Tag Archive for 'Marcia Gagliardi'

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


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


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:


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


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!

Squeezing out some fun

I recently had the opportunity to see Chef Michael Chiarello. I had been to Tra Vigne frequented his store Napa Style and am setting my plan for a special visit to Bottega this summer. He has captivated me on TV and is no less charming in person- what I did discover is that he is a wonderful story teller and that he too has his roots in Southern Italy.

Leading the charge to unearth some really wonderful insights into the life and times of Michael was Table Hopper’s Marcia Gagliardi (yes, another Pisan you can follow on Twitter @tablehopper). And to finish off the evening was a recipe for one of Michael’s ‘bites’ and then a tasting of the recipe paired with some wine from his private vineyard.

There are three videos to this post two which show Chef Chiarello making the artichoke crostini bites and the other from his interview with Marcia when he speaks of how he learned to tenderize an octopus while cooking for the King of Thailand. I encourage you to watch all three as they could quickly become party stories amongst the foodies.

Artichoke Crostini Bites
Note: There are two ingredients lists and two sets of directions.

Chef Chiarello’s Tips/Tricks:
1) Select artichokes that are tightly closed heads and be sure to trim away any dark green spots. These will be bitter.
2) He likes to call this one of his master recipes as it is truly versatile. It can be used as an appetizer, as this recipe depicts, or as a sauce for fish, as a pesto for pasta or even as a soup by adding a few new nuances.
3) To make this into a pesto: add 1/2 cup tightly packed (cleaned) basil when blending. As a fish sauce, add a bit of tarragon, for a soup add in some extra broth and cream.

Artichoke Puree Ingredients

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
3 large cloves garlic, quartered lengthwise
1 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped fresh
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 medium size or 4 large artichokes (or 1 12oz-package frozen artichokes, thawed)*
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1 tsp lemon zest
Burrata cheese-optional for topping

Note: If you are using frozen artichokes you will want to peel off a few leaves to deep fry as decoration. If you are using fresh artichokes you may want to use a mandolin and thinly slice 1/2 of an artichoke as decoration.


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Working with one artichoke at a time, bend the tough outter leaves backwards until they break (the video shows exactly how to do this). Continue to remove the leaves in the manner until reaching the more tender interior leaves that are at a yellowish green color. Taking a serrated knife, cut across the leaves at the point where the color changes from yellowish to dark green. Trim the stem of its outer layer, then trim the base to 1-2 inches removing any dark green spots. Quarter the artichokes lengthwise and scoop out the purple colored choke. Place the quarter artichokes in a large size bowl, add in the the lemon juice, salt and pepper turning to coat.

In a deep ovenproof pan, combine 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Add the artichokes and mix to coat. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Cover with pan with aluminum foil, transfer to the oven, and cook until the artichokes are slightly browned and tender when pierced, approximately 35 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and cool in the liquid. Remove the bay leaf.

When the artichokes are cooled, place along with the liquid into a food processor, add beans, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is chunky. With the machine running, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and process until smooth.

Remove Burrata cheese from the refrigerator.

Serves 8 – 10 (makes approximately 2 cups)

Crostini Ingredients

1 loaf crusty bread, sliced into 1/2-inch slices (better if it is a day+ old)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crostini Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

On a baking sheet, arrange the bread slices in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, brush the bread with 1/4 cup of the oil. (If you don’t have a pastry bush, just drizzle olive oil over the bread.) Bake until golden brown and crisp, approximately 9-12 minutes.

Bake until bread is golden brown and crisp, about 8 to 9 minutes. Spoon the artichoke mixture onto the crostini. Place a piece of Burrata cheese on top (or sprinkle Parmesan cheese), add decorate with fried artichoke hearts. Drizzle with oil and serve.

To follow Chef Michael Chiarello on Twitter @ChefChiarello
Let me know if you loved his method for squeezing lemons as much as I did. I tried it but found it was a bit painful. My aunt’s secret to getting all of the lemon juice out of the lemon is to first roll the lemons on a firm surface to soften them. She then places them one at a time in the microwave for 35 seconds, cuts them open and squeezes the juice out.