How to make macarons ( the wrong way )

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Some months ago ( more or less at the beginning of this journey with my blog ) I tried, as many cooks do some time or another, to bake my first batch of macarons.
Yes, the infamous, delicate-as-a-baby french friandises, an authentic ability test for your cooking skills ( and, most definitely, for your failure acceptance skills too: a most underrated talent for sure ).
As many others, at first I felt very confident: how can that be so difficult?! Sure enough, it will just need a bit of practice and attention to the recipe instructions; it won’t be a problem, right?!

So, very carelessly I read the beautiful Helene Dujardin’s guide to macarons ( I’m sure you already know her wonderful blog, tarteletteblog.com, one of my absolute favourites ), and tried my hand at it; very diligently, I’d left my egg whites to age two or three days in advance in the fridge, to get the proper level of dehydration ( apparently, humidity kills these little ones ), and drew the almonds from my pantry ; I had a packet of store-bought whole almonds instead of the required fine meal, but, hey, that’s what food-processors and mortars are for, right?! I always tend to use whole fruits when I can, because I find meal to absorb an unpleasant plasticky flavour far too quickly, therefore I felt quite justified in using them: if it’s right for a cake, it’s right for a macaron, isn’t it?

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Well, sure enough, if you’re very diligent, super-attentive cook, to start from whole almonds is much better in terms of flavour and quality, but you must really be careful when preparing macarons: the meal you’ll use must be very fine, not even a bigger speck is to be seen, or else they will collapse. And of course you must dehydrate them too, because once ground, they tend to release all their gorgeous butter: excellent to add moisture to a cake, but definitely not for the naughty macaron…

And, guess what?, I wasn’t so careful and attentive, of course! My meal wasn’t too fine, but I used it nonetheless.
While whipping the egg whites, anyway, I kept wondering what exactly Helene meant for ” dry egg whites “: when, exactly, a whipped eggwhite becomes too dry to be of any use in a macaron?
Of course, now I’ve learned it – the hard way: in adding the almond meal to the whipped whites, I figured out immediately with dismay what exactly ” too dry ” meant. At that point, I knew they weren’t going to be macarons at all. But I couldn’t throw all that goodness away, so I baked them nonetheless.

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The result was quite fine and flavourful: thin, crunchy shells with a faint almond smell and delicious caramel taste; but of course they weren’t macarons. We gobbled them down nonetheless, though. No complaints.

Why this story? Because even failure can be productive, right? One cannot always obtain perfect results, and that’s no disaster. And of course, if ever you decide to make macarons for the first time, don’t be messy as I was!
And, of course, the photos were taken at the time, so please forgive their slight agoraphobic feel!

On another note, my new oven has arrived! Woohoo! I can’t wait to try it, maybe with a batch of chocolate chip cookies… Even if here it’s still summer, I’m beginning to crave the comfort of autumnal flavours…

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The long summer

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…yet again I have to apologise for another, and completely unexpected absence ( this is becoming quite a habit, isn’t it? ). Fact is, the oven AND the stovetop have decided to declare themselves defeated around here lately, quite at the same time ( yes, I’m lucky like that ). So, I just thought my microwaved dinners where not so interesting to keep track of them on this blog…

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But, in the meantime ( our new oven and stovetop should arrive within days ), I will share with you my summer, which left me with plenty of pictures, if not a bit tired ( yes, I came back from the holidays quite worn out, due to a series of small inconveniences along the route – pretty frequent, isn’t it? But I’m looking forward to a few free days in october, to catch a breth after such a long, long year ). We’ve been in Molise and Elba, as usual, but I took the chance to take a stroll around here also, in this Rome neightbourhood where I live, camera in hand and eyes wide open to catch everything I love of it all – no typical Roman Photos, however: just a little neightbourhood at the heights of its summer bounty and lushness.

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First of all, we went in Molise to spend a few days with my grandmother and her sister in law; there, in between fascinating memories of wartime and years long past ( my grandma’s sister in law was born just there, in that very house in which we still spend some weeks every year ), I had the possibility to admire with awe the lushness of the landscape: I oftentimes came here at the end of the summer, to pick loads of blackberries for jam just at the side of the road, but rarely have I come so early in the season, when the land is still to be harvested and therefore abundant with waves of red poppies, cow parsley, growing mint and chamomille ( if you’ve read this blog sometimes before now, maybe you’ve noticed how fond I am of flowers and plants, so excuse me if there are just a bit too many flower photos in this post!). Just in front of the house we had a small kitchen garden but recently established, but already green with tiny artichokes and arugula, squash flowers and ripening tomatoes; sadly, the peach trees were not yet ready to yield their first crop, and the apple trees were just halfway through the process, but we were able to snack on a few gages of our own ( well… Maybe more than a few, actually; I don’t think I have ever had quite so many plums as this summer! I’m already dreading the moment they will disappear from the market and gardens… ), while my granny and her friend cooked homemade pasta for us, leaving it to dry over old linen towels and silver trays.

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After that, we spent a few weeks at Elba Island as we do every summer ( I came there for the first time when I was six-months old, and never missed a summer from then ); I was elbow deep in study for my exams ( I still am, actually ), but managed to take a few photos, especially of the most incredible pine I have ever seen: apparently, it has been a sapling at the time Napoleon wasn’t even born; incredible, isn’t it? I saw it illuminated from beneath in a half-moon night, and couldn’t resist to catch a few images of it. Beautiful. The gulf was still and black as ink that night, dotted with tiny specks of light; it was just stunning.

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And, what about Rome? I took a few photos of my neightbourhood in late July, prompted by a year of silent admiration for the beautiful plants I’ve managed to notice during my afternoon strolls with my dog: the intense ginger scent of white trumpets; the passion flowers, weird but beautiful, that bloomed in may and are still there; the ripening vine with its still green bunches, the little jasmine flowers and velvety fig leaves… Wonderful just how a peripheric, anonymous neightbourhood can contain so much beauty.

I hope I will be soon back with recipes, but for now, here it is. Not-too-short but sweet.

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La Tartine Gourmande: a review

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…yes, yes, I know. ” La Tartine Gourmande: recipes for an inspired life ” has been published more than a year ago, and Bea Peltre doesn’t need any introduction either.

It’s just that I liked the book, and I felt the need to talk about it here, I suppose.

What attracted me the most about Bea’s book, I must admit, was the cover. ” never judge a book from the cover ” is a saying that, apparently, doesn’t apply to this book: it really is worth its price just for that pretty quail eggs photo, I think.

But, even more so, for the truly inspiring recipes: if you’re scared of spicing up a bit your dishes, if you feel dubious when it comes to ginger and lemongrass, then maybe – or maybe not – this is not the right book for you.

But I like to experiment: you may have noticed, if you’ve read some of my previous posts, that I like to add a teaspoon of this and a dash of that to give a little twist to dishes and treats well known; not always my relatives receive these concoctions without that doubtful expression that says: ” have you done it again? Have you messed up with a beloved classic? “. But, you know what?, I’m lucky: they always try the things I create, even when they have ” that ” expression. And more often than not, they like them too. In a way, they’re lucky too, having the possibility to try and find new favourites. Isn’t this the beauty of taking a leap of faith, However small?
If you like to cook, you’ll probably know this sensation.
And possibly Bea knows it too.

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So far, I prepared only a few recipes from the book, and stole many good tips and ideas ( delicious little tartlets the thickness of a biscuit, with thin slices of honeyed fruit on top? Clever! ); but, I think I’ve bookmarked every single page of the book: the gorgonzola and pear risotto, the Jerusalem Artichoke soup with truffled oil, the honey and lemon chicken with zebra tomatoes… Ad of course, everything chocolate in the book. As imaginable, the few recipes I’ve already tested do involve chocolate, for the most part. Predictable girl.

…and in fact, even if here is so damn hot that, with an IPad on my knees, I really do think I’m going to melt soon, it’s a chocolate cake the recipe from this book I want to share with you: a chocolate and plum cake, to be exact. I’ve given it a bit of a twist adding more chocolate ( of course! ) for moisture, but not much more than that. And it really does keep its promises: it’s moist and fudgy, and the plums add just the right amount of fruity tanginess to the bittersweet of the chocolate.
Try it. Even if it will be not earlier than in the autumn, I will feel pretty much content. It is not the most beautiful cake I have ever baked ( mostly because of the overripe plums, to be honest ) but it is really comforting and gratifying. And is it not these very sensations, what one search from a thing as simple as a cake?

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Chocolate and plum almond cake
adapted from Beatrice Peltre’s book ” La Tartine Gourmande: recipes for an inspired life “

  • 7 tbs butter, plus 1 for the mould
  • 2 plums, potter and sliced
  • 1/3 cup natural cane sugar, plus 2 tbs
  • 3 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F ( 180 C ). Grease the mould and Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper; set aside.
In a frying pan, melt a tbs butter with a tbs of sugar and the cinnamon; add the plum slices and cook for 2 minutes or until soft, but not mushy. Set aside to cool.

In a saucepan, pour 1 inch water; then, place a second, smaller saucepan over the first, being careful not to let it touch the water. Place half of the chocolate in the smaller saucepan and put the two stacked saucepans over low heat, stirring often, until the chocolate has melted ( be careful: it will burn easily ). Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and the other half of the chocolate.
In another bowl, whip the eggs with the sugar until pale and thick; stir in the vanilla and the melted chocolate. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid, and mix gently to combine. Add half of the plums cooking liquid to the batter.

Arrange the plums on the bottom of the pan; then, pour the batter over them. Bake the cake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a skewer insert ed in the center comes out clean.
Let it cool for 10-15 minutes in the mould before trying to unmoulding. Serve warm.

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Sherbet for happiness

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The taste of plum sherbet, so rich and heady, will possibly be forever associated with happiness for me from now on.

Let me tell you a story, and forgive me if I get a bit cheesy here and there: last summer, approximately this time of the year, we discovered that my dad, as many other ill-fated people in the world, had developed cancer. We were knocked off our feet and our landing was pretty rough, while we struggled to grasp at what had happened. Then, we started to react, and try to fix up this terrible illness while keeping our lives – work, study, friends and all those little things that make it so worth the fight – going on. It is a long journey, as many of you sadly know. A long, and ongoing excercise of optimism, patience, perseverance and love.
Through this journey, we had the help of so many friends – so many! – that we will probably never be able to thank enough for their support, both material and spiritual; and so, day on and day off, with fear and hope keeping us company all along, a whole year has passed.
Then, on my dad usual bimestral check, we discovered that the cancer had disappeared. It was gone. We were knocked down again, this time from joy and utter bewilderment. I’m unable to tell you what that meant exactly. We know this is a continual and neverending journey, but for now, we are just content. And happy. More than happy.

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The morning we received the news, I was just fiddling around, trying to get a grip on myself, because these check-up days are always so scary ( I really can’t emphasize this enough ); then, out of the blue, we – my sister and I, waiting at home- received that news. Bewildering, extraordinary.
And then, after an indescribable happy dance and inner switching on of every possible light , just like this, I had this sudden urge to make this sherbet. Yes, I know. Don’t ask, it simply happened. It seems so absurd, doesn’t it? Maybe, I just needed something comforting and intense to keep my pace. Or maybe I just needed to find tranquillity in such a simple, manual activity ( you can’t even imagine – or maybe you do – how much comfort and cuddly moments are needed when a good news hits. Even more so than with a bad news ).

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And so I did. This is my first take on sherbet ( actually, I had never even heard of it before stumbling upon a recipe on Aran’s blog Cannelle et Vanille ), and it was definitely delicious. Or it was because it tasted like joy?
Either way – wheter you’re mourning, or jumping up and down with happiness, or simply enjoying quietly your life – try this one. Maybe a tiny drop of my happiness has gone into the recipe, and will be able to reach you.

Roasted plum and buttermilk sherbet

For this one, I used homemade buttermilk for one simple reasons: buttermilk is a pretty difficult ingredient to find here in Italy. You can definitely substitute a store-bought, good quality organic buttermilk if you prefer, or you can choose to use plain yogurt instead ( not greek style yogurt, which is too thick for this recipe ). And yes, I know the buttermilk I’ve used in this recipe is not ” proper ” buttermilk ( the liquid resulting from the making of the butter ), but it is a pretty handy recipe, and I’ve loved the result, actually.
For the plums, as you can see in the photos, I’ve used a miscellaneous of sizes and varieties – to be honest, I simply happened to have these in the crate -, but you can definitely choose the variety you prefer; just remember to check their sugar content by tasting them before placing them in the oven, to adjust the amount of sugar needed. For myself, I was looking for a tangy, not overly sweet sherbet, but if you prefer it differently, feel free to adjust it to your own tastes: it is a very forgiving recipe.

For the buttermilk:

  • 50 ml ( 1/4 cup ) whole milk
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the sherbet:

  • 1 kg ( 2 lbs ) plums ( quarter the bigger ones, halve the medium-sized )
  • 1 tbs runny honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 200g. ( 6 tbs ) natural cane sugar
  • 100 ml (1/2 cup ) water

Per heat the oven to 325F ( 160C ).

For the buttermilk: In a bowl, combine the milk with the vinegar and stir gently to combine; let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes, until the milk curdles and thickens. Place the mixture in the fridge until required.

Place the plums in a shallow baking tray, and drizzle with the honey; dust with cinnamon and ginger, and bake in the oven fr 40 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Let aside to cool, then pit the fruits.

In a heavy based pan, combine the sugar and water; place it over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved; then, cook over medium heat and let it come to a boil; let it cook for a minute more, then remote the pan from the heat. Let it cool.

Puree the cooled fruits in a mixer and sieve the resulting flesh ( I’ve leaved some bits whole for the texture ). Add the puree to the sugar syrup, along with the reserved buttermilk, and stir to combine. Pour it in an ice cream machine and follow the intructions. If you haven’t an ice cream machine ( just like me ), then pour the sherbet base in a freezer-safe shallow pan and put it in the freezer for 45 minutes; then, scrape it with a fork and return to the freezer. Repeat a couple of times, then, place it in the freezer until ready and hardened.

Extract the sherbet from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. It will not disappoint.

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Peaches and cream to fight the summer heat

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Hi all! I’m back!
I must begin with saying that here in Rome, we’re in the throes of a truly searing hot summer: as of lately, the only thing I can think of is fresh fruit, sorbets, yogurt and BBQs, with no desire at all to stand by a hot stove or a 350F oven; but, almost per chance, I can’t help but think all the time about every kind of concoctions, chocolate batters and brioches to stick in the oven as a last minute dessert at night ( when it’s supposed to be cooler… But, let my tell you that, it’s just a naive illusion, at least here ), as if my mind wasn’t able to live a season at a time: it must have it all ( and, mind you, I really do love summer ).

The truth is, during the summer, I don’t really feel like cooking: for a girl that loves kneading bread by hand, throwing together a salad is just awesome for the tastebuds, but not so much so for the pleasure of cooking in itself. There, I said it. I’m really a summer person, but some kind of winter cook. Weird, isn’t it?

So, given that I couldn’t turn completely off my whim for cooking, I decided to turn it to my advantage throwing together one of my favourite desserts ( custard ) pairing a couple of much loved summer products: fresh yogurt and peaches. Yes, it was some kind of peaches and cream, actually.

For this particular dessert, though, I decided to use a batch of poached peaches I prepared last summer, using Donna Hay’s Seasons’ fabulous recipe, because, honestly, I had had them in the pantry for so long I really needed to use them to free some space for new summer preserves ( don’t you love making preserves too? ). So, I gave them a bit of a twist with a dash of maple syrup and a quick roasting prior to adding them to the custard, for added flavour. And they were amazing! The cream so silky, the peaches just tender and aromatic… I promise, they melt in your mouth.

For now, I’ll leave you with a ” happy summer! ” wish to you all, because I’m packing for a fortnight vacation at Elba Island ( remember my last time there, in March? ). Hope to see you soon!

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Ciao a tutti! Sono tornata!

Devo cominciare dicendo che, qui a Roma, siamo nel pieno di un’estate davvero rovente: ultimamente, le uniche cose a cui riesco a pensare sono frutta fresca, sorbetti, yogurt e barbecue, senz’alcun desiderio di piazzarmi davanti ad un fornello acceso o ad un forno a 180 gradi. Ma, quasi per caso, non posso fare a meno di pensare continuamente ad ogni genere di composti, impasti al cioccolato e brioche da infilare in forno come dessert dell’ultimo minuto a tarda sera ( quando in teoria dovrebbe fare più fresco… Ma, lasciate melo dire, è solo una pia illusione, almeno da queste parti ), come se la mia mente non fosse in grado di vivere una sola stagione alla volta: deve averle tutte insieme ( e, badate bene, io adoro l’estate ).

La verità è che, durante l’estate, non amo molto cucinare: per una ragazza che ama impastare il pane a mano, mettere insieme un’insalata è fantastico per le papille gustative, ma non altrettanto per il piacere di cucinare in sé. Ecco, l’ho detto. Sono un tipo che ama l’estate, ma preferisco la cucina invernale. Strano, no?

Quindi, considerato che non riuscivo a tacitare completamente il mio vizio per la cucina, ho deciso di rivoltarlo a mio vantaggio preparando uno dei miei dessert preferiti ( custard ), abbinando un paio di prodotti estivi che amo molto: yogurt fresco e pesche. Sì, era una specie di pesche e crema, in effetti.

Per questo dessert in particolare, tuttavia, ho deciso di utilizzare delle pesche sciroppate che avevo preparato la scorsa estate utilizzando la favolosa ricetta di Domna Hay tratta da ” Stagioni “, perché, onestamente, l’avevo nella dispensa da così tanto tempo che avevo davvero bisogno di adoperarle per far spazio alle nuove conserve estive ( non piace anche a voi preparare conserve? ). Quindi, gli ho dato un tocco in più con uno spruzzo di sciroppo d’acero e n breve soggiorno nel forno prima di aggiungerle alla crema, per un po di sapore in più. E il risultato era fantastico! La crema così setosa, le pesche tenere e profumate… Ve lo assicuro, questi custards si sciolgono in bocca.

Per il momento, vi lasciò con un augurio di buone vacanze, perché sto facendo le valigie per una vacanza di un paio di settimane all’isola d’Elba ( ricordate la mia ultima puntata lì, in Marzo? ). Spero di risentirvi presto!

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Peaches and maple syrup custards
Makes 5 6-oz custards
For this recipe, I’ve poached peaches following Donna Hay’s ” Seasons ” recipe for vanilla poached peaches, but feel free to substitute with whatever recipe you have at hand and you feel comfortable with, or even, if you’re short of time, with really good-quality store bought ones.

  • 50 g. Natural cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g. Almond flour
  • 250 g. Full-fat yoghurt of greek-style yoghurt ( for a creamier result )
  • 250 Ml Milk
  • 50 ml heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 poached peaches, halved and diced to 1/3 inch cubes
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 2 tbs maple syrup

In a non-stick frying pan, melt the butter; then, add the diced peaches and cook them briefly over medium-low heat, drizzling them with maple syrup, for 3-4 minutes. Let them cool a bit, steeping in their pan juices.

Preheat the oven to 325F ( 160 C ).

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar and the vanilla seeds or vanilla extract; add the yoghurt, heavy cream, milk and almond flour, and mix until smooth.

Place the diced peaches on the bottom of 5 6-oz ramekins; add their cooking syrup to the egg batter and mix well. Pour the batter in the ramekins, over the cubed peaches, and transfer the ramekins in a deep-rimmed baking pan; place it in the oven and pour in the pan enough water to go halfway through the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until set. Remove them carefully from the water bath, taking care not to spill water inside the ramekins. Serve chilled, with slivered almonds on top.

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Custards alla pesca e sciroppo d’acero
Per 5 custards da 200 ml

Per questa ricetta, ho ottenuto le pesche sciroppate seguendo la ricetta di Donna Hay tratta da ” Stagioni ” per le pesche sciroppate alla vaniglia, ma sentitevi liberi di sostituirle con qualsiasi ricetta abbiate sotto mano e che vada bene per voi, o persino, se avete poco tempo, con delle pesche sciroppate in barattolo di ottima qualità.

  • 50g. Zucchero naturale di canna
  • 4 uova
  • 50g. Farina di mandorle
  • 250 ml yogurt intero o yogurt greco ( per un risultato più cremoso )
  • 250 ml latte
  • 50 ml panna densa
  • 1 baccello di vaniglia, i semini estratti, o 1 cucchiaino di estratto di vaniglia
  • 2 pesche sciroppate, tagliate a metà e tagliate a cubetti di poco più di mezzo centimetro di lato
  • 1 noce di burro
  • 2 cucchiai di sciroppo d’acero

In una padella antiaderente, far fondere il burro; quindi, unirvi le pesche a pezzetti e far cuocere brevemente su fuoco medio basso, irrorandole con lo sciroppo d’acero, per 3-4 minuti; quindi, far raffreddare, lasciando aromatizzare le pesche nel loro fondo di cottura.

Preriscaldare il forno a 160 C.

Nel frattempo, sbattere le uova con lo zucchero e i semi di vaniglia o l’estratto di vaniglia; quindi, aggiungervi lo yogurt, il latte, la panna e la farina di mandorle, e mescolare fino ad ottenere un composto liscio.

Suddividere le pesche a cubetti fra le cocottine da 200 ml; aggiungere il loro fondo di cottura al composto di uova e mescolare bene. Versare il composto nelle cocottine, sopra i cubetti di pesca, e porre le cocottine in una teglia a bordi alti.
Infilare la teglia nel forno, e versarvi acqua calda fino a raggiungere metà altezza delle cocottine.

lasciar cuocere per 40-45 minuti, o fin quando le creme si saranno rassodate. Rimuovere con attenzione le cocottine dal bagnomaria, facendo attenzione a non versarvi dell’acqua. Servire fredde, con mandorle a lamelle.

The blue skies of summer

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Hi all!

yet again, I’m late here, in this page of mine; but I’m sure you too have been around much, given the splendid weather of the deeps of summer. Not much to do, around a computer – or an oven.

In fact, I’ve kept the cooking and baking at a minimum, lately – this heat doesn’t make it easy to turn the oven on, even for a slice of moist chocolate cake ( yes, I eat chocolate even during the summer ). Mainly, I live happily on salads, yoghurt, and fresh fruits: couscous, arugula, roasted tomatoes, juicy and caramelized to the point of bursting; and watermelon, cherries, ananas with yoghurt and delicious plums, yellow, black and red, the sweet nectar drippling down my elbows ( yes, I’m quite of a messy eater – isn’t the best part of the whole thing, licking a sweet, erratic drop of juice from your fingers? ).
Meanwhile, I travel. All but fancy: my grandfathers have builded a house each – one near the sea, one at the feet of the mountains where he was born ( he has fixed the home of his parents there, actually ), and we are still as thankful as ever for this opportunity to elude the heat of Rome, at least for a few days.

This is it, for now. Short but sweet. I will soon come back ( well, I hope so ) with new recipes – peach and maple syrup custard, anyone? – but for now, I’ll leave you with this photo. The fig tree visible against the sky was planted here by my grandfather, fifteen years ago or so. Till now, it has always been but a sapling, too secluted for his own good, here, in the pleasant heat of Italy. Then, this year, it exploded: it must have grown enough to peek at the sun over the high wall that has protected it till now; his long branches have gone wild with happiness, apparently, growing in the direction of the sun, , elongated like hands. And under the big leaves, dangle already a few, little figs.

Happy summer to you all!

Chocolate Cherry Gratin

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yes, yes, I know; yet again, I’ve let pass too much time between a post and another; but now – fingers crossed! – the most heated period is over, and I’m here again!

In the last few weeks, despite the unnumbered tasks and errands we had to fulfill ( this is THAT period of the year, I’m sure you too know this sensation! ), I managed to bake quite a few treats, especially before the heat wave of the last month hit us: chocolate and raspberry cake, peach custards, and the chocolate cherry gratin ( from CannelleVanille cookbook ) that I’m going to tell you about.

some weeks ago, I came back home to find a huge glass bowl partly filled with water on the kitchen table, in which hundreds of red orbs floated and laid on the bottom. at my curious glance, my mom explained: ” These are from so-and-so who has a tree overloaded with fruit; taste them, they’re really good!”. everyone was already devouring them by the handful, so I happily followed, my mind already buzzing with ideas: what would I cook with them? because there were too much to eat them all fresh! while I thought about that, I couldn’t help but take a few photos of these beauties, so inspiring they were.

So, my sister came home to find me hunched over the table with a few glasses and a wicker basket, still photographing; she held a huge, dripping brown paper bag in her hands.
” what’s that? ” I asked as soon as I saw her, amazed – a quick, vague feeling already taking shape in my mind.
” Cherries ” she answered in fact, ” my boss has given me some, you know, they have a tree … “; at this point, I stopped to listen: a smile had formed on my lips, while I thought of the lush trees of the summer and our generous friends.

These that my sister brought home were even darker, sweeter and juicier that the others; but now, we had so much cherries we really worried they were going to waste. so, I quickly put my mind at work.
I had a thought of baking Aran’s Chocolate Cerry Gratin, the idea of which had intrigued me as soon as I stumbled upon it. perusing the cupboard and fridge, I discovered happily that we already had everything I needed for it: Whoo-hoo! Yay for momma that brought double the amount of mascarpone for her tiramisu last week, we have leftover now!
So, I started to whisk and whip, but when the moment came to add the mascarpone… I discovered it wasn’t mascarpone after all, but the mascarpone box, filled with leftover pasta sauce! Damn!
taking mental note always to make sure to double check all my ingredients, I quickly substituted it for heavy cream. After a few other adjustments to adapt it to my personal tastes ( more chocolate, anyone? ), here it was: one of the best chocolate cherry treats we have ever had.

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Sì, Sì, lo so; ancora una volta, ho lasciato passare troppo tempo fra un post ed un altro; ma ora – tenendo le dita incrociate – il periodo più caldo è passato, e sono di nuovo qui!

Nelle ultime settimane, nonostante gli innumerevoli compiti e commissioni che avevo da portare a termine ( questo è QUEL periodo dell’ anno, sono sicura che conoscete la sensazione! ), sono riuscita a preparare alcuni dolci, specialmente prima che ci colpisse l’ ondata di calore delle ultime settimane: torta al cioccolato e lamponi, creme alla pesca, e il gratin di cioccolato e ciliegie ( dal libro di CannelleVanille ) di cui vi parlerò qui.

qualche settimana fa, tornata a casa, ho trovato un’ enorme ciotola di vetro sul tavolo di cucina, riempita a metà d’acqua, in cui centinaia di sfere color rosso galleggiavano o giacevano sul fondo. Al mio sguardo incuriosito, mia mamma ha spiegato: ” Provengono ta Tal dei Tali che ha un albero stracarico di frutti; assaggiale, sono davvero buone! “. Tutti stavano già divorandole a manciate, quindi io li ho imitati allegramente, la mente già che ronzava di idee: che cosa avrei preparato con quelle ciliegie? perché erano troppe per mangiarle tutte fresche! Mentre ci pensavo, non ho potuto fare a meno di scattare qualche foto a quelle bellezze ispiratrici.

Così, mia sorella al ritorno a casa mi ha trovato china sul tavolo con alcuni bicchieri e un cestino di vimini, ancora intenta a fotografare; teneva in mano un’enorme busta di carta marrone gocciolante.
” Cos’è ? ” ho chiesto, meravigliata, non appena l’ ho vista – un vago presentimento che già andava formandosi nella mia mente.
” Ciliegie ” ha risposto infatti. ” Il mio capo me ne ha date un pò, sai, hanno un albero… “. A quel punto, ho smesso di ascoltare: un sorriso mi si era formato sulle labbra, mentre pensavo agli alberi lussureggianti dell’estate e ai nostri generosi amici.

Quelle che mia sorella aveva portato a casa erano anche più scure, dolci e succose delle precedenti; ma ora, ne avevamo così tante che stavamo davvero iniziando a preoccuparci che avremmo finito per doverle buttare. Quindi, mi sono messa rapidamente in moto.
Avevo in mente di preparare il gratin di cioccolato e ciliegie di Aran, il cui solo pensiero era riuscito ad intrigarmi non appena vi ero incappata. Dando un’occhiata alla dispensa e al frigo, avevo scoperto con gioia che avevamo già tutti gli ingredienti necessari: wow! Evviva la mamma che ha acquistato doppia dose di mascarpone per il suo tiramisu della scorsa settimana, ora posso usare gli avanzi!
Quindi, ho iniziato a montare e mescolare, ma quando è venuto il momento di aggiungere il mascarpone… Ho scoperto che in realtà non era mascarpone, ma solo la scatola del mascarpone, riempita di avanzi di sugo! Dannazione!

Prendendo mentalmente nota di ricontrollare sempre due volte gli ingredienti, lo ho rapidamente sostituito con della panna densa. Dopo pochi altri aggiustamenti per adattarlo ai miei gusti ( altro cioccolato, ne sapete qualcosa? ), eccolo pronto: uno dei migliori dolci di cioccolato e ciliegie che abbia mai assaggiato.

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Chocolate Cherry Gratin

Adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s ” Small Plates and Sweet treats “

  • 110g. ( 4 oz ) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 60g. ( 2 oz ) natural cane sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110g. ( 4 oz ) heavy cream or mascarpone
  • 35g. ( 1\3 cup ) almond meal
  • 1\4 tsp salt
  • 450g. ( 1 pound ) Bing Cherries ( or other dark cherries ), stemmed
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

preheat the oven to 425F ( 220° C ). Melt two ounces of the chocolate over a water bath; let it cool and reserve.

In a bowl, whip together the eggs, egg yolk, 1\4 cup of the sugar and the vanilla extract, until thick and light. Gently fold in the heavy cream or mascarpone, melted chocolate, almond meal, chopped chocolate and salt, until a homogeneous batter forms.

pour the batter into a 10-inch soufflé or pie dish, studding it with cherries.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa with the rest of the sugar, and sprinkle over the cherries.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is crunchy and the interior creamy. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.

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Gratin di Cioccolato e Ciligie

Adattato da ” Small Plates and sweet Treats ” di Aran Goyoaga

  • 110g. cioccolato fondente, finemente tritato
  • 2 uova
  • 1 tuorlo
  • 60g. zucchero naturale di canna
  • 1 cucchiaino di estratto di vaniglia
  • 110g. panna densa o mascarpone
  • 35g. farina di mandorle
  • 1\4 cucchiaino di sale
  • 450g. ciliegie, depicciolate
  • 1 cucchiaino di cacao amaro

preriscaldare il forno a 220°C.

Fondere a bagnomaria 60g. di cioccolato. lasciar intiepidire e mettere da parte.

In una ciotola, montare con la frusta le uova, il tuorlo, 50g. zucchero e l’ estratto di vaniglia, fino ad ottenere un composto denso e leggero. Con delicatezza, incorporarvi la panna densa, il cioccolato fuso e quello tritato, la farina di mandorle e il sale, fino ad ottenere un composto omogeneo. Versare in uno stampo da 30 cm di diametro. Punteggiare con le ciliegie.

In una ciotolina, mescolare lo zucchero rimasto con il cacao, e spolverare sulle ciliegie.

Infornare per 20 minuti, o fino ad ottenere una superficie croccante ed un cuore cremoso. servire tiepido o a temperatura ambiente.

Chocolate and pistachio cookies – more clean up

image Hi all! Just this morning, between a knead to my weekly batch of bread, and a sidelong glance to my anthropology books and notes ( exams to come soon, as always happens for every Italian University student – June and July are our test months! ), I noticed that it was already more than ten days till my last post… I’m sorry! I was pretty sure that it had passed less time, but apparently I was quite wrong… Busy-bee problems, I’m sure you know this feeling too! So, I’m really, really looking forward to enjoy this summer, of all summers… It is so needed, this year! For my family, it has been a pretty intense year ( and, are they not always intense? In one way or another, it always seems that carefully and lovingly thought plans go on wobbly and twisted as an unpruned hazel! ), and, overall, tiring: my dad’s medical issues have hitted us pretty badly, trying to get ourselves knocked from our feet; we’ ve had to adjust to new family equilibria – and surely we’ve a long way to go still… And, this spring has been pretty cold and rainy around here, on top of it all! April was gorgeous and sunny, but May… Oh, May has been our new November this year. Truly. I’m really feeling like a bit of sun, warm and pleasant, won’t be at all a bad thing, now… So, as a last ” spring-clean-up “, I decided to post my chocolate and pistachio cookies recipe this time; apparently, this year I’ve baked more cookies than ever before: I’ve always preferred softer, more gooey goods ( and we’ve had lots of them, too, during the winter! ), but my family loves cookies to nibble on through the day, so I tested my hands a lot with it too! These are a personal variation of Aran’s chocolate, oats and pistachio chunks cookies; no oats around here ( I’ve still to find them, here in Rome! ), but a lot of gooey chocolate and tiny pistachio specks… Enjoy! image Ciao a tutti! Solo questa mattina, fra un’impastata alla mia dose settimanale di pane, e un’occhiata di traverso ai miei libri e appunti di antropologia ( gli esami sono alle porte, come sempre accade in questo periodo per gli studenti universitari Italiani – Giugno e Luglio sono i nostri tradizionali mesi degli esami! ), ho notato che sono già passati più di dieci giorni dal mio ultimo post… Mi spiace! Ero sicura che fosse passato meno tempo, ma a quanto pare mi sbagliavo… I problemi di un’ape operosa, sono certa che anche voi conoscete questa sensazione! Quindi, sono davvero, davvero in ansiosa attesa di potersi godere quest’estate, fra tutte le estati… Se ne sente così tanto il bisogno, quest’anno! Per la mia famiglia è stato un anno piuttosto intenso ( non lo sono sempre? Per un motivo o per l’altro, anche i piani programmati con attenzione e con amore finiscono per procedere traballanti e intrecciati con un nocciolo non potato! ), e, sopra ogni cosa, stancante: i problemi di salute di mio padre c hanno colpiti piuttosto duramente, tentando di gettarci a gambe all’aria; abbiamo dovuto abituarci a nuovi equilibri familiari – e abbiamo ancora molta strada da fare… È, per colmo, la primavera è stata piuttosto fredda e piovosa da queste parti! Aprile è stato fantastico e soleggiato, ma Maggio… oh, maggio è stato il nuovo Novembre quest’anno. Sento davvero che un pochino di sole, caldo e piacevole, non sarebbe affatto una cattiva idea, adesso… Così questa volta, come ultima puntata delle mie ” pulizie di primavera “, ho deciso di postare la mia ricetta per i biscotti al cioccolato e pistacchi; a quanto pare, quest’anno ho cucinato biscotti più spessi di quanto abbia mai fatto in passato: ho sempre preferito dolci più soffici e cremosi ( e anche di questi ne abbiamo avuti parecchi, durante l’inverno! ), ma la mia famiglia ama avere dei biscotti da sgranocchiare durante il giorno, quindi mi ci sono provata parecchio! Questi sono una mia variante personale dei biscotti di Aran al cioccolato, quinoa e pezzetti di pistacchio; niente quinoa da queste parti ( devo ancora riuscire a trovarla, qui a Roma! ) ma un bel po di cremoso cioccolato e pezzettini di pistacchio… Godeteveli!

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Chocolate and pistachio cookies Adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s ” Small Plates and Sweet Treats ”

  • 110 G. ( 1 stick ) cubed butter, at room temperature
  • 250 G. Natural cane sugar ( 1 1/4 cup )
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 280 G. ( 2 cups ) flour
  • 50 G. (1/2 cup ) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 30 G. (1/4 cup ) cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 salt
  • 160 G. ( 1 cup ) un slater natural pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 50 G. (1,8 oz ) dark chocolate, chopped

Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy; add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract. In another bowl, mix together the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. At the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until it forms a dough. Add the chocolate and pistachios. Place the dough over a piede of parchment paper, and roll it into logs; roll them in the parchment and refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour, or until firm. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees ( 350F ). Cut the logs with a sharp knife into disks 1/3 inch thick, and place them on a baking sheet linee with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes; they will look not completely set, but they will harden as they cool.

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Biscotti al cioccolato e pistacchi Adattati da ” Small plates and sweet treats ” di Aran Goyoaga

  • 110g. Burro morbido a pezzetti
  • 250g. Zucchero naturale di canna
  • 2 uova
  • 1 cucchiaino di estratto naturale di vaniglia
  • 280g. Farina
  • 50g. Cacao amaro
  • 30g. Amido di mais
  • 1 1/2 cucchiaino bicarbonato di sodio
  • 1/2 cucchiaino di sale
  • 160g. Di pistacchi al naturale, spezzettati
  • 50g. Cioccolato fondente, a pezzetti

Lavorare a crema a il burro con lo zucchero; unire le uova, una alla volta, e l’estratto di vaniglia. In un’altra ciotola, mescolare assieme la farina, cacao, bicarbonato di sodio, sale e amido di mais. Unire gli ingredienti secchi a quelli umidi e lavorare fino ad ottenere un impasto. Aggiungere i pistacchi e il cioccolato. Sistemare l’impasto su un foglio di carta forno, e arrotolare fino ad ottenere un cilindro. Porre in frigorifero per 30 minuti – 1 ora, o fin quando non sarà solido. Preriscaldare il forno a 180 gradi. Con un coltello affilato, affettare il cilindro in dischi di 1 cm di spessore circa. Porre su una teglia foderata di carta forno e infornare per 8-10 minuti. Non sembreranno cotti, ma solidificheranno mano mano che raffreddano.

A bit out of season

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As I’ve said here many times before, I love seasons.
I really enjoy their flow, from one to another, new growth popping up from the ground in spring, the dazzling, overabundant lush of summer and its sweet, powerful scents, and of course I love autumn ( as I’ve written in my post about our travel to Molise in November ): is there something more gorgeous than thickets of caramel and crimson leaved trees, meadows shining silver with dew, bushes of tangled branches and gossamers? Probably, only a gorgeous hibiscus, its corolla like a wheel of colours, or the powerful vanilla scent of jasmine and honeysuckle in the summer can beat it.
I love winter too; of course I live in a pleasant climate where winters tend to be mild, but I like walking on the barren soil, under cloudy skies, jackets and coats helded close to the body, and coming home red cheeked, with the smell of hot chocolate and a slice of vanilla and apple tarte tatin just waiting for me, inviting and beckoning. And what about the pleasure of seeing the first promising signs of new growth to come?
I know I am lucky; for many, seasons mean life – hard life, life that you have to struggle to live; winter is a season of frosts and death, and summer is the fear for drought. I’m really grateful for what I have – my country was, not so long ago, a rural and poor one, even if greatly renowned in history, and all these struggles with the seasons’ oddities and difficulties are very well kept in our memory, and in the daily lives of many.

But now that spring is slowly giving way to summer, and I take daily walks with my dog, I’m reminded once more of the beauty of this natural process:I feel a bit saddened when a flower or a plant goes to sleep again, but another one follows, or their berries and fruits ripen, or they held their strong roots sheltered in the soil for new years to come. It’s beautiful. And it’s a delight too to cook according to season: if ever you’ve eaten a peach in winter, dull and dry, and then again in the summer, glistening with sticky, perfumed juices and soft scented pulp, you know what I mean.

…and now, how will I explain the chocolate cake I’m going to post today here, at the end of May ( here in Rome, by all accounts it is traditionally the first month of summer temperatures )?
Well, to my defence I can only say that I baked it two months ago ( yes, it stayed in my computer that long! ), that it contains strawberries, and that chocolate, even if it is mainly considered a winter treat, and with good reason, it’s simply too delightful not to eat all year round, or so it is for me: I’m addicted.
And, if these are not justification enough, what about its deliciousness?about Its silky, mousse-like texture and the bits of juicy strawberries flavoured with black pepper and cardamom? And the crunchy almond crumble on top?

I baked this inspired by the unnumbered baskets of strawberries that landed on our kitchen table from the beginning of the season ( maybe you will remember the almond and strawberry clafoutis I baked for St. Valentine with the first picking ). And, even if I tend to prefer strawberries raw, naked and simple, not even with sugar or lemon added, I can just say that this cake was a hit. Truly. For every season.

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Come ho detto qui molte altre volte in passato, adoro le stagioni.
Amo il loro scorrere fluidamente l’una nell’altra, la vegetazione nuova che fa capolino dal suolo in primavera, l’abbacinante, straripante rigoglio dell’estate e i suoi profumi dolci e potenti, e naturalmente adoro l’autunno ( come scrissi nel mio post riguardo la nostra visita in Molise in Novembre ): c’è forse qualcosa di più straordinario di boschetti di alberi dalle chiome caramello e cremisi, prati inargentati dalla rugiada, cespugli di rami intrecciati e ragnatele? Probabilmente, solo un bellissimo hibiscus, la corolla come una girandola di colori, o l’intenso profumo di vaniglia dei gelsomini e del caprifoglio in estate possono batterlo.
Amo anche l’inverno; certo, vivo in un clima piacevole dove gli inverni sono solitamente temperati, ma mi piace camminare sul terreno spoglio, sotto un cielo nuvoloso, giacche e cappotti stretti al corpo, e arrivare a casa con le guance rosse e il profumo di cioccolata calda e tarte tatin di mele e vaniglia ad attendermi, invitante e tentatore. E che dire del piacere di osservare i primi segnali della nuova vegetazione pronta a spuntare?

So di essere fortunata; per molti, le stagioni significano vita – vita dura, vita che devi lottare per vivere; l’inverno è la stagione di gelate e di morte, e l’estate è la paura della siccità. Sono davvero grata per quel che ho – il mio paese era, fino a non molto tempo fa, una terra rurale e povera, sebbene molto rinomata nella storia, e tutte queste lotte contro le stranezze e difficoltà delle stagioni sono ben conservate nella nostra memoria, e nella vita quotidiana di molti.

Ma ora che la primavera sta lentamente cedendo il passo all’estate, ed io mi ritrovo a passeggiare quotidianamente con il mio cane, torno a notare ancora una volta la bellezza di questo processo naturale: mi sento un po rattristata quando un fiore o una pianta tornano nuovamente a dormire, ma un’altra segue, o le loro bacche e i loro frutti maturano, o riparano le loro radici nel terreno per gli anni a venire. È bello. Ed è piacevole anche cucinare secondo stagione: se avete mai assaggiato una pesca in inverno, asciutta e insapore, e poi di nuovo in estate, scintillante di succhi aromatici e appiccicaticci, la polpa morbida e profumata, sapete di cosa sto parlando.

Ed ora, come spiegherò la torta al cioccolato che posto qui oggi, alla fine di maggio ( che a Roma è senz’altro il tradizionale mese d’inizio delle temperature estive )?
Beh, in mia difesa posso dire solo che la ho preparata due mesi fa ( sì, è rimasta nel mio computer per un bel po! ), che contiene fragole, e che il cioccolato, sebbene sia considerato principalmente un ingrediente invernale, e con buona ragione, è semplicemente troppo delizioso per non essere consumato tutto l’anno, o per lo meno così è per me: ne sono dipendente.
E se queste giustificazioni non dovessero bastare, cosa dire della sua bontà? Della sua consistenza setosa, simile ad una mousse, e dei pezzetti di fragola profumati a pepe nero e cardamomo? E del croccante crumble di mandorle sulla superficie?

Ho preparato questa torta ispirata dagli innumerevoli cestini di fragole che son approdati sul nostro tavolo di cucina fin dall’inizio della stagione ( forse ricorderete il clafoutis di mandorle e fragole che ho preparato per San Valentino, con il primo raccolto della stagione ). E sebbene io di norma preferisca le fragole al naturale, nude e semplici, senza neppure un pochino di zucchero o di limone, posso solo dire che questa torta è stata un successo. Davvero. Per qualsiasi stagione.

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Chocolate, almond and strawberry crumb cake

  • 150g. ( 5 oz ) strawberries, washed, rinsed, hulled and quartered
  • 130 G. ( 4,8 oz ) sugar
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 170 G. ( 6 oz ) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pince of salt
  • 120 G. ( 1 stick or 4 oz ) butter, cubed
  • 60 G. ( 2 oz ) almond meal
  • 75 G. Flour ( 2,6 oz )
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 80 ml ( 2,7 fl oz ) yogurt
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract

For the crumble topping:

  • 30 G. Flour ( 1 oz )
  • 30 G. Sugar ( 1 oz )
  • 30 G. ( 1 oz ) Chopped almonds
  • 30 G. ( 1 oz ) butter, cold and cubed

For the crumble, mix together all the ingredients with your fingers, until a lumpy and crumbly powder forms. Place in the freezer to set.

Put the strawberries in a bowl with 30 G. ( 1 oz ) sugar, the cardamom and black pepper. Set aside to macerate.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt over medium heat the chocolate with the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

Per heat the oven to 180 degrees ( 350F )

In a bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks ( reserve the whites ) with hall of the remaining sugar, vanilla and the yogurt, and add to the dry ingredients together with the melted chocolate.
In a bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks forms. Fold carefully into the prepared batter.

Line a round cake pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease the sides; then, place the strawberries on the bottone and cover with the batter. Sprickle the freezer-cold crumble on top and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Letti cool in the pan for 15 minutes before trying to unmould.

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Torta al cioccolato, fragole e mandorle

  • 150g fragole, lavate, asciugate, depicciolate e tagliate a quarti
  • 1 30g zucchero
  • 2 capsule cardamomo, schiacciate
  • 1/8 cucchiaino pepe nero grattugiato fresco
  • 170g cioccolato fondente a pezzetti
  • 1 pizzico di sale
  • 120g burro a cubetti
  • 60g farina di mandorle
  • 75g farina
  • 1 cucchiaio Lievito
  • 1 cucchiaino bicarbonato
  • 4 uova
  • 80 ml yogurt
  • 1 cucchiaino vaniglia

Per il Crumble:

  • 30g farina
  • 30g zucchero
  • 30g mandorle tritate grossolanamente
  • 30g burro freddo a cubetti.

Per il crumble, lavorare tutti gli ingredienti insieme con la punta delle dita, fino ad ottenere un composto grumoso e sbriciolato. Mettere in congelatore a rassodarsi.

Mettere le fragole in una ciotola assieme a 30 G. Zucchero, il cardamomo e il pepe nero. Mettere da parte a macerare.

Nel frattempo, in un pentolino su fuoco basso, fondere il cioccolato con il burro. Mettere da parte a raffreddare leggermente.

Preriscaldare il forno a 180 gradi.

In una ciotola, mescolare la farina con il lievito, il sale, il bicarbonato e la farina di mandorle.
In un’altra ciotola, sbattere assieme i tuorli con metà dello zucchero rimasto e la vaniglia, e unirli agli ingredienti secchi, assieme al cioccolato fuso.
In una ciotola, montare a neve ferma gli albumi con lo zucchero rimasto, e aggiungere attentamente all’impasto.

Porre un cerchio di carta forno sul fondo di una tortiera imburrata; sul fondo, sistemare le fragole, e versarvi sopra l’impasto. Completare con il crumble freddo di freezer in superficie.

Infornare per 50 minuti – 1 ora. Lasciar raffreddare per 15 minuti nello stampo prima di sformare.

Cuocere a 180g per 50 min-1ora . Sformare dopo 15 minuti

How to fix lunch

imageA short and flavourful post today, just to let you know about my last-minute lunch fixings ( which, apparently, are daily worry for everyone of us ); today, after much fidgeting with a few cooking items all week long, I was determined to get a day free from cooking, or at least to get lazy as much as I could. Spring and its upsurging commitments always seem to take a toll on me, and I feel stronger than before the need to rest and be properly nourished to keep going. I’m sure you know this feeling… So, this sunday I decided to slow down a bit, taking as much as I could of this day for myself.

…however, apparently when I have a few moments alone and without much to do, I seem always to find new things to do, recipe to try, unaccomplished tasks that need my attention… This time, it was all about planting basil and thunbergias, nursing roses, preparing a batch of yellow cream for my mom’s straberry and cream tart… And of course, preparing lunch. Nothing thawed and eaten straight from the microwave for me, apparently, even on a – supposedly – lazy day: I couldn’t help but reach for a few items and make myself a quick, but satisfying salad; not exactly what you would expect on a spring-almost-summer day in Rome, but lately it has been a little bit colder than usual, so I deem myself justified, isnt’it?

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Midseason Salad

Makes 1

2-3 baby potatoes
1 good-quality sausage, skinned
1 egg
A handful of mushrooms, thinly sliced
5 tbs olive oil
1 tbs maple syrup
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 thyme sprigs
1 tsp mustard
2 tbs white wine
Salt
Pepper

In a saucepan, place the potatoes and enough water to cover; then, heat over medium heat and bring to a boil; let it cook for 10-15 minutes or until the tip of a knife slides through easily. Drain the potatoes and let them cool a bit; then, skin them and set aside.

In a skillet, place 1 tbs olive oil and bring over medium heat; add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring; add the wine and cook for another couple of minutes; season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In the same skillet, place 1 tbs oil and heat over medium heat; add the sausage bits and let them cook and turn brown; add the maple syrup to the skillet and season with salt and pepper, and the thyme leaves. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil and stir it around for a few seconds; then, add the egg and keep stirring for a few seconds more. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then put the egg in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. When the egg is cool enough to handle, peel it.

Whisk together the remaining oil, mustard, salt and pepper.
Mix together all the ingredients and toss with the mustard vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature.