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January 2014 - Dinner in Venice

Archives for January 2014

Pressure Cookers and Slow Cookers


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In the new issue of JOK Magazine, the third chapter of my series on Pots and Pans deals with what I once considered two diabolical appliances: Pressure Cookers and Slow Cookers!

pots

Tips, tricks, and tidbits of their curious history…

by the way, this is what many consider the progenitor of our modern pressure cooker, invented by Denis Papin in France in the 1670s:

papin Digester

magazine

Fruity Nutty Tree Day Bread


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Tree Day Bread by Dinnerinvenice.com 1

Our kitchen and dining room overlook a lovely garden, with a couple of old trees where lots of adorable little squirrels have made their nest. Every now and then, a big, bushy gray tail pops up on one of the windows, a sign that they are watching us and wondering if what we are putting on the table is more or less interesting than their usual fare. This week our little fuzzy friends might be paying us more visits: the ingredients I laid out to bake for Tu’ Bishvat are an irresistible attraction.

Dried Fruit Tu Bishvat by Dinnerinvenice.com

In the Jewish Tradition, Tu’ Bishvat may be technically a minor holiday, but its special eco-message that we should connect with God through nature resonates very deeply with many of us.  Many people celebrate this special “Birthday of the Trees” eating dried fruits and nuts, particularly  those associated with the Promised Land! A kabbalistic tradition teaches that eating three different types of fruits creates a mystical connection with the Tree of life from the Garden of Eden. The first type are those fruits and nuts with inedible exteriors and edible insides, like oranges, bananas and many nuts. The second type are those fruits that have soft edible exteriors but a hard pit inside (like dates, apricots, etc). Finally, fruit that is eaten whole, like figs and berries. You  can taste all this fruity-nutty goodness in these special honey-rye breads. For more Tu’ Bishvat recipes, you can check my old posts here.

Fruity Nutty Tree day Bread by Dinnerinvenice.com 2

 

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup dried figs
  • 1/2 cup dried raisins
  • 3/4 cup medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup almonds and/or hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts and/or pistachios
  • 1 tsp candied citron, if liked
  • tbsp pine nuts, if liked
  • 1 organic orange
  • shot of grappa or brandy
  • 1/4 lb fresh rye bread dough (recipe http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/01/new-york-deli-rye-bread/ )
  • large pinch of cinnamon if liked
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • butter and flour to grease cookie sheet (or use parchment)

Directions

Soak the raisins in hot water until soft, drain and pat dry. Coarsely chop all the nuts and dried fruit and place them in a bowl with the raisins. Add the grated orange zest and the orange juice, and the grappa or brandy. Allow to restfor at least 6 hours at room temperature (overnight is great). Add the rye dough (for the rye dough, I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/01/new-york-deli-rye-bread/ ) and combine well, kneading until everything is well combined. Divide into two parts and shape two oval, slightly flattened, breads.

line a large cookie sheet with parchment, or grease it with butter and dust with flour.

Place the breads on the cookie sheet (allow space for raising) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 40 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool. Melt the honey in a small saucepan on low heat, and brush it over the fruit breads. Enjoy on their own or with the addition of whipped cream.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2014/01/14/fruity-nutty-tree-day-bread/

Big Chill Cheese Fondue


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big chill fondue by dinnerinvenice 1

After last week’s snow storm, and Tuesday’s record temperatures (we hit a record low of 4 degrees Farenheit or -15 C here in New York City), several friends emailed us  or called us from Italy expressing concern for our safety and comfort. We loved the attention, but don’t worry…. we are a tough breed! (here is what we have been doing:)

dinnerinvenice snow

Of course, after a couple of hours of frozen fun at the park, we headed home to warm up by the fireplace ! In most families,a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows would be in order. But my 7-year-old is the kind of kid who, asked by a friend’s mom at snack time: “Do you eat parmesan cheese?” replied: “Would you mind cutting it into shavings and add honey and pears on the side?”. So here is what we settled on.

Fondue step 1-2 by Dinnerinvenice.com

My Italian fondue recipe hails from Valle d’Aosta, the smallest of all Italian regions, but dominated by two of Europe’s top peaks—Monte Bianco (aka Mont Blanc) and Monte Cervino (aka the Matterhorn) on its borders with France and Switzerland. Skiing down such impressive slopes requires serious refueling, or at least I like to think so!  Fonduta Valdostana is even simpler than Swiss Fondue. No wine or kirsch here, just a good pound of fontina (or other good melting cheese), milk and egg yolks. The calequons, those little fondue sets with the tiny forks are really cute, and I couldn’t resist buying one at Zabar’s, but come on – all you really need is a double-boiler made by layering two regular saucepans.

Fondue Step 3-4 by Dinnerinvenice.com

Even if you are not a health food nut, the combination of lots of butter with cheese and bread cubes might induce some feeling of guilt. That’s where the egg yolks come in handy, because at least you are having some extra protein. Besides the bread cubes, you can dip stuff like steamed baby potatoes, slightly steamed cauliflower florets, red peppers, zucchini and pear slices, steamed broccoli or cauliflower or whatever fruit or vegetable you’re in the mood for. I find that when I add fruit and veggies to the standard Italian or French bread cubes, I can tell myself that I’m having a perfectly balanced meal. Of course, don’t forget a steaming cup of mulled wine!

S 26 00 1 FONDUTA VALDOSTANA

Big Chill Cheese Fondue

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fontina or other good melting cheese, cubed or thinly sliced
  • scant cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg if liked

Directions

Place the cheese in a bowl, cover with the milk, cover the bowl with wrap and allow to rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature or in the least cold part of your refrigerator, stirring occasionally.

Make a double boiler by pouring some water into a saucepan, and placing a second smaller saucepan inside the first one. Alternatively, you can use a very heavy enameled cast iron sauce pan on very low heat.

Melt the butter in the saucepan on low heat, stirring. Drain the cheese from the milk and add the cheese to the butter, with only 3 tbsp of the milk. keep stirring with a wooden spoon or with a whisk, until the cheese is all melted, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom or sides.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and remove from the stove top. Adjust the salt and sprinkle with white pepper (and nutmeg, if liked. Or even white truffle shavings, if you want to splurge!)

Serve in warm bowls (or in a shared fondue set) accompanied by bread cubes for dipping. You can also offer polenta cubes, cauliflower florets, pear slices, etc.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2014/01/09/big-chill-cheese-fondue/