Friday, March 17, 2017

Codfish with Chickpeas


The Lenten season is here and that means no meat on Fridays for many of us. Even if you don't observe Lent, this dish is one of my favorites for so many reasons. 
First of all, it's delicious. Second of all, it's easy to make and third of all, it's low in calories.
What more could you want, except maybe someone to shop for you and cook for you? 
One of the things that takes this over the top in flavor are the tomatoes I used in the recipe. 
They're small grape tomatoes that come in a jar and I bought them at a local gourmet store. Use canned or jarred cherry tomatoes if you can't find these grape tomatoes, or just plain old canned diced tomatoes from the supermarket. But if you can find these specialty jarred grape tomatoes, or a similar brand, they're worth the extra cost. 
They're so sweet I could have eaten them from the pan just with the chickpeas and seasonings added. A nice swipe of bread is all I needed. Actually, dropping a few eggs into this would make a wonderful lunch or dinner too, even without the fish.
But back to the cod. After you've cooked the sauce, add the chunks of codfish and put the lid on the pan.
Cook the fish for five minutes with the lid on, and you're done. Sprinkle with more basil and parsley and serve.
This dish comes together start to finish in less than a half hour. It would make a great do-ahead dish for company too if you cook the sauce and chickpeas ahead of time, then add the fish just before you're ready to eat. 
Wouldn't you like to dig into this?
This next photo has nothing at all to do with the codfish recipe, but it's a teaser to let you know we still have a couple of spots available for our writing retreat in Varenna, on Lake Como, Italy this coming September. 
Spend your mornings with an experienced writing teacher, workshopping that family, travel or food memoir you always meant to start. 
Afternoons are free to do as you please, or you could join me on a few excursions around the lake.
And take a look at this dreamy view from your accommodations at Villa Monastero.
 It could be yours each morning if you sign up for "Italy, In Other Words."
Click here for more details.

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Codfish with Chickpeas

for two people
1 lb. codfish, cut into large pieces
1/4 cup minced onion
2 large garlic cloves
2 T. olive oil
1 12.4 oz. container cherry or grape tomatoes (datterini)
1/3 cup white wine
15 oz. can chickpeas
salt, pepper
1/4 tsp. dried basil
freshly minced basil
freshly minced parsley

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until wilted. Add the tomatoes and smash them flat with a fork or wooden spoon. Sauté briefly then add the white wine and stir. Next add the chickpeas, salt, pepper, basil and parsley, keeping some of the fresh herbs aside to use at the end. Put the lid on and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Add the codfish, season with salt and pepper, then put the lid on again, for about five minutes or until just cooked through. DON'T overcook or it will break up into small pieces.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina


Are you ready for Pi Day? It's coming up next week and you need to be ready with a real pie - or in this case a crostata (close enough). Of course, you all know that Pi, represented by the Greek letter π, is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and is commonly approximated as 3.14159.
Pi Day is celebrated around the world on March 14 (March=3rd month, and the 14th day, hence 3.14), which also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein, whose legacy is omnipresent here in Princeton, where the Nobel laureate gave lectures at Princeton University, but mainly served as a faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Studies from 1933 until his death in 1955.
Princeton honors Pi Day with all kinds of events, from an Einstein look-alike contest, to a pie-baking contest. (The first year of the contest, I actually won second place, with "Alessandra's crostata.")
I made a couple of goofs while making this crostata, but in the end, it all worked out.
It calls for a mixture of amaretti cookie crumbs to be mixed with egg, then spread on top of the jam.
But I misread the recipe and put the amaretti cookie crumbs in first, before the jam. Whoops!

Fortunately, I was able to scoop them up before I went any farther.
So after scraping out the amaretti crumbs, I put in a mixture of jams - orange and plum. You can use only one kind if you like, or mix any others - apricot and plum are delicious too.
Now is the time to spread the amaretti mixture. I didn't have quite enough, but it was just fine. Kind of looks like peanut butter and jelly at this point, but it tastes much better.
Spread the lattice strips on top, then brush with egg.
While baking, the amaretti crumbs and eggs puff up slightly and peek through the lattice strips. 
The flavor is delicious and it slices so easily you may want to eat more than just one slice. After all, you are doing research on the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, right?
Happy Pi π Day.
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Crostata di Marmellata alla Sorrentina
from "The Southern Italian Table" by Arthur Schwartz
printable recipe here

your favorite pasta frolla recipe (pastry crust - I cheated this time and used one from Trader Joe's)
1 12 ounce jar marmalade (I used a combination of plum and orange)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely ground amaretti cookies (about 3 ounces, depending on the brand)

Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper or parchment. Line a 9-inch tart or cake pan with two-thirds of the pasta frolla, bringing the pastry up the sides of the pan just to the top. Save the other third of the pastry to make a lattice top.
Mix the jams (if using two different ones) and spread evenly on the pastry.
Beat one of the eggs in a small bowl until well blended, then add the amaretti crumbs and mix well. Spread this mixture evenly over the jam filling.
Roll out the remaining pastry. With a sharp knife or rolling pastry cutter, cut it into 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange the strips on top of the tart in a diamond-shaped lattice. Turn the edge of the bottom pastry over the edge of the lattice top.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl, then brush the pastry with it.
Bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes until nicely browned. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the tart from the pan and finish cooling it on a rack.

Variation:
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of finely chopped nuts - toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts - on the bottom pastry before pouring in the marmalade or jam.
At Masseria Astapiana, Villa Giusso in Vico Equense, near Sorrento, a fifteenth century former monastery now operating as a bed and breakfast and party venue, they make a rather complex, but not difficult to accomplish, version of this tart. Instead of using 12 ounces of marmalade, use only 6 ounces. Then dip about 28 whole amaretti quickly into dry white vermouth. Arrange a layer of the cookies over the marmalade, packing them in closely and pushing them slightly into the marmalade. Now combine 2 beaten eggs with 3/4 cup toasted and finely ground almonds. Pour this over the amaretti. There should be just enough to barely cover the cookies. Arrange a lattice pastry top. Bake as above.


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Monday, March 6, 2017

Broccoli Romanesco or Cauliflower "steaks" with salsa verde


Broccoli romano, also known as broccoli romanesco, is probably my favorite vegetable (although artichokes are a close second). It's not easy to find it here in the states, but occasionally I see it at farmers' markets or even in my supermarket. When that happens, I don't hesitate to buy it, even though it's a bit pricey.
Aside from the taste, which is more like cauliflower than broccoli, it's just a beautiful vegetable that is an exquisite example of fractals (go look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls - [if it still exists] - I guess I should say look that up in Wikipedia!)
In any event, even if you can't find broccoli romano, you can make this recipe using cauliflower, which is easy to find in the markets. 
 First cut off the leaves and trim the stem, then slice into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick.
Smear with some good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place it in the oven at high heat while you chop up herbs and other goodies for the salsa verde.
Flip the "steaks" over half way through cooking. If it's getting too browned, lower the temperature.
Place on a platter then spoon the sauce over it.
Served with some quinoa and glazed carrots, it made for a colorful and delicious vegetarian dinner. For once, I didn't miss the real meat.

Broccoli Romano "steaks" with salsa verde

1 head of broccoli romano (romanesco)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to brush on surface of broccoli romano)
juice of 1/2 lemon (or more if your lemon is small), plus a small piece of the lemon rind
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. red onion, minced
2 T. capers
fresh parsley, minced (about 3 or 4 T.)
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the broccoli romano - or cauliflower if you can't find the broccoli romano - into pieces between 1/4" and 1/2 " thick. Smear them with olive oil, then sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground pepper.
Place them in the oven for about 15 minutes - flipping over once (and repeating the olive oil, salt and pepper).Take them out of the oven when they feel tender to the fork, or when you can easily pierce them with a knife. Depending on how thick you sliced them, they'll need more time (or maybe less if they're thinner than mine).
While they are cooking, make the salsa, by mincing the lemon rind, garlic, onion, capers and parsley. Add the olive oil, plus the lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper and stir everything together. Spoon the salsa verde over the broccoli romano or cauliflower steaks.


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Doughnuts!


Doughnuts, doughnuts and more doughnuts. More doughnuts that we could possibly eat in one sitting, but with my decision to abstain from eating desserts for 40 days starting Wednesday (the beginning of Lent), I figured it's time to indulge these last few days. 
The period before Lent that is called Carnevale in Italy is called Fasnacht in Southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France, when doughnuts and other fried foods are traditionally consumed. Many descendants of Germans who live in Pennsylvania, (called the Pennsylvania Dutch - although they probably misappropriated the word Dutch from the word Deutsch, meaning German) also celebrate the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday as Fasnacht Day, and eat doughnuts, which they refer to as fasnachts.
The doughnuts my daughter-in-law and I made weren't fried, but baked, and hopefully contain fewer calories. But no promises here.
 If you want calorie-free doughnuts, take a look at these -- they're painted by Wayne Thiebaud, an American artist known for his colorful paintings of pastries, cakes and other foods. 

Fellow blogger Stacey Snacks gave me the idea to make baked doughnuts after she showed the pan she used when she made them. I quickly ordered one online:
But Thiebaud's art was the inspiration for glazing my doughnuts in a medley of colors and flavors - from cinnamon sugar coated, to chocolate glazed, to powdered sugar coated, to lemon glazed, blueberry glazed and blood orange glazed.
My daughter-in-law Beth piped the doughnut batter into the greased doughnut pan using a pastry bag. If you don't have a pastry bag, use a plastic baggie, cutting off a tip at one corner.

They take only 10 minutes to bake and you might be tempted to leave them in longer since they'll be quite pale on top. Don't. The bottoms are much browner and if you leave them in longer, they'll be overcooked and dry.
You also don't want to fill them too high, otherwise you risk losing the "hole" of your doughnut.
Flip them over to cool a bit, and then go to town with the frostings and toppings. I can just imagine sprinkling some chocolate "jimmies" or chopped nuts on top of this doughnut, couldn't you? Why didn't I think of it when I was frosting them?
 Or maybe some coconut on top of this doughnut glazed with confectioner's sugar and the juice of a blood orange.
Invite a crowd over when you make these (or give some to the neighbors as I did), because this recipe gave me about two dozen doughnuts, even though it said it yields 12. 
But who's counting? You've still got a couple of days left before Lent. Make merry and indulge.
And for those of you who don't observe Lent - you have no restrictions. What are you waiting for? 

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Baked Doughnuts

King Arthur's website says this recipe makes 12 doughnuts, but I got 24! My pan was obviously smaller than what the flour company uses.

1/4 cup butter (4 T.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
3/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 2/3 cup King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. 
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars until smooth.
  2. Add the eggs, beating to combine.
  3. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.
  4. Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
  5. Spoon the batter into the lightly greased doughnut pans, filling the wells to about 1/4" shy of the rim.
  6. Bake the doughnuts for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 to 7 minutes before turning them out of the pans onto a rack. 
  7. For cinnamon doughnuts, shake warm doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar. For sugar-coated doughnuts, shake doughnuts in a plastic bag with about 1/2 cup non-melting topping sugar (for best results), or confectioners' sugar.
  8. For the chocolate frosted doughnuts, place 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 2 T. butter, 1 T. plus 1 t. light corn syrup and 1/4 t. vanilla extract into a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is blended. Microwave for a few seconds longer, if necessary. Add extra corn syrup if needed to make a smooth, shiny glaze. Yield: about 1/2 cup glaze.
  9. Linda's note:
  10. For the paler pink glazed doughnuts, I mixed confectioner's sugar with the juice of 1/2 blood orange, adding enough liquid until it reached proper consistency. For the more vibrant pink color, I mixed confectioner's sugar with some blueberry syrup I made by cooking blueberries, water and a little sugar with a little cornstarch and a squirt of lemon.
  11. For the white glazed doughnuts, mix some confectioner's sugar with lemon juice until proper consistency. For the white powdered sugar doughnuts, put some powdered sugar into a small brown paper bag, add the doughnuts and shake.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

No-Knead Ciabatta


The scent of bread baking in the oven and soup simmering on the stove while snow falls outside your window is one of life's pleasures.
Ok, ok, so relaxing on a Caribbean beach with a Planter's Punch while your friends and relatives back home are slipping on icy driveways is pretty high up there, too.
But if you can't hop on a plane to Barbados or the Bahamas, you can at least satisfy your craving for really good bread with this recipe from Jim Lahey.
Lahey, if you recall, is the guru behind the no-knead bread recipe that swept the country (with good reason) many years ago. His first book, "My Bread," contains this recipe for ciabatta that will spoil you for anything other than artisanal bread. 
The only hitch is you need a special clay pot  - a Romertopf - and a pizza stone. 
If you don't have them, or don't want to buy them, make Lahey's original no-knead bread with the recipe here.
My kids bought the clay pot for me a couple of years ago when I first made this recipe. 
I haven't made it since -- that is, until a couple of weeks ago, when snow was falling in the Northeast U.S.
Never mind that it's nearly 70 degrees F. this week in New Jersey. You'll want to bake this any time of year, no matter the temperature.

You have to give it some thought ahead of time, since the first rising takes 12 to 18 hours. Very little yeast is used, hence the need for a long rise, resulting in a dough that's got a great texture - filled with wonderful small and medium sized holes. 
After it's risen to double in size, add just enough additional flour to shape it into a loaf, then let it rise again for an hour.
You'll then cut it in half before placing it in the oven.
You need to stretch out the dough into a flatter shape and place it on top of the pizza stone (don't worry, it seems like you've deflated it, but it will rise a little more in the oven.)
Then cover the dough with the overturned Romertopf pot that's been heating in the oven - careful, it's extremely hot!

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the pot and bake another 10-20 minutes. Repeat with the other loaf, and you've got two gorgeous, crusty and delicious ciabatta loaves.
I guess you know that ciabatta means "slipper" in Italian, referring to the squat shape of the bread.
If it's not stretched out sufficiently, the ciabatta becomes a little "stouter" in shape, which is fine too. It tastes just as good.
Another time, you might want to try shaping part of it into smaller, sandwich size rolls.
Add some prosciutto and burrata for a delicious panino.
Enjoy with some homemade soup for a satisfying lunch or dinner.
Or skip the soup, open a bottle of good red wine, add a chunk of cheese, slice up the bread and call it a day.
You won't even miss that warm beach and Planter's Punch.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

No-Knead Ciabatta
from Jim Lahey's "My Bread"
printable recipe here

3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 t. table salt
1/4 t. instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups cool (55 to 65 degrees F.) water (I needed more - just add enough until you get a "loose" consistency but not so wet that it can't be shaped)
additional flour for dusting

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.

When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Dust the surface of the dough with flour and, with lightly floured hands, nudge the dough into roughly a 14 inch square. Fold the dough in half, and then crosswise in half again, so you have a square, roughly 7 inches on each side.

Place the dough in a warm, draft-free spot, cover it with a tea towel, and let rise for 1 hour. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the clay baker for 10 minutes.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. with a rack in the center. Place the baker on the pizza stone, and put the stone and baker in the center of the rack.

Using pot holders, carefully remove the hot pot and stone from the oven, taking care not to set them on a cold surface. Using a dough cutter or sharp serrated knife, cut the dough in half. Shape each piece into a long flat loaf. Generously dust each loaf with flour (you will bake 1 loaf at a time). Pick up 1 loaf with both hands, quickly but gently stretch it to almost the length of the clay pot (roughly 10 inches) and place it on the stone. Using pot holders, cover the loaf with the inverted pot, and bake for 20 minutes.

Uncover the loaf and place the pot on another rack in the oven, to keep it hot for the second loaf. Continue to bake the first loaf for 10 to 20 minutes, checking the color of the loaf once or twice. It is done when the crust is a light chestnut color. Using pot holders, carefully remove the stone from the oven. Transfer the ciabatta to a rack to cool thoroughly, and bake the second ciabatta the same way.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Penne Alla Vodka


It's anybody's guess whether this dish is really Italian or not. Some claim the dish was invented at Dante's, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. Luigi Franzese, a chef at New York's Orsini restaurant in the 1970s is also sometimes credited. But other sources relate that a certain James Doty, a graduate of Colombia University, was the originator.
While its origins are murky, the flavor is not.
I've never seen it on a menu in Italy, but it's certainly ubiquitous here in the states and for good reason -- it tastes delicious.
It's also perfect for the home cook owing to its ease of preparation. The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.
It's also perfect for those of you thinking of meatless dishes to prepare for Lent.
So what are you waiting for?
Pour yourself a Bloody Mary, but set aside a little of that vodka for Penne Alla Vodka.



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Penne Alla Vodka
printable recipe here

1 lb. penne pasta

2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic
4 cups tomato sauce (1 lb. 13 oz. can)
1/2 cup vodka
salt, pepper
red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cream
fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until wilted. Add the tomato sauce, vodka, salt, pepper and a little of the basil, saving some whole leaves to decorate with at the end.
Cook the sauce over high heat until it starts to "sputter," then lower immediately to a simmer for about 15 minutes to a half hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, adding salt. Dump the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, stir the cream into the sauce at low heat. When the pasta is al dente, drain it from the water and add it to the pot with the sauce. (I like to take out a little sauce from the pot in case it is too much sauce for the pasta. I don't like my pasta to be "swimming" in sauce - just dressed lightly. You can always add it back in if it's not enough).
Stir the pasta into the sauce while you have it over a simmer, until the sauce is permeated through the pasta. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
Serve with more grated cheese at the table.

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