Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zuccotto Alla Ricotta

This Italian sweet uses pan di Spagna as its base. I've wondered if the name really should be pan di Spagna (literally 'Spanish bread') or whether it should actually be pan di spugna ('sponge bread'). Whatever its name, it was delicious. I just made this for a birthday party and there was not a crumb left!

Pan di Spagna
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 t pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 C cornstarch

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the egg yolks, half the sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until pale yellow and well-aerated, about 2 minutes. In another bowl, whip the egg whites and salt until opaque. Add the remaining sugar in a steady stream and whip until the whites are a firm, dull meringue. Use a rubber spatual to fold the yolks into the whites. Sift the flour and cornstarch over the batter and fold it in. Scrape batter into a buttered pan. Bake for 40 minutes until well-risen and firm to the touch. Immediately run a small knife around the pan to loosen the cake. Unmold the layer onto a rack and cool. Once cool, cut out a disk the size of the top of your bowl. Slice the remaining pieces in half and line a stainless steel bowl with them. Sprinkle the cake with run.

Filling
2 - 15 oz fresh ricotta
2 C powdered sugar
6 T white rum
2 T anise seeds
2 envelope gelatin
chopped bittersweet chocolate
Whip the ricotta and powdered sugar together until smooth. Combine the rum and anise seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface. Allow to soak until softened - about 5 minutes - then place over a pan of simmering water, stirring till melted. Whisk the dissolved gelatin into the ricotta mixture. Stir in the chocolate bits. Pour the filling into the prepared mold and close it with the reserved disk of cake. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours. Unmold the cake. Finish the cake with a layer of whipped cream and more bits of chocolate.

A traditional Zuccotto Alla Ricotta has pistachios in the filling and is finished with chopped pistachios on the outside. But I needed a certain look for this cake.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sagú verdaderiro

Sagú verdaderiro - Tapioca pearls in red wine

Soak the tapioca pearls in water for at least three hours. Pour the pearls and its soaking water into a pan and add red wine, grape juice, and sugar to it. Bring to a boil. Then simmer gently until the sugar has completely dissolved and the pearls are transparent and soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir periodically to prevent a skin from forming. Pour into glasses and place in the fridge. Serve chilled.

Acarajé

Acarajé - Fried bean dumplings with shrimp and hot peppers

Wash and soak the mung beans in a bowl of water overnight. Blend the beans with a splash of water and a pinch of salt until an even paste is formed. Heat oil in a large saucepan and, when hot, drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and try until golden and cooked through. Place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Cook prawns, onions, and dried shrimp in a little bit of oil. Reserve some of the shrimp mixture to top your dumplings. Blend the remainder of the shrimp mixture with hot peppers, salt, oil, and lemon juice to create a prawn sauce.

Use the prawn sauce as your base, place the mung dumpling on the sauce, and top with the reserved shrimp mixture.

Caipirinha

My culinary adventure this month took us to Brazil. So, naturally, our drink of choice was Brazil's national cocktail: Caipirinha, made with cachaça, sugar, and lime.

Place a quartered lime and brown sugar into old fashioned glass and muddle. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the Cachaça.
Saúde.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Speedy Summer Salad

Nothing says 'summer' to me more than crisp, juicy watermelon. Here's a quick, tasty way to use watermelon...if you have any leftovers from those watermelon margaritas, that is!

Cube watermelon, cut thick slices of cucumbers, crumble feta cheese over the top, add chopped fresh mint leaves, splash with olive oil and toss.


Pronto al tavolo!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gluten-Free Banana Muffins (with Peanut Flour)

Because I have some friends who are gluten-intolerant, my eye tends to gravitate towards any products labeled "Gluten-Free." So when I saw peanut flour at Trader Joe's this afternoon, I couldn't resist; that paired with the three overripe bananas in my fruit bowl meant only one thing: banana bread!

Ingredients
2 cups peanut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
three mashed overripe bananas

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pan or lightly grease the pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs, mashed bananas, and applesauce until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the muffins come out clean. Let muffins cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

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