rigatoni and roasted delicata squash

About two months ago my entire kitchen  — along with every other room in the four bedroom Colonial Revival home I’d lived in for the past 10 years — was packed into a seemingly endless pile of boxes and loaded onto a long distance semi trailer truck, headed for New Jersey.

It took a few professionals less than a day to wrap and pack it all, but here I am, these many weeks later still sliding razor blades, sticky from packing tape, along the tops of the few remaining boxes.

Settling into a new space is a process. As I unpacked pots, pans, dishes and so many spoons, spatulas and whisks along with them I also found things that I didn’t know I had and had no idea I needed. Like about a thousand bamboo cocktail skewers, for example. And 3 dozen souffle cups.

“Why do I have all this stuff?” I wondered over and over…the whole experience left me a more than a little traumatized. I made a promise to myself that from now on I need to imagine the inevitable exit of every single thing I bring into my house.

Cooking in my new kitchen has progressed from the baby steps of basic survival meals. I’ve been inspired by food shopping. There are fantastic markets here, so well-stocked I have to restrain myself…all I need to do is remember how I gave away my pantry while we were packing a few months ago.

One night I riffed on a recipe from Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks, a roasted delicata squash, chile and mozzarella salad. Delicata is only around for a few months (right now) and I’m always glad to see it. The beautiful, striated green and sunset yellow skin is tender enough that there’s no need to peel it — I sometimes just scrape the skin randomly here and there to remove blemishes — and the flesh roasts up tender and very sweet.

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italian lemon slush

italian lemon slush cocktail

I can’t imagine there’s anything I wouldn’t love about the city of Venice. Since I haven’t been there yet I remain a vicarious traveler; picturing a sepia-colored city like no other, floating over an ancient network of canals, all those mysterious alleyways winding through a landscape of crumbling palaces.

Twenty-seven summers ago my best friend took off in the direction of Europe, with no real itinerary or return date. I’d planned up until the last minute to go with her, saving all my waitressing cash in a box under my mattress, but drama overrode – it became suddenly necessary that I break up with my then-boyfriend and find a new apartment. How unromantic!

lemon peel syrup for italian slush

Everything worked out fine in the end, but missing that adventure was my regret. In the middle of her travels, my friend called me from Venice; she was running out of money but still hoping I’d change my mind and meet her there in Italy.

I felt a tiny bit jealous that she was in a place I’d only ever dreamed about seeing, until she described the harrowing time she was having there; getting off the train alone in the middle of the night, finding the Piazza San Marco teeming with rats and also a few human ones intent on stealing her backpack and who knows what else.

It can happen in any city anywhere, but somehow, knowing it was less than paradise at that moment in Venice made it a little easier to accept what I was missing.
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pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake from Modena

My daughter and her friend began to make this cake disappear one afternoon, tearing off pieces with their hands, letting the crumbs fall down to where the dog was waiting, eager to take on the role of floor-polisher.

Whacanacakeshis?”

Although I think my kids should be long past the stage of being wary of nuts in and around their food – they don’t have allergies or anything else to cause worry – they still hesitate before taking a sample of any cake, cookie or other sweet baked thing with clear nut visibility.

pistachio crumbly cake sbrisolona

Apparently this cake seemed appealing despite that slight defect, because half of it was gone before I could reply.

“It’s like a coffee cake…”

“Oh, yeah. I like coffee cake, but this looks kinda flat. Are you sure it’s a coffee cake?”

“It’s an Italian coffee cake, not puffy like the ones you’re used to. You like it?”

“Yahmmmmm…”

This is my take on sbrisolona, Italian crumb cake. Most traditional ones are made with almonds or pine nuts like this one from Mario Batali, but I wanted to use pistachios, so here you go.

It turns out properly crumby, not like a dry cookie but a slightly sticky crumble.

pistachio crumbly cake

pistachio crumbly cake

Yield: one 9-inch cake

This cake is prepared entirely in a food processor before baking. It keeps very well on your kitchen counter for a few days, if it lasts that long.

Ingredients

  1. For streusel:
  2. ½ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  4. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  6. 2 tablespoons melted butter
  7. For cake:
  8. 1 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  9. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  10. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  11. 1 teaspoon ground anise seed
  12. ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  13. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  14. 2 eggs
  15. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  16. ¼ cup melted butter
  17. Grated zest from 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and lightly brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil or melted butter.
  2. To make the streusel, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until fine crumbs form; add the flour, sugar, anise seed and baking powder and pulse to combine.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, olive oil, butter and lemon zest until emulsified; add to the flour mixture in the food processor and blend just until the batter is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  5. Spread batter into the pan and top evenly with the streusel. Bake 25 – 30 minutes; the cake should spring back to the touch.
  6. Cool cake on a rack 10 – 15 minutes before removing sides of the pan; allow cake to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/05/pistachio-crumbly-cake/