One of America’s Favorites – Focaccia

December 23, 2013 at 9:58 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 3 Comments
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Homemade Focaccia with olives and herbs

Homemade Focaccia with olives and herbs

 

Focaccia (Italian pronunciation: [foˈkattʃa]) may refer to:
* salt focaccia: this is the common-known focaccia, also called schiacciata; it is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients;
* sweet focaccia: typical Easter cake from Veneto, made of wheat, eggs, butter, sugar and flavors.
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of vegetables.
Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs, consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, salt and yeast. It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread.
Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking. In the northern part of Italy, lard will sometimes be added to the dough, giving the focaccia a softer, slightly flakier texture. Focaccia recipes are widely available, and with the popularity of bread machines, many cookbooks now provide versions of dough recipes that do not require hand kneading.
Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread.

 

 

 

The primary difference between conventional pizza (round, Neapolitan pizza) and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast) allowing pizza a very thin, flat and flexible crust while focaccia dough uses more leavening affording the dough to rise significantly more, but just enough to for it to remain a flatbread. The added leavening firms the crust and allows focaccia a propensity to absorb dense amounts of olive oil. Unleavened pizza dough is already too dense to absorb high densities of olive oil. A conventional loaf of bread is too tall to absorb olive oil all the way through to its center. As a flatbread Focaccia can indeed absorb olive oil all the way to its center or at least nearly so. As such, focaccia might well be thought of as “olive oil bread.”
Focaccia is most often square whereas conventional pizza is more commonly round. Focaccia most often employs more salt than pizza.
There exist traditional Italian pizza recipes, incorporating more leavening, in amounts similar to focaccia, especially in southern Italy, and specifically Sicilian pizza. If these leavened pizzas were to incorporate equivalent densities of olive oil in the dough, they would be very similar to a focaccia, aside perhaps for the herbs or toppings used. Similarly any “thick-crust” pizza that incorporates high densities of olive oil would be very similar to focaccia, again except for the variance in the herbs and toppings employed.
Contrary to pizza where more than one topping is often found mixed on the same pizza, toppings are not commonly mixed on one focaccia although one topping and one herb might be mixed. Whereas pizza often has toppings peppered only intermittently on its surface, on focaccia, a single topping is often layered more uniformly and thick.

 

 

 

In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked on the hearth. The word is derived from the Latin focus meaning “hearth, place for baking.” The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine.
As the tradition spread, the different dialects and diverse local ingredients resulted in a large variety of bread (some may even be considered cake). Due to the number of small towns and hamlets dotting the coast of Liguria, the focaccia recipe has fragmented into countless variations (from the biscuit-hard focaccia of Camogli to the oily softness of the one made in Voltri), with some bearing little resemblance to its original form. The most extreme example is the specialty “focaccia col formaggio” (focaccia with cheese) which is made in Recco, near Genoa. Other than the name, this Recco version bears no resemblance to other focaccia varieties, having a caillé and cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough. It is even being considered for European Union PGI status. Regional variations also exist, such as focaccia dolce (sweet focaccia), popular in some parts of north-western Italy, consisting of a basic focaccia base and sprinkled lightly with sugar, or including raisins, honey, or other sweet ingredients.
Focaccia is present in many variants in Italy itself, for example the focaccia alla genovese, originated in Genoa, the focaccia alla barese, from Bari, or the focaccia alla messinese, from Messina. Another widespread variation is the Focaccia Barese, common in the provinces of Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto. It usually comes in three variations: classic focaccia with fresh tomatoes and olives, potato focaccia with potato slices 5 mm thick and white Focaccia with salt grains and rosemary. Some other variations include peppers, onions, eggplant or other vegetables.
In Burgundy, focaccia is called “foisse” or “fouaisse”, and in Catalonia, Provence and Languedoc it’s “fogassa” or, more commonly, the French “fougasse”. In Argentina, it is widely consumed under the name fugazza, derived from fugàssa in the native language of Argentina’s many Ligurian immigrants. The Spaniards call it “hogaza”.
In American-English, it is sometimes referred to as focaccia bread. The Sicilian-style pizza, and the Roman pizza bianca (white pizza) can be considered a variant of focaccia. Focaccia is used extensively as a sandwich bread outside of Italy.

 

 

 

Focaccia veneta is a cake, typical of Venetian Easter tradition. Unlike the other kinds of focaccia, it is based on eggs, sugar and butter, instead of olive oil and salt. This makes its recipe and use unique across Italy, and quite different from the common-known focaccia. It appears like a leavened bread, which inside may result very similar to other Venetian cakes like pandoro.

 

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Cauliflower

September 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Posted in vegetables | 4 Comments
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Cauliflower

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.

 

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten. The cauliflower head is composed of a white inflorescence meristem. Cauliflower heads resemble those in broccoli, which differs in having flower buds.
Its name is from Latin caulis (cabbage) and flower,. Brassica oleracea also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups.
For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres‘ Théâtre de l’agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori “as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy”, but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV.

 

 

There are four major groups of cauliflower.
* Italian
Diverse in appearance, and biennial and annual in type, this group includes white, Romanesco, various green, purple, brown and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
* Northwest European biennial
Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest, this was developed in France in the 19th century, and includes the old cultivars Roscoff and Angers.
* Northern European annuals
Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest, it was developed in Germany in the 18th century, and includes the old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
* Asian
A tropical cauliflower used in China and India, it was developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type,[6] and includes old varieties Early Patna and Early Benaras.

 

 

There are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties used around the world. A comprehensive list of about 80 North American varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University.
Colors:
* White
White cauliflower is the most common colour of cauliflower.
* Orange
Orange cauliflower (B. oleracea L. var. botrytis) contains 25% more vitamin A than white varieties. This trait came from a natural mutant found in a cauliflower field in Canada. Cultivars include ‘Cheddar’ and ‘Orange Bouquet’.
* Green
Green cauliflower, of the B. oleracea botrytis group, is sometimes called broccoflower. It is available both with the normal curd shape and a variant spiky curd called Romanesco broccoli. Both types have been commercially available in the U.S. and Europe since the early 1990s. Green-curded varieties include ‘Alverda’, ‘Green Goddess’ and ‘Vorda’. Romanesco varieties include ‘Minaret’ and ‘Veronica’.
* Purple
The purple colour in this cauliflower is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanins, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. Varieties include ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Purple Cape’. In Great Britain and southern Italy, a broccoli with tiny flower buds is sold as a vegetable under the name “purple cauliflower”. It is not the same as standard cauliflower with a purple curd.

 

 

Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.
Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.
8 Sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed, may protect against cancer.
* Other glucosinolates
* Carotenoids
* Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that enhances DNA repair, and acts as an estrogen antagonist, slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.
A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

 

 

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Aloo gobi, an Indian dish prepared with cauliflower and potato

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. Steaming or microwaving better preserves anticancer compounds than boiling. When cooking, the outer leaves and thick stalks are removed, leaving only the florets. The leaves are also edible, but are most often discarded. The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they are cooked evenly. After eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, the florets should be soft, but not mushy (depending on size). Stirring while cooking can break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces.
Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes or rice; while they can produce a similar texture, or mouth feel, they lack the starch of the originals.

 

Fall Harvest: Broccoli

September 24, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Posted in vegetables | 1 Comment
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Broccoli

 

Broccoli can be grown year-round in temperate climates so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. It is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

 

Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family, whose large flower head is used as a vegetable. The word broccoli, from the Italian plural of broccolo, refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage”. Broccoli is usually boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw and has become popular as a raw vegetable in hors d’œuvre trays. The leaves may also be eaten.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli most closely resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops in the Northern Mediterranean in about the 6th century BC. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants but did not become widely known there until the 1920s.

 
Broccoli is high in vitamin C and dietary fiber; it also contains multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. The 3,3′-Diindolylmethane found in broccoli is a potent modulator of the innate immune response system with anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer activity. Broccoli also contains the compound glucoraphanin, which can be processed into an anti-cancer compound sulforaphane, though the benefits of broccoli are greatly reduced if the vegetable is boiled. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.
Boiling broccoli reduces the levels of suspected anti-carcinogenic compounds, such as sulforaphane, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Broccoli has the highest levels of carotenoids in the brassica family. It is particularly rich in lutein and also provides a modest amount of beta-carotene.

 
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli. The most familiar is Calabrese broccoli, often referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool season annual crop. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks. Purple cauliflower is a type of broccoli sold in southern Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Other cultivar groups of Brassica oleracea include cabbage (Capitata Group), cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli (Botrytis Group), kale and collard greens (Acephala Group), kohlrabi (Gongylodes Group), and Brussels sprouts (Gemmifera Group). Chinese broccoli (Alboglabra Group) is also a cultivar group of Brassica oleracea. Rapini, sometimes called “broccoli rabe” among other names, forms similar but smaller heads, and is actually a type of turnip (Brassica rapa). Broccolini or “Tender Stem Broccoli” is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli.

 

One of America’s Favorites – Panini (sandwich)

April 1, 2013 at 8:11 AM | Posted in cooking | Leave a comment
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In Italy, panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno]) is the word for a sandwich made from bread other than sliced bread, in which case

Professional cast-iron panini machine

Professional cast-iron panini machine

Italians call it a tramezzino. Examples of bread types used are ciabatta, rosetta and baguette. The bread is cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients such as salami, ham, cheese, mortadella, or other food, and sometimes served warm after having been pressed by a warming grill. A toasted sandwich made from sliced bread is not called “panino” but “toast” or “tosto” by Italians, and is usually filled with ham and a few slices of cheese, and heated in sandwich press. A popular version of panino in Central Italy is filled with porchetta, slices of pork roasted with garlic, salt, rosemary, and sage.
In the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the term panini has been adopted to refer to a pressed and toasted sandwich; there is widespread availability and use of sandwich presses, often known as “panini presses” or “toasted sandwich makers.”

 

The word panino [pa’ni:no] is Italian for “small bread roll“; its plural form is panini. The word is the diminutive form of pane (bread). In some English- and French-speaking countries, panini is sometimes used as a singular word (like salami, also an Italian plural noun) and sometimes incorrectly pluralized as paninis.
In Italian, panino refers properly to a bread roll and panino imbottito (stuffed panino) to a sandwich. Paninoteca is the word for a sandwich bar.
Panino is also often used to refer to a sandwich in general.

 

Although the first U.S. reference to panini dates to 1956, and a precursor appeared in a 16th-century Italian cookbook, the sandwiches became trendy in Milanese bars, called paninoteche, in the 1970s and 1980s. Trendy U.S. restaurants, particularly in New York, began selling panini, whose popularity then spread to other U.S. cities, each producing distinctive variations of it.
During the 1980s, the term paninaro was used to denote a youngsters’ culture typical of teenagers supposed to eat and meet in sandwich bars such as Milan’s Al Panino and then in the first US-style fast food restaurants opened in Italy. Paninari were depicted as fashion-fixated, vain individuals, delighting in showcasing early 1980s status symbols such as Timberland shoes, Moncler accessories, Ray-Ban sunglasses, and articles from Armani, Coveri, Controvento. They were lampooned in the Italia 1 comedy show Drive-in by Enzo Braschi. A track entitled “Paninaro” appears on Pet Shop Boys‘ albums Disco and Alternative.

 

Panini are cooked in specific grilling machines called either panini presses or simply panini machines. Domestic panini machines are usually made of teflon-coated metal or glass-ceramic, whereas professional units are made out of glass-ceramic or cast-iron. A few brands offer special features on their machines, such as cooking plates that can be removed for safe cleaning in the dishwasher.

Fish of the Week – Anchovy

February 13, 2013 at 10:38 AM | Posted in fish | Leave a comment
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I’ve run weekly articles on fruit, vegetables, cheese and other items so why not one of my favorite foods – fish and seafood! I’ll start with the Anchovy and work my way down the list. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small, common salt-water forage fish. There are 144 species in 17 genera, found in the Atlantic,

Anchovy closeup

Anchovy closeup

Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Anchovies are usually classified as an oily fish.
Anchovies are small, green fish with blue reflections due to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin. They range from 2 centimeters (0.79 in) to 40 centimeters (16 in) in adult length, and the body shape is variable with more slender fish in northern populations.
The snout is blunt with tiny, sharp teeth in both jaws. The snout contains a unique rostral organ, believed to be sensory in nature, although its exact function is unknown. The mouth is larger than that of herrings and silversides, two fish anchovies closely resemble in other respects. The anchovy eats plankton and fry (recently-hatched fish).
Anchovies are found in scattered areas throughout the world’s oceans, but are concentrated in temperate waters, and are rare or absent in very cold or very warm seas. They are generally very accepting of a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Large schools can be found in shallow, brackish areas with muddy bottoms, as in estuaries and bays. They are abundant in the Mediterranean, particularly in the Alboran Sea, and the Black Sea. The species is regularly caught along the coasts of Crete, Greece, Sicily, Italy, France, Turkey, and Spain. They are also found on the coast of northern Africa. The range of the species also extends along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the south of Norway. Spawning occurs between October and March, but not in water colder than 12 °C (54 °F). The anchovy appears to spawn at least 100 kilometers (62 mi) from the shore, near the surface of the water.
The anchovy is a significant food source for almost every predatory fish in its environment, including the California halibut, rock fish, yellowtail, shark, chinook, and coho salmon. It is also extremely important to marine mammals and birds; for example, breeding success of California brown pelicans and elegant terns is strongly connected to anchovy abundance.
A traditional method of processing and preserving anchovies is to gut and salt them in brine, allow them to mature, and then pack

Canned anchovies

Canned anchovies

them in oil or salt. This results in a characteristic strong flavor and the flesh turns deep grey. Pickled in vinegar, as with Spanish boquerones, anchovies are milder and the flesh retains a white color. In Roman times, anchovies were the base for the fermented fish sauce garum. Garum had a sufficiently long shelf life for long-distance commerce, and was produced in industrial quantities. Anchovies were also eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. Today they are used in small quantities to flavor many dishes. Because of the strong flavor, they are also an ingredient in several sauces and condiments, including Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing, remoulade, Gentleman’s Relish, many fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter. For domestic use, anchovy fillets are packed in oil or salt in small tins or jars, sometimes rolled around capers. Anchovy paste is also available. Fishermen also use anchovies as bait for larger fish, such as tuna and sea bass.
The strong taste people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, known in Italy as alici, have a much milder flavor. In Sweden and Finland, the name anchovies is related strongly to a traditional seasoning, hence the product “anchovies” is normally made of sprats and also herring can be sold as “anchovy-spiced”, leading to confusion when translating recipes.

National Pizza Pie Day is Today, February 9!! Celebrate the Day!

February 9, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Posted in pizza | 2 Comments
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National Pizza Pie Day is Today, February 9!! Celebrate the Day!

A pizza just removed from an oven

A pizza just removed from an oven

Pizza is an oven-baked, flat, round bread typically topped with a tomato sauce, cheese and various toppings. Pizza was originally invented in Naples, Italy, and the dish has since become popular in many parts of the world. An establishment that makes and sells pizzas is called a “pizzeria”. Many varieties of pizza exist worldwide, along with several dish variants based upon pizza. In 2009, upon Italy’s request, Neapolitan pizza was safeguarded in the European Union as a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed dish.

 
In restaurants, pizza can be baked in an oven with stone bricks above the heat source, an electric deck oven, a conveyor belt oven or, in the case of more expensive restaurants, a wood- or coal-fired brick oven. On deck ovens, the pizza can be slid into the oven on a long paddle, called a peel, and baked directly on the hot bricks or baked on a screen (a round metal grate, typically aluminum). When made at home, it can be baked on a pizza stone in a regular oven to reproduce the effect of a brick oven. Another option is grilled pizza, in which the crust is baked directly on a barbecue grill. Greek pizza, like Chicago-style pizza, is baked in a pan rather than directly on the bricks of the pizza oven.

 
The bottom of the pizza, called the “crust”, may vary widely according to style—thin as in a typical hand-tossed pizza or Roman pizza, or thick as in a typical pan pizza or Chicago-style pizza. It is traditionally plain, but may also be seasoned with garlic or herbs, or stuffed with cheese.

 
The most popular cheeses to use on pizza are mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and parmesan. Romano and Ricotta are often used as toppings and processed cheese manufactured specifically for pizza is used in mass-produced environments. Processed pizza cheese is manufactured to produce preferable qualities like browning, melting, stretchiness and fat and moisture content. Many studies and experiments have analyzed the impact of vegetable oil, manufacturing and culture processes, denatured whey proteins and other changes to creating the ideal and economical pizza cheese. In 1997 it was estimated that annual production of pizza cheese was 2 billion pounds in the US and 200 million pounds in Europe.

 
Toppings
Myriad toppings are used on pizzas, including, but not limited to:
Anchovies
Bacon
Ground beef
Mushrooms
Olives
Onions
Pepperoni
Peppers
Sausage
Seafood
Sun-dried tomato
Tomatoes
Vegetables

 

In 1905, the first pizza establishment in the United States was opened in New York’s Little Italy. Due to the wide influence of Italian

New York-style pizza.

New York-style pizza.

immigrants in American culture, the US has developed regional forms of pizza, some bearing only a casual resemblance to the Italian original. Chicago has its own style of a deep-dish pizza. Detroit also has its unique twice-baked style, with cheese all the way to the edge of the crust, and New York City has its own distinct variety of pizza. New Haven-style pizza is a thin crust variety that does not include cheese unless the customer asks for it as an additional topping.

One of America’s Favorites – Crêpe

January 28, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Posted in cooking, Food | 5 Comments
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A crêpe or crepe is a type of very thin pancake, usually made from wheat flour (crêpes de Froment) or buckwheat flour (galettes). The word is of French origin, deriving from the Latin crispa, meaning “curled”. While crêpes originate from Brittany, a region in the northwest of France, their consumption is widespread in France and Quebec. In Brittany, crêpes are traditionally served with cider. Crêpes are served with a variety of fillings, from the most simple with only sugar to flambéed crêpes Suzette or elaborate savoury fillings.
Crêpes are made by pouring a thin liquid batter onto a hot frying pan or flat circular hot plate, often with a trace of butter on the pan’s

A stack of crêpes

A stack of crêpes

surface. The batter is spread evenly over the cooking surface of the pan or plate either by tilting the pan or by distributing the batter with an offset spatula. There are also specially designed crêpe makers with a heatable circular surface that can be dipped in the batter and quickly pulled out to produce an ideal thickness and evenness of cooking.
Common savoury fillings for crêpes served for lunch or dinner are cheese, ham, and eggs, ratatouille, mushrooms, artichoke (in certain regions), and various meat products.
When sweet, they can be eaten as part of breakfast or as a dessert. They can be filled and topped with various sweet toppings, often including Nutella spread, preserves, sugar (granulated or powdered), maple syrup, lemon juice, whipped cream, fruit spreads, custard, and sliced soft fruits or confiture.
Crêpes are especially popular throughout France. The common ingredients include flour, eggs, milk, butter, and a pinch of salt. Crêpes are usually of two types: sweet crêpes (crêpes sucrées) made with wheat flour and slightly sweetened; and savoury galettes (crêpes salées) made with buckwheat flour and unsweetened. The name “galette” came from the French word galet (“pebble”), since the first gallettes were made on a large pebble heated in a fire. Batter made from buckwheat flour is gluten-free, which makes it possible for people who have a gluten allergy or intolerance to eat this type of crêpe.
Mille crêpe is a French cake made of many crêpe layers. The word mille means “a thousand”, implying the many layers of crêpe.
Chocolate-Coconut Crêpe served in crêperie near the Patheon in Paris, France
Another standard French and Belgian crêpe is the crêpe Suzette, a crêpe with lightly grated orange peel and liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) which is subsequently lit upon presentation.
Cherry Kijafa Crêpes are also often common and are made with a traditional crêpe base, but filled with cherries simmered in a Kijafa wine sauce.
Crêpe dentelle is a crispy biscuit made with a very thin layer of crêpe folded in a cigar shape and then baked. It is usually enjoyed with a hot drink during the Goûter, or Afternoon Tea, in France.
A crêperie may be a takeaway restaurant or stall, serving crêpes as a form of fast food or street food, or may be a more formal sit-down restaurant or café.
Crêperies are typical of Brittany in France; however, crêperies can be found throughout France and in many other countries.
Because a crêpe may be served as both a main meal or a dessert, crêperies may be quite diverse in their selection and may offer other baked goods such as baguettes. They may also serve coffee, tea, buttermilk and cider (a popular drink to accompany crêpes).
In Swedish, a crêpe is called pannkaka, and in Danish, pandekage (“pancake”); in Dutch it is a pannenkoek or flensje, and in Afrikaans a

A sweet crêpe served with strawberries and whipped cream

A sweet crêpe served with strawberries and whipped cream

pannekoek, which is usually served with cinnamon sugar. In Italy, crêpes are called crespella. In the Spanish regions of Galicia and Asturias they are traditionally served at carnivals. In Galicia they’re called filloas, and may also be made with pork blood instead of milk. In Asturias they are called fayueles or frixuelos, and in Turkey, “Akıtma”.
In areas of Eastern Europe formerly belonging to the Austro-Hungarian empire, there is a thin pancake comparable[clarification needed] to a crêpe that in Austro-Bavarian is called Palatschinken or Omletten; in Hungarian: palacsinta; and in Bosnian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Czech, Croatian and Slovene: palačinka; in Slovak: palacinka. In the Balkan region such as the countries of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, palačinka or palaçinka may be eaten with fruit jam, quark cheese, sugar, honey, or the hazelnut-chocolate cream Nutella. In Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, there is a similar dish known as the blintz. The Oxford English Dictionary derives the German and Slavic words from the Hungarians palacsinta, which it derives from the Romanian plăcintă (“pie, pancake”), which comes in turn from classical Latin placenta (“small flat cake”). In Chile and Argentina they are called panqueques and are often eaten with dulce de leche (known in English as “milk caramel”).
Crêpes have also become popular in Japan, with sweet and savoury varieties being sold at many small stands, usually called crêperies. They have also become popular in North America with several crêpe franchises opening. Typically, these franchises stick to the traditional French method of making crêpes but they have also put their own spin on the crêpe with new types such as the hamburger and pizza crêpe.
In addition to crêperies and crêpe franchises, there are crêpe manufacturers that use modern equipment to produce crêpes in bulk. Crepini, a crêpe producer based in Brooklyn, New York, makes a variety of Naked and filled crêpes that are sold by local retailers, major supermarket chains, and food service providers throughout North America and Canada.
In France, crêpes are traditionally served on Candlemas (La Chandeleur), February 2. This day was originally Virgin Mary’s Blessing Day, but became known in France as “Le Jour des Crêpes” (literally translated “The Day of [the] Crêpes”, but sometimes given colloquially as “Avec Crêpe Day” or “National Crêpe Day”), referring to the tradition of offering crêpes. The belief was that if you could catch the crêpe with a frying pan after tossing it in the air with your right hand and holding a gold coin in your left hand, you would become rich that year.

 

 
Basic Crepes

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
DIRECTIONS:
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
3. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.

*Makes 4 servings

Lucky Foods for the New Year

December 28, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Posted in Food | Leave a comment
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Lucky Foods for the New Year
Our guide to feasting for future fortune
By Lauren Salkeld
F or many, January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. But instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not enjoy a meal to increase your good fortune? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different pockets of the world: The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, we have an assortment of recipes, guaranteed to make for a happy new year, or at the very least a happy belly.

Grapes
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight, but Peruvians insist on taking in a 13th grape for good measure.

Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans consume sauerkraut (cabbage) while in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.

Legumes
Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it’s customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight—a particularly propitious meal because pork has its own lucky associations. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the new year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame.

In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.

Pork
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish
Fish is a very logical choice for the New Year’s table. According to Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages. He compares it to turkey on Thanksgiving. The reason? Long before refrigeration and modern transportation, cod could be preserved and transported allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. Kurlansky also believes the Catholic Church’s policy against red meat consumption on religious holidays helped make cod, as well as other fish, commonplace at feasts. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà, or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany—Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).

Cakes, Etc.
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items. Italy has chiacchiere, which are honey-drenched balls of pasta dough fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands also eat donuts, and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.
In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the recipient will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. In Greece, a special round cake called vasilopita is baked with a coin hidden inside. At midnight or after the New Year’s Day meal, the cake is cut, with the first piece going to St. Basil and the rest being distributed to guests in order of age. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.
Cakes aren’t always round. In Scotland, where New Year’s is called Hogmanay, there is a tradition called “first footing,” in which the first person to enter a home after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have. The “first footer” often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oat cakes, and a fruit caked called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.

What Not to Eat
In addition to the aforementioned lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there’s one more superstition—that is, guideline—to keep in mind. In Germany, it’s customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year. Likewise in the Philippines, it’s important to have food on the table at midnight. The conclusion? Eat as much lucky food as you can, just don’t get too greedy—or the first place you’ll be going in the new year is the gym.
Read More http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/newyearsday/luckyfoods#ixzz2GMRzRsCi

Cheese of the Week – Ricotta

October 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Posted in baking, Jennie-O Turkey Products, Kraft Cheese, pasta | 2 Comments
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Ricotta (Italian pronunciation: [riˈkɔtta]) is an Italian dairy product made from sheep (or cow, goat, or buffalo) milk whey left over

Ricotta.

from the production of cheese. Although typically referred to as ricotta cheese, ricotta is not properly a cheese because it is not produced by coagulation of casein. Rather, it is made by coagulating other milk proteins, notably albumin and globulin, left over in the whey that separates from the milk during the production of cheese. In fact, ricotta is safely eaten by individuals with casein intolerance.
Ricotta (literally meaning “recooked”) uses the whey, a limpid, low-fat, nutritious liquid that is a by-product of cheese production. Most of the milk protein (especially casein) is removed when cheese is made, but some protein remains in the whey, mostly albumin. This remaining protein can be harvested if the whey is first allowed to become more acidic by additional fermentation (by letting it sit for 12–24 hours at room temperature). Then the acidified whey is heated to near boiling. The combination of low pH and high temperature denatures the protein and causes it to precipitate out, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, the curd is separated by passing through a fine cloth.
Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, slightly sweet in taste, and contain around 13% fat. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. It is highly perishable. Ricotta comes in other forms as well, see variants below.

Whey contains little protein. This means ricotta production is a low-yield process, considering the amount of whey required to produce it. The whey is heated, sometimes with additional acid like vinegar or lemon juice, to catalyze the coagulation through heat of albumin and globulin in the whey. The whey is heated to a near-boiling temperature, much hotter than during the production of the original cheese, of which the whey is a remnant. This use for the whey has ancient origins and is referred to by Cato the Elder.

Like mascarpone in northern-Italian cuisine, ricotta is a favorite component of many Italian desserts, such as cheesecakes and cannoli. There are also kinds of cookies that include ricotta as an ingredient.
Ricotta can be beaten smooth and mixed with condiments, such as sugar, cinnamon, orange flower water and occasionally chocolate shavings, and served as a dessert. This basic combination (often with additions such as citrus and pistachios) also features prominently as the filling of the crunchy tubular shell of the Sicilian cannoli, and layered with slices of cake in Palermo’s cassata.
Combined with eggs and cooked grains, then baked firm, ricotta is also a main ingredient in Naples’ pastiera, one of Italy’s many “Easter pies”.
Ricotta is also commonly used in savory dishes, including pasta, calzone, pizza, manicotti, lasagne, and ravioli.
It also makes a suitable substitute for mayonnaise in traditional egg or tuna salad and as a sauce thickener.
It is often used as a substitute for paneer in the Indian dessert known as Ras Malai. However, paneer is mostly casein protein, similar to Cottage Cheese, while Ricotta is made of all whey protein. Studies have “demonstrated that supplementation with whey protein improves blood pressure and vascular function in overweight and obese individuals” . This suggests that Ras Malai made from Ricotta may be a healthier alternative in some cases.

While Italian ricotta is typically made from the whey of sheep, cow, goat, or water buffalo milk, the American product is almost always made of cow’s milk whey. While both types are low in fat and sodium, the Italian version is naturally sweet, while the American is blander, slightly salty, and moister.
In addition to its fresh, soft form, ricotta is also sold in three preparations which ensure a longer shelf life: salted, baked and smoked. The pressed, salted, dried, and aged variety of the cheese is known as ricotta salata, is milky-white and firm, and used for grating or shaving. Ricotta salata is sold in wheels, decorated by a delicate basket-weave pattern.
Ricotta infornata is produced by placing a large lump of soft ricotta in the oven until it develops a brown, lightly charred crust, sometimes even until it becomes sandy brown all the way through. Ricotta infornata is popular primarily in Sardinia and Sicily, and is sometimes called ricotta al forno.
Ricotta affumicata is similar to ricotta infornata. It is produced by placing a lump of soft ricotta in a smoker until it develops a grey crust and acquires a charred wood scent, usually of oak or chestnut wood, although, in Friuli, beech wood is used, with the addition of juniper and herbs.
Ricotta scanta is produced by the process of letting the ricotta go sour in a controlled manner, for about a week, then stirring it every 2–3 days, salting occasionally and allowing the liquid to flow away. After about 100 days, the ricotta has the consistency of cream cheese, with a distinct, pungent, piquant aroma, much like blue cheese but much richer. Ricotta scanta, also called ricotta forte, tastes as it smells, extremely aromatic and piquant, with a definite bitter note. Tasted with the tip of the tongue, it has a “hot” sensation.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

INGREDIENTS:
12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (16 ounce) Jennie – O Sweet Italian Turkey Sausages
Jennie – O Breakfast Lean Ground Turkey Sausage
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (24 ounce) jar marinara sauce
4 cups ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded Kraft 2% Mozzarella Cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
DIRECTIONS:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, lightly oil and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, saute the sausage, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion and garlic and continue sauteing for another 4 minutes until the sausage is cooked through.
3. Add marinara sauce to the sausage mixture and set aside. In a medium bowl, blend ricotta cheese, egg, 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese; set aside.
4. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil and spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture on the bottom.
5. Top with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta cheese mixture on the noodles and layer on 1 cup of the sauce mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese over this. Repeat this process three more times starting with the noodles and finish with the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with oregano.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Cheese of the Week – Provolone

October 4, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Posted in cheese, cooking, Food | Leave a comment
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Provolone

Country of origin Italy

Provolone

Region, town Southern Italy
Source of milk Cattle
Pasteurised Depends on cow variety
Texture Semi-hard
Aging time at least 4 months
Certification Provolone Val Padana:
Provolone is an Italian cheese that originated in Casilli near Vesuvius, where it is still produced in various shapes as in 10 to 15 cm long pear, sausage, or cone shapes. A variant of Provolone is also produced in North America and Japan. The most important Provolone production region is currently Northern Italy.

The term Provolone (meaning large Provola) appeared around the end of the 19th century, when it started to be manufactured in the Southern regions of Italy, and this cheese assumed its current large size. The smaller sized variant is called Provola and comes in plain and smoked (“affumicata”) varieties.

Modern Provolone is a full-fat cow’s milk cheese with a smooth skin, produced mainly in the Po River Valley regions of Lombardia and Veneto. It is produced in different forms: shaped like large salami up to 30 cm in diameter and 90 cm long; in a watermelon shape; in a truncated bottle shape; or also in a large pear shape with the characteristic round knob for hanging. The average weight is 5 kg (11 pounds).

Provolone is a semi-hard cheese with taste varying greatly from Provolone Piccante (piquant), aged for a minimum of four months and with a very sharp taste, to Provolone Dolce (sweet) with a very mild taste. In Provolone Piccante, the distinctive piquant taste is produced with lipase (enzyme) derived from goat. The Dolce version uses calf’s lipase instead.

Both Provolone Val Padana and Provolone del Monaco (from the Naples area of Italy) have received the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) seal from the European Community.

In Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay, small discs of locally-produced “Provolone” of 10 to 15 cm in diameter and 1 to 2 cm in height are generally consumed before eating grilled meat. The Provolone is either placed directly on the grill, on small stones, or inside a foil plate and cooked until melted. The provoleta is seasoned with chimichurri, and usually eaten communally.

Baked Ziti

INGREDIENTS:
1 (16 ounce) package dry ziti pasta, Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Ziti Pasta
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 (28 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce, Bella Vita Low Carb Pasta Sauce
6 ounces sliced provolone cheese
6 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
DIRECTIONS:
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
2. In a large skillet, brown beef over medium heat. Add onions; saute until tender. Drain off fat and add spaghetti sauce; simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
4. In a lightly greased 2 quart baking dish, place about half of the pasta; top with a layer of provolone and mozzarella cheese slices. Spread on a layer of half the spaghetti sauce mixture and sour cream.
5. Cover with remaining pasta, cheese and sauce; sprinkle a layer of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
6. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until cheese and sauce are bubbly; serve.

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