Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cucumber & Smoked Salmon Verrines

Verrine is French for 'glass case' or 'protective glass'. In a culinary context, it refers to any layered recipe, usually an appetizer or dessert, served in individual glass dishes. Goblets can work. You might even use any clear, glass, drinking glasses...depending on the size and shape (smaller breakfast/juice glasses?).

Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 cucumber
dash salt
1 Tbls lime juice
1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil + more to drizzle
½ apple (green or pink lady)
4 pink radishes
9 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped dill
4-6 oz smoked salmon, diced
½ tsp cracked red peppercorns

Peel and seed cucumber, grate it and place it in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let rest on the side for 30 minutes to drain. Peel, core and cut the apple in small sticks and drizzle with lime juice to prevent oxidation. Transfer to a bowl. Wash and trim the radishes; cut into very small sticks.

Press on the cucumber with the tip of your fingers to squeeze out the excess water; combine with the apple and radish sticks. Add the fresh herbs, 1 tablespoon yogurt* and the olive oil. No need to add more salt as the cucumber is already seasoned.

Divide between four glasses. Top with 2 tablespoons of yogurt in each glass and finish with the diced smoked salmon. (I made two layers of each ingredient in my verrines.) Drizzle with olive oil and top with cracked red peppercorns. Garnish with lime slices -- to drizzle with extra lime juice. Serve with bread sticks.

This image isn't anything I made personally (it's a street-side vendor's treat, for sale in Venice when I was visiting earlier this summer); but it is another example of a verrine...a honey, yogurt, granola, and mixed fruit verrine. Beautiful presentation and it doesn't require any complicated recipe or prep work.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The recipe below is from my cooking class in Florence, Italy, recently. Even as the chef, Giovanni, was dictating the recipe below, he was telling us his own personal preferences for variations. (For example, he doesn't use any liquer, saying there are enough other flavors already, and it thins the cream filling.) The picture at right is my own variation of the recipe: I don't like coffee; so I substituted a chocolate infused red wine, and instead of dusting the glasses with cocoa powder I used a layer of fudge sauce. Use the recipe below, given in its original form, as a base and create your own favorite dessert!

Ingredients (serves 5)
1 lb mascarpone cheese, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
5 Tbls (heaping) sugar
5 Tbls sweetened cocoa powder
10 ladyfingers (or other similar biscuits/cookies, or spongecake)
1 C coffee
5 Tbls liquer (Baileys, Kahlua, rum...)

Separate eggs. Whisk sugar into egg yolks a little at a time. Add mascarpone to yolk mixture, stirring until very smooth. Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form; fold gently into yolk mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Add liquer to egg cream mixture.

Dust serving dishes with cocoa. Add a layer of cream mixture, dust with cocoa, top with ladyfingers that have been dipped in coffee. (If using spongecake, slice and cut to fit serving dishes.) Top with another layer of cream, and dust tops with more cocoa powder.

Serve garnished with chocolate shavings, additional biscuits, whipped cream...

Thursday, August 18, 2011


This is more of a reminder than a recipe. When I was traveling in Italy, and when I would eat somewhere "nice" (i.e. typically a bit more expensive, with multiple courses) I was more than once served something like this.

In Italy, cheese was typically served after the main (meat) course and salad, right before the dolce, dessert. The cheese was most likely to be fontina, pecorino, some type of romano, or another local variety; the fruit always a stone/pit fruit (nectarine, peach, plum) -- though that could have been simply because of what was/wasn't in season at the time I was there; and honey for drizzling...often a locally made variety.

I served a cheese, fruit & honey plate recently to a group of girlfriends who came over for the evening -- not for dinner, just for cheese & wine, and later on...dessert. Simple to prepare, but a bit more upscale than your typical cheese and crackers. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wine-Marinated Peaches

Ingredients (per person):
1 peach
1 tsp fresh chopped mint
1 Tbls brown sugar
¼ C white wine (a Riesling is nice...sweet)

In a bowl, mix sugar and wine until sugar is dissolved. Add chopped mint.

Pit and dice the peach (peel it if you want, but it's not necessary; white peaches look especially pretty). Add peach pieces to wine mixture, stirring to coat. Place in refrigerator to marinate 1-2 hours before serving; stir it once or twice while marinating to make sure all peach pieces are coated/soaking in wine mixture.

Delicious on it's own, but you can also serve it over ice cream, sponge cake, angel food cake, etc. Other fruits (strawberries, nectarines, pears, plums...) can be prepared the same way. Use more or less sugar depending on how sweet the fruit is itself.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Egg Noodle Pasta

We made this type of pasta in both the cooking classes I attended when I visited Italy. This simple recipe can be rolled out and cut into spaghetti, vermicelli, fettuccine, linguine...made into ravioli (pictured below), farfalle... Or other shapes if you're really creative and have a lot of time. In one of the classes, the chef scoffed at using a pasta rolling machine, preferring to do everything by hand (which really doesn't take long if you're only making a single recipe -- below, serves 1 or 2). In the other class...the chef used one! :)

2/3 C flour*
1 large egg

(Lots of pasta recipes include a little olive oil and/or a pinch of salt. Neither of the chefs in my two cooking classes in Italy did -- but I have experimented with it since then. I like a little olive oil.)

Mound the flour on a flat surface and make a well in the middle. Crack the egg into the middle of the flour well. With a fork, beat the egg and begin mixing in the flour. As a dough begins to form, use your hands to knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is very smooth.

Roll the dough very thin; cut or shape into desired noodle size/shape. Place in boiling water for 2-4 minutes.

Cooking time may be slightly longer if you stuff the pasta (e.g. ravioli) or if it's folded or gathered like with a farfalle shaped noodle ('bow-tie' pasta); but with fresh pasta it's really quick.

*In Italy, the recipe was given in if you have a kitchen scale: 100 grams of flour. Generic, all purpose flour works well with this pasta. In one of the classes we made another pasta with semolina flour; I'll try that out and post it soon. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marinated Eggplant

I took a one-day cooking class when I was in Rome -- "Fabiolous Cooking Day" (the chef's name is Fabio)...actually the class was in Mazzano, a small country village not far from Rome. I haven't found this recipe on the site, so I don't have exact amounts, but I don't remember really measuring anything as we made this dish anyway! :)

white wine vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
fresh parsley

Thinly slice the eggplant and lay it on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, preferably in a single layer but it's okay if they overlap some. Put it in the oven (375°) until the slices begin to dry and turn a light golden brown. (30-45 minutes, depends how thick your slices are.)

While the eggplant is roasting, dice a few cloves of garlic (more if you like stronger garlic flavor) and chop fresh parsley. I'd guess about three to four cloves of garlic and 2-3 tablespoons of parsley for each medium sized eggplant.

In a bowl, lay down a layer of roasted eggplant and sprinkle generously with equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar, then toss in some garlic and chopped parsley. Keep layering in that way until you've doused all the eggplant slices. (There was a little oil and wine 'juice' puddling in the bottom of the dish when we made it in my cooking class, but not enough that the eggplant slices were floating around in a brine or anything.)

Put it in the frig to marinate for at least an hour, turning once or twice to coat slices evenly. Longer than an hour would probably be great, though when I made it at home the eggplant leftover the next day was definitely more 'wilted', so don't make this dish too far in advance.

Serve chilled as a side dish.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Braised Baby Carrots

I'm really NOT a fan of cooked carrots. But when I can get them from my garden, prepped, cooked, and onto the table in less than ½ an hour...they're sweet and tender!

fresh carrots
olive oil
brown sugar
(balsamic vinegar)

Cut off the excess stems. I don't really peel the carrots, just scrub them under running water. Throw a little olive oil (or butter) in a small sauté pan over medium heat and add the carrots. Little carrots like these (pictured) really only need to cook 3-5 minutes at most. Sprinkle with brown sugar during the last minute or so, and then keep them moving so it doesn't burn, but begins to carmelize. (I'm fairly generous with the brown sugar.) I added a tablespoon or so of a balsamic vinegar glaze (a recent acquisition, in Italy!) to these carrots; but they're delicious with just the brown sugar. Or get creative...instead of brown sugar, sprinkle on cinnamon, curry, garlic or any of your favorite spices. Not all at once, of course!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Frutti di Bosco (mixed wild berry) Gelato

Ice cream, sorbet, gelato...what's the difference? Check it out here.

¾ sugar
1 C milk
16 oz mixed berries
juice of one lemon

Combine the milk, sugar, and berries in a saucepan; heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Place all ingredients, including lemon juice, in a blender and process until smooth. If desired, strain to remove any seeds. Place mixture in ice cream maker for 20-25 minutes. If desired, transfer to an air-tight container to freeze for a firmer consistency.

Serve...garnished with fresh berries. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Limone (Lemon) Gelato

Having just returned from Italy, I was anxious to try out some gelato recipes in my ice-cream maker here at home! Gelato, ice cream, sorbet...what's the difference? A simplified explanation: Traditionally, gelato has a lower fat content (4-8%) than ice cream (12-16%); it's usually made with milk rather than cream, though it may contain a combination of both. Gelato often has a higher sugar content (around 20% depending on the flavor) than ice cream (averaging around 15%) because the sugar-water content is balanced to act as an 'anti-freeze' to keep the gelato from freezing solid. A true sorbet has no dairy, only fruit juice (which may be sweetened) and water. ('Sherbet' -- both the word and the frozen dessert -- is derived from 'sorbet', but often contains a little dairy.) So now you know! :)

¾ C sugar
1 C milk
1 C water
¾ C lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to rolling boil, stirring frequently; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. If desired, strain out zest. Let cool to room temp.

Place mixture in ice cream maker for 20-25 minutes. If desired, transfer to air-tight container and freeze for a firmer consistency.

Garnish with lemon slices.

This is a basic recipe, but could be a good starting point for flavor combinations...I love lemon-ginger frozen yogurt, for example. Mint, honey, lavender...other flavors may be delicious in combination!