Strawberry and Prosecco Tiramisu

Strawberry Prosecco Tiramisu by DinnerInVenice

Strawberry Prosecco Tiramisu by DinnerInVenice

Last year, I wrote a guest post on Strawberry Prosecco Tiramisu for my friends Lois and Roberta

click here for the recipe…

 

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues by DinnerinVenice

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues by DinnerinVenice

In some areas of Central Italy, there is still a custom of  going from house to house adorned with garlands on the first night of May, playing and singing merry tunes to welcome the warm season.

I’m bringing this up – kind of randomly – because this morning I woke up with a verse stuck in my head: it’s from an Italian children’s poem about the months of the year that I learned in kindergarten, and the part about May goes “Maggio di canti risuona” (May resonates with songs).

While I’m not the type to go around the neighborhood with a lute serenading strangers (my fellow Manhattanites would call the police), I am all for celebrating this beautiful month, which I associate with a variety of pleasant concepts.

At last, the sun is out, the bees are buzzing, the birds are chirping, and the flowers in Central Park are blooming…. but not only that: at the risk of sounding very self-involved, I’m excited because my birthday and Mother’s day also come this month. I’m not sure about resonating with songs – but it sure will smell like cakes!

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues by DinnerinVenice

Now, talking about birthdays, I am turning 44 and becoming a little nostalgic. I became twenty in the Eighties, and while here in the US the cake that best represents that era of excess is probably cheesecake -in some 7-layer variation -, in Italy we had Meringata, a sinfully rich dessert made of layers of meringue combined with tons of whipped cream – the Pavlova’s Italian cousin.

Meringata was the dessert of choice to share with your date in any Northern Italian piano bar or panini bar.  The main downside of those types of cakes (besides the fact that they can induce a diabetic coma)  is that they need to be assembled a short time prior to consumption, or the meringue will dissolve in the cream. That’s why I picked this alternative, which tastes less sugary and can be made the day before and transported easily.

Cakes made of layers of pan di Spagna (genoise) or pastafrolla (pastry dough) alternating with whipped cream and strawberries or other berries are also served in many areas of Italy for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which coincidentally falls in May.

In case you really need one more excuse to indulge.

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues by DinnerinVenice

Raspberry Cake with Whipped Cream and Pink Meringues

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 hour

serves 8-10

serves please stop at one slice!

Fat & Calories: Ignorance is Bliss

Ingredients

  • Ingredients:
  • (Cake)
  • 3/4 cup cake flour (or mix AP flour and potato starch)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup super-fine or granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted?
  • (Syrup and finish)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 or 4 tsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 lb raspberries (or you can use strawberries),
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 organic lemon
  • a dozen meringues, possibly pink

Directions

You can buy the pink meringues or make them with this recipe: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/rachel-allen/pink-meringues-with-raspberry-cream.html

Preheat an oven to 360°F. Line the bottom of a 9- inch springform pan with parchment.

Whisk the eggs and sugar just until combined in the bowl of your stand mixer. Place the bowl over (not touching) a pot of simmering water, and whisk gently for about 3 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whisk at high speed until pale, frothy and fluffy (7-8 minutes).

Sift the flour over the mixture in 2 separate additions (incorporate the first half with a spatula, before adding the second half). Add the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden (do the toothpick test). Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before inverting it. Cut the cake into 2 equal layers before removing the parchment. Put the first layer (cut side up) on a platter.

To make the syrup, boil the water with the granulated sugar and the lemon zest for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

Whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until it forms soft peaks. Place half of the raspberries or cut strawberries in a bowl, and combine them with about one-fourth of the raspberries. Brush the first cake layerwith syrup and spread with the cream/berry mix.. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut side down, and peel off the parchment. Brush the top with more syrup, spread the top and sides with the remaining whipped cream.

Arrange the remaining berries and meringues on top and around the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/02/raspberry-cake-with-whipped-cream-and-pink-meringues-2/

Naughty Potato Chocolate Budino

Potato Chocolate Budino

Potato Chocolate Budino

I can’t claim to have ever been the “meat and potato” type in the classic sense – someone who prefers them to vegetables, or even fools herself into thinking they are one. No, thank you: as a side, I’d much rather have something very green, such as artichokes, or kale .

However, I’m obsessed with potatoes as the main ingredient in more elaborate dishes: from gnocchi to pancakes, from croquettes to breads, and especially desserts.

In our carb-phobic day and age, potatoes have been accused of being too starchy, but that’s exactly what makes them so perfect for breads and cakes: yeast thrives on these starches, and the end result is a baked good with a light, fluffy, and yet moist texture. Not that I was always so particular about texture – I have to confess that my fondest memory of a potato “dessert” is actually a concoction much less refined than what I enjoy now. I was probably in 6th grade and it was a lazy winter afternoon, doing homework at my friend Rachele’s house, when her older brother, probably to fight boredom, brought a bowl of French fries and dared us to dip them in Nutella. After a few shrieks of disgust, we accepted the challenge, and discovered that the pairing was quite addictive.

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My friends’ mom called us “porcelli” (pigs) for eating such a non-standard snack: if only I could send her a a photo of the ridiculously overpriced package of chocolate-covered potato chips now being sold at Crumbs bakery in New York! We were not crazy, but rather, adventurous! It turns out that there are a number of old recipes, in Italy and elsewhere, for potato desserts: from fluffy doughnuts to moist cakes, and creamy puddings. Let’s call them extra-comfort food! Last, but not least, they are gluten-free, and Passover-friendly. Which is why my contribution to this month’s Passover-themed challenge for the Kosher Connection is a decadent, almost naughty, fluffy and yet creamy Budino, an Italian custardy pudding/cake, with all the richness of potatoes, almonds, chocolate, and if you like even whipped cream. I guarantee you won’t miss the flour!

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Naughty Potato Chocolate Budino

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

1 hour, 10 minutes

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb russet or idaho potatoes
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter (or coconut butter for margarine or a non-dairy version)
  • ¼ cup potato starch
  • 2 heaped tbsp ground almonds
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated (or chocolate chips)
  • 1 vanilla bean or little vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp rum or almond or chocolate liqueur
  • few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to beat the egg whites
  • powdered sugar to decorate
  • whipped cream or/and chocolate syrup to decorate

Directions

Peel the potatoes, cut them into pieces them and place them in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, cook for only one minute at a time, check, stir, and proceed in this way until most of it is melted. Add the melted butter (or coconut butter, or margarine), the liqueur, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the potato starch, the egg yolks, and the ground almonds. Mash the potatoes and combine them with the mixture.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with a few drops of lemon juice or white vinegar until they form peaks, and incorporate them to the batter with a spatula, using upward motions.

Grease a mold (the one I used was about 7 1/2" w by 3" h). If possible, also line the bottom with parchment. Pour the batter into the prepared mold, and cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated 350 F oven. Allow to cool, unmold, and decorate with powdered sugar and either whipped cream or chocolate syrup (or both).

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/17/naughty-potato-chocolate-budino/



Surprise Holiday Chest

Surprise Holiday Chest

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From Chanukkah to Christmas and of course birthdays, most of you will have to admit that part of the fun about giving and receiving presents lies in the packaging and wrap, which add an element of mystery and surprise to any gift. They conceal the object’s shape and any writings on the box, and increase our excitement and anticipation. For the aesthetes among us, the packaging can outshine the gift (or it can be used to hide a more metaphysical content – for more on this, you can read one of my favorite children’s books, “The Gift of Nothing”).

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This rule of course applies to food, which is why chocolates seem to taste so much better when they come in a gorgeous box. The Japanese take this to the next level, cutting their vegetables into beautiful shapes and serving their kids’ school meals in lacquered bento boxes.  This probably sounds like too much work and most of us would not be willing to do it everyday, but when it comes to holiday desserts, I know that we are all willing to go the extra mile.

So here is a special edible gift that your family will love! The mascarpone mousse, which will remind you of Tiramisu, is hidden in a treasure chest made of “Croccante” (Italian almond brittle). This type of candy, popular throughout Italy around the holidays and at fun fairs, is a mixture of caramelized sugar and almonds, easy to make, and easy to eat: you can break it into pieces and serve it with coffee, give it to kids in lieu of candy, or grind it up and sprinkle it over gelato. The only problem is that once you taste it, it will be hard to stop.

Happy Holidays!

SURPRISE HOLIDAY CHEST (Scrigno di Croccante)

(For the chest)

  • 2 and 1/3 cups blanched almonds
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ cup sugar

(for the filling)

  • 2/3 pounds Mascarpone
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or coarsely grated.
  • ½ cup sugar

Grind the almonds very coarsely in your food processor, or chop them with a knife. In a saucepan, melt the sugar on medium heat with the filtered juice of half the lemon. Yum, caramel!

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Add the almonds and keep cooking until the sugar has completely melted and has turned dark golden brown. Double-Yuml!!!

Cut a circle from parchment, about 9 ½” in diameter. Place it on top of a larger sheet of paper or foil. Now pour the caramel on top of the circle and spread it all over, it should be between 1/3” and ½” thick.

Carefully lift the circle and trasfer it onto a round 8 “ baking pan, lifting the sides and pressing them against the sides of the pan with a tablespoon dipped in lemon juice, until the caramel has molded to the shape of the pan. On a smaller disc of parchment, make a second disc of caramel (slightly less than 8″ in diameter), which will become the “lid’.

Whip the cream with an electric whisk, and combine it with the sugar, mascarpone, and amost ¾ of the chocolate. Pour into the caramel container, and top with the lid. Decorate with the rest of the chocolate, melted in a bain-marie, poured on top of parchment and cut into stars – or simply grated.  Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

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Espresso-spiked Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

CREMA AGLI AMARETTI E CIOCCOLATO

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One of the immediate consequences of receiving a Syntia machine as a thank-you token after my lecture for Lavazza Coffee and Philips Saeco  at Eataly last September, was that I started putting espresso into everything.

Literally: I experimented with stews, fish, fennel, fresh pasta, smoked cheese… with a couple of exceptions, everything seemed to taste more interesting. It’s probably because our sense of smell is responsible for about 4/5 of what we taste – that’s why we lose our appetite when we have a cold and our nose is blocked! With its intense and unique aroma, high-quality coffee is an extraordinary ingredient and can add sophistication to a variety of dishes, savory or sweet.  However, I have to admit that it was its performance in desserts to really capture my culinary imagination. You see, I wasn’t really born with a sweet tooth and I can truly appreciate sugar only when I mix it with something different, whether it’s sour (lemon gelato), salty (chocolate pretzels!), or bitter (any espresso-spiked desserts!).

Tiramisu, one of the most recent and successful “classics” of Italian cuisine, is my favorite example of the perfect marriage of sweet and creamy (mascarpone, cream and sugar) with deep and bitter (espresso and unsweetened cocoa powder). A match made in heaven! Unfortunately, it’s a bit rich, and after seeing me down it for breakfast for three days in a row, my husband politely pointed out that I was showing clear signs of addiction. Switching to a ricotta-based coffee treat seemed like a better option if I wanted to indulge myself so often. Whole milk ricotta is a cheese by-product, not a cheese, and naturally low in fat and high in protein, while still very rich and creamy in texture (cannoli, anyone?).

Let me know what you think of this espresso-spiked chocolate almond mousse. It’s light enough that you can enjoy it after a multiple-course meal without feeling too guilty!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs (I prefer pasteurized eggs)
  • ¼ lb whole milk ricotta, drained
  • 1 shot chocolate or almond liqueur (Godiva, or Disaronno)
  • 2 shots strong espresso
  • 5 tbsps crumbled amaretto cookies or other almond cookies
  • 5 tbsps sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • dark chocolate shavings and slivered almonds to decorate

Directions:

Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with the sugar until light and frothy. Add the ricotta  liqueur, coffee, cocoa and chocolate and combine well. Add the crumbled cookies.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and incorporate them into the ricotta using a spatula.

Pour the mix into individual bowls, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Decorate with chocolate shavings and slivered almonds before serving.

*RAW EGG WARNING and PASTEURIZING EGGS:
 some people are uncomfortable consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade AA eggs with intact shells. Still nervous? If using pasteurized eggs, it will be harder to beat the yolks frothy and especially to beat the whites stiff: for the yolks, you will just need to beat them longer with an electric mixer; as to the whites, you will need to add a touch of cream of  tartar (or lemon juice or white vinegar); about 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar or 3/4 teaspoon lemon for 4 whites. You will also need to use an electric mixer and beat for twice as long as you would with regular egg whites You can buy pre-pasteurized eggs in many stores (test are not the egg-beaters but actual whole eggs, that can be separated at home into whites and yolks); or you can pasteurize them following this method.

* Disclosure: I was not paid for my review of the Philips Saeco espresso machines, apart from being given one Syntia machine to try and review. All comments are my own, honest opinion after my experience with the machine.

Thanksgiving Cornmeal Cake from the Veneto

Torta di Polenta (Corn Meal Cake)

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It was eight years ago, just a few months after moving to the City, that I experienced my first Manhattan Thanksgiving: ironically, I ended up celebrating the quintessential American holiday at an Italian friend’s home. Daniela had arrived in New York one year before me, and was so smitten with it that she scored higher on the Time Out Magazine test “Are You a Real NewYorker?” than all our American friends. It was her idea to throw an Italian-style Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating the various traditional foods of the holiday into Italian recipes. Given that she is a superb cook, carrying the extraordinary legacy of three different Jewish Italian culinary styles – the Piedmontese, the Venetian and the Ferrarese -  it’s no surprise that the meal was an absolute masterpiece. I had the impression that for the American guests, eating these Italian delicacies instead of the classic turkey with cranberry sauce also felt a little naughty! While I can’t replicate the special atmosphere of that night, after Daniela moved to Israel I adopted her tradition of remembering the Pilgrims with the regional dishes from my own country.

I’m used to cooking around symbolic foods for Passover and Rosh haShana: turkey and pumpkin, the most recognizable Thanksgiving ingredients, also appear on my Rosh HaShana table, and again on Sukkot. The connection with Sukkot runs even deeper, as both holidays are harvest festivals: some historians have gone so far as to trace the roots of Thanksgiving in Sukkot, based on encounters the Pilgrims supposedly had with Sephardic Jews in Holland before they left for the Americas.

But whether or not this story is true, Jews celebrate Thanksgiving Day with an intensity usually reserved to our most sacred holidays: it’s easy for us to empathize with the pilgrims, who had to flee religious discrimination and persecution and travel across an ocean to find freedom – and with their sweat and faith, fought against illness and scarcity, finally turning America’s wilderness into their “Promised Land”.

While the turkey and pumpkin are symbols of bounty, one food on the table is meant to remind us of the harsh winter before the first harvest, when the pilgrims barely had enough to eat. It’s the corn, as it is said that at one point there was so little food that each person was given only five kernels of corn per day. Corn bears a similar type of double-symbolism in Italian history: when it found its way to Italy from the Americas, it immediately spread through the North, and landowners started reaping huge profits by feeding their workers only maize polenta – creamy, delicious and filling, but so poor of vitamins and protein that it caused an epidemic of Pellagra, the same deficiency disease that spread in the American South during the great Depression, leading to deterioration and death. Somehow, native Americans had avoided it because they added wood ashes and lime to cornmeal, correcting its nutritional imbalance.

Cranberries can also be read as a symbol of suffering: of course we combine them with a lot of sugar to make them palatable, but their nature is extremely sour. This reminds me of the symbolism of sweet and sour dishes in Jewish Italian Cuisine, in which the sugar or honey represent the need to appreciate our present and future, while the vinegar or lemon keeps us rooted in our people’s past suffering.

While giving thanks for the plentiful new crop, and the many blessings that we enjoy each year, we also remember those who didn’t make it through that terrible first winter. 
Have a meaningful Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

  • 1 scant cup (150 gr) cornmeal maize (for polenta) or 2 cups cooked polenta (cooked dense, not liquidy)
  • 3 tbsps grappa or brandy
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup candied fruit (mix of orange and lemon or citron) (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 organic lemon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (about 85 gr)
  • 1 scant cup flour (about 100 gr)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder (10 gr)
  • 1/4 cup oil (mild olive oil , vegetable oil or coconut oil)
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare the polenta with one scant cup of maize according to instructions on the package, using only about 1 1/4 cup boiling water (traditional polenta tastes better than instant, and you can make it quickly using a pressure cooker… however, instant is OK! Beretta makes a nice product). The polenta has to be on the thick side. 
When cooked, pour it over a large cutting board or platter in a wide and low heap and allow it to cool (feel free to pop it into the fridge).
 Plump the cranberries or raisins in the grappa or brandy. Dice the candied fruit very small. Discard the film that has formed over the polenta. Cut the polenta into pieces and place it into a food processor. Process it with the eggs, salt, sugar, oil, sifted flour with baking powder; add the raisins in their liqueur, the candied fruit, pine nuts, and the lemon zest and mix well. If the batter is so thick that it’s hard to pour into the pan, you can add just a couple of spoonsfuls of water or non-dairy milk.
Grease a 9″ springform pan and dust it with corn meal. If you have parchment, you should line the bottom of the pan before greasing it: this type of batter is very sticky. Pour the mix into it and bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven for about 15 minutes until it forms a golden crust, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 30-45 minutes (the cake should bake for 45-60 minutes total). Allow to cool before turning out. Serve warm, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Baked Pears with Sorbet and Berries

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Baked Pears with Sorbet and Berries (Parve or Dairy) GF

My grandmother used to serve a lot of simple, not-too-sweet fruit desserts such as baked fruit and compotes. After the spread of commercial bakery products, many of us have forgotten about this option: it always seems easier to buy a box of cupcakes… however, when you start feeling like you’ve had way too much sugar, and you need a break, it’s time to go back to the good oldies! While you may choose them mostly because they are waistline-friendly (especially if you are switching from cupcakes), cooked fruit desserts have the added bonus of  vitamins and fiber, and many find them more appealing than raw fruit on cold fall and winter nights.

Buon appetito!

  • 4 ripe pears
  • 1 cup lemon sorbet
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, or other berries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • peel of one organic lemon
  • a teaspoon of unsalted butter, or nut oil for a non-dairy/parve version (almond, coconut)

Wash the pears and cut of a small slice from the bottom so they can stand straight.  Without peeling them, place them in a  parchment-lined pan. Sprinkle them with brown sugar, and a few flakes of butter (or brush with the almond or coconut oil).
Bake in a pre-heated 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until soft, but still firm.
Allow to cool off for a few minutes. When they are still warm, but not hot, slice off the top and core the inside. Fill the cavity with the lemon sorbet and the berries. Put the tops back on and decorate with lemon zest.

* if you don’t feel like anything frozen, you can replace the sorbet with a mix of ricotta, greek yogurt,  and honey.

The Spiders

I RAGNI (The Spiders)

I RAGNI (The Spiders)

I grew up in Italy being told not to take candy from strangers, and still find it a bit shocking when strange kids knock at my door on Halloween night! While the more religiously conservative are offended by Halloween’s pagan roots, the holiday seems to have become completely secularized and to focus on pumpkins, spooky costumes and tons of candy. Many people love it because it seems to address children’s natural fears (monsters, darkness, etc), and by presenting them in a social and funny context, it could help diffuse them. I’m not making this up, it’s called “virtual reality therapy”: basically, people who are afraid of spiders pay big bucks to a psychologist to be put in a room full of them… well, if it’s so effective, it might be worth a try, even for those of us who would rather do it at a different time of the year. It works with grown-ups too: here are the cutest little spiders, created by my friend Lucilla to address my own proverbial fear. 

Ingredients (makes 6 spiders): 

  • 1 chocolate cake (home-made or store-bought)
  • red M&Ms
  • licorice sticks
  • vanilla pudding (home-made or store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 pounds pumpkin, diced
  • 2/3 pound whole milk ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Bake the pumpkin, covered, in a 375 F oven for about 20 minutes or until soft, then mash it with a fork. Using your food processor or hand mixer, combine the ricotta with the pumpkin, honey and zest.  Halve the cake  horizontally with a long and sharp knife. With a round cookie cutter, cut about 12 discs from the cake. Spread the pumpkin/ricotta mix over the bottom discs, and top with the other discs.
Spread the vanilla pudding on a large serving platter. Melt the chocolate in your microwave then use it (with an icing syringe) to draw concentric circles on top of the pudding. Draw “rays” with a toothpick starting from the center of the circles, creating a web. Place the discs filled with pumpkin/ricotta cream on top of the web, make the eyes with red M&Ms or jellybeans, and legs with licorice sticks. YIKES! 

Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears (Sfogliata al Gianduja e Pere)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

The combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is wildly popular in Italy – I’m sure you have heard of Nutella!  The original version is Gianduja – a concoction made of chocolate and hazelnuts invented in Turin during the Napoleonic blockade, when the precious cocoa beans had become scarce and the famous Piedmontese chocolatiers had to find a way to make them go further-. It didn’t hurt, of course, that their hazelnuts (from the Langhe area of Piedmont) were said to be the best in the world, and that Turin was the birthplace of solid chocolate. As you can imagine, the result was much more interesting than other hard-times-inspired products (such as the French chicory “coffee”), and even after the end of the blockade the Torinese kept enjoying their new delicacy, and named it “gianduja” after a local marionette character.

Besides enjoying the tasty combo in the form of a spread or in confections (the delicious gianduiotti – the first-ever chocolates to be individually wrapped!), make sure you try my gianduja puff cake!

Ingredients

1 pound of puff pastry (home-made, or 1 package store-bought)
3 medium pears
5 ounces dark chocolate (I used 70 % Scharffen Berger) 
½ cup ground hazelnuts
6 chocolate-flavored tea biscuits, or small biscottis
2/3 cup (scant) sugar
pinch of salt
1 organic lemon
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter, or hazelnut or almond oil
2 tablespoons milk (or non-dairy almond or soy milk)
flour (to dust the counter)

Directions

Peel and core the pears, slice them thinly and combine them with the lemon juice, the sugar, and the grated lemon zest. Grate the chocolate and coarsely chop the cookies. If using butter, melt it in a pan or in your microwave.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle and brush the top with the melted butter or oil; top with the crumbled cookies, the drained pears, and the grated chocolate. Roll up the pastry as if making a strudel, sealing the edges and closing the ends.
Brush the top with the yolk (mixed with a couple of tablespoons of milk or parve almond or soy milk) and bake in a pre-heated 250 F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, on a cold winter night :-) .

Classic Tiramisu and my Espresso Addiction

TIRAMISU

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Last month I was invited to give a lecture on the history coffee in Venice at New York City’s Italian Food Wonderland, Eataly (a place that everybody who calls him/herself a foodie needs to check out at least once!). I could hardly contain my excitement, because the event was co-sponsored by Lavazza Coffee and Philips Saeco and I was dying to see their new bean-to-cup coffee machines in action!

Before I start telling you all about it, I actually have a confession to make, a deep dark secret to share: I’m a late bloomer. Until my late thirties I was one of those rare Italians who prefer tea – a calm, ritualistic beverage that I had romanticized since my days as an exchange student in England…

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Enter the two adorable pests, their 2 am “bad dreams” and their 6 am awakenings on weekends: in my forties, I finally turned to coffee as my legal drug of choice, as a matter of survival.

Which brings me back to the excitement about the Syntia, which reached new heights when the Philips guys gave me one to take home: for those of us who grew up on the Jetsons, like me, it’s a dream come true: you throw a handful of coffee beans into the top, press a button, and voila’ – the perfect cup of espresso or cappuccino! The machine does everything- it grinds the beans, measures the right amount of grounds, tamps them, extracts the flavor at a professional pressure, and froths the milk if required. Now, if it could also be programmed to brush the kids’ teeth…. seriously, you get the quality of a barista’s espresso machine and the convenience of a capsule machine, rolled into one.

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Once you get used to making perfect coffee, it will be hard to stop, and soon you won’t be satisfied with your 7 am double shot: you’ll want to pour it over gelato, stir it into cocktails, add it as a secret ingredient to your winter stew … not to mention that used coffee grounds are great as a deodorizer, insect repellent, plant food, and even (I kid you not!) cellulite reducer!

However, the first recipe you should master – whether you want to wow your family and friends, seduce a date or win over his parents – is Tiramisu! Who could resist alternating layers of sweet and creamy mascarpone and espresso-soaked ladyfingers?

CLASSIC TIRAMISU

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • at least 3 cups espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • 25 savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers )
  • 3 tablespoons Swiss bittersweet chocolate shavings
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale (about 2 minutes). Beat in the mascarpone until smooth.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a clean bowl with a clean electric mixer or whisk, until they form peaks. Add the remaining sugar in a slow stream and continue to beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks. In a third bowl, beat the cream until whipped. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in the whites.
Dip the ladyfinger in cooled coffee, one at a time, about 4 seconds on each side (if you soak them for too long they’ll break);  transfer them to an 8-inch glass tray or baking dish at least 2″ high. Arrange half of the dipped ladyfingers on the bottom of the pan, then  spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly over them. Make another layer of ladyfingers and top with mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle the top with the cocoa and the chocolate shavings. Chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

*RAW EGG WARNING and PASTEURIZING EGGS:
 some people are uncomfortable consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade AA eggs with intact shells. Still nervous? If using pasteurized eggs, it will be harder to beat the yolks frothy and especially to beat the whites stiff: for the yolks, you will just need to beat them longer with an electric mixer; as to the whites, you will need to add a touch of cream of  tartar (or lemon juice or white vinegar); about 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar or 3/4 teaspoon lemon for 4 whites. You will also need to use an electric mixer and beat for twice as long as you would with regular egg whites You can buy pre-pasteurized eggs in many stores (test are not the egg-beaters but actual whole eggs, that can be separated at home into whites and yolks); or you can pasteurize them following this method.

* Disclosure: I was not paid for my review of the Philips Saeco espresso machines, apart from being given one Syntia machine to try and review. All comments are my own, honest opinion after my experience with the machine.

Fluffy Honey and Orange Cake

Fluffy Honey Cake (Dairy or Parve)

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In Italy, “Miele” (honey), is classified as compulsively as cheeses and olive oil – by area of origins, type of flower, and depending on whether pieces of honeycomb were included… we have strawberry-tree (corbezzolo) and Eucalyptus honeys from Sardinia, chestnut honey from Piedmont, millefiori (thousand flowers) from Tuscany, orange blossom from Sicily, acacia from the Pre-Alps, and many more. Every fall, I take a trip to Zebar’s or Eataly where I stress out about which kind will grace my cake this Rosh HaShana!

Rather than blaming this on my all-Italian obsession with ingredients, you should try for yourselves! After all, when the Almighty promised our forefathers that they would be freed from Egyptian bondage, the Promised Land was described as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus. 3: 17, etc.) – and not with “milk and sugar”!

In this cake, the orange balances out any excessive sweetness of the honey.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium/large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup oil (canola oil or 1/2 light olive 1/2 almond oil)
  • about 300 gr (3/4 a medium/large jar) liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1 1/2 cup 00 or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur (like triple sec) or brandy
  • zest of one organic orange
  • 1/4 cup of the orange juice
  • 1 package (16 g) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

Using a hand mixer, beat the yolks with the honey until frothy and thick (about 3 minutes). Very slowly add the oil, and beat until creamy. Add the honey, the potato starch, orange zest and the liqueur. Now add the flour (mixed with the baking powder) a bit at a time, alternating it with the orange juice.

In a separate, clean and degreased bowl, or in your stand mixer, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Now combine the egg whites with the batter, with the help of a spatula, using upward movements.

Pour into a 9.5″ or 10″ Savarin or bundt pan (well greased and dusted with flour). Since honey cakes tend to darken more than sugar-based ones, I prefer these cake pans, with a hole, because the inside will cook faster, before the outside has time to darken. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 30-35 minutes, or until done when tested with a toothpick. To keep the color lighter, you can cover with aluminium foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.


Gelato in a Phyllo Nest

GELATO ALLA VANIGLIA CON MACEDONIA DI FRUTTI DI BOSCO

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One of the things that don’t cease to surprise me, after 18 years in the US, is how strongly, deeply, philosophically anti-air conditioning my fellow Italians can be. It’s not only about being more ecologically aware than our American counterparts – we really hold on to our grandmas’ belief that artificial cooling can cause a plethora of maladies, from headaches to stomach congestion (whatever that is), to pneumonia. Of course, when it’s 100+ degrees outside, we have our own cooling methods.

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1)    (also called: Italian air conditioning) leave your windows open from about 10 pm to 7 am, to allow the cool breeze to come in. Keep them shut during the day. Grab a fan.

2)    Limit “real food” to dinner time; the rest of the day, eat mostly fruit and vegetables and indulge often in frozen desserts.

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To those of you who are cringing at the idea of daily ice cream, I’d like to point out that Italian gelato is made with milk instead of cream. Not only that, artisanal gelato includes real eggs, real fruit: it’s definitely more “real’ than a box of mac & cheese! On the other hand, in this land of advertising and additives, it might sound about as interesting as broccoli to the younger ones. Try to explain to your 4 and 5 year olds that home-made is better than the  treats from the local ice cream cart with its hypnotizing chime.

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Even when I can convince mine to forgo the colorant-laden packaged Dora stuff, they still demand at least cones. This has been a problem for me when trying to serve them my home-made gelato (recipe here)…. I was not thrilled about storing wholesale quantities of cones in my Manhattan apartment, and the idea of what could happen to our Persian rugs gave me the shivers.

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My “Eureka” moment came when I saw something that my talented and sophisticated friend Lucilla served at a dinner party…. gelato in edible cups! It made me realize that, for my two demanding little customers Gabo and Bianca, it was all about being able to polish off every possible trace of their dessert. Lucilla was kind enough to share her secret, and here it is. Enjoy your Summer!

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RECIPE INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb phyllo dough (home-made or store-bought)
  • 1/2 lb vanilla gelato (home-made or store-bought)
  • 1/2 lb bittersweet or dark chocolate (grated, or use chips)
  • 1 basket berries
  • milk and butter

DIRECTIONS

Cut the phyllo into 16 squares. Place 4 of them into 4 muffin pans lined with parchment, and brush the top with melted butter. Top each square with another square (without making the corners overlap), and repeat with 4 phylo squares for each muffin pan, brushing with butter in between. Bake in a pre-heated 360 F oven for about 10 minutes or until slightly golden. While the phyllo nests are baking, melt the chocolate in a saucepan on low heat with a few tablespoons of milk (enough to make a smooth but thick sauce). Allow the nests to cool off before unfolding them. Before serving, place a large scoop of vanilla gelato in each nest, and decorate with warm chocolate sauce and red berries. Enjoy!



Lemon and Lavander Tart

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Lemon Lavander Tart by DinnerInVenice

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town” (Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses).

One of my first olfactory memories features a lemon lavender crostata, baked by my grandmother on a summer afternoon about four decades ago.

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When we think of lavender fields, most of us conjure up images of Provence: maybe because they were often depicted by French impressionists. However, this plant (a member of the same family of savory herbs which also includes sage, thyme, and oregano) is cultivated all over the world, from England to Brazil, from Russia to Japan and new Zealand – and of course, Italy.

My grandmother lived in Pistoia, a town about 30 minutes North-West of Florence and just over one hour drive from the Chianti region, with its stunning landscapes of rolling hills lined with cypress trees, vineyards alternating with olive groves and (surprise!) lavender fields, in a patchwork of incomparable natural beauty. That’s exactly where my parents and I picked our flowers, and finally (after a generous tip to the farmer) we were allowed to leave with a large bundle.

Unfortunately, I also came back with a giant bee sting that was promptly treated by the local pediatrician, Dottor Federico: lush lavender shrubs are in fact always humming with fuzzy bees, and the product of this romantic relationship is the most elegant of all honeys.

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My grandmother was never a remarkable  cook or baker, but somehow this particular tart, made using her next-door neighbor’s recipe, and almonds and lemons from her own orchard, came out so delectable that it was physically gone in five minutes – and that its exquisite memory lingered on for more than forty years. More than a memory, I should call it my summer obsession: every time I have been able to get my hands on dried lavender, I have made something sweet with this combo – from cookies to gelato, from trifle to frozen lemonade.

This year, after purchasing a bundle of over-priced flowers at L’Occitane, it’s lavender crostata time again!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 disc puff pastry or short pastry, home made or purchased
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (heaped) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (heaped) potato starch
  • 2 1/4 cups 2 % milk
  • juice of 2 small lemons, or 1 large lemon
  • zest of 1 organic lemon
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender

Grease a springform pan (about 9″ to 9 1/2″) and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees if using puff pastry, 360 if using short pastry.

Roll out pastry and transfer pastry to the prepared springform pan, trimming edges using a paring knife

Prepare the custard: beat the egg yolks with the sugar until foamy. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Dissolve the potato starch into the warm milk, adding little milk at a time. Once combined, add it to the egg mix. Cook in a Bain Marie over low heat, whisking frequently, until the custard thickens. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms/petals to the custard.
Pour the custard into the crust, and sprinkle a little more lavender on top. Bake at  400 (for puff) or 360 (for pastry dough) for 30 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden. You can also use mini-pans and make individual size tartelettes.

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com

Growing up in Venice, I was always fascinated with glass mosaic – an ancient art that can create, through the careful rhythm of colored enamels and gold leaf, a magical world where time seems to stand still.

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com 1279

Why not experiment with summer fruit? Your kids will love this project!

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com 1287

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Ingredients

  • watermelon
  • cantaloupe
  • white melon
  • mango or pineapple
  • kiwi
  • 3 small containers or 1 large container plain yogurt
  • brown sugar and honey to taste
  • mint, lemongrass or lavender, lemon and lime juice
  • 1/2 container blueberries
  • cocoa and cinnamon to taste

Directions

Dice the different types of fruit into pieces, all the same size. If using white fruit, drizzle with lemon to prevent it from darkening.

Make layers of fruit cubes on a serving platter, alternating the different colors, and even creating patterns if you feel particularly artistic.

Decorate with fresh mint.

Serve with at least 3 different yogurt sauces made by blending yogurt with any of the following:

1) blueberries and sugar; 2) honey and fresh mint; 3) lemon or lime, brown sugar and lemongrass or lavender; 4) cocoa powder, cinnamon and sugar....

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/06/24/edible-mosaic-with-yogurt-sauces/

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs (Dairy)

Mount Sinai Cake with Threaded Eggs by DinnerInVenice

For years, I had been intrigued by this curious cake from Livorno (Leghorn), a dessert that features sweet egg threads on top – a sign that it was introduced by the egg-loving Portuguese Jews and marranos who were invited to settle in the city by the Grand-Duke of Tuscany in the sixteenth century. With the help of the Jewish merchants, Leghorn became one of the most important port cities in Europe (but also a center of the printing press), and became known as “the city with no ghetto”.

I was already familiar with the local cuisine, and decided to try my hand at this tart, which looked like no other. Unfortunately, the yolk threads proved to be a huge challenge: I didn’t seem to be able to control the flow through the colander (the tool of choice in all the books that listed the recipe).  My Livornese friends couldn’t help either: apparently they had always encountered the same problem and ended up with a sticky blob or with burns… they said that they used to buy the cake for Shavuot and for Purim from a well-known patisserie, but that when the owner died his tricks were buried with him. I had to wait until the blogging and YouTube era to figure this all out, with the help of some non-Jewish foodies from Portugal, where threaded eggs are often featured on Christmas recipes… in particular, thank you chef Fernando Canales for  teaching me that in the 21st century it would be silly to use a colander when most of us have easy access to a pastry syringe (or at least a large syringe to dispense pediatric drops)!

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • Cake base:
  • 1 1/3 cup finely ground almonds (200 gr)
  • ½ cup sugar (100 gr)
  • pinch of salt
  • grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 or 4 tbsps candied etrog or lemon peel, finely chopped (optional)
  • Egg Threads:
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsps water (250 ml)
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
  • 1 ½ tbsps orange flower water, if liked (or 1 more tbsp orange juice)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 320 F (yes, it’s very low, but if the temperature is higher the “macaroon” will be too crunchy to cut).

Place the sugar and water for the base in a heavy saucepan and simmer until sticky (I have also skipped this step and used plain sugar instead of making the syrup, with an acceptable result). Add the almonds and zest, stirring with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.

Allow to cool, and when it’s just lukewarm add the egg.

Line the bottom of a 9 to 9” baking pan with wet parchment (squeeze it well) and grease the sides. Pour in the cake mixture and press it down gently with your wet fingertips.

Bake for about 30 minutes and set aside.

For the egg threads, boil the sugar, water and juice in a frying pan (about 10” wide and with tall-ish sides so the syrup doesn’t splatter all over your stovetop), and simmer until the syrup is thick enough to stick to a spoon (coating it).

Slightly beat the yolks in a small bowl and then fill your pastry syringe with as much beaten egg as it can hold.

Now press the yolk out of the syringe and into the simmering syrup, starting at the center and moving the syringe in an outward circular motion so that the egg makes a long spiral thread into the syrup.

When you are done, press the thread down into the syrup with a wooden spoon or a spatula and let cook for a few seconds, until it holds together (but it should still be soft).

Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on a double layer of paper towel.

Repeat the same process with the rest of the yolks.

When all the yolks are cooked and drained, place them in a colander and rinse some of the syrup off with water.

Allow them to dry well.

Invert the almond base into a platter, top it with the candied peel and decorate it with the egg threads. It’s worth it!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/23/mount-sinai-with-threaded-eggs-dairy/

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart)

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart) (Dairy)

Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

The ancient Jewish community of Rome maintains many traditions that will never fade. One of its highlights is this double-crusted tart, stuffed with ricotta cheese and sour cherry jam.

If you visit Rome, try it at Boccione’s, the famous kosher bakery in the ghetto! Theirs is made with really fresh sheep milk ricotta, and it’s worth putting up with the long lines….

Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart) (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 300 gr (22oz) flour (about 2 ½ cups but it’s best to weigh)
  • 125 gr (4 ½ oz) sugar (a little more than ½ cup)
  • 125 gr (1 stick plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of 1 untreated lemon
  • 1 large egg + 1 yolk (large, not XL)
  • for the filling:
  • 1 pound whole sheep or cow milk ricotta
  • 100 grams (scant ½ cup) sugar, or more to taste
  • (optional: 1 egg and 1 tbsp rhum or anise liqueur)
  • 1 jar sour cherry jam such as Rigoni Asiago (or regular cherry jam mixed with little lemon juice)
  • OR 2 cups sour-cherries and ½ cup sugar

Directions

Place the sifted flour and salt into your food processor, add the cold butter cut into cubes, the sugar, salt, eggs, lemon zest, and pulse a few times until crumbly.

Remove from the food processor and work quickly with your hands (keep them cold by rubbing them on ice cubes) until smooth.

Wrap in plastic and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

If using fresh sour cherries, cook them (pitted) for 25 minutes on low heat with ½ cup of sugar and 4-5 tbsps water.

Combine the ricotta with the ½ cup sugar (and egg and liqueur if using: I don’t).

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease and dust a baking pan (I also like to line the bottom with parchment as an extra precaution).

Cut the dough into 2 pieces: one should be about 2/3 and the other 1/3 of the total volume.

Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured counter and place it on the bottom and sides of the prepared cake pan; brush the bottom with the cherry jam and follow with the ricotta filling.

Some people do the opposite and spread the ricotta on the bottom, followed by the cherry jam on top: in this case the ricotta becomes colored by the cherries while the pie is baking.

Roll out the remaining dough into a smaller disc and use it to top the pie, sealing the edges (you can also decorate with strips, but the ricotta stays moister if you “close” the pie.

I cut it into a large flower shape, which I felt was large enough for this purpose). Bake for about 45-55 minutes.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/21/crostata-di-visciole-sour-cherry-tart-dairy/

 

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water by DinnerInVenice

The milk and honey are a reference to the divine love described in the Song of Songs; the rose water is linked to the tradition of Shavuot as the Feast of Roses; finally, the rice symbolizes the marriage between God and His people.

Can you find a more symbolic dish than this lovely cake of clear Sephardic origins?

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb Italian rice such as Arborio, Vialone nano or Carnaroli
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 1 qt milk
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of Rose Water, OR Orange Blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (*** If you don’t like Rose Water, you can substitute the juice and zest of one orange)

Directions

Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a pot and bring it to a boil (enameled cast-iron or non-stick pots work best, if you use a steel pot the rice will tend to stick to the bottom and burn).

Add the rice, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently.

When the rice has absorbed all the milk, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.

Once the mixture has cooled off, add the eggs one at a time, the pine nuts, the butter (softened at room temperature and cut into small pieces), and the rose water (or orange blossom water, or orange juice and zest).

Mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have blended together.

Grease a cake pan with butter and dust it with flour, and pour the mixture into it (you can use a Bundt pan, or any cake pan with a nice shape. I like to use one that looks like a flower).

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 400 F oven.

Let it cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/15/rice-cake-with-pine-nuts-and-rose-water/

Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Berries

Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Mixed Berries (Parve, GF)

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If you like macaroons, this indulgent and festive tart will become your favorite way to welcome Passover. If you are celiac and need to follow a gluten-free diet, you have a great excuse to make it much more often! Remember that nuts are very sticky, and it’s always best to line your baking pan with parchment.

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Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Mixed Berries

Ingredients

  • CRUST
  • 1 heaped cup (6 oz) blanched pistachios or almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 large beaten egg white, or a little more as necessary
  • 1/4 tbsp amaretto liqueur or almond extract
  • matzah meal for dusting (GF matzah meal for a GF version)
  • FILLING
  • 8 oz high quality bittersweet chocolate, grated (or chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons almond or seed oil (or 1/2 stick margarine)
  • 2 small baskets of fresh mixed berries
  • a few tbsps of raspberry or blueberry preserve

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil or parchment (you can also use a disposable aluminum pan).

Grease the parchment and the sides of the pan with margarine or oil, and dust with matzah meal.

Grind the pistachios (or almonds), then add the sugar, almond extract and salt in a food processor. Add the egg and blend.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until the mix holds together (it will still be very crumbly), adding a spoonful or two more egg white if necessary.

Press the dough onto the bottom of the pan with your fingers or knuckles.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and press it down quickly again with a ball of paper towel or the back of a spoon (it will be too hot to touch), trying to make it slightly concave .

Put it back in the oven and bake for another 3-4 minutes Take out again, press down again, and allow it to cool down and harden.

Remove the parchment or aluminum lining, put the crust back into the pan.

Melt the chocolate chips in a bain-marie (or in your microwave) without letting it boil or burn, and add the oil or margarine; stir until smooth, pour the mixture on top of the crust, and refrigerate for at least 2 hrs. The crust and filling can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

A few hours before serving brush the chocolate top with a little preserve and arrange the fresh berries on top.

Leave out of the fridge for at least one hour before serving to make it easier to cut, and use a sharp knife.

*** Tip: this type of crust can be hard to cut, so don’t serve the cake in a delicate platter unless you pre-slice it!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/15/pistachio-amaretto-crostata-with-chocolate-and-mixed-berries/

Montini and Palline Purim Bon-Bons

Almond Paste Bon Bons (Parve)

Purim Almond Bon-bons

According to the detailed descriptions in many Italian Purim songs from the 16th and 17th centuries, Purim at the time was quite a production! In particular, the wealthier Jews hosted over-the-top banquets, which included up to 30 courses, alternating savory and sweet dishes. But the highlight was always the desserts! Among the prettiest Purim sweets, perfect for gifting, are these almond paste-based confections popular in several cities, including Venice and Trieste. Almond paste was introduced to Northern and Central Italy by the Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain, Portugal and Sicily, where they had a long tradition of making elaborate confections with it.

Purim Bon-bons

These scrumptious sweets are easy to make as they don’t require cooking, and can be served in mini paper cups or wrapped individually like candy, which makes them great gifts. On Purim we are required to give charity to the poor, and food gifts (משלוח מנות‎, pronounced Mishloach Manot”) to friends and relatives, consisting of two different types of food, and who wouldn’t like these? They are even gluten-free!

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Almond Paste Bon-Bons (Parve)

Ingredients

  • MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged egg whites, or more as needed (you could also just use fresh egg whites, which is what we do in Italy, where we like living dangerously…. But the packaged stuff is pasteurized, which makes it safer since we are not cooking it)
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1/2 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup candied orange or etrog peel
  • CHOCOLATE BON-BONS
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites (or more as needed)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 cup chocolate chips)
  • GIANDUJA BON_BONS
  • ½ pound blanched/peeled hazelnuts
  • ½ pound sugar
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (¾ cup chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites, or more as needed
  • 4 tablespoon sweet liqueur (hazelnut, cherry, or rum)

Directions

MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneadingthe paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Now melt the chocolate (you are supposed to do it in a bain-marie but I cheat and use the microwave).

Divide the marzipan into two portions: one should be slightly larger than the other – roll this larger portion into cylinders about 1/3” or max ½” in diameter.

Combine the slightly smaller portion to the melted chocolate, kneading until smooth. Use the chocolate portion to make more cylinders, of the same diameter as the white cylinders.

Attach the cylinders length-wise in couples, one white one dark, and cut into 1” long bicolor pieces.

Shape them into cones with a flattened top, arrange on a platter, and decorate with pieces of candied fruit on top.

*You can also make plain almond Montini without the chocolate, and decorate them with multicolored sprinkles.

CHOCOLATE BON-BONS

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave. Using your hands, frorm small balls (1” diameter) with the almond paste.

Dip the bon-bons in the melted chocolate using a fork. Arrange on a parchment-lined platter and allow to dry.

GIANDUJA BON_BONS

Grate the chocolate or grind it in a food processor with a metal blade.

Grind the hazelnuts. Add sugar, egg white and liqueur to the hazelnuts and chocolate. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Shape into small balls (1” diameter). Roll in the granulated sugar (or you could go with colorful sprinkles!).

Et voila!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/04/almond-paste-bon-bons-parve/

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)(Dairy or Parve)

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)

Read my article in The Forward about the history of Purim among Italian Jews (click here).

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Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)(Dairy or Parve)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons grappa, rum or marsala
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or rice milk or orange juice for a parve version)
  • ¼ cup butter (or 3 tablespoons very mild olive oil or seed oil for parve)
  • mild olive oil or seed oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar to decorate

Directions

Sift the flour with salt and form a well on your working surface.

Add the softened butter, the eggs, the sugar and the liqueur.

Knead well with your hands until smooth and elastic. If it’s not soft enough, add little milk or juice; if it’s too soft, add a little flour.

Allow to rest covered for 15 minutes.

Roll very thin with a rolling pin (you can also use a pasta machine to make sheets of dough).

With a sharp knife, cut into rectangles about 3”x5”, and pinch the two top corners together to give them the shape of a pointy animal ear.

You can also simply cut the dough into tall triangles with slightly curved sides, like a donkey’s ear, or make thinner stripes (about 1” x 5”) and twirl them slightly to shape into a more human-looking ear.

Heat abundant oil in a large pan with tall sides, and wait until when a small piece of bread dropped into the oil begins to sizzle.

Fry the “orecchie” in several batches, few at a time, until light gold, approximately 1-2 minutes.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on triple layers of paper towel.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve accompanied by a sparkling white wine.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/01/orecchie-di-amman-hammans-earsdairy-or-parve/

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been looted and desecrated by the soldiers of Syrian-Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BCE. Mattityahu, a Jewish priest, and his five sons, led a successful rebellion against Antiochus, which resulted in the rededication of the Temple by Mattityahu’s son, Yehudah the Maccabee, in 166 BCE. The Talmud reports that the menorah in the Temple was required to burn every night, but there was only enough oil for one night left: however, the menorah burned for eight days on that little oil, giving the Jews enough time to procure more. The oil used for lighting the menorah was pure, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, which may explain why Hanukkah resonates so deeply with Italian Jews, inspiring them to create a deluge of mouthwatering recipes :-)

While the miracle of the oil is described in the Talmud, the Book of Maccabees makes no mention of it, stating only that an eight day celebration was proclaimed upon re-dedication of the temple: therefore, a number of historians believe that the reason for the eight day festival was simply that the first Hanukkah was a belated celebration of the harvest holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Azeret, which the Jews had not been able to observe during the war.  Obviously, the two explanations are not mutually exclusive, and Hanukkah can very well celebrate the miracle of the oil while also absorbing the previous holiday.

In this spirit, here is a delicious fried treat that incorporates the oil, and the honey (a recurrent symbol that appears on our tables from Rosh haShana to Shemini Azeret): for holiness, and sweetness.  And Sambuca… just for fun!

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Sambuca (or Arak or other Anise liquor)
  • 4 cups pastry or 00 flour (but you can also use all-purpose)
  • 1 package baking powder (16 gr)
  • 1 cup honey
  • mild olive oil or peanut oil for frying

Directions

Beat 4 whole eggs and one yolk with the sugar; add the melted butter (warm), the liquor and a pinch of salt.

Combine the flour with the baking powder, and sift them over the egg mixture, stirring constantly until everything is combined.

Transfer the mixture onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

Form a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for one hour.

Roll it into a disc about 0.5 mm thick and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Pour plenty of oil in a wide, heavy pan with tall sides – the oil should be at least 3” high, and stop at least 2? from the top of the pan. The oil is hot enough when a piece of bread dropped into the pan is immediately surrounded by many little bubbles, but does not burn quickly.

Fry the shapes in small batches (if you put too much food into the pan at the same time, the temperature of the frying oil will drop, causing the fritters to absorb fat), turning them quickly so that they brown on both sides.

Remove them with a slotted spoon, and dry on a double layer of paper towel.

Melt the honey in a saucepan with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.

Arrange the sweets on dessert plates, drizzle them with the honey, and serve.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/08/hanukkah-treats-with-sambuca-and-honey-dairy/

 

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Jewish Italian food has been a tradition for over 2000 years – but it still continues to evolve, even in recent times. The Jewish exodus from Libya in the late 1960es brought about 5000 Libyan Jews to Rome, and their earthy dishes  are yet another extraordinary influence on our culinary kaleidoscope. I reached out to my friends at Labna, one of my favorite Italian food blogs, and Jasmine shared these yummy pancakes, a traditional recipe from the Libyan side of her family. Jasmine tells us that in her grandparents’ house the kitchen was usually her grandmother’s realm -she was always the one cooking, and her grandfather only walked in there to obtain coffee. But every year on Hanukkah, Jasmine’s grandfather would wake up early, brave the kitchen and prepare the Sfenz, the traditional water-flour pancakes, like they used to make in Tripoli: a few minutes of easy kneading, a couple of hours of rest, and a dive into the hot oil…. for a most irresistible breakfast. Enjoy Labna‘s special treat!

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pastry flour or 00 flour (you can use all-purpose, but the result will be heavier)
  • 1 cube fresh yeast, or 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1 cup water, or enough for a soft, elastic dough
  • enough oil for deep frying (peanut or canola)
  • confectioner’s sugar to decorate

Directions

Place the flour in a large bowl or your stand mixer.

In a second bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and add the mix to the flour.

Combine well with your hands, or process in the mixer into a soft, elastic, slightly sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm area for about one hour.

Now knead again quickly with your hands, and allow to rest for one more hour.

Place the bowl with the dough next to the stovetop, and fill a second bowl with warm water.

Heat abundant oil in a heavy pot with tall sides; when the oil is hot, wet your hands, take a small ball of dough and pull it with your hands into a small “pancake” shape. It’s OK if by doing so you create a few “holes” in the middle.

Wet your hands after making each sfenz, so that the dough won’t stick to your fingers.

Fry the sfenz in the oil, one at a time or in small batches, turning them once.

Remove them with a slotted spoon when they are golden, and drain them on a double layer of kitchen towel.

Serve them hot after decorating them with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/sfenz-libyan-hanukkah-fritters-parve/

Venetian Fritters

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 scarce cups 00, pastry or AP flour
  • 25 gr active yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup liquor, such as rhum or grappa
  • 1/2 cup sultana or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1 ½ tablespoons candied citron (or lemon)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • abundant oil for frying (a mild olive oil or peanut oil)
  • powder sugar to decorate

Directions

Soak the raisins in the liquor for for 30 minutes, and drain well.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water (never use cold water!); add 1/2 of the flour and allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm area.

Combine with the rest of the ingredients into a batter just slightly thicker than waffle batter.

Allow to rest for 3 hours.

Heat at least 3” of peanut or mild olive oil in a wide heavy pan with tall sides, and fry by dropping spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Do not drop too many spoonfuls at the same time, or they will stick to each other and also cool down the oil, with a greasy and soggy result.

Fry in batches until golden brown, draining on a double or triple layer of paper towel.

Dust with sugar and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/venetian-fritters-parve/

Holy Pumpkin Fritters

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

Pumpkin arrived in Italy after the discovery of the Americas, and Northern Italian Jews liked it so much that in Venice we called it “suca baruca” (holy pumpkin, from the Hebrew “baruch”). When pumpkin made its appearance, Venice in general -and Jewish Venice in particular – was a crossroad of peoples and cultures, in which countless examples of what we would now call “Fusion” cuisine came to life. These fritters, which include spices and candied fruit, are a great example! I also contributed this recipe for a guest post on my friends’ lovely Italian blog Labna, which you should check out (especially if you read Italian!)…. and stay tuned for Labna’s own awesome guest post here, coming tomorrow!!!!!

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cleaned and diced small
  • 2 eggs
  • grated zest of 2 oranges
  • ¾ cup of sugar and a pinch of salt
  • 1 and ½ cups flour
  • ½ package (8 gr) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, if liked
  • 1/3 cup Raisins or Sultanas
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup candied etrog or lemon (if you don’t like it, skip & increase raisins & pine nuts)
  • Olive oil or peanut oil for deep-frying, at least 3 cups or more
  • Confectioner’s sugar for decorating

Directions

Plump the raisins in a cup of warm water. Chop the candied etrog or lime or lemon.

Place the diced squash in a large platter and cover almost completely, leaving a small opening for the steam to come out, and microwave on high for 10 minutes or until very tender.

Beat the eggs in a food processor with the sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange zest; add the cooked squash and process until smooth.

Drain and dry the raisins, and add them to the mix.

Transfer to a large bowl and gradually add the flour (sifted with the baking powder), using an electric or manual whisk.

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil to frying temperature (you can test it by dropping a small piece of bread in the oil: if bubbles form around the bread, the temperature is right).

Take the batter with a tablespoon, filling it to about ½, and push the batter into the oil with your index finger or a second spoon.

Fry in small batches until golden all over, turning to cook evenly.

Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a platter lined with several layers of paper towels.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/05/holy-pumpkin-fritters/

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Contrary to popular belief, Italian Jews do not all descend from the Jews who arrived in Rome in the second century b.c.e., and from the Sephardim fleeing Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. There have also been Ashkenazi Jews living in Northern Italy since as early as the Middle Ages. In Venice, in particular, Ashkenazim (“I Tedeschi”, as they were called)  were the oldest Jewish community in the city. The name of the first Jewish quarter in Venice (and in the world), “ghetto”, possibly derives from the Germanic term “gitter” (iron grill).  Even Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), one of the most famous Italian rabbis in history, was a “Yekkishe Yid”!   (the name Luzzatto is the Italian translation of the German Jewish name Lausitz). A lot of recipes reflect this ancient Ashkenazi influence, and one of my favorite examples is the apple fritters that we make for Hanukkah.  One of the reasons I like them so much has nothing to do with history: since in Italy we also have the famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (“Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno”), I feel that these must be really good for me even though they are deep-fried, and I indulge in second and third helpings. You can sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like, or serve them with a raspberry sauce for a refined chromatic effect.

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 apples
  • 1 cup pastry flour, or all-purpose flour (heaped)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup moscato or sweet champagne
  • peanut or mild olive oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon for decorating

Directions

Place the flour in a bowl, add the egg and start whisking with a manual or electric whisk; slowly and gradually add the wine.

If the batter seems too thick, add a few more tablespoons of wine.

Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently incorporate them into the batter.

Peel the apples, core them without halving them, and slice them horizontally (the slices should be 1/4? to 1/3?max.)

Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Heat abundant oil in a deep-fryer or a large, heavy pan with tall sides. When the oil is ready (365 F, or when a small piece of bread dropped in the oil forms many small bubbles all around), dry the apple slices, dip them in the batter, and fry them until golden in small batches (max. 4 slices at a time, or the oil temperature will drop and they will absorb oil).

Dry them very well on a double or triple layer of paper towel, and sprinkle them with sugar (you can also add cinnamon).

Serve immediately!

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/04/apple-fritters-with-moscato-wine-parve/

Zaleti -Yellow Venetian Cookies

Zaleti- Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or Parve)

Zaleti- Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or Parve)

Zaleti -Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or parve)

Ingredients

  • Makes about 24 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 oz unsalted butter or margarine (cold), or 2/3 cup of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

Place the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor and combine together.

Add the butter or margarine and pulse.

Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and lemon zest, and process until fully combined.

Lastly, add the raisins.

The texture should be crumbly.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead it with your hands till smooth, then divide it into 4 pieces. Roll the pieces into cylinders (about 1” or 1 ½” diameter).

Flatten the cylinders slightly.

Cut diagonally at about 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) intervals.

Flatten the cookies about 1/3” thick, and make diamond shapes.

Arrange the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 15 minutes or until a light gold brown color.

Allow them to cool on a rack, then dust with confectioner’s sugar.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/27/zaleti-yellow-venetian-cookies-dairy-or-parve/

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Before the advent of industrial baking products, many of the treats that our grandmothers served during the week included fruit. Compotes and baked fruit are a delicious way to indulge our sweet tooth without overdoing the sugar and the calories, and actually adding nutrients to our diet. Baked fruit, in particular, is easy to make and very comforting in the frosty fall and winter days. 

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 4 apples, all more or less the same size
  • 1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
  • 10 ounces (about 1 and 1/4 cup) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

Cut off the tops from the apples and set them aside, sprinkling the inside with lemon juice.

Core the apples from the top down, using an apple corer or melon baller, taking care not to pierce the bottom (leave about 1/2? pulp on the bottom and sides).

Place the apples in a baking pan just large enough to hold them.

Dice the pulp you extracted from the apples (discarding the hard cores and seeds), and place it in a bowl with little lemon juice, the hazelnuts, the honey and the yogurt, combining well.

Sprinkle the inside of the cored apples with brown sugar, and stuff them with the yogurt/apple/hazelnut mix.

Cover them with the tops that you had set aside, and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes (more if you like very soft apples).

Serve warm.

For a more fragrant recipe, you can stick a couple of cloves into the peel of each apple before baking.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/31/baked-apple-with-hazelnuts-honey-and-yogurt-dairy/

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake)

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Today, October 24, is Food Day! Americans from all walks of life push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. One of the huge problems we are dealing with is that Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption, while the number of people without enough to eat continues to rise. A very important Jewish concept, especially relevant today, is Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or waste). Originally, Bal Tashchit refers to the biblical prohibition against the destruction of fruit trees during wartime (Deuteronomy 12:19), but the rabbis of the Talmud extended the concept to the prohibition of destroying and wasting anything needlessly.

Really! Nowadays we should apply this idea to all kinds of waste (do we really need to drive, when we can walk or take the bus?). And of course, let’s start with food. Don’t leave your bread in plastic bags: chances are, it will be covered in green mold before you are done with it. If you keep it in a paper bag or a bread box, on the other hand, it will just dry out and you’ll still be able to use it, soaked in broth, to make delicious meatballs (with leftover cooked chicken), or for this delicious cake!

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm brandy (or warm water)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (scant) cup sugar
  • 1 untreated lemon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large or 4 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin, drizzled with lemon juice to prevent oxidation
  • about 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed)
  • butter to grease the pan
  • Another version of the Bread Cake
  • Ingredients:
  • 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed)
  • milk or rice milk for soaking
  • 2 pounds apples or pears
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons rhum
  • 1 package baking powder (optional)

Directions

Serves 4

In a food processor (or with your hand mixer) process the eggs with the sugar till frothy, then slowly add the milk.

Add the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. .

Grease a spring-form pan and cover the bottom with sliced bread, then cover with some of the egg/sugar mix, followed by a layer of apple slices and raisins,

Continue layering all he ingredients, topping with apples and raisins; brush the top with little melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 F.

Other version of bread cake:

Break or cut the bread into small pieces and soak it in milk or soy milk until very soft.

Drain it and process it with your mixer till creamy.

Add the egg yolks, plumped raisins, rhum, sugar, and the apples (peeled, cored, and diced).

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and carefully incorporate them with a spatula (alternatively, you can avoid separating the eggs in the first place and add a package of baking powder to the mix when you add the sugar).

Pour into a greased spring-form pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/24/dolce-di-pane-e-mele-bread-and-apple-cake-dairy/

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

I’m going to let you in on an Italian secret: while gelato is delicious, most of us don’t eat it every night! Our sweet treat after dinner is usually just fresh fruit, especially if the main courses are rich.
When we have guests we often serve Macedonia, a simple salad made with a variety of fruit cut into small pieces, so that when you put a spoonful into your mouth you can taste a combination of different flavors.  Macedonia is dressed very simply with fresh sugar and lemon juice – or Prosecco if no children are present! This is just a sample recipe, but the possibilities are endless – just pick your favorite fruit! Make sure you sprinkle with fresh lemon juice right after slicing, or bananas and pears will oxidize quickly.

I prefer not to use apples, because their texture is much crunchier than most other fruit.

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 bananas
  • 1 yellow peach
  • 1 pear
  • 1 or 2 slices pineapple
  • 1/2 basket raspberries
  • 1/2 basket strawberries
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1 orange (peel and cut each slice)
  • 1 Tbsp. golden raisins, plumped up in warm water (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste (you can use a low-calorie sweetener if you need to follow a strict diet)

Directions

Serves 4-6

Cut all the fruit into small pieces (the smaller, the better!) and mix well with the lemon (and raisins, if liked).

Add the sugar and mix in. Refrigerate before serving.

* This is just an example, you can use any fruit you like!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/07/06/macedonia-italian-fruit-salad/


Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato

Chocolate Salami - Salame Cioccolato (parve)

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato 

Obviously, this is not only for Passover! Ask any Italian child and they will probably name chocolate salami as their favorite dessert, any time, anywhere.

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons water (or oil, for a softer texture: almond oil or coconut oil taste best)
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate, grated (or semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • a few drops of vanilla or almond extract (you could also use a couple of tablespoons of a sweet liqueur such as Amaretto, but your kids will really want to eat this!)
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts, or pistachios or hazelnuts
  • 1 cup broken Passover cookies such as Mandelbrot (skip and add more nuts for GF option)
  • 2 tablespoons candied orange (optional)

Directions

Melt the chocolate with the sugar in your microwave or in a bain-marie.

Add 4 tablespoons hot water or oil and stir until smooth.

Add the cookies, nuts, liqueur or extract, candied peel.

Taste and add a couple of spoonfuls of honey if you would like it sweeter, and one or two more tablespoons hot water if it’s hard to stir.

Allow to cool. When it’s lukewarm, shape it into a salami and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil.

Let it rest in the refrigerators for at least 6 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, unwrap and cut into slices.

For a softer texture, replace the water with oil.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/04/13/chocolate-salami-salame-cioccolato-parve/

Almond Spinach Torta

Torta di spinaci e mandorle
Torta di spinaci e mandorle

Torta di spinaci e mandorle

My first encounter with this concept was in Giuliana Ascoli-Norsa’s beautiful collection “La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica”: I immediately loved it for its uniqueness, and because I was already partial to carrot cake. However, the original recipe used more than a pound of spinach and no potato starch or liqueur, and the result was disappointing. It wasn’t until several decades later, after I moved to the US and tried zucchini muffins, that I remembered this unusual combination and decided to try my hand at it again. This time I emailed all my friends from Tuscany (the area where this Passover dessert is supposed to have originated) to see if they could offer any variations. Unfortunately the spinach cake turned out to be a sort of culinary chimera, a mythical dessert that everybody had heard about but nobody had tasted or knew how to make (on the other hand, I did gather top-notch instructions for spinach fritters, and a sweet spinach and ricotta tart). At this point, though, I had become obsessed and decided to bring out the big guns: for four days I baked two spinach cakes a day, tweaking and fine-tuning, until I was finally happy with the result. And here you go! You might still want to keep the main ingredient a secret if your kids are picky eaters: they’d probably rather think it’s a colorant…

Spinach Almond Torta (Parve, GF, gebrokt-free)

Spinach Almond Torta (Parve, GF, gebrokt-free)

Almond Spinach Torta

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup (7 oz) blanched almonds
  • 12 oz baby spinach (2 bags)
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup almond or seed oil OR 1 ½ sticks parve Passover margarine
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons kosher for Passover anise liqueur or amaretto
  • 1 tablespoon kosher for Passover baking powder (if available)*
  • (for the icing)
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet parve chocolate (grated or chips)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar** (optional)
  • 3/4 stick margarine
  • 1/3 cup Passover almond milk or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • (you can also skip the icing and sprinkle with cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar)

Directions

*kosher-for-passover baking powder can be hard to find, but this year my kosher supermarket carried two different brands. The baking powder will make this cake even fluffier, but if you can’t find it the egg whites are enough to make it soft.

** Kosher for Passover Confectioner's sugar can be also hard to find, but it's easy to make by processing 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon potato starch in your food processor for at least 3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cook the spinach for 10 minutes in a covered pot with 4-5 tablespoons of water.

Once it’s soft, drain, squeeze, diwcard the liquid (I usually line a colander with cheesecloth or paper towel, place it in my sink and press the spinach down in it with a bowl.

Grind the almonds and the spinach together finely in your food processor (I never buy ground almonds, I find that the flavor and texture are too ‘dry’: it takes seconds to grind almonds in a food processor).

Set aside and wipe the food processor, then place the egg yolks in it with the sugar and a pinch of salt and beat until foamy.

Add the spinach and almond, and the liqueur, and keep pulsing until combined.

Melt the margarine in your microwave or in a small skillet (if using oil, it does not need heating), and add to the mix. Keep pulsing and slowly add the potato starch, sifted with the Passover baking powder (if using).

Process until smooth.

Remove the batter from the food processor and pour back into the large bowl.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites with a handheld electric whisk until they form stiff peaks (to make this easier, I add a couple of drops of white vinegar or lemon juice to the bowl).

Incorporate the whites into the batter with a spatula, using delicate upward movements.

Pour into a 9” baking pan, lined with parchment and greased well (you can also dust it with matzo meal if you are not keeping gluten- or gebrokt-free).

Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out almost clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack without removing from the pan.

Once cool, carefully remove from the baking pan and cover with chocolate icing, or simply dust with a mix of cocoa and confectioner’s sugar.

To make the icing,

Combine almond milk and sugar in a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, chocolate and softened margarine.

Stir vigorously until combined and spread on the cake using a large spatula.

Decorate with rose petals or red berries, or cherries.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/04/10/almond-spinach-torta/

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

The Jewish New Year for Trees falls on the 15th of the month of Av – February 8th this year. There is a wide-spread custom of eating several different kinds of fruit, mindfully and in a specific order (the ‘seder’), with the idea that they symbolize different aspects of the world – which we need to understand in order to come closer to God. This custom originated in Isaac Luria’s  Kabbalistic circles in old Safed, and was first described in detail in the manual ”Pri Etz Hadar,” [“The Fruit of the Majestic Tree”], published in Venice in 1728. Not only was Venice one of the main centers of Jewish learning and Hebrew printing at the time, but also of the kabbalistic movement. While several authorities condemned the pamphlet (kabbalah was wide-spread, but still quite controversial!), it continued to be widely circulated and published. Fast-forward to our time: many Jews all over the world still celebrate this ancient agricultural festival by gathering a bunch of friends and family together, and serving as many different fruits as possible, making sure to include the 12 fruits “of Israel”, to which we attribute a symbolic meaning. And of course there are cups of wine, and it all ends with great desserts! Try this cake, which incorporates two of the symbolic fruits: dates and almonds.

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Ingredients

  • Dough:
  • 2 (scant) cups sifted pastry flour or all-purpose
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 heaped tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine, or 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Filling:
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 stick butter or margarine, or 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted almonds
  • 1 heaped cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 coffee spoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups pitted dates

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the sifted flour with the cocoa powder, 4 tablespoons warm water, salt, sugar, and the butter or margarine, softened and cut into pieces.

Knead and shape into a ball, cover it and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, Prepare the filling: grind the dates, and melt the chocolate in the microwave with the butter (or margarine, or oil).

Add the powdered sugar, ground almonds, dates, and cinnamon.

Combine well and allow to cool.

Roll the dough into a thin rectangle over a large sheet of plastic wrap or parchment; brush the top with melted butter and spread with the filling.

Roll the dough over the filling helping yourself with the plastic wrap, then shape this “salami” into a ring and arrange it into a baking pan (previously lined with parchment, or greased and floured) . Brush with a little more butter or oil, and bake for 350 F in a preheated oven for about one hour. Serve cold, dusted with cinnamon, cocoa and powdered sugar.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/02/01/chocolate-cake-with-dates-and-almonds-dairy-or-parve/