“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mocha Fudge Brownie Pie in a Whole Wheat Crust

Who doesn’t love pie? No one raised their hands, right?!?! I didn’t think so!  The other night, I really wanted a piece of pie. But…I also really wanted a brownie. What to do? Well..Brownie Pie of course!! But not just any brownie pie, I’m talking about my Mocha Fudge Brownie Pie in a Homemade Whole Wheat Crust. I know it seems funny to make the crust whole wheat given that I’m making a very intense brownie filling, but as I’ve said in the past, I try to make healthy alternatives where I can, so every little bit counts. 

This brownie filling is insane…it’s fudgy, rich, chocolaty and incredible. If you bake it the right way, the inside is creamy, like a baked pudding and the top is set, just the way I like it. You can easily make the same crust using all purpose flour; it’s a very basic crust, it’s not sweet, but trust me, you don’t want it to be because the filling is sweet enough!! I also make the crust using my Vitamix, but you can certainly use another food processor or pastry blender. The crunch from the crust is a great contrast to the creaminess of the brownie. If you love chocolate and you love pie, this is the dessert for you!! Enjoy!!

Mocha Fudge Brownie Pie in a Whole Wheat Crust

Whole Wheat Crust

1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup butter
5 tbsp. cold water

Place flour, sea salt and butter in food processor. Blend until butter is cut throughout the flour and the mix almost looks like crumbs. Slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. If it doesn’t form a ball, you may not to add a little more water, eyeball it. Roll out your dough on a floured surface. Place your pie pan or tin on top of the crust and carefully flip it over. If there is dough hanging off the sides of the pan, I like to fold it over and crimp it. Poke little holes in the crust with a fork, you don’t want the pie to puff. Bake in the oven on 350 degrees for ten minutes and then take it out of the oven. Let it set. You can now prepare the filling…

Mocha Fudge Brownie

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 ounces milk chocolate
4 ounces dark chocolate
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 eggs
1 cup of sugar
3 tbsp. espresso powder
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter slowly in a bowl over simmering water. Add all of the chocolate and stir until all of the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, espresso powder and vanilla until light and fluffy, around 3-5 minutes. Stir in the chocolate. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the flour mix into the batter until combined. Pour in the pie shell and bake for 30-45 minutes depending on your oven. You will want to top to set, but it is okay if the inside is soft, you want it that way!!! Once the pie is done, take out of the oven and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Slice and enjoy with a dollop of homemade whipped cream! Buon Appetito!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ahh, eggplant, the things you do to me. I love to cook with eggplant, it’s so versatile. I can just grill some with a drizzle of olive oil and pepper, puree it with some garlic, fry it, the possibilities are endless. Plus, I love to sneak some eggplant into meatballs or burger, it adds great texture and taste and saves some calories!! Now of course, there is the classic Italian dish…Eggplant Parmigiana. Not parmesan, PARMIGIANA!!! 

I absolutely love eggplant parmigiana, it’s just….it’s so good, that is, only if it’s made well. I find that it is easy to make a bad eggplant parmigiana, it can be too salty and the eggplant can get so mushy, you don’t even have a clear sense of what you’re really eating. There has to be a perfect balance, not too mushy, not too crispy, not so much sauce that it’s drowning in it and not so much cheese that it’s overpowering. It’s all about balance. I find that my recipe is just right. If you like more cheese and sauce, by all means, add it!! You should make it the way you like it!! But, I promise you, if you try my version, you’ll never go back to the over-sauced, over-cheesed version!!

Eggplant Parmigiana

1 very large eggplant
1 cup of flour (you may need to eyeball it just to be safe)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 eggs, beaten
10 ounces tomato sauce (recipe below)
3 ounces mozzarella
3 ounces parmigiana
2 tbsp. olive oil

Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 tbsp. onion powder
2 cups chopped tomato (I always use San Marzano)
Handful of fresh basil

For the tomato sauce:

Heat a small pot over medium heat and add 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Allow the garlic to roast a little, around 6 minutes. Add the onion powder and mix. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for around 10 minutes. Add a handful of chopped basil and turn the heat to low and cook for another 25 minutes. In the meantime, you can begin the eggplant preparation…

For the eggplant:

Prepare a deep pan with 4 tbsp. olive oil and put over medium heat. Clean the eggplant and cut into very thin slices. Add flour to a flat, shallow bowl and add salt and pepper. Dip the slices in a little flour and then the beaten eggs. Fry in the hot oil for around 3 minutes each side; be careful that they don’t burn. When they look done, drain and dry on a wire rack. Finish frying all of the eggplant.

Get out a casserole or lasagna dish and pour a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Then, add a layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle a little parmigiana on top, pour a little more sauce, a little parmgiana and another layer of eggplant, and continue in this order until you’re finished with all of the ingredients, but the layer has to be of the eggplant!! Top the final layer with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of parmigiana and the mozzarella. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the top has become a beautiful golden brown. When it appears to be done, take it out and let it cool and set for at least 20 minutes. Slice and serve immediately! Buon Appetito!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mushroom Ragu

Ciao a tutti!! I love a really hearty ragu. Something rich, intense and meaty. But sometimes, I don’t actually feel like eating meat. I know, shocking right? It’s true. The fact is, I used to be a vegetarian and even though I do eat meat now (and I absolutely love it!) I don’t eat it that often. I probably have it a couple of times a week. This Mushroom Ragu is so amazing; you will not even miss the meat. I promise. In fact, I first made this sauce for my family and my brother (a big meat fan) said he couldn’t believe how incredible the sauce was. He didn’t need the meat! The mushrooms get nice and tender and all of the herbs add a wonderful depth of flavor, trust me. You will fall in love with this ragu. I served it over fresh tortellini, but of course you can serve it over whatever pasta you want, you could also serve it over polenta for something a little different.

Mushroom Ragu

2 ½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh sage
¼ cup olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
2 cups of shallots, finely chopped
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup dry Marsala
Black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth

Put the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the shallots and ¼ tsp. salt, stir well. Cook until they’re shiny and wilted, but don’t let them brown!

Pour all of the mushrooms into the pan and toss them. Sprinkle another ¼ tsp. salt, drop in all of the herbs, raise the heat a little and cover the pan. Cook covered for about 3 minutes. 

Uncover and continue to cook over faily high heat, stirring for around 5 minutes. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, drop in the tomato paste and mix it in with the mushrooms.

When everythign is sizzling, pour the Marsala all over. Stir as the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in 4 cups of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occassionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms covered in liquid.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes and adding stock as needed. When the mushrooms and tender and sauce is relatively thick, take the herbs out. Serve over some nice fresh pasta. Buon Appetito!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Espresso Glaze

Sometimes life just calls for a big slice of rich and fudgy chocolate cake..right? We’ll the other day I got a real craving for it; I mean…I got it bad. So, what to do? Well, make some cake of course!

This is a simple and classic chocolate cake. The secret is that it is made with sour cream to keep it nice and moist and instead of making it with boiling water; I make mine with brewed espresso which adds a real depth of flavor. The cake is then topped with an espresso glaze. I mean, chocolate and espresso, does it get any better than that? Enjoy! 

Chocolate Cake

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus 1 teaspoon melted)
1 cup plus 1 tsp. cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup of brewed espresso
½ cup sour cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 ounces of chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals, until smooth and melted.
Lightly coat a 9 by 1 ½ inch cake pan with the 1 teaspoon melted butter and flour with 1 tsp. cake flour. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a sifter. Sift into a bowl and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low for 2 minutes, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for another 2 minutes. Add your eggs, one at a time and beat for two minutes. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat for 30 seconds.
Slowly add the flour and sour cream into the chocolate/egg mix. Mix for 30 seconds and add the brewed espresso. Mix for another 30 seconds or until smooth. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes. Allow it to cool for at least an hour before adding the espresso glaze….

Espresso Glaze

½ cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. espresso powder
4 tsp. hot water
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together the powdered sugar and cocoa in a small bowl. Dissolve the espresso powder in hot water, add to the sugar mix and stir until blended. Pour over the entire cake once it has cooled. It should flow over the entire cake, but feel free to use a spatula to spread it over the cake and allow it to drip a little over the sides. Enjoy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Capogiro Gelato: Chef Chat with owner Stephanie Reitano

Cioccolata Scurro and Burnt Sugar

Ciao a tutti!! I think I have made my love for gelato pretty clear, so when I first heard about Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia, I knew I had to get there someday and lucky for me, this past week I got there!! Not only did I get to have the best gelato I’ve had since Italy, I also had the chance to interview Stephanie Reitano (co owner, along with her husband John Reitano)

The lovely Stephanie Reitano
I have to tell you…this was real deal gelato. Smooth, creamy, rich, velvety and pure. One of the signs to tell if gelato (or ice cream for that matter) is better quality is how quickly it melts. When it melts quickly, that means it is made with a lot of air. I had my gelato each time for a good 25 minutes and there was no sign of melting.

I was in Philadelphia for a week, so I took the opportunity to try as many flavors as possible. One of the things that will strike you about Capogiro are the unusual flavors that they offer, like Cranberry and Heirloom Apple, Thai Coconut Milk, Chestnut and so much more. 

One day I went with a double scoop of Cioccolata Scuro. The Cioccolata Scurro tasted exactly like a flavor I had in Ischia that I have been on the lookout for, but alas, no one in the states seemed to offer a flavor like this….until Capogiro. It’s an intense, deep, chocolate gelato. It’s practically black. It was incredible. Over the next few days I also tried the Burnt Sugar, Pecan, Cashew, Sea Salt, Pistachio Siciliano and Cappuccino Stracciatella. All of these flavors were exceptional, I mean it. One of my favorite flavors is Pistachio but a big pet peeve of mine is that half the time pistachio flavors are made with almond extract, not the one at Capogiro. This gelato is made with the best pistachios for Sicily and you can taste it. So please….take a look at my interview with the lovely Stephanie Reitano and get to Capogiro as quickly as possible to experience bliss!

What inspired you to start Capogiro?

Cashew and Sea Salt
In September 2001, John and I went to Italy, our first vacation minus our three children. Needless to say, we were dizzy with possibilities due o all this sudden free time. After landing in Rome, we immediately hopped a train to Naples, then a boat to the island of Capri. While on our way to the hotel, we crossed La Pizzetta, the square at the heart of Capri and stumbled upon Buonocuore, a little gelato shop with a walk up window. In a warm handrolled cone made to order, I chose nocciola (hazelnut) and gianduia (chocolate hazelnut). In a way, that very cone led us to the next part of our marriage. Right then and there, John and I began our business by wondering why we could not find this flavor and this quality in the USA. After all, Cappuccino is here, so why not gelato? Creating that possibility became our mission. 

Did you have a favorite gelato flavor as a child and has it since changed? 

Gelato was not around when I was a child. My favorite ice cream flavor was Toasted Almond from a place called Hoffmann's. I have not changed much, as nut flavors are my favorite. Nocciola, Bacio and Pistacchio are my favorite gelato flours. I love sour sorbetto flavors. 

What makes your gelato stand out from the rest? 

Our ingredients. I am not a professionally trained chef, so when I started making gelato I used the same attention to quality ingredients as though I were cooking for my children. We are lucky to live in Philadelphia with access to some of the country's finest growing land. Not only is the soil fertile, the traditions are rich with much of the farming done by Amish and Mennonite families who have worked the same way for generations. Certified organic will never beat traditional organic when farmers livelihoods are a result of the way they choose to live. We use milk from a closed herd of grass-fed Scottish Ayrshire cows located 50 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Adhering to the rules of "artigianale", as defined by Italians, dictates that everything must be made in-house, the base as well as flavorings. There are no allowable shortcuts. If you want almond gelato, you have to roast and grind quality almonds to create the paste necessary for flavoring. Nor can anything be outsourced. Even if it is a Capogiro recipe, it sill must be made with Capogiro hands to qualify. 

Any favorite or special memories that involve gelato?

My first gelato in Capri. 

What are some of your more unique flavors and where do you get the inspiration for them?

I get inspiration from traveling, my kids, farmers, specialty cocktails...everywhere. Unique flavors are Rosemary Goat's Milk, Honey Cumin, Lime Cilantro, Mangosteen, Mamey Sapote, Salted Bitter Almond....

Pistachio Siciliano and Cappuccino Stracciatella
Where did you learn to make gelato?

I trained in Italy, with Italians here in the states, and with a French pastry chef. 

After going to Capogiro a few days in a row and seeing that you offer different flavors everyday, how do you decide which flavors to serve daily?

We make certain flavors every day at every cafe. Pistacchio, Nocciola, Thai Coconut  Milk, Scuro, Fior di Latte..etc. These are our core flavors that must be made and are available year round. Everything else depends on what is available seasonally and how ripe it happens to be. Additionally, certain stores have favorites.  Our employees drink the Capo Kool Aid, so if they request chocolate peanut butter (a staff fave), the kitchen obliges. This applies to certain regulars.  We like to keep our peeps happy. 

Any plans to open a Capogiro in the New York City area?

We would love to open in the New York City area. We ship a lot of gelato to NYC and we got a ton of compliments from that geographic area, as well as requests to open. It is definitely on our radar once we open up out of our current market.