Thursday, September 26, 2013

Blackberry Buns with Warm Vanilla Sauce

FAREWELL SUMMER
blackberry buns
Fall is slowly approaching in Rome. The scorching heat and melting asphalt roads are replaced with cool mornings and decent warm days.  Swimsuits and shorts are back in the closet for some, others still lay out on beaches enjoying a less pinching sun bath.  Autumn colors are starting to make their way, some leaves are found on sidewalks, a gentle breeze accompanies morning walks and finally, nights are soundly slept wrapped in the cuddle of a comfortable blanket.

Tomatoes have been jarred, the last eggplants picked, cucumbers pickled and zucchini are no longer on their plants.  Chestnuts fall from trees, mushrooms release their earthy fragrance, grapes are ready for harvest. There's a change in the air, an in-between feeling that doesn't want to let go to summer, yet is ready for fall. These fine buns portray in food this summer nostalgic sentiment and crisp rosey cheek awakening feel.
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blackberry buns
The last plump and ripe blackberries that summer has to offer are snuggled in the warmth of a dough that grows light and soft. A generous amount of icing sugar to snow on their surface and a smooth, luxurious, vanilla sauce that entangles flavour and seasons.

I learned this recipe from the talented Kathreinerle, with just a slight change in flours, using half regular flour and half rice flour. I then used dried yeast instead of fresh, the rest is exactly as Kathreinerle shows on her blog.
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ravioli

RAVIOLI WITH BUTTER SAGE SAUCE AND PARMESAN CHEESE
Ravioli
With my most recent post on "The Art of Making Cheese", I had to sneak in this recipe, even if these ravioli were made days after (and with a different ricotta, just as good). The ricotta Medardo gave me lasted 15 minutes eating it out of a bowl with some honey and a scoop in my coffee.  Have you ever tried ricotta in your coffee?  My mother revealed this treat to my sister and I when we were kids and it was truely frustrating to watch her enjoy it, mouth full after mouth full, and not being old enough to drink coffee.  The moment came years later, after I stopped hating coffee (yes, I used to hate coffee), started enjoying coffee (yes, I am now addicted) and enjoying it even more with some ricotta...but this is something we'll discuss another day because today the subject is ravioli. Ravioli with a lemony mint ricotta filling and a butter sage sauce.  The mint and lemon are added to the ricotta in a very small dose, enough to give a light scent of freshness to smooth off the richness of the ricotta, enough to give you a sense of these two ingredients without overwhelming the intensity of the cheese.  This is why you won't find an exact measure of these two ingredients in the recipe, I believe you should add and adjust, taste and add more if necessary.  Leave it your tastebuds to decide and never overdo it. The delicate buttery sage (or mint) sauce and a dust of parmesan cheese goes beautifully with these ravioli. Just one more recommendation:  if you can get your hands on "sheep" ricotta cheese, prefer it over any other.  It makes a whole difference!
RavioliRavioliRavioliRavioli

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Art of Making Cheese

A SPOONFUL OF PLENTINESS
Ricotta Cheese Part I
I can go into detail by describing how good this cheese is, that it's one of a kind, like you've never tried in your life, but how many people would have to say the same about a cheese found in a delicatessen, savored at a dinner with friends, or perhaps bought somewhere up in the Alps or simply a cheese they make themselves. Although I'm not an expert on how cheese is made, I know for a fact that whether it is from sheep, cow or goat, taste and quality will depend mainly on where and how animals grow and graze.  This is what really counts to get flavor, no matter what.
The Art of Making Cheese
The Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making Cheese
The place where this cheese is from, speaks for itself.  A place of green mountains and blue skies, natural source waters, open, clean, uncontaminated air. It's breathtaking, a real life postcard, a place to regenerate and forget the daily pounding thoughts we sometimes find ourselves caught up in.  Here you loosen up and live relaxed surrounded by nature ... a lake, trees, wild fruits, horses, cows, sheep.  You meet century old people with stories to tell, traditions and, believe it or not, there's a young lady that weaves, using a loom over a hundred years ago. This place is called Campotosto, near l'Aquila, Italy. The place where my father, his father and grandfather were born.
The Art of Making Cheese
6:30 am the alarm goes off. I jump out of bed to meet Medardo, the man that has the art in making cheese. As I approach his farm, the dogs scent me from far and the barking alerts him that I've arrived.  There he is standing in front of the door, precise and on the dot with a few friends keeping him company and his wife Maria.  He has everything ready and points out with pride, that the method he uses to make cheese is the same his grandfather and great grandfather used in the past, same equipment and utensils. Everything is laid out in order and with no reluctance he explains the making of cheese step by step. He uses a dried sheep intestine rennet to coagulate the milk.  Slowly the milk curdles as he stirs with a seasoned wooden stick, without the use of a thermometer he checks the right consistency of coagulation with the only instrument he relies on, his finger.  Finally the solids begin to form and the cheese makes its way.  Medardo squeezes the first forming solids and with milk oozing between his fingers, he offers me a small taste.  The chewy texture is warm and flavorsome, an on the spot privilege, something I've never tasted before and something he has eaten his whole life.  The forming of the cheese starts, a wire thread divides the portions which are then pressed into molds.  The first bunch of cheese is processed. Medardo now heats the remaining milk a second time, this time to make ricotta, which literally means cooked again,  Ri - Cotta.  Scoops of white, fluffy, warm clouds of cheese, ricotta cheese are raised and placed in molds.  Maria, passes around tastes of ricotta and this...Oh my!... this is where, in just a spoonful of plentiness, food becomes therapy and meets your soul.The bond is indissoluble.
The Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making CheeseThe Art of Making Cheese
Ricotta Cheese Part I