Oatmeal with Amarena Italian Cherries & Almonds

After posting my recipe for homemade oatmeal mix the other day, I remembered that I wanted to share this idea for topping off your morning oats.

Admittedly, it’s a little indulgent. Amarena cherries are a type of tart cherry grown in northern Italy. They’re soaked in grappa or brandy and packed in cherry syrup, and let me tell you they are the Cherry Bomb. I really like their tart sweetness and intense almond-like essence.

It could be that the word “amarena”  makes me think of amaretto. I’m not sure how the extracted almond flavor is achieved; whether it’s naturally how the cherries taste or if they’re enhanced by the type of brandy used – all I know is the cherries work very nicely paired with the crunch of toasted almonds and warm, creamy oats.

I didn’t find much info on how amarena cherries are made;  if you know more I’d love to hear.

They are sweet and rich, but a little goes a long way here. Feel good knowing that cherries are regarded as a superfood with protective benefits against degenerative disease.

Oatmeal with Amarena Italian Cherries & Almonds

Serving Size: makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1/2 cup homemade oatmeal mix

1 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon ground golden flaxseed

1 or 2 tablespoons amarena cherries in syrup, depending on your sweet tooth

1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted

Instructions

  1. Mix the oatmeal mix and milk in a microwaveable bowl; microwave on high heat for 1 - 1/2 minutes or until the milk is absorbed and the oats are thickened to your liking.
  2. Top the bowl with the flaxseed, cherries and almonds. Enjoy.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/03/oatmeal-with-amarena-italian-cherries-almonds/

Homemade Nutella

homemade-nutella-recipe

What comes to mind when you think of culinary pairings that seem to make magic together, so absolutely made for each other you can’t imagine tasting one without the other?

I can think of a few right off the bat, like:

lime + ginger

basil + tomatoes

olive oil + garlic

and last but not least:

chocolate + hazelnuts.

In one of my favorite new books, The Flavour Thesaurus, author Niki Segnit writes that when cocoa became scarce and  expensive during the late 19th century, chocolate manufacturers in the Italian Piedmont “bulked out” their product with a paste of hazelnuts, which grew plentifully in the region, thus introducing to the world the taste sensation known as gianduja.

All I can say to the genius who stumbled upon this marriage of convenience is THANK YOU.

Millions of hungry, sugar loving children and their families are grateful, since the discovery eventually led to the production of Nutella, and from there, well, we all know the story.

Let’s just agree that chocolate-hazelnut spread on a piece of bread kicks the ass out of your every day PBJ sandwich.

I love the idea of making my own version of Nutella – as much as I adore the store-bought version, it can be a bit cloyingly sweet. Also when I check the label I’m a little dismayed to see that these days the spread can be ‘bulked out’ with partially hydrogenated oils.

I was inspired by a few different recipes here – one from raw food chef Ani Phyo and another from the LA Times.

After applying my appropriate tweaks, I’m happy to share the results with you. Be aware that the texture is not completely velvety smooth, like the stuff that comes out of a jar. Food processors are a wonder, but can’t completely pulverize the nuts to an ultra fine puree.

However, I enjoy the resulting texture – plus the flavor of this homemade version is so real and luscious it’s almost beyond comparison to anything you can buy.

Homemade Nutella

Yield: about 3 cups

Ingredients

2 cups toasted hazelnuts *

1/2 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

about 1/4 cup cold water

Instructions

  1. Process the hazelnuts in a food processor workbowl until they form a coarse paste. You'll need to scrape the bowl down a few times to fully incorporate.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the water and continue to process until somewhat smooth.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the water until you achieve a smooth, emulsified consistency, keeping in mind that you might not need all the water, or might need a bit more.
  4. Scrape the spread into a container and chill in the refrigerator until spreadable; it will keep for about a week. Bring to room temperature before spreading on toast, pouring over ice cream, or directly into your mouth...

Notes

I like the organic, neutral flavor of Omega Nutrtion coconut oil

* To toast hazelnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the nuts turn light brown. I don't bother with trying to rub off the skins - I find it too much trouble and the results are about the same.

http://familystylefood.com/2010/06/homemade-nutella/

Muhammarra – Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread

Among my arsenal of “secret” ingredients is pomegranate molasses, a Middle Eastern condiment that’s made by boiling pomegranate juice until it becomes thick and syrupy. It has an intriguing, sweet-tart taste and deep, dark treacly consistency.

I saw this recipe for muhammara in the very first issue of Saveur magazine, 16 years ago (!). It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I first made it but I guess that makes the recipe a true classic in my file.

The premiere issue of Saveur – Summer 1994

The recipe that oringinally appeared in the magazine came from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, and it’s turned into something I make instead of the ubiquitous hummus when I want to serve a snack or appetizer.

Muhammarra – Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread

Yield: makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers, roasted and peeled

2 slices rustic bread, torn into pieces

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (found in ethnic, specialty & some grocery stores)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Place peppers, bread, garlic and walnuts in a food processor workbowl and process for about 1 minute, scraping down sides once.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until completely smooth, another minute or two. Taste and season with additional salt and lemon juice if needed.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/03/muhammarra-roasted-red-pepper-and-walnut-spread/