Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brigadeiros e um Cafezinho para Receitas Regionais

There is something you don’t know about me....its not a secret.... but it occurs to me as I write this post that it isn’t something I’ve ever brought up here. Did you know I can speak a foreign language? Or five?

Everyone has something they are good at. Something that seems to come....naturally...to them. For me, it was foreign language. It started with Spanish in high school, at which I excelled from the beginning. I spent some time as a foreign exchange student south of Barcelona (which is NOT Spain, if you ask the residents there. It is Catalunya) and my life was never the same.

In college, I majored in foreign language, studying first Spanish, then Portuguese and Italian (which my professor said I spoke with a lovely Spanish accent. Asshole.). I soon discovered that my university also offered classes in the Basque language, which I gobbled up greedily. Although they did not offer Catala (the language spoken in Catalunya), I continued to pursue it at every avenue. While I never studied French or German, I am able to read and understand both to some extent, just due to my exposure to similar languages.

What is my point? Among all the things I learned about languages in my course of study,. One thing I will always know is that each language has its own personality. French is beautiful and, ahem, it knows it. Italian is Romantic. And Portuguese? Well, you may not know this, but Portuguese....well...it is SEXY. There is just something about the way your tongue moves in your mouth when you speak Portuguese that gives you the sensation of being naughty. And if you’ve ever seen an attractive man speaking it...well...let’s just say you may have had OTHER sensations. Taking it just a step further, the Portuguese spoken in Brasil is Portugal’s guttural, somewhat slutty cousin, a rhythmic song, more felt than sung. Self assured and a little dirty, but completely unconcerned by the sexuality of it.

How do I know this? Well, naturally, there was this guy.... (don’t look at me like that....he didn’t even know I existed!) and he was BEAUTIFUL. When he looked at you with his coffee colored eyes, and spoke those special words (it didn’t matter in the least WHAT words he spoke), your world went a little out of focus. He was Brasilian and he made quite an impression on my sophomore year at the U when he walked into my Portuguese class bearing Brigadeiros.

You knew this post had to turn to food at some point, didn’t you? After all, college is also where I truly began to appreciate both food and coffee (okay, okay, and gorgeous, unattainable men!) You can learn a lot about Brigadeiros by doing a simple search on the internet. These beloved little treats are Brasil’s version of truffles, and are often served alongside a “cafezinho”, a sister to the traditional espresso. Much like the Brasilian tongue, these two treats swirl around in your mouth like a romance novel on fire.

Making Brigadeiros is as simple as the cafezinho is traditional. For the Brigadeiros, cook 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon butter in a heavy pot over medium-low flame for 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent the mixture from burning. When the mixture thickens such that it doesn’t come off the spoon easily, remove it from the heat and pour it onto a tray. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes. (I put mine in the fridge to set up.) Traditionally, Brigadeiros are rolled in chocolate jimmies, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I let Ty pick from my stash of sanding and gourmet sugars. Naturally, he picked orange. Butter your hands to keep the mixture from sticking, and roll it into small balls, then roll in your coating. I leave mine to coll in the fridge again until I am ready for them and then I serve them alongside my cafezinho.
(pardon the picture quality - I'm still experimenting with my new camera!)
If you ask a Brasilian how to make the cafezinho, he will explain to you that a cafezinho isn’t just a coffee. You must start with a pan that you promise to use only for making coffee. I just happen to have one such pan in the depths of my kitchen (don’t give me that look – you know by know that my kitchen fetishes are vast). Over medium high heat, bring your water to a boil and dissolve the desired amount of sugar in the hot liquid. For each cup of water, mix in one heaping tablespoon of high quality coffee (in my case, Medaglia D’Oro espresso). Then you must use a contraption to filter the coffee through a cloth filter (or coffee filter, if you want find cloth) and serve it in espresso cups (again, which I just happen to have...).

Serve this cafezinho alongside a couple of Brigadeiros and you have one sexy little afternoon treat. Maybe, if you’re lucky, your own little Brasilain Adonis will walk by and look at you in that special way they have....if he does, offer him a Brigadeiro....maybe he’ll stop by and have one with you.

This is my submission to Regional Recipes for this month’s theme – Brasil!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zuppa Stracciatella

I do so love Potluck week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. It always gives me the opportunity to post the recipes that I intended to make during the month, for other themes, and then had the month get away from me before I got them posted. Last week, I had my dish carefully planned out. I've been in the mood for soup, and Giada's Zuppa Stracciatella is a wonderful "Fall Favorite" for me.

Naturally, the days slipped by all too quickly until I suddenly realized that it was Friday, and I was out of the game once again.

Well, that's not stopping me this week! The temperature started bottoming out last night on my way home form work and the first thing on my mind when I got home was soup. This one is so easy to throw together, I can make a batch almost any night of the week, tweaking the recipe based on what I have available at the time. This week I was fresh out of parsley and basil, but I had a bag of gorgeous prosciutto tortellini from a recent trip to The Hill, which I threw in after the eggs cooked.

The idea of this soup isn't uniquely Italian. It is really no more than another version of egg drop soup with an Italian twist. And I love egg drop soup. For the one, the eggs are mixed with Parmesan cheese to thicken the ribbons of cooked egg in the soup. For some reason, mine didn't string out the way they usually do into savory threads (maybe I added too much cheese this time), but that didn't stop them from tasting delicious.

Put a few slices of artisan salume and a mix of marinated olives on the side and you have one fabulous fall meal.

This is my submission to this week's "Potluck" at I Heart Cooking Clubs as well as Presto Pasta Nights, being hosted by Oh Taste N See this week.

Zuppa Stracciatella
6 cups good quality chicken broth or stock
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp grated Parmesan
fresh Italian parsley and basil
1 cup baby spinach, cut in thin strips

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the cheese, parsley and basil with the beaten eggs. Stirring quickly in a clockwise motion, gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the hot stock, creating thready strips. Season the soup with salt and pepper.
For my variation, I added in a cup of  some lovely prosciutto tortellini and cooked it until the pasta was al dente and hot throughout.
Toss the spinach in just before serving so it doesn't lose its fresh green color.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cheddar Horseradish Soup

You may recall a not-so-long-ago post where I described the mayhem that was created the last time I visited Ginny and we decided to make our own horseradish....from scratch....and nearly lost our eyebrows and nose hairs in the process.

Well, since that time, my precocious little jar of fresh horseradish has been languishing in the depths of my Frigidaire. Apparently, I just don’t use that much horseradish. That is, until now.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a recipe for Cheddar Horseradish Soup from Food Network Magazine and decided we needed to give it a try. Ginny made it first, for her coworkers, and got rave reviews. Then, when we were overdosed on caffeine and lack of real sustenance during our weekend of candy making, we needed something to eat. Fast.

It turns out we had everything required for the soup and proceeded to put the stove to work.

The result? A lovely, unctuous concoction with just a touch of heat (the ¼ cup of horseradish called for in the recipe scared me a little, but it worked out nicely). Since we had a huge bowl of dried out bread torn up to make stuffing with later in the weekend, we threw several chunks in each bowl and then topped it with the soup. Being in full-on “bacon” mode lately, I think it would have been even better with some crumbled bacon on top, but you know what they say about hindsight....

The recipe provided by Food Network Magazine was very simple. It looked something like this:

Sweat 2 each diced carrots and leeks in butter. Add cayenne, salt, 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons dry mustard; cook 2 minutes. Add 1 bottle beer, 1/4 cup horseradish, 3 cups water and a dash of Worcestershire; simmer until thick. Whisk in 2 cups half-and-half and 1 1/2 cups cheddar.

Really. That’s all it said. And, frankly, that’s all it needed! The only change we made was to substitute chicken stock from my freezer for the 3 cups of water, and it was the ideal little warmer-upper for a chilly November day.

Don’t you agree?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bacon Crack....and other treasures

SO, what have I been up to this week? Well, that's a loaded question.

See, Ginny came out this weekend for our annual holiday candy making extravaganza. We get together every year for a weekend and do nothing but make candy. Well...ok. Maybe not NOTHING. I mean, we do DRINK a lot.... and we cook OTHER things besides candy.

For example, on Thursday night, Ginny was on her way to the armpit of central Illinois, and I knew she'd be hungry when she got here. SO, in honor of the upcoming deadline for The Bacon Games, I got porky.

Bacon Crackers. Or, you might as well call them "Bacon Crack", because it was nearly impossible to stop eating them. These are so easy, you'll hardly be able to keep yourself from throwing a batch in the oven....post-haste.

Take a sleeve of Club Crackers. Wrap each cracker with a half a slice (or more, because, frankly, half a slice may not have been enough) of bacon, then, rub all the surfaces of the bacon with brown sugar.

Place the crack (er, crackers) on a rack over a foil lined backing sheet and bake at 250 degrees for two hours. Yes, I said TWO hours. You will think you are going to die from anticipation, but I assure you, this too, shall pass....

Then? Gorge yourself. Seriously. Because you won't be able to help it.
What else did we do? We also made a lovely frittata using up the leftover Sciue Sciue Pasta I posted last week,
a pot of Cheddar Horseradish Soup, that I'll post later, and a Fakesgiving Dinner of turkey legs, and Giada's Stuffing with Pancetta and Chestnuts.

Oh yeah, AND, we spent the whole day Friday in St. Louis, exploring The Hill (our own version of Little Italy), visiting a new favorite restaurant (Brazie's Italian Ristorante), where we fell in love with their house special appetizer, Shrimp Brazie, which is a lightly floured shrimp, seasoned and pan fried, then served in a creamy caper sauce.

We then went back to Salume Beddu (yes, we went to the wrong place looking for Brazie's Restaurant, and discovered a fabulous little Salume shop, with an adorable proprietor, where we then purchased some of his Caponata and some delectable Calabrese salume.

Lastly, we made a quick run to Schlafly Bottleworks for a couple of growlers of beer. The Hop Harvest for Ginny, and the Hot Liquor Porter for me. Heaven in a brown glass bottle.

So, suffice it to say, we had a very busy weekend, but a number of people are currently thrilled that we did, because they are the lucky recipients of our handmade holiday candy trays......
So. What did YOU do this weekend?

REMINDER! The Bacon Games had BEGUN!

Ok everyone, just a quick reminder. The deadline for the first edition of The Bacon Games is THIS FRIDAY!

Get to your kitchen....right now....and cook something with bacon.....

Then send it to me at bethanneleach@gmail.com and I'll enter you in The Bacon Games!

(seriously....go now! did I mention there are prizes to be won?)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kid at Heart – Giada’s Sciue Sciue

Our theme over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week is “Kid at Heart”. When I first started thinking about what I wanted to make, I was steering toward chocolate and other sweets. But then...I remembered.

When I was a kid, I did not care for chocolate. I know....I was a strange little child. And its not like I wouldn’t eat chocolate or didn’t enjoy candy, but it was never the first thing I was drawn to as a kid. (My mom is sitting in her chair, nodding her head and thinking that I was switched at birth.)

Here’s how it would go down at my kitchen table. We’d eat supper. Usually something like a pork roast or spaghetti. Always with a vegetable (or two) on the side; salad and peas, maybe corn.... We didn’t have dessert every night, but it wasn’t unusual, either. But, I digress. We would finish eating supper and move on to dessert...and my Mom and Dad and sister would all move on to the sweet stuff.... and I would reach for the bowl with the rest of the peas in it...or another helping of spaghetti....

My mother sometimes wonders how she gave birth to me.

So, naturally, when I was reminiscing about my childhood dinner table, it occurs to me that the kid inside me wouldn’t automatically pick Giada’s Chocolate Pizza....no. She would ask for pasta. And not just any pasta, not when Giada is in the kitchen with me.

Its gotta be Sciue Sciue.

(Now my mother is truly confused)

This is not a dish I had growing up, but I discovered it years ago when I first became entranced by Everyday Italian. One of the simplest pasta dishes ever, and made with kids in mind (well, except maybe my completely irreverent picky eater of a son) using pastina; any little short cut pasta you have, but in my case, Ditalini.

This is the first pasta dish I ever served to my Little Man. And he loved it (you know, until he was introduced to the Blue Box and its neon orange contents, and never turned back).
And so, for the kid in my heart...and the child OF my heart....Giada’s Sciue Sciue pasta. A quick, light yet hearty, and flavorful bowl of goodness that I can throw together almost any night of the week, just from my fridge and pantry. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

This is my submission for I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, as well as for Presto Pasta Nights.

REMINDER! Don’t forget that you have until November 19 (That’s only a week away, folks!) to submit your dishes to The Bacon Games!
Giada’s Sciue Sciue (Little Thimbles)
1 1/2 cups ditalini (thimble-shaped pasta)
1/4 cup olive oil (I just used a couple of tablespoons. No need to go overboard)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (I add some minced onion or shallot)
5 plum tomatoes, chopped (about 1 pound – I used a container of lovely little grape tomatoes)
8 ounces cold fresh mozzarella cheese, drained, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
8 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (straight from my freezer!)

1 Boil up a large saucepan of salted water. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still al dente (firm to the bite), stirring often to prevent sticking. This takes about 8 minutes. Drain.

2 Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn.

3 Add the tomatoes and saute just until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the cooked, drained pasta.

4 Remove skillet from heat. Add the cheese and basil and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt.

**Notes: when I make this, just after sautéing the tomatoes, I add about a half a cup of white wine to the pan and let it cook down a bit. This is best served straight from the pan while the cheese still has some body to it. I made this last night while Daddy was out hunting, and put the leftovers in the fridge for another use. This weekend Ginny is coming out for our annual Holiday Candy making fest, and the rest of this pasta will make a fabulous frittata for breakfast Saturday morning! Stay tuned for that post!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everybody Get Bacon!

Hi all! I know I've been conspicuously absent lately, but honest to goodness, I've got a good excuse! Or, rather, excuses. Life is crazy right now, as I'm sure it is with many of you as well, but I wanted to get a quick reminder out that round one of The Bacon Games is currently in progress! You have a couple more weeks to submit a dish and join the games!
Grab a badge from my sidebar and hop on over to check things out!