Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Bakers-Chocolate Marquise

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

I was really happy when I saw this month's challenge since it is another gluten free recipe selected for the Daring Bakers. It is a fairly involved dessert, but it can be easily broken down in two days of preparation. The marquise and the caramel can be done the day before, but the meringue has to be made right before plating the dessert, and that is one of this dessert flaws in my opinion. As I experimented with the plating for the photo the meringue lost its body and I had to whip it again.

The presentation is really elegant, however the dessert was so sweet that I could only eat one spoonful. This concoction belongs to those desserts that make me want to drink a gallon of water afterwards, not sure why, years of sugar overload? I would have served it without the caramel and the meringue as they are also really sweet. I loved the crunchiness of the sesame brittle but that too was sweet.

The other drawback of this dessert is that it is really difficult to handle once you remove it from the freezer and toss it in cocoa powder, you have to move quickly.

My notes:
*I made the quarter recipe and I had plenty of marquise, again a little goes a long way with this dessert, so with a quarter recipe I got 8 portions.
*I piped the marquise into 6 oz cans I have been saving with both top and bottom removed. Each portion was probably coming up to 2/3 of the can. The frozen marquise came out easily while still frozen.
*I used ground star anise in the marquise, not chili, and I was pleased with the results, but next time I would only add 1 tsp of ground star anise to the chocolate base.

I wish you could smell these flowers, their fragrance is so sweet.

Thank you Emma and Jenny for challenging this month, and to Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, the creators of the Daring Bakers' challenge. To see the recipe and more of the daring bakers' creations click here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pizza with Kale and Ricotta Salata

This post is dedicated to my cousin Manuela, who found a new passion for bread and pizza, could it be that she is nesting?

Italians breathe pizza, this simple dish is so integral to our culture that we can't live without it. The best pizza I ever tasted was made in Naples, in a tiny hole in the wall, no wonder pizza napoletana is so well known. When I moved to the States I pretty much gave up on the idea of eating pizza since the versions I tried were a sad counterpart to the thin and crispy original. They were loaded with cheese and vegetables, the crust too thick and soggy. I started making pizza at home, but couldn't find a recipe that worked until I did an internship at the renown restaurant Chez Panisse. The pizza there was phenomenal, I wanted the recipe! Since I started using the following recipe I never looked back, it is delicious. Sadly, I can't eat pizza any longer since going gluten free, but I still make it at least once a month because of the joy it gives me to see people eat it.

Pizza Dough
from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

2 tsp dry yeast (10 gr)
3/4 cup lukewarm water (180 ml)
2/3 cup bread flour (100 gr)

Dry ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour (560gr)
1/4 cup rye flour (35 gr)
1 tsp salt (1o gr)

1/3 Cup EVOO (75 ml)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup of water and stir in the 2/3 cup of bread flour. Cover with 1 cup of the dry ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes. After the sponge is nice and bubbly, add 1 cup of lukewarm water (225 ml), and mix well. Cover with the rest of the dry ingredients and let sit for another 30 minutes.

The sponge is ready!

Add the olive oil and mix for 5 minutes, or until the dough passes the window pane test. The dough should feel soft, slightly sticky. A soft and moist dough makes the best pizza.

Window pane test, gluten has developed.

Let the dough rise, covered, in a warm place for 2 hours. To develop a better flavor, the dough can be left to rise in the refrigerator overnight. Punch down the dough and divide it in portions of 7 ounces for medium pizzas. Shape each piece in a tight round. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for an hour before shaping and baking. Individual rounds can be frozen and thawed overnight. Makes enough for 5 medium pizzas. Bake at 450F.

I normally make Pizza Margherita with tomato sauce (chopped tomatoes from a can, pureed and reduced on the stove), mozzarella, drizzled olive oil, some basil or oregano, super simple. The latest version I was inspired to make is a pizza bianca with kale and ricotta salata, in which I halved the mozzarella and added ricotta salata and some sauteed kale, delicious! To make it spicy add some chili flakes.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kale Frittata-Nutrients Overload

My love for kale started two years ago after I went to the Green Gulch farm, also a Zen Center, to help out one day. I rescued few kale seedlings that were being composted since they didn't have space for them at the farm. Knowing how kale is good for you I decided to give it a try.

That year the little seedlings grew to giant plants with beautiful purple stems and tiny yellow flowers. This variety is called red russian kale, not sure why red since it is so purple, the Latin name is Brassica napus pabularia.

I didn't use them at all that first year, not sure why. I let the plants go to seeds and then added them to the compost pile, not giving it too much thought.

Brassicaceae, Cruciferae, or plants belonging to the Mustard family, make tons of tiny little seeds, a great way to propagate themselves. Those myriad of seeds survived the composting and were then unknowingly spread to my vegetable beds. To my surprise, little plants started germinating everywhere, and so life of the kale plant continued. I have to keep harvesting the plants since they are growing where I don't want them but they are so tender and flavorful, I could eat them raw. I am also letting few plants go to seed again so I will have more kale next winter and spring.

Frittata is such a great vehicle for lots of different vegetables. Sautée them in olive oil with chopped shallots or spring onions, add to beaten eggs and you have a very healthy meal. This frittata couldn't be more sustainable, all the ingredients except the oil, salt, and pepper come from my garden, or my chickens, feeling really blessed to have this little piece of land to cultivate.

Frittata with baby kale

Two spring onions or shallots
Bunch of tender kale leaves
3 Large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a non stick skillet and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sautée the onions until translucent. Add the chopped kale and cook for 5 minutes, let cool. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Add the cooled kale. Heat a non stick skillet, add 1 tablespoon of extravirgin olive oil, then add the egg mixture. Cook on medium heat until very little liquid is left. With the help of a plate turn the frittata upside down into the skillet. Cook for two more minutes. Enjoy warm with a salad and some bread for a complete meal. Makes two servings.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Food Blogger Bake Sale-Granola

I wish I had the time to stop by and take some pictures at the bake sale, but all I could do was drop off my bags of granola and drive back home. I had a meeting with a potential partner for the bakery/café we hope to open one day, still a dream, still so far away.

Hopefully Anita of Dessert First will post pictures for you to see of the beautiful products people made.

On a different note....this morning I woke up to a very wet garden, all the flowers were heavy with rain droplets. The air was so fresh and clean.

I hope you are all having a great Sunday!

Friday, May 13, 2011

San Francisco Food Blogger Baker Sale is Tomorrow!

I can' t believe blogger was down for almost two days. A very late reminder of the bake sale I am participating in. I made lots of my granola, sweetened with maple syrup and honey, delicious! I can't wait to meet other bloggers and to see what they prepared.

The Bake Sale is this Saturday, May 14th, starting at 10AM. We have two locations in San Francisco.

18 Reasons
593 Guerrero Street
San Francisco
10AM to 6PM

Kiehl's store
2360 Fillmore Street
San Francisco
12PM to 4PM

For directions and more information check the official site here

I hope some of you in the area will be able to attend or send your friends. If you would like to make a direct donation to Share our Strength organization click here. Share our Strength mission is to end childhood hunger in the United States.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pretty in Green


I have not baked a single thing since the Daring Bakers' challenge in April, and I can't quite believe it. Since I stopped working I have been tackling tons of projects at home. I refinished the moldy and stained kitchen counter, re-upholstered a chair found on the street, changed the plumbing under a bathroom sink, planted few vegetables for the summer, started sanding some outdoor furniture someone donated me, and mainly organized the piles of stuff I have accumulated throughout the years (my recipes are now all filed away!). This week I will be baking, but won't post any pictures until I am done. This coming Saturday I am participating to the Bake Sale event and I am getting a little nervous because I have tons of ideas but I need to narrow them down to just few. I have to think about packaging and labels as well. I like the challenge though, it forces me to get my thinking cap on.

Miner's lettuce

I will leave you with few green photos. Flowers are magical to me, and these are to tiny and insignificant, but as a whole they are stunning, or at least I think so....

Unknown from the Umbrelliferae family

Have a great week!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Photos of the Week

All the pictures were taken at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve near Half Moon Bay in California, an amazing spot 30 minutes south of San Francisco where you can see some of the best tide pools in California.

Life and Death

Pelican in Formation

Funny Rock Face


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