parmesan and black pepper shortbread

parmesan black pepper shortbread cookies

If by some chance you like to have your wine and eat some cookies too, this is a recipe for the file. And if by another chance you could care less about wine but require a sweet treat no matter what, I’m confident you’ll be equally pleased to indulge in one of these.

The savory elements of black pepper and Parmesan are at play here, which makes them a great partner for wine or other adult concoctions. But at the same time these crumbly, buttery cookies are subtly sweet, with a balance of crunch from cornmeal and some sea salt – just as delicious with tea or espresso.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

To me that equates to a perfect ratio. I love shortbread cookies for the very reason they’re not overly sugary, yet deliver a richness of flavor I find irresistible.

There’s just enough cornmeal for sandy texture, and Parmesan cheese fills the kitchen with a tempting aroma as they bake. The last touch is some lemon-infused sugar sprinkled over the top of the warm shortbread.

parmesan and black pepper shortbread cookies

parmesan, black pepper and cornmeal shortbread

Yield: 12 - 16 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup brown rice flour

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ cup stoneground cornmeal

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Sift both flours and the salt over a medium bowl; use a whisk to stir in the cornmeal, cheese and pepper.
  3. Pulse the butter and confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until creamy; add the flour mixture and pulse just until a soft dough forms (about 30 seconds).
  4. Pat the dough in an even layer into a 9-inch square or round tart pan with a removable bottom.
  5. Bake 35 – 40 minutes, or until the top is very lightly golden and the dough feels set when pressed gently. Stir together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and sprinkle over the top of the shortbread as soon as it comes out of the oven.
  6. Cool the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then unmold the shortbread and cool 10 more minutes. While it’s still warm, cut the shortbread with a large, sharp knife into 16 squares or 12 wedges.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/parmesan-and-black-pepper-shortbread/

rosemary no. 3 – blood orange negroni

rosemary negroni cocktail
I traveled to Chicago late last fall with a few of my best-est girlfriends. It’s an annual trip, filled with drinks, shopping, drinks, eating and more shopping – fun, right?

This year, the most memorable dining and drinking experience for me (aside from a-mazing tacos and margeritas at Big Star) was at the restaurant Balena. The food is just the kind I’m always hungry for; simple, rustic Italian with a fresh, seasonal slant.

Seriously, everything on the menu is something you want to eat, which makes it hard to choose. I’m glad there were enough of us that we were able to order a table full of things to share. But let me back up a little.

rosemary blood orange negroni

Before we got down to enjoying delicious food, we had a short wait at the very crowded bar, where I had a drink I’ve been craving ever since. The entire cocktail selection has a flavor profile of Italian bitters; flavored with components like Campari and Amaro.

I ordered the Rosemary no.2 – Campari, Aperol, fresh sour mix, egg white and a flaming rosemary sprig for a garnish. It was a perfect combination of sweet-sour-bitter, and the lofty egg white foam on top was better than whipped cream.

I was in the mood to try to recreate the drink last weekend and did a little research. I found this video of Debbi Peek, the Mixologist who created the cocktail program at Balena, demoing the Rosemary no.2 along with a few other drinks, which gave me a good place to start. I got to work improvising, and came up with a pretty close approximation, which I thought appropriate to name the Rosemary no.3.

I made the drink a Negroni by adding some gin and vermouth, muddled the rosemary rather than set it on fire, and used fresh blood orange and lemon juice with some sugar to replace the fresh sour mix they use at the bar.

However, my egg white foam wasn’t nearly as impressive as the one topping my original drink; I think my mixologist muscles need a bit more work. I settled on whisking the egg white until thick and foamy before adding it to the shaker. I almost pulled out my cream whipper for the job, which would make more sense if I were making a batch of drinks for friends

rosemary blood orange negroni

For more on perfecting egg white cocktail foam, I liked this tutorial by Jamie Boudreau.

Also, Not Martha has a method to achieve a seriously beautiful egg white cocktail foam on a classic Ramos gin fizz..

rosemary no. 3 – blood orange negroni

Yield: one drink

Ingredients

1 egg white

1 sprig rosemary, plus more for garnish

1 thin slice blood orange or juice orange

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon superfine sugar

Juice of 1 blood orange or juice orange

2 ounces Aperol or Campari

2 ounces gin

1 ounce sweet vermouth

Instructions

  1. Whisk the egg white in a bowl until very it turns very foamy and opaque.
  2. Muddle the rosemary, blood orange, lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker to crush and release their fragrance.
  3. Add crushed ice to the shaker along with the egg white and the rest of the ingredients; cover and shake vigorously for up to 5 minutes – or as long as your arm can take.
  4. Strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a rosemary sprig.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/rosemary-no-3-blood-orange-negroni/

gorgonzola focaccia, chicory and walnuts

gorgonzola-focaccia-walnuts-chicory

I grew up eating a version of pizza made at neighborhood bakeries; long, doughy rectangles layered in wax paper, piled into a brown cardboard cake box and tied up with a piece of string.

After a few hours, the oil would seep through the layers of paper and make random stains on the bottom of the cardboard. We enjoyed it straight out of the box as a snack all through the day, especially during those times between lunch and dinner or to stave off hunger after school.

Unlike the crusty pie ordered hot from a pizzeria on a Friday night, it was best cold or at room temperature and topped simply with a thick layer of rich, reduced tomato sauce – and no cheese.

gorgonzola focaccia with walnuts and chicory

I always knew them as “pizza strips” and I didn’t connect the dots until years later that my favorite snack was a type of focaccia, with a distinctly Italian-American spin.

I still love pizza strips. They are very much a tradition in Southern New England although those family bakeries don’t populate the map as profusely as they once did. My kids chow on pizza strips when we visit my family in Rhode Island – there’s nothing like them in the Midwest where they live now.

The focaccia I’m presenting here – with its topping of sweet-savory caramelized onions, bitter greens, gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts – is only distantly related to the strips I described. It’s the base that bears a similarity; a basic pizza dough enriched with olive oil.

Check out this post from Almost Italian for an authentic take on pizza strips.

Also, Goat Cheese, Roasted Grape and Walnut Bruschette from A Little Saffron are a delicious inspiration.

gorgonzola focaccia with red onion, chicory and walnuts

Serving Size: 8 slices

For this recipe I used Petite Tango, a curly, spicy lettuce I found in an assortment of heirloom greens at the grocery store. If you can't find it, use leaves from a head of chicory or frisee.

Ingredients

For focaccia dough:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

For topping:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup each shredded radicchio and baby chicory or frisee

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, yeast and oil in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in 1 cup water.
  2. Mix on medium speed until dough comes together, about 2 minutes. Cover bowl loosely with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.
  3. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough for 1 minute – the dough should be fairly sticky but stretchy.
  4. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk; about 2 hours. Alternatively, cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning, let the dough come to room temperature and let rise until doubled in bulk.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Stir, then lower heat and cover the pan.
  6. Cook 15 minutes or until the onions are very soft. Uncover and continue cooking until the onions are deep brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  8. Place the dough on an oiled 13 x 9-inch rimmed baking pan and spread the dough toward the edges of the pan – it will spring back and not quite reach. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.
  9. Gently dimple the dough while stretching with your fingers to evenly cover the pan the rest of the way. Bake 10 minutes.
  10. Distribute the onions over the top of the focaccia and bake another 10 minutes.
  11. Sprinkle the cheese, radicchio, chicory and walnuts over the onions and return to the oven; bake an additional 5 minutes to slightly melt the cheese and wilt the greens.
  12. Cut into serving pieces with a sharp knife or pizza cutter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/gorgonzola-focaccia-chicory-and-walnuts/