Friday, October 28, 2016

Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin

If you're like me, you've had your share of killing time waiting in a doctor's reception room. Sometimes however, there are magazines to read that don't date back to the Nixon era and from which I can glean some good recipes. 
Since butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables, and the season is upon us, this twist on the classic tarte tatin made with butternut squash, rather than the traditional apples, caught my eye while I waited for my name to be called during a recent appointment.
It starts out with roasting half moons of butternut squash, seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper.
The roasted squash is delicious as is, just out of the oven as a side dish, but this recipe, with a hint of honey, transforms it into something special.
Layer the slices in an oven-proof skillet (cast iron is best), overlapping the edges slightly.
Fill in the center with another piece of squash.
Place a piece of puff pastry on top, and pierce holes into it with a fork.
Bake in the oven until golden,then carefully flip onto a plate.
It's a side dish fit for your Thanksgiving meal - or your family's everyday dinner table.
Now if only I could find a recipe this good each time I'm sitting in the doctor's reception room, I might not complain about that last one hour wait!
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. 

Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin


1 (1 1/2 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch-thick half moons

1 T. extra virgin olive oil


fresh rosemary, finely minced

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

3 T. unsalted butter (I used two)

1 t. lemon zest

1 T. lemon juice

1/3 cup honey

-Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment. On the prepared pan, toss squash with oil, a pinch of salt, and about 3/4 of the rosemary. Spread in an even layer and roast until browned and tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly on a plate.

-Meanwhile, cut the pastry into a round the same size as the top of a 9 to 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place on parchment paper and refrigerate.

-Melt butter in the cast iron skillet over medium heat. Stir in lemon zest and juice, honey and remaining rosemary. Remove from heat and when squash is done, drizzle most of it over the squash, leaving a thick layer in the bottom of the skillet.

-Arrange squash in concentric circle in the skillet over the remaining butter mixture. Scrape any juices from the plate into the skillet. Place the pastry over the squash, and prick with a fork all around.

-Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let pan cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. (I omitted this step because I was impatient.) Wearing oven mitts, center a serving dish over the skillet and carefully flip both together, then lift the skillet off the taste. Garnish with rosemary, if desired.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Wedding Cookie "cake" and "S" Cookies

My son Michael got married last Saturday, and like any good Italian-American mother, I offered to make him and Beth (his bride) a wedding cookie cake for the reception. 
Decades ago, you couldn't go to a wedding reception in an Italian-American family without seeing trays of cookies for the guests, alongside a multi-tiered traditional wedding cake. They also include a scattering of Jordan almonds, or "confetti" as Italians call them.
I was dubious about whether this was truly an Italian custom, and I got my answer after attending a couple of weddings in Italy on my mother's side of the family - the Northern Italian side. Nobody there seems to follow this tradition, at least not my mom's relatives.
But one year when I was in Abruzzo, cousins of my late husband were busy baking up all sorts of cookies for a wedding tray - cookies that included the delicious bocconotti - recipe here.
I never got around to making the bocconotti for this wedding tray, but I did make anginetti, Italian Christmas "brownies", chocolate biscotti and sfratti, an Italian Jewish cookie.
My friend Lilli agreed to make her wonderful almond paste cookie, and I included those on the tray, and in another separate display.
And of course we had to have pizzelle. My father's wife, Rose, graciously offered to make them - and she outdid herself, making about 150 in total. They merited their own separate tray since they are so fragile.
I also wanted to make "S" cookies, or "esse" in Italian. I've eaten them in Frascati and in Rome, and loved them so much I've brought them home with me, but never quite found a recipe that came close to what I've eaten there.  These, a recipe from Mary Ann Esposito, are almost identical - a crispy sugar cookie that keeps its crunch.
Since the bride and groom's initials are M and B, I thought I'd experiment with those initials too. They were a little trickier to shape and not so successful, so I went back to the "S" shape, but made sure to place the "M's" and "B's" on top. Another way they're baked is in a figure "8." Just make whatever shape you like.
The cookies added a nice extra something to the dessert table, featuring a most unusual cake topper.
It's a sculpture of the bride and groom, Beth eating a doughnut and Michael eating gelato. Ever the animal lovers, at their feet are their two cats, Walter and Mervin.
On the way out, guests each took home a personalized bottle of limoncello - all made by Michael months before the wedding, with a photo of the two of them on the label.

And here's the happy couple just after they took their vows.
Auguroni and mazeltov to my favorite newlyweds!
#Live long and Prospero!

"Esse" or "S" Cookies

recipe from "Celebrations Italian Style" by Mary Ann Esposito

printable recipe here

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted and cooled (I used butter)

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon vanilla

coarse sugar for topping

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.

-In another bowl, whisk the legs with the sugar until light and lemon-colored. Whisk in the shortening, lemon juice and vanilla. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, mixing well to blend the ingredients. Let batter sit, covered, for five minutes.

-Fill a tipless pastry bag two thirds full of the batter to form 3-inch long Ss or 8s on cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart, and shape each one into a 3-inch long S, using the back of the spoon. (I didn't bother shaping with a spoon. They spread out in the oven quite a bit. Also, at this point, I sprinkled with coarse decorating sugar. If you don't have any, use plain granulated sugar.

-Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Watch carefully and rotate the sheets to prevent burning. Let the cookies cool slightly on the cookie sheets before removing to cooling racks.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Good Gut Granola

Summer vacations are long over, school is in full swing, and it's back to rushing out the door first thing in the morning. 

What about breakfast? Still reaching for those packaged cereals filled with additives or tons of sugar? Most of those store-bought granolas - and even some of the home made ones - are heavy on the sugar content, reducing any benefits you might have imagined you were getting.

Not this recipe, which contains a lot of dietary fiber but eliminates most of the sugar.   

It's from a book called "The Good Gut," focusing on recipes that restore microbes called "microbiota" to our bodies -- microbiota that are diminishing because of the proliferation of antibiotic overuse, changes in diet and over sterilization, according to the authors, microbiologists Justin and Erica Sonnenberg.

This recipe uses just a bit of maple syrup as sweetener, plus some pumpkin puree - easy enough to find in these fall months.

You can add your own mix of grains - or buy something like this combination of hot rolled cereal from Bob's Red Mill --

Bake it in the oven, then mix in the raisins after it cools.

My favorite way to enjoy it is over some Greek Yogurt and stewed plums (cut up half a dozen plums and simmer for about five minutes in a few tablespoons of water, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and dash of cinnamon, until the plums break down).

It's a delicious, nutritious and quick way to start the day.

Bacteria Boosting Granola

from the book "The Good Gut"

printable recipe here

4 cups mixed rolled cereal grain (or 1 cup each of flakes from oats, barley, rye and quinoa; substitute as desired; Bob's Red Mill brand has a five-grain rolled cereal that works well.

1 cup unsweetened dried flake coconut

1 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3 T. olive oil

1/2 cup water

2 T. maple syrup

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the rolled cereal, coconut, almonds, and pipettes. In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, olive oil, water, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture over the cereal mixture and stir to coat. Spread the mixture onto a large baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring halfway through. Add the raisins to the cooked granola. When cooled, store the granola in a covered container in the refrigerator. Keeps well for about a month. Serve over yogurt or seasonal fresh fruit.

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Schiacciata con l'uva

Now that wine grapes are in season, don't miss this chance to make schiacciata con l'uva, which literally means a squashed thing with grapes. It's a dish from Tuscany, and is more or less a focaccia, topped with grapes, rosemary, olive oil and a bit of sugar.

I love it as a snack, with a glass of wine before dinner, or as breakfast. Don't try to use those green or pale purple grapes you regularly see at the supermarket. They just don't have the jammy, intense flavor of concord grapes, or these tiny grapes I used, called black corinth seedless grapes. Many supermarkets also carry these darker, more flavorful grapes, so I hope you seek them out. Some of the larger ones will have seeds, so unless you don't mind a few seeds in your focaccia, you might want to make the effort to take them out.

These black corinth grapes are just perfect for this recipe, and so delicious to eat out of hand. But the caveat is that since they're so small, it takes much longer to strip them from the stems.

The dough is a pleasure to work with - it's so supple and rises easily, provided you keep it in a warm place. What started out as this size grew to at least quadruple in size in no time.

I had to punch it down twice because I wasn't ready to proceed the first time it had ballooned.

Once I was ready to work with it, it was  cinch to roll out on the pan. I pressed it out, using the palm of my hand, then spread a layer of grapes over it, with a sprinkling of sugar and some minced rosemary. Then stretch out the second layer of dough, place it on top, and press more grapes, sugar and rosemary into the top.

Pour some good quality extra-virgin olive oil over it before putting it into the oven. Since I had this delicious and fruity olive oil sent me to by -- made at Fattoria Ramerino, a producer near Florence, it seemed only fitting to use it on a Tuscan schiacciata.

The aroma in your house is fabulous and when it's finished, you won't be able to resist cutting into it.

By the way, as with leftover pizza, the best way to reheat is by placing slices in a cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes. The bottom stays crisp, and if you put the lid on top, the heat will permeate throughout. Caveat: The recipe makes a lot, and it dries out if you keep it for more than a couple of days, so make sure you have a lot of friends or family to help eat the schiacciata, or pass it around to your neighbors, as we did.

 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. 

Schiacciata con l'uva - Focaccia With Harvest Grapes

I used a 12" x 16" cookie sheet

Prep Time: 20 mins + 2 hrs rising time

Cook Time: 45 minutes

printable recipe here


For The Focaccia Dough:

5 Cups All-purpose Unbleached Flour (I used King Arthur bread flour)

2 Teaspoons Instant Yeast (I used one package regular dry yeast)

2 – 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Plus 2 Additional Tablespoons To Oil Bowl)

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 3/4 Cups Warm Water

For The Filling & Topping:

2 Pounds Wine Grapes, Stemmed & Rinsed

3/4 Cup Sugar

3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Rosemary

1/4 Cup Olive Oil


Measure and assemble your flour, oil, salt, yeast, and water.

Add everything but the water into a large bowl and stir.

Add half the water and stir.

Continue to add water until the dough begins to come together into a shaggy ball.

Dump the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead with the heels of your hand.

Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pliant.

Add a little oil (2 tablespoons) to the bottom of a large bowl and place your ball of dough inside.

Roll the ball of dough around in the oil ensuring the sides of the bowl and ball of dough are both lightly oiled.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise.

(I cover mine with a kitchen towel on top of the plastic wrap and sit it on a large sunny windowsill.)

Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about an hour or an hour and a half depending on ambient temperature.

Divide the dough in half, and place half on a large baking pan (I used a 12" x 16" cookie sheet).

Drizzle the dough with a little olive oil, and scatter half the grapes over the dough.

Sprinkle the grapes with half the sugar and rosemary.

Stretch the other half of the dough over the dough in the pan to cover, pinching the two doughs together to encase the grapes inside.

Spread the other half grapes over the dough, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Use the rest of the sugar and rosemary on the grapes.

Let the dough rest, and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Once the oven has reached temperature, bake the focaccia until it is golden brown and the grapes are bubbly and soft, about 45 minutes.

Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

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