Every year my nieces and I get together to make Pastiera di Grano. The recipe we use is one I have written about before. It comes from my Grandmother who was born on the island of Procida in Italy over a hundred years ago. Of course she never wrote it down, but she taught it to my mother, who was also a great baker. Mom and I figured out the measurements to get the cake to look and taste just like Grandma’s. You can find the recipe in my book 1,000 Italian Recipes. I think that my Grandmother would be very proud to know that we celebrate her memory this way every year.
I can find most of the ingredients to make Pastiera easily in my area of New York City. I buy the grano, which is wheat grain that has been polished to remove the hull, at Kalustyan’s, and fresh ricotta from Calabro at Fairway Market or Whole Foods. I bought a big bottle of orange flower water the last time I was in Italy (though many markets like ALC Italian Grocery in Brooklyn or Di Palo’s in Manhattan sell it) as well as a whole piece of candied citron. The biggest problem for me is always the candied orange peel. The commercially made peel is dried out and lacks flavor, so this year I decided to make my own. It was easy to do and a perfect project for the cold rainy day we had earlier this week. I made a big batch, so that we would have plenty for our cakes plus more to nibble as a small sweet after dinner. The pieces are crunchy with sugar, yet tender inside and the flavor is intensely orange. Next time, I will dip some in dark chocolate, a flavor combination I adore.
Wishing all a Buona Pasqua!
CANDIED ORANGE PEEL
Makes about 4 cups
4 or 5 large navel oranges, preferably organic
4-1/2 cups sugar
Scrub the oranges with a brush under warm water. Cut off a 1/4 inch slice from each end. With a small sharp knife, score the peels into six wedges, cutting just down to the flesh. Remove each segment of the peel and cut it into 1/4-inch thick strips. Reserve the oranges for another use. (I made them into a salad with arugula, fennel and black olives.)
Have ready a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add the peels and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse the peels.
Rinse out the pot. Add 3 cups cool water and 3 cups of the sugar. Bring the liquid to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange peel and bring the liquid to a simmer. Add a little more water if needed so that the peels are just covered. Cook over medium low heat until the peels are tender, about 40 to 45 minutes.
Drain the peel well. Toss the pieces with the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar to coat. Separate the pieces and place them on the parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to as low as it can go, about 175 F. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes so that the peels can dry out slightly. Let stand at room temperature until the surface coating is dry, about 24 to 48 hours. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel if you like.
Store in an airtight plastic bag for 1 week or in the freezer for 3 months.
March 29, 2013 No Comments
It’s been all over the news recently, yet it is hardly news at all. We’ve known since the ’80′s that the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest around. I’m talking about eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and olive oil and keeping red meat, animal fats and sugar to a minimum. It’s really not that hard to do, especially if you have help in the kitchen. What? You don’t have an assistant to do the chopping, cleaning and cooking? Well, neither do I, or anyone else I know, but we do have our slow cookers to help. While it won’t do the prep work, a slow cooker is a great way to cook simple, healthful meals without fuss. And to make it easier, you can buy vegetables pre washed and trimmed. They cost a little more perhaps, but it’s a lot less than take out food would be and far better for you.
Here’s a recipe from The Mediterranean Slow Cooker. It is a Moroccan-style vegetable tagine made with golden vegetables like carrots, squash, and rutabaga, sometimes called yellow turnip. Don’t like them? Try something else, like sweet potatoes or celery root. The vegetables are sweetened with dried apricots and flavored with fresh ginger, cumin and cinnamon. Cook until tender, adjust the seasonings, and serve with couscous or rice for a warming cold weather meal.
All three of my slow cooker books have recipes that fit into a Mediterranean diet eating plan. In The French Slow Cooker, try the Creamy White Bean Brandade or Salmon Steaks with Mustard and Parsley. In The Italian Slow Cooker, you will find Cherry Spiced Pears and Turkey Meatball and Escarole Soup, and much more.
GOLDEN VEGETABLE TAGINE
The warm, sunny colors of this Moroccan style tagine make it perfect for a hearty winter meal. Serve it over rice or couscous as a main course or as a side dish with grilled lamb chops or chicken.
Serves 6 to 8
2 tablesoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups 1-inch chunks peeled butternut squash
12 dried apricots, halved
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 cups Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, mint or flat-leaf parsley
Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes.
Scrape the onions into a large slow cooker. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro in a large slow cooker and toss well. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the vegetables are tender.
Taste for seasonings. Just before serving, sprinkle with the cilantro.
March 6, 2013 1 Comment
Carnevale begins this week. It is traditionally celebrated as a time for feasting before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. But how do you prepare a feast when you are busy with so many other things? With your slow cooker, of course! I’d like to suggest Bargemen’s Beef Stew, a recipe from my book The French Slow Cooker that gets its name from the men who operated shipping barges on the Rhone River. They were too busy to spend a lot of time cooking, but wanted something delicious to eat, so they developed this simple recipe with an unusual technique. The cubes of beef — I prefer chuck — are tossed with a bit of flour and layered in the slow cooker with sliced onions. That’s it. The meat and onions will cook in their own juices. Put the lid on, turn on the cooker, and come back hours later to tender meat. That’s when you add the flavoring ingredients. Finely chopped garlic, parsley, and anchovies are blended to a sauce with mustard and vinegar. Stir it into the meat and it’s ready to serve. It’s great with noodles.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a feast without dessert. My choice is a Coffee Caramel Flan. It’s made with only 6 ingredients, most of which you probably have in the pantry. I’ll make it the night before I plan to serve it so that it has a chance to chill before serving. This is one of several flan recipes and other desserts, like Cannoli Cheesecake and Bittersweet Cocoa Almond Cake, you will find in my new book, The Mediterranean Slow Cooker. First you make caramel which is simply sugar and water cooked until brown, then you add a creamy filling made with coffee, sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. In the gentle steamy heat of the slow cooker, it cooks up satiny smooth and rich tasting. Serve it as is or with a dollop of whipped cream. Here is the recipe, but before you begin, check to see that you have a dish or pan that will fit inside your slow cooker.
Coffee Caramel Flan
Dark strong coffee is a popular beverage throughout Spain. It’s even used to make this version coffee flavored version of flan. Canned sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk are convenient to have in the pantry so you can put this dessert together any time.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
Place a rack in a large slow cooker.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Cook over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved about 5 minutes. Simmer the mixture without stirring until it begins to turn brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Gently swirl the pan until the syrup is evenly caramelized.
Protect your hand with an oven mitt. Pour the hot syrup into a 6-cup soufflé dish, turning the dish to coat the bottom evenly. Let cool until the caramel is just set.
In a bowl, whisk together the evaporated and sweetened condensed milks. Beat in the eggs, yolks, and coffee until blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Place the dish on the rack in a large slow cooker. Pour hot water to a depth of 1 inch of around the soufflé dish. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2-1/2 hours minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Protecting your hands with oven mitts, carefully remove the dish from the slow cooker. Let cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, several hours or overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the inside of the dish. Invert a serving plate on top of the dish and quickly invert the two. Carefully remove the dish allowing the caramel to drizzle over the cream. Cut into wedges to serve.
February 10, 2013 No Comments
Looking for inspiration for comforting slow cooker meals this winter? How about Chicken with Chorizo, Red Wine, and Roasted Peppers, or Turkey Meatloaf with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mozzarella, or Pork Ribs with Tomato Balsamic Sauce? These are just a few of the recipes you will find in my new book, The Mediterranean Slow Cooker, just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I’ve traveled around the Mediterranean and discovered 125 new recipes for everything from appetizers — try the Beet and Goat Cheese Dip with warm pita bread — to hearty soups, like Tuscan “Cooked Water” made with mushrooms, tomato and eggs — to a luscious and easy Cannoli Cheesecake, made with ricotta, chocolate chips and cinnamon that work great in the slow cooker.
Here’s a recipe for a hearty Winter Squash and Chickpea Soup that will brighten any winter meal. We will have it with a kale salad with ripe pears and tangy pecorino.
Winter Squash and Chickpea Soup
A big handful of fresh chopped cilantro at the end of the cooking time gives this sweet, mellow soup extra flavor. It may not be typical, but I like to serve it with the addition of small cooked pasta, like orzo.
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 pounds butternut, acorn, or other winter squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes, or canned tomatoes
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
2 cups beef or Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth, or water
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Chopped cilantro, mint or Italian parsley
Place the onions, squash, tomatoes, chickpeas, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add the broth and water. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours until the squash is very soft and falling apart.
With a potato masher or immersion blender, crush some of the vegetables and chick peas to make a chunky soup. Stir in the butter and taste for seasoning. Serve hot, sprinkled with the herbs.
January 15, 2013 1 Comment
Charles and I are talking about wine and food on the new i-Italy TV show about all things Italian in New York which premiered this past weekend on NY Public TV Channel 25. If you missed Episode 1, here is a link to it on You Tube:
The show airs weekly Saturdays at 11PM repeated Sunday at 1PM.
November 28, 2012 No Comments
Premiering Saturday, November 24, Michele and Charles Scicolone will be appearing in a weekly segment on I-Italy/NY, a new program covering all aspects of Italian life, the arts, and culture in New York City. Michele and Charles will be visiting restaurants around town and talking about their favorite subjects — Italian wine and food!
Name: I-Italy/NY Time: 11PM on Saturdays and 1 PM Sundays Where: New York Public Television Channel 25 in the tri-state area
November 25, 2012 2 Comments