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:
  1. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  2. 3/4 cup water
  3. 1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder
  4. ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  5. 2 ounces chopped dark or semisweet chocolate
  6. Crepes
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. ½ cup water
  9. ½ cup buckwheat flour
  10. ½ cup all purpose flour
  11. 3 eggs
  12. 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for pan
  13. 1 teaspoon sugar
  14. ¾ teaspoon salt
  15. 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  16. 2 tablespoons raw, turbinado or granulated sugar
  17. 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/

midnight pasta, pecorino and olio santo

midnight pasta, hot chili oil and pecorino

Hunger cravings seem to strike at times other than midnight. Especially for me. In my current rock-and-roll lifestyle, I tend to be ready-for-bed by 10 o’clock, fast asleep by the time the clock strikes twelve.

With the exception of those nights I’m out on the town listening to ear-pounding live music and drinking cheap cava until the wee hours, my need for quick hunger fixes will haunt me most often after a day of cooking for a client; a long day spent cooking; tasting and smelling everything but never stopping for a break to nourish myself.

We all have some kind of personal go-to meal that feeds an empty stomach and brings body and soul back together. And whether after a day of debauchery, hard work or world travel, I’m willing to bet that those foods contain lots of carbs, salt and spice.

olio santo - hot chili oil dried chili peppers
midnight spaghetti with pecorino and hot chile pil

An Italian-style midnight snack – la spaghettata di mezzanotte – completes my appetite for all of the above. I’ve enjoyed versions with anchovies, bread crumbs and chopped up fresh tomatoes, but the core of the plate has to be pasta – preferably spaghetti for the satisfying slurp factor; and lots of garlic, olive oil and chili.

Olio santo is hot chili oil from Calabria. There are worse things to be addicted to, which I guess is a good thing because this stuff has found its way into my everyday life and I l-o-v-e  it. A little drizzle on homemade popcorn, a garnish on toasted bread strewn with arugula..it works.

spaghetti a mezzanotte with pecorino and hot chili oil

I recommend making your chili oil in advance so that you might experience this holy trinity of delicousness; chili, pecorino and pasta.

My recipe is inspired by both Lynn Rosseto Kasper and a recipe from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking.

midnight pasta with pecorino and olio santo

Serving Size: 1 or 2

It's worth making the olio santo separately ahead of time, just to have on hand for that spontaneous midnight craving. Of course, you can make this pasta without it; just add a bigger pinch of crushed red pepper.

Ingredients

  1. For the hot chili oil (olio santo):
  2. 3 medium-hot fresh red chili peppers, such as Fresno; coarsely chopped
  3. 3 or 4 dried red chili peppers, such as chile de árbol; crumbled
  4. 1 cup pure olive oil
  5. For pasta:
  6. Salt
  7. ½ pound dried spaghetti or other pasta shape
  8. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  9. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  10. 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  11. Freshly ground black pepper
  12. ¾ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  13. Chopped Italian parsley
  14. Hot chili oil
  15. Dried crushed red pepper (I like Aleppo pepper)

Instructions

  1. To make the chili oil, puree all the chilies and oil in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil; simmer 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat to cool and infuse the oil.
  2. Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup. For clearer oil, avoid pressing down on the solids; if the mix starts to move slowly through the strainer, stir gently with a spoon and/or lift out some of the solids. Line the strainer with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the oil through one more time.
  3. Transfer the oil to an airtight jar or bottle; store in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  4. To make the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a small handful of salt. Add the spaghetti or pasta of your choice.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the onion, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle; scoop out ½ cup of the boiling pasta water and add to the pan. Cover, lower heat and cook 5 minutes or until the onion and garlic are very tender.
  6. If there’s any water left in the pan, let it bubble away in the uncovered pan until reduced to a tablespoon or so.
  7. Once the pasta is just about done, drain and reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water in a small bowl.
  8. Add the drained pasta to the sauté pan over low heat, along with ½ cup of the cheese; stir enough water to blend with the cheese to coat the pasta.
  9. Serve in bowls drizzled with some parsley, hot chili oil, crushed red pepper and additional cheese to taste.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/midnight-pasta-pecorino-and-olio-santo/

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

  1. 6 egg yolks
  2. 1/3 cup sugar
  3. 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  5. ½ cup milk
  6. 1 tablespoon Tuaca liqueur or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. 1 vanilla bean
  8. 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/