Friday, December 2, 2016

{Gluten-Free} Biscotti di Castagne + Vin Santo Dei Chianti #ItalianFWT


This month the Italian Food, Wine & Travel - #ItalianFWT - blogging group is celebrating Italian holiday wines, culinary traditions and Italian Christmas festivities. Jennifer at at Vino Travels invited us to gather around the table and share thoughts of winter, food, wine, and traditions.

More Christmas and Italian holiday treasures to be discovered.  Join my fellow bloggers below and if you catch us in time, chat with us live on Twitter this Saturday December 3rd at 11am EST #ItalianFWT.

The #ItalianFWT Line-Up

Next month Susannah from Avvinare will host coastal reds and whites along with foods and travel to coastal regions on January 7th. 


On My Plate
I love the smell of roasting chestnuts and the advent of winter meant that the chestnut vendors appeared on the street corners of Rome. Maybe other Italian cities, too. But I lived in Rome, so I'll stick with what I know.

I might have had roasted chestnuts before, but living in Rome was the first time I really fell in love with them. I remember being at the market one day and spotting these bizarre looking pods with spikes.

Che cos'è questi? I asked, pointing that them.

 Le castagne, he answered.

They looked so impenetrable and daunting. But, when cooked or candied, they are tender and so tasty. And that was it;  my lasting chestnut obsession was in full swing. I haven't lived in Italy in almost twenty years, so, perhaps it's less of an obsession and more of a smoldering infatuation.


Whenever I come across chestnut flour, I buy multiple packages! And, this year, I found a French chestnut paste. So, for my #ItalianFWT offering, I decided to celebrate the chestnut. And, as I nibbled on these and sipped my vin santo, I remembered my Christmas in Rome. Buon Natale!

Biscotti di Castagne

Cookies
  • 1¼ C organic dark brown sugar
  • ¼ C butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs (2 for dough and 1 for finishing)
  • ⅓ C whole milk
  • 1½ t chestnut paste (you can use vanilla bean paste also)
  • 1½ t baking soda
  • 1½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • ½ t ground cloves
  • ½ t ground star anise
  • ½ t ground cardamom
  • ½ t freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ C molasses
  • ¼ C honey
  • 4 C gluten-free flour
  • 2 C chestnut flour
  • ½ C candied ginger (diced or use flakes)
Royal Icing
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 C organic powdered sugar
  • ¼ t pure vanilla extract

Procedure

Beat brown sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well-combined. Add 2 eggs, milk, and chestnut paste; beat again until smooth. Add baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, molasses, maple syrup, and candied ginger. Beat again.

Stir in gluten-free flour. Gradually add chestnut flour, using a wooden spoon. Once the dough starts to become stiff, quickly knead in the rest of the flour. It should come together into a ball.

Split dough into two balls. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to approximately ¼" thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies. I used hearts. Place on prepared baking sheet. Re-roll dough and repeat until your dough is gone.

Beat the remaining egg, then brush a thin coat over the dough before you put it into the oven. Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes - until cookies just start to turn golden around the edges and are slightly raised.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once they are cooled, you can decorate them with royal icing. 

Royal Icing
Beat egg whites in a large clean mixing bowl until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and lemon extract. Beat at high speed until thickened. The mixture should hold light peaks.


To Decorate
Use a piping bag, decorating tube, or a ziploc bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. Decorate your cookies as you wish. when the royal icing dries it will lose its glossy sheen. Once it's hard, the decoration will not smudge or move.


In My Glass
Vin Santo is a dessert wine produced all over Italy, but Tuscany appears to be its original home. Meaning "Holy Wine," dating back to the 14th century, it's a sweet wine that is a wonderful accompaniment to not-too-sweet deserts. You will often find it slightly chilled and served with almond cookies. So, I didn't think my chestnut cookies were too far off the mark.

I poured a Badia a Coltibuono, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2008. In the glass, it was a brilliant, golden amber hue. On the nose, its aroma had hints of vanilla, honey, and - dare I say - roasted chestnuts. And, on the tongue, it was simultaneously clean and voluptuous. Dominant notes were concentrated fruit with a long finish. This is definitely a sipping wine and one I'll squirrel away for special occasions.

Ricotta Gnocchi in an Easy Cream Sauce


It is always challenging to come up with a lesson and a recipe that can be done - amidst the general chaos of cooking with kids - in less than 90 minutes. Today we attempted a ricotta gnocchi and, if I might say so myself, they did a great job!


 Ingredients
Gnocchi
  • 2 C whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/4 C flour + more for rolling
  • 1 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper

Sauce
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 1 C organic heavy cream
  • 1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • fresh thyme leaves


Procedure
Gnocchi
Stir together ricotta, eggs, cheese, nutmeg, and pepper. Add flour, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon to form a soft, wet dough. Shape dough on a parchment-lined surface with lightly floured hands. 


Roll into 1" ropes and cut crosswise into 1" pieces with a lightly floured knife to form pillow dumplings.

To form the gnocchi, press a piece of dough onto the tines of a fork.

Use your thumb to create a dimple in the top of the gnocchi. Roll the dough down the tines to create gnocchi's signature indentations. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once your gnocchi are rolled, make the sauce.

Sauce
In a large pot, melt your butter in the heavy cream. Stir in the cheese and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened. Fold in the fresh thyme leaves.


Finish
Cook gnocchi in a few batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water. 


Add a few to the pot at a time, stirring occasionally. 


When they float to the surface, they are finished. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.


To Serve
Spoon the cooked gnocchi into the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Gingerbread Houses for Girls' Night


Sometimes, the culinary adventure is not in the ingredients...or even in the finished product. I doubt I'll even nibble on this. But the adventure is the process and the company. Last night I went to MY Museum's inaugural Gingerbread House Making for the 21 and over Crowd; they have an event for the littles this weekend to round out their Gingerbread Extravaganza Weekend.


Pia and I were joking that we made dinner for our boys and completely neglected to feed ourselves. Thankfully, in addition to the gingerbread houses, we had grown-up libations, and delicious nibbles from some of our favorite local food artisans.


Chef Ron Mendoza of Revival Ice + Cream was first to the rescue. Yes, we did eat dessert first! We devoured the chocolate popsicles dipped in milk chocolate and covered in whiskey meringues. And, yes, it was as decadent as it sounds.

There were also peppermint chocolate whoopie pies from Chef Michelle Lee at the InterContinental - The Clement and some tasty morsels - think caprese skewers, melon and prosciutto, and chorizo and cheese drizzled with honey - from The Wharf Marketplace. Did you know they catered? I didn't. Yum.


And the reason I didn't get photos of the food: I was too busy chatting and making my gingerbread house!

photo by Pia

After spending hours upon hours baking gingerbread and spending way too much money on candy, I kinda like the all-in-a-box-gingerbread-house kit! Within 90 minutes, we had finished houses. See!

photo by MY Museum





At the end of the evening, I dropped mine in the box for safe-keeping and headed home.


I did want to add a quick note about my scarf because it's timely and festive. I planned to crochet little gingerbread scarves for my girlfriends, but (1) I don't know how to crochet though I am a quick study and (2) I ran out of time. So, if anyone wants to teach me how to do this... let me know! I'm already thinking about next year's Gingerbread Extravaganza.

Grilled Octopus & Potatoes Salad

One of our favorite appetizers is grilled octopus. We order it anytime we see it on the menu.


I thought it would make a nice addition to our Thanksgiving menu last week. It does take time as the octopus is braised, then marinates overnight, and is grilled just before serving. But, I think, it's worth the effort!

Ingredients

Octopus
  • one 5 to 6 lb. octopus, beak removed
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • one 1” knob fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 T hot chile paste
  • 2 t coriander seeds
  • 2 T fish sauce
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 C sake
  • 1 C fish stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 C water
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • Also needed: grill pan (I like cast iron) or an actual grill
Potatoes
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes (I like to use different kinds and colors for visual interest)
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and cubed
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

Sesame Vinaigrette
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • black sesame seeds, optional
Procedure

Octopus
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy lidded pot. Add garlic, ginger, chile paste, and coriander seeds, cooking until fragrant, approximately 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, sake, and stock. Pour in 2 C water and bring to a boil.

Add octopus to liquid, reduce heat, and partially cover pot. Simmer gently, turning octopus occasionally, until flesh is tender enough to cut with a spoon, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. 

Pour sesame oil into the cooking liquid. Let both the octopus and the liquid cool. Then pour the liquid over the octopus in a dish with a lid and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Bring the octopus to room temperature before cooking. While the octopus is warming, cook your potatoes.


Potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place bite-sized pieces of potato and onion in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Turn the potatoes onto a parchment-lined piece of paper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes. The potatoes will be browned and crisped on the outside, soft on the inside. 


Octopus
Heat a large skillet or a grill pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Slice the octopus into large pieces - I like to keep the tentacles mostly intact and cut the body into 2" cubes or so. Grill to get nice char marks on the octopus.

Sesame Vinaigrette
In a mason jar, pour the rice wine vinegar, olive oil, and sesame oil. Add in the black sesame seeds, if using. Place the lid on the jar and shake to emulsify.

To Serve
Place the potatoes in large mixing bowl. Toss with vinaigrette and scoop into a serving bowl. Lay octopus pieces over the top and serve immediately.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ricciarelli #IntnlCookies #InternationalCookieExchange



Welcome to the second annual International Cookie Exchange hosted by Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere and me - Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

Today a group of cookie-loving food bloggers is sharing recipes for cookies from around the globe. Get ready to break out your mixing bowl, because these recipes are sure to inspire you to fill your cookie jar with cultural treats!

You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #IntnlCookies, and you can find these great recipes and more cookies from around the world on the International Cookie Exchange Pinterest Board.

Here's the #IntnlCookies Tray...
listed in alphabetical order of the cookies' country of origin

When my blogging friend Sarah asked what I thought about an International Cookie Exchange last year, I was excited. Cookie baking is an annual tradition for me and my boys. We love making cookie platters; I, especially, love the international aspect of this blogging event. Yes, yes, yes!

Ricciarelli

Ricciarelli are traditional Italian cookies, similar to a macaroon, that originated in 14th century Siena. Traditionally the almonds are ground in a mill. I used ground almond flour for a quick, easy solution.


Ingredients makes a dozen or so

  • 2½ C ground almonds
  • 1 C powdered sugar + more for dusting
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ½ t pure lemon extract

Procedure
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat until medium peaks form. Gradually add in powdered sugar; whisk until egg white is very stiff but not dry. Fold in ground almonds and lemon extract.


Drop heaping scoops of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.


Using moistened hands, flatten the tops and press sides to make rounded diamond shapes. Place in the refrigerator and chill for, at least, 20 minutes.


Bake ricciarelli until edges are lightly golden and firm. The centers should still be a little soft, approximately 10–12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet.


 Once cool, roll them in powdered sugar.



Ricciarelli are typically consumed at Christmas time, served alonside a dessert wine such as Vin Santo or Moscadello di Montalcino. I went with Vin Santo! Buon Natale a tutti!!

{Gluten-Free} Krampus' Gingy Minions #FoodNFlix


'Tis the season...for gingerbread! Every December, I make batches and batches of gingerbread. {Gluten-Free} Burnt Caramel Quince Gingerbread, Puerquitos (Mexican Gingerbread Pigs), Piernik (Polish Gingerbread Cake); we even had a Gingerbread House Party for D's birthday in 2010.


Last year I bought these humorous gingerbread cutters that had pieces missing from them - bitten off legs, arms, and heads. But I didn't do anything with them. While watching the assigned movie, I finally knew how to utilize them!

For December's Food'N'Flix, Heather of All Roads Leads to the Kitchen asked us to watch Krampus. Here's her invitation. She specified that, though many movies have been made about Krampus, we were assigned to the 2015 version.*

Heather wrote: "As folklore has it, in Germany, Austria, and many Central European states, St. Nicholas and Krampus were partners. On the eve of St. Nicholas Day the two would work together, St. Nicholas would fill the boots of the good children with fruits, sweets or other treats, and Krampus would kidnap the naughty children, often beating them, and drag them away from their homes.

"Krampus wore chains and bells, and was said to have the cloven hooves and horns of a goat, with a long, barbed tongue. So yeah, horrifying enough to scare the naughty children straight, I'd say."

Never having heard of the movie, or Krampus for that matter, I was intrigued. It was rated PG-13, so I asked the boys if they wanted to watch it with me. They did and thought it was a good post-Thanksgiving tradition that we (1) watch Krampus, (2) drink hot chocolate, and (3) bake Krampus' Gingy Minions. Done.


And, yes, we played with our food...


On the Screen...
The film opens with a hilarious scene at a fictional store that includes people racing in as soon as the store opens, battling over Christmas items, trampling people to get to the best sales, and other atrocities of holiday shopping. It's commercialism at it best worst.

Then the family - Tom (dad), Sarah (mom), Max (son), Beth (daughter), and Omi (grandmother) - prepare for arrival of the extended family. At the dinner, the cousins steal Max's letter to Santa and read it aloud. Humiliated, Max declares that Christmas is ruined, tears the letter to pieces, and throws it out the window.

Almost immediately, a freak blizzard sweeps through, creepy snowmen appear in the yard, and the movie begins to feel like an 80s horror movie. You know: simultaneously creepy and funny. That's all I'm going to say about the movie. We chuckled through it, sipping our hot chocolate because, as Omi says, "Hot chocolate makes everything better." True.

R did note, "I'm glad we're watching this during the day, though. It might have actually been scary at night." 


On the Plate...
As part of Krampus' nefarious troops, there are deranged dolls, evil elves, and these flaming crazed cookies. We talked about how to set the gingerbread men on fire; we let the zombie-ish feel suffice.


Ingredients

Gingerbread Men
  • 1¼ C organic dark brown sugar
  • ¼ C butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs (2 for dough and 1 for finishing)
  • ⅓ C whole milk
  • 1½ t ginger paste (you can use vanilla bean paste also)
  • 1½ t baking soda
  • 1½ t ground cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • ½ t ground cloves
  • ½ t ground star anise
  • ½ t ground cardamom
  • ½ t freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ C molasses
  • ¼ C maple syrup
  • 6 C gluten-free flour
  • ½ C candied ginger (diced or use flakes)
Royal Icing
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 C organic powdered sugar
  • ¼ t pure lemon extract
  • candy eyeballs, optional

Procedure

Beat brown sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well-combined. Add 2 eggs, milk, and ginger paste; beat again until smooth. Add baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, molasses, maple syrup, and candied ginger. Beat again.

Stir in 4 C of flour. Gradually add remaining flour, using a wooden spoon. Once the dough starts to become stiff, quickly knead in the rest of the flour. It should come together into a ball.


Split dough into two balls. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to approximately ¼" thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut out your gingerbread men.

Place on prepared baking sheet. Re-roll dough and repeat until your dough is gone.


Beat the remaining egg, then brush a thin coat over the dough before you put it into the oven.


Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes - until cookies just start to turn golden around the edges and are slightly raised.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once they are cooled, you can decorate them with royal icing. 


Royal Icing
Beat egg whites in a large clean mixing bowl until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and lemon extract. Beat at high speed until thickened. The mixture should hold light peaks.

To Decorate
Use a piping bag, decorating tube, or a ziploc bag with a tiny hole cut out of the corner. Decorate your cookies as you wish. when the royal icing dries it will lose its glossy sheen. Once it's hard, the decoration will not smudge or move.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


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