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

Friday, July 26, 2013

Maple Beer Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze and Bacon Peanut Beer Brittle

Ciao a tutti!! I have a confession to make….I do occasionally make non-Italian recipes. I know, I know, shocking right? The truth is, every now and then I prepare treats that are nowhere near Italian recipes. Hence, my newest creation…..Maple Beer Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze and Bacon Peanut Beer Brittle. I recently made this for a party and everyone went nuts for it!! Since everyone seemed to love it so much and was begging for the recipe, I figured other people might enjoy it. So, even though it’s not Italian, I knew I had to share this with all of you. Enjoy!!!

Maple Beer Cake with Salted Caramel Glaze and Bacon Peanut Beer Brittle

Serves 8 large slices

Bacon Peanut Beer Brittle

6 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped
¼ cup of beer
1 cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup of peanuts, chopped

Prepare a large pan over medium heat and add the bacon to the pan. Cook until very crisp, around 30 minutes. Cover a plate with a paper towel and put the bacon on the plate to soak up any extra oil. Chop the bacon very finely.

Line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper and set aside. Combine the bacon and peanuts in a bowl and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine beer, sugar and corn syrup until well mixed. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to 250 degrees F without stirring. Add the butter and stir constantly until mixture reaches 320 degrees F. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda (the mixture will begin to foam). Fold in nut and bacon mix. Pour onto lined baking sheet and spread out evenly. Let harden and cool completely and then break into small pieces. Add the pieces to a food processor and pulse until pieces are small and fine. Once the brittle is done, prepare your glaze…

Salted Caramel Glaze

5 tablespoons butter
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted

In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, dark brown sugar, heavy creamy and salt to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract. Add 1/3 cup of the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Continue to whisk in the sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Set the glaze aside and prepare the cake. 

Maple Beer Cake

2 cups of flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup sugar
¼ cup real maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. maple extract
2 eggs
1/8 cup milk
1/8 cup beer, any kind

Spray a standard 8 by 8 brownie pay with cooking spray and pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the maple syrup, vanilla and maple extract and mix until well combined. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the milk and beer and dry ingredients and mix gently until well combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 40 minutes. You will want to brownies to completely cool before adding the glaze and brittle, around 1 hour and 30 minutes. 

Once you have waited an hour and 30 minutes, add the glaze on top of the cake. You can simply spread it with a butter knife or pour the caramel in a ketchup bottle and squirt it out. After you glaze the cake, add the crumbled Bacon Peanut Beer Brittle. Slice into 8 large pieces and enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fried Zucchini

If you are like me (and most people out there), you love fried food. Anything that tastes good to begin with can only taste even more amazing when fried, right? When I was in Italy last summer, I had the ultimate pleasure of sampling every single vegetable you can imagine fried! The Italians have something called Fritto Misto, which is a dish of pieces of meat, seafood or vegetable dipped in a light batter and fried. 

When my mother and I are in Rome, we share an order of Fritto Misto everyday. We had fried artichokes, eggplant, peppers, lemons, apples. The beauty of this dish is that you can pretty much fry whatever your heart desires. One of my favorite fried vegetables however, (Besides my all time favorite, Fried Cauliflower) is fried zucchini.

I was inspired to make my fried zucchini when I went shopping at my local farmers market. They had the most beautiful, fresh zucchinis. I couldn't resist. What I love about this batter is how light it is because of the corn starch. It’s not thick and heavy where you can’t even taste the vegetable insides. It is a very thin batter, so don’t get nervous and think you made a mistake. Don’t be fooled by how thin it is, it will stick to your vegetables and fry up perfectly. It’s so crispy, you will love these. Let me know what you think!!

Fried Zucchini

3 zucchinis
1 cup of oil (for frying)

3/4 cup of cornstarch
¼ cup of flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup of water
1 egg

Clean your zucchinis and dry them. Then cut them into very thin slices (You can make them however thin or thick you like, but they will fry better when they are thin and taste even crispier.) Mix all of your dry ingredients, the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Then add your water and egg and beat lightly.

Use a deep enough pan to fry. Set your stove on high heat and put the oil in the pan. You will want to wait for it to really heat up before beginning to fry. Once it is hot, dip your zucchini slices in the batter and carefully immerse in the oil. Allow each side to fry for at least two minutes. Take the zucchini and put on a wire rack to cool. Salt lightly and enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grilled Steak with Balsamic Madeira Reduction with a Baked Ricotta Parmigiana Mousse over Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sorbet

I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas! A chance to be in Tuscany in a beautiful villa where I can shop and eat all of the delicious food that Tuscany has to offer? This recipe is entered in a competition to win a week in a Tuscan Villa!! A dream come true! For today’s meal, I am sharing with you a Grilled Steak with Balsamic Madeira Reduction with Baked Ricotta Parmigiana Mouse over Grilled Eggplant and Tomato Sorbet. I first had a steak prepared like this in Florence, the winter of 2011 and boy, would I love to have it there again! I made a delicious baked cheese mousse to go with the steak (just because I love cheese), some fresh grilled eggplant (because we need our veggies!) and a lovely, light Tomato Sorbet, a perfect palate cleanser. Enjoy!

Tomato Sorbet

3 large tomatoes
1 cup of granulated sugar

Clean and chop your tomatoes. Add the chopped tomatoes to a medium size container and put in the freezer for an hour and a half. Take them out, add to a food processor and mix on high until thoroughly blended. Prepare a medium size pot over medium heat and slowly pound in the tomato mix. Add the sugar and mix until blended. Pour the tomato sugar mix back into your container and put in the freezer for four hours. Serve with a garnish of fresh basil.

Baked Ricotta Parmigiana Mousse

¾ cup of ricotta cheese
5 tbsp. grated parmigiana
1 ½ tbsp. salt
1 ½ tbsp. pepper
1 ½ tbsp. crushed red pepper
1 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. Italian seasonings
1 egg

4 small ramekins
2 tbsp. olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, mix the ricotta until smooth. Add the parmigiana, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasonings. Taste for flavor, if you want to add more seasoning, go ahead! Once it seasoned to your liking, add the egg and mix until combined.  Using the 2 tbsp. of olive oil, oil your ramekins and fill with the ricotta parmigiana mix. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until completely set. Take them out and let them cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Eggplant

1 medium size eggplant
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1 tbsp. Italian seasonings

Clean and cut your eggplant into slices. Prepare a pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian seasonings directly to the pan. Add the eggplant slices, flip them after 20 minutes or until slightly crispy. Once flipped, cook for another 15 minutes.

Grilled Steak with Balsamic Madeira Reduction

1 tbsp. peanut oil
1 ¼ pound prime boneless strip steak
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. smoked salt
1 tbsp. pepper

Prepare a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the peanut oil and allow to heat for around 3-4 minutes. Rub your steak with olive oil, smoked salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook on one side until medium rare, around 6 minutes, flip and allow to cook for another 6-7 minutes. Turn off the pan and move the steak to a plate to settle.

Balsamic Madera Reduction

6 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
½ cup of Madeira

Add the balsamic vinegar and Madeira to the cast iron skillet with the remaining liquid from the meat. Cook over medium heat until slightly thick and syrupy.

Assembling your plate:

Plate a circle of eggplant on your plate and place the Ricotta Parmigiana Mousse on top. Add a few slices of steak to the plate and glaze with some of the Balsamic Madeira Reduction. In a small cup on the side, scoop out some of the Tomato Sorbet and add a fresh leaf of basil. Buon Appetito!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Olive Oil Muffins with Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds

Ciao a tutti!! Mi dispiace for not posting for a few days, things have been pretty nuts because…droll roll…. I am so excited to officially announce that I will be attending cooking school in Florence in the fall!!!! I am beyond grateful and so, so excited for this opportunity. Ever since I was little, I would speak about studying opera and cooking in Italy. I studied opera in Italy a few years ago, now cooking gets its turn!! Today I am sharing a yummy American style classic breakfast…or dessert, however you look at it, but with my own Italian twist. Olive Oil Muffins with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds.

I loooooove muffins. For me, they have always been one of my favorite comfort foods. When I was little, there was this tiny whole in the wall bakery in my neighborhood that specialized in muffins, they were so perfect. Light, moist, not at all heavy, just delicious. My favorites were of course Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate Chip….time hasn't really changed!! The other day, all of a sudden I had an intense muffin craving, but no place around me sells really REALLY good muffins. 

What was I to do? Well, make them myself!! These are very yummy. A few tips for making these muffins...for the chocolate chips, I will only use Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips; the chocolate is so rich and intense. Whenever I bake, I also only use King Arthur Flours; they are just lighter and producer a better product. This is a classic bakery style muffin. You will love them!!

Olive Oil Muffins with Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds

3 cups of King Arthur All Purpose Flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of almond milk (you can use regular milk, the almond milk just adds a slightly sweet almond flavor that I like)
½ cup of olive oil
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
1 cup of Ghirardelli 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup of chopped almonds

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 6 muffin tin with non stick spray or you can use muffin liners.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until combined, add the milk, oil, vanilla and almond extracts. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold. You do not want to over mix, that will result in heavier muffin. Fold in the chocolate chips and almonds. Pour the batter into your muffin tins, make sure to fill it all the way to the top, you want that nice muffin top!! Bake for 30 minutes or longer if needed. You can stick a tooth pick in to make sure they are set. Everyone’s oven is different so baking time may vary. When they are done, let them cool for around 15 minutes in the pan. Then after 15 minutes….go to town!!!! Buon Appetito!!!