Tuesday, August 31, 2010


All that talk of Delallo's (http://www.delallo.com/ Italian grocer in Jeannette, PA praised in the recent gnocchi post)... had me in the mood for cannolis. I didn't make the shells from scratch in this case but you certainly can. For anyone interested- I found a video on epicurious.com where you can learn how from Mario Batali Italian Chef extrodinaire himself. http://www.epicurious.com/video/holidays/holidays-christmas/1915458791/forming-and-frying-cannoli-shells/5295881001 Fortunately most specialty food stores/Italian food stores carry ready-made shells which makes the construction and consumption of cannolis possible for the average home cook. You can even order them online. http://www.goldencannoli.com/ You can find them plain or partially/fully dipped in chocolate. They typically come in a plastic wrapped box so they actually have a good shelf life. (The ones I used last week had been in my mom's pantry for well over a year...still delicious.)

Ricotta-Mascarpone Cannoli Filling (fills approximately 8-10 large shells) 1- 8 oz container of mascarpone cheese 1 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese (if you have time to drain it in some cheese cloth, it makes for a thicker filling, but its certainly not necessary) 2/3 cup powdered sugar (more to taste, I don't like it overly sweet) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like vanilla bean paste) 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 1/4 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips Blend all of the ingredients -except the chocolate chips-together in a food processor. Through trial and error the first few attempts at making the filling, I learned that a food processor is the best way to ensure the filling is smooth creamy, eliminating the graininess of the ricotta cheese. Lastly, I mix the chocolate chips into the filling with a spoon and then transfer the mixture to a large, freezer quality ziplock bag (my version of a disposable pastry bag.) The ticket to perfectly crispy crunchy cannolis is to fill them within a couple of hours from serving. The longer they sit in the fridge, the soggier the shells become. When ready- I squish all of the filling down to one of the bottom corners of the bag and then I cut a small corner with a pair of scissors. I fill each shell, starting in the middle and filling out to the edges- turn it and fill the other side. For the chocolate lovers out there, you can dunk the ends into more mini chocolate chips- it looks fancy too. The traditional Sicilian cannolis would also have candied fruit pieces mixed into the filling and for decoration on the ends. Serve as is or with a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top- if I'm serving guests, I like put them on a decorative plate with a big pile of fresh strawberries. One of my ABSOLUTE favorite pastries, I could go for one right now actually...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gnocchi Pomodoro (kind of)

John and I were brainstorming for a last minute dinner recipe the other night and we both landed on pasta. Though at first we agreed, John was feeling a hearty, sausage or meat red sauce while I was envisioning something light, fresh and summery. I found some gnocchi in the pantry and decided I could satisfy both parties with a Gnocchi Pomodoro with Sausage- almost like a deconstructed Bolognese. Though most might be skeptical about the idea of gnocchi from a box, I assure you that there are some great ones out there. (If you're not familiar, gnocchi is a bite-sized, Italian potato dumpling served like a pasta with some sort of sauce.) Delallo's brand Italian foods (pasta, jarred sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, jarred roasted peppers, etc.) can be found in Krogers as well as Sam's Club, perhaps a few other groceries now as well. Believe it or not, Delallo's a family owned deli, bakery and Italian grocery up in Jeannette, Pennsylvania- the town over from Greensburg, PA where my Dad grew up. Second to spending time with my grandparents, a visit to Delallo's is always the highlight of our trip. This place is AMAZING I tell you. Mrs. Delallo is over 90 years old now I believe yet we see her behind the cheese counter every time we visit. They have an olive bar a mile long, every type of cured meat or fresh Italian cheese you can dream of, and a bakery that would make you think you'd died and gone to heaven. (Fresh Italian breads, some stuffed with pepperoni or roasted peppers, fresh filled cannolis, biscotti, and Amaretti cookies. The grocery section is brimming with high quality import items- olive oils, vinegars, jarred and canned vegetables, dried pastas, sardines, anchovies, etc.) Its a little slice of Italian heaven on Earth. I digress.. so the main takeaway here is look for Delallo's on your grocery's shelves- the gnocchi is amazing and could not be simpler to prepare. One box (this recipe) serves three generously, MAYBE four people but barely. The gnocchi cooks up very quickly-so you wait until you have everything else ready before you drop it in to boil it for 3 quick minutes. Stir the gnocchi into the boiling water to ensure the dumplings don't stick together. You MUST avoid overcooking it or it will become mushy. I drained it right away and then tossed back in the pot with a few spoonfulls of the sauce. The sauce that I prepared is a simple Pomodoro made with garden fresh summer tomatoes. I used the first few Roma tomatoes as well as a large handful of grape tomatoes fresh from my very own garden. I added one medium sized Better Boy tomato from my mother's garden as well. Simple Pomodoro Sauce: 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil 1/4 cup of diced onion 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon died oregano 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar Approx 3 cups of roughly chopped fresh tomatoes of any variety salt and pepper I start the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. I then sauteed the onion for 2 minutes until barely translucent. I then add rest of the ingredients through the vinegar and cook together, stirring, for 2 more minutes. I then add the tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and let cook together over medium heat for 20 minutes or so until the flavors marry together and the sauce reduced slightly.
While the sauce was simmering, I quickly browned half a pound of sweet Italian sausage in skillet- crumbling it into bite sized pieces with the help of a wooden spoon. This is where the "bolognese" twist on the recipe comes in. I like a traditional Bolognese sauce but often times John and I prefer a homemade marinara or tomato sauce with some browned Italian sausage crumbled in instead. So when it was time to serve, I spooned some of the Italian sausage crumbles (drained on a paper towel first) into the bottom of a pasta dish. I then spooned some of the tomato sauce over and topped the sauce with a heap of the perfectly cooked gnocchi. Lastly I sprinkled some fresh parmesan (purchased during my last Delallo's visit) and sliced a few basil leaves over for some added flavor.
For my plate however I omitted the sausage and simply ladled the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish under my gnocchi which I also dusted with cheese and basil. I think the presentation was fun and a little bit "Top Chef-esque" this way but you could also toss the gnocchi into the sauce before plating if you prefer. This is truly a great staple 30 minute dinner and worked out to be the perfect "his and hers" pasta recipe too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

White Bean and Kale Soup

The Lacy Kitchen has recently reopened for business after a small renovation project has been completed. I decided to step up my cooking digs a little bit as we settle into our new home. We've upgraded counter tops, added some cabinetry, created bar seating and plans to change out lighting and tile the backsplash are currently under way. Unfortunately changing counter tops requires that plumbing be disconnected for 12 days hence the lack of Accidental Syrup posting activity... Now the oppressively hot days of July/August might not have you in the mood for soup- but for some reason, it sounded like a yummy way to use up some delicious summer veggies. John was on call and I had the evening to myself to putz in my new kitchen.... Ingredients: 3 tablespoons of olive oil 2 Adelle's Organic Italian style Chicken Sausage links (any Italian style or smoked sausage would do) - cut into small cubes 1/2 a large Vidalia onion- chopped 2 large cloves of garlic- grated 1/2 of a red bell pepper- chopped 2 ribs of celery- chopped 2 carrots- peeled, halved and cut into small pieces 1 bunch of kale-inner ribs removed and leaves torn into pieces 4 springs of fresh thyme- leaves removed 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 small zucchini- diced 1- 15 oz cans of Cannelinni beans- drained and rinsed 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper 1- 23oz carton of low sodium Vegetable Stock 2-3 cups of water There is something almost therapeutic about making soup... the prepping of all of the ingredients, layering them into the pot just so to ensure everything cooks evenly, and then patiently waiting for all of the flavors to marry together. There is lots of tasting and seasoning, tasting and re-seasoning... searching for that little something that might be missing. There is no fine science and the chances of making a soup exactly the same way twice are slim. I started with the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed pot and then added the sausage and onion simultaneously. The sausage is already cooked through so I was really just trying to sweat some of the spicy savory flavor out of the sausage, browning it slightly as the onions softened to translucent. After about 5 minutes, I grated the garlic in with a rasp and then added the celery, peppers and carrots, thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I tossed it all together and let the veggies soften a few minutes while I rinsed the kale thoroughly. I then tore the kale into pieces- tossing them into the pot as I went. I tossed it all together and cooked 2-3 minutes until the kale was bright green and slightly wilted. I then added the stock, soy, water, and beans. I turned the heat up to medium-high and brought everything to a boil. After 5-10 minutes, I added the zucchini and let simmer at a low boil for another 5-10 minutes. As soon as the carrots and zucchini were tender, I turned the heat down to medium low and cooked 10-15 minutes more to be sure the beans and veggies soaked in lots of flavor, creating a more flavorful broth. I enjoyed the soup, doused generously in freshly grated parmesan cheese, alongside a simple salad of arugula and fresh radishes dressed with a quick lemon vinaigrette: Juice from half a lemon 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons of olive oil 1/2 teaspoon of dijon vinegar (add a pinch of sugar if you don't like it really tart.. I do.) Light and healthy - hearty and delicious. Lots of left overs for the week. I actually froze 1/3 of the pot in an airtight tupperware container to enjoy another lazy day soon. Fall is just around the corner!