Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Plums-Yum!-iPhone Mania

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Don't get me wrong, I totally love my Canon 5d Mark 11 and I use it all the time, but each time I photograph an image with it, I also use my iPhone and the many photographic apps that I have to shoot some fun photos. Having bought some wooden letters and numbers stamps over the holidays, I thought it would be cool to photograph these plums with some stamped text. This image was shot with the Hipstamatic 231 app using the Matty ALN lens and DreamCanvas film. I converted with Topaz BW Effects.

I'm sharing this with Black and White Wednesday a weekly culinary photo event, created and hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Torta Caprese-Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts

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It's been a long time since I have been as enamored with any cookbook as I have with Loukie Werle's Italian Country Cooking-The Secrets of Cucina Povera. I bought it in the bargain book section several years back and it's my favorite go to book for easy unpretentious Italian cooking.  Just the words, "cucina povera" strikes a chord in my heart as I grew up eating not poverty food as in the literal translation, but foods that were seasonal and simply prepared. As in the rural cities in Italy, true country food is more often found in homes or local neighborhood restaurants than in more upmarket restaurants. However, that being said, I have dined at some very good restaurants that specialize in preparing seasonal dishes with locally grown  organic produce, fresh cheeses and locally raised meats and poultry. But I digress-

The cookbook is becoming tattered and I've made numerous notations alongside recipes where I have substituted one ingredient for another, but the dishes have remained true to the original ones. My favorite savory recipe is the Spaghetti all Carbonara which I've yet to photograph and post on this blog mainly because I have prepared the dish for my family and I have had no time to set up the food styling and photography, etc.

While there are many savory recipes-pasta, rice dishes, vegetables and stews, there are only a few "sweet things" as the chapter is called, but they too are simple, yet elegant. This dense chocolate hazelnut cake is the third one I've made, the other two are the Torto di riso dolce-Lemon Rice Cake and  the Cherry Walnut Cake.

Torta Caprese
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts
Serves 12

1 stick unsalted butter
7 ounces dark chocolate, 71% cocoa (roughly chopped)
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs separated, room temperature
1-1/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts or almonds, or a mixture
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch springform cake pan with parchment. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Combine the butter, chocolate and sugar in a heatproof pan and set over simmering water, taking care that the bottom of the pan doesn't touch the water. Heat until butter is melted and the chocolate is soft, about 5 minutes. Do not overheat the mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

Add the egg yolks one at a time to the chocolate mixture beating well after each addition so each egg in incorporated into the chocolate. Stir in the hazelnuts, almonds or a mixture into the chocolate.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Fold in the chocolate mixture, one third at a time, just until no white streaks remain. Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake 40-50 minutes until cake is firm in the middle, with a fudgy top. Cool on a rack. Remove the sides of the pan, then gently slide cake off pan onto serving plate. 

A little serendipity!
iPhone photos of Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts

Mise en Place-Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts

Please do not use images or text without my permission.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach Pesto

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Also called cowpeas from their use as cattle fodder, black-eyed peas are not only low in fat, high in potassium and fiber, but are a delicious substitute for meat.. In the Southern part of the United States, black-eyed peas are a staple and are traditionally served on New Year's Day to ensure good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Black-eyed peas are available dried, frozen or canned. While the dried variety require more time to prepare, they have less sodium and more fiber than the canned peas.

An amalgamation of the many soup recipes that I have made using fresh vegetables and pantry items, this soup began its life as a Delicata Squash, Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach, adapted from Italian Country Cooking-The Secrets of Cucina Povera. Adding black-eyed peas,  butternut squash, carrots, celery, leeks, substituting vegetable stock for the chicken broth and making spinach pesto to stir into the soup transformed the soup into an entirely new dish. The black-eyed peas were soaked overnight in the refrigerator and cooked with onion, bay leaves and garlic ahead of time. If pressed for time, frozen black-eyed peas can be substituted.

This is my entry for No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. The challenge for the month of January is to create a vegetarian soup or a salad featuring black-eyed peas.

Black-eyed Pea Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Soup with Spinach Pesto
Serves 6-8
Ingredients (Stage 1)
1 (12 ounce bag) dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3 bay leaves

Preparation: Soak black-eyed peas overnight in hot tap water adding three times as much water as peas. Drain. In a large saucepan, combine drained peas, onion, garlic and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until peas are tender, about an hour. Cool and refrigerate if not using immediately. Remove onion, garlic and bay leaves.

Ingredients (Stage 2)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 leek, bottom only, washed and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Israeli couscous, often called pearl couscous
Drained black-eyed peas

Preparation: In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and leek to pan, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft. Add garlic, cook one minute. Add butternut squash and cook for five minutes. Add fresh thyme, crushed red pepper, vegetable stock and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Simmer for about thirty minutes. Bring back to a boil and add Israeli couscous. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cooked and drained black-eyed peas. Simmer for a 10 minutes or until peas are heated through. Adjust seasonings. Add more water if soup is too thick.

Spinach Pesto (Stage 3)
1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation: Process spinach, garlic and walnuts in a food processor. While machine is running, add olive oil in a stream. Remove to bowl and season with salt and pepper.

To Serve-Ladle soup in bowls and top with a dollop of spinach pesto or stir pesto into soup, if desired.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Raised Irish Soda Bread From Your Bread Machine

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While classic Irish soda bread contains only baking soda as a leavening, it is a bread that you would most likely serve the day it is made since it dries out very quickly. This bread machine recipe for Irish soda bread not only contains yeast which boosts the bread's texture, but the traditional baking soda and buttermilk so the integrity of the bread is preserved. Brown sugar and Lyle's Golden syrup add a subtle   sweetness as well as encouraging a lovely brown crust.   Currants and caraway seeds are often added to the bread dough and I have included them in the recipe, but wanted to use this bread as a basic sandwich bread without the extras. The bread would be delicious as a sandwich with corned beef for a St. Patrick's Day lunch. 

I baked the Irish Soda bread in a pottery bread baker, but you can also hand shape the dough into a round and use a parchment covered baking sheet. If you use a pottery bread baker like the one in the photo below, you will need to place the bread baker in the oven with the raised bread and allow it to heat up along with the oven. When removing the bread baker from the oven, use protective mitts and place the baker on a hot pad-not on a cold hard surface. You can find helpful information regarding using and caring for the pottery bread bowl here and here.

Raised Irish Soda Bread
(Bread Machine)
Recipe Adapted From:
Rustic European Breads (From Your Bread Machine)

2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup powdered buttermilk
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1 large egg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Lyle's Golden Syrup or honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-3/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
3/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Combine bread flour, cornmeal,  wheat flour, powdered buttermilk, salt, baking soda, water, egg, brown sugar, golden syrup, butter and yeast in the bread machine pan and process on the dough cycle. Add the currants and caraway seed just before the final knead.

When cycle has completed, remove the dough from the pan, punch down, turn the bread machine pan over the dough and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Punch down the dough. Form the dough into an 8-inch circle and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about an hour.  Alternatively, you can place the punched down dough in a greased pottery bread baker. Cover with the lid and let rise until doubled. When doubled, place baker in the oven and turn the temperature to 375°F. Bake about 30  minutes, then remove the lid with a hot pad and bake another 15-20 minutes., or until golden brown and done throughout. Remove from oven with protective mitts, place bread baker on a hot pad and let cool completely before turning out.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven. Cut a large X into the top of the dough with a sharp knife or razor blade. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to bake for a additional 15 minutes or until golden brown and done throughout. Serve warm with corned beef and cabbage or cool to room temperature and slice for sandwiches.

Image converted using Topaz BW Effects. My entry for Black and White Wednesday, created and hosted by the super talented Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Please do not use images or text without my permission.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pasta Rustica with Italian Sausage-A Recipe and a Photo for Black and White Wednesday

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The word rustica or rustico  is synonymous with Italian food and usually means a hearty, rural or an unsophisticated dish. To me, it also means comfort food. Pasta Rustica with Italian Sausage is a romantic way of describing this dish that I have made for many years, adding and subtracting ingredients along the way basically using what I had on hand to fashion a sauce to serve over spaghetti, linguine or penne pasta. I made this dish before I "learned to cook" so in terms of technique, it's also quite rustic. This sauce is best made the day before for the flavors to meld, but I don't always follow my advice. Since we are only two people in my household, I still make a huge pot and next day, skim the fat, then freeze the sauce in freezer containers of two to four servings each, so when I'm away babysitting the grandchildren or in Savannah, all my husband has to do is thaw the sauce and boil the pasta. He's becoming quite adept at cooking rice and pasta!

Pasta Rustica with Italian Sausage

1 pound ground beef
3/4 pound hot Italian sausage
3/4 pound mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
1 green or red bell pepper (or both), diced
1 rib celery, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes with sauce, preferably San Marzano
1 (24 ounce) jar of pasta sauce-tomato basil or your choice of flavors
1(12-14 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
crushed red pepper to taste, optional
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
grated Parmesan

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, crumble ground beef and sausages, stirring to break up in large clumps as you brown it. Add onion,green or red bell pepper, and celery. When meat has browned and vegetables have softened, add minced garlic.

Add tomatoes, pasta sauce and mushrooms. If mixture is too thick, add some water. I sometimes add some water to the jar of pasta sauce, swirl it around to get all the sauce from around the jar. Add dried oregano, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour, adding a little water if sauce is too thick.  Skim fat now or when sauce cool, refrigerate and skim fat the next day. Serve sauce over pasta of choice. Liberally grate Parmesan over finished dish.

Note-In past sauces, I have used fresh herbs when available-basil and oregano, minced sun-dried tomatoes and sliced black or green  olives. 

My entry for the hugely popular Black and White Wednesday, a blog event created and hosted by Susan of the Well-Seasoned Cook

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Pear Triptych in Black and White-Black and White Wednesday

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While shopping for groceries in the produce section, the pears are like magnets pulling me to see their many shades of greens, browns and reds-some with all the colors. I can't resist, so I pick five different ones-some are bumpier and lumpier than others, some don't sit up without falling over and some have stems long and short. Although I love many dishes made with pears, it's photographing them that I love the most. Using my 50mm f/1.4 Canon lens, I shot many 20 images of the pears, but decided on a triptych to show off the pears in black and white. Images shot with a Canon 5D Mark 11 in RAW and JPEG. The JPEG was set to monochrome to see what the pears would look like in black and white. Although the black and white images looked pretty good straight out of the camera, I ran them through Nik Silver Efex 2.0 to add some contrast and lastly, a border before creating the triptych.

For Black and White Wednesday, created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned CookBWW took a break over the holidays, so this is the first post of the New Year. 

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Lunch on New Year's Day-Black-Eyed Peas, Collard Greens and Cornbread

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Not one to play around with luck or lack thereof, my lunch today was black-eyed peas with bacon, spicy fresh collard greens and a big hunk of cornbread made with organic stone ground white cornmeal,  part of a CSA box my daughter gets once a week. According to Southern folklore, eating black eyed peas will bring luck and prosperity throughout the year. To triple the chances of good luck, I served collard greens which represents paper money (green) and cornbread representing gold. Whether or not, I become prosperous, time will tell, but being a daughter of the South, my meal brought back many memories of growing up in a small farm town with a mother and a grandmother, both expert cooks who didn't consider black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread haute cuisine, but nutritious, inexpensive and delicious family food.

Collard greens are available year round, but are best from November to April and are said to be more flavorful after a frost. A cruciferous vegetable, collards are considered one of the world's healthiest foods. When buying fresh collards, choose those with bright crisp green leaves. When possible, buy from a nearby organic farm for maximum freshness. 

Braised Collard Greens

2 pounds collard greens, rinsed, stemmed, leaves rolled and sliced into strips
4 slices bacon
1 onion, diced
1 bottle (12 ounce) beer
12 ounces chicken broth, homemade or canned
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
a few dashes red wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, cook bacon slices until slightly crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Dice and reserve. Add onion to pan and saute until softened. Add beer and chicken broth to pan, stirring to bring up bits of bacon fond. Add collards and bacon; bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes, or until tender and to your taste. Add a few dashes red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.

Black-eyed Peas with Bacon
Recipe Adapted From Hoppin' John

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
4-5 slices bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced small
1/2 green pepper, diced small
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste (do not add salt until peas are cooked)

Wash and sort dried peas, discarding blemished ones. Soak peas overnight in hot tap water, using three times as much water as dried peas. Render bacon in heavy saucepan. Add garlic, onion, carrot and green pepper and sauté until tender. Add drained peas, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until tender, careful not to stir too much or beans will be mushy. Add salt  and pepper to taste. Makes large pot of peas. 
Easy Southern Cornbread

1-1/2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup, plus extra buttermilk
1-1/2 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 410° F. Pour bacon grease or vegetable oil into a small (8-inch) iron frying pan. Place in hot oven for about ten minutes. Meanwhile,whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk eggs into buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients along with the melted butter. You may need more buttermilk to achieve a batter like consistency. Protecting hands, carefully remove frying pan from oven. Place on heatproof surface. Pour batter into hot pan. Place in oven. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and tests done. Makes 

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