Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Lemon Bites

Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!  These little bites aren't really Thanksgiving-y at all, and I made them over a week ago, not for tomorrow; I'm just blogging about them now.  These kind of have the texture of a brownie, and are very lemony.  The whole family loved them.  Cut them into little squares because you don't need a big piece at all.  These are shown in mini muffin cups (to show how small they are).
Lemon Bites
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Lemon Batter:
1 cup (5 ounces/142 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (5.5 ounces/155 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze:
3/4 cup (2.75 ounces/75 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8X8-inch aluminum baking pan with parchment so that it hangs over two of the edges (to lift out the bars later - or, you can just grease the pan really well and slice them in the pan) and lightly coat the pan and parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and lemon zest.

2.  In a separate bowl or in a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the butter, eggs and egg yolk, lemon juice and vanilla.  Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix until combined. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

3.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs (the top of the bars should spring back lightly when gently pressed). Don't over bake or they might be dry.

4.  For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest until smooth and combined.  After the bars have cooled completely in the pan, drizzle the glaze over the top (since the glaze layer is thin, it helps to pour it all across the bars before spreading) and use an offset spatula or knife to spread evenly over the bars.

5.  Place the bars in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to let the glaze set before lifting them from the pan (using the parchment overhang) and cutting into small squares. Serve chilled or at room temp (I prefer room temp).  
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Smoked Salmon Chowder (Hybrid)

I have two salmon chowder recipes on here that I loved and made often in the past.  They had differences (smoked vs. un-smoked chowder,  half & half vs. using flour to thicken, different veggies, cheddar cheese vs. no cheese).  I decided to combine my favorite elements from both recipes to create this recipe, which I really enjoyed.  After this summer, we are loving smoked salmon so much (well, even more than we were).  (If you live in the States, Costco has great smoked salmon that would be wonderful in this.)  Note: This is pretty much the only recipe I used canned creamed corn for.
Smoked Salmon Chowder (Hybrid)
adapted from here and here

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 garlic cloved, minced
2 cups diced potatoes
2 carrots, diced
1 small zucchini, chopped
handful of fresh green beans, chopped, optional
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
smoked sea salt, to taste
hot sauce, to taste
8 ounces (or more!) smoked salmon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
fresh parsley for garnish
2 TBS flour + 2 TBS cold water, to use if not thick enough

1. Melt butter and oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery, and garlic until onions are tender. Stir in other veggies, broth, pepper, dill, tarragon, thyme, paprika, smoked salt and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

2. Stir in salmon, evaporated milk, and corn. Cook until heated through.  If it looks thick enough now, add the cheese and serve.  If not thickened enough at this point, shake together the flour and cold water in a lidded jar.  Make sure the soup is simmering, and whisk the flour slurry into the soup. Whisk constantly and cook until it is thickened.  Serve with fresh parsley if you want.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Buttermilk Coleslaw

This is more of a summer food for some reason, but I think one can enjoy coleslaw anytime. Especially with pulled pork, which is why I made this.  I like the coleslaw in that link too, but I was looking for a way to make it a bit lighter and thought of using buttermilk in place of the higher-fat ingredients.  I searched for buttermilk coleslaw and settled on this recipe.  There's still mayo, but a smaller amount.  (The original recipe had a lot of sugar and I cut that in half.)
Buttermilk Coleslaw
adapted from Foodie with Family

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small head cabbage, cored and thinly sliced or coarsely shredded, about 8 cups (I buy pre-shredded cabbage)
3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded, about 2 cups (I buy pre-shredded carrots)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, granulated sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and black pepper until smooth. Toss in the shredded cabbage and carrot and cover. (Don't be tempted to add more buttermilk mixture if this looks too dry.  The coleslaw will release moisture as it sits and be perfectly creamy.)  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving; overnight is even better. When stored in an airtight container, the coleslaw is good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Toss well before serving.
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Friday, November 13, 2015

Gnocchi di Zucca (Pumpkin Gnocchi)

Last month, my friend Stefania (of previous gnocchi fame) taught me how to make pumpkin gnocchi. This gnocchi uses no potatoes, just delicious sweet pumpkin, flour, egg, and olive oil.  The pumpkin of choice here is the green-skinned, orange-fleshed, local "Delica" pumpkin; very sweet and delicious. When I arrived at her house that day, she had already skinned the pumpkin, so no pics of the green skin.  But you can google "zucca delica" or see a picture here.  Or, you can see a pic of one on my post about my Pumpkin cooking class; it's the 10th picture down.  
After I arrived, we began cutting the skinned pumpkin into thick wedges.  Then we removed the seeds and set them aside in a bowl.  Stefania used her pressure cooker to cook the wedges fast.  (Next two pictures.)

After the pressure cooker, Stefania kind of broke the pumpkin up and put it on a baking sheet into a warm over to dry it out a little.  You don't want much excess water in there.  Then, we put the pumpkin through a ricer to make sure it was super smooth.  Then, we added the egg, flour, and other ingredients until the dough was the right consistency.  This dough will not be nearly as stiff as potato gnocchi dough, because we're not rolling it out.  We're dropping spoonfuls into salted, boiling water, so it can remain soft; it just has to be able to hold together in the boiling water. When they float to the top, remove them and set them in a baking or serving dish. (Next four pics).

While the gnocchi is cooking, melt some (unsalted) butter and add a bunch of fresh sage leaves.  This will be the sauce for the gnocchi.  As they come out of the boiling water, drain them well and add .them to a baking or serving dish, and pour the sage butter over them.  Serve with freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano on top.  (Next three pics.)

Gnocchi di Zucca
from my friend Stefania

Pumpkin Gnocchi:
1 delica squash/pumpkin or equivalent
2 egg yolks
bit of olive oil
flour- to form a somewhat loose dough
salt & pepper

For serving:
unsalted butter
fresh sage leaves
Grana Padano or Parmigiano cheese,

1.  Peel the squash, cut into wedges, and remove seeds.  Cook the squash and let dry after.  (You can steam or pressure cook it.  After, break into smaller pieces and let dry in a low oven for a little bit to get rid of excess water.)

2.  Push the soft squash through a ricer and mix it up to get it really smooth.  Add the egg yolks, a glug of olive oil, and the salt and pepper.  Then, mix in flour, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth but not too stiff.  You will not be rolling it out; just dropping spoonfuls into boiling water.  It needs to be able to hold together in the water.

3.  Heat a large pot of water to boil and salt it generously.  When it is boiling, test a small piece of the dough by dropping it into the water.  If it holds together, the dough is ready.  If it falls apart, you need to add more flour to the dough before proceeding.  Keep doing a test piece until it no longer falls apart.

4.  Cook all the gnocchi by dropping spoonfuls into the boiling water using two spoons. (Push the dough off of one spoon using the other spoon).  When the gnocchi float to the top, remove from the water with a slotted spoon or something similar, letting all the water drain off.  Set gnocchi into a serving dish or big pan.

5.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the sage.  As the gnocchi come out of the water and are set in the dish, drizzle a little of the sage butter over them.

6.  Serve with freshly grated Grana or Parmigiano.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Pasta alla Mamma Rosa

My son attends an Italian preschool here, and they have delicious-looking lunches every day.  They post the menu daily and my son loves looking at it to see what he'll be eating that day. (So do I!)  One day, they had a picture of pasta and the label said "Pasta alla Mamma Rosa".  It looked good and I was curious, so I went home and looked up a recipe online to see what it was.  It's kind of like pasta with vodka sauce, except the sauce here doesn't have any vodka and uses ham or pancetta.  You add cream to it to make the sauce pink.  I finally made this recipe last week.  (Note: this recipe is in grams since my ingredients were all in grams.)
Pasta alla Mamma Rosa
adapted from La Erika in Cucina

olive oil
500 grams pasta (I used linguine piccolo)
1 medium onion, chopped (yellow/white)
200 grams cubed pancetta affumicata (smoked), OR cubed ham or bacon
700 grams passata di pomodoro (smooth tomato sauce)
100-150 ml cream
fresh basil, chopped
fresh black pepper

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

2.  Meanwhile, saute the onion in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it has softened, add the ham or pancetta and cook and stir for a few minutes.  Pour in the passata (tomato sauce) and let cook and reduce for a little bit.  Then, stir in as much cream as you want.  Finally, add the fresh basil and black pepper and serve over cooked pasta.  
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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Banana Buttermilk Muffins

This is another recipe from the Penzey's spice catalog.  I made these one day when we had a bunch of kids staying over here.  The visiting kids all liked them, and they were gone quickly.  I love using buttermilk in baked goods.  And I love the recipes from Penzey's!

Banana Buttermilk Muffins
adapted from Penzey's
Yield: 16

1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/2 Cup butter (1 stick), softened
2 large eggs
1 Cup mashed ripe banana (2 large)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 Cup buttermilk
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup finely chopped walnuts

Optional Topping:
3 TB. brown sugar
2 TB. crushed walnuts
1-2 tsp. cinnamon sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the banana and vanilla. Stir the baking soda into the buttermilk and then add to the batter and mix. Add the flour and nuts and stir the batter until it is just combined. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured muffin tin. For a special touch, combine the topping ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle on the muffin tops before baking. (I simply sprinkled cinnamon-sugar on top of raw muffins before baking.) Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes. Yield: 16

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Downtown Vicenza

A few weeks ago, it was a beautiful, sunny fall day, so my husband and I went to downtown Vicenza to walk around for part of the day.  We had to get hot chocolate, of course.  I'll just share some pics below.

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