Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pennoni Pasta with Sunday Gravy and Polpette di Vitello

Italian American Sunday Gravy!  With veal meatballs!
     In New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia, a rich tasting old fashioned Italian meat flavored tomato sauce is often called gravy.  Ask an Italian American from the northeast a question about tomato sauce and you may up being corrected with an answer like "Oh!  You mean gravy!"  Many Italian Americans refer to gravy as Sunday Gravy.  Sunday is a big day for family and friends to get together and share a big afternoon meal.  The Sunday Gravy is always something special to look forward to!  
     There are many required basics for Italian cooking and there are many required ingredients for Italian recipes.  Each Italian chef that I have worked with, while apprenticing, added their own personal touch to each recipe that they made.  A special refined cooking technique, a choice ingredient or a little adjustment to a recipe by an experienced Italian chef can make a big difference in the flavor and texture of a recipe.  The same goes for home style Italian family cooking.  I have to admit, there has never been a meal that was cooked by an Italian that I did not like!  Italians know how to cook!
     As you can imagine, because a Sunday Gravy is a special item, great care and attention is placed on the gravy as it cooks.  A Sunday Gravy cannot be left to cook on its own.  A Sunday Gravy needs to be tended.  A Sunday Gravy also needs to be guarded!  A Sunday Gravy that is left alone may fall prey to kitchen visitors that are attracted by the great aroma of a Sunday Gravy simmering away.  Many times, it is all a cook can do, to keep the Sunday Gravy from disappearing before dinner is served!
     There are many options for a Sunday Gravy that are covered later in this recipe.  There are options beyond the ones that I mentioned.  The main thing to keep in mind, is to make a Sunday Gravy special, like cooking with one's heart.  
     The choice of pasta for Sunday Gravy is usually spaghetti or capellini.  Any traditional Italian pasta that is served with a ragu style sauce is good for a Sunday Gravy.  Pennoni Pasta is native to the Campania Region of Italy.  Pennoni is commonly served with Napolitean and Genoese meat ragu sauces.  Pennoni is also nice with Sunday Gravy.
     San Marzano tomatoes are the best tomatoes for sauces.  San Marzano tomatoes originated in Peru.  They were a gift from Peru to the kingdom of Napoli in the late 1700's.  The region of Campania Italy is where some of the very best San Marzano tomatoes are grown.  California tomatoes just cannot be compared to the superior Italian San Marzano tomatoes.  The climate and soil in Campania is perfect for tomatoes.  Imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes were my choice for this Sunday Gravy recipe.   They are the best tomatoes that money can buy!  
     Sunday Gravy Recipe:
     This recipe makes about 2 large portions of gravy!  The meatballs can be made and baked, while the Sunday Gravy slowly simmers.
     Cut a 12 ounce pork shoulder steak into 2 or 3 large pieces.  Do not trim the fat off and leave the bone attached.
     Place the pork steak pieces into a roasting pan that was brushed with vegetable oil.  Do not season the pork steak!
     Roast in a 400 degree oven, till the pork steak becomes browned.
     The Sunday Gravy can be started while the pork steak roasts!
     Place a 28 ounce can of imported whole seeded Italian San Marzano plum tomatoes that are packed in their own juices with basil into a mixing bowl.  
     Note:  The juices of the can should look thick and rich like puree.  This type of Italian San Marzano tomato product may not be easy to find and it does cost more.  If none can be found, then add 6 ounces of imported Italian plum tomato puree to a 28 ounce can of regular imported Italian plum tomatoes packed in their own thin juices. 
     Hand squeeze and crush the tomatoes, till no big chunks remain.
     Heat a stainless steel or enamel lined pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add about 2 1/2 ounces to 3 ounces olive oil.  (The olive oil proportion should be about 1/10 of the volume of the tomatoes.)
     Add 9 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped carrot.
     Saute and stir often.
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color, but do not let the vegetables brown.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add the hand squeezed San Marzano tomatoes and their juices to the pot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 8 chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried basil.
     Add sea salt and ground black pepper.
     The roasted pork shoulder steak pieces should be browned by now.
     Remove the pork pieces and bone from the roasting pan and place them into the pot of Sunday Gravy.
     Deglaze the roasting pan with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of water.
     Add the deglazed jus to the pot of Sunday Gravy.
     Add 1/2 cup of Italian certified Chianti wine.
     Allow the Sunday Gravy to slowly come to a simmer.
     Adjust the temperature to low/very low heat.
     Very slowly simmer the Sunday Gravy for 4 hours.  Leave the pot uncovered.  (Never cover a pot of Italian tomato sauce with a lid, or the sauce will be like stewed tomatoes!)
     Scrape the sauce that clings to the insides of the pot back into the Sunday Gravy occasionally.
     Stir the Sunday Gravy from the bottom up, once every 5 minutes.  (This is very important when making large batches!)
     After 3 hours of slow simmering, add 2 tablespoons of minced Italian parsley.
     Note:  At this time, taste the Sunday Gravy.  Only adjust the salt and pepper seasoning if necessary.         
     After 4 hours of very slow simmering, the flavors will meld and the Sunday Gravy will have a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.  The excess tomato juices should be reduced into the sauce at this point.  The olive oil and pork fat juices should be well combined with the tomatoes, because the sauce was stirred often.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Stir the virgin olive oil into the gravy.  (This adds a nice finishing flavor!)
     Remove the Sunday Gravy from the heat.
     Allow the sunday gravy to cool to almost room temperature.
     Remove the pork shoulder pieces and the bone from the Sunday Gravy and set them aside.
     Run the Sunday Gravy through an old fashioned hand turned food mill into a second pot.  
     Note:  A food processor can be used to smooth the sauce, but care must be taken to not aerate the Sunday Gravy.  Only pulse the food processor for 2 to 3 seconds at a time.  Pause for about 15 seconds between pulses.  Mill the Sunday Gravy till it becomes a nice smooth tomato sauce texture.
     Keep the milled Sunday Gravy warm over very low heat, till it is served.
     The pork bone can be discarded.  
     The pork shoulder meat can be shredded and returned to the sauce or it can be used for another recipe.  (Many Italian chefs mince the pork shoulder meat from the gravy and save it for a cannelloni pasta stuffing recipe.) 
     Sunday Gravy Options:  
     Optional additions for a Sunday Gravy are popular.  Roasted Italian sausages can be added to the Sunday Gravy.  Roasted large bite size pieces of veal, pork or beef can be added to the Sunday Gravy.  Meatballs can be added to the Sunday Gravy.  Many Italian chefs add these items toward the end of the simmering of the Sunday Gravy or after the Sunday Gravy has been run through a food mill.
     Many Italian chefs also serve the Sunday Gravy with the roasted pork shoulder meat removed and with no addition of meat or sausage.  This was how I was trained to serve Sunday Gravy during my last Italian apprenticeship.  Meats were only added upon customer request. 
     Today, I am the customer!  I removed the pork shoulder meat, then milled the Sunday Gravy.  I shredded the pork shoulder meat and returned it to the gravy.  I added the veal meatballs to the milled Sunday Gravy too.
     If you add meatballs, sausage or roasted meat after the gravy has been milled, it is best to let the gravy slowly simmer for a little while, before serving.  This helps the flavors to combine.  

     Polpette di Vitello Recipe:     
     Place 1 pound of ground veal into a mixing bowl.
     Add 9 cloves of finely minced garlic.
     Add 1 small handful of finely minced onion.
     Add 1 whisked egg.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 3 to 4 pinches of oregano.
     Add 3 to 4 pinches of basil. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely minced Italian parsley.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese.
     Add 4 tablespoons of fine plain Italian bread crumbs.
     Add 2 ounces of water soaked Italian bread pith that was squeeze dry.  (Squeeze the water out of the pith before adding.)
     Mix the ingredients together, just like kneading bread dough.
     Scoop the meat mixture into medium size meatball portions.  (About 2-3 ounces is a regular size meatball.)  
     Hand roll the meatballs, so they are all the same size and shape.  Roll the meatballs, so the surface is smooth and even.
     Place the meatballs in a roasting pan that is lightly brushed with oil.
     Bake the meatballs in a 350 degree oven. 
     Note:  The pan will need to be removed from the oven once in a while, so the excess grease can be poured off.  The meatballs will need to be turned occasionally, so they brown evenly.  Use a thin metal spatula to loosen the meatballs from the pan.  
     Bake the veal meatballs, till they are fully cooked and lightly browned.  Do not overcook the meatballs or they will become dried out.  The meatballs should be nice and juicy inside.
     Add the veal meatballs to the Sunday Gravy after the gravy has been run through a food mill.
     Slowly simmer the veal meatballs in the Sunday Gravy over very low heat for a little while, so the flavors combine. 

     Pennoni Pasta with Sunday Gravy and Polpette di Vitello:
     The meatballs and the Sunday Gravy should be finished cooking before the pasta is boiled.  The garlic bread can be baked while the pasta cooks!
     Garlic bread can be made with olive oil, butter or both.  
     Simmer 2 ounces of olive oil or unsalted butter over low heat in a pot.
     Add 6 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.  (Optional)
     Simmer till the garlic becomes tender, but not browned.
     Cut a 5" or 6" section of Italian bread in half.  
     Generously brush the bread with the garlic oil or butter.  Try to get the minced garlic on the bread too.
     Place the garlic bread on a baking pan.
     Bake the garlic bread in a 350 degree oven, till it becomes toasted.
     Boil 1 or 2 portions of pennoni pasta in salted water over high heat, till the pasta is cooked al dente.  (Pennoni have thin walls, so the pasta must be stirred gently and stirred often.  Only use a wooden pasta stick or wooden spoon to stir pasta!
     Drain the hot water off of the pennoni pasta.
     Place the pennoni into a mixing bowl.
     Add just enough of the Sunday Gravy to barely coat the pasta while gently tossing.
     Place a mound of the lightly sauced pennoni on a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Sunday Gravy over the pasta.
     Place 3 or 4 veal meatballs on top of the pasta.
     Spoon a little more of the Sunday Gravy over the meatballs.
     Sprinkle some thinly grated parmesan cheese over the pasta.
     Place the 2 pieces of toasted garlic bread on the plate. 
     Sprinkle a couple pinches of minced Italian parsley over the pasta and garlic bread.

     The best tasting Sunday Gravy is the one that you make yourself!  This one that I made tastes pretty good too.  Give a Sunday Gravy your care, love and attention, because you will be rewarded with smiles and compliments!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ghana Red Red Stew

Traditional Red Red Stew from Ghana, Africa!  Black eyed peas!  

     Black eyed peas are referred to as cowpeas by many African chefs.  Black eyed peas are in the cowpea family of bean plants.  Black eyed peas were originally from West Africa and now they are popular worldwide.  
     Ghana is located on the western coastline of Africa.  Many of Ghana's traditional recipes are pounded mixtures of healthy root vegetables and yams.  Many western world foods like peanuts and corn, from the age of the Colombian Exchange, have become main staples in Ghana cuisine.  Peanut soup is popular in Ghana.  Maize from the Americas is used to make a fermented maize dough dumpling called Kenkey.  Kenkey dumplings usually accompany stew.  Stews and stewed pounded pastes are a major part of Ghanaian and West African cuisine.
     Because Ghana has a large Atlantic coastline, seafood is a main staple in Ghanaian cuisine.  Fresh seafood was traditionally only cooked in the local coastal areas, before the age of refrigeration.  Like most of the world during the age before refrigeration, dried seafood, smoked fish and salt cured fish were the only choices for making a seafood dinner in regions that were located away from the coastal areas.  Many inland cuisines of Africa, China and the mediterranean countries still prefer old fashioned dried, smoked or salted fish for traditional recipes, even though refrigeration for fresh fish is now available.  Inland Ghanaian cuisine is one of the few cuisines left in the world that prefers the tradition of dried, smoked or salted seafood!
     The umami taste sensation is easily applied to tasting the dried fish broths or dried shrimp broths of asian cuisine.  Ghanian cuisine makes use of the same umami taste sensation.  Many Ghanaian stews have crawfish, dried shrimp, dried shrimp powder or dried salted fish in the recipe.  The dried seafood not only adds protein, it adds a rich desirable flavor!
     Palm oil is used for cooking in tropical areas worldwide.  There are species of palm trees that are only used to make palm oil.  Palm oil is one of the few oils that is a naturally saturated fat.  Palm oil is nearly solid at room temperature and it is very stable at high frying temperatures.  
     Red palm oil has a very high beta-carotene content that gives the oil a rich red color.  Red palm oil is very healthy to eat.  
     The problem with red palm oil is that where oil palms are grown, the natural canopy of trees is razed.  Asian palm oil tree plantations are quickly causing the extinction of the wild orangutan.  So, when choosing a brand of palm oil of any kind, choose a palm oil that is manufactured in an area where palm oil production is properly managed.  Do not support asian palm oil plantation deforestation of endangered species habitats!
     Ghana has been producing red palm oil for a very long time and African wildlife protection keeps becoming stronger with each passing day.  Africans now protect wildlife with stricter laws, because wildlife tourism has become a major source of commerce.  Brazilian red palm oil is another option, but Brazil's protection of rain forest land is in question. 
     Red palm oil is hard to come by, even in international marketplace stores.  Red palm oil can be found on the internet at Amazon and other on-line stores.  Read the description of the red palm oil product before purchasing.  Be sure that it is true red palm oil and make certain that the red palm oil does not come from environmentally sensitive areas of the world!
      If no red palm oil is available, then substitute regular vegetable oil!  A red palm oil color can be achieved by adding paprika, tomato paste and achiote paste.  This way, the Ghanian cowpea stew can still be called Red Red!

     Ghana Red Red Stew Background:
     There are many variations of Red Red Stew recipes.  Some are plain and simple.  Some are vegetarian.  Most Red Red Stew recipes have smoked fish, salted dried fish, dried shrimp or dried shrimp powder in the recipe.  Dried shrimp powder is used like a spice in West Africa.  Dried, salted or smoked seafood items can be found in international food markets or grocery stores.
     Ghana Red Red Stew Recipe:  
     Note:  Red palm oil from Ghana is the only red palm oil that I recommend, due to deforestation of endangered species habitat issues in asia and Brazil.  Regular vegetable oil can be substituted and a combination of achiote paste (anatto), tomato paste and paprika can be added to give this Ghana black eyed pea stew its characteristic red color.  
     The second red in the name Red Red Stew refers to the color of fried ripe plantains.  Today was one of those rare days that I chose a ripe plantain banana that only needed a few minutes of frying time for it to become fully cooked!  Ce est la vie!  So, the fried plantain in the pictures is golden colored instead of the usual red brown color.  The same plantain banana remained a golden color in the Chipotle Marinated Pork Steak recipe that I posted the other day.  A golden color on a fried plantain is kind of rare, so do not be surprised if the plantain that you fry becomes a reddish brown color! 
     Soak 2 cups of dried black eyed peas in water overnight in a refrigerator.  
     Rinse and clean the black eyed peas with cold running water.
     Rub the damp black eyed peas between your hands to remove the skins.  (This is an optional step, but it is traditional in Ghanaian cuisine.  I do not mind black eyed pea skins, so I left the skins on.)
     Place the soaked black eyed peas into a sauce pot.
     Cover the black eye peas with 1" of extra water.
     Gently simmer the black eyed peas over low heat, till they become tender.  (This only takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.)
     Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 ounces of red palm oil.  (Use the instructions above for additives to vegetable oil, if no red palm oil is available.)
     Add 1 handful of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Saute till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped peeled eggplant.
     Saute till the eggplant starts to become tender.
     Add 1 chopped Roma tomato.
     Drain the hot water off of the cooked black eyed peas.
     Add the cooked black eyed peas.
     Add enough light fish broth to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra broth.
     Add 3 tablespoons of peanut butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of tiny dried shrimp.  (1/2 cup of chopped smoked fish, 1/2 cup of chopped salted dried fish or 3 tablespoons of shrimp powder can be substituted.  I just happened to have dried shrimp on hand and it adds a nice traditional flavor to Red Red Stew!)  
     Add 1 chopped red Thai chile pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of paprika.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     After the stew starts to simmer, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the Red Red Stew!
     The plantain banana can be fried while the stew is simmering.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add about 1/2" of vegetable frying oil. 
     Cut a ripe plantain banana in half.  (Only half of a plantain is needed.)
     Peel one half of the plantain.
     Cut the plantain piece in half lengthwise.
     Cut the 2 long plantain quarters into bite size pieces.
     Fry the plantain pieces in the hot oil, till they become tender.
     Place the fried plantain pieces on a dry towel to drain off any excess grease.
     After the Red Red Stew has simmered and reduced till a thick stew gravy is formed that clings to the black eyed peas, then the stew is ready to be served!
     Ladles the Red Red Stew into a large serving bowl.
     Place the fried plantain bananas around the rim of the bowl as a garnish.  

     I know!  It is hard for many people to imagine, but this Ghana Red Red Stew tastes delicious!  There is no other stew that can even be compared to the flavor of Red Red Stew.  Peanut butter commonly thickens traditional African stews.  There are not many bean stew recipes in this world that call for fish broth.  There are even fewer bean stew recipes that call for dried shrimp, smoked fish or dried salted fish in the recipe.  Ghana Red Red Stew does require a dried seafood flavor and it creates a one of a kind good tasting healthy black eyed pea stew!    

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lemon Oregano Tilapia Stuffed Tomato with Tangy Pomegranate Honey Cole Slaw

Tomato season is here!

     Being a seasonal chef does have its benefits.  I used to write seasonal menus and often I would rewrite a menu for items that had a short season, so they would featured.  After the short growing season, I moved on to to writing the next menu.  Constantly evolving seasonal menus never get old and tired.  There is always something new and exciting to offer!
     The Executive Chef Teacher at chef school was raving about harvesting the first tomato of the season from her garden this week.  People with green thumbs everywhere will soon have tomatoes coming out of their ears, so it is a good time of the season to post some tomato recipes.
     I have posted a few stuffed tomato recipes in this food blog in the past.  Today, I wanted to post a stuffed tomato that had no mayonnaise or sour cream in the recipe.  The goal was a lighter stuffed tomato that still had great flavor.  
     I did not want to drench the tomato with a vinaegrette, so I chose to create a complimentary flavored slaw as a bed for the tomato to set upon.  What flavor?  Decisions, decisions.  I had just picked up a bottle of Arabic Persian pomegranate molasses at the International Food Market in Las Vegas earlier.  I had success at making salad dressings with pomegranate molasses in the past.  
     Pomegranate molasses is not exactly what you would call sweet in flavor.  Pomegranate molasses is a middle eastern cooking additive that has a very nice tangy pomegranate flavor, with just enough sweetness to keep the sauce from being bitter in taste.  Technically, it is a molasses in a way, but pomegranate molasses is really a sauce of its own.  The Arabic languages may have a better description of this sauce that may not translate well into English.  There is also pomegranate syrup and pomegranate water, but neither of those liquid flavorings have the pronounced tangy flavor. 
     The tangy flavor of pomegranate molasses is a natural for a light refreshing summertime cole slaw flavor.  The tangy pomegranate cole slaw bed for the stuffed tomato adds an interesting exotic contrast of flavor for the tomato and lemon oregano flavor of the tilapia! 

     Tangy Pomegranate Honey Cole Slaw Recipe:   
     Place 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses into a mixing bowl.  (Pomegranate molasses is a one of a kind product that can be found in middle eastern markets.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of honey.
     Add 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of dried mint.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Add 1 large handful of savoy cabbage.
     Add a few very thin slivers of carrot for color.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the tangy pomegranate honey cole slaw aside for 5 minutes.

     Lemon Oregano Tilapia Marinade:
     Place 1 generous squeeze of lemon juice into a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Cut 4 to 6 ounces of tilapia filet into 3/8" wide strips.
     Cut the tilapia strips into bite size pieces.
     Marinate the tilapia filet pieces in the mixture for 5 minutes.

     Lemon Oregano Tilapia:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add1 tiny splash of olive oil.
     Remove the tilapia pieces from the marinade and add them to the hot oil.  (Save the marinade for later in the recipe!)
     Saute till the tilapia is halfway cooked.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced bermuda onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of green onion.
     Add the reserved lemon oregano tilapia marinade.
     Saute, till the tilapia pieces are fully cooked.
     Keep the lemon oregano tilapia warm on a stove top.

     Lemon Oregano Tilapia Stuffed Tomato with Tangy Pomegranate Honey Cole Slaw:
     Place a bed of tangy pomegranate honey cole slaw on the center of a plate.
     Place the 1 large Roma tomato on a cutting board with the stem core facing down.
     Star cut the Roma tomato, so it can be fanned out into a flower shape for stuffing.  Only cut each vertical slice 1/2" short of meeting the core base of the tomato.
     Carefully fan the tomato petals out, so the tomato resembles a flower.
     Set the tomato flower on the bed of tangy pomegranate honey cole slaw.
     Carefully spoon the lemon oregano tilapia pieces onto the tomato flower.
     Garnish the plate with Italian parsley leaves.
     Garnish the tilapia stuffing with chiffonade cut Arabic Persian pickled lemon zest.

     Viola!  A light healthy stuffed tomato entree that is like no other!  This is a great tasting summertime stuffed tomato recipe for those prized home garden tomatoes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry en Aspic Pie Cup with Creme Fraiche

     Springtime is strawberry season!  There are strawberry harvest festivals going on worldwide.  At the strawberry festivals, there are usually strawberry recipe contests and the competition can be very fierce!
     Strawberry pie is usually the number one dessert at strawberry festivals.  The strawberry dessert recipe contest judges really have their hands full, because nearly every contestant enters a strawberry pie in the cook off.  A person would really have to like strawberry pie a whole lot, if they wished to be a judge at a strawberry festival dessert contest! 
     There are many variations of strawberry pie.  I personally only make two variations.  For one of my strawberry pies, I use a complex gelatin to make the glaze.  For the other strawberry pie that I make, I use a natural jelly pectin to make the glaze.  The flavor is nearly the same in both pies, but the gelatin pie has a firmer texture.  
     Today's blog recipe is for the complex gelatin style strawberry pie.  The strawberry flavor is extracted via minced strawberries being added to hot molten hard crack stage sugar.  This is the same technique that I use to make strawberry gastrique.  The molten sugar literally instantly pulls all of the strawberry color and flavor out of the minced strawberries, when the hot molten sugar seizes hard like candy after the strawberries are added.  Take care when using this method, because molten sugar can cause serious burns!

     Note:  This recipe makes only one individual strawberry pie portion!  I like the modern individual size desserts, because I personally cannot eat sweets more than once in a blue moon.  If you wish to make a full size strawberry pie, then multiply the recipes by 5 or 6.
     Pâte Brisée:
     This recipe yields enough pie dough for a sheet that measures between 15"x 15" to 20"x 20".  The size of the dough sheet depends on the thickness.  The volume of this single use portion recipe is easy to expand.  
     The object is to create a firm pliable dough that is not too soft and not too stiff.  The dough should be mixed and worked for a minimal amount of time, so the butter is not evenly incorporated in the dough.  If faint streaks of butter can be seen in the dough when it is rolled into a sheet, then the dough is perfect.  
     After mixing the ingredients, it is best to chill the dough to -41ºF, so the butter becomes stiff. If the dough becomes warm while rolling it into a sheet, the butter will not be distributed in thin layers between bits of damp flour.  
     After the dough sheet is rolled it should be chilled.  A chilled sheet of pie dough is much easier to work with.  
     Chilled lard can replace butter in this recipe.  
     Place 1 1/2 cups of bread flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of sugar.
     Rice the flour by adding a few drops of ice water at a time while stirring with a whisk.  (The flour should look like grains of rice.)
     Cut 2 ounces of unsalted butter into pea size pieces and drop them in a bowl of ice water.
     Gently add a few pieces of the chilled hard butter at a time to the riced flour.
     Work the dough lightly with your fingers and for a minimal period of time leaving exposed small pieces of butter.
     Chill the dough, till it becomes very firm.
     Roll the pate brisee into a 3/16" thick sheet on a floured counter top.  (The sheet of pâte brisée should show streaks of butter!  This is what will give the pate brisee a flakey crusty texture.)
     Refrigerate the sheet of pâte brisée, till it becomes firm again.
     Any extra pâte brisée can be refrigerated for 7 days or frozen for later use.
     Individual Strawberry Pie Cup:
     Lightly brush a 5" wide pop-ring mold with unsalted butter
     Cut a 10" circle out of the pate brisee sheet.
     Fold the dough in half and then into quarters.
     Place the point of the folded dough into the pop-ring mold.
     Unfold the dough sheet.
     Gently press the dough sheet into place, inside the mold.
     Drape the excess dough over the edges of the mold.
     Roll a rolling pin over top of the rim of the mold to pinch and cut off the excess dough.
     Pull the excess dough away and save it for another use.
     Fill the uncooked pie dough cup with small dried beans.
     Place the mold on a baking pan.
     Bake in a 375 degree oven, till the pate brisee turns a golden brown color.
     Let the baked pie shell cool.
     Carefully remove the beans from the pie shell.
     Carefully pop the pop-ring loose.
     Un-mold the baked pie shell and set it on a dessert plate.
     Set the pie shell where it cannot be damaged. 

     Strawberry en Aspic Pie Filling: 
     Boil 1 cup water in a small stainless steel sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Cook the sugar water, till the water evaporates and the sugar enters the candy stages.
     Cook the sugar till it reaches the hard crack stage of 300 degrees to 310 degrees.  (Use a candy thermometer!)
     Immediately add 5 or 6 minced strawberries.
     Do not stir or shake the pot!  Allow the molten sugar to seize the strawberries.
     As soon as the sugar frees up and start to boil again,  add 2 ounces of pino grigio white wine.
     Add 6 ounces of water.
     Add 1 tiny pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 very tiny pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 very tiny pinch of cinnamon.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce for 5 minutes.
     Read the direction on your choice of gelatin.
     Measure enough gelatin to firmly gel 8 to 9 ounces of liquid.
     Bloom the gelatin with a tiny splash of water in a small cup.
     Add the bloomed gelatin to the hot strawberry syrup while stirring.
     Simmer till the gelatin shows signs of activating.
     Pour the  Strawberry Pie Gelatin Filling through a fine mesh strainer into a cup.
     Press as much of the strawberry pulp through the strainer as possible.
     Keep the  Strawberry Pie Gelatin Filling warm on a stove top.

     Strawberry en Aspic Pie Cup:
     Cut the tops off of 1 handful of ripe strawberries.
     Place a few of the strawberries on the bottom of the pie shell cup.
     Fill the rest of the pie shell cup up with slices strawberries.
     Place a few strawberry skin slice on top, so the pie looks nice.
     Slowly pour the warm strawberry gelatin pie filling over the strawberries and into the pie shell, till the pie shell becomes full to the brim.
     Set the dessert plate and strawberry pie in a refrigerator.
     Chill the pie, till the gelatin filling becomes firm and set

     Creme Fraiche:
     Whisk 2 ounces of cream in a small mixing bowl, till stiff peaks appear.
     Add 1 1/2 ounces of sour cream.
     Whisk the ingredients together, till they combine.
     Chill the creme fraiche in a refrigerator.

     Strawberry en Aspic Pie Cup with Creme Fraiche:
     Place the dessert plate with the strawberry pie on a counter top.
     Use two small spoons to form a creme fraiche quenelle.
     Place the creme fraiche quenelle on top of the strawberry pie.
     Garnish the creme fraiche quenelle with a few chiffonade slices of lemon zest.

     If you have dessert making experience, then this recipe is easy as pie!  This strawberry pie is well worth the effort to make.  The aspic is full of bright crisp strawberry flavor and it is not overly sweet.  This is a good tasting individual size strawberry aspic pie!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Roast Turkey Panini with Aioli, Portabella, Arugula and Provolone

A nice panini sandwich with popular Italian flavors!

     Panini sandwiches started in Milan Italy.  Panini were snack sandwiches that were served in Milanese bars.  Panini became popular in America about 25 years ago.
     Panini are not mile high style sandwiches.  A small 4 ounce portion of ingredients are usually placed on the bread for American panini.  Traditional Italian panini require only just a very tiny portion of ingredients to flavor the bread.  In Italy just adding flavor to an Italian bread that is already great tasting is enough to satisfy!
     Panini are made with Italian ciabatta bread.  Ciabatta is similar to focaccia.  Ciabatta has plenty of yeast air bubbles for texture, but the bread has no sourdough flavor.  
     For a home kitchen baker that only bakes bread once in a blue moon, the better choice is to purchase a loaf of good ciabatta at a local Italian bakery.  It does take practice to make good ciabatta and focaccia style breads.  By all means, if you have a good recipe for ciabatta, then make your own!  There just happens to a good Italian deli nearby that has Italian artisan breads, and that is very convenient for me.
    Turkey has become a very popular meat in Italy.  Turkey used to be reserved for the Easter holidays by many people in Italy a long time ago.  Now that health conscious food has taken a front row seat, turkey has become a choice for daily meals.  Occasionally, I do post a nice Italian style turkey recipe and the last few were turkey sausage entree recipes.
     Provolone cheese is a classic for Italian sandwiches!  Portabella mushrooms add a rich flavor to this panini.  The arugula adds a peppery springtime flavor.  Aioli is a classic tasting sandwich spread that is much healthier than mayonnaise.  Today's roast turkey panini sandwich is a nice light sandwich for spring and summer!

     Aioli Recipe:
     I posted a picture of what a freshly made aioli should look like.  Just like when making mayonnaise, only add a few drops of olive oil at a time, while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to bind and emulsify, before drizzling a very thin stream of olive oil while whisking!  Otherwise, the aioli will remain thin and it will easily break.  
     Very finely mince or puree 8 cloves of garlic.
     Place the garlic puree into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 egg yolk.
     Add 1 drop of good quality virgin olive oil at a time, while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to bind and emulsify. 
     Add a very thin stream of the virgin olive oil, while briskly whisking, till the aioli becomes a translucent while color and the texture becomes stiff, yet with a light gravity that is not airy.  The aioli should be lighter in texture than a mayonnaise and it should be able to stand tall in a spoon!
     Note:  A plain simple aioli is perfect the way that it is!  A small pinch of sea salt is optional.  A few drops of lemon juice is also optional, but not necessary.  Pepper is not an option.  Never add pepper to an aioli!
     The aioli can be kept refrigerated for 7 days.

     Roast Turkey Panini with Aioli, Portabella, Arugula and Provolone:
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 small splash of olive oil.
     Add 4 thin sliced small portabella mushrooms.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Saute till the mushrooms become fully cooked.
     Set the sauteed portabella slices aside.
     Cut a 6" to 8" long piece of ciabatta bread.
     Split the bread in half horizontally.
     Spread some aioli on both halves of the bread.
     Place a thin layer of arugula leaves on the bottom half of the bread.
     Place 3 to 4 ounces of very thin sliced roasted turkey on the arugula.  (Thin sliced roasted turkey from a delicatessen is fine for this sandwich!)
     Place the sauteed portabella mushroom slices on the turkey.
     Place a few thin slices of provolone cheese on the mushrooms.
     Place the top half of the ciabatta bread on the sandwich. 
     Set the sandwich on a panini grill that is set to medium heat and gently press the sandwich with the top half of the panini grill.  (Do not Godzilla flatten the panini like a Cuban sandwich!  Just gently press the panini.)  
     Note:  There is really no substitute for a panini grill.  The panini sandwich can be cooked and pressed on a standard grill.  The sandwich will need to be flipped to grill the top side and the sandwich will need to be pressed twice.)
     Grill the panini, till the top and bottom of the sandwich are toasted till the sandwich becomes warm.
     Place the panini on a cutting board and cut the sandwich in half into triangle shapes.
     Set the panini halves on a plate.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig and a piece of fresh fruit. 

     It is no use describing what this Roast Turkey Panini with Aioli, Portabella, Arugula and Provolone tastes like, because you probably already know.  This panini tastes like springtime!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna      

Fusilli Col Buco e Rucola Aioli

A very nice Italian pasta for spring and early summer!  Fusilli Col Buco Pasta with Arugula Aioli!

     Garlic mellows so nicely when it is prepared as an aioli.  Aioli is popular everywhere in southern europe and around the mediterranean.  Arugula is popular in this region too.  The peppery fresh flavor of arugula tastes very nice in an aioli pasta.  For the traditional Italian style of flavoring or saucing pasta, the arugula must be finely minced like an herb and then added to the aioli.  Pureeing arugula with aioli will result in a green colored thin liquid aioli that will not cling to the pasta as well.        
     When aioli is used as a pasta sauce, the hot freshly cooked al dente pasta is placed into a mixing bowl with just enough aioli to coat the pasta with flavor.  The ingredients must be immediately tossed together, so the olive oil in the aioli does not have a chance to bleed out of the sauce.  A good aioli has no problem clinging to a pasta. 
     Long thin pastas are best for aioli.  Fusilli Col Buco pasta is like a long corkscrew shaped spaghetti or capellini.  Fusilli Col Buco is perfect for an aioli sauce!  
     Fans of aioli realize that the pasta is hot and the aioli is at room temperature when the two ingredients are combined, so a steaming hot plate of pasta is not expected by the customer when it is served.
     Aioli Recipe:
     I posted a picture of what a freshly made aioli should look like.  Just like when making mayonnaise, only add a few drops of olive oil at a time, while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to bind and emulsify, before drizzling a very thin stream of olive oil while whisking!  Otherwise, the aioli will remain thin and it will easily break.  
     Very finely mince or puree 8 cloves of garlic.
     Place the garlic puree into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 egg yolk.
     Add 1 drop of good quality virgin olive oil at a time, while constantly whisking, till the sauce starts to bind and emulsify. 
     Add a very thin stream of the virgin olive oil, while briskly whisking, till the aioli becomes a translucent while color and the texture becomes stiff, yet with a light gravity that is not airy.  The aioli should be lighter in texture than a mayonnaise and it should be able to stand tall in a spoon!
     Note:  A plain simple aioli is perfect the way that it is!  A small pinch of sea salt is optional.  A few drops of lemon juice is also optional, but not necessary.  Pepper is not an option.  Never add pepper to an aioli!
     The aioli can be kept refrigerated for 7 days.

     Rucola Aioli:
     Remove the stems from 1 large handful of arugula leaves.
     Very finely mince the arugula leaves.
     Place about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of the aioli into a mixing bowl.
     Add the minced arugula leaves.
     Gently fold the ingredients together.
     Set the Rucola Aioli aside.

     Fusilli Col Buco e Rucola Aioli:
     Cook 1 portion of Fusilli Col Buco pasta in boiling water over high heat.
     When the pasta becomes al dente, completely drain the hot water off of the pasta.
     Allow the hot pasta to stand for about 10 to 15 seconds, so any moisture that may be clinging to the pasta has a chance to steam off!
     Add the hot pasta to the arugula aioli in the mixing bowl and immediately toss the two ingredients together, till the pasta is evenly coated.  (Toss gently, but quickly!)
     Place the Fusilli Col Buco e Rucola Aioli in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Garnish the bowl with a few arugula leaves.
     Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese or finely grated pecorino romano cheese on the side.
     Serve with warm Italian bread on the side.

     One fact that everybody knows about Italian food, is that Italian chefs know how to create the greatest flavors with just a few choice ingredients!  The flavor of this simple arugula aioli coated pasta entree tastes like the flavors of springtime!  Thats amore!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna