Roma

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The past six days in Rome, Italy have been a whirlwind of complete bliss. We have indulged in some of the best food we have ever had and have fueled our waking hours with many a cappuccino. We have walked on marble that once was the foundation for a thriving civilization and have witnessed astounding works of art and architecture. We have walked around for hours upon hours, enjoying the best the city has to offer being consistently amazed by one giant building after another that dates back to a time unimaginable to me. The large scale of the city has been even more astonishing than I thought it would be, although after getting to know the ancient Romans a little more this week, I imagine that is exactly how they wanted it. Everything they built was larger than life and was a reflection of their place in the world as the largest empire of their time.

The Italians we have had the pleasure of spending any time with were some of the warmest people we have encountered. On the second full day we were there we took a cooking class and gourmet tour from a local chef named Fabio. He was funny and knowledgeable and a darn good cook. We spent the first hour or so touring the Jewish ghetto where he showed us the best places in the city for bread, cured meat, pizza bianca and this incredibly tasty and super secretive ricotta chocolate cake. Apparently the little old ladies that make the cakes are famous for them. Legend has it that the most famous chef in all of Israel came to them asking to trade recipes and they told him it would better for him to keep his and they’ll keep theirs. I have to say, I now understand the reason he would be willing to give up all of his recipes for just that one, that cake is absolutely unforgettable.

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After our tour, we ended up at Fabio’s apartment where we suited up and started cooking right away. We made beef stock that would be the seasoning for our sauces and risotto later on, we mixed up two types of pasta dough, one with eggs and one without, and we prepped side dishes to accompany the main entree. It was a lot of work, but felt nothing like it as we constantly had our eyes peeled for what Fabio would do next.

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When it came time to form the pasta we were split into couples and were each assigned a different pasta. It was so much fun to see how easy it is to make incredibly delicious pasta with just a couple of ingredients. We rolled and cut and shaped until we had enough pasta to feed the whole building.

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We made five courses in all and finished with the ricotta chocolate cake as our sixth. By the end of our meal no one could move. I really wish I had worn stretchy pants, that’s for sure.

Romanesco with sausage and hand rolled short pasta

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Red wine and sausage risotto

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Pasta Puttanesca

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Artichoke and sausage stuffed ravioli

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Chicken stuffed with smoked mozzarella and sausage, wrapped in speck (served with cheesy baked potatoes)

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The famous ricotta chocolate cake. What I wouldn’t do for a slice right now!

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I hope your Christmas holiday is delightful. As much as I am enjoying my time here with the hubs, I must say I miss being with all of the family for Christmas. I’ll have to try to pull it together as we now walk the streets of the city of light. I’m sure we’ll manage, just know we will be thinking of you!

Until next time, au revoir!

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December 23, 2011. Tags: , , . Italian, pizza, winter. 1 comment.

pistachio + cherry biscotti

I’m sure it goes without saying that I look forward to the weekend. All the excitement builds up all week until finally on Friday at 5 I can breathe freely looking forward to a couple of uninterupted days to do what ever I want. For me, Saturday mornings are the best. With the absence of an alarm clock and any sort of schedule for that matter, time seems to move slower somehow. My coffee always tastes better without the rush and Saturday breakfast is undoubtedly more delicious than any other day, even if it’s merely a crisp cookie dipped into a cup of hot coffee. (more…)

October 7, 2011. baking, breakfast, cookie, dessert, fruit, Italian, quick and easy, vegetarian. 2 comments.

country bread

Do you think it’s possible for a loaf of bread to change your life? It probably sounds utterly ridiculous to even entertain the thought, but for me, the loaf you see here, has sparked something deep within me; a feeling of something strangely familiar all jumbled up into a crackly bundle of joy. Let me explain, if I may.  click here for the full post!

January 5, 2011. baking, bread, Italian, vegetarian. 4 comments.

panforte ice cream

panforte ice cream

I remember my mother making homemade ice cream when I was a kid. We had an old wooden hand crank machine that used ice and rock salt packed around a metal canister. These cooling agents worked on the cream and sugar inside to create a deliciously dreamy frozen dessert. She usually made good old-fashioned vanilla from a recipe my great-grandfather used in his restaurant in Santa Barbara. He eventually sold that recipe to a large commercial ice cream manufacturer. The recipe consisted of a lot of cream, sugar, and more cream. It was sinful and could be dangerous for those of us without the metabolism of our youth.

click here for more about homemade ice cream!

April 27, 2010. Tags: , , . dessert, fruit, Italian. 4 comments.

homemade sausage ravioli with marinara

Lately we have been sharing our home with close friends and family who are in need of a warm home and an uncomfortable futon to crash on. I love having guests to share our house with because it’s no fun to keep it all to ourselves. Of course, when there are guests, I want to cook and it just so happens that I have been given a fancy new tool and I need to break it in: a Kitchen Aid Pasta Roller and Cutter.

click here for more on homemade ravioli->

April 1, 2010. Tags: , . Italian, sauces. 1 comment.

ricotta gnocchi

After moving farther away from friends and family, dinner parties at the Logan household are few and far between. So, when one comes along, we really put our heart and soul into it.

On Saturday, we were both excited to have some family over for dinner. Karen, my sister-in-law, and her boyfriend David, spent some of their precious long-distant relationship time with us around our dinner table. We spent much of the night talking between bites, every one of us trying to be polite even with our mouths full. click here for the full post->

March 2, 2010. Italian, quick and easy. 5 comments.

pasta with creamy pumpkin sauce and chicken sausage

pumpkin pasta sauce

Pumpkin could very well be my favorite ingredient this year. It’s incredible in it’s versatility. As I’ve told you before, I have pumpkin married to sweet in my head, but as a savory item, it is surprisingly wonderful.

In honor of Halloween, I made mini pumpkin muffins for a department potluck. They only called for 1 cup of pumpkin puree, so I was left with a whole bunch and couldn’t bring myself to waste it. So, I set out to use the very last drop. One night this week the husband and I needed a quick meal and since I was already in my pajamas, it had to be something I could throw together out of the pantry, so I turned to the pumpkin. I remembered that some time ago I had fallen in love with butternut squash ravioli and figured pumpkin was a close cousin so it must be equally delightful paired with pasta. I set out to find a recipe for a pumpkin pasta sauce, since I did not have the slightest idea of what ratios would be used in something like this. I came across a recipe from The Washington Post that looked easy and had an ingredient list that was mostly available to me, if not easily tailored to fit what I had on hand.

This recipe calls for the usual things you would think make up a sauce. Garlic, shallots, cream, salt and pepper. It is simple in it’s construction and subtle in it’s taste, but has a kind of ‘wow’ factor. When I put the first taste to my tongue, I said to myself, “This might be the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” This is a perfect week night meal for fall. It’s also a spectacular way to use up extra pumpkin puree.

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce
The Washington Post, Nov 14,2007
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 ounces multigrain angel-hair pasta or any other of your choice
  • 1 medium shallot*
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs sage leaves*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (make your own!)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk*
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
  • 2 chicken sausage links, casings removed

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions (6 to 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, mince the shallot and garlic; finely chop the sage.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic; cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until they have softened. Add the pumpkin puree, chicken broth, milk and half of the sage. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste; keep warm on the lowest setting.

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage links and break up into crumbles with a wooden spoon. Saute until cooked and browned. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, then add 2 tablespoons of the cheese and mix well. Divide among individual plates and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese, sausage and the remaining sage.

*NOTE!

I made the following changes based on what I had in the house:

  • 1/4 cup of onion instead of 1 shallot.
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage.
  • 1/4 cup half and half for the low fat milk.
  • I omitted the cheese completely.

November 11, 2009. Italian, pumpkin, sauces. 3 comments.

thin crust pizza pie

pizza

One of the wonderful things about food is that it brings people together. For me specifically, I cook so that I can share with people. On Sunday, we were able to do that with some friends from our church at our snug apartment, and it was so much fun. It brings me such joy to feed people. Especially when what I’m feeding them is really good. For this occasion, a pizza party was in order. It’s a communal dish, all of us taking a slice of a larger pie, sort of an illistration for what we were trying to accomplish, which was a sense of community within a larger group of people. 

I decided to make four pizzas, all with different toppings. Each was built on a foundation of homemade dough, which was the best part of all. I made a whole wheat variety to throw in some whole grains, as well as the usual white flour type. I am amazed at how easy it is to make, and how it differs so much from the store-bought variety.  It will be a must from now on.

The toppings were fairly standard, but there was one that stood out for all of us. The Blind Spot. There is a local pizza parlor on the Peninsula called Spot Pizza, and they make a delightful pie called The Blind Spot. It boasts of bacon and chicken swimming in cheddar and after it’s pulled from the oven, it’s sprinkled with fresh green onion. Somehow, when all of these flavors meet in one place, it feels like you’re eating a loaded baked potato, which can never be wrong.

Blind Spot Pizza with Homemade Dough
dough recipe adapted from smitten kitchen
serves 2-4

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup luke warm water

For the toppings:

  • 5 pieces of bacon cooked until just browned and chopped
  • 2 green onions sliced crosswise into 1/4″ rings (green parts only)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh chopped and satueed in olive oil until cooked through
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce (I used Trader Joes version)

Preparation:

For the dough:

1. Mix all dry ingredients, including the yeast. Add olive oil and water and mix until a ball starts to form. Dump all of the dough, flour bits included, onto a lightly floured work surface.

2. Lightly oil a large bowl.

3.Knead the dough to bring it together into a smooth, homogenous ball. Place the dough into the oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size. (To check if the dough has doubled, flour your pointer finger and middle finger and stick those fingers into the middle of the dough. If the indentation does not spring back, it has doubled.)

4. After the dough has doubled, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for two minutes or so. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest on the work surface for 20 minutes.

5. Place a pizza stone** on the lowest rack in the oven and pre-heat to the hottest your oven will go.  

6. Roll out the dough as thin as you can on a lightly floured work surface (I use a pizza peel. Make sure there is enough flour on it and that you don’t let the pizza sit on it too long or it will stick and fall on the floor. Trust me on this one. You can see an alternative to the pizza peel and stone in the notes at the bottom of the recipe.).

Top and Bake:

1. Top with the sauce first, then cheese, then bacon and chicken.

2. Carefully sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza stone to prevent sticking and transfer to pizza stone.

3. Bake for 7-10 minutes depending on oven temperature. Check on it at 7 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

4. Remove pizza from oven and top with green onions.

5. Slice and enjoy!

*You can use up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour if you want. If you use all whole wheat flour it turns out like pita bread, which is still good. I found that out by accidentally using all whole wheat. I think I’ll do that again on purpose. It was good for dipping in hummus as an appetizer.

**If you don’t have a pizza stone, just pre-heat your oven with the rack on the lowest possible place. When rolling out the dough, invert a baking sheet and place a piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough on the parchment and top with toppings. When the oven is ready put it all in, the pizza sitting on the parchment on top of an inverted baking sheet. It may take a little longer to bake, but still check it at 7 minutes. Just a note: I prefer the pizza stone to other methods. The crust comes out superbly crisp, which is hard to achieve with other options.

September 25, 2009. bread, Italian, pizza. 3 comments.

spaghetti and meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs

When I was a kid I called it “Pasketti”. Apparently for me, the “sp” sound was too difficult to make. Thankfully, my mother spoke child and would satisfy my request for the Italian noodle often. My mothers’ spaghetti and meat sauce was wonderful. It was the first thing I asked for when I was coming home from 5 months overseas, where all I ate was rice and beans. I made sure to tell her a couple of days ahead of time so that she would be ready with five servings, because I was ready to eat. Last weekend, while out to breakfast with my Mom, I reminisced with her about her spaghetti and meat sauce, and she quickly said, “It’s Ragu Rachel. I added some onion and some ground beef and that was it.” Well, Ragu, you taste good to me, but I think I found you some competition. This sauce is a major contender. There are chunks of homegrown tomatoes, the perfect amount of onion, a hint of garlic and it’s even better heated up the next day.

Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti (or more if you like it heavy on the pasta)

For meatballs:

  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground turkey (italian seasoned)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 oz soft fontina
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil for sateeing

For Sauce:

  • 5 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, follow cooking directions on the package for your pasta. It’s good to time it so that the pasta comes out of the water just as everything else is done so that it doesn’t dry out.

Sauce:

1. Mix all ingredients into a medium sauce pan. Let simmer on low until the onions are translucent and it is heated through. This sauce can be made a day ahead. Like I said, it tastes better the next day, so feel free to save some time and crank it out the day before you want to serve it. Cook it, let it cool and then place it in the fridge in an airtight container.

Meatballs:

1. Mix the first five ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

2. Cut fontina into small chunks.

3. Form turkey mixture into tablespoon sized balls. Place one piece of fontina in the middle of each meatball.

4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

5. Place meatballs into pan and brown on each side. About 2-3 minutes each side. Then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, covered until done, about 3-5 minutes depending on size.

September 12, 2009. Italian, quick and easy, sauces, turkey. 3 comments.

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