Saturday, February 17, 2024

Pear, Prosciutto and Ricotta Tart


Flaky puff pastry, ricotta cheese, pears, prosciutto and pecans -- put them all together and you've got the recipe for one terrific tart. It's so delicious with the sweet/savory combo going on and easy to put together too. I served it recently to guests for the first time, as an appetizer before the main course, and we gobbled down the entire thing. You could also make it your lunch or dinner, served with a salad on the side.

Start with purchased puff pastry, spread onto some parchment paper, turn up the edges and prick the bottom. Then spread some ricotta cheese on top.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the ricotta.
Slice some pears, seasoning again with salt and pepper and a little olive oil, and sprinkle some fennel or anise seeds on the edges (don't skip this part). Bake.


When it comes out of the oven, top it with some sliced prosciutto and pecans that have been cooked in butter and honey. The final touch is the rosemary that has been crisped slightly in butter. Full recipe below.

It's pretty irresistible even without the prosciutto. If you want to serve it as a dessert, eliminate the prosciutto and add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the ricotta cheese. 
Betcha' can't eat just one piece!

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

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz) sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 8 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large pear, thinly sliced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp cream (or milk)
  • 1 tsp anise (or fennel) seeds
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto di parma
Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry into a rectangle. Spread the ricotta cheese evenly onto the dough, leaving a 1” border. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
  2. Arrange the sliced pears over the ricotta. Drizzle with olive oil and season again. Fold the edges of dough over the pears and pinch the corners together. Combine the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Brush this egg wash onto the border of dough. Sprinkle the anise seeds onto the border.
  3. Bake the tart for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the rosemary sprig. Drop the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the butter is lightly browned and the rosemary is crisp. Remove and reserve the rosemary. Turn off the heat and whisk in the honey.
  4. Remove the tart from the oven and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the honey mixture over top. Bake again for 10 minutes, or until golden and caramelized. Stir the pecans into the remaining honey mixture.
  5. Transfer the tart to a cutting board. Let cool for a minute or so. Top with the slices of prosciutto. Spoon the pecans over top and garnish with the fried rosemary leaves. Cut into pieces and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Chocolate Cream Pie

If chocolate is your love language, then no words are needed once you taste this divine dessert. Make this for your special someone for Valentine's Day -- or make it for yourself if there's no special someone in your life right now. The luscious chocolate filling, topped with heavenly whipped cream, is the perfect solution to the mid-winter doldrums. Oh heck, chocolate is the perfect solution to any problem any time of year.

If you don't want to make your own pie crust, just buy a frozen pre-made crust and you're halfway there. Homemade is always better but I occasionally rely on Trader Joe's pie crusts in a pinch and they're pretty darn good, even if it they are a bit fiddly and needing to be smushed together to form one cohesive piece. The pie filling recipe itself is pretty easy, and it's from King Arthur Flour's website -- an always reliable source of good recipes. Make sure to refrigerate any leftovers -- that is, if there are any.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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


Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup (46g) vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup (28g to 57g) ice water

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups (227g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (131g) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (21g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons (11g) unsweetened cocoa, Dutch-process or natural
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for richer chocolate flavor
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup (227g) heavy cream, divided
  • 2 cups (454g) milk

Topping

  • 1 cup (227g) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (28g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Directions
  • To make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Work in the shortening until it's in lumps the size of small peas.

  • Dice the butter into 1/2" pieces, and work it into the mixture until you have flakes of butter the size of your fingernail. Add the water 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough.

  • When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, with no floury patches or bits of dry pastry in the bottom of the bowl, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Fold it over on itself three or four times to bring it together completely, then pat it into a disk 3/4" thick, rolling the disk to smooth its edges.

  • Wrap the pastry in plastic and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before rolling.








Monday, January 29, 2024

Rosette Modenese (Pasta Roses)




This luscious dish, also called "nidi di rondine" (swallow nests) originates in Modena, Italy, and has to be one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. It may look like a lasagna rollup, but it's in a whole different category and is filled with prosciutto cotto, fontina, parmesan and béchamel. One of my Italian cousins (who doesn't live that far from Modena), prepared it for me decades ago and I made it only once following that visit. With company coming for dinner last weekend, I wanted a killer primo piatto and decided to make it again. To say it did not disappoint is an understatement. It was even better than I remembered -- so ethereal,  light and delicate, it practically melted in the mouth. My guests were also in rapture over the dish.

The authentic way to make this is without the tomato sauce, but I wanted a little color and a slight acidic touch to balance all the cheese and béchamel, so I added dollops of tomato sauce on the bottom of the casserole and on top too. You can alter it to your taste, even changing the cheese from fontina, to taleggio or any other good Italian cheese that melts well. 
The recipe may seem long, but it almost took longer to write this blog post than it did to make the rosettes. To save a little time, I started by making the pasta dough the night before, then wrapped it in plastic and stored in the refrigerator overnight. 
The next day, I cooked the béchamel, stirring until it was the density of pudding. Then I set it aside to cool.
I made a light tomato sauce (again, eliminate this if you want the authentic version) and set it aside to cool.

Next, you grate the fontina cheese. 

Then roll out the pasta. Yes, you can use store-bought pasta sheets, but nothing compares to the velvety texture and toothiness of home made pasta.
I boiled each pasta sheet for just one minute, then dunked it right away in a cold water bath. I rolled it out to its thinnest setting, and wondered to myself whether it even needed the boiling, or whether I could have eliminated the step, since it was so thin and baked in the oven for nearly 40 minutes. Maybe next time, I'll try baking it without boiling the pasta first. 

I placed the boiled pasta on some dry dish towels and patted away any remaining water. They look like they need ironing, don't they? 
Spread a thin layer of the béchamel on top, then a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.
Next goes the layer of prosciutto cotto (cooked ham). Don't be tempted to use any old boiled ham here, or prosciutto crudo. Search out prosciutto cotto at an Italian specialty food store. It's even available online, if you can't find it near you. It's so much more delicate than regular boiled ham, and has no smokiness whatsoever. Prosciutto crudo would be all wrong too, not just from the flavor standpoint, but it would also be difficult to slice evenly once it's all rolled up since it can be a little stringier. 

Last, layer on the shredded fontina. Use more if you like -- no rules here.
Then start rolling from the short end. Roll tightly. The roll on the right (below photo) was the result from rolling one of the pasta layers. I thought it was too puny, so I placed it adjacent to another pasta layer and continued rolling, making for a fatter roll like the one on the left.
Here's a photo of adding another filled pasta sheet.
Slice the rolls (I got six slices from each of the two rolls, but the slices on the ends weren't as full as the ones from the middle.)
In all, I got twelve rosettes. Depending on appetites, it would be enough for four to six people. I served it as a first course and each person ate one or two pieces. So we had some leftover the next day, and they heated up great in the microwave. If you want it as the main course (with a side salad), it might only serve four people.


I placed a layer of béchamel on the bottom of a large casserole, and then a few dollops of tomato sauce.

Spread the tomato sauce.
Add the rosettes.
Then add a dollop of béchamel and a dollop of tomato sauce over each rosette.
Sprinkle with more parmesan and fontina.
Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake another 20 minutes or so until piping hot. If you like crispy pasta edges (I don't) then bake without a cover from the beginning. From start to finish (not including mixing the pasta the day before or baking the pasta), it was a project of about 1 1/2 hours. But the beauty is you can make it all ahead of time, then pop it in the oven when your guests arrive, and sit down to have a drink with them rather than be in the kitchen fussing over a first course. It's well worth trying this for a showstopper dish. Try it for your special Valentine this year. Or as a first course for Easter. It's sure to be a favorite with everyone.


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

Pasta Roses (Rosette Modenese)

printable recipe here

Ingredients:

Fresh Homemade Pasta

2 cups 00 flour (you may need more)

4 eggs (start with 3 eggs)

pinch of salt

For the Stuffing:

1/2 pound prosciutto cotto, thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus another 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top.

1 1/2 cups shredded Italian fontina cheese plus another 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top.

Béchamel sauce:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

3 cups milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

a generous grating of nutmeg

----

1/2 cup of homemade tomato sauce (meatless) 

Directions

Make the béchamel sauce

Make the béchamel by melting the butter, then add the flour and stir with a whisk over low heat until flour absorbs the butter. Let it cook for a minute or two, then slowly add the milk, whisking all the while. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir over low to medium heat until it becomes the consistency of pudding. Set aside to cool.

Make the tomato sauce

I used 1/2 stick diced celery, 1/2 diced carrot, 1/4 cup diced onion and sautéed them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then added 2 cups chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and 1/8 teaspoon dried basil. Simmer for 1/2 hour, then use a stick blender to make it smooth. Set aside to cool.

Make the pasta

Meanwhile make the pasta. I use a food processor and start with two cups of 00 flour and three eggs. Whir everything together until it forms a ball. If it's too dry, add a fourth egg, then whir again. It may come together now but it may also be too sticky, so add more flour, a little at a time, to get to the right consistency - smooth but not too dry and not sticky. Knead for a few minutes until very smooth, then let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes. I made mine the day before, wrapped it in plastic and kept it in the refrigerator overnight. This makes more dough than the recipe calls for, so I froze the rest of the dough.

Roll the dough to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. Try to make it as wide as the machine will allow. Boil the pasta strips for just a minute, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and make it easier to handle. Place on a dish towel and pat dry.

Assembly

When you're finished boiling the pasta, it's time to assemble. Start by spreading a thin layer of béchamel over the pasta, then sprinkle some parmesan next, followed by a layer of the prosciutto cotto, and finally the fontina. Starting at one end, roll tightly until you reach the end. If your pasta sheets are too short, just continue rolling a completed roll onto a second sheet of filled pasta. I had long pieces of pasta but inadvertently cut them in half originally, thinking they were too long. Cutting them in half also makes them less likely to be unwieldy when boiling. After the first roll of the filled pasta, I realized I wanted a thicker roll, so I just continued by adjoining the already rolled piece to a second piece that was filled by flattened. I hope this isn't too confusing, but refer to the photo in the post to clarify.

When you're finished rolling, cut each roll into six pieces -- each piece will be about an inch and a half wide. The pieces next to the end won't be as full as the center pieces, but that's ok.

Next, spread a layer of the béchamel sauce into the bottom of a large casserole, then place a few dollops of tomato sauce over that and spread it thinly over the béchamel. Place the rosettes over the sauce, then spread a little béchamel on top, a dab of tomato sauce and more fontina and parmesan. 

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, or until everything is melted. 




Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts


 On a recent trip to New Orleans, we had drinks at a bar and wanted something to munch along with the cocktails. We weren't interested in the typical bar foods (nachos, fried chicken wings, etc.) but the Brussels Sprouts on the bar menu caught my eye. Who orders Brussels Sprouts at a bar? Well, I did, and we were so surprised at how good they were. They were savory with a bit of a tang but sweet at the same time, and they disappeared quicker than a rabbit in a pea patch. I was determined to try to recreate them when I got home. I first scoured the grocery aisle for a hot sauce that wasn't smoky or barbecue-flavored. I also needed one that had a sweetness to it as well.
I found this one, and it was just perfect. You may find a different one where you live. Just make sure it's got a "sweet heat," and not a barbecue flavor.
Start by cutting the Brussels Sprouts in half and roasting with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. If you line the pan with aluminum foil, it will make cleanup easier, especially since you're going to cook it a bit with a sticky sauce. I always place the cut side down so they get nicely browned. It should take only about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the the sauce in a bowl.

When the Brussels Sprouts have cooked for about ten minutes, remove them from the oven and pour the sauce on top. Return to the oven for a couple of minutes, then serve.
Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts

For about 12 Brussels Sprouts:
a couple of tablespoons olive oil (1 to coat the pan, and 1 to mix with the other ingredients)
seasoned salt & pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons hot sauce (or more, depending on your heat tolerance)
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the Brussels sprouts in half, season with salt and pepper and place on a foil-lined cookie sheet to make clean up easier. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and toss. Roast in oven for 10 minutes. Mix the honey, hot sauce and soy sauce and drizzle over the cooked sprouts. Return to oven for a couple minutes longer, then serve.




Monday, January 15, 2024

Codfish with Herbed Crumb Topping

Who among us isn't trying to eat healthier as the new year starts? I know I always start out with good intentions but seem to slip with all the cakes, cookies and candies that are still in my house from the holidays, looking to find their way into my mouth and down to my hips. Well, at least I can focus on low-calorie and healthy main courses, right? And this dish fits the bill perfectly. The second time I made this (in one week), I substituted olive oil for the butter in the bread crumbs and it was no less delicious. Aside from tasting great, it's easy to prepare and good enough to serve company, especially if you serve it with the pea pureé. It's good without it, but it certainly takes it up a notch and you can make the puree while the fish is cooking in the oven.
Serve it with some rice (brown in this case) and another vegetable to complete the meal.


Codfish with Herbed Crumb Topping and Pea Puree

For Two People:
3/4 lb. -1 lb. cod or haddock
one lemon
1/2 cup white wine
1 pat of butter to put on fish
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
finely minced thyme
finely minced parsley
salt, pepper to taste

Lightly butter the bottom of an oven-proof casserole that will fit the fish without too much extra room.
Place a few slices of lemon on the bottom.
Season the fish with salt and pepper.
Mix the bread crumbs well with the oil, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.
Place the fish in the casserole over the lemon slices.
Divide a pat of butter and place on top of fish.
Spread the bread crumbs on the fish and pour the wine all around it, (but not on top of the fish).
With the remaining ends of the lemon, squeeze the juice into the casserole.
Drizzle a little more olive oil (about a tablespoon) on the bread crumb topping.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
While fish is cooking, make the pea puree.

Pea Puree

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chicken broth
salt, pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
a few leaves of fresh mint

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the shallots. Cook until softened, then add the peas, the wine, chicken broth and salt and pepper. Cook for about five minutes until peas are soft, then add the parsley and mint and remove from heat. Place everything into a tall container into which a stick blender will fit. Puree everything and place on the plate, making a "swoosh," then serve the fish next to the swoosh of pea puree. The liquid remaining in the casserole is delicious spooned over the rice.



 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Lemon Meringue Pie

I don't know why I hadn't made lemon meringue pie in decades, because it's such a delicious and light dessert -- a perfect counterpoint to all the rich, creamy holiday foods we ate (rich scalloped potatoes, filet mignon, semifreddo, etc.) I was inspired to make it during the Christmas holidays while pondering how to  use some of the lemons ripening on my indoor lemon tree. This year, it was laden with ten beautiful lemons.

 Although I picked three, they were so juicy, I needed only two of them,
For the pastry, I followed a recipe from Lillipies, a shop in town that makes fabulous mini pies of all kinds. I had recently been to a lecture by its owner, Jennifer Colello Carson, where she explained how she makes her pie crusts. Her cookbook, "Lillipies" is chockfull of recipes from pies to panzanella.
 She also has a recipe for lemon meringue pie, but it calls for more lemons than I was willing to part with, so I used a recipe from Betty Crocker for the filling, one that calls for only 1/2 cup of lemon juice. It was plenty tart enough.


I did add one more egg white than called for in the recipe, since I wanted the meringue to be piled high above the lemon filling.


Another reason I liked the Betty Crocker recipe is that the meringue was baked in the oven for about 20 minutes, as opposed to just torching or broiling the meringue, as called for in many other recipes.


The pie was a smashing hit with my daughter and her husband, who loves tangy citrus desserts, like this pie. I may have to make it again this week to take to my dad, whose favorite dessert is lemon meringue pie. I've still got plenty of lemons left on my little lemon tree and will be posting more lemon-centric recipes in coming posts.



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

Lemon Meringue Pie

Pastry

recipe from Jen Colello Carson of Princeton, N.J.'s "Lillipies"

For a two-crust pie (cut in half for this lemon meringue pie)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4-6 Tablespoons ice cold water


Filling

(from Betty Crocker website)

  • 3egg yolks
  • 1 1/2cups sugar
  • 1/3cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2cups water
  • 3tablespoons butter
  • 2teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2cup lemon juice

Meringue

  • 4egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla

For pastry:
In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and butter, or use a pastry cutter.
When the butter pieces are the size of small peas, add 4 tablespoons ice cold water. Pulse until combined. Add only enough water need to hold the dough together. Add more water only if the dough needs it. The amount of water needed can depend on the weather, the time of year you are baking, how your flour was stored, etc. Adding too much water will yield a sticky dough (and a tough crust later). Adding too little water will cause the dough to fall apart as you are rolling.
Shape the dough into 2 disks for a 9" double-crusted pie. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out one pie dough to 1/8 thickness. Place into pie tin. Crimp edges. Chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fully "blind-bake" the crust, lining the chilled pie shell with parchment or aluminum foil, and filling with pie weights or uncooked rice and/or beans. Bake for 15 minutes in lower third of oven. Then remove the parchment and pie weights and return to bake another 15 minutes.
Pour the prepared lemon filling into the pie shell.

For the filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees
In small bowl, beat egg yolks with fork. In 2-quart saucepan, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the cornstarch; gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
Immediately stir with whisk at least half of hot mixture into egg yolks; stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Return to boiling; boil and stir constantly 2 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice with whisk. Cover and keep warm.
In medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; scrape side of bowl occasionally. Continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form and sugar is completely dissolved. Beat in vanilla. Pour hot lemon filling into baked pie shell. Immediately drop spoonfuls of meringue onto hot lemon filling, and carefully spread meringue to cover top completely, spreading to edge of crust to prevent shrinkage or weeping.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until meringue is browned and temperature reaches 160°F. Cool on cooling rack 1 hour. Refrigerate about 4 hours or until filling is set. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.