Rose’s Manicotti

Rose’s Manicotti

This is another one of those comfort food recipes that you’re likely to make again and again, not just because it tastes great, but also because you can make it ahead of time and freeze it for later.
I can’t take credit for it — It’s brought to you via my Dad and his wife Rose, who have frequently served it at their table, and have introduced it at mine as well.
It’s unlike the traditional manicotti that you might know, since the filling is contained in a crepe, not in pasta. It’s a recipe handed down from Rose’s mother and maybe it will become part of your tradition too. It makes a wonderful first course, but with the addition of a salad can also serve as the main course. Since there’s no meat in the recipe, vegetarians will be happy too.

Rose’s Manicotti

Makes about 20

For the crepes:

4 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup milk
2 tblspns. melted butter
2 cups flour

Beat the eggs slightly. Place the flour in a bowl, and add the eggs, water, milk and melted butter. Beat everything together.
Using a paper towel, smear the bottom of a 7 inch nonstick skillet with olive oil. Over medium heat, pour some of the batter into the pan, swirl around and watch carefully until the batter seems to solidify. Do not let the crepe brown. The color should be similar to the pale color of pasta dough. Flip it over and cook for only a couple of seconds on the other side.

Filling:

2 pounds ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix all the filling ingredients together and place some of filling along a straight line down the middle of a crepe. Roll up the crepe and place seam-side down in a baking pan that has been first layered with tomato sauce. Proceed until the pan is filled, then cover with another layer of tomato sauce. Do not put a second layer of crepes over the first.

Tomato Sauce:

Use your favorite tomato sauce – with or without meat. In my family, to use anything but homemade tomato sauce would be blasphemy, but if you resort to a commercial brand, I won’t tell. For this recipe, my father and Rose make a meatless sauce that is very smooth, since it enhances the delicate texture and flavor of the crepes.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 325 degrees about 1/2 hour.
If frozen, place the pan in the refrigerator the night before serving. Bake at 325 degrees, but you may need slightly more than 1/2 hour until the crepes are heated through and the sauce is bubbly hot.

Election Day Roast Chicken

Election Day Roast Chicken

It’s finally here! Election day takes place on Tuesday, Nov. 4 in the U.S. after what seems like an interminably long campaign. Miranda (the lovely lady in the photo) implores you to vote. No matter what the outcome, you’ll be taking part in a historic election.
By Wednesday morning (hopefully) somebody will be declared a winner — and a lot of people who supported the losing candidate will be feeling pretty glum. It may be small solace for the losers, but I’m posting one of my favorite comfort foods to help you get through the day.
The technique of starting the bird with the breast-side down is just as important as the recipe, so make sure to follow the directions.

Favorite Roast Chicken

1 6 lb. roasting chicken
olive oil
1 lemon
1 large onion
bouquet of fresh garden herbs
dried herbs and spices:
lemon pepper
herbs de provence
paprika
kosher salt

Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry. Squeeze one lemon into the cavity and place the lemon inside the cavity, along with a bouquet of fresh herbs. I used fresh thyme, oregano and rosemary, but use whatever you have. If you don’t have any fresh herbs, sprinkle inside with dry herbs.
Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil and place in a greased roasting pan, breast side down. This will ensure moist breast meat and evenly cooked skin. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and the dry herbs: lemon pepper, herbs de provence and paprika. Chop a large onion into quarters and nestle in the pan next to the chicken. Roast in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Turn over so that breast side faces up and sprinkle with the dry herbs. Lower the temperature to 350 and roast for another hour or until juices run clear after piercing a fork into the thickest part.

Squash Soup

Squash Soup

Happy Halloween everyone! I’m sending you a photo of the jack o’lantern all lit up in front of our house. Last weekend our daughter Christina was home and helped design and cut out our annual Halloween pumpkin. There were those slippery pumpkin seeds to deal with, which we salted and roasted and ate in a flash. There were also substantial bits of flesh that were left from cutting out the design. I hated to throw them out, so I incorporated them into a squash soup I was planning for dinner. I already had some butternut squash in the fridge, so I just peeled the pumpkin remains and added them too. There are tons of recipes for squash soup, and some even spice it up with curry. My favorite way is to let the sweetness of the squash take over, with a little boost from the addition of an apple and a pear. You don’t have to add the cream if you want to keep it healthier, but a little bit goes a long way in creating a silken texture. I have even been known to add skim milk when I lacked for cream, or didn’t want to add the calories. I also cubed some bread and toasted it to make croutons. No butter needed – just toss the cubed bread in a heavy bottomed pan, such as a cast-iron skillet, and watch carefully so the croutons don’t burn. Enjoy a warm bowl as you wait for the trick or treaters to arrive. It’s really delicious — and ghoulishly easy to make.

Squash Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 cup of this was my pumpkin leftovers)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large pear, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large potato, cut into chunks
5 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tsps. salt
1/2 cup cream

Heat the olive oil and add the onions. Cook until softened and slightly browned. Add the squash (and pumpkin leftovers if you have any) and saute for a few minutes. Toss in the apple, pear, and potato. Add the chicken broth and salt. Put a lid on the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until all the vegetables and fruit are soft and cooked through. Put into a blender, or use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add cream and top with croutons.

“Bocconotti” – Little Chocolate Treats

“Bocconotti” – Little Chocolate Treats

These chocolate treats are one of the many specialties of the region of Italy called Abruzzo. We spent a week there, as part of a recent trip to Italy, visiting my husband’s relatives who live in a small village near the Adriatic coast.
While there, we feasted each day at pranzo (lunch) and cena (dinner), moving from one cousin’s house to another, soaking up the warmth, the hospitality and the good food.
Giovanna, the cousin who is pictured here, cooked up a batch of these cookies the night before we left for us to take back to the U.S. Her culinary skills are well-known among her family and neighbors in Italy. Since returning to the U.S., I’ve been sharing her bocconotti with friends and relatives here, so her reputation has spread to the U.S. as well.
Giovanna gave me her recipe, which uses lard in the dough, but I have adapted it with butter. She also told me she uses a mixture of liqueurs in the filling — “Whatever I have in the house,” she said.
Feel free to do the same, or focus on one particular flavor. You could use rum, or brandy, or an orange-flavored liqueur, for example. Or do as Giovanna does and combine several.
They keep for a month, she said, as long as they are in a covered tin or container. Even though the recipe makes about four dozen bocconotti, you might have trouble keeping them for that long!

Bocconotti

For the dough:

10 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
2/3 cup plus 1 T. sugar
6 egg yolks
3 1/2 cups flour or enough to make a soft dough

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add egg yolks, one at a time, blending well. Add flour and mix until it forms a soft dough. Break off small portions and roll out to the thickness of pie crust. Cut and fit into small metal tart tins.

For the filling:

4 ounces espresso coffee
7 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1 1/3 cups almonds, toasted and finely ground
3/4 cup plus 1 T. sugar
pinch of cinnamon
peel of 1 lemon, grated
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup liqueur, any kind
6 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Put the chocolate into a bowl and pour the hot coffee over it, stirring until melted and smooth. Mix in the almonds, sugar, cinnamon, lemon, egg yolks and liqueur. Fold in beaten egg whites.

Pour into the tart shells. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

When cool, melt about 4 ounces chocolate in a bowl with 1 T. oil. Spread over the cooled cookies.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Gelato

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Gelato

This is my favorite gelato combo – coffee, dark chocolate and coconut – from my favorite gelateria in Rome – Giorgiagel. It’s a tiny outpost in Trastevere on via. S. Francesco a Ripa that you never read about. But after trying all the major, well-known gelaterie, this one could not be matched, at least for my benchmark flavor, dark chocolate – or “cioccolato fondente,” as they say in Italy. It’s wickedly good. Aside from the intensity of the flavor, you get the most for your euro here – this cup or “coppetta” cost only 1 euro – or the equivalent of about $1.40 during my trip. And they add a crunchy cookie. Giolitti, one of Rome’s beloved institutions, is my second favorite gelato spot in Rome. The coconut flavor here is the best I’ve tasted anywhere, with flecks of fresh coconut adding texture and more taste to an already yummy flavor. The coffee is really intense too, but the dark chocolate doesn’t hold a candle to Giorgiagel. The flavors on display in the case are myriad, with a rainbow of fruit sorbets including mango, plum and wild berries. This heaping cone cost 1.50 euro. Located at via Uffice del Vicario, 40, not far from the Pantheon.
The chocolate from Fonte della Salute, via Cardinal Marmaggi in Trastevere, looks darker than most, but it tasted like some thickener had been added in – more like a chocolate pudding. But it certainly looked like there were plenty of pleased customers there. The stracciatella (chocolate chip) nestled next to it, was delicious. cost 1.50 euro
Dark chocolate and caramel at San Crispino – another landmark gelateria in Rome with several locations – one near the Trevi Fountain and one near the Pantheon. Right off the bat, I don’t like the fact that their ice cream is served from covered stainless steel containers, so you can’t see what you’re ordering. Moreover, the price of this meager serving is double – 2 euros – what I paid for a heaping cup at Giorgiagel, and the dark chocolate is much less intense. To round out my tasting, (I had to give flavors other than chocolate a shot after all) I include photos of two other combos – a luscious amarena (sour cherry) and frutti di bosco (wild berries) — and a cup of torroncino (nougat candy) and pistachio. Both from Giorgiagel, and 1 euro each.
Sorry to put this comment from a reader here rather than in the comments section, but it’s because I had to “repost” this after I messed up the placement of the pictures and the text. I couldn’t figure out how to allow the comment from the first post to be visible in the comments section, so here it is under the text: DASKMA said… I totally agree with your assessment of Giorgiagel. We’ve been living in Trastevere for the past nine months and stop here with our daughter several times a week…it is by far the best gelato we’ve found in Rome, especially when you consider taste, price and unpretentious friendliness of the owners and staff. The gelato there is wonderful and deserves to be better known…since they have only been open a couple years, I am sure they will soon get the reputation they deserve….and I also agree with all you said about San Crispino…over-priced and too pretentious for my taste-buds… April 21, 2009 3:51 PM

Poached Pears With Ice Cream

Poached Pears with Ice Cream

After all those photos of Roman gelato, it just didn’t seem fair to all of you who aren’t planning a trip to sunny Italy any time in the future. Besides, my niece Keri who is living in Paris for several months, where she really has no reason to complain about the dearth of wonderful desserts, emailed me with the message “You’re killing me” after seeing all those photos.
So I’m offering a dessert that I first prepared when we were living in Rome where the pears were enormous. We always seemed to have a bottle of red wine on hand as well, so I combine the two with a little sugar, some lemon rind and a cinnamon stick. It’s a dessert you can easily make ahead of time and reheat in the microwave. I also like to serve it at Thanksgiving, for those who want to end their meal with something sweet, but not the heaviness of pies or cakes. Topping it with ice cream is unnecessary, but it’s a perfect complement to the warm, cooked pears. Last night, I tried a new flavor from Haagen Dazs called “caramelized pears and toasted pecans.” yumm.

Poached Pears in Red Wine

6 Pears
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup sugar
a few shavings of lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick

Peel pears, cut in half and remove core and seeds. Place into a pan with the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer over medium heat covered, about 1/2 hour, or until fork tender. Keep the lid ajar for the last 10 minutes, to help evaporate and thicken some of the liquid. Best served warm — with ice cream of course.

I Scream, We All Scream, For Gelato!

I Scream, We All Scream, For Gelato!

This is my favorite combo – coffee, dark chocolate and coconut – from my favorite gelateria in Rome – Giorgiagel. It’s a tiny outpost in Trastevere on via. S. Francesco a Ripa that you never read about. But after trying all the major, well-known gelaterie, this one could not be matched, at least for my benchmark flavor, dark chocolate – or “cioccolato fondente,” as they say in Italy. It’s wickedly good. Aside from the intensity of the flavor, you get the most for your euro here – this cup or “coppetta” cost only 1 euro – or the equivalent of about $1.40 during my trip. And they add a crunchy cookie.

Giolitti, one of Rome’s beloved institutions, is my second favorite gelato spot in Rome. The coconut flavor here is the best I’ve tasted anywhere, with flecks of fresh coconut adding texture and more taste to an already yummy flavor. The coffee is really intense too, but the dark chocolate doesn’t hold a candle to Giorgiagel. The flavors on display in the case are myriad, with a rainbow of fruit sorbets including mango, plum and wild berries. This heaping cone cost 1.50 euro. Located at via Uffice del Vicario, 40, not far from the Pantheon.

The chocolate from Fonte della Salute, via Cardinal Marmaggi in Trastevere, looks darker than most, but it tasted like some thickener had been added in – more like a chocolate pudding. But it certainly looked like there were plenty of pleased customers there. The stracciatella (chocolate chip) nestled next to it, was delicious. cost 1.50 euro

Dark chocolate and caramel at San Crispino – another landmark gelateria in Rome with several locations – one near the Trevi Fountain and one near the Pantheon. Right off the bat, I don’t like the fact that their ice cream is served from covered stainless steel containers, so you can’t see what you’re ordering. Moreover, the price of this meager serving is double – 2 euros – what I paid for a heaping cup at Giorgiagel, and the dark chocolate is much less intense.

To round out my tasting, (I had to give flavors other than chocolate a shot after all) I include photos of two other combos – a luscious amarena (sour cherry) and frutti di bosco (wild berries) — and a cup of torroncino (nougat candy) and pistachio. Both from Giorgiagel, and 1 euro each.

Time Out For “Research”

Time Out For “Research”

Just wanted to alert readers of this blog that there would not likely be any new postings for a couple of weeks.
I’m off to do some “research.”
Ciao a tutti.

Beet “Ravioli”

Beet “Ravioli”

Despite the misty and rainy weather, it was a magical time on Shelter Island last weekend when Rebecca O’Malley and Lars Weinrich got married. Shelter Island is located between the North and South fork of New York State’s Long Island. It is a verdant, naturalistic island, and the place where Rebecca was raised. The rain held off just long enough for Rebecca’s father to perform the ceremony by the placid waterfront and boats bobbing in the harbor.
The good karma started on Friday night at a pre-wedding pig roast, where guests were treated to succulent pork and delicious side dishes. The food at Saturday’s reception was no less wonderful, and several notches higher in elegance. Guests were served family-style, with food that included filet mignon with wild mushrooms, grilled sea bass and a beet “ravioli” that intrigued me.
We at the table all thought we’d be served a pasta made with beets — but no, it was an actual slice of beet stuffed with goat cheese.
Returning home, I pulled out my mandoline and set to work replicating the dish. It really does require a mandoline to get the slices thin enough. The only other ingredient is goat cheese. If you want to, you can pour dress it up with vinegar and oil, but I found it wasn’t necessary. See for yourself how easy it is to prepare. It made a great side dish, but would also work as an appetizer.

Beet Ravioli

beets
goat cheese

Trim the beets and place in a roasting pan smeared with a little olive oil. Roast for one hour at 350 degrees or until fork tender. Let the beets cool, then peel and thinly slice using a mandoline. Place a dab of goat cheese in the middle of the beet slice and fold over. That’s it!


Rebecca and Lars

Pizza With Figs And Prosciutto

Pizza with Figs and Prosciutto

If you’re a pizza purist and think it isn’t pizza if it’s not topped with tomato sauce, then you can skip this one. But I warn you, you’ll be missing out on one of the best pizzas you’ll ever taste.
We recently shared a similar pizza as an appetizer with our friends Al and Ellen Stark at Orso, a New York City restaurant that’s a favorite of theirs.
The list of ingredients blend together to create a perfect harmonic symphony of tastes: the sweetness of fresh figs, combined with the saltiness of prosciutto, the sharp tang of gorgonzola cheese, the mild goodness of mozzarella, the bitterness of arugula and the crunch of walnuts, all fused together on top of a crusty dough. It was a pizza that none of us could stop eating.
I knew I had to try duplicating it at home and guess what? The homemade version was every bit as good as the restaurant’s. And it was easy to boot. I’ve made it twice in the last week and a half, and the first time I absent-mindedly forgot the prosciutto (well, it’s got a LOT of different toppings to remember after all). For all you vegetarians out there, it was delicious even without the prosciutto. But I promise you – with the prosciutto it’s sublime.

Pizza with figs and prosciutto

You can make your own pizza dough if you like, but I went the easy route and bought some already made at a local pizzeria. I just stretched it out on a 12-inch round metal pizza pan, pierced it all around with a fork, and let it rise for about 15 minutes. Douse with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Bake it in a preheated 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes on one side, until browned. If the bottom is not substantially browned, flip over the pizza shell and bake it with the bottom side facing up for another 10 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.
Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Scatter the following ingredients over the pizza crust:

2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
4 -6 very thin slices prosciutto
about 10 small fresh figs, quartered*
a small handful of arugula, chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cheeses are melted.

*I haven’t tried this recipe using dried figs, but if you do, drop me a comment and let me know how it works out.