Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Time-Out: Basil Fettuccine

I have been so lucky that the past 2 years, I've had a few projects for my job in Milan and so I get to frequently find myself in Italy.  My family also took a dream vacation to Italy last summer so I've got a lot of Italian exposure lately.

I'm always looking to bring home interesting things home to my family when I travel overseas.  One of the entire family's favorites is flavored fresh pastas.  These are pastas I just can't find in the normal grocery store at home and are all different flavors - mushroom, tomato, egg, basil, and John's favorite - spicy pepper.

This summer, we've had a real bumper crop of basil.  In fact, the basil is still going strong, three weeks into September.  I love making homemade pasta - it really is so easy and with a hand-cranked pasta maker, I can get rid of my rolling pin method!  Anyway, I thought there had to be a way to create that basil pasta at home and so I went to work adding about 20 basil leaves to my pasta.  And WOW, it came out delicious!  Pasta is all about the ingredients, and then the drying.  Drying the pasta is essential before cooking so it doesn't get all gloppy and stuck together.
Basil Fettuccine (adapted from Serious Eats)
Serves:  4
1/2 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt

In a small food processor, pulse chop basil and olive oil until basil is in small slices.  Transfer the basil mixture into a bowl.

On a clean surface, pour out the flour and form a well with high walls (the higher the better).  Pour the eggs, egg yolks, salt, and basil mixture into the well.  Using a fork, mix the eggs into the flour, pushing the walls back each time to ensure no eggs escape, until a scraggly dough forms.  Work the rest of the flour into the dough, until the dough becomes uniform.

Using your hands, knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until the dough becomes very smooth and somewhat elastic.  At first, the dough will seem fairly dense and dry.  Keep working it and it comes together very nicely.  Rest the dough for 30 minutes on the counter.

Cut the dough into 2 halves.  Keep one in the fridge until ready to use.  With the first half, roll out into an oblong shape.  Using the biggest opening in the pasta roller as possible, roll the dough through once, then again.  Using a book fold, fold the two edges of the dough into the center, and then over once, like a book.  This will make the dough a perfect rectangle.  Roll out slightly.  Then, roll through the pasta maker again 3 times.  Choose the next setting on the pasta roller and roll the dough through that setting twice.  Choose the next setting on the pasta roller and roll the dough through that setting twice.  Then, roll once through the 4th setting and once through the 5th setting. 

Finally, cut into 18-inch sheets.  Roll through each sheet on the fettuccine setting.  Let dry on a pasta dryer or over the back of a bowl.  Cook in boiling salted water for 90 seconds, stirring once to ensure the fettuccine separates.  Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

Freeze for later - freeze small nests of pasta on a cookie sheet.  Once frozen, place into a large zipper, freezer-safe bag, making sure there is no excess air in the bag.  Freeze for no longer than 3 weeks.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Brilliant Brunch: Homemade Maine Blueberry Maple Syrup

That's a mouthful!  This is actually one of my favorite new recipes I'm sharing with you.  First of all, John and I were able to pick some blueberries on our way home from our amazing vacation in Maine.  Maine blueberries are something special.  In New York, we're sort of spoiled because New Jersey blueberries are also delicious but picking your own berries is just an experience and in my opinion, the berries taste better than if you picked your own berries at the supermarket.  But that's just me.

Now the maple syrup is also really special.  For my birthday this year, my family and I went to Crown Maple Syrup during one of their open house days.  They are one of the top producers of maple syrup in the world and I enjoyed asking the makers of the syrup all types of questions.  We also got to sample every flavor they made, maple sugar, maple popcorn, maple ice cream, and we ate lunch there where everything had a maple syrup twist.  Needless to say, we also bought a lot of maple syrup to take home.

Breakfasts in our house on the weekends are usually pretty decadent affairs.  Both John and I love breakfast and it's fun to make something hearty and delicious.  We decided to make blueberry pancakes with our Maine blueberries and I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to make blueberry-flavored maple syrup too!  I have a fondness for flavored maple syrups because grandma, A, used to take us to IHOP when we were little - at that time, they had 4 syrups on the table and blueberry was always my favorite (do they still do this? I can't remember the last time I was at an IHOP).
Homemade Maine Blueberry Maple Syrup
Serves:  2 cups
2 cups blueberries
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely grated

In a large saucepan, combine blueberries, maple syrup, lemon juice, and mint.  Simmer blueberries for 5 minutes in maple syrup, stirring often.  You can choose to blend it at this point, but I like to just mix vigorously - some blueberries will dissolve, some will stay chunky.

Serve immediately or put in a small jar and seal.  Stores for up to 4 weeks.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sassy Sweets: Open-Face Berry Pies

One of the nicer things that happened this summer is that John and I went up to Maine.  John and I try to go for at least a few days every summer to see his family and catch up with everyone.  The year has been completely stressful for me and work has been crazy too.  John was incredibly thoughtful and selfless (as usual) by giving up two of the days with his family and taking me away where we could relax and just BE.

He chose the perfect place in Peaks Island.  We went there about 5 years ago for the first time but had never stayed on the island.  Well that was going to change!  We stayed at an inn on the island with our own balcony of the ferry landing and just chilled.  As soon as we stepped on the ferry, it was like a calmness washed over me and although I still had my Blackberry and worked, and took phone calls of all kinds, I was, for once, just content.  Even John was shocked at the change - he can't remember the last time I was that relaxed.
We rented a golf cart and the biggest decision every day was there to eat, picnic, look for sea glass, etc.  Just writing about it makes me want to go back so badly.  Of course, the sunset views weren't bad either!  And, while were there, we toured a few open houses.  Perhaps one day we'll be able to go back there every summer to a house that's just our own.  One house at a time Danielle (I'm getting ahead of myself here!).  But I do work in real estate so even when on vacation, I like to have a look at the local housing stock!  John and I have promised ourselves a full week up there next year, just enjoying one another, surf, sun, sand, and relaxation!

The summer should be all about relaxation so when you decide to make a pie, you shouldn't have to fuss with annoying things like top crusts and rolling dough.  Hence the open-face berry pies.  Use whatever berries you have around.

Open-Face Berry Pies
Serves:  12 (6 mini pies)
4 cups of mixed berries, diced or sliced (I used raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  First, in a large tupperware container with lid, add berries, sugar, and cornstarch.  Cover with a lid and shake well so sugar and cornstarch evenly cover (you can also do this in a bowl and toss with a spoon but shaking is more fun and cleaner too!).  Set aside.
Combine butter, flour, sugar, salt, and milk.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Divide into 6 and press into the pie pans.  Pour berry mixture evenly into each pie tin (no prebaking of dough required).
Bake for 15-19 minutes, until golden brown and berries are bubbling.

Let cool and serve warm, room temperature, or refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Serve with vanilla ice cream (of course).
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Stand Out Sides: Momma's Tomato Pie

I'll be honest, 2017 hasn't been the best year.  There's been plenty of good things (see earlier post - HOUSE).  But, there's also been some tough stuff.  John was working in Europe for 3 weeks and I proceeded to lose my mind.  Seriously - the alarm kept going off, our back fence fell DOWN, the dishwasher stopped working, and the light on our front porch went out.  All in 3 weeks.  By the time John got home, I was convinced someone was casing the house.  Phew, glad that's over!
And then there's been other challenges too at work and at home.  Back in the spring, we learned my mom was sick.  Like scary sick.  Like my mom and dad were scared sick.  Growing up (and heck even today), I run to my parents for love, support, guidance.  To see them scared, scared me.  But my mom raised 3 daughters who are all fighters so we knew she would be strong too.  And she was; she is.  Surgery and radiation and napping and positive thoughts later, my momma has come out of the other side.

One of the best things was seeing my dad cater to my mom - by her side through everything - and never once complaining.  Their love is such a great example to me and John, to my sisters and their husbands, to anyone who knows them!  Mom is not out of the woods yet, but she certainly is seeing the light shining through those trees.  And when you're confronted with the possibility of losing one of the 8 people who make your life complete, your priorities change.  You change.  Mom and Dad gave us a "family cookbook" a while back. I can't stop cooking from it...they aren't gourmet, chef-driven recipes, but they're the tastes of my childhood, of my family.  I never want those tastes to leave me.  Here's to you mom and dad.  I love you; I love you; I love you.

Momma's Tomato Pie
Serves:  8
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons parmigiano-reggiano
1/3 cup italian breadcrumbs or panko

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Make the bottom crust (or substitute for store-bought pie dough like my momma does!).  Combine butter, flour, sugar, and salt until a soft dough forms.  Pour the dough into a 9-inch greased pan.  Press the dough down and up the sides.  Bake 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, add olive oil to a saute pan and heat over medium-low heat.  Add red onion and garlic, cooking until red onion is softened and garlic is fragrant.  Add oregano and basil and stir until herbs are fragrant.  Transfer to a bowl.  Wipe out the saute pan and then brown the breadcrumbs 1-2 minutes.  Set aside.

Layer the pie.  First, add half of the red onion mixture to the bottom.  Then, add half of each cheese.  Top with tomato slices, covering the whole pie twice.  Then, add the remaining red onion mixture, remaining cheeses, and breadcrumbs on top.  Bake 25-35 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked through and bubbly.

Sit at least 5 minutes, but no more than an hour before serving.  Serve hot or at room temperature (I prefer hot!).

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sassy Sweets: Mini Cherry Pie

Hi there friends!  I know it's been forever since I've written.  Life is funny that way.  Let me explain what I mean...John and I bought a HOUSE in December and moved in January 1st.  What a way to start the new year.  Just like any house, we had more than our fair share of projects (about 2 out of 10000 completed by the way) and we got busy doing other things I love to do - decorating, printing and hanging lots of photographs from our travels, shopping for more decor, furniture, etc.  The wallet is feeling considerably lighter these days!

And in the midst of all that, I started cooking again.  Like really cooking...for myself (and John) because it relaxes me and to me, food is love, and I get to feed people when I cook a, LOVE.  But, I still wasn't blogging.  Sure, I'd take a few food photos (I mean, c'mon, Instagram!) but nothing to do with writing.
Then, three weeks ago, I was going through all the books I had packed (I have too many books...over 6 boxes, 500+ books) and I found my diaries.  I wrote in a diary from the time I was 8 years old until around 22-23 years old.  Sometimes sporadically, sometimes every day.  I love to go back and reminisce a little and feel the good emotions and realize the bad emotions left me a long time ago.  And in one of those diaries I wrote, I forgot how relaxing writing to you is, I feel like not writing has made me more stressed and I wish I could write every day.

That feeling stayed with me.  As much as I love to cook, I equally love to write.  Writers are told to write what they know and what better than to write about my own life - the ups and the downs because life needs both.  You'll hear some more about our life as the next few weeks continue.

Welcome back friends, I've missed you.
Mini Cherry Pie
Serves:  4 (4 servings)
3/4 cup butter, divided
1 1/2 cups flour, divided
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups cherries, pitted
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Soften 1/4 cup of butter and add 3/4 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, and milk.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Press the dough into greased ramekins.  Bake for 5 minutes, until lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile combine pitted cherries, remaining sugar, and corn starch.

Pour the cherries evenly into the ramekins.  Make the topping by combining remaining butter, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Form coarse crumbs and top loosely, pressing down slightly.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and cherries are bubbling.  Serve warm or place in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sassy Sweets: Peppercorn Chai Sugar Cookies

I love baking for the holidays - I think it was ingrained in my from my mom who every year around Thanksgiving would pull out all of her cookbooks and her and Dad (and us kids) got to pick a cookie for her to make that season.  She used to make 12 different cookies and we would bring huge platters of cookies to my aunt's house.  I remember us bringing cookies EVERYWHERE in December.  Mom is still a cookie machine and I enjoy matching her cookie for cookie.

This year though is a little different.  John and I bought a house the week of Thanksgiving and we've been spending every spare moment (which in my life with a week in Europe, holiday parties, etc. is not much) at the house / packing our current apartment!  That means that my normal favorite Christmas activities (getting a tree and decorating, festive decorations, and Christmas lights) have been curtailed for the moment.

It's hard having everything in 2 different places - the baking stuff is in the new house, the cookie sheets are in the apartment!  How to wrangle two different places is something we will luckily only be doing for another week or so until the repairs are done and we can move in.  When Raw Spice Bar gave me the opportunity to test some of their spice packets, I thought of course - I could use all the help I can get right now!  Their Peppercorn Chai spice mix intrigued me - in the same way my life is in 2 different places, this spice mix is too!  With my cookie making lacking this year, cookies were an obvious choice and they were the hit of the office when compared to the 5 flavors I made this year - no one could get over how good they were and they are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee or for the not-so-sweet lovers in your life.  Crispy on the outside but soft inside and literally bursting with flavor.

Raw Spice Bar makes a great last minute Christmas gift for every Foodie in your life!  I certainly would be thrilled to find it under the tree this year (hint, hint John!).

Peppercorn Chai Sugar Cookies
Serves:  24 (48 cookies)
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 package Raw Spice Bar Peppercorn Chai Spice Blend (.3 ounces / 3 teaspoons approximately)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until sugar is totally dissolved.  Add in eggs and vanilla extract, mixing until fully combined.  Add flour, Raw Spice Bar Chai Spice Blend, baking powder, and salt.  Combine until a soft dough forms (it will be sticky!).  Add flour to your hands and separate the dough into 4.  Roll each piece of dough into a cylinder (keep in mind the short side is going to be the size of the cookie so keep them short and stout!).  Roll the dough in decorating sugar and tightly wrap in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a baking sheet with cookie spray or a cookie mat.  Remove the logs from the fridge one at a time.  Cut each log into 1/4 inch rounds and lay each cookie on the prepared baking sheet, leaving an inch on either side.  Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the bottoms are a light golden brown.  Cool completely before handling (they will crumble otherwise!).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Field Trip: Venice, Italy

In our house, I have a lot to be thankful for.  I've been very lucky this year with the amount of travel I've been able to accomplish.  My goal was to spend m 30th birthday year on a plane at least once a month and thus far, this goal has been accomplished - Italy, France, London, Chicago, Florida, Georgia, the list goes on.

One of my favorite trips was a tour of Italy that we took this summer, my whole family.  You may recall our Alaska vacation in 2014 which was tons of fun.  I'm very thankful that our family enjoys one another enough to want to do it all over again, this time in a foreign country!  No, it wasn't all hearts and butterflies, but it WAS a lot of fun!

We started our Italian adventure in the airport, or in reality, in the Delta lounge.  Dad, Brother E, John, and I headed up to the lounge all on my one Gold pass.  The woman at the desk felt bad for me choosing my "guest" from my boyfriend, my dad, and my brother, so she let us all slip in.  Shhh don't tell!  Dad and E were WOW'd by the spread although Mom and Sister K were decidedly less so waiting downstairs.

When we landed in Venice, we had a private water taxi to take us to our hotel.  The trip was great, and very cool to be going down little canals to get where we needed to go!  Eventually, we turned up at a little crevice in the wall (it could hardly be called even a walkway) and the driver let us out.  Unsure where to go, we wandered down and finally found the Corte Barozzi Suites where we stayed.  The rooms were all ready for us so everyone showered and got ready and in typical family fashion, off we went!

The first day, we had lunch at Cantino de Spade, where Casanova supposedly brought his dinner dates.  Then,  I had a huge gelato tour planned for us taking us from Rialto Market all the way around to San Marco square.  Six gelato stops and 8 people.  This was going to be good!  Unfortunately, in the end we only got to 4 but in between we also stopped at i Tre Mercanti for some tiramisu and some other specialty stores.  We also had a lot of fun poking around the Rialto market and looking at all the Venetian masks.  The gelato stop of my choice?  Suso Gelatoteca, frequently named the "best in Venice" I had their brand new for 2016 flavor - Sepa - a swirled gelato with fior de latte, lemon custard, and chocolate fondant.  So delicious!

My dad had chosen dinner at a great little restaurant right on the canal.  It was delicious and exactly what we all needed; we wandered home and enjoyed our suite with a private roof terrace overseeing the Grand Canal.  Sitting up on the terrace all together, eating our tiramisu was a memory that I will never forget!

The next morning, we had Secret Passage tickets at the Duomo.  I'd highly recommend it - we got a tour of a lot of spaces that aren't open to the public and we had a wonderful guide!  With only one English tour a day, book early!  We then went to the Teatro la Fenice (the main theater in Venice) and the Basilica san Marco where Sister M was made to wear a wrap because her arms were showing!

We then walked across the Grand Canal for dinner at Ristorante san Trovaso.  We wandered around after dinner, enjoying the winding streets and the gorgeous canals.

We had a lot more to see in Italy so the next day we woke up and headed to our rental car and then it was off to the Italian Countryside!
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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