ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Laid Back Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with those you love while remembering those who are serving and have served our wonderful country. So many who have missed holidays and special times with their loved ones for the benefit of the rest of us.

Today was a very laid back day. I decided not to do a Meatless Monday post because today is traditionally a day for cookouts- that and I was too lazy this weekend 

Now, Italian families probably don't "do" cookouts the way the rest of the country does! Here today we had burgers, steaks and hot dogs (lots of homemade relishes and salsas and blue cheese sauce for the steaks). A grilled pork tenderloin, stromboli, pasta salad, caprese salad, and an eggplant couscous salad. Corn, roasted green beans napped with tomato sauce, pasta with butter and parmesan cheese, and bruschetta. I know my best friend had pepperoni bread in her oven.

If I beg a little I might persuade her to share a recipe :)

Dessert?? Of course! Cannoli and ice cream sundaes!

Ice cream with your sprinkles??

Pool time, wrestling with your brother, and helping Dad clean the barbecue can tire a guy out! 

Couscous and Eggplant 

This isn't an exact recipe as I didn't measure. For a lovely presentation at a less casual affair, you can serve it in hollowed out eggplant halves. I place the hollowed out shells in a ziploc freezer bag (partially open) and microwave for about 6 minutes. Drain upside down on a rack, fill, and heat in a 350 degree oven till hot. Today, I served this cold as a side salad

6-8 large Roma tomatoes, roasted-** see note
I used 6 small eggplants- a combination of Japanese and Sicilian
Mixed olives- Kalamata and green
large roasted red pepper, chopped
white wine
Large pearl couscous
Vegetable broth
red pepper flakes
Parsley and mint, chopped coarsely (mostly mint)
fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
olive oil
pine nuts- optional

While tomatoes roasted, I salted the eggplant and prepared the couscous. 
     Cut eggplant in half and scoop out meat, leaving a 1/4 inch shell. Cube the pulp and put in a mesh strainer. Salt well, cover with a sheet of waxed paper and weight down a bit with a couple of cans. Let sit for about 30 minutes, rinse well, drain, and squeeze in a towel to remove excess liquid. 
        Heat a couple of TBLSP. olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous (I used 2 cups) and stir a few minutes till toasted and golden brown. Add vegetable broth (4 1/2 cups for this amount), bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer about 10-12 minutes till liquid is absorbed stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
Saute a large chopped onion in 2 TBLSP olive oil till softened. Add 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped and eggplant. Raise heat a bit, and saute till eggplant is soft and starting to brown. Add white wine (about 1/2 cup) and saute till almost evaporated. Remove from heat, add olives and reserved juices from drained tomatoes. Allow to cool.
Add a handful of coarsely chopped parsley and mint, roasted tomatoes which have been sliced, and cubed mozzarella to taste. Season well with salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste; combine with cooled couscous. If it appears dry, drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Add pine nuts if using. Can be served heated in eggplant shells or cold

** NOTE- To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 275-300 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss with a little olive oil. Place in a roasting pan sprayed with Pam and roast for 3 hours. Turn upside down on a rack over a plate or pan and drain, reserving juices. When cool, slice crosswise

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to say thank you to a veteran

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Best Kind of Shopping Day!

I love Spring and Summer weekends- Farmer's Markets, Flea Markets, fresh fruits and veggies- it doesn't get any better!

Last night we had another MAJOR storm. The lightening was incredible- several trees in our neighborhood were split in two- thunder roared and the rain was torrential! This morning the skies were trying very hard to be that beautiful Carolina blue we love so much. I figured I'd get out early just in case the weather decided to do a repeat performance and decided to go to the smallest of our local farmer's markets which, despite it's size, happens to have some of my favorite vendors. 

South Estes Market

Box Turtle Bakery

Box Turtle Bakery was my first stop today. Owner/baker Abraham uses only locally grown whole grains (he mills his own flours!) and ingredients and bakes in a brick oven built in his backyard. You all know I'm an avid bread baker, but these breads are wonderful. I was actually hoping for some of his spelt pitas with a Meatless Monday meal in mind, but I was out of luck today on that count. I did treat myself to a couple of yummy, sweet cream scones to nibble on as I browsed the other stalls. I'll be picking up the pitas next week, so stay tuned....

Next stop...

Now, as you all know, I'm Italian. that means that it would be physically impossible to walk by a cheese vendor without tasting- and BUYING. A lovely, very creamy sun-dried tomato chevre came home with me. 

The other wonderful thing about this particular market is that it happens to be right next to a wonderful little mall that houses my very favorite local kitchen shop. Since someone in my house decided to use my kitchen squirt bottles for paint while decorating T-shirts to wear at a concert (not naming names here, but a certain 16 year old comes to mind), a stop was in order.


I LOVE this place!

Kitchenworks is an indispensable source for baking supplies, pans, specialty gadgets, and anything else the die-hard foodie dreams about

The staff is incredibly nice and always helpful. Just look at the sugars, colors, and sprinkles! Sugar heaven!!

How fun is this!

Linens and dishes- I could get lost here


So squirt bottles (and a few other goodies) in hand I headed home. After safely HIDING said squirt bottles, I decided that my husband deserved a special treat- while I was drooling over fresh cheese and cast iron pots, he kept several antsy kids busy and prevented a few battles . 

Though a certain 11 year old is now the reason I have to go to the eyeglass place first thing in the morning to replace the THIRD pair of glasses in as many months. 

"But Mom!! I FORGOT I had them on when I jumped in the pool!"

Is 11 too young for contact lenses??

I digress...

Hubby is a confirmed chocoholic. Here's what I made him. 


 Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, May 2010
 Ganache :
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate , chopped fine
1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate , melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ganache: Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.
Directions for Cupcakes: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan with 12 baking-cup liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.
Frosting: Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until thoroughly combined, about 30- 45 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.
To frost cupcakes, mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on center of each cupcake. I poured the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip and swirled it on. 
Yield:  12 cupcakes

By the way, all opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I am not in any way compensated for anything I'm posting here. I am a firm believer in supporting your smaller local businesses when possible and I urge you to do the same. My memories of daily walks to local vendors to purchase the days' food needs with my Nonna are priceless to me

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Danger! Danger! Chocolate Alert!

Oh happy day!! It's Foodie Friday which means party time at Designs by Gollum! 

I could really use a party this week. A time to kick back, relax, and....zzzzzzzz....

Huh?? Oh, right.

Wake up Pattie.  

You can sleep AFTER the party. For now, grab a glass of wine (or some caffeine), sit back, and bring your appetite- Blogland's most talented foodies are ready to party!!

It's been a loooooong week here at Casa Bramasole and a long weekend of barbecue and sunshine is happily anticipated. My days start early

My office at 4 a.m....

I mean before 4 a.m. early

No human being should be up before 4 a.m.

Just sayin'.

My Nonno was always an early riser and summer mornings in Italy would find the 2 of us sitting out on the terrazzo watching the sun rise over the soccer stadium. Many times we would creep out for an early morning passegiatta down to the river

The buildings had a glow as the sun came up- they actually seemed to absorb the light and radiate it back out. This was a couple of blocks from my grandparents house.

There were 2 other things my Nonno and I had in common.

 One was a love of wonderful chocolate. 

Not just ANY chocolate. 

GOOD chocolate.

Creamy, dreamy, rich, chocolate.

The other thing was a strong love of country- Italy AND "America"

Nonno was so proud of the fact that his grandchildren were Americans. And his love of his own country was legendary- from his extraordinary pride in his only son who was an air force pilot to his refusal to salute Hitler during a ceremony before a soccer tournament in which he was playing (despite the fact that his teammates warned he was risking his life).

On this Memorial Day weekend I'll remember my Nonno. He would LOVE these truffles and he'd be talking about how grateful we should be for all those who have served and are now serving our country. God bless them all.

Now- be forewarned- this is a KILLER for chocolate lovers. It will cause swooning, fainting, palpitations, serious addiction, and major tightening of the waistband.

It's also a little tricky as it MUST be served immediately and is probably not a good choice for large crowds unless you don't mind a queue by your frying pan. The final product has a slightly cool, truffle-y, ganache-y consistency in the center and ooey, gooey, creamy melty chocolate outside surrounded by crusty, sweet, cinnamon-y, spicy breadcrumbs. 

Isn't that a professional description? 

Hmmm....well, I never claimed to be a writer. Just trust me- these are decadent!

Take note: these require good couverture chocolate. The supermarket stuff really won't work well. Trust me (though the trial and error DID require the consumption of huge quantities of chocolate- how bad can that be??) And don't make them too large- they're only in the hot oil for seconds.

Hot Chocolate Truffles
based on a recipe by Michel Richard

1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup hot heavy cream (brought to a low simmer)

Chop chocolate and place in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally till melted then remove from heat and stir in hot cream till combined and blended. Let set for 30-45 minutes to cool, then cover and refrigerate till completely cold
Using a small scoop, make small balls of ganache on a parchment lined cookie tray. Place in freezer for 90 minutes.

2 cups sifted flour
3 eggs beaten with a couple of tsps. of water and a good pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups fine fresh white breadcrumbs (put white bread in food processor) mixed with 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/3 cup cinnamon (trust me- this is not too much) and a pinch of cayenne

Lightly roll balls of ganache in flour- tap off excess; this is important- roll in egg, then roll in breadcrumb mixture. Use your hands to firmly pat crumbs on. Be sure to coat completely and well. Put balls back on a parchment lined baking tray and freeze again for at least 90 minutes (I've done this up to this point several hours ahead). Save the extra crumbs and roll truffles again just before frying. 

Heat 2 inches of canola oil in an electric skillet to 375 degrees. Doing only a couple of truffles at a time, lower into the hot oil for about 10-15 seconds to crust. Drain quickly on paper towels and serve immediately. 

Then swoon. 

You can thank me later :)

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Porch lunch and Carolina Sunshine!

Sunshine!! Finally!! 

And just in time for Tablescape Thursday!

We're linking to Susan's party at Between Naps on the Porch and invite you to join us in browsing Blogland's finest dish-a-holics!

We've had lots of rain here in NC over the last week, but today- oh my gosh, TODAY was just a magnificent, beautiful Carolina blue sky day!

I had to meet with the other members of our neighborhood ARB committee, so a light, easy lunch on the porch became the plan.

I can't tell you how beautiful it was today with a gorgeous light breeze blowing

It needed to be quick and easy as I had to squeeze this meeting into an already packed schedule today.

Vintage milk glass snack sets are just right for light summer meals

Two on the coffee table...

And two on the porch table...

Those beautiful roses were a gift from a grateful client. My entire screen porch smells wonderful!

Nothing like fresh cut roses and handpainted butterflies- another gift from some years back

Roasted tomato and red pepper soup from my freezer, grilled farmer's market veggies and mini croissants from our local market

An antique doily on a vintage silver tray for chopped peppers and creme fraiche to garnish the soup

Old printed napkins from a yard sale in NY sit under the plates

I love the bright summer colors on the green mats!

Did someone say dessert??

Peach Pie Cones in a glass of vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberries

Summertime heaven!

Now this is a tip on how NOT to take a picture

Do NOT sit on the couch in front of the table and lean back. You won't be able to see your knee, but the camera will!

Have a beautiful day!

Peach Pie Cones

1 recipe of your favorite double crust pie pastry (or 2 pre-made pie shells. Do not buy the ones in a tin. You need the pastry flat on your counter)
3-4 ripe peaches- peeled, pitted, and chopped (you can also use frozen peach slices, thawed and chopped)
1/2-3/4 cup mini marshmallows
2 rounded TBLSP cinnamon sugar mixed with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a dash of chili powder+ a bit extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking trays with parchment.

Toss peaches with cinnamon sugar/pepper/chili mixture. Stir in marshmallows.
Roll out pastry dough into 2 9-10 inch rounds and using a pizza cutter, cut into 6 wedges
Place a bit of the peach mixture along the long side of the wedges and dampen the edges with your finger dipped in water
Fold over pastry so long edges meet and press to seal. Fold down part of the top edge a bit and place cones on baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar mixture and bake for 18-22 minutes till golden brown. Serve with ice cream, custard, or creme fraiche and fresh raspberries if desired

Be sure to join us tomorrow for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum.

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meatless Monday After a Farmer's Market Weekend :)

Buon Lunedi!! 

or Happy Monday!!

I had planned to do a post about our local Farmer's Markets full of pictures to show you the beautiful abundance we enjoy here in NC. 

The best laid plans.....

That post will have to wait- we've been looking at this for 3 days

Okay, so I just realized you really can't tell in this picture, but trust me- it's been raining.

 And raining. 

And raining some more.

I did go to the market, but didn't think you'd all be too enthralled with pictures of a sopping wet, drippy blogger trying to convince some sopping wet, drippy vendors to smile pretty. They were all great sports though and still managed to bring some beautiful offerings to our market. 

This week for a Meatless Monday dinner, I'm adapting a recipe from Giada. I've found, after some browsing of her recipes, that many are very similar to dishes I grew up with. For basic daily cooking, I think many are quite good, though I always tend to adapt to the ways of my own Nonnas or the preferences of my family.
           Now,  though the idea of Meatless Mondays really appeals to me as a way to be healthier and minimize our footprint on this beautiful Earth of ours, it's a pretty hard sell in my house. I have an Irishman who is the King of the Carnivores and getting any vegetable into my two youngest boys requires nothing less than an Act of God. Allie is going to her very first concert tonight (VERY well- chaperoned by a parent I trust, but I'll still be pacing till she's home) and so she'll be eating fast food somewhere.

Soooo... this meal will be heartily enjoyed by me and my parents and the rest of them can deal with leftovers

So there

This lovely dish makes use of the zucchini, beautiful, long, red sweet peppers, and mint I got at the market and some wonderful Asiago cheese from A Southern Season along with fresh pesto made from garden basil. The mint is a very northern Italian addition and I added a spoonful of my fresh pesto and just a bit of hot pepper for a little added zip. 

This can be served warm or at room temperature, but I will admit to also having served it cold as a side to a wonderful summer cook-out.

Orzo Stuffed Peppers
adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentis

1 (28-ounce) can Italian tomatoes
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmeggiano Reggiano
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 finely minced jalapeno pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 Tblsp. prepared pesto
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups orzo 
6 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow)
some fresh grated Asiago cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and break apart using a pair of kitchen shears or your fingers. Add the zucchini, mint, cheese, olive oil, garlic, pesto, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth and wine to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 4 minutes. The orzo should be only partially cooked. Use a fine mesh sieve to transfer the orzo to the larg  e bowl with the other vegetables. Stir the orzo into the vegetable mix to combine. Transfer the warm chicken broth mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
Slice the tops off the peppers and remove all ribs and seeds. Place the peppers in the baking dish with the warm chicken broth. Spoon the orzo mixture into the peppers. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top of each pepper with Asiago cheese and continue baking until the cheese is golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the orzo stuffed pepper to a serving plate. Serve with a nice crusty Italian loaf.

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie