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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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 tablespoon instant yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm milk (heat in microwave)

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

¼ cup softened butter

¾ cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating

2 eggs

4 – 6 cups neutral tasting olive oil or other vegetable oil

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/

olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

olive oil and lemon pots de creme

I was going to call this post Little Vanilla Custards, but due to a frisson brought on by the food media I’ve been indulging in lately, I had to change course a bit. It started with the food-celebrity crush I have on Rachel Khoo. Have you seen her show Little Paris Kitchen?

My almost-sixteen year old daughter and I were having some girl time; lazing around on a Sunday afternoon and finally getting caught up on episodes of the show I’d recorded a while back on The Cooking Channel.

“Oh! Look how cute she is, mom! Can I have bangs like that, and red lipstick, and pouty lips, and that little apartment in Paris? And can I draw those fun pictures with watercolors and talk with her accent?” I won’t lie; part of me knew exactly how she felt.

The word “darling” makes rare appearances in my vocabulary, but that’s the one that describes Rachel Khoo and her adventures cooking on two gas rings, in a charming old Paris kitchen hardly bigger than a pack of Gauloises.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

I just got The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook in the mail. There’s no recipe for little vanilla custards - pots de creme en Francais – in there, but that’s what came to mind while I flipped through it. The book is as appealing as the show, and I’m sure it will inspire more little French food for me to cook. Rachel trained in patisserie so there’s lots of sweet, simple recipes in the dessert chapter.

The other twist in today’s recipe story comes from Nigella. I’ve also managed to acquire her new book Nigelissima, and I really like it. I believe Nigella when she says “It was when I was sixteen or seventeen that I decided to be Italian.”

I was browsing through it, hearing her dusky Nigella voice as I read through the recipe introductions. I’d already planned to make my vanilla custards, but got caught up in the photo and description of a drop-dead gorgeous, mascarpone whipped-cream layered, pomegranate and pistachio-strewn Italian Christmas Pudding Cake on page 250. Nigella soaks panettone slices for the cake in Tuaca, the Italian vanilla liqueur which she says seems “panettone in alcohol form.”

tuaca Italian vanilla liqueur vanilla  bean

Hmmmmm. Okay. I think the last time I sampled Tuaca was back in the 1980′s, while on a date with a guy who drank amaretto sours. But I could see how that brandied-buttery-vanilla-citrus flavor sensation that is Tuaca would work in a rich custard just as well as in the creamy filling of Nigella’s spectacular cake.

I had to go on an extended journey to find Tuaca, which turns out is not available in just any old grocery store, or even three (booze is sold in food stores where I live), but required, finally, a visit to the liquor mega-mart in the suburb one over from mine.

Good thing, too. Because damn if that liquid panettone doesn’t taste like a beautiful thing in these little vanilla custards.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

My choice to drizzle olive oil over this smooth-as-silk custard concoction came about because I heard someone whisper “olive oil gelato” in my ear as I was falling asleep one night. No, not really.

I am enticed by the idea of olive oil gelato and will get around to making it soon. I just wanted to add a tiny bit more luscious mouthfeel.

I was sent some olive oil to sample from The Village Press, a New Zealand boutique producer. They have an innovative way of packaging their cold-pressed oil; it’s date-stamped and sealed both in a bag and a black box to protect it from light and oxidation. The oil is golden and tastes buttery and peppery, like an estate oil from Tuscany. It’s pretty special and I will be using this as a finishing oil while it lasts.

If you’re interested in trying Village Press estate oil it’s available at their Amazon store.

olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

You can use 8 espresso cups (3 - ounce capacity) if you have them. Otherwise bake the pots de creme in 6 (4-ounce) ramekins.

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon Tuaca liqueur or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean

Extra-virgin olive oil, the best you have

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place custard or espresso cups in a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold them so they don't touch . Bring a kettle full of water to a boil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.
  4. Very gradually, dribble the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking at the same time. Stir in the Tuaca or vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small, sharp knife; slide the dull edge of the knife along the bean to scrape out the seeds and add them to the bowl. Pour through a mesh strainer into a 3 or 4 cup measuring cup.
  5. Divide the custard among the cups and put the pan on middle oven rack; pour enough boiling water around the cups to come 2/3 of the way up the sides. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the edges are set and centers are a little quivery when you jiggle the cups.
  6. Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and cool on a rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Just before serving, drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over each pots de crème.

Notes

Based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/olive-oil-and-vanilla-pots-de-creme/