Monday, January 27, 2014

scenes from a breakfast with churned honey

I thought I’d share how this toast sits in its plate as it renders a warm early-morning-greeting-comfort-feel…which doesn’t hurt on this cold rainy day in Rome.  Here are some scenes from a Sunday breakfast, the day I churned some honey.  Although churned (or whipped) honey remains to be honey…just plain ol’ honey with no additives, the difference lies in its state, from a crystallized harder texture to a creamy, lighter one. A change in state that has become a favorite on my breakfast table.
I learned about churned honey a while back while reading an article on Honest Cooking, it caught my eye immediately but first I needed to figure out what the heck was meant by “crystallized” honey, since it is the main, or rather, the “only” ingredient.  The bee farmer tried to explain it in words but when he noticed my clueless facial expression, he put two jars of honey on the counter, pointing to one and then the other, “this is crystallized and this is not”… and finally it clicked… “Ohhhh so that’s what it is!” :)
In case your running into the same frustrating confusion, here’s an easy way to figure it out:  non-crystallized honey is the syrup-fluidly type of honey, the “acacia” type; crystallized honey is the harder version, the one that’s more solid.  Once you get a hold of crystallized honey, the churning is easy.  All you need to do is put it in a food processor and whip for about 20 minutes.  I’ll leave it to honest cooking’s article to explain the procedure, click here.  


The article will indicate a 1:1 ratio of liquid honey and crystallized honey, my only adaption was to use crystallized honey only and it turned out just as creamy.  

Breakfast Toast with Churned Honey:  lightly toast some whole wheat bread, spread some butter on top, add a generous amount of churned honey, lightly dust with some freshly grated cinnamon and sprinkle with a teaspoon of hemp seeds (or sesame …or poppy…or pumpkin seeds).  Serve with coffee, or green tea or anything else that makes you happy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

how about poached pears for dessert?

pears & vanilla creampears & vanilla cream2
There's no fuss here.  Poached pears accompanied with a lightly scented vanilla cream, will please anyone, anytime. The simplicity is of disarming goodness.  More than a recipe, see this in terms of enhancing fruit to make what can be considered a remarkable dessert. Or just an idea for something different than cake.

Cooked fruit usually is considered less when deciding on which dessert you would like to have in a restaurant or served at home.  Probably because it's just too simple to be thought of, but it turns out to be perfect because of its being so simple.  
First off, use ripe firm pears.  Once they're washed and peeled place them standing up in a pot and pour a bottle of red wine or enough to cover the pears. Choose good red wine, nothing cheap nor expensive, something in between of your choice.  The procedure would be the same to make mulled wine, the same we discussed a couple of posts back, with the addition of a few whole pears.  As the pears gently simmer on a low heat, the wine will slowly enter the flesh building flavor in such a delicate way.  The liquid becomes a wine syrup which you can filter and serve next to the pear as a drink.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the pears are tender but still firm, use a knife to poke and check. Remove the pears from the liquid and serve warm.  

The pear alone is delicious but served with double cream, previously whipped with some vanilla bean paste, is just perfect. 

If you plan to organize a dinner with friends give this a try.  It can be made ahead of time and warmed at the last minute.  Doesn't just this make you so happy?! :)


Monday, January 13, 2014


making pasta
It’s already Monday!  Why do weekends go by so fast?  I wish they were made of 7 days so that I wouldn’t have to see Sunday as “oh…tomorrow I go back to work”. 

There’s no way for me to get use to it.

Every Sunday I end up thinking the same way and it’s not that I don’t like my job, I actually enjoy it but there are far too many things I enjoy more and I never seem to have enough time to make them happen.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this, right?! 
This past weekend, I enjoyed reading Doris Lessing “The Summer before the Dark”.  I aimlessly wandered the streets of the eternal city just to breathe some history.  I stopped by Sant’Eustachio for some coffee (I haven’t been there in ages).  I celebrated my son’s birthday.  I watched a good movie. I took a long bath (the type with the bubbles, the candles and “the Summer before the Dark”).  I slept a long sleep.  I went to the farmer’s market and had a chat with the man who sells honey (he explained to me the difference between crystallized and non-crystallized honey…I have a recipe in mind).  I managed to check out a spot that teaches pottery (which I am dying to start).  I ironed 20 of my husband’s shirts (I also told him that he needs to start taking them to the dry-cleaners).  I did some research on a trip I want to take (soon).  I studied something new on photoshop, I also patted my back that I actually understood.

…and I made this:

Pappardelle with Butternut Squash, Kale and Parsley Hazelnut Pesto.

There’s always time for a good meal (even when weekends are too short).

Pappardelle with Kale, Butternut Squash, Provolone Piccante 
and Parsley-Hazelnut Pesto 

4 fresh farm eggs
300g soft wheat flour
100g durum wheat flour

Place the flour on a board, make a well and crack the eggs into the center.  Mix the eggs with your fingertips and gradually incorporate the flour until everything is combined.  As everything slowly comes together, start kneading the dough until nice and smooth.  Sprinkle more flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a plastic wrap.  Let it rest for 30 minutes.  The resting time is important because it will make the dough elastic and easy to roll out.  

Roll out the dough to form a big circle.  You will need a long rolling pin.  If you don't have one, you can divide the dough in 2 pieces, to make 2 circles.

Once you are done rolling out the dough, let it dry flat for about 30/40 minutes.  Dust the pasta with some durum wheat flour and loosely roll it into a cylinder.  With a sharp knife cut the pasta in slices 1.5 cm wide.

100g hazelnuts, toasted
40g fresh parsley
half garlic clove
extra-virgin olive oil

Pulse hazelnuts, parsley, garlic and salt in a food processor until roughly ground.  While the machine is running, add the oil until the paste forms.

SAUCE (and assembling)
1 small butternut squash
kale (center stalk removed)
extra virgin olive oil
dry (or fresh) mint leaves

Halve, the butternut squash, seeded and cut in thin slices (about a half cm wide).  Place the slices on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Drizzle olive oil over the slices, season with salt  and mint leaves.  Roast in a preheated 200°C oven for approx. 20 minutes or until the edges start to caramelize.

Place a pot of water on the stove.  When the water comes to a boil, add the kale leaves and let them cook for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, leave the kale leaves in the water, add some salt and the pasta.  As soon as the pasta starts to float, drain all together.  

Place the pasta and kale on a serving plate.  Add the roasted butternut squash, dress with the parsley-nut pesto and top with provolone piccante.

Oh boy, you're going to love this!