Tuesday, June 24, 2014

from garden to table

zucchine blossoms
A flower which really is a blossom and that looks like a lily has grown in my vegetable garden, finally our zucchini (correctly in Italian, zucchine) have arrived.  From garden to table they go and there's nothing better than that!

Here they are, my little babies are born, they come from a world made of simple things.
zucchine
What happened once they were brought to the kitchen was an easy concept of gathering ingredients, gathering the family and making pasta con le zucchine and fiori fritti.

Welcome summer, we've been waiting for you!
homemade pasta with zucchine and their blossoms
The recipe is straightforward.  Simply chop the zucchini, either in rounds or long wise.  I chose to give them a 3 cm long wise shape, more or less.  Add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the surface of a large preheated pan, add some roughly chopped spring onions, one or two, and the zucchini.  Saute the onions and zucchini together until they are covered with oil.  Let them cook for no more than 15 minutes.  Keep them intact and firm, don't over cook.

Split the blossoms in 4, start from the bottom of the flower moving upwards, use your hands. Set aside.

Once the pasta is cooked, retain some of it's drained water.  Add the pasta in the pan with the zucchini, saute the pasta and the zucchini on a high flame, add some of the pasta water you have set aside so to form a creamy sauce that maintains the pasta humid and not dry.

Remove the pasta and zucchini from the heat, add the blossoms, toss, sprinkle with some grated parmesan cheese.  Serve.

For this dish, I recommend homemade pasta.

Now, the fiori fritti, zucchini blossoms.
fiori fritti
Fiori Fritti
zucchini blossoms
mozzarella cheese
anchovies

For the batter,
plain white flour
fridge cold beer
salt

olive oil for frying

To make a really good batter you need ice cold beer, this is what will make these blossoms perfect.  You can't go wrong.  

The quantities of the ingredients may vary depending on how many blossoms you will fry.  

Stuff the blossoms with a small piece of mozzarella, and an anchovy fillet. Set aside.

In a bowl add some flour, some salt e some beer, whisk with a fork to form a smooth foamy and dense batter. Add more beer until you've reach the right consistency but don't over whisk or you will deflate the batter.  You want to reach the consistency of a runny batter, something like a crepes batter.

Dip the prepared blossoms, one by one in the batter, shaking off the excess.  Gently place them in the pan with hot oil.  Don't overcrowd with too many at the same time. Remove when they are golden brown. Transfer on an absorbent paper towel.  Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.
zucchine blossoms

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

strawberry balsamic pie is served

Strawberry Balsamic Pie
“The pies we tasted from Four & Twenty Blackbirds were so satisfying and deliriously delicious that they left every other pie we sampled in the dust.” 
Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group ~


Two young sisters, pursuing different careers, one in finance, the other in photography and sculpture, decide to start a pie company…only this makes them my heroes.

Originally, Emily and Melissa, custom-baked pies from their apartment.  Some customers, hosting multicourse dinner parties, would ask them to create a pie dessert that worked with a highly creative menu.  They knew what they were doing, because the word spread, they built confidence and their customers grew.  This led to a pie shop and then a book.  A book I bought unmistakeably judging by its cover.  It met all expectations.    

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, is divided by seasons, because that’s what these girls do, they bake pies according to the season and the ingredients available.  Don’t expect to find a peach pie in December, rather, you’d find an Egg ‘n’ Grogg Pie or a Junipear Pie, in Fall there’s a Sliced Sweet Potato & Apple Crumble Pie or a Black Walnut Pie.  Everything you want to know about pies and how to make them is in this book.  You'll read things like, angostura bitters, arrowroot, wild ginger, lavender honey, apple rose, rhuby razz.  The recipes and the techniques are those used by their grandmother, perfected, updated with new combinations and flavors, adding a young contemporary verve to what is old-fashion and traditional.

The recipes are accurate and explained in detail, there’s advice and pictures that show you how-to-do-it.  You just can’t go wrong.  I’m in love with this book!

Because strawberries are in season, I made the Strawberry Balsamic Pie.  I think I got really close to the original, but I’ll be able to tell you how close, the next time I go to the US, when I definitely will make a stop at the Four & Twenty for a sample try.

For now, I’ve settled on the book which I strongly recommend to all of you pie lovers.
Strawberry Balsamic PieStrawberry Balsamic Pie
STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC PIE from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book

1/4 cup plus 3 tbps granulated sugar
2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and quartered (5 to 6 cups)
1 small baking apple
2 tbps balsamic vinegar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 tbps ground arrowroot
2 grinds of pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Egg was (1 large egg whisked with 1 tsp water and a pinch of salt)
Demerara sugar, for finishing

Have ready and refrigerated on pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan and pastry round or lattice to top.
Sprinkle 3 tbps of the granulated suagr over the starwberries.  Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a grater.  Drain the starwberries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple.  Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and agostura bitters.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, arrowroot, black pepper, and salt.  Gently fold the suagr misture into the strawberry mixture.  Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the latice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired.

Chill th epie in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set the pastry.

Meanwhile, position the oven racks at the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash; if your pie has lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn).  Sprinkle with the desired amount of demerara sugar.

Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.  Bake for 2' to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.  Lower the oven temperature to 375°C, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout , 35 to 40 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on the wire rack, 2 to 3 hours.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Double - Crust Pie
2 1/2 flour all purpose
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ice

Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula.  With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly peas-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to over blend).

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it with a bench scraper or spatula until it is full incorporated.  Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tbsp at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.  Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.  Shape the sough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.  If making the double-crust version, divide the dough in half before shaping each portion into flat discs.

Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

panino amoremio

SQUID INK BLACK BREAD PAIRED WITH SALMON, DILL PICKLES AND BUTTER
squid ink black bread
Usually it's my husband that makes the best panini in town, but I don't know if he can beat me on this one!

I say that it's the bread that makes a good panino and he says it's the filling.  I can agree with him in part, and only because he never disappoints me, but it's also true that, the bread maker, right here, always has a good homemade bread in the cupboard and this itself, contributes a great deal with his good panino making :))
squid ink black bread
You can definitely eat a panino with any filling that pleases you but if the bread is insipid, it will, all in all, ruin the panino even if filled with the tastiest of fillings. You will find yourself toasting the bread or smothering too much unnecessary flavours and still, it won't be like a panino with good fresh, possibly homemade, bread.  

If, on the other hand, you start with the right bread, you really don't need much to turn it into a great panino because the taste is already there.  Take this black squid ink bread for instance. Unlike what you would think, the squid ink won't predominate, yet it releases a delicate fish after-taste, almost unperceivable, enough to give an idea.  Enough of an idea to pair it with fish as an unquestionable, if not, a perfect combination. Only this makes my fantasy run wild and as I write, many more ideas come to my mind, I can see tuna, crabmeat, shrimp patties, caviar ... or spicy hot octopus with tomato fillets.  

Today my choice is a black squid ink panino with smoked salmon, a light spread of butter, some fresh greens and a dill pickle.

The bread recipe is here with the addition of 60gr squid ink. 

*The photos where you see my hands rolling and polling were taken by my sister.  I forced her, she had no choice, but I think she did a good job.  Don't you think so? :)))salmon panino with squid ink black bread