Friday, December 21, 2007

Naples' #1 Pastry

I swear, I don't think about food and eating every minute of the day... just most moments of the day. :) I recently found myself daydreaming about an amazing pastry I had during our recent trip to Italy: the sfogliatelle. We were leaving Naples, about to get on the train back to Rome when I realized that I still hadn't sampled Naples' 2nd most famous food (the 1st being pizza, of course)! So I grabbed one from the snack bar in the train station, not expecting much. When I took the warm, heavy package from the cashier, I knew that it would be good. (I later learned that a well-known bakery near the train station delivers fresh baked pastries to the snack bar all day).

I've had many a croissant, puff pastry, layered pastry thing in my life, but nothing like this. The outer layers were flaky and crispy and an excellent balance to the warm sweet creamy center that had some sort of orange essence to it. I did give one little bite to MO, then proceeded to devour the rest of the large pastry in a few short minutes.

I still don't know exactly what is in the filling or how to pronounce it's name, but I do know why Naples is famous for the sfogliatelle.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Baking is not my strong point, but when I'm in the mood I really do like to make cookies, especially to give away as gifts at the holidays. So, this year I decided on 3 varieties: Grandma Barb's Sesame Thumbprints (tried and true favorite), Swedish Ginger Thins (my new favorite), and Chocolate Walnut Rugelach (which I love, but have never made). Then, I ran out of Sesame Thumbprints, so I threw together some Peanut Butter Kisses (thanks for the idea, Lori!)...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Soup #1: Tortellini

There's nothing better than hot hearty soup on cold winter nights. And, although it doesn't get as cold here in California as it does back East, damp rainy nights are perfect for soup, too. This soup is so yummy and quick (it takes under an hour from start to table) and can use up any veggies you have in your fridge (the recipe below uses my favorite soup veggies, but feel free to be creative). Also, tastes even yummier the next day.

Tortellini Soup
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a starter.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried or fresh oregano
1 tsp. dried or fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. thyme
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups chopped canned or fresh tomatoes
½ cup cauliflower, broken into small pieces*
½ cup chopped tomatoes*
½ frozen or fresh green peas*
1 cup chopped leafy greens (swiss chard, spinach or kale are good options)
1 cup dried tortellini
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for topping.
* Other veggies that are yummy in this soup: zucchini, cubed potatoes, canned beans, green beans, etc.

Heat oil in large pot. Stir in onions and celery and cook until tender. Stir in carrots, bay leaf, herbs, and toss to coat. Pour in vegetable stock and tomatoes bring to a simmer. Add chopped vegetables and simmer until veggies start to get tender (5-10 minutes depending on the type of veggies you use). Stir in tortellini and cook until pasta is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread (from Fat Boy Bakery, if possible).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Green Tomatoes

It's that time of the year when MO pulls out the plants in the garden. It always makes me a little sad - the last sign that summer is really truly over - but that's ok I guess because it is December, after all. Ah, the glories of living in California...

So, this year we happen to have tons and tons of green tomatoes and MO gave me the task of taking care of them, so...

First, I fried them. I've had fried green tomatoes at restaurants a few times, sometimes deep fried, sometimes with a thick cornmeal-type crust, but I think the way Dad made them when I was a kid is still the best.

Fried Green Tomatoes
- Green tomatoes
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt & pepper to taste
Slice tomatoes about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Pour a small amount of milk into a shallow bowl. In another bowl, put a 1/2 cup of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Dip each tomato slice into milk first, then dredge in flour. Shake excess flour off of tomato slices. Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil and heat on medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and fry until browned on each side. Serve asrm as a side dish with breakfast, luch or dinner...or just as a snack. Yum.

And then, I pickled them. I love pickles (more about pickles to come), and these are some of the yummiest I can remember.