I'm back in my kitchen after a 2600 mile road trip to Texas. Anymore, I'd prefer to step on a plane and fly to my destination instead of sitting for 9 hour stretches in a car... especially when the destination is 1200 miles south of the Twin Cities. But we have a Bisous, and I am not ready to leave him behind just yet.
Our first stop was in Dallas where we stayed with a good friend , Lynn (from my days at the Kansas City Art Institute), and her husband, John. We think it has been 15+ years since we last saw each other... how can that be?? Our time together was brief, but filled with what I enjoy most -- food. I have to agree with Lynn that Dallas has the best grocery store anywhere -- HEB's Central Market. It's at least unlike anything in Minnesota. It was our first stop. The variety of oranges, apples and tomatoes is endless. The kind of place I could be left alone to explore for hours... just drop me off in the morning and pick me up at night.
JIMMY'S, a small Italian grocery, was another stop while in Dallas. Small, but packed full of the most wonderful Italian foods!
I had never seen 2-foot-long spaghetti before, or, I suppose, wild boar sausage. (I know... I need to go to Italy; a trip I'm hoping isn't too far off.)
I brought home a shopping bag full of different pastas.
I am still amazed that these foot long macaroni didn't break beneath piles of luggage.
My husband and I were joined in Dallas by our daughter and her boyfriend, who continued with us on our drive through Texas. A night was spent in Waco with relatives before our final destination of Austin. And, I've got to say, we all loved Austin! My husband had an office in Austin many years ago, but I never accompanied him there. In fact, for a while we thought we'd be making a move there for his work. I'm now thinking it might not have been a bad thing. It's a great city and food truck heaven.
One of the few actual restaurants we ate at while in Austin was Guero's Taco Bar on South Congress. It was warm enough in Austin to sit outdoors for meals and these fish tacos were possibly the best I've ever eaten. Yes, you heard me... the best.
Bisous far succeeded my expectations as a travel companion. He was so good!
Our second day in Austin, we stopped on Barton Springs Road where there was a large group of food trucks (area called The Picnic). When I saw my daughter ordering from an Italian food truck, I asked her why would she do that when there were taco trucks just steps away! My mistake... she offered me a taste, and it was the best pasta I have ever eaten... ever! I went to the truck's window and told Salvatore, the owner and chef, exactly how I felt. He said he makes all of the fresh pasta himself, daily. When we returned again the next day, just to eat more pasta, I realized I was not the only one heaping praise onto Salvatore. I heard others telling him it was the best pasta they had ever eaten. So, there you are... it's true. If you visit Austin, you must go to Cannone Cucina Italiana. You will thank me.
The road trip is over, and I am (slowly easing) back in my kitchen. For several mornings after our return, I had nothing to eat alongside my cappuccino, and I really need that. But, I finally got baking and made Nancy Silverton's chocolate-walnut scones. I never question a recipe if Nancy Silverton's name is on it. Years ago whenever my husband was in the Los Angeles area on business, he'd always make the drive to LaBrea Bakery, early in the morning, before his flight home. He'd return with a bag of Nancy's bread for me. I even flew out to L.A. once (back in the days of endless airline miles), for 24 hours, just to eat at Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel's restaurant Campanile. And many years later, I went back to L.A. to eat at Osteria Mozza where she creates small plates at her mozzarella bar in the center of the restaurant (and Pizzeria Mozza next door, the following day). I just find Nancy Silverton fascinating beyond her culinary accomplishments, and have recently streamed her on Amazon Prime, with Emeril Lagasse on Emeril's EAT THE WORLD and on Netflix's, Chef's Table (season 3).
Now, back to these scones. I think they are my favorite... ever. Tender, with a lovely, flaky crumb, and not very sweet. My plan is to always have a bag full of these scones, unbaked, in my freezer, ready to pop in my oven whenever I need one.
NOTE: The original recipe calls for a 1 1/2-inch round cutter for stamping out the disks, and grouping 3 together in a clover shape before baking. I chose to use a 2-inch cutter and baked individual scones.
• 1 1/4 cups walnuts, divided
• 7 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
• 1 cup (6 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream, divided
• 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Place oven rack on middle shelf of oven and preheat to 325˚F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Shake pan halfway through so nuts toast evenly. Remove from oven and cool completely. Increase oven temperature to 350˚F.
2. In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine 1 cup of the nuts with 3 tablespoons sugar and process until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal. Add 3 more tablespoons sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off until the mixture is the consistency of fine meal.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chocolate pieces. Make a large well in the center and pour in 1 cup whipping cream, the crème fraîche (or sour cream), and the vanilla. Whisk the liquids together. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The mixture will be crumbly.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently a few times, then gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle 1 1/2 inches thick. Spray the inside of a 2-inch round cutter with nonstick spray and cut out circles, cutting them as close together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.
5. Gather the scraps, press them back together, and cut out additional circles. (If the dough gets too soft to cut, refrigerate it for 15 minutes.) Place the circles parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
6. Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Using the large hole of a box grater, grate some of the remaining one-fourth cup nuts over the top of each scone. Bake for 30 to 34 minutes, until slightly firm to the touch and lightly browned.
+ If you do not want to bake all of the scones at this time, keep in freezer for later use.
TAKE a LOOK:
I just ate this... right after I finished taking photos, I sat down and devoured it. And what I found was, this Chocolate-Orange Olive Oil Cake made with almond flour, is even better the second day! That's because all of the zested orange added to the batter has additional time to infuse the baked cake. And for me, there has never been a more delicious combination than chocolate and orange.
I've recently baked several breads and cakes with almond flour exclusively (no wheat flour added) and with some of them, I have run into trouble when using the oven temperatures and baking times that are called for in the recipes. This cake was no exception. In the recipe below, I show my adjusted time and temp. I recommend observing your cake closely towards the last 15 minutes of baking and testing frequently with a skewer for doneness. Ovens vary and pan size can also change the cooking time.
• adapted recipe | Mary Luz Mejia
• 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
• 1 1/4 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1/4 cup whole milk
• 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
• 1 3/4 cups fine almond meal/flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
• 1 cup cane sugar
• 2/3 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for greasing pan
• 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
• Zest of 2 large or 3 small organic oranges
• 3 large eggs
• Whipped heavy cream or crème fraîche, for serving
• Candied orange rind, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Grease an 8 1/2-inch to 9-inch springform pan with olive oil and line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
3. Combine the cocoa and chopped chocolate in a bowl. Bring the whole milk to a boil and add to the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds; set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal/flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
5. Place the sugar, olive oil, orange juice, zest and eggs in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Beat until the mixture is smooth and thick. Scrape the cocoa mixture into the egg mixture and beat until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides of bowl if necessary.
6. Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for 40 minutes. To test doneness, use a wooden skewer to pierce into the center of the cake. If there is moist batter or crumbs on the skewer when removed, continue to bake until the skewer tests dry, possibly another 15 minutes. (I baked my cake for 40 minutes, then turned on the convection for an additional 15 minutes before my cake was done. Adjust accordingly to your oven and pan size).
7. Remove cake and cool for 10 minutes before running a thin knife around the edges and removing the ring. Serve with whipped heavy cream or crème fraîche and top with a slice of candied orange rind.
TAKE a LOOK:
Blame it on January...
I find motivation difficult this time of year and feel like I accomplish very little. January is the perfect time for projects; paint a room, organize, clean or plan the summer garden, right? But I don't. That may be because I tend to go full throttle during the holidays and I need an effortless January to even me out. I take a break from everything... even cooking and my beloved baking. But with time, that changes. This week I prepared several old favorites, but I also made, for the first time, this recipe for Baked Crusty Pasta Shells and Cauliflower that came across in an email from Food & Wine recently. It's fabulous on a cold, dark January night in Minnesota, and for those in my family that are eating less meat or none whatsoever. Anything made with salty capers, lemon zest and fresh ricotta is a winner, as far as I'm concerned. Yes... I'll be making Pasta Shells with Cauliflower again.
(NOTE) When purchasing the ingredients for this recipe, my cheesemonger suggested I cut back on the Fontina Val d'Aosta, which is pricey. I used half the amount that is shown in the original recipe below, and replaced the remaining 5 ounces with a container of pre-grated cheeses that included fontina in the mix. I had no complaint with doing that nor with the results. I loved this pasta.
Ina Garten | Food & Wine, November 2016, slightly adapted
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 3/4 pound medium pasta shells
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)
• 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh sage leaves (I substituted 2 tablespoons rubbed sage)
• 2 tablespoons capers, drained
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 2 cups freshly grated Italian Fontina Val d'Aosta cheese (10 ounces with rind)... see NOTE above
• 1 cup (8 ounces) fresh ricotta
• 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
• 6 tablespoons freshly grated Italian Pecorino cheese
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
2. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the instructions on package. Drain and pour into a very large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of the cauliflower in one layer and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Pour the cauliflower into the bowl with the pasta. Add 3 additional tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the remaining cauliflower. Cook until browned and tender; add to the bowl.
4. Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl; stir gently to combine. Stir in the Fontina. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2-inch baking dish. Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. Combine the panko, Pecorino, parsley and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned and crusty on top. Serve hot.
TAKE a LOOK:
How could I resist baking this tart? It's full of all the things I love... and ingredients that I usually have on hand, making it very easy to assemble for last night's dinner. This recipe is from the book, Pie by Angela Boggiano. I found the book at a local discount/used bookstore and purchased it originally for the "noble" or "raised" pie recipes that are baked in tall, decorative pans or molds. They are works of art, and although I can't see myself searching for pigeon breasts or pigs feet, that are called for in some of the fillings, I'm instead envisioning layers of roasted vegetables and hard-boiled eggs encased in walls of golden pastry... more to my liking.
But, back to the ricotta tart... If you follow LivingTastefully, you already know that I love using my homemade fresh ricotta (recipe HERE) in just about everything. And, although it's easy to make, don't feel like you must do that. Purchased fresh ricotta is absolutely fine. I also have candied orange rind (recipe HERE) on hand most of the time... for my favorite cookies and alongside an afternoon espresso!
The author compares this filling to Sicilian cannoli pastry desserts and that is exactly the memory I have when eating this ricotta tart. Plus, Boggiano recommends always preheating a baking sheet to place your pies and tarts on; a little trick than ensures a well-baked bottom crust.
I did several things differently than in the original recipe. • I used a favorite tart pastry. It was enough dough to line the deep tart pan, but wasn't enough for a lattice topping. If you would like lattice on the top of your pie, increase the pastry recipe, below, by half. The white looking dots on the top of the filling are from a piece of the pastry dough that remained and I cut into small circles... wouldn't do that again. • The recipe called for 3 extra-large eggs, which I did not have. I substituted 4 of the smallest large eggs I could find. • And, the last thing, I increased the oven temperature by 25 degrees which was perfect.
• 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 teaspoons sugar
• 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 4 tablespoons ice water
• extra flour for rolling pastry
• 1 pound fresh ricotta (recipe HERE)
• 1/3 cup superfine sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 extra-large or 4 large eggs (see • above in text)
• 1/2 cup candied orange rind (recipe HERE)
• 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1/3 cup currants
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
• Confectioner's sugar for dusting
TO MAKE THE PASTRY
1. Pulse 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, the salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until pea-size lumps form. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture. Pulse until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by drips if dry. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 2 hours.
2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a 9-inch x 1 3/4-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press onto bottom and up sides of the tart pan. Trim. Refrigerate until needed.
TO MAKE THE FILLING
1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Place a baking sheet on bottom shelf of oven to preheat.
2. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and whip with a wire whisk until smooth. Beat in the sugar, vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, until combined.
3. Stir in the candied orange rind, chocolate chips, currants and lemon zest. Pour into the pastry shell.
4. Place tart pan on the preheated baking sheet on the lowest oven shelf and bake for 55 minutes until golden. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool in the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving.
TAKE a LOOK:
A friend just returned from California and brought me back a carton of dates. On a snowy, January day, I think that calls for a date quick bread with nuts.
... and, for hot chocolate!
(adapted) from Modern Classics 2 | Donna Hay
• 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for the pan
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2/3 cup superfine sugar (I put my organic cane sugar in food processor for several seconds)
• 1 cup roughly chopped pitted dates
• 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecan nuts
• 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, plus additional for the pan
• 1/4 cup milk
• 2 eggs, slightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Rub butter generously over the entire inside surface of the baking pan. Dust with flour, shaking out excess.
2. Sift flour and bakiing powder into a large bowl. Add the sugar, dates and pecans; mix to combine. Set aside.
3. Place the butter and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until just melted. Add to the flour mixture with the eggs and stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into a greased 4-inch x 8-inch loaf pan (I used a 2 3/4-inch x 9 1/2-inch pan).
4. Place the loaf pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the loaf tests done.
5. Transfer the loaf pan to a cooling rack. When cooled, run a sharp knife around the edges and invert date loaf onto a plate or cutting board. Serve with salted butter.
TAKE a LOOK:
This is usually the way it goes...
Two, maybe three, or even four months before New Years Day, I start thinking about the brunch menu. I piece together the different courses, in my head, of what I'm going to prepare for the first day of the new year. I'm confident about all of the details, so... I stop thinking about it. That, however, never seems to be the New Year's Day brunch menu I end up preparing. At the last minute I usually change everything.
I hosted a time consuming luncheon plus a dinner the week between Christmas and New Years... I ended up taking a more relaxed approach to my brunch. Below are photos of New Year's Day and the recipe for our main course.
Bisous taking a break while the rest of us are eating our meal...