italian cherry doughnuts

bomboloni - italian cherry and cream doughnuts

Bom-bo-LONI: It’s a fantastic combination of vowels and consonants, don’t you think? Not only do I love to roll the sound of the word around, I’m once again wandering into deep-frying territory with these crazy-good Italian filled doughnuts.

I won’t lie; going to the trouble of deep-fat frying combined with having to mess with a piping bag lies right outside my comfort zone of carefree cooking, and right up next to pain-in-the-culo.

I brainstorm and then procrastinate ideas for a small mobile business (more than a few have taken my gelato truck and driven away with it)…why not a Bombolini Bus? Or maybe something more bricks and mortar; like The Bombolini Bar – a hole-in-the-wall serving up fresh, hot doughnut holes alongside cold glasses of pink Prosecco.

italian cherry jam and cream filled doughnuts

It doesn’t seem likely I’ll be doing that anytime soon, but if you do, please invite me to your grand opening.

In the meantime, I have to admit it was worth the effort to make homemade doughnuts. My kids really had no idea, no benchmark, for fresh, real doughnuts in a landscape saturated with drive-through junk.

bomboloni: italian cherry doughnuts

If you take the doughnut plunge, definitely plan to make these when there are enough people around to devour them right as they’re done. Although they are nicely, manageably bite-sized, that also translates into all the more easy to make disappear.

I “tested” a good half dozen bomboloni before I realized I would be depleting the entire output of the recipe if I kept going. So you’ve been warned.

bomboloni: italian cherry jam and pastry cream doughnuts

bomboloni: italian cherry doughnuts

Yield: about 3 dozen small doughnuts

If using cherry preserves, mash or puree to remove pieces of fruit that may clog the pastry tip.

The bomboloni are wonderful plain too, if you don't want to go the trouble of filling them. Another option - split them in half and spoon over preserves or filling of your choice.

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  2. 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (heat in microwave)
  3. 3 cups flour
  4. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  6. ¼ cup softened butter
  7. ¾ cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 4 – 6 cups neutral tasting olive oil or other vegetable oil
  10. 1 cup cherry preserves and/or 1 cup pastry cream (recipe below)

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast with the milk in a medium bowl; stir in 1 cup of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it proof until bubbly, about 1 hour.
  2. Whisk together the remaining flour with the salt and nutmeg in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy, about 30 seconds; add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at time, until blended.
  4. Add the yeast mixture along with the flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until the flour is incorporated and a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl forms, 2 or 3 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly buttered bowl, cover and leave at room temperature 1 hour. (The dough can also be refrigerated up to one day ahead of frying at this point – leave out for one hour before proceeding.
  5. Place the dough on a floured surface and pat or roll it out ½-inch thick. Cut out circles using a 1 ½ - 2-inch diameter biscuit cutter; arrange the doughnuts on a baking sheet, lightly cover with a towel and let them rise for an hour.
  6. Pour oil to a depth of 4 inches in a heavy pot or saucepan (I used a 3-quart All Clad) and heat to 350 degrees.
  7. Drop the doughnuts into the oil 3 or 4 at a time. Fry until puffed and golden all over, turning once. Remove the doughnuts as they’re done and immediately roll them in sugar, then onto a rack to cool.
  8. Put the jam and/or pastry cream in a piping bag or a sealable plastic bag fitted with a plain pastry tip. Gently poke a hole into each doughnut with a wide skewer (or use the pastry tip) and fill each bomboloni. Serve freshly made.

Notes

*To make pastry cream, heat 1 ½ cups whole milk and a vanilla bean broken in half, until it comes to a boil. Whisk 4 egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl until thickened; sift over ¼ cup flour and stir it in. Scoop out a few tablespoons of the boiling milk and whisk into the eggs; then pour the eggs into the milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the cream is thickened to the texture of mayonnaise. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Strain into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cold. Stir in some heavy cream to thin before piping, if needed.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/italian-cherry-doughnuts/

midnight pasta, pecorino and olio santo

midnight pasta, hot chili oil and pecorino

Hunger cravings seem to strike at times other than midnight. Especially for me. In my current rock-and-roll lifestyle, I tend to be ready-for-bed by 10 o’clock, fast asleep by the time the clock strikes twelve.

With the exception of those nights I’m out on the town listening to ear-pounding live music and drinking cheap cava until the wee hours, my need for quick hunger fixes will haunt me most often after a day of cooking for a client; a long day spent cooking; tasting and smelling everything but never stopping for a break to nourish myself.

We all have some kind of personal go-to meal that feeds an empty stomach and brings body and soul back together. And whether after a day of debauchery, hard work or world travel, I’m willing to bet that those foods contain lots of carbs, salt and spice.

olio santo - hot chili oil dried chili peppers
midnight spaghetti with pecorino and hot chile pil

An Italian-style midnight snack – la spaghettata di mezzanotte – completes my appetite for all of the above. I’ve enjoyed versions with anchovies, bread crumbs and chopped up fresh tomatoes, but the core of the plate has to be pasta – preferably spaghetti for the satisfying slurp factor; and lots of garlic, olive oil and chili.

Olio santo is hot chili oil from Calabria. There are worse things to be addicted to, which I guess is a good thing because this stuff has found its way into my everyday life and I l-o-v-e  it. A little drizzle on homemade popcorn, a garnish on toasted bread strewn with arugula..it works.

spaghetti a mezzanotte with pecorino and hot chili oil

I recommend making your chili oil in advance so that you might experience this holy trinity of delicousness; chili, pecorino and pasta.

My recipe is inspired by both Lynn Rosseto Kasper and a recipe from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.

midnight pasta with pecorino and olio santo

Serving Size: 1 or 2

It's worth making the olio santo separately ahead of time, just to have on hand for that spontaneous midnight craving. Of course, you can make this pasta without it; just add a bigger pinch of crushed red pepper.

Ingredients

  1. For the hot chili oil (olio santo):
  2. 3 medium-hot fresh red chili peppers, such as Fresno; coarsely chopped
  3. 3 or 4 dried red chili peppers, such as chile de árbol; crumbled
  4. 1 cup pure olive oil
  5. For pasta:
  6. Salt
  7. ½ pound dried spaghetti or other pasta shape
  8. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  9. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  10. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  11. Freshly ground black pepper
  12. ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  13. Chopped Italian parsley
  14. Hot chili oil
  15. Dried crushed red pepper (I like Aleppo pepper)

Instructions

  1. To make the chili oil, puree all the chilies and oil in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil; simmer 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat to cool and infuse the oil.
  2. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup. For clearer oil, avoid pressing down on the solids; if the mix starts to move slowly through the strainer, stir gently with a spoon and/or lift out some of the solids. Line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the oil through one more time.
  3. Transfer the oil to an airtight jar or bottle; store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  4. To make the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the spaghetti or pasta of your choice.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the onion, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle; scoop out ½ cup of the boiling pasta water and add to the pan. Cover, lower heat and cook 5 minutes or until the onion and garlic are very tender.
  6. If there’s any water left in the pan, let it bubble away in the uncovered pan until reduced to a tablespoon or so.
  7. Once the pasta is just about done, drain and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water in a small bowl.
  8. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan over low heat, along with ½ cup of the cheese; stir enough water to blend with the cheese to coat the pasta.
  9. Serve in bowls drizzled with some parsley, hot chili oil, crushed red pepper and additional cheese to taste.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/midnight-pasta-pecorino-and-olio-santo/

tuscan sweet potato fries

tuscan sweet potato fries

I blame Nigella for this recipe, and many apologies to all of you who make these sweet potato fries – they are worse than a bag full of peanut M & M’s – no way is it possible to eat just one. If you’re ready, then go all in. Fair warning. But just so you know where I stand on this topic – GO ALL IN.

Last week I was teased into indulging in olive oil, cream and buttery Italian liqueur thanks to Nigella’s new book, and now I couldn’t help myself from trying her method for making Tuscan Fries.

She credits Cesare Casella, a chef originally from Lucca, for inventing Tuscan Fries; potatoes deep-fried with aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) and whole garlic cloves. Sounds delicious, no? But what really got me interested in the recipe was the method Nigella adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, a “revolutionary” fuss-free way to deep-fry, which involves starting with the potatoes in cold oil, heating to a rapid boil and frying to perfection in about 25 minutes.

tuscan sweet potato fries

I don’t like messing with deep-frying usually, but I became very curious and decided to give it a go. I didn’t have any of the waxy potatoes called for in Nigella’s recipe, so I forged ahead with a few sweet potatoes instead.

I also decided not to use corn oil. For both health and flavor reasons, I don’t cook with ultra-processed vegetable oils. It’s olive oil or nothing for the most part (well, except for really good butter and the occasional fling with duck fat, which also makes killer fries).

However, I saved the extra-virgin oil for another day and used a “light” olive oil, which I’m afraid after reading the excellent book Extra Virginity is just as scandalously corrupted and impure as a tanker full of cheap soybean oil. But what the hell. At some point you have to just move on and start frying.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Which I did, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe worked like a charm. The sweet potatoes emerged dark and crisp and were perfectly tender on the inside. The crunchy bits of fried herbs shatter into tiny shards that coat the potatoes, giving every mouthful a taste of them. The garlic slips out of the skin, golden and soft; just right for squeezing out onto the sweet potatoes for even more flavor.

I had some smoked salt and sprinkled some of it over everything, which kind of took it over the top into sweet potato fantastic-ness.

One more great thing – save the oil; it’s aromatic with herbs and garlic. I measured the oil after cooking as Nigella says she did in the recipe introduction, and recovered almost exactly all of it. So cold-start deep frying might not be such an indulgence after all.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

A deep fry thermometer is highly recommended here.

Ingredients

  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ¾ pounds)
  2. 1 ½ quarts “light” olive oil
  3. 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
  4. Handful each rosemary, sage and thyme sprigs
  5. Smoked sea salt, kosher or sea salt

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of the sweet potatoes (no need to peel them), stand them on end and slice down vertically into ½-wide planks, then into ½-inch wide fries. If the potatoes are longer than 4 inches, cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a wide, heavy pot (I used a 4-quart casserole pot 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep); cover with the oil, place over high heat and bring to a boil. It should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Once the oil is bubbling vigorously, set a timer for 15 minutes. Use a deep-fry thermometer to adjust the heat if needed, keeping the oil somewhere between 275 and 300 degrees.
  4. After 15 minutes, carefully move the sweet potatoes around with a pair of long tongs to mix them around a little. Add the garlic cloves and continue frying for another 5 or 10 minutes, keeping your eye peeled that neither the potatoes or garlic gets too dark.
  5. Test a fry – carefully- for doneness. If they are golden and crisp and tender on the inside, toss in the herbs (stand back while you do this in case of splatters) and fry for another minute or so.
  6. Use a slotted skimmer to transfer everything to a towel-lined baking sheet. Blot briefly and sprinkle with salt; serve right away.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Tuscan Fries in Nigellissima

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/tuscan-sweet-potato-fries/