Miz Chef

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Pesche Ripiene–Stuffed Peaches

09

Emilia Romagna

Hello again. Welcome back to my Regions Italy project, based on La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). This week on our journey, we stop in Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy. The capital of Emilia-Romagna is the well-known city of Bologna, but it’s also home to Modena, which is best known as the place of origin of balsamic vinegar. The recipe I have for you today come, in fact, from that city of black gold (balsamic, that is).

The technical aspects of this recipe weren’t too bad, but there were a couple of points that made me scratch my head. The first thing was the bread. The original recipe called for the “bread of 1 roll soaked in milk and squeezed dry.” What kind of roll? How big? Crust included or just the crumb? How much milk? My conclusions are in the recipe below.

The second thing was in the instructions where it said to whip the egg whites and fold it into the mixture. Well, whip them to what stage? Soft peaks? Stiff peaks? Just until thickened? In the end, I went with soft peaks.

The headnote on this recipe says that in place of the almonds, you can use finely crushed amaretti, which are Italian almond cookies. I haven’t tried this alternative yet, but I’ll bet it’s even better than the original.

Pesche Ripiene

Stuffed Peaches

1 hero roll
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 large ripe peaches
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup blanched almonds, finely ground, or 1¼ cup almond flour
Confectioners’ sugar

Remove the crumb from the hero and place it in a bowl. Pour the milk over it and let it soak about 5 minutes.(I used the crust as well, but only because it was really soft.)Place the bread in a mesh strainer and press it with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and squeeze out as much milk as possible.Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet or casserole with the butter.

Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Scoop out as much of the flesh as you can, leaving a thin layer, so that you get a shell. Depending on how ripe your peaches are, this may be more or less difficult. If the peaches are very ripe and mushy and you can easily scoop it out with a spoon, then just put the pulp in a bowl. If you have to use a paring knife and the flesh is still solid, place the flesh in a food processor or blender (a mini would be perfect here!). Process until it’s mostly pureed, then transfer it to a bowl.Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and thick, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add this to the peach pulp. Add the drained bread and almond flour. Mix well.Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 4 to 5 minutes. Fold it into the peach mixture.Fill each peach shell with the filling and place them on the baking sheet. Bake until peaches are tender and filling is somewhat firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Let them cool slightly. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

 

 

 

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Pear-Pignoli Salad with Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Do you still have cranberry sauce left over after the holidays? I know some of you do. Admit it.  You’ll see lots of sites and professional chefs telling you that everything should be thrown out three days after the holiday. I have news for you—if you’ve stored it properly, that cranberry sauce is probably still good. The thing is, because of the sugar content, cranberry sauce has a long shelf life. It’s just like a jar of jam or preserves in your refrigerator. (Of course, if it smells or tastes funny, or if it has mold on it, throw it out.) For those of you who prefer the stuff that comes in cans (you can admit that, too, don’t be ashamed), you can use those up as well, so that they don’t sit in your pantry for another year.

There are many things you can do with leftover cranberry sauce. One way to use it up is to make a dressing with it, and I’ve done just that. I paired homemade cranberry sauce here with baby greens and Anjou pears. So that the cranberry doesn’t overwhelm the delicate ingredients, I strained the dressing.

So, why not start out with plain cranberry sauce (such as what comes in a can) instead of whole berry sauce, you ask. Because I think that whole berry sauce has so much more depth of flavor than flat cranberry sauce. Plus, chances are that if you have a significant amount left over, it’s probably the homemade kind, which is most likely going to be chunky.

You can adjust the recipe to any flavor profile you like. Enjoy!

Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Makes ¾ cup dressing.

1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup water. Drizzle in the oil and whisk together well. Using a rubber spatula, strain the dressing through a mesh strainer into another bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust if you like.

Pear-Pignoli Salad with Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings.

2 Anjou pears (ripe but still firm)
6 oz. mixed baby greens
¼ cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
¼ cup Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Slice the pears about ¼ inch thick. You want them somewhat thin, but not so thin that they fall apart in the salad. Place them in a large bowl. Add the greens and pignoli and toss gently. Add the dressing and again toss gently. Transfer the salad to a serving platter and arrange neatly. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

Serve immediately.


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Apple Cocktail

Listen, it’s just been too damn hot to cook. The dog days of summer are upon us. Temperatures are making the mercury in (old school) thermometers cry, and you could fry your entire breakfast on the streets. Understandably, you don’t want to be in the kitchen for any longer than it takes to pour a glass of lemonade.

But most people don’t seem to have a problem spending a few minutes pressing a button on a blender for a nice, frothy, alcoholic beverage With the promise of a delicious fruit-based libation, spending that time at the kitchen counter will be worth it, especially with a recipe as easy as this one.

For this recipe, I used a premade fruit puree by Perfect Puree, but there are other brands of purees out there. There are many different flavors and they’re nice to have around for summertime beverages, as well as desserts and savory dishes. You can keep them in your refrigerator for short-term use, or the freezer for long-term storage. However, if you can’t get your hands on these purees, you can make your own. For this recipe, simply peel and seed a green apple.

Apple Cocktail

Makes 2 cocktails.

2 oz. green apple puree
4 oz. apple rum
ice
Garnish: Sliced apples (optional)

Combing the puree and rum in a blender. Add a few ice cubes and puree. Pour into 2 martini glasses. Garnish the edge of the glasses with apple slices.

Enjoy!


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Watermelon Lovely

It would seem I’m on a watermelon kick (last time, I did a recipe for watermelon pickles). But that’s what happens when you buy a big watermelon and are the only one eating it. You find different ways to use it.

This week, I offer you a refreshing drink with a kick to it. I call it Watermelon Lovely because it truly is lovely to look at. It’s very easy to throw together, and it makes the perfect summer libation.

Enjoy!

Watermelon Lovely

3 cups chopped, seeded watermelon, preferably cold
2 tablespoons dark or light rum (more if you want it stronger)
2 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno (more if you want it sweeter)

Garnishes*Puree the watermelon. You should get approximately 2 cups.

Pour the liquid into a pitcher or something large enough to mix other ingredients into it. If it’s not already cold, add ice cubes, chill it, and then strain it.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into 2 glasses and serve.

*If you like, you can decorate the rim of the glasses with colored sugar, crystallized herbs (that’s basil in the picture), or chunks of fruit.


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Watermelon Pickles

Watermelon Pickles are a specialty of the U.S. South. It’s a very utilitarian recipe, as it makes use of all those watermelon rinds that add up all summer long.

Eating watermelon rinds ay sound strange, but like any other pickled vegetables, they have a delicious sweet-sour flavor that makes a great accompaniment to any picnic or barbecue. They also make great party snacks.

Enjoy!

Watermelon Pickles

2 lbs. watermelon rind
¼ cup kosher salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon peppercorns
½ lemon, thinly sliced

Cut away any pink flesh from the watermelon rinds. Cut the rinds into cubes or strips and place them in a large bowl. \Add the salt and enough water to cover them. Cover the bowl and let the rinds soak in the refrigerator overnight.Drain and rinse the rinds. Place them in a large saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to low and simmer until they’re just tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 20 minutes. Drain and put them back in the pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, and peppercorns with 1 cup water (or more, if necessary, to cover the rinds). Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Simmer 5 minutes longer. Pour this over the watermelon rinds, add the lemon slices, and continue simmering over medium-low heat until the fleshy parts of the rinds are translucent, about 20-25 minutes.

Transfer the pickles to jars with tight-fitting lids. Cover with the cooking liquid. Pickles should be submerged; if necessary, add more liquid of one part water, one part vinegar. (Or, you can process them in a hot water bath.)

Pickles will keep in the refrigerator up to 2 week.


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Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

What is it about chocolate-covered strawberries that makes them the perfect St. Valentine’s Day delicacy?

Chocolate is the perfect treat for any special occasion, because it, itself, is special. But it’s particularly popular for Valentine’s Day because, as you may know, it’s an aphrodisiac.

You can cover many things in chocolate but why strawberries? Well, just look at them. They’re red (which represents love and passion), they’re sweet, and they’re luscious-looking.

And, finally, the combination is so incredibly delicious and decadent.

And they’re not as fattening as you might think. If you use dark chocolate, it’s only 57 calories for half an ounce of chocolate and one large strawberry (not including toppings).

Best of all, they’re not as difficult to make as they might seem. In fact, apart from any toppings you put on them, the recipe requires only two ingredients…wait for it…can you guess? Strawberries and chocolate!

Make some for your sweetie, or anyone you care about. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

12 large strawberries
4 oz. good-quality dark chocolate
Colored sugar, chopped nuts, or decorating items (crushed candy, jimmies, sprinkles, crushed white chocolate, etc.), optional

Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and set aside. (I used a cooling rack as well, but it isn’t necessary.)

Wash the strawberries (preferably using a vegetable wash), and set them on a towel. Pat them gently to absorb excess water, then let them sit to fully dry. Do not remove the husks.

Place the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler (or in a non-aluminum bowl set over a pot). Bring an inch or 2 of water to a boil in the bottom pot, then lower the heat to a simmer. Place the chocolate over the simmering water and let it melt. Stir it gently once in a while. When the chocolate has all melted, give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat.

Using the husks to help you, dip a strawberry into the chocolate and rotate it to cover it all. Let the excess chocolate drip off back into the pot. Rest the strawberry on the wax or parchment paper. Coat a few more strawberries and decorate them (before the chocolate hardens). Continue coating and decorating the rest of the strawberries.

Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Macerated Mulberries

Berries are beautiful things. They are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, most are low calorie, and all are pretty to look at. How many desserts have been made works of art just by the addition of berries?

Macerating berries takes them a step further. Macerating berries involves simply soaking them in liquid. You can start with fresh or dried berries, or any fruit. This techniques softens the fruit (and rehydrates dried fruit) and draws out their sugars, resulting in a syrup-like consistency, perfect for topping cake or ice cream. Sometimes people add sugar to sweeten them even more. You can use almost any liquid to macerate fruit, such as juice or wine. I chose rum for a nice boozy flavor.

For this recipe, I used mulberries. Mulberries can be found in various parts of the world, including Asia and the United States. They come in white, black, and red, and they are similar in appearance to blackberries, except they’re longer and narrower. Aside from being a good source of magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber, as well as antioxidants, they’ve been known to help improve circulation, lower blood pressure, improve eyesight, boost immunity, improve digestion, and reduce blemishes and age spots. I’ve also read that mulberries are one of the few fruits that contain protein.

I purchased my mulberries in dehydrated form, so macerating was the perfect way to use them. They’re sweet-tart in flavor and complement any dessert, and can be used in place of preserves.

If you can’t find mulberries, try macerating any fruit you like. Enjoy.

Macerated Mulberries

1 cup dried mulberries
2 teaspoons maple sugar
2 cups vodka or dark rum
1 cinnamon stick

Place the mulberries in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the sugar, vodka or rum, and cinnamon stick. Seal the jar and shake well.

Let it sit at least a few hours.Store in the refrigerator or room temperature up to two weeks. (Because of the alcohol, the fruit will stay well at room temperature.)