Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Muffins

Sorry for another post without pictures but we still haven't gotten this internet fixed!

I love reading, always have, always will. And I especially love reading in the summer ( chalk it up to all those lazy mornings on the beach).
Last summer I started a tradition of reading food memoirs* because they're fast, usually fun, and easy to enjoy when your feet is in the sand. And even though we're not near a beach this year, I still picked up a nice food memoir to enjoy by the pool. Though this one was not all about the food.

You may know Paul Deen from her food network shows but trust me, you do not know the real Ms. Deen until you've read her book It Ain't All About the Cookin'
In it, she shares her rags- to- riches story in her famous comforting tone. Really, the more I read the more I felt like I was sitting at Aunt Paula's table drinking a cup of coffee with her. (After reading, you'll want to call her Aunt Paula too).

Paula Deen's tale is not only inspirational, its also full of recipes.

Now I'm not a big fan of cooking southern food, and we all know Aunt Paula is the queen of butter and mayo. If you read my blog you'll know that I'm not a butter or mayo queen, so I am hesitant to try most of her recipes.

But when I came across her recipe for "The Best Damn Blueberry Muffins You'll Ever Eat" I had to give them a try.
Well Aunt Paula didn't lie. They really are the best: moist and cakey, with lost of juicy fruit and a crackly sugar topping. Perfect for a summer brunch.

Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Paula Deen's Blueberry Muffins

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter
1 egg ( lightly beaten)
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup brown or white sugar

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin pan.
2) In a large bow, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Set aside.
3) In a smaller bowl, combine the butter, egg, and milk. Mix well
4) Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until all the dry is incorporated.
5) Gently fold in the blueberries, careful not the break them.
6) Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each one 2/3 of the way full.
7) Bake for ten minutes.
8) Remove muffins and top with brown or white sugar. Return to oven for an additional ten- twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
9) Let cool in pan for ten minutes before turning out.
Enjoy with a nice tall glass of milk.

*send me your recommendations. I need a new book to read!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A re-vamp

This is just a quick note to say that I've re-vamped my other blog Cipolliness. Please take a look and let me know what you think!

Stay tuned tomorrow for a fabulous summer recipe, and ( hopefully) a picture too!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Learning to Love

My mom makes a mean gnocchi. Seriously, people line up for them at my brother's restaurant and there's major drama when we run out. I've seen it. Now, as I understand the demand for the gnocchi- ( they are the most fluffy and light pillows of pasta you'll ever taste), I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan. It's nothing against the gnocchi, I just prefer dried pasta to fresh ( with the exception of lasagna which I'd eat everyday if my metabolism allowed it).

Consequently, my husband loves gnocchi. I think they're his # 2 pasta choice ( second only to pici) and I'm fairly certain they're the only fresh pasta he has ever made (and he's made them on more than one occasion). Really, he is so happy smashing those potatoes up and rolling them with flour to make dough- it's a sight to see. I love my husband, and would do anything for him, so I make the little devils and lovingly eat them, dreaming of penne or capellini with each bite.

And since we've moved to Texas, I've done a lot of dreaming, as in daydreaming about strolling through the streets of Rome or lounging on the beach in Stone Harbor. And again, its not that I mind Texas, its just that I miss NJ and even ( gasp!) Minneapolis ( one year ago I never thought I'd say that). And yes, I know that probably by this time next year I'll be loving Texas just as much as any other place I've ever lived, but right now, its just okay.

As is always the case when you move, it takes a certain amount of time to adjust. And the other day I was just about at my melt-down point. We live in a beautiful apartment which is so different from any apartment I've ever lived in because it is nestled in a super-community of condos and apartments all of which are snuggled right up next to each other. The benefits are great- the kitchen is beautiful, we have not one but two pools, and the grounds are amazingly green, even in this terrible heat. The downsides are little things, like cable and internet that just don't work ( this post has been a two day effort due to varying wireless service), which all seem to add up when you are constantly on the phone trying desperately to remedy the situation. Which is exactly where I was on Thursday.

After spending one hour on the phone with the internet company ( apparently not only the internet service is slow) I'd about had it. So I decided to make homemade pasta. I realize that sounds funny, but people are comforted by all sorts of things, and my biggest comfort is making things by hand. Since we needed to have dinner, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone and whip up some pasta. When I saw the five pound bag of potatoes untouched in my kitchen, I decided gnocchi were on the menu.

And soon I was smashing the potatoes ( and my frustrations) through a ricer and rolling them out with flour and an egg yolk. Frankly, it was fun, and I was happy knowing that Gian Luca would be pleasantly surprised when he come back from work.

As the gnocchi was cooking I made a quick sauce by heating some extra virgin olive oil and garlic and tossing in some slices of fresh tomato. I finished it off with some basil from my garden ( another benefit of Texas).

Just as I was loving life, the sink decided to regurgitate someone else's food ( ah the joys of apartment living). The entire sink clogged and up floated a straw and a plastic knife ( how is that even possible?). Luckily it didn't overflow, so I didn't break my stride. I just turned my back on that sink and focused on the stove.

When Gian Luca came home he was so happily surprised by the gnocchi, that I don't think he minded the fact that after dinner he'd be plunging out the sink.

And as we were eating I realized that I really did enjoy the gnocchi- I wasn't dreaming of anything else this time. And if I could learn to love that pasta, surely I could learn to love the great state of Texas. It might just take a while, but I'm hanging in there.

* sorry there are no pictures for this post- the internet is too slow to upload them. :)

Graziella's Potato Gnocchi
Serves 2-4

4 russet or Idaho potatoes
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup grated parmiggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg *

* optional

1) Boil peeled potatoes in salted water until soft.
2) Mash hot potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl. Let cool slightly.
3) Add egg yolk, salt, nutmeg, cheese and flour. Mix well and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.
4) Knead into a ball of dough. The mixture should be soft and pliable. If it is too sticky add a little more flour.
5) cut 1/16th of the dough and roll into a rope about 1/2" thick. Cut the rope into 1" pieces.
6) (This step is optional) Make an indent with your thumb or the back of a fork ( of the dull side of a cheese grater) into each gnocchi ( this will allow sauce to coat the gnocchi.
7) Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to boil. Add gnocchi.
8) When they float to the surface cook them for an additional minute then remove with a slotted spoon or strainer.
9) serve with your favorite sauce.

The gnocchi are best served fresh, but the uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for up to one month.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Along the Way

Yesterday was one of those miraculous days where I effortlessly crossed off all the things on my to-do list. And I had a lot to do. Since moving to Texas I feel like I've been running a mile a minute trying to get things all in order. But now that I have a second to breathe, I'd like to share a very important topic with you all. BBQ.

Now I know what you're thinking, and trust me, I'm not converting to Texas cuisine just yet. In fact, we don't even have a BBQ in our apartment. But since we did just drive 1,400 miles south, I figure I need to pay tribute to some good old cookin'. And that's just what we did in Memphis.

Some people might think its strange to plan your travel route based on food, but I'm sure none of you reading would think we were weird for doing so. Especially when the reward is world famous BBQ. And the stop is technically along the way. Yes, I'm talking about Charles Vergos' Rendezvous BBQ. Some of you may have seen the restaurant on TV or read about it in a travel magazine, and I'm here to verify that it was THAT good.
We planned our trip to make it there by 5 since they don't take reservations and there's always a wait (I and since we still had 2 hours of driving to do after dinner). We were lucky to get there when we did, because just minutes after we were sat, the line grew and eventually was wrapped around the block.
The ribs are the most popular item, so we both went right for them, and in about five minutes we were served the famous dry rubbed ribs. I was surprised by the lack of sauce, but as the menu says, the ribs are so good, you don't need sauce. They weren't lying either. Those ribs were so good Gian Luca ordered a second order.

And as we got back into our car for the rest of the drive, we felt happy and fully welcomed to the south.