so we cooked…and we cooked, and found that we just loved the ritual of shopping, preparing, cooking and eating an array of fresh flavors.

My earliest recipe development takes root in Piazza D’Azeglio. Dishes I still covet today all began in this lovely, tiny, modern kitchen; risotto with mushrooms (Porcini Risotto), pasta with tuna (Pasta al’Tonno), rabbit stew (Coniglio a la Campagnola -I know, how politically incorrect!). But I have digressed, my love for Burley (her given name: Kimberly), grew in Italy, and has never wavered.

Now back to food, upon her arrival I quickly found myself in the kitchen, with her by my side. We played and fussed with this recipe until it was anything but Italian, but it was all too reminiscent of so many things that comprise our friendship: chocolate chunk cookies (not easy to find in Italy), pinenuts (traditionally found in pesto sauce, we wanted to pair it with a sweet combination), oatmeal (get healthy- it is 21st century), and ginger (well, sailing on the Almafi coast can make you a bit ill and digesting ginger does help). Mix it all together and what have you got? The perfect cookie to take with you when you go sailing and want to feel indulgent- Ginger, Chocolate Oatmeal & Pinenut Cookies, AKA Race Committee Cookies, concocted by two girls who used to live in Italy. (Did you manage to follow that complex web of cookie-o-logy?)


Ginger, Chocolate Oatmeal & Pinenut Cookies (AKA Race Committee Cookies)

Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cup oats
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup candied ginger, chopped into pieces
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped (we used Scharffen Berger’s Ben Tre Dark Chocolate for this recipe)
1/2 cup dark chocolate, grated
1 cup pinenuts, toasted (or substitute chopped macadamia nuts)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small pan, on medium-low heat toast pine nuts. They will brown quickly so be sure to watch them closely. When light brown in color, remove from heat and set aside.

In a large-size bowl, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Then add in eggs and vanilla and beat well.

In a small-size bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, shredded chocolate and salt; mix well. Add this mixture to the butter mixture and blend well. Stir in oats, coconut, nuts chocolate chunks; mix well

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.

Yields 4 ½ dozen (unless you eat too much of the batter, which I am prone to do!)

Note: A great tip is to bake half and freeze half in a log shape in plastic wrap and then foil. Then for quick, hot, fresh baked cookies, cut a few sections off and pop them onto a cookie sheet and place them into a pre-heated oven. They may require a few extra minutes of cook time once frozen, but they will be a delicious TREAT. And for those of you that read my Halloween post earlier this week, consider this post the Treat to my Trick post.


A Frightful Combination


Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’awl’s neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
(Excerpted from Michael Jackson’s song ‘Thriller‘, performed by Vincent Price)

With Halloween about to turn the corner, I felt it was time to concoct a scary food combination. So I ask you: trick or treat? Pumpkin often tops the recipe charts, but with so much foodie competition for that cheerful colored squash I thought I’d take another tact. I’ll keep this brief, as I know most of you will be too fainthearted to dare try this bizarre combo.

This seemingly frightful combination is one I have managed to repeat three times this week, as it is sweet and savory perfection; even if it sounds a bit bizarre. Ghouls and Goblins, please meet ‘Figgy Piggy Sandwich’.

Figgy Piggy Sandwich

Ingredients

2 large slices bacon, thick cut
2 pieces honey sunflower bread, thin slices (or other crusty bread)
1/4 tsp butter
2 slices of brie, thick sliced
2 figs, washed and sliced into four

Directions

Take bacon slices and cut in half. Place bacon in a small pan on medium-high heat, turning occasionally. Cook until crispy. Remove from pan and place on plate with paper town to drain off fat. Set aside.

Butter two slices of bread and place brie on top. Top with warm bacon slices and then figs. Cover with second piece of bread. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 1 sandwich.

And for those of you that felt this post was a bit of a trick, well, stay tuned, and I’ll treat you to a second post this week IF YOU DARE to come back to this house of food experimentation.

Baked Ziti Gets Healthy Mid-week Makeover

With the cold weather moving in, it seemed like the perfect time to make some healthy comfort food. This dish turned out to be very popular with the little ones, veggies were well hidden and hardly noticeable (all were greedily eaten), and it was a snap to pull together.

Turkey Veggie Ziti

Ingredients

Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (Sugo di Pomodoro)
1 lb dried ziti pasta, cooked
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 medium-size yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 ribs celery, strings removed and diced
1 TBS Italian Seasoning (or 1 TBS of each: fresh parsley, oregano and basil finely chopped)
1 lb ground turkey meat
2 tsps kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
Parmesan Cheese, to taste, finely grated (optional)

Directions

Cook ziti according to package directions, but make sure to not overcook, as pasta will be baked in the oven before serving. Once drained, mix with a small amount of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking to itself while preparing the remainder of the meal. Set aside.

Prepare pasta sauce (recipe above), or if you are in a rush, you can use your favorite ‘stand-by’ sauce in a jar.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and onion; saute until translucent, approximately 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and the herb seasoning. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add in the ground turkey meat and break into small pieces. Stir in the salt and season with pepper to taste. When cooked, add in the cooked pasta and tomato sauce. Stir until well mixed. Using cooking spray, coat your 2.5 quart baking dish. (It is also fun to make individual servings and cooking the ziti in 4-6 large ramekins. Be aware that cooking time will be reduced as it will cook quicker in these smaller containers.) Fill baking dish, or ramekins, with pasta mixture and top generously with cheddar cheese.

Cook 30-40 minutes until cheese bubbles and is lightly browned. If using, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Serve immediately!

Time Saver Note: If you happen to make pasta often, make extra, coat the overage lightly with vegetable or olive oil and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days until you have the ingredients to make this dish.

BlogHer 10 Food-gaism and Alfajores (prounced al-fa-hor-es)

While I’d love to tell you that my time time at BlogHerFood 2010 #blogherfood was all about the sessions at the conference, that is not entirely true. In all honesty, it was also about the food and most importantly about the people. That is not in any way to minimize the quality sessions that I attended, I thought that the show organizers really put a lot of thought into making this event full of enrichment tracks and packed with speakers I couldn’t wait to hear. But at the end of the day, I know my experience was all the more satisfying because of what the people attending brought into the mix– the ‘social’ into ‘networking’; the element most often missed as we communicate on Twitter and FaceBook and LinkedIn.

For my second attendance at #blogherfood I wanted to bring something special to a few special people that I was fortunate enough to meet over the past few years. (The Ultimate Cappuccino Brownie was the treat I brought to BlogHer 09 Food – worth a try if you love the coffee and chocolate combo!) And I’d like to think these little colorful boxes, with home made treats inside, were coveted by those who received them and enjoyed by them as much as I enjoyed making them with my lovely friend Avanti Morocha.

Inside each box were four petite home baked alfajores. What is an alfajores you ask? Well it is something like a blond Oreo cookie stuffed with caramel sauce – the cookies are a soft butter cookie infused with orange zest, and drenched in powdered sugar, and well the rest is just yummy goodness.

While the word alfajor stems from the Arabic al-hasú, which means filled or stuffed, the history of this cookie can be traced to Andalusia Spain. Alfajores are popular in Argentina, Uruguay and Peru, although they can be found throughout South America in many different varieties.

Note: Immediately following the recipe post is my photo essay, which I hope reflects some of the great photo tips I learned from Todd Porter and and Diane Cu.

Avanti Morocha and Gina von

Avanti Morocha’s Soon-to-be-famous ALFAJORES

Ingredients

1¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup flour
2 tsps baking powder
3 TBS butter, room temperature
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp orange peel, zested
2 TBS milk (more if necessary)
1 cup manjar blanco (caramel), you can buy Nestle’s Dulce de Leche (13.5 oz) can

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, sift flour, cornstarch and baking powder. In a small-size bowl whip butter and sugar until well creamed. Add egg yolks, one at a time, while beating the butter mixture. Add sifted ingredients and orange peel.

Knead with hands, forming a ball. Cover with a cloth and set aside for 20 minutes. Often times, if the recipe is doubled, the mixture may seems too dry, and you will need to add additional milk.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously flour a flat surface and roll dough approximately 1/8 inch thick. Using a small cookie cutter, about the size of nickle. Cut circles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until edges begin to color. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To assemble, the caramel cookie sandwich, take one cookie and generously spread with manjar blanco/dules de leche. Cover with another cookie. Generously sprinkle with sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Don’t hold back, gobble them up! They are worthy of the work involved to make them.

Yields: 54 cookies, plus some tasters

Note: If you want to make the manjar blanco recipe, read on:

Ingredients

10 cups of milk
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract or half of a stick of vanilla

Directions

In a medium-size sauce pan, lightly coated with water, boil the milk, stirring constantly. When the milk begins to boil, add the sugar and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon being careful to not let it stick to the pan. When the mixture begins to stick to the spoon, and you start to see the bottom of the pan, move to a plate. The mixture should not be loose.

Continue to stir it, once it is removed from the heat so that the mixture softens slightly.
###

BlogHer Food 10 Begins!

The party at Orson’s kicked off the Scharffenberger and TootiFoodie Chocolate Adventure Contest complete with a fun blind taste test of some of their previous adventure ingredients, and chocolate recipe sampling. Thank you to Marcia Gagliardi/Tablehopper, Scharffenberger, TuttiFoodie and Orson, it was a great way to start the fun and get those taste buds flowing.

Tour of a few of the Ferry Building’s Culinary Offerings

Back on the conference show floor, Chef Elizabeth Falkner invites attendees to cup cake decorating party gourmet-style.

La Petite Soirée was an event to behold, the foodie theme was SF food carts and each one was better than the next – Girl From Empanada, Sataysfied, Local Flavor, Good Eats + more! I wish it had been possible to bring a second stomach to this event, as I was stuffed and wished I could eat seconds! Thank you to Stefania Pomponi Butler, Helen McSweeney Kristen Doyle, and Jane Maynard.

Back at the show, the cooking demonstrations continued and so did the prizes.


Closing Key note was an inspirational treat with Shauna James Ahern, Michael Ruhlman , Molly Wizenberg

And for the foodie event crescendo (AKA the closing party), at the California Culinary Academy, home of Le Cordon Bleu, Elise Bauer, Jaden Hair, and Ree Drummond hosted the first all gluten free party I’ve ever attended. It proved to me that everyone could eat gluten free and not feel deprived; it was delicious! I am still dreaming about at least 6 of the recipes served. I am inspired!

Thanks to BlogHer for such a great conference! It was mentally stimulating, socially engaging and totally foodgasmic!

To read additional recaps of the conference, there are a few links to reference (and if you’d like to have your post added to the list, just send me an email at bowllicker@gmail.com):

The Italian Dish: BlogHer Food 2010 in San Francisco

Panini Happy: Memorable Moments from BlogHer Food ’10

Bay Area Bites: BlogHer Food Conference, Day 2

Celiacs in the House: BlogHer Food 2010

Celiac Teen: BlogHer Food and Irish Soda Buns

Chef Druck: 9 Cheap Props Every Budding Food Blogger Needs

Dine and Dish: Defining Success (Recipe: Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies)

Eat the Love: Don’t Forget the Homos! Blogher Food 2010

Everyday Alice (of SavorySweetLife): BlogHer Food 10 – My Blog Conference Take Away

Food Blogga: Nine Things I Learned at BlogHer Food 10 Conference

Food Woolf: How to Go to a Food Blogging Conference

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Chestnut Orange Crisps

Picky Palate: BlogHer Food Extravaganza

Steamy Kitchen: Oinker

Use Real Butter: something about best intentions + blogher food 2010 recap

What’s Gaby Cooking BlogHer Food and San Fran

Will Write for Food: BlogHer Food, the Love Fest

White on Rice: Appreciation- Speaking at Blogher Food 2010

***And last of all, for those whom might enjoy reading my take-aways from BlogHer 09 Food: The Denied Inner Cook (the monster post unwrapped) you may just see a few familiar faces. Enjoy!

Frutta Al Forno Con Amaretti

During our last visit to Italy we stopped at a small trattoria in Milan, and after a lovely dinner al forno (outside), I ordered a rather simple dessert that has captivated me ever since. It is a frill-less sweet that disappears faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Frutta Al Forno Con Amaretti (Baked Fruit)

Baked Peaches with Amaretto Cookies

Ingredients

7 peaches, 6 halved and one set aside
10 Amaretti cookies
1/3 cup sugar
1 TBS brown sugar
1 Egg yolk
cinnamon, dash
whip cream (optional)
vanilla ice cream (optional)
Amaretto liqueur (optional)

Directions

Halve and pit six peaches, leaving one peach set aside. Place peach halves, cut side up, in a 9×13 buttered baking dish. (If you like a bit more filling in your peach, I recommend scooping out a bit extra peach flesh in the hallow of the halved fruit.)

Grind cookies in a food processor, and transfer crumbs into a small bowl.

Peel and pit the remaining peach, and place in food processor blending until it becomes a smooth puree. Transfer puree to a medium bowl, and fold in sugar, brown sugar, egg yolk, and cookie crumbs.

Stuff each peach hollow with cookie mixture.

Bake in preheated 350 oven for 50 minutes, or until peaches are soft but still hold their shape. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream, flavored with a bit of Amaretto liqueur if desired.

Note: This recipe can also be done with pears, apricots, nectarines or apples.