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, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday Sorbetto d'Uva and an Autumn Risotto- and a Thank you for Healing Thoughts


It's been some weekend here at Casa Bramasole. Many of you are Facebook friends and are aware that our Allie (your favorite teen blogger!) was taken by ambulance to the hospital Friday night.

She's a varsity cheerleader and was excited to be cheering at her school's first "away" game of the season.

Miss Allie has a LOT of enthusiasm!

and loves her school....

and her family.... (okay, her brothers are iffy sometimes..)

and loves being outdoors

and blogging!  :)

Hearing a doctor say that they suspected that our beautiful, healthy, 16 year old had suffered a heart attack brought us to our knees.

Fortunately, it turned out not to be what they thought, but she WILL have to see a cardiologist. We were blessed- this was only a warning that she has a bit of a glitch- the doctors will find and fix it- God will see us through it. She's feeling much better and will, in fact, be sitting in the bleachers at tonight's cheer practice- she insists on not missing any team time. That's our girl!

Many, MANY, MANY thanks to all of you who took the time to email and call and pray for Allie and our family. She is, and we are, very grateful.

Tonight for Meatless Monday we're going to have a risotto that we always enjoy around this time of year. September marks the beginning of Fall and the season for fresh walnuts and apples. We're also enjoying a wonderful, refreshing sorbet from sweet red grapes. Many years ago (oh, my- that does make me feel OLD!) I took a class with a chef who was a great admirer of Lorenza De Medici. Her Sorbetto D'Uva was on the menu and I've made it countless times through the years

Tutti A Tavola!!

Last week when I showed you all the basket of ironstone cups on my counter (see here ) , I got a few inquiries about how I use them to teach mis en place in classes

My mezzaluna is indispensable to me. Since I only needed a few walnuts, there's no sense in dirtying the food processor...

This is a wonderful, rustic, satisfying risotto with a slight sweetness from the apples, a bit of peppery bite, and the warm savory-ness of the walnuts.

Autumn Apple Walnut Risotto

1 3/4 cups (Arborio rice (or Carnaroli)
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and grated with large hoes on grater
Zest and  juice of a lemon- add to grated apples and stir
1l onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
about 2 tblsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
5-6 tblsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
5-6 cups simmering broth (I use vegetable for this)
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 tblsp of butter and saute the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion becomes translucent, and then add the grated apples and sprinkle the lemon juice over them.
While you are doing this, heat another 2 tblsp of butter in a second large pot- add the rice, and cook, stirring, until the grains become translucent, Cook for a minute more. Add the wine and stir until it evaporates. Add the apple mixture, tarragon and the walnuts, then the first ladle of broth. Season with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring gently and adding broth 1-2 ladles at a time as the rice absorbs it. When rice is cooked creamy and al dente, but tender, turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, 2 tblsp of Parmesan, and the cream, and cover the pot for 2-3 minutes.
Put risotto in bowls, top with more grated Parmesan (or even finely grated Cheddar) and more pepper. Serve and enjoy

When making the sorbetto, I use an old-fashioned crank food mill (it was actually my grandma's!). You want to get as much of the lovely flavored juice out as possible and leave behind the skins

Refreshing and SUCH a lovely color!

Sorbetto D'Uva 
adapted from a recipe by Lorenza De Medici

I forgot to do it for these pictures, but when I serve this at a dinner party, I usually garnish the top with a strip of candied lemon peel.

3 1/2 pounds red grapes, removed from stems
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tblsp fresh lemon juice
1 egg white

Combine grapes, water, and sugar in a pot and simmer gentlyfor 15-20 minutes till grapes are soft. Pass mixture through a food mill, stir in lemon juice,  and refrigerate several hours till very cold. I use my ice cream maker, but the original recipe says to simply freeze the mixture. When frozen (about 30 minutes in my Cuisinart) place in food processor and add egg white. If you just froze the mixture, break it into chunks first. Pulse till creamy, put in a container, cover and freeze again for several hours- Buonissimo!!

Again, thank you all for all the good wishes, healing thoughts, and prayers. As her mom, I ask that you keep her in your hearts.

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Foodie Friday Comfort Food- Mini Chaussons and Ginger Spiced Almond Rugelach

Hi All! 

Can you believe it's Friday?? The first week of school has been chaotic, but also happy. Everyone is happy with their teachers and Friday night is Allie's first football game as a Varsity cheerleader!

Go Tigers!!

Lots going on at Casa Bramasole as you all know. Getting ready to list and sell a house is quite a job. And things have changed in the real estate market, even just in the last few years. As a decorator myself, I can tell you I remember a time when "staging" was unheard of- now it's part of everyday vocabulary. Thanks HGTV!!

I'm going to take a minute here to ask you all for a little of your collective wisdom. We've learned that our wonderful readers always seem to have answers and viewpoints that we may not have considered

I will preface this by saying that I get paid to stage homes for sellers. I am familiar with the process and with what's expected. I AM discovering that there is a big difference in my thought process when it comes to my own home. And yes, I did have a talk with my dear mom about her staging efforts 

My question concerns my kitchen. Standard staging protocol says clean it (no problem there) and CLEAR IT. Stash all appliances, tools, kitchen stuff, etc. That's the problem. Until we move, this is a working kitchen.
This is where recipes are developed and prepared for tastings, classes, and events. My kitchen is clean,

 but...I do keep my stand mixer and food processor out (both are used several times daily), and there are "things" around. 

Like this...
the red metal bread box holds whisks and spatulas, my mezzaluna, gnocchi board, mortar and pestle....

and this.....
cookie cutters, and a basket of English ironstone cups. I found 20 at a thrift store and scooped them all up for use as ingredient cups when I'm teaching mis en place to a class

and this....
dough is usually rising somewhere and my utensils hang on the custom rack made for me by my talented husband....


assorted mismatched silverware and tureens for use during class dinners...

and my onion basket and bread box

Arborio, cookies, and corks !

and pasta- this IS Casa Bramasole!

So tell me- if YOU were buying a house- would you be turned off by seeing this?? 
The reason I ask is that the one couple that came through were MOST impressed by our kitchen! She commented to me that she loved the fact that she could absolutely tell that this was a kitchen that would work for her family. She was able to see that her mixer would fit on the counter and that there were work zones. And that it could work and still look good

So do you want to see a "model home kitchen" or a "serious cook/family kitchen"?? Can't wait to see what you think!

Kids coming home from school are always STARVING

time for cookies and milk- Mini Chaussons and tiny, spicy Ginger Almond Ruggelach

"Chaussons" translates as "slipper"- what's more homey and comforting than your favorite slippers??
How about a flaky, buttery puff filled with a barely sweet apple, cinnamon and date filling?
And how about a very NON-traditional ruggelach? This one has a filling of ground almonds, spicy crystallized ginger, and warm cinnamon and nutmeg


Mini Chaussons

Puff Pastry- homemade or 1 box (2 sheets) frozen store bought, thawed
egg wash of 2 eggs whisked with a bit of water
coarse sugar- I use "raw" or turbinado sugar

2 TBLSP unsalted butter
juice and zest of half a lemon
4 apples- peeled, cored, and diced
scant 1/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean- split and scraped
cinnamon- a few good shakes to taste
a handful of dates (I used about a dozen)- chopped

Make filling- melt butter and mix in all remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and using a potato masher, just gently crush the apples a bit (you can puree them smooth with an immersion blender if you prefer). Set mixture aside to cool completely
Roll out puff pastry to a rectangle on a lightly floured board. Using a 3-4 inch cutter, cut out rounds. Place a small spoonful of filling on half of each round and fold other half over. Seal edges, brush lightly with an egg wash, and put tray in freezer for 15-20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Remove tray from freezer, brush each chausson again with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Pierce top of each 3 times with the tip of a sharp knife. Bake for 20 minutes till golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.  If you want to kick these up a notch, serve them slightly warm with a cinnamon sugar dip made of creme fraiche or greek yogurt mixed with a bit of confectioner's sugar and cinnamon

Ginger Almond Ruggelach

these are not traditional ruggelach. The dough for these has a bit of greek yogurt which makes it easy to handle and there are no  preserves in the filling. Add ginger to your own taste- I'm only giving a guideline here :)

2 cups flour
scant 1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3/4 of an 8 ounce bar of cream cheese
1/3 cup of greek yogurt

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse till dough forms a ball. Remove and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

3/4 cup slivered almonds ground in mini processor with a handful of crystallized ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 tblsp soft unsalted butter

Mix all together in a small bowl. Use your hands to completely rub together and incorporate butter

Remove dough from fridge and let st on counter for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Divide dough in 4 pieces. Roll each piece out into a circle about 9 inches in diameter. Sprinkle each with 1/4 of the filling and gently press into the dough. Using a pizza cutter, cut each round into 12 slices. Roll each slice up from the wide end and place pointed end down onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush each with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar mixed with a bit of ground ginger. Bake for 20-25 minutes till lightly golden and remove to a rack to cool

I can't wait to hear what you all think!

We're linking up this week to 3 wonderful parties:

Foodie Friday at Gollum's 

 Vignette Fridays at Artie's place, Color Outside the lines


The Cookie Exchange at Relatively Unique

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Surprise Guests! A Quick Seafood Soup, Salad, and Tablescape- Tuna and White Bean Pasta Salad~ Shrimp and Summer Veggie Bisque

Buon Giovedi Amici!!

Happy Thursday!

I'm running a bit late today- so sorry- but it's the first day of school which brings mass chaos to Casa Bramasole.
And in the midst of teenage angst over what to wear, adolescent boys trying very hard to look "cool" on the middle school bus, realizing that the 350 dollars worth of school supplies I bought doesn't include ANYTHING on the list they got from their teachers (do they even REALIZE that I am being asked to buy THREE scientific calculators at 80 dollars each to hand to 3 kids who get lost on their way up to bed at night) AND the stress of sorting through 4200 square feet of household possessions- I got a call.

Dear, dear friends who we haven't seen in quite some time were driving through town on their way back to VA. "Can we drop by?"

OF COURSE!! Vieni! Vieni!!

Time to dig through the fridge and come up with a quick, light dinner.

They love the beach. Seashells and candles- check!

Shells for crab mousse, starfish for the salad- check!

Raw cut burlap runners over antique knotted lace- check!

Fresh hot bread- check!

I love a table made of natural elements- and so easy!- Check!!

Quick Shrimp and Summer Veggie Bisque- Check!
Served in clamshell bowls- perfect

White Bean and Tuna Pasta Salad- Check! (and YUM!)

Neither one of these are specific recipes- just a blend of simple, fresh ingredients. I'll just tell you what I did today

White Bean and Tuna Pasta Salad

1 pound pipette pasta- cooked, drained, rinsed in cool water, and drained again
3 cans Italian tuna, packed in olive oil (this tuna is SO worth the slightly higher price)
2  cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 small jar capers, drained and rinsed
 red wine vinegar
 fresh ground black pepper
1/2  red onion, very thinly sliced
 2 pints grape tomatoes
OPTIONAL- Italian oil-cured olives (I was all out)

Drain the tuna, saving the olive oil in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, gently mix the tuna,  beans, onions and capers. Squeeze the lemon juice over and toss. Mix all into the cool pasta. In the reserved oil,whisk the red wine vinegar. Pour dressing on the tuna mixture and mix in the  tomatoes. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. I garnished the top with a chiffonade of basil and tarragon

Quick Shrimp Bisque with Vegetables

I made a quick roux by melting 1/2 stick butter and whisking in 1/4 cup flour. Then I whisked in about 1/2 cup red wine and about 1/4 cup tomato paste. Very slowly whisk in 4 cups (a 32 oz box) of seafood stock. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in about 1 cup of cream (or half and half). Set aside. In a separate skillet, I melted abot 3-4 tblsp butter and sauteed 1/2 an onion (VERY finely chopped), 1 stalk celery (sliced very thin), 2 small zucchini, chopped, about a tblsp of thyme leaves, and a handful of very thin asparagus spears (trimmed and cut in 1 inch pieces). Saute till veggies are tender. Throw in about 1/2 pound of grilled or sauteed (cooked) shrimp and stir to warm. Add the veggie shrimp mix to the bisque and warm slowly

Time to Eat!

We're linking up to Tablescape Thursday - Susan's fun party at Between Naps on the Porch
Come and have some fun

Tutti a Tavola!!

See you tomorrow for Foodie Friday at Gollum's- come join us!

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie

Monday, August 23, 2010

Not quite a Meatless Monday- Saffron Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Sage and Prosciutto

Happy Monday All!!

Well, you all know we usually do a Meatless Monday, but we're going to have to cheat a bit this week. We've been trying to get this house ready to officially be on the market and to say it's a bit chaotic would be an understatement

Behold my dining room table....

and my entry....

I will not subject you all to our garage. You'll have nightmares

I hate moving.

'nuff said.

So to give you an idea of life at Casa Bramasole, let me tell you about yesterday. Some of you who have "friended" me on Facebook may have heard this story, but here goes.
A wonderful friend and neighbor happened to find out about a family who is looking for a home in our neighborhood (we live in the BEST neighborhood!). So she gave tham our number and they asked to see our house yesterday.


Can we say NOT staged??

So I explained that we weren't quite ready and they assured me that they could look past the "stuff". Okay.
I told my kids and my parents that their rooms needed to be spic and span clean and that everyone had to be out of the house for the showing.

We did the best we could to "neaten up" and of course scrubbed everything spotless. My mom, God bless her, had to put her own special touch on things. She informed me on her way out the door that everything in her room was good to go and my Dad's "office" (he took over a part of the guest room) was looking good. Of course as soon as they left Ray and I raced upstairs to check. I have visions of having to repeat this scenario every time we have a showing :(
 Ray walks into the guest room to make sure all was well. I hear "What the he**!!". Now I may have mentioned to you all about my mother's penchant for bringing home "decor items" from the thrift shop she works at. Sitting prettily on top of the antique bookcase is a beautifully polished............. pot pipe! Yes. She thought it was an unusual little bowl with a handle and "decorated" my shelf with it- right before the prospective buyers walk in.
When they got home later, Ray asked my father where they got it. His response- "I told your mother it looked like a crack pipe, but she said I don't know anything about decorating a house!" 

Clearly, she's the expert here. 

S-i-g-h.... I figure the St Joseph statue I buried is doing cartwheels already.

Here come the buyers. The wife asks if any "green" features in the house. My wonderful husband proudly informs her that my mom's room is a lovely shade of Sherwin Williams green

Okay- this is going to be a loooong haul

So tonight I give you LAST night's dinner. If you truly want to make this a Meatless Monday dish, leave out the prosciutto (but you'll regret it)

My northern Italian Nonna loved "zafferano" (saffron) and here it is used both in the pasta dough and in the cream sauce. I love the beautiful golden yellow color

Tagliatelle con Zafferano, Asparagi, e Prosciutto

2 1/2 cups Italian 00 flour or 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 extra large eggs
1 tsp of olive oil
2 large pinches saffron threads- heat saffron threads for a minute or so in a dry skillet, crush in a mortar and pestle and then stir 1 tsp hot water into the saffron. Stir

Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse till it leaves the sides of the bowl and the color is uniform. Knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest for at least an hour. Divide in quarters and pass each piece through a pasta machine set on the widest setting. fold in half and repeat at same setting 3 or 4 times, then run it through each progressive thinner setting 1 time. On my manual machine I go to #4. Take the rolled out sheet of pasta and run it through the setting for tagliatelle. To cut by hand, dust sheet of pasta with flour and toll up from the narrow end. Cut into 1/4 inch slices, unroll and set on lightly floured towels. Set aside till ready to cook. 
Bring a large well salted pot of water to a rolling boil.

about 1 1/2 pounds thin young asparagus, woody ends snapped off
3/4 stick butter
1 onion, minced finely (I grate it in the food processor with the grating disk)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light cream (or half and half)
1-2 large pinches of saffron, prepared as in pasta recipe (heat, crush, mix with 1 tsp hot water)
1/4 cup sage leaves, chiffonade
3-4 tblsp coarsely grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
about 1/4 pound Prosciutto di Parma (I used 5 slices)

In a skillet, bring about 2 inches of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and simmer for about 3 minutes till still bright green, but tender. Lift asparagus out with a large handled strainer and submerge in ice water. Drain well and cut asparagus into thirds. Bring a large, well salted pot of water to a rolling boil.
Wipe out skillet and melt butter. Saute onion and half of asparagus for about 3 minutes till onion is translucent. Add sage and saute 2 more minutes. Add wine and allow to evaporate. Stir in heavy cream and saffron water. Bring to low simmer, add cheese and light cream. Set aside
Add tagliatelle to pot of water and cook for about 5 minutes till al dente. Lift tagliatelle out with tongs, drain and add to saffron cream sauce. Toss gently and serve

Be sure to check out our Facebook Fan Page later tonight for our Bonus Recipe- Black and White Cream Cups

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie