chocolate almond caprese cake

The lingering snow and frigid cold blanketing New York and  New Jersey finally started to thaw this weekend. Visible pavement on the sidewalk meant my little dog could complete her daily walk without immediately limping pathetically, paws encrusted with ice pellets and packed snow after a few steps. But today it’s snowing again; another day off for the kids and me one step closer to buying Alpine booties for the pooch.

I actually love it when a serious snowfall forces us to stay home — it  looks quietly beautiful through the windows of a warm house and there’s none of the dropping off, picking up or driving to and fro required on every other day.

It means that I have a few minutes to catch up here on this blog, something that’s been a challenge lately as I still work on getting my family settled into a new home – it’s been an enormous change in my life, to say the least. Nonetheless, there’ve been things percolating in my head foodwise, and as always, anything chocolate is a welcome solace and a motivation to bake something.

I bought a stunning new cookbook, Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake. It’s a compilation of recipes and gorgeous photography from the Italian Amalfi Coast. Looking at the pages in the dead of winter and imagining myself on a cliffside patio in Positano sipping limoncello has a warming affect on my insides, not to mention my entire well being. [Read more...]

buckwheat crepes, strawberries, chocolate

buckwheat crepes with olive oil marinated strawberries and chocolate sauce

I was planning to experiment with more Marcella Hazan recipes this week – she’s become like my fairy godmother for cooking inspiration lately.

At some point I will continue with my original thought, which was to make Marcella’s crespelle, the Italian version of crepes. They’re usually served as a savory meal, layered and stacked into cakes along with cheese, vegetables, meat and other delicious things.

But…I was temporarily distracted after seeing the chocolate pound cake that Laura recently posted on her lovely dessert blog Tutti Dolci. I decided to join the April Chocolate Party hosted by Roxana instead.

strawberries in olive oil

So here’s what happened to those crespelle – they turned into buttermilk buckwheat crepes with warm chocolate sauce (this month’s Party theme is chocolate and buttermilk).

Now that strawberries are popping up, I had to include them in what I hope is a long, sweet and “fruitful” season.

Does it seem strange to marinate berries in olive oil? I was inspired while in San Francisco recently, where I had a strawberry brushetta drizzled with it.  I think really good oil tastes just right drizzled on ripe fruit, and now look forward to trying all kinds of combinations.

buckwheat crepes, olive oil marinated strawberries, chocolate sauce

buckwheat crepes with strawberries and chocolate sauce

Yield: makes about 8 crepes

Ingredients

Chocolate Sauce:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 ounces chopped dark or semisweet chocolate

Crepes

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup water

½ cup buckwheat flour

½ cup all purpose flour

3 eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for pan

1 teaspoon sugar

¾ teaspoon salt

1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

2 tablespoons raw, turbinado or granulated sugar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil – from your best bottle

Instructions

  1. To make the chocolate sauce, whisk sugar and water together in a small saucepan until dissolved. Bring to a simmer; add the cocoa and salt, whisking to blend. Remove from the heat; add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Cool to room temperature until thickened slightly, or refrigerate until cold (reheat before serving).
  2. Combine the buttermilk, water, flours, eggs, butter, sugar and salt in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the container to incorporate any flour sticking to the side and blend for a few more seconds to mix. Cover the container (or transfer to a bowl) and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Combine the strawberries, sugar and olive oil and let stand 10 minutes or so while making the crepes.
  4. Heat an 8-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles instantly on the surface.
  5. Brush the pan with some butter and add enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan - 2 or 3 tablespoons; I use a small ladle - immediately tilting and swirling pan to make an even circle of batter.
  6. Cook the crepe until the bottom is set and light golden – you can shake the pan a little to see if it slides; if it does, it’s about ready to flip. Turn the crepe over gently with your fingers or small spatula and cook the other side for another minute or two.
  7. The first crepe is usually a practice one, but congratulations if yours comes out perfectly! Repeat the process with the rest of the batter, stacking crepes and layering with wax or parchment paper as you go.
  8. Serve crepes topped with strawberries and warm chocolate sauce.

Notes

Crepe recipe adapted from 1997 Joy of Cooking

http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/buckwheat-crepes-strawberries-chocolate/

venetian chocolate walnut cake

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I believe with my whole heart in the act of cooking; in its smells, in its sounds, in its observable progress on the fire. – Marcella Hazan

Here’s a simple, rustic cake, right at home presented on a plain old cutting board, dolled up with nothing more than a lavish dusting of cocoa (powdered sugar would do just as well).

The basis of this recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s masterpiece, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I tote around with me like a cherished friend. And now I realize that it is just that.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I bought my copy at the Strand Bookstore in New York City, just about twenty years ago when I was teaching myself to cook, and I still have it. On those days when I feel slightly uncentered and overwhelmed, Marcella’s words and recipes help me feel grounded again.

I only have to read the recipe title for Roast Chicken with Two Lemons (a version of that chicken appeared here as Marry Me Roast Chicken) to be reminded that no matter how discouraging a day seems, a person can always replenish the soul by making something simple and delicious to eat.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Marcella’s recipe uses almonds, but I was craving walnuts and needed to make a dent in what seems to be a stockpile of them in my freezer (I must have been a squirrel in another lifetime). I also added a bit of chocolate (just because).

I love this cake, and I hope you will, too. It’s light, moist, rich, not too sweet…making it one of a few desserts that can be savored along with the last drops of red wine – or better yet, a glass of nocino - after dinner.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Yield: one 8 inch cake

Marcella writes in the headnote to the original recipe that almonds are “ by a wide margin the most favored nut in Italian cakes, particularly in the Veneto...” but I think walnuts are a wonderful substitute.

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups shelled walnuts

1 cup sugar

3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Grated zest of one lemon or orange

8 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

½ cup all-purpose flour or brown rice flour

1 tablespoon nocino (Italian walnut liqueur) or brandy

Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or softly whipped cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the sides of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil or softened butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
  2. Put the walnuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until fine crumbs form; add the chocolate and zest and pulse a few times to chop the chocolate into small chips.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt in a mixer with the whisk attachment until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Sift the flour over the egg whites and fold it in gently. Add the walnut mixture in 2 or 3 additions and fold it in carefully (the volume will decrease slightly); stir in the nocino or brandy.
  5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake on the middle oven rack 30 – 35 minutes, until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges without crumbs but with a little melted chocolate.
  6. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan; invert onto a rack, remove the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely.
  7. Sift cocoa powder over the cake before slicing and serving, with a side of whipped cream of you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/venetian-chocolate-walnut-cake/