Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Inexpensive and Versatile

If you're like me and have already blown the bank on Christmas gifts ( and still have people to shop for!), you're probably not looking to spend too much on food. Roast Pork Loin is the perfect solution as it is inexpensive and so versatile.
Last night, I cooked a small boneless pork loin and we ate it for dinner with roasted potatoes and a salad. This morning, I packed Gian Luca a sandwich of roast pork, sundried tomatoes and provolone cheese, while I just enjoyed a salad with roast pork, arugula, apples and grana padano cheese for lunch myself.

And we still have pork left over: not bad for one night of cooking.

Roast Pork Loin

3 pound boneless pork loin
4 cloves of garlic ( peeled)
1/4 cup ground butcher pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dry or fresh rosemary
1/4 cup white wine
salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Trim the fat off of the pork loin and, with a sharp knife, make four 1/2 inch deep slits across the top of the pork. Push the garlic cloves inside the slits.
3. Place the pork in an oven safe pan and season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Tuck the bay leaves under the pork.
4. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and pour the wine over the pork.
5. Bake for an additional hour ( if the pork starts to look dry add 1 cup of water to the pan).
6. Remove from oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil ( this will allow the juices to stay inside the pork.
7. Slice and serve warm with pork gravy.

serves eight

Pork Gravy:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of water
pork drippings

1. melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low flame. Add the flour and stir to form a roux.
2. Strain the juice of the pork ( to get rid of some of the pepper) the add 1 cup of water to it.
3. Add to the roux and stir until thick.
4. pour over the pork and enjoy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Survivors

The title of this post has two meanings. The first being that no matter how expansive and ever-changing my cookies repertoire has become, these Kitchen Sink cookies have survived. They've made the cut because they are so versatile and contain literally everything you could want in a cookie. Really.
These babies are made up of everything that I love: besides the butter, flour and sugar, they contain chocolate-chips, coconut, bananas, oats, raisins and almonds. And the best part is, you can stir in anything you want. Yep, that's right. Don't like raisins? Add dried cherries. Want some crunch? Try adding slivered almonds or chopped walnuts. Hate bananas? Just leave 'em out! This recipe is flexible enough to adapt to any taste.
So can you see why these are an old favorite? And since you don't even need a mixer these are the perfect cookies for those of you who live in a tiny apartment like us ( Yes, that's right folks, we don't have a mixer here!).

The second meaning to my title is a bit less exciting than this cookie recipe. In fact, it is actually depressing. The second meaning is literal because these eight cookies that you see here are the only survivors of this batch.
Everything was going well and I had just placed these eight cookies on a cookie sheet, when I opened my cabinet to grab a glass ( to press the cookies, see below), when low and behold, a glass fell on the counter-top, shattering into millions of little pieces all over the counter and floor. Unfortunately, the cookie batter was hanging out right next to the wreckage. I actually debated picking through the batter, but, when I saw how small the little shards of glass were, I knew I had to trash it.
And of course, we had no more butter, flour, oats, coconut or chocolate chips in the house. Lessons learned: don't overcrowd your cabinets and always, always have cookie fixins' on hand.

Guess I'm headed to the grocery store. Happy weekend!

Kitchen Sink Cookies

adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flake coconut
1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter, banana, sugar and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended. Add oats, chips, coconut, and raisins, and stir until well blended.
  4. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons or with a 1 ounce ice-cream scoop onto silpat about 2 inches apart. Press tops down with the bottom of a glass to flatten cookies evenly. Bake until golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and finish cooling completely on wire rack.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Biscotti di Prato

I want to start by saying I didn't bake these. My mom did. I've been so focused on working and writing that I've hardly had time to cook, and poor Gian Luca has been living on Mortadella and Provolone sandwiches for the past week. But I can't stay away people. So even if I didn't bake these cookies, I need to tell you about them.
As I told you last time, my mom is the best chef I know. She can not only cook an amazing meal, but she can bake too. I owe all my cooking abilities and passion for baking to her.
My Nonna Lucrezia was also an excellent cook and my mother has so many stories of watching her mother in the kitchen as a child. These cookies, however, are not my grandmother's recipe, but one that my mother learned at the age of twelve when she left her small southern Italian town and moved to Prato in Tuscany for school.
My mother learned most of her culinary skills while living in Prato, Assisi, and Milano and growing up we were lucky enough to eat recipes from North and South Italy. When my mom opened up her restaurant in 1989 she fused the two regions together and created Italian food that transcends boundaries. Yet, some recipes must stay true to their origins. So when my mother was writing her cook-book, she labeled these cookies Biscotti di Prato, other wise known as Cantuccini.

Biscotti literally means "baked twice" and these cookies really exemplify their name. Smaller than the average biscotti, these little guys are hard as rocks as they are meant to be dipped in Vin Santo ( very sweet dessert wine, which, by the way, my in-laws always bring us from their hometown of Montepulciano) or at least, a rich, dark espresso.
These cookies are one of the first recipes that I tried and successfully baked on my own one winter in New York when I decided to bake Christmas cookies for everyone at work. They are so easy and delicious that they were ( and still are) perfect for a cookie tray. And, because of their durability, these cookies have a very long shelf life. They can last up to one month in an airtight container, but trust me, one bite of these and I guarantee the batch won't last a week. Just watch your teeth!

Biscotti di Prato

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups almonds ( shaved or whole roasted)
1 egg beaten

1. Sift together flour and baking powder and put on a rolling surface. Make a well in the center of the flour. Put sugar, 4 eggs and almonds into the well and mix with the flour ( starting in the center and gradually adding flour, the same way you'd make homemade pasta). Combine until dough forms.
2. Form dough into two long, skinny loaves ( about one inch in diameter). Put the loaves on a greased baking sheet. Brush the surface of the loaves with the beaten egg.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes
4. After taking the loaves out of the oven, cut 1/2 inch slices diagonally across each loaf. Place the cut pieces on a flat tray and bake for another five minutes, or until golden, but not too dark. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving recap

Happy December!
December is my favorite month because really the entire month is filled with celebrations. But before I get into all that, I need to post a bit about Thanksgiving ( better late than never!).

This Thanksgiving was the most special one I've ever had, mostly because Gian Luca and I live far from my family and friends it was so nice going home to see them. And even though it had been five months since we'd seen them, everything thing felt as though we never left which made me realize that, no matter how far away we go, our hearts are always connected to those we love. I feel so thankful and blessed to have so much love around me.
Since this is a food blog, I have to say that I've never met a better chef than my mother.
My aunts in Italy are a close second, and my brother Luciano who owns his own restaurant isn't too bad either, but still my mom takes the cake (and makes it too). So, of course, on holidays she really shines. And even though she and my dad recently moved into a new house, and this was her first Thanksgiving cooking in a new kitchen, she really out did herself.

My mom is used to cooking for restaurants so serving a family is easy for her. While some people stress over Thanksgiving preparations, she enjoys every minute of it. Fourteen people had dinner at our house that day and everyone left with doggie bags filled with enough food for the next few days.
She made:
Bread: Cranberry Walnut loaf, Corn Bread, and Rosemary and Sea Salt Breadsticks
Appetizers: Sauteed Shrimp Scampi, mini Crabcakes in Filo dough
Salads: Radicchio and shaved fennel salad with a white wine viniagrette
Entree: Turkey and gravy
Sides: Twice Baked Potatoes, Candied sweet potatoes, Sausage stuffing, String beans with garlic and fresh mint, Sauteed Broccoli rape, homemade cranberry sauce
Desserts: Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Blueberry Pie, Chocolate chip cookies, Biscotti di Prato, Ricerelli di Siena, Amaretti Cookies

My Aunt Angela brought a delicious Grape and Gorgonzola Focaccia and my sister- in- law Christine brought over my favorite, a coconut custard pie. My cookies were a big hit as well.
Needless to say, we were all stuffed by the end of the day.

I promise some recipes soon, especially the rosemary and sea salt breadsticks which have been a family favorite since the 80's.