Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pimento Cheese and Memories of Boston in Winter

I can't believe it has been 5 years since my last trip to Boston for Charlotte & Tim's Annual Christmas Barbecue! What an amazing time it was — a barbecue extravaganza with fabulous food and friends! Warms my heart to think back to that trip. There was a foot of snow the day we made the trip from our home in Philly. Travel was treacherous, but once we made it to my friend Julie & her husband Rich's house for the night and had some wine, all was right in the world.

I always think of Charlotte whenever I make Pimento Cheese — one of her specialties from her roots in North Carolina. She adds peppadew peppers and hot sauce to hers and it is delicious. I made a batch today, but didn't have any pimentos, so I decided to make up my own new variation using roasted red peppers and fresh jalapeños. I think it is pretty fantastic — I will have feedback tomorrow when I share with friends.

Stephanie's Cucina Spicy "Pimento" Cheese

1 pound extra sharp cheddar, grated fine
1 (7 oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped small
1–2 fresh jalapeños, minced*
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until just combined. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least one hour for the flavors to meld. Serve on crackers, celery stick. Great with pieces of smokey ham!

* Taste test the jalapeños for heat. I used 2 whole jalapeños with seeds and the dip is nicely spicy — not overpowering. Jalapeños can vary in heat though, so be sure to test and add as much or as little as you like.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Another Thanksgiving has come and gone... it's hard to believe! This was my first Thanksgiving in my new apartment. It was a very special day surrounded by an amazing group of friends. I made the Pumpkin fondue again this year and it was a big hit. Search "Pumpkin Fondue" in this blog for see the recipe.

The menu this year was my garlic-herb brined turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, mushroom-pesto bread stuffing, pork and rice stuffing (a family recipe), lime roasted sweet potato wedges and French green beans with garlic and bacon. Dessert was homemade pumpkin pie and a new recipe I created — Gooey Gingerbread Squares, both topped with homemade Cognac-honey-cinnamon infused whipped cream.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stephanie's Cucina is Back!

Hi Everyone! Wow, it has been a while since my last entry. Things have been a little crazy in my life lately. I recently moved and have been way too distracted from my writing. But the good news is I am back and I have lots of great things to share with you!

Earlier this summer some of my good friends graduated from Cal Western School of Law here in San Diego. I watched them painstakingly study half of the summer away to prepare for the bar exam. Along the way, we had cooking and relaxing nights, but I really wanted to do something special for them during the exam. On the last day of the exam — CA Bar exam is an intensive 3-day event — I brought them a picnic lunch during their break. I was channeling the energy of one of my culinary idols, Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) as I came up with the menu and plan.

I made french style sandwiches of fresh baguettes from the bakery down the street. I lightly buttered 12-inch sections of baguette with Kerrygold Irish Butter, then filled the sandwich with layers of prosciutto, dry salami, ham, Fontina cheese and Asiago cheese. As a side dish, I created my own new potato salad recipe (Bacon & Roasted Jalapeño Potato Salad A La Stephanie's Cucina) and also brought back the roasted corn salad I wrote about early this summer. We sat in the park and had a great relaxing lunch! A simple sparkling lemonade was served and we had fresh strawberries and chocolate for dessert.
I haven't perfected the potato salad recipe yet, but here is the general concept! Since I haven't truly recipe tested this for measurements, I will explain it the way I cook, by feel. Let me know if need to clarify anything.

Bacon & Roasted Jalapeño Potato Salad A La Stephanie's Cucina

6–8 Fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and halved
1 large sweet onion, halved and cut into long strips
1 head garlic
Olive Oil
About 2–3 pounds red skin potatoes, rough cut into bite size pieces
Dijon mustard
1–2 ounces cream cheese
1 lb bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
salt & pepper to taste

In a baking dish, toss together jalapeños, onion, olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper. Cut the top off the head of garlic, rub with olive oil and place in the dish to roast with the peppers and onions. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 45 minutes. Uncover for the last 5-10 minutes of roasting. Lager peppers may take longer, just keep and eye on them — they are done when both peppers and onions are soft and tender.

While the peppers and onions roast, boil the potatoes until tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Drain potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Remove peppers and onions from baking dish, allow to cool slightly and chop into small pieces. Allow garlic to cool to the touch and squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves. Combine potatoes, peppers and onions, bacon, garlic and cream cheese. Dress with olive oil, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil and Dijon in small quantities and taste as you go. You can always add a touch more, but you can't take any away.

This would be a great recipe for then upcoming labor day weekend! You can add a touch of mayo if you would like, but leaving it out makes the dish a little more picnic friendly and there is less need to worry about keeping it on ice. Enjoy!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Baking at the Scrivo Cousins Reunion!

I am enjoying my time in Houston with my family SO much! Catching up with cousins we haven't seen in years and reminiscing is the perfect time for me to make a couple family favorites — Pepperoni Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls from scratch. I think the batches I baked this evening are some of the best I have ever made.

The cinnamon rolls are an adaptation of my Great Aunt Nellie's recipe as my mom learned to make them from her when she came to visit us. The optional icing recipe is my Great Aunt Katie's recipe, also as learned by my mom and passed down to me.

Cinnamon Rolls

2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup scalded milk (DO NOT Boil)
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1 recipe Whipped Cream Icing (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons sugar, water and yeast and let it rise (double).
In a small sauce pan, scald the milk. Stir constantly. Do not allow it to boil. Mix in the shortening and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine flour (except 1 cup), salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the yeast mixture. Mix well. Add milk and shortening mixture.

Beat eggs well and ad them to the mixture. The dough will be very sticky. Add the last cup of flour, mix thoroughly and kneed until dough doesn't stick to a clean finger.

Place dough in a large, lightly buttered bowl. Cover and allow to rise about 1 1/2 hours in a warm, non drafty place.
Punch down and let rest 10–15 minutes.

Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Spread butter all over dough and coat with sugar and cinnamon.

Roll up like a jelly roll and cut into pieces. Place against one another on a baking sheet. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.
Bake at 350º for 15–20 minutes or until dough is golden and filling is bubbling.

You can serve the rolls as-is, glaze them with a simple powdered sugar glaze or ice them with the following Whipped Butter Cream Icing. Serve and enjoy!

Whipped Butter Cream Icing

5 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butter (or 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, cook flour and milk over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until a paste is formed. This can take 10-15 minutes, be patient and watch closely so the mixture won't burn. Allow to cool thoroughly. Use an ice bath to speed cooling if you would like.

While the paste cools, cream butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add cooled paste and whip until light and creamy with an electric mixer on high.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled Corn Salad!

I put together this recipe quite by accident earlier this summer. It is super fresh and delicious and would be perfect for July Fourth celebrations!

4 nice, fresh ears of corn, outer layers of husk peeled away, soaked in cold water for about an hour
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced fine
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced fine
1 small to medium tomato, seeded and diced
2–3 green onions, chopped small
juice of 1 lime
2–3 tablespoons good olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Grill the corn until it is cooked through and some of the kernels are nice and toasty. Allow to cool to the touch and cut all the kernels off the cobs. Combine remaining ingredients with the corn, allow to sit and flavors to meld for 30-45 minutes if possible. Serve and enjoy!

The second time I made this, I added fresh mozzarella and basil — amazing!

Happy 4th of July! I am off to Houston to see my family this week. I'll be cooking while I'm there, so update to follow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ramps — Springtime Treasures

After a couple of challenging weeks, I am finally back to my blog!

I have been meaning to write on this topic for weeks... Ramps! I grew up in West Virginia where ramps are readily available, but I was totally disinterested in them until much later in my life. I always associated them with being eaten raw and their pungent smell. I had not idea what a culinary delight they could be when prepared properly.

It really wasn't until years later when I was living in Charleston, WV and a friend shared a "mess" of ramps one spring that I came to adore these springtime treasures. They are only available in certain areas and for a limited time each year (generally March – early June). I remember vividly preparing that first batch of ramps! We put them in a foil packet with new potatoes and seasoned them simply with salt pepper and olive oil. We grilled them and ate them right away. The only problem was that it left us wanting more. The flavor is somewhere between a good onion and roasted garlic. The tops are like tender greens, and the ramp is cleaned and left whole to roast with the potatoes. Such a simple pleasure!

I moved to the New York City area soon after that, but was pleased to find that ramps were being discovered by chefs in the city and had become readily available in season at the green markets. Years later after relocating to the west coast, it is much harder to find ramps in the spring. To my knowledge, they are not found locally, but occasionally a specialty market will ship them in from a company called Earthly Delights. I ran across some at my local Whole Foods Market this spring and was able to enjoy them grilled with potatoes, just like home. We savored every bite.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blackberry Philly Pastry

Check out my latest video! It is my last entry in the Real Women of Philadelphia contest. Technically not the best video we have produced, but the recipe is delish! Look for me to get back to writing this week. More videos will also come soon — new videos on our own terms here at Stephanie's Cucina! I can't wait to share more of my world of food and entertaining with you!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Video Blog! Cheesy Orzo Pasta with Sausage & Veggies

This is another entry for The Real Women of Philadelphia. I have an appetizer video in editing stages now that will be posted within the week. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stephanie's Cucina Live!

Wow! I never realized just how exhausting filming cooking segments could be until now! I am entering a contest sponsored by and Philadelphia Cream Cheese called the Real Women of Philadelphia. Check out my first entry — and my very first attempt at filming a cooking video! For more info about the contest go to:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cooking With Whole Chickens

I love cooking with whole chickens! I started out mastering the art of roasting them, moved into brining and roasting and now I enjoy cutting them up to fry, roast or braise the parts. The best part about cutting up your own chicken is using the carcass to make home made stock. I alway listened to Ina Garten talk about how much better home made stock was and how easy it is to make, and now I know what she was talking about.

Today I am going to share a few of my favorite whole chicken recipes.

Brined, Herb-Roasted Chickens
I roast these two at a time and enjoy the meat for days or freeze for later.

1/2 gallon water1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 cup peppercorns
1 head garlic
1 large bunch thyme branches
1 large bunch rosemary4 packets chicken or veggie bouillon (or replace water with broth)

1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cloves garlic (2 whole, 2 minced)1/2 fresh lemon
1 small onion, quartered
flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Combine first 8 ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and allow to cool completely.
Remove giblets from chicken, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Submerge chicken in the brine. Place a plate on top of the chicken to keep it submerged if necessary. Refrigerate for 12 hours.
Remove chicken from brine, rinse lightly and pat completely dry with paper towels.

Preheat oven to 425º. Zest about half of a lemon, cut the lemon in half and reserve the zested half for use in the chicken and the other half for another use). Combine butter, olive oil, herbs, lemon zest and chopped garlic to form a paste. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Loosen the skin on the chicken breasts and spread the mixture evenly under the skin on each side, being careful not to tear the skin. Cut a slit in the skin between the leg and the breast on each side and place a garlic clove in each hole. Place the zested half of the lemon and the onion in the cavity. Pull the legs together and tightly wrap the ankles with kitchen twine. Sprinkle the skin all over generously with flaky sea salt. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and continue to roast for an additional 30-45 minutes. If the skin begins to burn, place a loose fitting piece of aluminum foil over the chicken (do not cover tightly) and remove in the last 5 minutes of roasting. Allow the chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Easy Weeknight Chicken Bake
This is an excellent weeknight meal. Pair it with a big green salad and some good, crusty bread and you're all set!

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces* (reserve the wings and carcass for making homemade stock)
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths
1 head of garlic, separated, but cloves unpeeled
10–12 crimini mushrooms, quartered
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dry mustard1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 450º. Place the chicken pieces in a large baking dish. Arrange potatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes around the chicken. Whisk together olive oil, balsamic, mustard, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt and drizzle over everything. Toss to combine, making sure that chicken is skin side up when you finish and the potatoes are not under the chicken pieces. Sprinkle all lightly with flaky sea salt. Roast for about 50-60 minutes, until chicken is browned and cooked through.
* Note: I like to de-bone the breast pieces leaving the skin on. It makes for easier serving and cooks up nice and juicy.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Place the chicken carcass, neck and wings in a large stock pot. Add:
1 onion, quartered
1 head garlic, cloves separated and smashed
2–3 carrots, cut into 2–3 pieces each
2–3 celery stalks, cut into 2–3 pieces each
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 Bay leaves

Cover all with water so that the chicken is submerged by at least an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Skim off fat and scum that has risen to the top. Salt the stock lightly. Cover loosely and simmer for hours. Once the stock has simmered and reduced to your liking, pour it through a fine sieve to remove all the pieces and discard them. Allow stock to cool on the counter and skim the fat that rises to the top. Refrigerate for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spicy Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup

I love tomato soup! Over the years I've come across some amazing versions — from the delicate, creamy Tomato Bisque at the Blossom Dairy in Charleston, WV to the bold, olive oil fortified Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup at Uva 69 in Miami, FL. Oddly enough, I never made my own version until a couple weeks ago, but it was worth the wait. I used freshly roasted tomatoes, homemade chicken stock, fresh basil, red pepper, onions and garlic to create a rich and slightly spicy soup. I served it with olive oil-Parmesan croutons made from a loaf of sourdough I had on hand. Next time, I want to try it with mini grilled cheese sandwiches — fresh mozzarella grilled between half-inch baguette slices.

Spicy Roasted Tomato-Basil Soup

3–4 pounds of fresh tomatoes (I used a combination of Roma and Campari)
1/3 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoon
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 can, 28-oz., whole peeled tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
2 large handfuls of fresh basil plus extra chiffonade* for garnish
2 teaspoons sugar
fresh ground pepper to taste
sea salt to taste (if needed at all)
good olive oil for drizzling
crusty bread or Parmesan croutons

Preheat oven to 400º. Cut tomatoes in half, toss with 1/3 cup olive oil, sea salt and fresh thyme. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 45 – 60 minutes.

While the tomatoes roast, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Melt together on medium heat and add onion and red pepper flakes. Sauté until onions begin to soften and add garlic. Continue cooking until the onions just begin to caramelize. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and allow to cook about 5 minutes longer. Add the canned tomatoes and chicken stock and allow to simmer until the roasted tomatoes are ready. Add the roasted tomatoes and all their juices and the fresh basil. Stir together and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Purée the soup with a hand immersion blender** until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons sugar and salt & pepper as needed to taste. Serve topped with a sprinkling of fresh basil and fresh thyme leaves, a drizzle of good olive oil and Parmesan croutons or crusty bread.

* Cut into fine ribbons
** You could also carefully process through a food mill or in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender, but I have found the immersion blender to be an exceptional tool. You can pick up a basic model for $25-$30 and a really nice one for $50-$60.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I bought a copy of Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking from a used cookbook shop last year. I had always wanted a copy and it seemed only fitting to seek out a treasured old copy that had, hopefully, inspired cooks before me. I read through the book and referenced it on several occasions, but never made a complete recipe until this past weekend. I chose to make Coq Au Vin and it was a such a wonderful experience. I am generally the kind of cook who doesn't follow the recipes. I like to forge my own way and cook by instinct. But it was as though I could hear Julia's voice as I read each line of the recipe — like a link back in time to 1950's Paris when Julia first began her culinary career. I followed every step and made her suggested side dishes: Brown Braised Onions and Sautéed Mushrooms. I am including her recipe for the onions because I found it to be an exciting new little technique that I will use again as a side to other meat dishes. For the Coq Au Vin recipe, I will leave it to you to pick up a copy of this elegant old classic cooking text. It is most important to read from the pages for the full effect.

Brown-Braised Onions

18–24 peeled white onions about 1 inch in diameter
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons oil

1/2 cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water (I used homemade chicken stock diluted with a little water and a teaspoon of beef bouillon paste)

Salt & Pepper to taste
A medium her bouquet: 4 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied is a cheesecloth

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Braise them as follows:
Pour in the liquid, season to taste, adn add the herb bouquet. Cover adn simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Serve them as they are or follow one of Julia's suggestions that follows this recipe in the book.

NOTE: Recipe taken from Mastering the Art of French Cooking By Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck; 1961

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French Onion Soup

I am fortunate to be sitting under sunny skies here in Southern California, no doubt about it. For my friends and family back East who are exhausted from battling the snow and cold temps, this soup could be a bright, warm beacon on a cold snowy night! Combine this with a piece of skirt steak seared to a perfect medium, a big green salad and a bottle of good red wine for a French Bistro meal right in your own home. I hope you like my own version of traditional French Onion soup!

French Onion Soup
serves 4

4 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup cognac or brandy
1 1/2 cups dry white wine

6 cups chicken broth

2 packets beef bouillon (I use all-natural liquid concentrate; available at Whole Foods Market & Trader Joe's)

salt and pepper to taste

crusty baguette, sliced
Gruyere cheese, grated

In a large, heavy bottom pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize and are a nice golden brown (about 20 – 25 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the Cognac and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue simmering 10-15 minutes more. Add the stock and beef bouillon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the soup cooks, toast 8 – 12 slices of baguette in the oven and set aside.

Ladle soup into 4 oven-safe bowls, placed on a baking sheet. Top each bowl with 2 – 3 toasted baguette slices and a handful of grated Gruyere. Place the bowls under the broiler just until the cheese starts to bubble and brown (3 –4 minutes).
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Goat Cheese, Onion & Tomato Tart

Well, it has been much longer than I would like since I last posted an update. The last few weeks have gotten away from me — I can hardly believe it is February 2010! Where does the time go? I have been keeping busy and of course spending some time in the kitchen. One of my latest favorites is a tart I made using a sheet of puff pastry topped with fresh tomatoes, goat cheese and caramelized onions. This would make a nice addition to your menu for the big game on Sunday!

Goat Cheese, Onion & Tomato Tart

1 sheet of puff pastry (9x9), defrosted
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
5 ounces plain goat cheese
6 small (golf ball size) tomatoes on the vine, cut in half
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler, plus 1/3 cup grated
olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425º. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Unfold the puff pastry onto the baking sheet, pressing the folds together gently. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sautée for 15 – 20 minutes, until almost all the moisture is gone from the pan. Add the white wine and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Continue cooking until the onions are brown and caramelized (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to rest in the pan.

With the tip of a sharp knife, score the pastry dough all around about 1/4 inch in from the edge. Be sure not to cut all the way through. Pierce the dough inside of the score lines multiple times with the tines of a fork as you would a pie crust.

Sprinkle grated cheese over the dough and then cover with onions, staying within the scored border. Next, crumble the goat cheese over the onions and add the halved tomatoes. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and spread the shaved Parmesan over the top. Bake for 25–30 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden brown. Add a sprinkling of thyme, cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake & Reminiscing

I got the recipe for the delightful cake from one of my favorite cooking Divas, Ina Garten. This recipe is in her book: The Barefoot Contessa At Home. The recipe is made lighter than a lemon pound cake by replacing butter with yogurt, but is still sweet and decadent enough to satisfy a craving. Excellent with a cup of fresh brewed coffee in the morning!

The only change I made to the recipe, was using 2% greek style yogurt rather than whole milk regular yogurt. The result was a real crowd pleaser this weekend when we visited a dear old friend and her family.

Our friend and neighbor from our days on Churchill Drive in Charleston, WV, Roberta Allison, was visiting her daughter in Newport Beach. We drove up and spent a fabulous afternoon with them. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to chat with Roberta again and listen to her stories from her years in Charleston and of growing up in Monroe County. The day was topped of with an unbelievable sunset and a cozy dinner with the family. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday!

Lemon Yogurt Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2–3 lemons)

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease and flour a 8.5x4.25x2.5 inch loaf pan.

Sift together flour, caking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the oil into the batter, making sure it is all incorporated. Pour the batter io to the greased loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook 1/3 cup of lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cooled cake.


Chatting with Roberta

Sunset from Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, CA

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Holiday Food Adventures

I can hardly believe another Christmas and 2009 have come and gone! It was a quiet, peaceful holiday here, filled with family and friends and good food and wine. Today's entry is a photo tour of some of the goodies I made over the holidays.

Homemade Italian Bread!
After talking to my cousin Nick about how his mother, my Great Aunt Katie, used to make her bread, I tweaked my usual recipe to make bread more like hers. It turned out great — crusty on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. Steve got me a great book about the art and science of baking artisan breads for Christmas. I can't wait to do some more bread baking!


Chocolate Chip, Orange Cookies, Thumbprints, Pizzelles and Gallettes. I also made Penuche (an old-time candy that my grandmother used to make for my mom and aunts years ago) and Peanut Butter Fudge. All of these are family favorites and the recipes have been handed down through the years.


Homemade Mushroom Ravioli
Using my grandfather's antique pasta machine!






... Shape!

Pita Piata — a family classic!
These large nut and raisin rolls are time consuming and require a lot of kneading an rolling. The dough is tender and flaky and has whiskey in it. I add a touch of whiskey to my filling as well, even though that isn;t in the original recipe. I made a hug batch this year and sent them as gifts. I was a little too generous with my filling (a mixture of regular and golden raisins, chopped walnuts and pecans, sugar and cinnamon) and I ran out, so I had to get creative with the last two. I made a mixture of dried figs, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon and they turned out really great. I think I will make half traditional and half with the new filling next year.


Brined, Herb-Butter Rubbed Roasted Chicken
I decided to brine a chicken like I brined my Thanksgiving turkey. The result was a tender, juicy chicken that was full of flavor. I make a mean roast turkey the traditional way and have always considered it one of my go-to/signature meals. This just takes the flavor up a notch. I have roasted several chickens in this manner since. Drop me a line if you'd like to see the recipe.


Homemade Pasta drying in my living room, waiting to be packed and shipped to family back East. This is the night my friend Erin stopped by and called the operation "Santa's Workshop for Food" between the pasta making and the cookie and bread baking. Love it! What a compliment!


Frying Shrimp and Calamari on Christmas Eve
I usually fry the traditional Italian Smelts on Christmas Eve, but I couldn't find them this year and decided to go with shrimp and calamari. I cleaned and prepared both and then soaked them in milk for about an hour. I dredged them in a mixture of flour, cornmeal, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic and a dash of cayenne before frying them in canola oil in my electric skillet. They were perfectly crispy and seasoned on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside.