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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pan D'oro Tiramisu

   Tiramisu is one of the most popular Italian cakes for a very good reason.  Loosely translated tiramisu means "pick me up" which after one bite you would understand, especially if you are having a bad day.  Luscious sweetened mascarpone cheese surrounds savoiardi cookies (lady fingers) soaked in rich espresso coffee, sprinkled with shaved chocolate and dusted with decadent cocoa.  There are several recipes for tiramisu all with the same basic principal but with slightly different flavor variations.  Some people choose to add sweet wine such as marsala or other alcohol to the coffee for example.
    My variation does not include alcohol .  Instead, I replace the savoiardi with Pan D'oro.  The sweet bread or cake is another favorite amongst Italians, especially around Christmas time.  Similar to panettone  the pandoro is light and airy, sprinkled with icing sugar but without the addition of dried fruits.  Chances are, if you are Italian or have italian friends you may have one or more of these floating around your pantry during the holidays.
The pandoro produces a similar result to the savoiardi in texture.  In this recipe the I oven toast the pandoro to bring a slightly sweeter, nuttier taste to the cake.


1 Pan D'oro (with icing sugar packet-approx 1/4 cup)
1 500g tub of mascarpone (please use a good quality brand)
5 egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream (35%)
1 1/2 cups brewed espresso coffee (allow to cool)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (fresh vanilla bean may be used)
Dark or milk chocolate for shaving
Unsweetened cocoa for dusting
Begin by slicing pandoro into long strips about 1/2 inch thick. Place them on a tray and bake in a 350 f oven until golden brown.  Allow baked strips to cool and become hard.
Place egg yolks and icing sugar from pandoro packet in a bowl and whip until thick .  Next, add the mascarpone and whip for 2 minutes until well blended and creamy.
In another bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff then gently fold it into the bowl with the mascarpone mixture. The mixture is now ready for assembly. Spread a thin layer of the mixture on the bottom of a baking dish.
Add the 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the espresso and begin dipping pandoro strips. Place strips in the baking dish until the bottom is covered. Place another layer of mascarpone mixture evenly on top and sprinkle with shaved chocolate and cocoa. Repeat with another layer of coffee dipped pandoro strips, mascarpone mixture, chocolate shavings and cocoa.  Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight .
The vanilla and coffee infused pandoro soaks up the creaminess of the sweet mascarpone layers creating a decadent and luxurious cake.  This tiramisu will definitely "pick you up" on a bad day or any day.  Make this Christmas or any special occasion memorable with this wonderful treat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Baked, Fried Chicken and Potatoes

   It is obvious that winter is now in full swing here in Canada.  Snow or blowing snow and well below freezing temperatures are inevitable.  The drive to and from work are now taking longer as cars crawl slowly over the icy roads.
   Many of us don't want to spend hours cooking when we get home on a cold snowy night but we crave the taste of a comforting slow cooked, hearty meal.  When you are not in the mood for soup and you feel the need to eat something a little more substantial this is a great go to recipe.  This recipe may not be the fastest thing that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less but it is fairly quick and very satisfying.
   A few simple steps, a handful of ingredients and in less than an hour's time you can create this heart and belly warming dish.  The baked/fried title you ask? Let's just say it's the best of both worlds.  Chicken is coated in seasoned flour and quickly fried with potatoes and then baked in the oven.  The result is both the chicken and the potatoes with a crispy skin that are delicious and tender on the inside.


2 lbs. Chicken thighs and drumsticks with skin
2 lbs. Potatoes with skin, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock(broth)
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cloves of garlic peeled and lightly smashed
2 Tbsp dry rosemary
1 Tbsp dry oregano
1 Tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil for frying
Pre Heat oven to 425f
In a bowl add flour, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. Place chicken pieces in bowl and mix well until  fully coated.  Set aside.
Place a large, hot oven proof pan on the stove top and heat the oil.  Place potatoes, carrots and garlic cloves in the pan and saute for 5 minutes.
Shake most of the flour off the chicken and begin frying it with the potatoes until all sides are nicely browned.
Sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp of dry rosemary, add chicken stock, a pinch of salt and pepper then place uncovered in the oven.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
The chicken will have a nice crispy, flavorful skin and tender, juicy meat.  The potatoes, baked to perfection are the perfect side dish .  The rosemary and other spices tie it all together for a scrumptious and satisfying meal.  Serve with a fresh garden salad of your choice.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pasta with Rapini and Ricotta

   This brings me back to my childhood when  mom would whip up something super fast for a weeknight dinner.  A quick search in the fridge for a few simple ingredients always resulted in  a memorable and satisfying dish.  In as little as 15 minutes we were sitting at the table enjoying a meal.
This super easy and quick recipe can be assembled in minutes.  In the amount of time it takes to boil water and cook some pasta the condiment can be prepared.  It is then added to the pasta with a quick toss and served.


1 lb pasta ( I used Rigatoni)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh, chopped rapini
1 small onion , diced
1 garlic clove, minced or whole
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Boil pasta in some salted water .  As the pasta is cooking, saute onion and garlic in some olive oil then add rapini and a 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water, salt and pepper and cook until tender (approx. 5 minutes)
Add cooked pasta to the pan, stir in the ricotta cheese and toss until well mixed.
Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh grated parmigiano reggiano and serve.
This is a perfect dish for a super fast week night dinner.  The creamy textured ricotta smothers the pasta and the onion and garlic infused rapini add a wonderful earthy flavor making this rustic recipe a classic in our home.

For a little kick, add some crushed chili flakes or your favorite home made chili oil!

Friday, December 3, 2010


    Stromboli, panzerotti, calzone in essence are all the same.  Although their shapes may differ, the base ingredients for the most part are the same.  Stromboli are said to have originated in the U.S.A.  Where the stromboli differs from the others is the way it is folded or rolled.  Typically they are either rolled and sealed at the ends or folded similar to a burrito resulting in an elongated cylinder shape.  Another difference is usually the fillings can include just about anything where as panzerotti and calzone in Italy tend to be more simplified.
   Deli meats seem to be the favorite amongst fillings in stromboli which are sometimes added to sauce and various cheeses.  Which ever fillings you choose, the technique is the same.  Feel free to add what ever you like to your stromboli to siut your taste.
Here, the stromboli are done 2 ways to show the simplicity and versatility of the recipe.

Ingredients for basic Stromboli

1 pizza dough divided in 3 or 4 pieces
1 LB fresh Mozzarella and/or
*** optional -cheese of your choice***

Roll out dough on a floured surface, making a rectangular shape. Place ingredients, starting with the cheese down the middle of the dough, staying clear of the edges.  Add chunks of mozzarella or your favorite cheese.  Now the stromboli can be filled with your choice of ingredients.
                                 *** Pic #3***

For stromboli # 1 I used Smoked turkey breast with sauteed spinach and onion. You can add different types of deli meats together if you like a variety.
Stromboli # 2 had tomato sauce with the sauteed spinach and onion.
After filling, fold the two short ends slightly over the filling on each end ( see pic #3 above)
Now fold the 2 long ends over each other making sure to overlap.  I like to used a touch of water to seal the dough.  Carefully place on a baking sheet making sure not to tear dough.
Brush stromboli with olive oil. 
Stromboli crust #1 has olive oil sprinkled with salt, pepper and dry rosemary.
Stromboli crust #2 has olive oil sprinkled with salt, pepper and dry oregano.
Place stromboli in a 400f oven and bake until golden brown.
Turkey, spinach and onion stromboli is a great combination with the rosemary crust.
Tomato sauce with spinach, onion and oregano crust... a simplified version with typical Italian flavors.

How ever you choose to fill your stromboli have fun with experimenting in different flavor combinations and textures. Stromboli can be served whole or cut in half and also cut into strips as an appetizer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ricotta, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Beef Roll

   One thing I learned from my mom was to be resourceful in the kitchen. With 6 hungry kids she was always able to whip something up in a snap even if she was just cleaning out the fridge.  Looking in the fridge for ingredients to create a recipe can be a daunting task.  When bits and pieces of ingredients remain from previous recipes you want to be able to use them before they spoil.  
   Typically in many Italian households an egg frittata(omelette) would be made to use these ingredients.  Other times there are enough ingredients an some inspiration to create something a little more special.
This recipe does take a little time and patience to make but is well worth it..  It can also be modified to suit your taste and adapt to what ever you have laying around in your fridge. In the end no one will know it may have been made with simple ingredients from your fridge that may have been destined to spoil.  
Be creative and daring, experiment and be playful, you may surprise yourself and your guests the next time you sit down at the dinner table.


2 lbs. medium ground beef ( pork can also be used)
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
2 cups fresh baby spinach ( 1 cup of chopped frozen spinach can be used)
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup grated mozzarella ( scamorza or anything that melts nicely can be used)
Salt and pepper
        Saute spinach, onion and mushroom until soft and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl add ground meat, bread crumbs, oregano, parmigiano, and beaten egg and mix until well incorporated.
Place meat mixture between sheets of parchment paper and using hands or a rolling pin, flatten out until you have made a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
Layer ricotta cheese and all other ingredients evenly over surface of the meat.
 Using the parchment paper and both hands begin tightly rolling meat until you have made a log.  Refrigerate for 1 hour .
Remove from fridge, cut into 1 or 2 inch slices. Squeeze slice firmly with your hand to make sure it does not separate then fry with some oil in a hot pan for 2 minutes each side.
In a baking tray, add some tomato sauce and the fried meat slices.  Top with more sauce and grated cheese then bake covered for 35 minutes at 375f  and uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, top with some fresh chopped basil and serve.
Typical of a dish made "a la parmigiana" the wonderful combination of cheese and sauce transport simple meat and ingredients into something wonderful. 


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