Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Italian Pizzelle Cookies, Cones and Bowls

Pizzelles photo null_zpsce731ab8.jpg
Traditional Italian waffle-like cookies with a snowflake or grid design are called "Pizzelle."  They're very thin and delicate offering the "wow" factor for a dessert.

They can be hard and crisp or soft and chewy depending on ingredients and length of time you bake them with a Pizzele Iron Maker.  They can also be made, and quickly shaped while warm into cones or dessert bowls.  When cooled they will harden.

Several years ago I found an electric pizzelle maker at a thrift shop and use most of the batter to make flat ones; then use the rest of the batter to shape a few bowls and cones. I then freeze them in air tight containers to have on hand for a quick dessert.

Serve by filling with fruit, ice cream, Nutella, making ice cream sandwiches, or served simply by dusting with powdered sugar. Can be used for cannoli by shaping into cylinders then filling with creamy ricotta and sugar. 

Pizzelles photo null_zps19e2ca42.jpgTraditional pizzelle calls for anise oil or extract, but I've never tired that and instead use either almond or lemon extract. If wanting chocolate pizzelle add two or three tablespoons of cocoa and a little more sugar to the batter.  Grated lemon or orange zest may also be added.

If you're feeling extra creative try adding peppermint extract and use red or green food coloring in the batter for a holiday treat.  These are pretty and tasty enough with a plain vanilla cook, and fun to make, but tweaking a recipe with new flavors or colors is part of the fun of baking and cooking by making it your own version.

Italian Pizzelle
3 eggs
Pizzelle Maker photo null_zps2b48e6a9.jpg1/2 tsp. anise extract (optional) or almond extract
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup of melted butter or vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
*Note, if wanting chocolate Pizzelle add 3 Tablespoons of cocoa and 3 more tablespoons of sugar to recipe

Beat eggs and sugar. Add melted butter, vanilla, and extract.  Sift baking power and flour together then add to egg mixture.  Mix and blend well.

Pizzelles photo null_zpse1e60d0e.jpgBatter will be stiff enough to drop by heaping teaspoons onto a heated pizzelle maker.  Place batter in center of each grid pattern, close maker and bake approximately 25 to 30 seconds.

If flat pizzelle are desired remove with a spatula and cool on a rack on the counter.

To shape into cones or cylinders while warm, use a cone dowel, then cool.  They can also be shaped into small bowls while warm by draping over a small glass and allowed to cool.

This recipe makes approximately 30 pizzelle.  Batter can be refrigerated and used as needed.

Estimated cost of batter: $2.00 or less.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bud's Bloody Mary Mix

 photo null_zpsc6b8b461.jpgA friend gave me this recipe back in the late 1970s.  We belonged to a group of avid bridge players who'd get together for marathon bridge sessions during the holidays and summers. 

We'd often gather for breakfast or brunch before the big game at someone's house.  I usually brought my bundt pan breakfast cake or overnight breakfast casserole and "Bud" always supplied his Bloody Mary Mix.

This mix can also be enjoyed for a refreshing summer drink without alcohol, and believe it or not..... a great base for vegetable beef soup!

Bloody Mary Mix
1 46 - 48 oz. can tomato juice
2,  15 oz. cans of beef broth
4 Tabs. lemon juice (juice of one lemon)
2 Tabs. Worcestershire sauce
4 - 5 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 to 2 tsps. prepared horseradish, optional
4 dashes celery salt
4 shakes black pepper
*celery stalks, green olives, or pickled green beans for garnish

In a large glass pitcher or jar, blend all ingredients. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours, but best overnight.

When ready to serve, fill each glass with ice; add 1 oz. of vodka, then fill with mix. Stir well and garnish each glass with choice of pickled green bean, celery stalk, or skewer of green olives. Serves 6 to 8.


Estimated mix cost: $5.00 or less; .80 cents or less per serving.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fresh Ravioli or Pasta Dough

 photo null_zps1e03059a.jpgMy Italian Mom made homemade ravioli for special occasions and family gatherings in the days before mixers and gadgets.  It was a labor of love, as making it for a crowd was an all day affair. 

I can still picture her rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, and covering the counters and kitchen table with her ravioli "project."

She would divide and roll her dough into two large rectangles and get about 36 medium size ravioli with 3 cups of flour.


When first married I made them her way, but since then I've acquired the machines and gadgets for making it much easier to enjoy fresh pasta or ravioli without taking all day.  I make up a batch of pasta dough, then make ravioli and also cut some pasta noodles, freezing or drying extra for future meals.


A Kitchen Aid mixer and attachments for making pasta of various sizes is a dream machine for: lasagna, linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti; a ravioli press also makes the process easier.  I gave my manual Atlas Pasta Maker to my sister after I "moved up" to an electric attachment. The Atlas worked very well, and I'd recommend it if you don't have a Kitchen Aid.  Ravioli Presses and Stamps come in various sizes and shapes and are available on line or in the kitchen gadget section of many stores.

I use a basic ricotta cheese filling, and sometimes add cooked diced sausage. Ravioli fillings can be just about anything you desire!  There are many recipes on line for different types of fillings, but  I've stayed with Mom's basic ricotta filling.  I've even made my own fresh ricotta a few times, but commercial ricotta is very handy.

For a pasta dinner, I like to serve some fresh pasta and ravioli, then cover with sauce and also serve Italian sausage or meatballs.  Add a salad and garlic bread and you'll enjoy a fresh Italian feast at home more often!  Did I mention fresh pasta is fun to make?  It is, and if you have kids or grandkids, get them involved. They love being involved no matter what gadgets you use!

Pasta photo null_zps2a6ec972.jpg

Pasta Drying Rack


Ravioli or Pasta Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 - 3 Tabs. of oil or melted shortening
beaten egg whites for brushing dough

Ravioli Filling
1 pound Ricotta
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup chopped parsley (or chopped spinach)
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
3 - 4 Tabs. Parmesan cheese

For the filling: Beat ricotta until creamy, add egg yolk, parsley, salt, pepper and grated cheese.  Mix well.  Filling should not be too soft.  Add more cheese if necessary. 

 photo null_zpsf6fe59ad.jpgFor the dough: In mixer with paddle (or a food processor) combine flour, eggs, and salt. Process until well mixed. With mixer running, add water and oil until mixture begins to form a dough. Switch to dough hook and continue mixing until dough comes together in a ball. Remove dough and on a lightly floured surface, knead dough about 1 minute or until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or cover with a warm damp towel and let stand for 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a flat disk. Pass each portion through pasta roller attachment several times, according to manufacturer's directions until dough is 1/8-inch thick (about the thickness of a chef knife).  Begin with thickest setting and with each pass, change to thinner setting.

Lay widened strips separated on a floured board and cover until ready to cut into shapes; or lay between sheets of floured wax paper and cover. With this recipe I made 20 large (2-1/2 inch square) raviolis and 4 serving of fettuccine noodles.

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For ravioli without a ravioli press gadget or ravioli maker, lay one wide strip flat and brush with beaten egg or water. Drop 1 to 1 /2 rounded teaspoons of filling on dough spaced apart about 1 inch apart; lay another wide strip over the dough with the filling. 

Beginning at the center and working out to edges, gently press between mounds with fingers around mounds of filling to seal dough into little sections and to press out any air.  Cut into squares with a ravioli wheel, or cut out with a knife and seal edges by pressing edges with a fork. Set aside, cover with a towel, until ready to boil.  Or at this time, place on trays and freeze for future use.



For a ravioli press (see pics): follow manufacturer's instructions. Lay wide strips on ravioli press, brush with water or egg white, and press dough to make pockets, fill, then lay second strip.  Roll rolling pin over dough and pull extra dough away from press.  Turn on individual ravioli and set aside, covered with a towel until ready to boil, or freeze for future use.
Ravioli photo null_zps67d4d1a8.jpg
To cook ravioli, bring a large amount of salted water to boiling. Gently drop several ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes depending on thickness or until tender. Take one out to taste test. They should float to the top. 
  
Don't over cook to the point they fall apart.  Using a slotted spoon, remove and transfer ravioli to a serving dish.  Cover with Parmesan and sauce keeping warm until serving time.

Ravioli may also by made a day ahead. Boil for 10 minutes, then after boiling, blanch with cold water and save between layers of wax paper in the refrigerator, then reheat for 5 minutes in boiling water the next day.  If using frozen ravioli, drop in boiling water and and add an extra 5 minutes.

For Pasta: Run strips through cutting attachment then drape cut pasta on drying rack (or lay on floured towel or cutting board to dry).  May be cooked immediately for a recipe or dried and stored or frozen and stored.

Estimated Cost for Pasta Dough: $1.25 or less. Ricotta filling: $3.00 or less.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    Cheesey Salsa Polenta

     photo null_zps4705f967.jpgI'm sure you've seen  polenta made often on various food shows and in a variety of ways. This version came from a newspaper article I snipped and saved years ago. Polenta is yellow or white cornmeal boiled with water or stock into a creamy thick porridge.  

    It can be eaten directly or cooled and cut for use in recipe dishes that are baked, fried or grilled.  Polenta was known as a peasant food and been served throughout Europe since Roman times.

    It's known as an Italian comfort food and often served instead of mashed potatoes or rice with roasted chicken, shrimp, scallops, or fish.


    I refrigerate overnight, then cut then freeze polenta squares and take out as needed. Most often I reheat and serve with breakfast eggs; or reheat for a side dish topped with cheese (Parmesan or Mozzarella) and tomato sauce.

    Cheesey Salsa Polenta
    3, 15 oz.cans of chicken broth or (45 oz. of water)
    2 cups of salsa
    2 cups yellow cornmeal
    1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
    2 cups cheddar cheese
    3 Tabs of butter
    salt and pepper to taste
     photo null_zps54ba8bba.jpg

    In a large pot combine broth, salsa, cornmeal, pepper flakes. Bring to a boil uncovered and simmer on low for 10 minutes, until polenta is soft and creamy looking.  Stir frequently so it does not stick.

    Add cheese, butter and seasoning and continue to stir and blend and simmer for 5 more minutes until cheese melts.  It's done when a wooden spoon can stand up on it's own in the thickened mixture.

    Polenta photo null_zpscf8a7657.jpgIt can be served immediately, or poured into a sprayed or non-stick cookie sheet pan with edges or oblong casserole dish.  Line sheet or dish with parchment or wax paper overlapping edges which will help lift out set polenta when ready to cut. Place in the refrigerator to cool and set for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

    Once set, turn out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and either saute over medium heat, grill, or deep fry.

    Serve as a side dish or serve covered with cheese and favorite Italian red or white sauce.  May also be grilled or fried then topped with caramelized onions for a side dish or appetizer.  Serves at least 8 to 10 as a side dish.

    Estimated cost: $4 or less; .50 cents a serving or less.

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Panko Fried Chicken

    Baked finish, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
    This is the same coating I use for Panko Fried Shrimp, Oysters or fish fillets.  I buy thighs and legs when they're on sale and repackage for the freezer to take out what's needed.

    I either dredge chicken in flour, then a water-egg mixture, then Panko coating, or if I have time, marinate chicken in a seasoned buttermilk mixture a few hours before coating and frying.

    For the buttermilk, I make homemade by taking a cup of regular milk and adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, letting it set until it thickens.


    A local chef demonstrated this coating on fried oysters several years ago, and I've been using it ever since, as it's so crunchy and stays that way longer than other methods I've tried.


    I make a big batch of the coating mix and keep it in a plastic bag in the freezer, ready to take out and use anytime I need a fry mix.


    Panko Fried Chicken

    Marinade, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App1 to 2 cups of buttermilk, depending on how many pieces of chicken you are preparing
    1/4 to 1/2 cup of Louisiana type red, hot sauce
    4 to 6 chicken legs, thighs, breasts or any combination
    1 to 2 cups of Panko Sesame mix (see below)
    oil for frying
    Coated, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
    Place chicken parts in plastic bag.  Mix buttermilk and hot sauce and pour over chicken. Place bag on a plate or in a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, occasional turning bag to even marinate.

    In another plastic or lunch size brown bag put in coating.  Remove chicken pieces one at a time and throw in coating bag and shake to evenly coat.  Remove and place pieces, not touching, on a rack or plate to let coating firm up and set. 

    Lightly Fried, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppPan fry in oil until lightly browned and crispy for several minutes on each side, about 12 minutes; remove to finish by baking in 350 oven until done, approximately 25 minutes.  A digital thermometer testing for 175 degrees on thicker pieces like thighs helps determine "doneness."
    Serves 4 - 6

    Panko Sesame Fry Mix
    Equal amounts of:
    Sesame seeds, flour, Panko crumbs. I use 1 cup of of each, then add salt and pepper to taste and for extra "kick" Old Bay type seasoning approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

    Extra mix can be kept in freezer bag for future use.


    Estimated cost $2.00 or less; .50 cents a serving or less.