Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Blueberry Dutch Baby

 

Father's Day is just around the corner and it's a perfect time to treat the most important guy in your life to a special breakfast. This blueberry Dutch baby fits the bill perfectly. It's easy to throw together, makes a dramatic presentation and is delicious too.  
You need to make it in a cast iron skillet that's heated to 425 degrees. The batter is similar to making a traditional pancake batter and is dumped all at once into the pan, over the blueberries and butter. To get the highest puff, have the eggs and other ingredients at room temperature.
Serve with maple syrup. Happy Father's Day!

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Blueberry Dutch Pancake
recipe from "Just A Little Bit of Bacon"

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup, or light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, sliced
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  • In a bowl whisk together the whole milk, eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the flour and salt and whisk in until there is no dry flour. Set aside.
  • Heat the oven to 425F. Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven as it heats.
  • Add the butter and blueberries to the skillet and put it back in the oven for 1-2 minutes, or until the butter is fully melted. Swirl the skillet to make sure the whole bottom is coated with butter.
  • Pour the batter into the skillet and give it a stir to distribute the berries.
  • Bake the Dutch baby for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and dust with confectioners' sugar. Other toppings can include blueberry (or other) jam, whipped cream, lemon juice, vanilla Greek yogurt, and ice cream.

Notes

  • Make ahead: You can make the batter the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature before pouring it in the skillet.
  • Skillet size: If you have a 10 inch skillet, reduce the amounts by about 1/3. So it would be 2 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup milk for the base.
  • Cooking tip: For very even cooking, I like to heat the oven and skillet for about 30 minutes before starting.


Monday, June 3, 2024

Caramelized Onion Gruyere Crostata

I don't know about you, but just before I leave on a trip, I'm frantically cooking and trying to use up most of the fruits and vegetables that might otherwise spoil while I'm away. Hence the caramelized onion tart, since I had some onions and a bit of gruyere cheese that might otherwise have been thrown out upon my return. 

I've always maintained that if I were to sell my house, I wouldn't bake cookies to make the house smell appealing, I'd caramelize onions instead. The smell of onions slowly cooking in butter or olive oil is irresistible, at least to me. They do take a while to achieve this golden glow, but it's so worth it.

I used a store-bought crust from Trader Joe's, but you can take it up a notch by making your own if you like. 

Serve with a side salad and I bet you'll be wanting to go back for seconds.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Onion Gruyere Crostata

printable recipe here

3 large sweet onions (like Vidalia), sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter or a combination of olive oil and butter)

1 anchovy fillet (don't eliminate this)

salt, pepper

fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1 pie crust shell

Place the olive oil in a pan with the onions. Let them cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown. Don't rush this process. It will take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to get the color you want. While the onions are cooking, add the anchovy filet and smush it to break it up. It will dissolve and add delicious umami flavor. Season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves.

Let the mixture cool. Using a premade pie crust or your own favorite recipe, roll out the dough. Place the grated cheese in the center, then pile on the cooled onion mixture, leaving a space all around the outside. Bring up the edges and fold them in, creating a nice border. Brush with beaten egg, (I didn't but it will add a nice shine if you want). Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, spinning it around once in the oven halfway through.

Serve with a salad for lunch or dinner.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Scallops and Baby Artichokes over Polenta


It's unusual to find baby artichokes in the market, so when I saw them, I snapped them up immediately. I couldn't wait to cook with these tender gems that were the size of Brussels sprouts. I thought they'd pair well with scallops and the combo did not disappoint. I enjoyed the artichokes so much, I quickly went back to the store for more so I could use them in a risotto. 

It won't be easy to find baby artichokes, and the season is almost over, so don't hesitate for long. If you can't find baby artichokes, you can try the recipe with frozen artichoke quarters instead. There isn't much trimming to do with baby artichokes, since there's barely any choke at all. Just slice the top portion, trim a bit of the bottom stem and pull off the first layer or two of leaves. Cut in half and place them in a bowl of water with some lemon juice or vinegar so they don't discolor too much.


Once you've cooked the scallops and the artichokes separately, bring them together in one pan and finish the recipe. If there isn't enough sauce to your liking, you can always add a little more water, wine and/or lemon juice. If polenta isn't your thing, this dish is great with rice too.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Scallops and Baby Artichokes over Polenta

12 large sea scallops (generously serves 2 people)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter)

salt, pepper to season the scallops

7 or 8 baby artichokes, cleaned and halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons water

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon capers

minced parsley

juice of half a lemon

1 cup polenta

4 cups water

1 cup milk

salt, to taste

Trim the artichokes by cutting off the top portion where the prickly tips are, the bottom edge of the stem, then pulling off the toughest leaves. With baby artichokes, there isn't as much waste as on large artichokes so you won't need to pull off that many leaves. There isn't much of a choke either, so you don't have to clean out the middle. Place in a container with water and either lemon juice or vinegar.

Dry the scallops well. Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet till it's screaming hot. Add the olive oil and sear the scallops on both sides, to give them a good brown color. You don't want to fully cook them just yet. Remove them and set them aside, and let the pan cool down a little. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and cook the minced shallots until they are transparent, then add the garlic and cook till softened. Drain the artichokes from the water and add to the pan with the shallots. Add the 2 tablespoons of water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. If you need to, add more water.

Place the scallops back in the pan with the artichokes and turn up the heat, adding the wine. Add the capers. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes or less, until the scallops are cooked through. Add the lemon juice and parsley and serve over polenta.

You can use either instant polenta or long cooking cornmeal. I find starting with cold water makes the polenta less likely to be lumpy. Cook over medium heat and stir with a whisk until it gets too thick, then switch to a wooden spoon. Add the water and milk all at once in the beginning, but if it's too thick, add more water or milk till you get the desired consistency you want.




Friday, May 10, 2024

Pasta E Fagioli Soup Redux

The calendar may say it's spring, but here in central New Jersey, it's a cool, drizzly day -- perfect for a bowl of this pasta e fagioli soup. There are as many variations of this dish as there are regions of Italy and I've posted another recipe or two in the past that you can find here and here. They're all delicious, but I really enjoyed this latest version that included a special pasta called rombetti my son found for me. They were just perfect for this soup, but may be difficult to find if you don't have a specialty Italian store near you. Feel free to substitute any small pasta shape -- even broken up spaghetti -- just make sure it's a good product, made with quality ingredients and slow drying techniques.

A good sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese will take this dish over the top.


Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Pasta & Fagioli Soup

1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrot
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth (or water)
1 or more cups water
2 cups diced potatoes 
2 cans chick peas
2 cans cannellini beans or small white beans
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
a sprig of fresh rosemary and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, finely minced
1 pound small pastas, boiled separately (I used a pasta called rombetti)
parmesan or pecorino cheese to sprinkle on top

Sautè the vegetables in the olive oil till softened. Add the chicken broth, the potatoes, one can of chick peas and one can of beans. Add the seasonings. Cook everything together for about 45 minutes, then using a stick blender, blend most of the soup to a puree. If it's too thick, add more water. Add the other can of chick peas and the other can of beans, and cook till heated through. Add the drained and boiled pasta and serve with grated parmesan or pecorino cheese.



Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Ottolenghi's Carrots In Yogurt Sauce


I may favor Italian food here on the blog, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy other cuisines. Whenever I'm in London, where my daughter and her family live, I make it a point to eat at one of Yotam Ottolenghi's restaurants, and there are many in that city. I ate at two of them while I was there last week -- one in Chelsea and one in the Spitalfields neighborhoods. How I wish he'd bring his food to the New York region! It's always a refreshing change with a Middle Eastern twist. I've made this carrot dish a few times and it's great to take to a party because you can make it ahead of time and serve it at room temperature. It also tastes great. Start out boiling or steaming the carrots but not until they're mushy. Leave a little bite to them, and toss in the oil and vinegar mixture while warm.  
Let them cool and mix with the yogurt sauce (I added some lemon juice to Ottolenghi's recipe to give it a little brightness). Sprinkle with herbs and serve to your family or to a crowd. So easy to make and so satisfying too. 

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Carrot Salad with Yogurt and Cinnamon

printable recipe here

2 lb. carrots, cut into thick "sticks"
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt, black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Greek style yogurt
1/4 cup crème fraîche
juice of 1/2 a lemon (my addition)
1/4 cup dill, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Steam (or boil) the carrots 8-10 minutes (depending on thickness) until they are cooked through but still retain a bite.
Meanwhile, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and add to carrots as soon as they are cooked. Mix well and set aside to cool.
Mix together the yogurt, crème fraîche and lemon with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Add to the carrots, along with the dill and cilantro.
Stir gently and transfer carefully to aa serving platter or bowl.



Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Cake


I made this cake for a recent dinner party, and everyone was just about licking the plate. The combination of candied pecans, sticky caramel and rich chocolate cake was irresistible, so make sure not to invite too many people. You'l definitely want to have leftovers! 
The only tricky part to making this cake (in my opinion) is the caramel. Resist the temptation to stir it with a spoon. Just hold the pan by the handle over the burner and keep swirling it until the color turns golden. It takes very little time to go from golden to burnt, so stay close by. Let the caramel cool until it's thick enough to spread on the middle layer of the cake and on top. You can make the candied pecans while the caramel is cooling.
Be prepared to wow your family and friends.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Cake
from Tamingofthespoon.com

For the cake

  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the toasted salted pecans

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the caramel sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon’s sea salt flakes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • INSTRUCTIONS

    For the cake

    1. Prep pans. Lightly coat the inside of one 9 by 1-1/2 inch round cake pan with melted butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper; then lightly coat the parchment paper with more melted butter. Set aside.
    2. Prep oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
    3. Melt chocolate. Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Stir. Continue heating the chocolate in 1 minute increments and stirring until mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool until needed.
    4. Prep dry ingredients. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
    5. Cream butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until well blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
    6. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended into the butter. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
    7. Mix in chocolate. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate.
    8. Mix in dry ingredients. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternately adding the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until well blended and batter looks smooth.
    9. Pour and bake. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Let cake cool completely in pan on wire rack.

    For the toasted salted pecans

    1. Prep oven and pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Prep pecans. In a medium bowl, stir the pecans and melted butter together. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the nuts, stirring to coat evenly. Scrape the nuts onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading them in a single layer.
    3. Bake. Bake pecans for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove nuts from the oven and set aside to cool.

    For the caramel sauce

    1. Heat cream. Put the cream in a small saucepan and warm it over low heat. Adjust the heat to keep the cream warm while you cook the sugar.
    2. Cook sugar. Whisk together sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Using a basting brush dipped in water, brush the sides of the pan down to dissolve any sugar crystals that form. Boil until the mixture turns a dark golden color, tilting the pan slightly to ensure the sugar cooks evenly, about 10 minutes.
    3. Mix together. When sugar turns dark golden in color, slowly (and carefully) pour the hot cream into the caramelized sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and salt.
    4. Cool. Cool the sauce until it is thick enough to cling to the cake when spread. About 1 1/2 hours.

    To assemble the cake:

    1. Cut layers. Remove the cake from the pan and transfer it to a serving plate so that the top is up. Use a long serrated knife to level the top of the cake as necessary. Then cut the cake in half horizontally into two even layers. Carefully slip a round cake board or the removable bottom from a tart pan or springform pan between the layers, lift the top layer off, and set it aside.
    2. Prep bottom layer. Pour 3/4 cup of the cooled caramel sauce over the center of the bottom cake layer and spread it evenly.
    3. Prep top layer. Carefully slide the top layer over the caramel filling, centering it over the bottom layer. Spread another 3/4 cup of caramel sauce over the top layer. Spoon the pecans onto the cake, mounding them toward the center. Drizzle caramel sauce on the pecans. You can drizzle all the remaining sauce on the pecans or you can reserve some of it to drizzle on each slice when you serve the cake.

    NOTES

  • The sugar will splatter and bubble up when the hot cream is added to it. The mixture will calm down as you stir it. You can wear oven mitts during this step if you want to protect your hands.


Monday, April 1, 2024

Milena's Pizza di Verdura (Vegetable Pizza)

 

If you follow this blog, or my Instagram page, you probably know that I'm part of a group of women who meet weekly in each other's homes to chit-chat in Italian. What started out as a simple espresso and dessert gathering has morphed over the years to include lunch as well as something sweet. Milena, who is originally from the Liguria region, has taught cooking classes and frequently makes something from her home region, including this stuffed pizza di verdura. She used escarole, scallions, anchovies and capers in the filling, but you could use any greens you like -- spinach or Swiss chard, for instance. Milena said she has made it with only scallions in the past, which is also delicious. Her family likes to tease her, calling it "garbage pizza" because she'll use any vegetable that's on hand. A few weeks ago, she gave our small group a demonstration of how she puts the dish together and now you can see for yourself how she does it, even though you may live far from central New Jersey, where our group meets each week. 

The dough as well as the filling recipe is below. After spreading the filling over the base, Milena tops it with another layer of dough.

Then she pricks it all over, and smears some olive oil and salt on top.

Here's a video of her placing the anchovies on top of the escarole. For those of you who understand Italian, you don't need a translation. For the rest of you, she explains that the anchovies and capers contain a lot of salt, hence you don't need to add any more. Also, she says that sometimes she add olives, sometimes not, depending on what she has on hand.

After about 45 minutes, it's ready to remove from the oven and eat.


Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Milena's Pizza Di Verdura (Vegetable Pizza)

for the dough:
1/2 cake compressed yeast or 1 package dry yeast
2 cups water
5 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 cup olive oil (optional)

Make sponge:
In a large bowl, soften yeast (.6 oz. of fresh yeast) in 2 cups of body temperature water, using a wire whisk to mix. Note: If using dry yeast, use water at a higher temperature, between 105-115 degrees. Add 2 cups bread flour, mix well with a wire whisk. Cover with a cloth and let the mixture rest in a warm place until bubbly, approximately 10 minutes. At this point, the mixture is called the "sponge."
Stir sponge, add salt, olive oil and additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix with a spoon until dough is blended.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the last cup of flour onto wooden board.

Turn out dough onto the floured wooden board and knead, using a bread spatula and adding additional flour as required. When well kneaded, place into a large greased bowl and cover with greased waxed paper and a dish towel. Note: best if large bowl is warmed first, so that dough is not in contact with a cold surface.
Let dough rise in a warm area until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down and shape innto desired forms or divide dough and shape into desired forms.

For the Filling:
3 lbs. mixed green leaf vegetables (Milena used escarole)
5 T. olive oil
1 crushed clove garlic
2 bunches green onions cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T. capers
10 anchovies
6 black olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
black pepper
olive oil

Directions:

Place vegetables and green onions in a large pan with oil and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes. Add 5 anchovy filets, cook five minutes longer. Remove garlic and let cool. When dough is ready, return it to floured board pound it lightly to deflate it and divide into 2 pieces. Spread out 1 piece over bottom of an oiled 12" baking pan. Place vegetable mixture over dough in pan, on the vegetables sprinkle capers, anchovies and olives.
Cover with other piece of dough. Press edges together and trim excess dough. Prick surface with a fork, brush with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees F. until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Serves 6