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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stuffed Acorn Squash for Foodie Friday

Hi everyone!

I'm so sorry I missed posting yesterday. Those of you who follow on Facebook might have seen Allie's message apologizing because I wasn't feeling quite up to cooking and blogging.

As it happens, that's been happening more than I care to say lately. And  today I got some news.
As those of you who read regularly know, I've been wearing a cardiac monitor in an effort to figure out why I've been feeling so yukky lately.

Well, technology has done it's job. Today I was told that it is imperative that I have a pacemaker put in soon- within the next week and a half. (My birthday is Sunday- what a gift!!) The monitor showed that my heart is taking a nap periodically when it's supposed to be on duty.

Soooo... now that I've thrown my tantrum (this was NOT supposed to happen to ME!!) and I've come to some acceptance, I'm okay with it (I think)

So if blog posts get a bit scarce for a short time, please don't forget us- I promise we'll be back as soon as possible. Doctor says 6 week recovery- I'm holding him to it :)

Years ago when we lived in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York, we used to go to a WONDERFUL local restaurant called the Iron Forge Inn. It was family owned and the chef was one of the sons who left for a while to train as a chef and came back to take over the kitchen. I once had a gorgeous stuffed acorn squash and tried for years to replicate the recipe. A few years ago I found a recipe in some magazine (no, I didn't remember to write down which- sorry) which was as close as I've come to his version. With a little tweaking this is my version

Heads up- peeling acorn squash is a royal pain. I use a peeler on the rounded ridges and a small sharp knife for the crevices. One squash will serve 3-4 people as a lovely Autumn side. Enjoy!

Yes, I over-browned it a bit- I got distracted! Pretty easy in this house!

Chard Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 large acorn squash
8 slices bacon
5-6 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, finely minced
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 LARGE bunches Swiss Chard (I used red chard), washed and dried with stems and large veins removed
16 ounces mushrooms (mixed is great), cleaned and sliced not too thin
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tblsp butter, melted
1 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Soak a dozen round wooden toothpicks in warm water for a few minutes. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each squash so it sits level, then cut about an inch of the top- you should expose the seeds. Peel the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the squashes with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and season, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Wrap each squash with 4 slices of bacon- tuck one end of each strip under the squash and the other end in the cavity. Use the toothpicks to secure. It should look like spokes. Place squashes upside down (cavity down) on a rack in a pan and bake for about 30 minutes till the bacon is golden crisp and the squash is tender, but not mushy. Set aside and allow to cool.
   Heat 2-3 more tblsp olive oil in a very large skillet. Saute onion till soft, then add garlic and saute another 2 minutes, stirring so garlic doesn't burn. Add the chard in large handfuls, stirring down as it wilts. When it's all in there, cover and steam for about 4-5 minutes, stirring halfway. Chard should be cooked, but still bright green. Remove to a large bowl to cool and wipe out skillet.
Heat another 1-2 tblsp oil over medium high heat and add mushrooms. Toss and saute till lightly browned and there's no liquid left. Allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If there's a lot of liquid in the chard, drain and squeeze a bit. Stir in the mushrooms, thyme, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
Flip squash over (right side up and remove toothpicks. Place in a baking dish sprayed with baking spray. Stuff cavities with chard mixture.
In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, and melted butter. Top squash with crumb mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes till warmed and golden

We're linking up tonight to Michael's wonderful Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Come join us and be prepared to drool!

If you'd like to get our weekly Bonus Recipes and tips, come on over and be a friend on Bramasole's Facebook page
We love talking to you!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatless Monday!~ Fresh Vegetable Mousse Lasagna with Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Hi all! Hope everyone had a great weekend! We've had some very warm temps, but according to the weatherman Fall is actually on the way. 

Today we actually had rain! Lots of rain! 

Woo Hoo!

We haven't had a lawn in months- straw is the name of the game

So, today for Meatless Monday I decided that since I was spending this rainy day at home, I'd make one of Allie's favorite dishes- lasagna

But a completely vegetarian lasagna made extra light with fresh noodles and a fluffy vegetable mousse filling

I have to apologize for the lack of pictures. I made the mistake of turning my back for a minute (I was actually looking for the camera which had "mysteriously" gone missing) and the ravaging hordes got to the lasagna before I found the camera (which had "mysteriously"  found it's way to Allie's room)

"Ummmm....Mom, were you planning on getting a picture of this?"


You'll have to trust me- it looked much better in person than this picture shows- I managed to get this mid-air as the plate was being passed 

Fresh Vegetable Mousse Lasagna with Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
This recipe is for an 8x8 baking pan.
For the pasta:
2 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all purpose flour
good pinch of salt
4 whole eggs
1 additional egg yolk- optional

I made fresh pasta using 2 cups flour, some kosher salt and 4 eggs, but feel free to use boxed noodles. For this lasagna I think the homemade are just lighter. If you do make your noodles, parboil them for 10 seconds then rinse with cool water. Lay on kitchen towels till you use them
For the sauce:
1/3 cup olive oil
4 large red and/or yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded & coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
1 large can Italian San Marzano tomatoes (or 8-10 ripe plum tomatoes, if you can't find San Marzano) I actually used 1 can of tomatoes, 5 large roasted tomatoes, and 1/2 a jar of drained sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thin
handful fresh basil, chiffonaded

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, lower heat,  and cook slowly till it begins to soften and color. Stir in all tomatoes, peppers, and basil. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree in a blender and pour back into pot. Simmer 30 more minutes. Allow to cool. I made it the day before and stored in the fridge overnight
La Besciamella (white sauce):
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 cups whole milk

Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, add flour, salt and pepper and whisk. Cook for 1 minute. Add milk slowly, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer a few minutes, whisking constantly, until sauce has thickened up. Check seasoning.  I pressed some plastic wrap on the surface so a skin wouldn’t form till I was ready to use it
Vegetable Mousse:
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 bag baby spinach
1 small onion, chopped
1 tblsp butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup cream
4 ounces mascarpone
about 1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese- to taste
salt and pepper

Saute chopped onion in butter till translucent and soft.Wash spinach and put in a covered pot with the water that’s clinging to the leaves. Steam till wilted. Drain very well. Combine peas, spinach, onion mixture, eggs, cream, mascarpone, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper in food processor and pulse to puree

To assemble:
Spray a baking dish with Pam.   Spread a thin layer of pepper sauce on bottom and layer with 2-3 noodles (whatever it takes to cover the bottom of your dish. spread with 1/2 of vegetable mousse mixture and sprinkle with shredded Fontina. Layer with more noodles then a layer of besciamella Continue with noodles, pepper sauce, noodles, vegetables and cheese, noodles, besciamella, and a final layer of noodles. Top with pepper sauce, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with Fontina and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting

Tutti a Tavola!!!

Be sure to come back- we've got some great Fall dishes planned this week
Don't forget- shop your Farmer's Markets, shop local, and let us know what you're up to- we'd love to hear from you.
What's on your table this week?

Join our list of friends on Bramasole's Facebook fan page- Bonus Recipes every week!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pizza alla Campofranco and Anelli di Agrumi~ Foodie Friday and Nonna's Football Food

It's football season and living in this college town, that means we eat, breathe, sleep, and bleed Carolina Blue

Whether tailgating or cheering from our family rooms, football foods are on the minds of every cook I know.

As I've mentioned before, my Nonno was a well-known soccer player in Italy. My mom was the Italian National Roller Skating champion when she was 12. (How's that for a trivia fact?) I, personally,  have a history of working with bodybuilders and figure competitors (yes, I used to compete and NO, I will never post those pics!)

I am the mom of 6- 5 sports fanatic sons (a mixed Yankee/Mets household) and a cheerleader daughter.

But all that fades away when it comes to Carolina sports. My 13 year old has embraced the UNC teams 
and dragged us all into the fervor with him

Today, I'm going to share a very classic and traditional  Neopolitan stuffed pizza that my grandmother used to make. The texture is a bit different than you might expect- a cross between a bread and a cake. 
Traditionally made with lard to be light and fluffy, this version uses butter- lots of butter :)

Pizza alla Campofranco

1 package active dry yeast (I used fast-rise)
2 tsp sugar
scant 1/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 cups flour
1 generous tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, softened and cut in pieces
4 eggs

I used 6 large ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled (submerge in boiling water for 1 minute then in ice water- slip off skins), halved and seeded- drain on paper towels
2 TBLSP olive oil
about 8-10 ounces mozzarella, shredded or thinly sliced
salt and pepper
about 8-10 fresh basil leaves
4-5 thin slices prosciutto, torn into pieces or cut in slivers
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the yeast and sugar in bowl of stand mixer with dough hook. Add milk and let stand for 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, butter, and eggs. Start on low speed to incorporate liquids, then increase speed till a dough forms. This will be a very soft dough! 
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently till smooth, incorporating no more than an additional 1/2 cup of flour to prevent sticking. Place dough into greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover with a towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours till doubled.
Meanwhile, Heat oil in a skillet till hot. Add tomatoes and cook, just shaking pan occasionally (don't stir- you don't want sauce) and flipping with a spatula. Do not overcook- tomatoes should stay somewhat firm.
Grease and flour (or spray with Pam) a 9" springform pan. When dough is risen, turn out onto lightly floured board and cut off 1/3 of dough- set aside. Place larger piece of dough in springform and, using your fingers, press and stretch to cover the bottom and a bit up the sides. Layer 1/2 the mozzarella on the bottom. Top with tomatoes, salt and pepper, basil, prosciutto, and remainder of mozzarella. Flour your hands lightly, pick up small piece of dough and stretch it slightly into a round to fit in pan. Lay on top of filling and press edges together to seal. Cover pan and allow to rise for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake for 25-30 minutes till golden. Release sides, slide onto serving plate, and serve hot. Buon Gusto!

As I've said before, all good Italian housewives were raised to believe that all food, and bread in particular, was a gift from God that should always be respected and should NEVER be wasted.

Both my grandmothers always had a stash of cookies or biscotti in the house- all the neighborhood kids knew that Grandma Josie kept the Vienna Fingers in her upstairs oven!

These little rings were often found in my Nonna's kitchen. Made with leftover bread crumbs, they have a softer texture that's a cross between a biscotti and a scone. Not too sweet, but absolutely perfect with an afternoon cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Nonna sometimes decorated hers with slivers of candied orange peel, but today I used some chopped crystallized ginger

Anelli di Agrumi (Citrus Rings)

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. allspice
11 TBLSP butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup ground almonds or almond meal
2 cups soft breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift flour and allspice together twice.
Beat butter and sugar together till light and creamy. Add egg and lemon rind till blended. On lower speed with paddle, add flour, bread crumbs, and almonds till dough is formed. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and put in fridge for about 1 hour.
I used a small cookie scoop to portion out the dough- recipe should make 28-30.
Roll a small ball of dough into a rope only about 4" long. Form a ring and press ends together. Place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes- bottoms will be golden. Cool on a wire rack. 
Make a light glaze of lemon juice and confectioner's sugar and drizzle on rings

We're linking up tonight to Foodie Friday, Michael's wonderful party at Designs by Gollum and also to Wendy and Tony's Cookie Exchange at Relatively Unique

And remember.....

God must be a Carolina fan. After all, He made the sky Tarheel Blue!!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Breads~ Zucchini Pear and Pumpkin Apple~ Food Memories and You

Buon Giorno Everyone!

Life here has been slightly chaotic and blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat. Jobs around here have been quite scarce so this past weekend Mr B. and I decided to go with our backup plan- Pattie will expand her business and start offering some new services. 

Pattie is a bit nervous, but my children have a bad habit of requiring food several times a day, so here we go!

I have some strong encouragement from some VERY dear friends and a hard push from another.

Thanks Lynn! :)

I was actually undecided about today's blog post till I got a call last night from a former personal training client. Her life has been insane lately and she's suffering from the Mommy guilt as she's not able to spend as much time as she'd like at home. She told me that while driving home last night she noticed the changing leaves and a memory popped into her head of her mom meeting her after school with fresh baked pumpkin bread. So, could I bake her some for her kids to find?

But of course!

As it happens, one of our book club m,embers brought a delicious Pumpkin Apple bread to our meeting Monday night. She had gotten it at a local market, but of course I wanted to make my own. I did some searching and, lo and behold, I found just what I was looking for on one of my very favorite blogs EVER- One Perfect Bite

Mary had a recipe that actually originated here in Cary, NC, so how perfect is that?!

I tweaked it just a bit, adding ginger to both the batter and the topping~ Enjoy

Pumpkin Apple Bread...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite inspired by Gourmet Magazine
Rebecca's Bakery in Cary, North Carolina

For topping
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
For bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Granny smith apples (I used Fuji), peeled, cored, and chopped (2 cups)

1/4 cup finely slivered and chopped crystallized ginger

1) To make the topping: Blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.
2) To make the bread: Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (See Note ***). Butter two 9 X 5 inch loaf pans. Set aside. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice into a medium bowl. Whisk together pumpkin oil, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Fold in apples and ginger. Divide batter between buttered loaf pans- about 4 cups each. Sprinkle half of topping evenly over each loaf. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of bread comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool loaves in pans on a rack for 45 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, about 1 hour. Yield: two loaves.

Note***~ My loaf pans are dark- I set the oven to 325 degrees and baked for  60 minutes- perfect!

While I was at it, I decided to send along another loaf that my family loves. This time of year when everyone is trying to use up all those prolific zucchini is the perfect time for this bread. I usually add fresh, ripe pears, but today I decided to use one of my quarts of gingered pears from last year (well drained, of course)

Zucchini Date Pear Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped dates
2 ripe pears, chopped (or 1 quart of homemade canned pears, drained and chopped)
1 cup chopped walnuts- OPTIONAL
Turbinado Sugar for topping- OPTIONAL

Grease and flour  (or spray with Pam) two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees 
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stir in chopped dates to coat pieces of dates with flour
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini, pears, and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle top with sugar, if desired
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. This is a very moist bread- make sure it’s fully baked.  Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.
With a good smear of creamy mascarpone on a just warm slice, this is Fall comfort at it's best

Tutti a Tavola!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie