Friday, November 21, 2014

FFWD ~ Storzapretis ~ aka Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi

Storzapretis (aka Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi)

This week, for French Fridays, we are making Storzapretis (aka Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi). Corsica is a region of France, much like Normandy or Brittany.  However, Dorie tells us, it might as well have rogue nation status.  It's an island in the Mediterranean Sea belonging to France.  It is located in the Italian Peninsula south east of the French mainland, and north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Its Italian history is very evident in it's cuisine.  

In Italian, Storzapertis translates to “priest choker”.  In culinary terms it simply means, an elongated form of cavatelli, or fusilli.  In Corsica, and in regions of Tuscany and Umbria, Storzapretis refers to a baked cheese and vegetable dish, or gnocchi.  

Wonderfully delicious!
This recipe tended to be a bit time consuming, but I would say well worth the effort. I used frozen chopped spinach, defrosted it, and squeezed it dry. I then added it to the drained ricotta, along with the chopped fresh mint, eggs and grated cheese. 
I was grateful for all the chatter about this recipe in the P&Q’s for French Fridays. I made sure my ricotta was well drained; by leaving it sit in a cheesecloth-lined colander overnight.  I froze the molded gnocchi, for a few hours, before I cooked them. I was also sure to keep the water at a simmer instead of a hard boil. Thank you, Mardi, and Liz for the helpful hints.  

That said, I didn’t run into any problems preparing these gnocchi.  I decided to put a bit of sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish, like I do with stuffed shells. It worked well!  I then spooned some sauce over the top of the Gnocchi, along with the cheese, before baking them.  I served them with some Italian bread and a big salad! I really enjoyed these, but Bill...not so much! He did eat them, but thought they had too much spinach in them (go figure). When I asked him what I could add to make them more Bill friendly, he said “nothing”! Oh well! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe is from “Around My French Table”, and since it has been published I decided to share it with all of you. To see what the other Doristas thought of this recipe you can find it here.

The Storzapretis just out of the freezer…
Simmer  until they float on top of the water
 After you pat them dry, place them in baking the baking dish…I put some sauce on the bottom
Spoon on more sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and bake
Simply delicious!
Bon Appétit   

Storzapretis: Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi
by  Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table      

Serves 6 starter servings or 4 main-course servings
10 ounces spinach, trimmed
1 pound whole-milk ricotta or fresh brocciu, if you can get it
1 large egg
5 ounces cheese, such as Gruyere or Emmenthal or a combination of Gruyere and Parmesan, grated (about 1 1/4 cup)
1 bunch mint leaves, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I made my own but you can use a good-quality store bought marinara as well)

Wash the spinach in several changes of cool water, toss into a large pot, with the water still clinging to the leaves. Place the pot over medium-low heat, cover and cook the spinach, turning often, until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Turn the spinach into a colander and shake out as much of the water as possible.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, press out the remainder of the water (or as much as you can) by squeezing small bunches of the spinach between your palms or by twisting them in a kitchen towel. Coarsely chop the spinach, toss it into a bowl, and use your fingers to pull the clumps of spinach apart as best you can.

With a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the ricotta or brocciu into the spinach, followed by an egg. Stir in half of the grated cheese and the mint, sprinkle over the flour, season with salt and pepper and blend. You'll have a soft, malleable mixture. 

Line a baking sheet or tray that will fit in the fridge with plastic wrap. Make a mound of about 1/4 cup flour on your work surface. 

Working with two tablespoons, scoop up a tablespoonful of the cheese mixture with one spoon and then scrape the mix from one spoon to the other until you've formed a cohesive quenelle. Drop the quenelle into the mound of flour, and then toss it gently from hand to hand to shake off the excess.  After working the mixture this way, your quenelle will probably look like a large, slightly misshapen bullet, and that's just fine. Put the nugget on the lined sheet and continue until you've used all the dough, you'll have about 3 dozen strozapreti.

Chill or freeze the strozapreti for about 30 minutes, just to firm them a bit. (I refrigerated them overnight).

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil an 9x13 baking dish (glass, porcelain or pottery).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and have a big bowl of ice and cold water nearby.

Remove the strozapretis from the refrigerator or freezer. Lower the heat under the pot so that the water is at a simmer, and carefully drop some strozapreti into the pot-- don't crowd the pot-- work in batches of 8 to 10 at a time. The nuggets will sink to the bottom of the pot and then pop to the top. After they do, let them gently bob around in the pot for about 5 minutes, then lift them out of the simmering water with a slotted spoon and drop them into the ice water.

Continue poaching and cooling the rest.

Drain the strozapreti, and dry between sheets of paper towels-- be careful, they're soft and fragile-- then arrange them in the oiled pan. Pour the tomato sauce over the strozapreti, top with the remaining grated cheese, and slide the pan into the oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling hot, the cheese melted and the strozapreti heated through. Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TWD ~ BWJ Nick Malgieris' Amaretti

Nick Malgieris’ Amaretti perfection...

Here I am, two weeks in a row, baking and posting with TWD! I’m really a TWD dropout, but I rekindled my baking passion with the start of Baking Chez Moi. I am determined to bake at least once monthly, hopefully twice!
While posting my link last week, on the Tuesdays’ site, I noticed that the BWJ group was going to be baking Amaretti, by Nick Malgieri!  Nick is one of my all time favorite bakers! I own almost every one of his books. I find his way of explaining a recipe to be exceptional! Even my “go to” piecrust comes from Nick.  There was no way I would miss this opportunity, to bake along with Tuesdays and Nick Malgieri!

Loved the way the tops crackled
I bake Amaretti every Christmas! Several years ago, an Italian friend gave me the recipe I use. They were delicious!  Still, I had to give Nicks a chance.  Both recipes consist of only three basic ingredients…almond paste, sugar, and egg whites. Comparing the two recipes, I found mine was a doubled version of his recipe. The preparation was the only difference. In my friends’ version, the egg whites are beaten until stiff, and then folded into the almond paste-sugar mixture. The mixture gets placed in the fridge overnight. In Nicks’ recipe the almond paste and sugar get mixed together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until the almond paste and sugar are a fine crumb. Then the egg whites get mixed in.

These were amazing
Comparison done! Both recipes produce a wonderful cookie! I liked that with Nicks’ recipe you don’t have to refrigerate, and his cookie seemed to get a bit crisper on the outside. 
Since I adore anything with almond paste, these are definitely one of my favorite Christmas cookies! When I make them at Christmas...I always dip the tops into the pine nuts. I don’t pipe the batter…but from now on I will! I thought the piping made a more uniform cookie. And I thought the towel trick to dampen the tops of the cookies, was an excellent suggestion (be sure to watch the video with Nick and Julia baking together). I think that’s what made Nicks' Amaretti crackle and crisp up! 
These Amaretti were exceptional! Thank you Nick for Amaretti perfection! Happy Tuesdays everyone! 

To see what the other bakers at TWD thought of these Amaretti check them out here
If you’d like to watch Julia baking these Amaretti with Nick Malgieri, you can find the video here.

My piping skills could use some improvement…but they were quite easy to pipe
Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside…just perfect!
I made some with pine nuts (pignoli)
Incredibly flavorful!

Nick Malgieris' Amaretti

One 8-oz.can almond paste (do not use almond paste from tube---too much sugar)
3/4 C. sugar
2 large egg whites, beaten just to break up
1/4 lb. pine nuts (optional) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Cut almond paste into 1/2 inch cubes and toss into bowl of mixer fitted with paddle attachment or use hand-held mixer. Add half the sugar and mix on low speed until the paste is broken into small crumbs. Add the rest of sugar and mix until the crumbs are very fine, about 2 minutes. Add egg whites in 3 to 4 additions, scraping down the bowl when mixture starts to stick to the bottom and beating until the batter is free of lumps. You don't want to beat a lot of air into this mixture, because it will cause the amaretti to rise in the oven and then fall--what you want is a nice, even puff that persists.

Pipe cookies in mounds on the lined baking sheets with a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4 inch plain tip. Each cookies should be about 1-1/4 inch in diameter and about 1/2inch high. Leave about 1-1/2 inches between cookies. Alternatively you can use a small scoop to form the cookies, using about 1 TBS. batter for each.

Just before baking, wet a cotton or linen kitchen towel(not terry cloth) and gently squeeze out excess water. Don't wring cloth--you want it to be wet. Fold the towel into a strip 2 inches wide and, holding one end ot the towel in each hand and letting the center droop, gently dab the tops of the cookies with the center of the cloth. Use an up-and-down motion to pat the cookies with the towel several times, until their tops are smooth, slightly flattened and glistening. (Wetting the tops will remove the piping ridges and will help produce the crinkly top that is typical of these cookies.) If you are using pine nuts, press them gently onto the amaretti.

Bake on center rack until they are well risen, lightly colored and covered with fine cracks, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies, parchment paper and all, to racks and cool completely.

Gently peel the amaretti off the paper. If any of the cookies stick, just lift the paper, brush the underside with a little hot water, and give it a few seconds to seep ink then peel off the cookie.

Kept in an airtight tin or plastic container, amaretti will remain moist and chewy for a few days, than become dry and crisp.
Yields bout 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, November 14, 2014

FFWD ~ Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats

FFWD ~ Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats
This week, for French Fridays, we are serving up Pan Seared Duck Breasts with Kumquats! Sounds rather ooh la la…doesn’t it? Not to mention amazing! This is our third duck recipe for FF’s.  I was thrilled and excited, when I saw it on our November schedule. Duck is a favorite in our house, although I don’t prepare it often enough.  The duck was easy to procure…but the kumquats have not shown up in our supermarkets yet. Their growing season is November to March.

Kumquats are like mini oranges, yet they are not part of the citrus family. They are the size and shape of a large olive, and are completely edible.  When you take your first bite, you’ll be surprised to find the skin is sweet, and pulp is tart. The first time I ate a kumquat, I was in Florida at a farmers market. One of the growers was selling large bags, very reasonably, so of course I was intrigued! He encouraged me to try one, and I was delighted! What would I do with these if I buy them?  The answer was make marmalade! Well, of course!  And I’ve been making marmalade ever since! 

My Preserved Kumquats
Last winter, I bought a bag of Kumquats from the same farmers market. My plan was to make marmalade. After making a double batch, I still had quite a few left.  I decided to preserve the rest in syrup making two jars.  Until yesterday, they were both still sitting in my fridge, sealed and unopened. Finally, I had a reason to open a jar! They would be perfect for my FF’s pan seared duck breasts.

This was a fantastic dinner…it made an ordinary night feel like a special occasion
The sauce for the duck breasts, is the most time consuming part of the recipe. It consists of a red wine, balsamic vinegar, black peppercorns, whole coriander, shallots, orange juice and chicken broth. This can be prepared ahead of time.  Before serving, three tablespoons of the kumquat syrup are stirred into the sauce. The fragrance that permeated the kitchen was delightful!  When you’re ready to serve your meal, it is time to sear the duck.  First scoring the fatty side and searing for about 8 minutes, then turn and sear for another 3 minutes. Oops...I was taking a phone call, and messed up the timing!  Luckily it was OK! The candied kumquats are served along side the duck which was still pink and delicious! I might have liked it a tad more rare, but it seemed perfect to Bill! This was not only husband friendly, but company worthy as well!  Happy Friday everyone!
This recipe can be found in Dories cookbook, “Around My French Table” or here at Epicurious where it has been published. To see what the other Doristas thought of this recipe, check it out on the FrenchFridays web-page.  For anyone who would like the recipe for the Honey-Ginger Preserved Kumquats you can find it here.

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#Blogger C.L.U.E. ~ Pumpkin Spice Spiked Latte

Pumpkin Spice Spiked Latte
Welcome to my first blog post for the Blogger C.L.U.E. Society (Cook, Learn, Undertake, Eat). Each month the name of a food blogger is sent to us secretly, along with a theme. This month the theme is Thanksgiving! It is then our mission to hunt through the blog we were given, unnoticed, for a recipe that fits our theme. Something that appeals to us, and something we think would be a winner with our family and friends! 

While I didn’t have the Pumpkin Kahlua…the Apple Pie liqueur added just the right amount of spice, and worked great to add a spark to this latte
My secret blogger was Anna of the very lovely blog AnnaDishes. I saw quite a few recipes I know I would enjoy making. Several had me oohing and ahhing! Should I choose the delectable Pumpkin Goat Cheese Spread, or maybe the Pumpkin Beer Bread?  Both of them sounded festive, and quite perfect for Thanksgiving. However, one particular recipe caught my eye to serve to my family and friends for Thanksgiving! It was for Anna's Pumpkin Spice Spiked Latte!  I know…right! Sounds like a perfectly wonderful ending to a great Thanksgiving meal! I am certain my family and friends will enjoy this Latte. I certainly did while testing! 

This drink was quite festive and delicious!

I could not find the Pumpkin Spice Kahlua in my area, so I decided to improvise with 1/8 cup of Kahlua and an 1/8 cup of Apple Pie Liquor…it was luscious! I added frothed milk to the top, instead of the optional whipped cream.  I do think this drink would be just as good hot as it is cold.  I might have to give that a try!

Pumpkin Spice Spiked Latte
Prep Time: 5 Min  Cook Time: 5 Min
Serves 2

1/2 Cup Freshly Brewed and Chilled Espresso
1/4 Cup Pumpkin Spice Kahlua
1/2 Cup Half and Half (or Milk or Almond Milk)
1/4 Cup Vodka


Maple Sugar
Whipped Cream


In a shaker with ice, mix the coffee and Kahlua together, add the vodka and finish with half & half.

Shake until well blended and pour into a glass rimmed with Maple Sugar. A martini glass would be perfect but a rocks glass works well, too.

If you are so inclined, add a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.


To see what the other members are sharing, check out their blogs below….

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi ~ Palets de Dames, Lille Style

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi ~ Palets de Dames, Lille Style

I’m really excited to be writing my first post for Tuesdays with Dorie-Baking Chez Moi.  Although, I’ve already baked three of the recipes from Dories new book, I feel like I’m starting anew. Our French Fridays group got to choose a few of Dories published recipes from BCM, to bake for a birthday celebration postI chose two, because I just couldn’t make up my mind!  And this week I got to bake the Palets de Dames. The first thing that came to my mind was…"betcha can't eat just one"! These darling cookies have an amazing flavor, and look quite elegant, festive and pretty! Perfect for so many occasions! They were ideal with my afternoon tea!

Dorie tells us, that the name Palets means “puck"….an odd name for something so light and cake-y. They are a popular treat in the northern French city of Lille, where you can find them in most Pâtisseries.  
These cookies truly are easy to prepare. The ingredient list is remarkably simple.  Butter, sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla and flour! It took me less than 10 minutes to mix the batter. Then the dough gets chilled for at least one hour. I left mine in overnight. Baking was straight forward…taking about 2 teaspoons of dough at a time, and gently rolling into balls between the palms of your hands, then placing them onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.  Bake 7-9 minutes…or until the edges start to brown.  When the cookies cool, they are dipped into a light lemony glaze. I sprinkled mine with some lavender colored sugar. These Palets de Dames have a lovely tender crumb, and a delightful intense flavor.  I know these are going to be a favorite in my house! Happy Tuesday everyone!

Wish you could join me for tea…

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi”, the publishers have shared this recipe, you can find it hereTo see what the other bakers thought of the Palets de Dames, you can check it out on the TWD web-page.

Amazing intense flavor….”Betcha can’t eat just one"
These were a definite winner at my little tea party….
You should give them a try!
Just a note to say Thank you to Dorie for signing this bookplate for my Baking Chez Moi…I got to meet her in NYC the first night of her book tour.  She also signed my copy of “Around My French Table”.  It was a fun night, and as always Dorie was so gracious! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

FFWD ~ Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parsley Coulis

FFWD ~ Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parsley Coulis

This week, our recipe for French Fridays is Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, with Parsley Coulis.  Strange as it sounds, just a month ago I was completely unfamiliar with the Jerusalem artichoke...aka sunchokes. I never heard of this very tasty tuber before making the Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes for FF’s last month. I checked many of the markets in my area to no avail.  In desperation, I bought several pounds on e-bay. Knowing this soup was on our agenda, I bought extra!  I also planned on planting some. Thanks to Teresa of One Wet Foot, I learned that they are a very invasive tuber. Where could I plant them? After giving it some thought, I decided to plant a handful on the edge of the woods that line my yard. The only thing that’s been growing there are weeds.  This sunflower like plant should add some lovely color.  And the best part, if they take I will be able to make this delicious soup again next year!
Warm, comforting and delicious
The soup calls for about 2 lbs. of Jerusalem artichokes. The prep for the soup is pretty easy. Giving them a good scrub is all you really need to do, however I peeled mine. 
I only made some miner changes to this recipe. One was the amount of sunchokes. Instead of 2 pounds, I used 1 pound and 1 pound of potatoes. The recipe then calls for onions, garlic, celery and leeks, to be sautéed in a few tablespoons of butter. After they have softened, add the sunchokes and potatoes, along with the chicken broth. The recipe calls for eight cups, but I like my soup thick so I used six. When the sunchokes and potatoes have softened, the mixture is then pureed into a velvety smooth soup. The flavor was extraordinarily delicious! It makes me wish I had more sunchokes in my pantry! Next year! 
Bill and I both enjoyed this steaming bowl of creamy soup on a cool, damp, rainy night here in New Jersey! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table” or here where it has been published.  To see what the other Doristas thought of this soup check it out here.

There is nothing quite as nice on a wet, damp, cold day than a warming bowl of soup