Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2018 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
Zeppole are traditionally served on San Giuseppe (St. Joseph’s Day) in Naples, which is on March 19th. They were first made in Naples by a baker and sold in front of his bakery from a street stand. You can still find them served in stalls on the streets today as well as in bakeries. Sometimes they are not rolled into a ball but scooped into the hot oil and look more like a fritter. Recipes can be found in cookbooks as early at 1834.
Emanuele Rocco (Le Zeppole, in Usi e Costumi di Napoli e contorni — Uses and Customs of Naples and Environs, Naples, 1857), who gives Cavalcanti’s recipe and adds, jokingly, that the inventor of such a delight deserves a statue with the following plaque: “Naples invented zeppole and all Italians licked their fingers.” He then says, “Thus our city government will be able to boast that they finally got one right, after all the mistakes they’ve made and continue to make every day.”
They can be made as either a savory or sweet dish. My grandmother made them with a piece of baccala in the middle, which I will post at a later date. My aunts say they were the best zappole they ever had, light as a feather with the salty taste of baccala. But they are still arguing over the recipe.
Zeppole are eaten anytime of the day as a snack or as a dessert after a meal dunked in a sweet wine, Moscato or Grappa.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes, or until they are golden brown
Yield: 24 Zeppole
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1 small apple, finely chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Grappa (Italian Liquor)
2 tablespoons Rum
1 small orange, zest only
Put the raisins into the Grappa and Rum; it should cover the raisins. Let them stand for about 1/2 hour or more.
Blend the eggs and sugar together until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, zest, vanilla and sugar together and add it to the egg mixture in a mixer. Pour in the Grappa and rum from the raisins. Chop the apples very fine and fold them in with the raisins into the batter.
Scoop out about 1/2 tablespoon of the batter. Cover your hands with flour and roll them into about the size of a golf ball. You can also scoop them out with a spoon and make them like fritters.
Heat the oil and drop them one at a time into the oil. They will float to the top and, with a ladle, constantly roll them around in the oil so that they brown on all sides – approximately 3 minutes or until they are golden brown. Place them on a rack or paper towels to drain and cool.
Put them in a bag filled with powdered sugar or granulated sugar mixed with a little cinnamon and gently toss them, coating them with the sugar. They can also be dipped in warm honey.
The first sign of spring in Europe is when asparagus begin to show up on restaurant menus. Asparagus are considered the king of vegetables and some restaurants open only during the season serving asparagus with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit Sauce Hollandaise), slices of ham and fresh strawberries for dessert. Once the season is over, these restaurants close.
Having lived in Germany for several years, we would see fields of white asparagus packed in dirt with the tips peeking out of the ground during the spring. They are deprived of light, which keeps them from turning green.
White asparagus are thicker and juicer but I think more fibrous. Some restaurants in Germany serve them in their water, not my favorite. A chef friend of ours, Rolf Messmer, owner of the Au Major Davel Restaurant & Hotel in Cully Switzerland (www.hotelaumajordavel.ch/), tells us that when he started his apprenticeship he cleaned tons of asparagus. He is meticulous in making sure that the skin has been neatly removed from the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, he turns the stalks slightly with every stroke removing all the skin. He adds sugar to the water to bring out the flavor and slightly undercooks them, wrapping them in a towel for the final cooking. His asparagus are perfect and his restaurant is filled with people enjoying the king of vegetables as they watch the steamboats pulling up to the dock on Lake Geneva.
There are special asparagus pans where you stand them in a rack in about 3” of water. But you can cook them lying down in water also. Don’t overcook them, as they will become soggy and uneatable. Prick them with a knife to judge if they are beginning to get tender after about five minutes. As soon as the knife starts to penetrate the stalk remove them to a clean kitchen towel as suggested by Chef Messmer.
Green and white asparagus are interchangeable in recipes, but I feel that due to the amount of water in the white variety, they are not as good if added to pizza for instance. I also prefer the green the variety in pasta or anything where the heat continues to cook the vegetable.
When choosing asparagus, make sure they are fresh and the ends are not dried out. When they are old, they will begin to show ridges along the stem – the stem should be smooth. Store them covered in the refrigerator for a few days only. When you are ready to cook them, snap the bottoms off – they will break where the tender part starts. Discard the hard bottom parts, as they are woody and fibrous.
Asparagus are a versatile vegetable and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, made into soup, tossed with pasta and so on. The white variety tends to be a little more expensive and are not as easily found in the US as they are in Europe. I prefer the green variety, as I think they have a more intense flavor but this is a matter of taste.
Place several on a warm plate and add some hollandaise sauce over the top or on the side. It is acceptable to eat them with your hands holding the ends and dipping them in the sauce. A good chardonnay, or a light burgundy goes well with this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Yield: 2 people
12 green or white asparagus (remove the outer skin with a peeler)
Salt & sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
Juice of one lemon
Boil the peppercorns, wine vinegar and chopped parsley until it is reduced to almost nothing, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of water. Run it through a sieve and pour it into a cold double boiler. Add 2 egg yolks, whisking them into the pan. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, at this point put the double boiler onto medium heat and begin whisking little pieces of butter until the it has melted and thicken. Wisk constantly – this is very important. If the sauce separates, put chilled water, and if necessary add another egg yolk.
Prepare the asparagus by peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler. This is not necessary if you are using green asparagus, but it has to be done with the white asparagus. Remove about 1 inch of the bottom of each steam. You can simply bend the stalks and they will break at the point where the hard stalk separates from soft stalk. However, if you want all the stalks to be the same size, cut them where you think the hard stalk ends. Boil them in salted water (add a little sugar, which brings out the taste of the asparagus), for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the water and wrap them in a kitchen towel to finish cooking.
Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus.
Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna region is a city known for its food, culture, commerce and beauty. It always amazes me how often I meet people who bypass Bologna. It is buzzing with activity within its famous and beautiful medieval piazzas built between the 12th and 14th Centuries. Piazza Maggiore with its Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), Palazzo dei Banchi, Basilica di San Petronio and San Domenico form the heart of the city where in summer many concerts, art exhibitions and street entertainers fill the piazzas with locals and visitors well into the early morning hours. Shopping is an art in Bologna where street markets straddle the sidewalks side by side with exquisite boutiques. People linger in cafes drinking their many expressi of the day in deep conversation oblivious to the activity going on around them. It is all encompassing and draws you in like a magnet. How can you pass the aromas of a bar without stopping in for an espresso? The city is seductive and you quickly find yourself joining in the excitement that surrounds you day and night.
One of the most alluring attractions of Bologna is its 38 kilometers of porticoes lining the streets and a 4-kilometer-wall built in 1674. The Porticoes add shelter from the weather and are one of the main architectural features of this beautiful city, (read more about Bologna’s famous porticoes on http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5010/).
When taking an Italian language course I lived just outside of the wall and walked home each night about 1 1/2 miles under brightly lit porticos passing bars bustling with people well past midnight. The yellow light flooding the terracotta stucco buildings casts a mysterious dimension to the ancient walls leaving you with the feeling that you are living in ancient times.
There were up to 180 towers in Bologna but today only 2 still exist, the most famous being Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower still stand, leaning precariously.
Il “Mercato di mezzo” is situated within ancient streets originally where the cities craftsmen conducted business. Meandering off in all directions, stalls filled with fish, fruit, cheese, salumi and just about everything else fill your senses with delicious aromas and a noisy and colorful collaboration of activity. It is all so natural to Italians, this life in il mercarto. For the tourist, it is overwhelming and a confusing interaction between vendors and their probing customers. Italians are very discriminating about their food buying nothing but the best. This is where I spent everyday before and after my Italian classes held just around the corner. I spent many hours studying the activity, the process of being Italian and interacting with the locals. Il mercarto is the center of life in an Italian city and it is where you find the real people of the city. Day after day I studied the Italian women making their selections and having rented an apartment, I had no other choice but to cook for myself. As I sat there at a café, I had a discussion with a woman about this special activity that seems to be some sort of ritual. She told me that the trick was to ask the vendor what the right product was for the dish I was making. The vendors pride and knowledge of food would prevail and taking their advice would render your dish exactly as you expected. With my newly acquired Italian language skills, I took her advice and totally became part of the scene almost to the point that I think they took me for a local, (at least I like to think so). It helped that my heritage is Italian and I look Italian. These days were some of the best memories I have of my time in Bologna. I became part of the chaotic activity and for a short time even I began to believe that I was Italian.
Bologna’s markets are crowded and be advised to prepare yourself for some serious shopping. Many clothing, textile and shoe manufacturers are situated on the outskirts of Bologna and you can find fantastic things with a little patient. This is where the locals shop and many fashion trends start right here in the market. Be sure to check everything, as there are also lesser quality items for sale especially the leather goods. Often different pieces of leather are used where it isn’t noticeable and a jacket for example may be a patch work of leather.
Mercato Coperto – Via Ugo Bassi 2, Orefici Market – Via dei Orefici, open daily. La Piazzola – Piazza VIII Agosto (clothes, kitchen goods etc. open on Saturdays and Sundays), Mamanca Market – Via Valdonica (antiques and books), Mercato di Antiquariato – Piazza Santo Stefano (antiques and art) held on the second Sunday of each month. This is one of my favorite markets where beautiful antiques and art are displayed and the most interesting collectables can be bought. I loved spending the afternoon strolling around the tables and display areas filled with unique items. Somehow being in Italy it seemed right to be surrounded with art and antiques.
Via Rizzoli and via dell’Indipendenza are the main streets for shopping. There are also many boutiques on Via Farini, including an arcade of top designer shops in Via Clavature and via d’Azeglio. Situated under the ancient portico covered streets these shops sell the elegant creations of Italian designers.
Situated in the North, in the Po Valley, Bologna’s cuisine is mainly cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami, as well as cheese, such as the world renowned Parmigiano Reggiano. Tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce, i.e. the famous spaghetti alla Bolognese), tortellini served in broth, mortadella and Zampone (boned stuffed pigs foot) are among the local specialties. Tortellini (small, stuffed ring shaped pasta), Tagliatelle (ribbon shaped pasta), and the spinach pasta verde are typical pasta varieties. Wonderful small restaurants can be found everywhere and the food is outstanding. Pasta with white truffles, beautiful grilled porcini mushrooms, wild meats such as venison, mutton and bore are seasonal specialties. Don’t forget the desserts. One of my very favorite is sfogliatelle (crispy pastry layers stuffed with ricotta). I was lucky enough to have a pasticceria just across the street where I could go for my morning cappuccino and savor a warm, just out of the oven sfogliatelle. I couldn’t wait to get up and out to the pasticceria and sometimes I had to wait, as the first trays weren’t out of the oven yet. Zuccherino montanaro, biscotti flavored with anise and frosting infused with anise liqueur and Zuppa Inglese made with pan di Spagna soaked in liquor and filled with a pastry cream are famous. Dolce di San Michele, a cake in honor of the city’s patron eaten on the 29th of September, La Pinza, a pastry filled with raisins, almonds, and prune jam and Torta di riso, Bologna’s rice cake are waiting for you in every pasticceria. Crocante con mandorle can be found all along the streets in huge sheets sold by vendors. This is similar to brittle but harder and thicker using whole roasted almonds and/or hazel nuts. I love this candy, but am very careful, as it is so hard that you can easily break your teeth. (My recipe can be found on my blog).
Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna are the wines produced in this region. Lambrusco is a slightly sweet effervescent wine and is often served as a dessert with peaches when in season. It is probably the most famous wine coming from this region.
The University quarter is northeast of the two towers, along the Via Zamboni. University of Bologna is Europe’s oldest university founded over 900 years ago it attracts students from around the world. As in any city the university adds youth and deep sense of the seriousness as well as innovation. Theaters, book stores and seminars draw in young and old and give the city a buzz of activity. I spent 2 evenings per week here taking a seminar in 17 century Italian opera. I immersed myself in Italian taking a cooking course every week at the home of a couple that made these evenings delicious fun. We learned to cook amazing Italian recipes and communicated about our cultures, politics and anything else that was happening in the world in Italian.
Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) located next to the Palazzo dei Banchi, occupies the building of an old hospital and is one of Italy’s most important collections of antiquities. This museum should not be missed and allow a good amount of time for your visit. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Picture Gallery) houses masterpieces worthy of an art lover’s time.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna is one of the most important opera venues in Italy. Presenting operas since the 17th century from Vivaldi, Gluck, Piccinni, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Wagner and conductor Arturo Toscanini. We were lucky enough to have an opera singer studying Italian in our class and a visit was arranged for us to tour the opera house including the back stage and learn about its history.
I visit Bologna for shopping or just to be there enjoying this lovely city whenever I can. Bologna is an ancient city, but in every way modern. When you visit plan on spending at least a few days.
Note: Some of the photo’s & information were provided by the Bologna Tourist Office.
Your hobby gives you the space you need that is all your own. It becomes part of your life and love of life. It is your place to go when the stresses of everyday life begins to weigh you down. It keeps you centered and you are good at it. People around you are drawn to the excitement and pride you project. Or maybe its your family heritage that you want to pass down as I did. Whatever drives you to pursue this, friends and family recognize the enjoyment you get out of it. It is a passion that everyone around you shares and suddenly people are saying, “ You know you should start a business”. What could be better then making money at something you love to do.
The ideas begins to keep you awake at night and you can hardly do anything else but think about how you can make your hobby a paying business where you can work on your own time, stay at home, do what you love and even make money.
Starting a business must start with a detailed business plan and a clear description of what your goals are. For me making Italian biscotti was not the goal, but the means to keep family traditions and recipes alive. We talked and joked about it for many years, Each time someone told us that we should sell our biscotti because no one makes them like we do anymore, the desire became more of a passion. Then one day, out of the blue my sister got laid off from her job and in this devastating moment, we said why not, lets do it.
We started down the path of making our dream become reality. Creating a business plan, baking every cookie that was in our family’s hand written cookbooks and pricing out the ingredients, timing each step along the way. When we made them for family events we didn’t consider the cost at all. The first decision we had to make when we realized how expensive they were was what compromises were we willing to make. Do we go for trying to make them less expensive or do we say this is what they cost and we are not going to compromise quality. We put everything down in an excel workbook, set our prices and took a shot.
First were the permits, licenses, packaging and administration as we started our business at home our overhead was less costly but not zero. The costs began to mount and we began to look again at ways to make our product price friendly. We wanted to keep our product authentic, the way our family made and packaged biscotti. We found a packaging manufacturer (Italian packaging), who was willing to sell directly to us eliminating the middleman and sell at lower volumes. Many of these companies sell huge volumns that most small business can’t afford or keep in inventory. Searching out wholesale prices, sales and discounts became an obsession. We buy items we need after the holidays when they go on sale for example. We now kept awake at night worrying about costs; quality was first and foremost so we had to diligently work at cost control, the key to any business success. Since my sister and I have had careers in business, we were already aware of the pitfalls and the things we had to consider from a business perspective. Our family has been in the food and restaurant business ever since our grandparents immergrated from Italy in 1912. We grew up in the business and know how difficult it is.
One other important finding was that all those people that pushed us to turn our hobby into a business were there for us in the beginning. We quickly found out however, that you can’t depend on your friends and family to be your main support and customers. People love the biscotti and buy them, but you can’t sustain a business with friends and family alone. You have to move this business into the market place. This means advertising, sales, insurance, administration, bookkeeping etc. Cost control becomes harder and harder as you enter the world of business and your pride and joy hobby begins to take on more pressure. Your dream hobby job is another reality.
It became clear that we needed something to help us keep costs in check. The excel workbook worked fine for a while but became cumbersome as we began to increase product varieties and production. We needed something easier and faster to make quick quotes, print labels, keep track of our customers, send invoices out and make bookkeeping easier. Reality kept creeping in.
My husband who has a software business offered to write a program for us based on the very detailed excel sheets we had developed over a two year period and the experience we had gained. He had prepared the basis of our excel program that led us in the right direction considering all aspects and factors that had to be considered, always allowing us to know every cost factor and what our profit margin was with every order.
As I began to communicate with others and read articles of people wanting to turn their hobby into a business, I realized that we had some experience that would help others and maybe prevent them from making costly mistakes. The program he developed is the cornerstone of our business and we decided to offer it to home and small to medium size businesses – an inexpensive program that was easy to use and affordable. The Bakers Pricing Software is the result of this effort and we hope it will help others like us reach their dream of bringing their hobby to the market place successfully.
We are currently developing an accounting program that will be integrated with the Bakers Pricing Software.
THE BAKERS PRICING SYSTEM
The Baker’s Pricing Software is a system that stores all essential data to price a product in a database. The most basic data is raw material information. It stores the name, description, vendor and price information and raw material properties such as whether it is perishable, the density if available in order to accommodate volume and weight input for recipes. The system allows quick updates to take care of changes be it price or vendor. Other key information needed for price calculation is stored in the Preferences: Labor cost, energy cost, overhead percentages, material loss percentage and last but not least the profit targets for retail and wholesale. These cost items and the raw material are the foundation for all subsequent calculations and it is extremely important that this data is not only entered carefully but also maintained on a continuous basis as most of the prices fluctuate!
The next step in the process after establishing the basic cost factors is entering the recipes for your products. You select from the list of raw materials available, add quantity and dimension for each ingredient, the amount of labor and the energy used. The cost for individual item wrapping is also added. You will also be asked whether the product can be used on a tray (the basic building blocks of an order) or not. For example a recipe for frosting would not be available for trays but could be entered as raw material and be available for other recipes. The last information to be entered about recipes are the yields, i.e. the number of items you get per recipe and per pound.
Trays of one or multiple recipe items are the building blocks to fill orders. Trays may be actual trays, but also boxes or more generic, sets of items that can be used for different orders. You can assemble trays by units or by weight (if you sell a pound of a recipe item for example). You can add packaging and transportation cost to the trays. The system will then calculate the retail and wholesale price you should charge to meet your profit objectives. You then fill orders using trays. An order is a customer-oriented record. You not only enter a unique identification and the client’s name but also the delivery date, the actual sales price and any additional delivery costs. The system then provides you with a sales and a reimbursement summary for the different expenses incurred. Last but not the least are the cumbersome health permit labeling requirements. The Bakers Pricing Software automatically creates labels for individual products or summary labels for trays.
Page examples and downloads can be found at http://www.pturo.com/