Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Calzone

Pumpkin Calzone
I had some leftover roasted pumpkin in the freezer. I used it in this recipe after draining it for a couple of days. If you don’t have fresh sweet potato puree is a nice alternative, see recipe below. Start by making the dough. While it's rising, make the filling.

Cornmeal Calzone Crust
Makes 6 calzones
This dough can be made by hand as well, whenever possible I prefer to make yeast and pasta doughs in the mixer, it's a lot easier.

2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon honey
2/3rds cup warm water (not hotter than 110∞)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Stir the honey in the hot water to dissolve. Add the yeast, let stand for 10 minutes, the yeast will "bloom" and become creamy, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook whisk together the flour, cornmeal and sea salt. Add the yeast mixture and the oil. Mix on low with the dough hook until a dough forms, about 2 minutes.

Increase to medium speed and knead the dough inside the mixer until it is smooth, elastic and forms a ball that pulls away from the bottom of the bowl, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a couple of additional tablespoons of flour to get the right consistency.

Place the dough in a clean greased bowl covered with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the Pumpkin Calzone Filling.

Pumpkin Calzone Filling
Makes 2 1/2 cups filling

1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups pumpkin or sweet potato puree
3/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded fresh mozzarella
1 large egg, lightly beaten
a pinch ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter, olive oil, garlic, and shallot. Sautee until shallot is golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir together remaining ingredients until uniform. Combine with the olive oil - shallot mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside.

Getting It Together
Place a large pizza stone in the center of the oven. If you don’t own a pizza stone, these will still turn out fine. Heat oven to 450∞. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Pat each piece into a thin round about 7 inches in diameter. Spread a heaping 1/3 cup of filling over each half the round, leaving a 1/2 inch border at the edge. Fold the dough over the filling, press out as much air as possible and pinch to seal the edges. Carefully lift the calzones one by one onto the pizza stone or a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal. Bake about 20 minutes or until nicely browned on the outside.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Farotto (Farro Risotto)

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main course

This recipe makes a risotto like grain dish, using the grain farro.
I was puzzled by farro for a while. I thought it looked like barley so it must be- it's not. Technically, farro is a type of wheat, emmer wheat. It was probably one of the first cultivated grains.

I love the idea of cooking with a vegetarian stock in place of chicken stock, but I think the flavor in most of the vegetarian stocks goes flat by the time your risotto is done. That's why I'll use the traditional trinity of onion, carrot and celery in the dish itself. When a vegetarian dish finishes cooking, the flavors have cooked and balanced but they are still bright. In a stock they would have cooked two times, once in the making of the stock, and once again when the stock is added to the dish during cooking.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 more for drizzling at the end
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup dry white or red wine
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 cup farro
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil and butter together in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add onion and carrot, sauté until onion is translucent and beginning to brown at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and celery turn the heat to high, simmering until the wine is syrupy and has almost evaporated, about 7 minutes.

Add the farro and 1 1/2 cups filtered water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, Cook stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes until farro is cooked through, most of the liquid is absorbed and the farro is lightly veiled in liquid. Stir in the parsley, thyme and parmesan cheese. Drizzle with an amazing high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Big Baby Bear

My horoscope from this week said " you're most likely to thrive if you pursue silky, smooth, velvety, plush feelings of every kind."
So in that spirit I'm indulging in a great bedtime drink.

The Big Baby Bear
Growing up I had the Baby Bear drink when we got to go to Sarah Beth's Country Kitchen, it was warm milk and honey. But I'm older and I like liquor. You could also try this with whiskey.

1/2 cup half and half
1 tablespoons wildflower honey
1/2 cup water
3 ounces Armagnac

Heat the first three ingredients in a pan until hot, but not boiling. Whisk to dissolve the honey. Remove from heat, swirl in Armagnac.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Acini De Pepe

Acini de Pepe
Should "unhang" 2 medium sized adults

My best friend from high school is Italian American. Spending time with her family I learned a lot about Italian American cooking. This is a variation on the recipe her mother made with Pastina or Acini de Pepe. In my memory is the dish "Pastina" is usually comfort food for children.

I think it's super rich hangover food. Pastina gets a little too textureless so I've substituted Grattoni, which is a little bigger, close in size to the tiny Fregola. You can substitute any teeny tiny pasta.

1 Cup dry Grattoni, Fregola, Corallini, Ditalini or other tiny pasta shape
2 teaspoons high quality Extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted Butter
2 large eggs
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
additional salt and pepper, to taste

Have all the ingredients ready to dump into the pot. Cook pasta in salted water, according to package directions. Drain pasta, return immediately to the still hot pot with remaining ingredients. Stir until the eggs have mixed with the cheese and made a uniform creaminess. Divide between 2 bowls. Conquer hangover.

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