Sunday, February 28, 2010

Culinary Olympics 2010, Ricotta Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Ricotta Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

 I have another great event from our very active group, BloggerAid- Changing the Face of Famine, in which we are celebrating the Canadian 2010 edition of the Winter Olympics with a round of recipes and stories to mark this grand occasion. The round up will be posted March 5 at BACFF. You'll want to check out the offerings and stories from the Olympics from around the world.  

Also a reminder that the highly successful  BloggerAid Cookbook is now on sale. All proceeds go directly to the School Meals Program a division of the World Food Programme and the United Nations. Purchase your copy today and help kids around the world have access to an education and nutritious meals every day.

For us here in Italy we are proud of all our Italian  participants and especially so for the medalists in Luge, Nordic combined, cross country and short track, but the cheer for the gold in Slalom, by RAZZOLI Giuliano last night was deafening. Well, at least at our house, it was. This 25 year old young skier broke the drought  for medals in the downhill category that has been ongoing since Alberto Tomba retired from his domination of this spot. Guiliano grew up a short distance from where Tomba grew up and I would imagine he probably grew up with him as an idol and a goal to reach. There was even talk of him not being sent with the team to Vancouver and so I imagine his victory is even all that more sweet. It actually brought tears to the great Alberto Tombas eyes when they announced him as the winner last night. It was a special moment. We awoke this morning to learn that one of our friends from the 2006 games, whose nephew was competing in the Bobsled, who went home empty handed then, was rewarded with gold yesterday in Vancouver as well. We're so happy for Steven Halcomb and his team and family. They also broke a drought for the Americans that I think they said stretched back over 60 years. That's a long time to wait  and again, must be very sweet indeed. We salute all of the competitors and their families, as it requires a lot of sacrifice, effort and support for an athlete to reach their goals and compete in the Olympics. 
Well done everyone!
I'm offering this  not too sweet treat as a contender for the Culinary Olympics 2010 as an Italian entry.


Ricotta Mascarpone Swirl Torte

Ingredients:

250g Ricotta cheese, (optional-put through a fine strainer for a creamier texture) (9-12oz)
250g Mascarpone cheese, amount depends on what container size you can find 8-9 0z)
128g confectioner (icing, powdered) sugar (4.5 oz 1/2 c)
2 Eggs, separated
Zest of 2- 3 oranges depending on size of oranges, chopped fine, or use a microplane zester
1 Tb Vanilla extract or seeds from two vanilla pods

Chocolate swirl

100 g  (3.5- oz) Chocolate, bittersweet, chopped 
118 g heavy cream (1/2c)

1 pasta frolla 10-12" crust, partially baked, or several small tartlette size

Method:

Place the chopped chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler or a medium sized metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl on top of a smaller metal bowl or saucepan with hot simmering water. You don’t want anything to boil, just heat the water to melt the chocolate. 
Once all is melted, whisk till smooth, being careful not to over mix. Set aside over the hot water, with the heat turned off, but while the water is still warm.

Sift the powder sugar through the strainer into a medium sized bowl.
Add the ricotta, strained or unstrained.
Add the mascarpone cheese. 
Add the egg yolks, vanilla, orange zest and blend.
Whip the egg whites till frothy and homogeneous, but not firm.
Gently mix in.
Pour into a partially baked 10 inch or pasta frolla crust.
Once the filling is added, smooth the surface. 
Stir gently and smooth your chocolate mixture 
Pour chocolate in a circular pattern around the perimeter of the tart to make a bull eyes pattern. If your chocolate seems too thick, add a bit more cream to make it swirlable.
Drag a knife across from center to outer sides of the crust, to make the swirls. You can also make random drips of the chocolate ganache instead of the bulls eye for a different look. 
Bake at 325* in a preheated oven till just slightly set. 
Cool and slightly chill. 
Serve with fresh fruit or chocolate  or caramel sauce.
The crust will be soggy if left overnight.


 You can find  a recipe for the pasta frolla crust recipe from my Peach crostata recipe here

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunshine in a Jar-Orange Marmalade

I've been on a run of recipes here lately, for not really being a food blog and I'm not done yet, but that's ok.  We have been spending a lot of time at home lately and so I find time to cook and write.   So many recipes, so little time. It's getting down to the wire for those of you looking for Seville oranges as their season is winding down, but luckily for us I've found that our Sicilian blood oranges work just dandy for this gorgeous spread.
No Seville oranges here, so naturally we've been making our orange marmalade from Sicilian blood oranges that we get from our friendly Sicilian vendor at the market, who sells his family's oranges, clementine, lemons and other specialties all winter and then returns to the family in the summer to work in the fields. Try not to make the mistake I did when I first arrived tried asking for them as blood oranges and got some pretty horrified looks.  They're called arancia rosso or tarocco, red oranges or tarot oranges.  Makes sense, except for the tarot part. One of these days I will discover why they are called tarot oranges.
I never really liked orange marmalade much until I started making my own and now I'm a convert through and through. My first attempts were more like thick honey, but I've we've finally gotten it down to where the texture is creamy, clear and very spreadable. Fabrizio has taken a keen interest in helping this season after usually sitting on the sidelines. His specialty is cutting the peels whisper thin. It does make a difference, although I do like the thick strands as well. We have started a small following of eager eaters for our orange marmalade and so, hi ho, it's off to the market for oranges we go, and go and go. Finally, we just bought a crate and have been enjoying some fresh squeezed juice to boot.
Making marmalade is a bit of a process, but when you see your gleaming jeweled jars sparkling on your shelves, you'll forget the time consuming process till the next batch or next year, whichever one comes first. I've tried a few recipes and found this one works best for me. It comes via Inge over at Vanielje Kitchen, who seems to be on a bit of a hiatus. I do hope she returns as her blog and recipes are always worth a gander.
If you have never made orange marmalade, like myself, I was a little baffled at first as to what exactly was suppose to happen, so I have added some photos to help your uderstanding, as I wished I had found when I made my first batch. 
 
Bitter Orange Marmalade or Marmellata di Arancia  Tarocco

Ingredients:
    * 900g Seville Oranges, try to get unsprayed
    * 1 large lemon
    * 2.4 litres of filtered water (81 oz)
    * 1.8kg of sugar, granulated, fine if possible(6 pounds)

Method:
    * Wash and dry the oranges and the lemon (if they are waxed you will need a scrubbing brush and some mildly soapy water)
    * Halve and squeeze the fruit, saving the juice and seeds/pips
    * Pour into a muslin cloth and sieve over a bowl. I used a bowl with cheese cloth as I haven't really found any muslin here so far.
    * Remove some pith (the white bit) from the peel and add to the muslin bag with the pips
    * Cut the peel into very thin strips
    * Loosely tie off the muslin/cheesecloth bag to allow room for movement
    * Attach with a hook or string to the handle of your preserving pan, allowing the bag to hang inside the pot, just clear of the bottom
I used a knitting needle to suspend the tied up cheesecolth and supended it in the middle of the pan.
    * Place all of the fruit parts in the preserving pan and add the water.
    * Measure the depth and bring slowly to a boil
    * Turn down and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours (the peel should be soft and the depth should be reduced by half)
    * Remove the muslin bag and carefully (it will be very hot) squeeze out excess moisture into the pan
    * Add the sugar and stir to dissolve over a low heat
    * Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes or until setting point, 105*C / 220*F  
(I found 110*F at my altitude of /1,100m/3,600ft, it is just about the perfect temp) I allowed it to gently simmer for quite a while to bring it to temperature, as I find that a rapid boil makes it easy for it to boil over and to sometimes crystalize. Just be patient and you will be rewarded.

    * Skim off any scum from the top and let stand for 5 minutes
    * Stir to distribute peel evenly, bottle (into sterilized bottles) and seal.
    * Store in a cool dark place and refrigerate once opened

 Get ready for the oohs and ahhs when you  crack out this treat for your morning whole grain seeded toast, bagel, or  afternoon scone. You'll be glad you made the effort.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hope for Haiti and Orecchiette with Broccoli Raabe

 
February 21-28
The earthquake that struck Haiti January 12 of this year changed lives forever and left most of the world wondering how they could help as the full extent of this horror unfolded before our eyes as the news trickled out. Such devastation to such a vast area and a sense of helpless to not be able to get the help so desperately needed there fast enough. The needs are still great and even though you have probably already given something to help, BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine (BA-CFF), have decided under the guidance of Jeanne of CookSister to have an on line raffle to raise money  for Concern Worldwide's relief effort for Haiti.  This event is especially close to my heart, as my brother survived being buried under the rubble of the Hotel Montana. He had arrived as part of a team whose focus was to improve Haiti's medical services and agricutural future, meeting with other organizations to reach these goals. Having survived and mostly recuperated, he is currently back in Haiti this week to continue with his work there, attending the meetings that didn't happen as a consequence of the earthquake but are still on going to bring a better standard of life to the Haitian people. You can read my tribute to him here  and his account with links to his work here.
Hope for Haiti is another opportunity to help make a difference in peoples lives. The online raffle has a lot of interesting prizes, so head over to CookSister here, to learn all about it and how to bid on some of the prizes. The raffle tickets aren't very expensive, roughly around $10 dollars, and you just might win some thing, but you will certainly be helping out someone that could use a helping hand.

Here's a seasonal pasta dish to keep you going, easy on the budget, comes together in a flash and oh so satisfying. I love these spicy greens and never seem to get enough of them. Look for them if you've never had them. They're  great  just boiled and seasoned although they mix well with other greens for  the type of greens I grew up on, which of course, were generously seasoned with the bacon fat from the faded pink metal lidded can that always sat on the stove, collecting the grease that would find it's way back into so many different dishes, till it got retired later on when Mom tried to cook more healthfully for her and Dad.

Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa 
Serves 4
  • 1# (500g) orecchiette or  other short pasta
  • 2#  (1kg) Cime di rapa also known as broccoli raabe, or other greens with a bit of a kick like mustard greens
  • 3-4 Tb (60ml) olive oil
  • 4-5 medium garlic cloves
  • 1-2 small chile peppers or 2 tsp dried chile pepper or to taste
  • salt 
Wash the greens and pat dry.
Cut the woody bottoms off and cut up the stalks into 4 cm (1-1/2 inch)  pieces to the top.
Bring a pan of salted water, large enough to hold the greens. Taste the water to make sure it is salty enough.
When it comes to a boil, plunge the greens in and cook till soft, but still bright green.
Remove the greens and set aside.
Bring the water back to a boil. Add more water and adjust the salt if more is needed to cook the pasta.
Cook pasta al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, saute the garlic and pepper in the olive oil for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Whole peppers have less fire than powdered chile
Add the greens and cook a few minutes more. Remove the chile peppers if whole and adjust seasonings.
Add the drained pasta to the pan and toss all together.
Serve immediately.
Do make sure you don't miss this winter time treat!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valdesian (Waldensen) Liberation Day, February 17

 
This is a special day for our valley, Chisone, Germanasca and Torre Pellice, as it is home to about 70% of all Protestants in all of Italy, and the spiritual home of the first religious groups to break away from the Catholic church and were persecuted for it, for many long years, centuries actually. 

Prepared  Bonfire ready to light
We can hear the beating of the drums from down in the valley, as they prepare to march in traditional costume to meet their neighbors in the next village and  worship together, afterwards they will eat and drink a few celebratory dishes and generally enjoy the day with frineds and family.
Last night there should have been bonfires recreating the proclamation, granting them citizenship, in 1848, to finally be able to vote and practice their religion out in the open without fear of persecution. It was a long time coming.  Our valleys are known as the Valedesian valleys, from being followers of Waldo of Lyons, he is buried in Torre Pellice and  as they are a bit remote and tucked up into a large expanse of mountainous region that is scarely populated. It may seem inhospitable to some, but it is a beautiful part of the alps and has afforded a life to many in a sometimes harsh enviroment, but one where it's easy to feel close to the heavens and yet grounded here to a land that yields a modest living.  It's a day to celebrate and be thankful for what we have and we are grateful. 
I have a couple of other post about this celebration if you would like a bit more information a pictures click here or a traditional recipe of filled cabbage packets in a broth recipe, click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Have a Chocolate Heart today!

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you out there.
It's a day to enjoy chocolate as far as I'm concerned and that can't be bad. I must say that I started with a piece of toast this morning with a slathering of Nutella on just to kick the day of on a celebratory note. I made this cookie a ways back, but love the photo so I decided to trot it out, but alas when I tried to open my recipe in my files, it keeps telling me it is either corrupt or isn't supported. Computers are so great when they work. Unfortunately, I can't find a hard copy of it any where in my miles of recipe files and scraps of scribbled stacks of recipes and ideas anywhere, so I'll just give you an Alice Medrich recipe that I based my recipe on. I had the great pleasure of taking a cooking class from her years ago down in Boulder, when I was still up in the high country of Colorado. She was a delightful teacher and it was great to not only sample all of her chocolate decadence, but to listen to her stories and see her in action. OK, yes these are not traditional Italian cookies, but they are very tasty.  I used a cookie press to make the star on each of the cookies before popping them into the oven.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Recipe courtesy of Alice Medrich 

  • Prep Time: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield:  40 to 45 cookies

  • Times: Prep1 hr 30 min 

    Inactive Prep--Cook--Total:1 hr 30 min

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch Process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sweet butter, slightly softened
  • 3 tablespoons stick margarine, I used all butter, which will make them crispier
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of ground black pepper (I was very generous with both peppers)
  • Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg white

Directions

Combine the flour, cocoa, soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whisk. Set aside. Combine the sugars in a small bowl and mix well with fingers pressing out any lumps. (Process in a food processor if lumps are stubborn).
In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter and margarine until creamy. Add sugar mixture, cinnamon, peppers, and vanilla. Beat on high speed for about one minute. Beat in egg white. Stop the mixer. Add the flour mixture. Beat on low speed just until incorporated. Gather the dough together with your hands and form it into a neat 9 to 10-inch log. Wrap in waxed paper. Fold or twist ends of paper without pinching or flatting the log. Chill at least 45 minutes, or until needed.
Place oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven preheat to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Use a sharp knife to slice rounds of chilled dough a scant 1/4-inch thick. 
Place 1-inch apart on prepared baking sheets. 
Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through. Cookies will puff and crackle on top, and then begin to settle down slightly when done. Use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Allow cookies to cool completely before storing or stacking. Store in an airtight container up to two weeks, or freeze up to 2 months. 


Here are a couple of pictures of us on Valentine's Day in years past.
 
We were awarded gold medals by our Dutch guests after returning from one of their many nights of attending the Speed Skating competition in Torino in 2006. They had friends competing and well you know how the whole of Holland is just mad about skating! 


Valentine's Day, 2007 
 
We took a lot of people by surprise when we went skiing on a powder day to Loveland ski area and got married along with 60 other couples, some who were renewing their vows, in what was a very cold and yet very emotional ceremony on top of Loveland Pass, Colorado. We celebrate 9 years together this May, but just got around to officially getting married 3 years ago.
Who knows what lies in store for future Valentine's days. I'm sure it will be fun. Today we're just taking it low key and happy to be healthy and together. Can't ask for much more. 
Happy Valentines Day 2010!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Olympics 2006- Vancouver 2010

 
Passion still lives here 4 years on. 
Today the world's attention turns to Vancouver and their Winter Olympic games, as well it should, but naturally for us the memory of one of the best two weeks, I mean actually more like a month when you add in the Paralympics, which were a lot of fun also, for our valley and  us, turns back in retrospect.
  
The flame has come and gone on to Vancouver 2010
But here are a few images of our 2006 ones 
from our Val Chisone and Val Susa
and of course, Torino
 
Sestriere, Men and Women's Downhill
  
Pragelato Ski Jump
Nordic 


Free style


Skelton

Hockey


Speed Skating


The winners 
and the celebrating


And what would the games be with out the fans and innkeepers!
Thanks for the wonderful memories
and

And Forza Azzurri!!!

The various photos are courtesy of Phil Huff, Albert Pater, Willy Coyote and myself, as well as Vancouver's logo. If you want more photos I have a long version photo album of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, where the photos are contributed by the many people we met and some that stayed with us during the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics on Picassa here.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Nutella Cornetti for World Nutella Day 2010

It's that time of the year again.
Which one you might ask?

(of course, silly)
Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle from Bleeding Espresso 
solemnly declared Friday, February 5th “World Nutella Day 2010″ 
 A day to celebrate and get creative with, and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.
Heck, why not?
We live in the region of Piedmont, where Nutella was born, (over in Alba), so we take our nutella consumption very seriously. We also love to sample all the other home grown varieties that you'll find through out our area, made by local chocolatiers. Ferrero aren't the only ones making a tasty chocolate hazelnut confection. They may have been first and it may be good, but it's worth trying a few for comparison. We know a few places to try do some serious tasting and research....

If stay with us at Bella Baita for a few days, you are more than likely to come across these little crescents on the breakfast table. This nutella filled pastry strikes a delicious balance of not too flaky and a slight chewy texture after the initial crispy bite. They are a perrenial favorite around our house and make an appearance regularly along with our home made apricot preserves tucked inside some too, just in case, gasp, someone might not like nutella.

Nutella filled Cornetti
based on a recipe by Anna Moroni
of "La Prova del Cuoco" fame, an Italian cooking show
(for 12 small cornetti)

Ingredients for the dough:
  • 125 g butter (8.7 TB/ 4.4 oz)*
  • 125 g yogurt (1/2c)*
  • 1 T sugar 
  • 250-300 g flour (2 1/2-3 c)*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  •  pinch salt
*I haven't actually made these with the American measurements and have only looked up the conversions on line to convert the amounts, so proced with caution. I find that conversions for the weight of flour is wildly variable, so if you  have a metric scale, I would reccomend weighing everything at least the first time. I will try and update this in the future to secure American measurements. so stay tuned.

The filling:
Nutella 
or anything that strikes your fancy
marmalade/ fruit preserves
or ricotta or cream(sweetened with 1 Tbsp sugar)
with mini chocolate chips or
nuts with cinnamon and other spices


Pre-heat the oven at 200C (400F)
Melt the butter
Add the yogurt  and butter along with the sugar and  blend well
Add  the flour, pinch of salt, and baking powder and gingerly make the dough.
Try not to handle to much, but do combine all thoroughly. I find that at 250g it is quite sticky, so I add the other 50g more or less around the edges of the bowl to make the dough more manageable without losing any tenderness.
Split the dough into 2 pieces and cover with a towel or plastic shower cap
Let rest for 20 minutes or in the refrigerator if it is really warm
Roll one ball out into a circle about 12cm or so (6-7" across)
Cut into 6 slices with three cuts across the circle(triangle shape).
Put a generous dollop of Nutella on each slice  at the wide end of the dough
Roll it to make a little "cornetto" (which in Italian means "small horn" for the shape) or crescent
Repeat with the other dough ball.
(I have also refrigerated the second dough ball over night and had good results the next day as well)
Place on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or till golden brown
Let them cool down and then sprinkle with icing/powdered sugar or cocao powder
Watch them disappear.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tomino di Talucco

 
Recently, we went to visit some local cheese makers in Val Lemina, the small valley directly up and over the hill behind Grandubbione, the hamlet at the end of our road.  Valeria and Mauro Gaido very kindly let us join them during their daily ritual of making a soft, ricotta style cheese, called Tomino, a local speciality and favorite.  Tomino can be all cows milk or a combination of cows and goat. 
This day they had about liters of milk from 15 cows and 45 goats. After bringing the milk t a boil the added their coagulating ingredient, allowed to set for the curds and whey to separate. Then they drain off as much whey as they can, which gets fed to the pigs, before dipping up the curds and dispersing then in to their containers to drain in. At one time they used terra cotta pots, but now, by law, those are no longer used. Pity, as I imagine there was something lost with that change.
Tomino is a mild, fresh cheese eaten simply as is, or as an accompainment to polenta, drizzled with hot pepper oil or a few grinds of black pepper on top.  After a few days as the water drains out and the cheese becomes more compact they will then be rolled in black or red pepper and left to dry out, getting a stronger flavor as it ages and in some cases, a wayyyyyy strong flavor. 
I use it as I would ricotta and it becomes a filler for pasta as well as one of my favorite dishes which is as an addition to a rustic torta, often made with spinach. I made the torta with some of this batch of Tomino with a seeded spelt crust and cima di rapa greens along with the tomini to make an outstanding, flavorful torte. Unfortunately, we were too greedily hungry to wait in order to get a photo. Guess I'll just have to make it again, so I can post a recipe for it. In the mean time, you can use my recipe for a spinach ricotta tart to tide you over, as it really is a wonderfully sastifying meal this time of year.
I tried to learn how to use my imovie function on my computer and so this post is much later in coming than expected as learning a new program always takes more time than I think it will. Hope you enjoy this journey into a cheese makers profession.
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