Well, I probably shouldn't do this, but I've started another Blog. Like I don't already spend too much time at the MacBook. As some of you might have guessed, I like to cook and I love to eat. So I thought I'd share my recipes, humble as they may be and an occasional dinner menu at our house. I am somewhat "reluctant" to share this project right now, but caution to the wind. The plan is to be discovered by the Food Network for my cooking show Cranky Franky's in the Kitchen.
Am I ready for critics? Probably not. I know my instructions are not always clear or precise. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. Anyhow, if you're interested, check out "Dinner's Ready"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pasta alla Normina

I've done Pasta alla Norma before at Rebel and this is my variation on the theme.  Fairly simple, meatless  and good.  Instead of Norma's Ricotta Salata - a dry, salty ricotta cheese,  I am using fresh ricotta in this recipe.

Actually, I'm using a fresh, homemade faux ricotta - curds made with heated whole milk, vinegar and salt.  True ricotta is made from heated whey left from making mozzarella or other rennet based cheese.  The whey is heated again (ri-cotta or re-cooked) with salt and vinegar to release more curds which are the ricotta cheese.  This was my first attempt at making this cheese, also called paneer.  It is very mild and creamy and is very similar to ricotta.

For this dish you will need olive oil, fresh garlic, an onion, an eggplant (diced in large pieces), some fresh mushrooms (sliced), fresh or frozen basil, a can of peeled plum tomatoes, salt and pepper, one pound of pasta (something large like  rigatoni or festinate), ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan or romano.

You will need substantial olive oil - a third to a half cup - because both eggplant and mushrooms are oil sponges.  (It's OK - we know olive oil is good for you)
Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil
Add the diced eggplant
Add the sliced mushrooms
Crush the tomatoes into the mix
along with some of the juice
Cook the pasta, drain and toss
with the eggplant-mushroom sauce
Top with ricotta, mozzarella and grated Romano
La cena e pronta! - Dinner's Ready!

Un può di vino e Buon' appetito!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pizza Rustica di Pasqua (Easter Pizza) and Braided Egg Bread (Easter Bread)

Pizza Rustica
There are almost as many recipes for Pizza Rustica di Pasqua as there are Italian families in America.  Some are more a rich cheese bread which look absolutely delicious on google and others, the "rustica" or rustic are savory pies.  None that I viewed on the internet are quite the same as what my grandmother and my aunts used to make and that I've made for many years myself.  As it is quite "heavy" and not cheap to make, I suggest cutting the recipe down to 2/3 or less. Exact proportions of the filling are not that important. One of my cousins said her mom's pie weighed 30 pounds, but I think that was an exaggeration.
Aunt Stella's recipe for the pie filling called for the following (but you can use less for a smaller pie)
  ~ 3 dozen boiled eggs, quartered (I used 2 dozen)
  ~ 2 pounds of capocollo, (a deli ham with hot pepper) (I used 1 pound),
  ~ 2 pounds of formaggio fresco, a fresh "basket cheese" somewhat like farmers cheese that you can likely only get at an Italian market around the Easter holiday. (I used 1 pound)
  ~ 6 beaten eggs. (5 for a smaller pie)
Every crust recipe I found on-line called for butter as well.  For a large pie use:
3 1/2 cups (plus 1/2 cup for kneading and rolling)
6 beaten eggs
1 stick of soft butter (not melted) plus a little salt.  (tsp)

If making a smaller recipe use:
2 1/2 cups flour (plus 1/2 cup for kneading and rolling)
5 beaten eggs,
1/2 stick of soft butter plus a little salt

I use the 21 inch rolling pin (actually a 1 1/4 inch diameter dowel) which allows you to roll out a thin crust large enough to cover the bottom of the roasting pan.

Combine the flour, beaten eggs and butter and salt in the proportions that you choose. Mix, then knead until a dough comes together; knead for 5 or 10 minutes till smooth and evenly mixed, then wrap the ball of dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 or 15 minutes.
Divide the dough slightly unequally and roll out the larger portion in a rectangular shape thin enough to line the bottom and sides of a large or medium size roasting pan (depending on the flour proportions you chose) for the bottom crust.  Lay it into the pan.

Put one layer of sliced capocollo on the bottom, (some recipes use a combination of Italian meats like salami, mortadella, prosciutto, etc. but our family recipe uses only capocollo).
Then one layer of boiled eggs quartered and placed closely together in rows down the length of the pan.

Cut slices of fresh basket cheese and place them on top of the boiled eggs . Continue to layer more capocollo, more boiled egg quarters, more formaggio fresco (basket cheese) and end with a layer of capocollo.

Pour the beaten eggs on top (the egg will drizzle into the pie) and then roll out the remaining dough into a rectangular shape large enough to cover the pie with a top crust.
Trim any excess around the edges and use this to make a cross or design on the top (optional)
Pinch the edges, brush the crust with egg wash (egg beaten with a little water) and bake at 350 for an hour and a quarter - to an hour and a half.
The crust should get golden brown.
Let it cool before cutting into it.

This is the original "breakfast sandwich" but it comes with a warning: Distribute generous portions to all your friends and relatives because after three days you will be sick of this version of ham and eggs, guaranteed.

Sweet Egg Bread - Pane di Pasqua
Well, there is no recipe for my bread so I'll wing it like I do when I make it.  This non-recipe will make two large (pizza pan size) or four medium size breads on two sheet pans (see photo).

I started with 1/2 cup warm water and 2 packets of yeast, and a little flour to get them started.

Meanwhile I warmed up 3 cups of milk in the microwave - (NOT HOT) and softened (NOT MELTED) a stick and a half of butter (Yeah, a true brioche uses hard butter beaten into the dough - too much work!).

I added 3/4 cup of sugar and 4 eggs  to the milk and beat them in, added this  to the yeast mixture along with the butter and then added some flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and another packet of yeast (just to be sure).

I beat the mixture with a wooden spoon and I kept adding flour until a dough began to form.  Lose the spoon and use hands to knead while adding a little flour at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky but can be kneaded into a smooth ball.  This is a soft dough.

Brush with oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in a large bowl or pot, till doubled in volume.
Depending on how many and how large you want your loaves, divide the dough into that many pieces.  Divide each of those into three and roll into "ropes".  Braid the three ropes for each loaf and form into a ring, a half circle, or whatever shape you like.
Place one or more raw eggs or raw colored eggs into the braid (I used only one because a) we will get tired of eating hard cooked eggs real soon and b) it is easier to slice the bread without the eggs int the way). Let rise for 1 hours or so and brush with egg wash.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375. If using 2 racks, move the top breads down and the lower ones to the top for more even browning. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or so - depending on your oven, the number of breads in the oven, etc. until the top crust is golden and it taps "hollow" and the edges and peaks are nice and brown.
As you can see, I got distracted and forgot to set the timer to lower the oven.  A little powdered sugar helps cover up the burn.
We get to keep the burnt one, the rest will go to friends or family - maybe.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

UK Trip Nostalgia - Scones for Breakfast

No-Recipe Scones

Crawled out of bed this morning to make the coffee and thought how nice a scone would be to go with.

Couldn't be bothered looking up a recipe on the net, so gave it my best shot on the fly, so to speak.

Let's see, about 2 cups of flour, some baking powder, a couple spoons of sugar, a little salt, oh, three quarters of a stick of butter, just barely melted, enough milk to make a stiff biscuit dough and some dried cranberries and raisins.  Mix, form into a round and cut into wedges.  Bake at 375 to 400 (with my oven, I never really know for sure). 25 minutes later:

They were quite good.  Now at a cafe in London you get ONE scone with your coffee.  You're not likely to order another at a pound, fifty or more (over  $3).  Here at home we can sit and eat them like potato chips.

And we wonder why we can't loose weight!