Wednesday, November 28, 2012

...easy sunday morning

My lifestyle is always at a fast pace, I hardly ever have time to do the thousands of things I want to do and one of them is to just sit down and have breakfast.  Calm.  Silent. Peaceful.  My early morning rise doesn't allow me any strength to bring food to my mouth and swallow.  Half asleep I manage to drive and park my car to catch the train.  Just then I start waking up.  As I stumble off the train and head walking distance to work, my hungry stomach calls.  Finally,  I'm in my daily bar (bars in Rome = coffee shops).  Pino, the friendly barman, greets me with a cappuccino and cornetto, no need to order. The freshly ground strong coffee and the cream-foamy milk shapes the cappuccino; the warm crisp and buttery cornetto compensates in sweetness.  All of this, in the middle of an orchestra of clinging spoons and clanging cups, pleasantly disturbing and festively loud.  Although this is something I enjoy with all my heart, spoiled by the service and pleased by the routine, nothing tops breakfast at home on an easy sunday morning with pancakes and pure maple syrup. Foremost, nothing tops the sight of my family still half asleep lifted from bed, drifting towards the kitchen, steered by the overwhelming scent of pancakes that fill their nostrils with pleasure.  At the table they sit, with their eyes wide-shut and pleased.  As they await the plate of stacked smokey pancakes, I try to wipe off the smug on my face, for the nasty turn in having pulled them from bed so early on a Sunday morning. 

2 eggs
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of oil
1 3/4 cups of flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
1 tsp salt

Heat pan to medium-high.  In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and oil.  Add remaining ingredients, beat until lumps disappear. Pour batter, about 1/4 cup at a time, onto pan. Cook until bubbles form and edges start to dry, flip and bake other side. Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes.

Have an EZy Sunday morning!
Maple Syrup

Friday, November 23, 2012

...a simple meal

Barley Risotto Style
On this mild November day in Rome, here I am sipping my tea and gladly receiving the sun as it shines through the window in all its warmth.  While organizing my thoughts I'm distracted by the sight of a jar of barley on the counter and fooled by its appearance similar to that of rice, I'm suddenly inspired.

Today's lunch:  Barley Risotto Style.

Ingredients for 4 people:

300 gr barley
1,5 litres milk
60 gr butter
2 leeks
salt and pepper

Wash the barley thoroughly until water is clear.  Place in a pot with milk, 30 gr of butter and salt.  Bring to a boil and lower the heat. Cook for 20-25 minutes and stir constantly using a wooden spoon.

Wash the leeks and chop the tender portion in round slices.  In a pan, sauté the leeks with the remaining butter, season with salt.  

Finish with a dash of freshly ground pepper. that EZy or not?!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

...all time favorites

Cinnamon Rolls, I love you.
cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon rolls are my all time favorite and ever since I've been living in Rome I've hounded down every corner in search for the magnificent.  It's impossible to even get close to one! Not that I can't be easily tempted by something else, I mean...I'm in Italy, bakeries here have just about everything drool inviting but I'm an obsessed cinnamon roll fanatic and when my stomach calls for one I just have to have it!

So I learned how to bake my own and after several readings and testing I finally framed the recipe that suits my picky palate. The perfect combination of ingredients and spicy cinnamon flavor makes this a royal pastry.  Its preparation requires patience, as some rising time is required but the effort is worthwhile and a thumbs up is guaranteed.


1 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 egg

1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

In a small saucepan heat milk until lukewarm.  In a large bowl, blend the warm liquid, 1 cup of flour, sugar, butter, salt, yeast and egg.  Beat 2 minutes at medium speed.  By hand, stir in the remaining flour to form a soft dough.  On well floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in a greased bowl.  Cover, let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size, circa 2 hours.
Punch down dough.  On a floured surface, roll dough to 18 x 15 inch rectangle.  Brush dough with melted butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over dough.

Starting with 18 inch side, roll dough up toward opposite side.  Pinch edges to seal.  Cut into 15 slices.  Place in prepared pan.  Cover, let rise until light and doubled in size circa 1 hours.

Tip:  If you want the dough to rise faster, place in a previously heated oven at a very low temperature 25-30°C. 
Heat oven at 180°C and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan and serve warm. Glaze as you prefer, I used a tbsp of melted honey.
Hey! Don't just crave them, make them!

cinnamon rolls

Monday, November 12, 2012

...deep, deep pleasure

Chocolate Cake and Pears

Cioccolato e Pere

Chocolate and pears, how divine!  The pears, poached to be tender, are gathered in the center of this cake guarding a sweet secret sealed in its heart and revealed all at once in an explosion of taste.  Deceptively complex yet simple, fast and EZy, a must when organizing dinner with friends...this cake will remain strong in their memories!

Adapted from Sale & Pepe magazine


150 gr flour

3-4 small pears
100 gr of extra vergine olive oil
100 gr of sugar
75 gr of bitter cocoa powder
3 eggs
8 gr of baking powder
1 dl milk
A pinch of salt


Friday, November 2, 2012 1 with gnocchi delight

Fall and Pumpkins
While doing my grocery shopping the other day, I bumped into this extraordinary little green pumpkin. Just for the sake of curiosity I bought one and kept it in the fridge for a week before using it. When I was finally in the mood to cook something special - really, I’m always in the mood but time never seems to be enough! - I decided to use Mr. Pumpkin.

Armed with all my tools, I started chopping this little green fellow into big chunks and realized how hard its texture was, so I just opened it in quarters, leaving the skin on, and popped it in the oven at 180°.  After 30 minutes it was soft enough to manage and with the help of a good ol' spoon I just scrapped the pulp from its skin.  Laying there in front of me was the most incredible pumpkin puree I’ve ever dealt with.  It’s texture is similar to that of a sweet potato ... so why not make gnocchi?! And so I did.  I could have used the pumpkin (I keep calling it pumpkin but really it’s a squash) to actually make the gnocchi dough, but I wasn't sure if it would turn out the way I expected it to be, so I preferred to take a simpler path by whisking up a pumpkin sauce for my homemade buckwheat-potato gnocchi.  The result was amazing and the returned empty plates ... made its statement and my joy.

Buckwheat Gnocchi with Creamy Pumpkin and Leek Sauce

A quick note on the gnocchi dough: I recommend you use red potatoes, because of their firmness and starchy texture, the dough will hold together easily and eggs won't be needed.

Dough Recipe:

150 gr of buckwheat flour
150 gr of white flour
1 kg of potatoes
1 pinch of salt
1 egg (optional)

Pumpkin and Leek Sauce:

2 tbsp of olive oil
1 leek finely sliced - Julienne style
1 cup of pumpkin puree
5 tbsp of milk
salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place in a pot with cold water, bring to a boil and cook until tender - leave the skin on. 

When ready and still hot, peel the potatoes and mash.  If you use the hand grip potato masher you don't even need to peel the potatoes because the peel remains inside the tool and you just pull it out before adding another potato to mash. 

Mix the flours together and add the (warm) mashed potatoes and salt. Knead the dough by hand, its consistency must be soft.

Homemade Gnocchi

Divide the dough and roll long ropes on a floured surface. Cut into 1 inch pieces, place your finger in each and roll inwards. Voila! Your homemade gnocchi are ready.

While you prepare your sauce, place a big pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.  Don't forget to add salt to the water.  Just like you would do for any other type of pasta.

The sauce is quick and easy.  In a large hot saucepan add the olive oil and the finely sliced leeks,  reduce the heat and simmer until very tender.  Add the pumpkin puree, salt and milk.  If the sauce appears to be to thick, add more milk.  This will turn into a quick creamy sauce in about 5 minutes or less.

Gently place the gnocchi in the boiling water. As the gnocchi start to float on the surface, wait an extra 5 minutes and drain.  Keep some of the cooking water aside in a cup, you may need it to thin the sauce.

Assemble the dish and generously sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Top it off with a few leaves of marjoram. I have a wonderful variety of tiny basil sitting on my counter, I use it almost on everything. Marjoram is a good alternate. 

All images and text  © Elvira Zilli  -  EZy cooking & more 2012