Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2018 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
Stephanie Tatin was the chef in the family-run ‘Hotel Tatin’ and is known for first creating this dessert in 1889, and it became a French classic. I remember the first time I ate it in a restaurant overlooking the ocean in the South of France. I guess that should tell you how much I love this luscious apple tart. As beautiful as the environment was, I totally fell in love with tarte tatin.
I have seen Julia Child make tarte tatin several times as late as when she was in her 80”s. I decided that I had to master it and make it one of my classic tart’s
It is an upside down caramelized apple pie that is easy to make but on the other hand hard to make. The reason for this is that the ingredients are easily assembled, but the caramelizing can be dangerous. When cooking and spooning the caramel over the top of the apples so that they get completely covered and when turning the hot tart from the pan, one must take great care. I recommend a no-stick pan and heatproof oven gloves to protect you hands if some caramel should drip out.
Tarte Tartin is typically an apple tart, but it can be made with other fruits.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes on the stove/25-30 minutes in the oven at 400º
Yield: 8 slices
1 9” pastry crust, pâté brisée or store bought puff pastry
8 apples (dry and apples that will hold their shape i.e. Granny Smith)
3/4 lb sugar
1/2 lb butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of one 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the sugar and butter in a 9” oven pie plate or frying pan that can be placed in the oven. Cook the sugar and butter on high heat until it becomes a deep golden brown caramel. Do not stir, as it will form crystals. If crystals do form, wipe the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and blend. Add the apples, which have been peeled, cut in half, and the seeds removed.
Toss the apples with the cinnamon and place the apples next to each other in a circle outside down. They should overlap in the caramel mixture. Allow them to cook for about 10-15 minutes scooping the caramel over the top of the apples with a spoon. Caramel is extremely hot and dangerous. Extreme care should be taken.
Place the pastry over the top of the pan and carefully tuck the edge into the pan. Place the tart into the middle rack of the oven and bake according to the directions on the pastry package. If using a home made crust cook about the same time or until it turns brown. It is usually about 25 minutes at 400º F if using a packaged puff pastry.
When my grandparents moved from Italy to American in 1896 to about 1912, they anticipated the beginnings of a better life. Living in the same areas of communities with others of their nationality seemed to give them comfort that their world would continue somewhat like the old country. In their country they came from small villages where everyone was the same nationality, religion, spoke same language, and their lives were clones of each other’s. Kids married into neighbors or friends families and arranged marriages were common in those days. The only difference was that the burden of support shifted and a new member provided another helping hand in support of the family.
In their new country they weren’t the only nationality in the community and their children had some ideas of their own. Suddenly children were bringing home friends of different nationalities and religions. Marriages sometimes broke a family up rather then bring them together. It was one thing for a child to marry a person of another nationality, but to marry outside of the religion caused, at times, irreparable breaks in relationships.
Italian food wasn’t the only food on the on the table any more. This brought new insights into other nationalities cuisine, and we didn’t need any encouragement to embrace especially the desserts. One of my uncles married into a Swedish family and an aunt into a Greek family. The results were sweet indeed as our culinary world opened up to some wonderful new foods.
My aunt learned to prepare a number of Greek specialties that we all were happy to add to our already large Italian recipe box. One in particular is Baklava. My aunt’s recipe isn’t overly sweet and for large group parties it is a winner.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour @ 350ºF
Yield: 32 pieces
1 1/2 pound package phylo dough
1 1/2 pounds butter, melted
1 1/2 lbs. walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 orange or lemon, zest only
1 cup honey
Combine the nuts, sugar, and cinnamon and set aside.
Brush the bottom of a 13” x 9” pan with melted butter. Take half of the phylo dough one layer at a time brushing each layer with melted butter. Spread the walnut mixture all over the top. Using the remaining phylo dough, follow the same process of buttering each layer until the complete package is used.
Before baking, cut through the layers to form triangles. Cut from corner to corner. This is done at this point because it will be very fragile after it has been baked. Cover the top with wax or parchment paper. Bake @ 350º F for 30 minutes and reduce the oven to 300ºF. Remove the paper and bake for 30 minutes more or until it is golden brown. Remove the baklava from the oven and finish cutting through the layers.
Five minutes before the baklava is done baking, prepare the syrup.
Cook water, sugar rind, and cinnamon over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the honey and vanilla, and stir until well blended.
Pour the syrup over the hot baklava and allow it to completely cool. Let it sit for 24 hours, lightly covered, but not in the refrigerator.
My trip took me to San Remo, Ospedaletti, Bordighera, Ventimiglia, the Alpe Liguri, the Côte d’Azur to Cagnes-sur-mer and Haut de Cagnes. The beauty of the villages, the purity of the Mediterranean light reaches out to the horizon, where the blue colors of the sea and blue-red sky meet.
The splendid villas against the succession of ancient stone villages built along the hillsides leaves you in awe of the architectural achievements of past peoples. The sun shines on this area providing the perfect environment for agriculture and floriculture. The greenhouses dominate the hills, the abundance and size of fruits and vegetables in the outdoor markets overwhelm the senses. The villages preserve their antique traditions celebrating events of the past and adding the culture of today in festivals and religious celebrations. Only a few miles from the sea the difference in the cuisine is noticeable. Unlike the seafood served along the sea, the aple village’s cuisine is rich in hearty stews, pasta’s, porcini and game. There are many day itineries you can take and selecting a base location depends on if you would like to stay in the hinterland or by the sea.
Life is very different by the sea; San Remo is a large town with a casino and lots of shopping, very chic! Bordighera and Ospedeletti, are smaller towns with beautiful villas, artistically planted flowers and palms throughout. Between San Remo and Ventimilglia they are a little less crowded and more personal. Ospdealetti seems to have a large renovation project along the beach and at this time I would not recommend it if your interest is spending time on the beach. Ventimiglia is a very busy place, with a large medieval town where many people gather along the bridge and enjoy the beaches and entertainment provided in beach communities during the summer. But it is hectic and be prepared to deal with a lot of traffic. The advantage is that it is on the French boarder and visiting Menton and Monaco is an easy day trip. If this is not the kind of environment you want to spend your vacation in, there are may medieval towns just a few miles from the sea towns like Dolceaqua just 4 km away.
I am drawn to the markets held all along the beachfront passagati where there are stalls for as far as you can see that sell goods from clothes and kitchen tools to colorful and huge vegetables, fruits, fish, salumi, meats, olives, spices and breads made and grown in farms in the region. I search out markets and can spend hours picking out things I’ve never seen or tried before and some of my all time favorites. I have found many unusual pasta cutters in stalls in these markets, and every time I go, there is always a new discovery I’ve never seen before. I like to live there and not just be a tourist. I am stopped all the time and asked questions or for directions. I do not have a compass in my brain and get lost all the time, not always a disadvantage, as I’ve had some very interesting experiences. The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter what country I’m in, I guess I must look like a local everywhere. The advantage of renting an apartment is you can intermingle with people on a more personal level. But a word or caution, rent in areas you know because you can really have an unhappy experience. Back to the markets, which are in Bordighera on Tuesday, San Remo on Thursday and Ventimilglia on Friday. Be aware that these markets are only open until about 1PM so get there early. I never get tired of photographing markets and local scenes. The slide show is of some of the views along the way.
(hover cursor over picture to stop slide show)
During the autumn when driving through Lombardy Italy along the Lakes Region you come across fall food festivals in just about every village. I have to admit that we have to stop at every market. I am addicted to markets discovering something new every time and love the atmosphere.
Stands full of beautiful huge cakes of torroni in every color and flavor make deciding which one to buy a very difficult task. There are soft varieties (morbido) to hard in all colors and flavors. Even though they are relatively expensive, I buy a portion of several flavors to take home. I like to put a dish full of cake shaped torroni for guests to enjoy with a little grappa after dinner. I know that my guests appreciate this thought as none of them have ever experienced torrone like this. Often you just find a few boxed varieties in the market at Christmas.
Torrone festivals are celebrated in many cities in Italy from the toe of the boot in Sicily to Lombardy. Cremona claims to be the birthplace of torrone. It is believed to have first been made for the wedding banquet of Bianca Maria Visconti and Francesco Sforz on October 25, 1441. The Festa del Torrone is held every year in the historical center of Cremona in mid November. About 80 tons of torrone are eaten by thousands of visitors and the residents eat their share also.
My father use to sell Sperlari Torrone in our market during the Christmas season as it was mostly eaten only during Christmas. It has become more common and available year round in Italy. Enea Sperlari was a candy maker who made tarrone famous. When we go to Como and Lugarno there are always local Torrone vendors along the streets. But I was surprised to find stand after stand during other holiday periods. Now you can find it available almost year round, but not in as many varieties.
Recipe by IT Chefs
150g egg whites
1200g hazel nuts shelled
Prepare a syrup with the sugar and water by heating it to 140° C. Melt the honey and bring it to 120° C. Put the egg whites in the mixer or bowl and begin to whip them with the whisk, then add the syrup at 140° C a trickle at a time, followed by the honey at 120° C. Continue whipping for approximately 5 minutes. In order to maintain the temperature of the mixture and to cook it, wave a blowtorch beneath the bowl of the mixer. Put the dried fruit in a baking pan and then into the oven to toast; the fruit should be added to the mixture while hot, otherwise stirring it in would prove to be difficult.
Replace the whisk in the mixer with the spatula and smoothen the mixture for two minutes. Add the dried fruit and stir it in, in a few minutes the torrone will be ready. Remove the mixture from the mixer, when at around 100° C, spread it out on a host leaf (foglio di ostia) flattens it out and cover it with another host.
Finish spreading it out with a rolling pin
To a thickness of 2.5 to 3 cm.
The best way to cut a crumbly torrone is to place the knife blade on the torrone and tap it sharply with the other hand to obtain irregularly shaped chunks. Torrone should be kept sealed in a cool dry place.
For more detail information and pictures of how to make torrone go to Itchefs web site:
My grandfather’s hobby and passion was his garden. Two fig trees stood at the head of the garden next to his beloved grapevine covered terrace. One was green and the other purple figs. We watched as they matured and their beautiful tropical foliage gave the garden an exotic look. Artists have painted the fig leaf to depicted modesty. But the fruit is sweet and alluring.
My grandfather would cover them with burlap and bury the trees in the ground during the winter. We watched this ritual and thought this was so strange, but they are delicate and susceptible to frost damage.
Vegetable and fruits are a main part of our diet and using fruits in the main course of a meal is one way of incorporating them into your diet and getting children to enjoy them. I think figs are one of these foods that many people don’t experience and they don’t know what they are missing.
Figs are very versatile and pare well with meats, breads and desserts. They can be canned, made into jams, dried or in cookies such as cucitdati (Sicilian stuffed cookie). Make a a tart, cake or poached as in this recipe, there are many ways to prepare them. Their sweetness adds an exotic dimension to a meal.
This recipe is so easy anyone could make it and with a little cinnamon ice cream it is dream of a dessert.
Poached Figs in Red Wine
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 people
8-10 ripe fresh figs
1 bottle red wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Skin of a lemon
Skin of an orange (optional)
1 Star Anise
Put them in a saucepan, pour the wine and add the cinnamon stick, skin of the lemon, star anise and add the sugar. Cover the pan and cook at medium high temperature for 10-15 minutes. Turn the figs around so that all sides are stained red. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Test the figs with a skewer. If it goes through easily they are done. Remove the cinnamon stick, star anise and lemon.
Remove them from the pan and add the butter and reduce the wine down to about 1/2 cup. The figs should not be too sweet and usually don’t need extra sugar. The butter will make the sauce glisten and will give the sauce a warm buttery taste.
They can be served hot or at room temperature. When you are ready to serve, place 2-3 figs in a glass or decorative dish and dribble the wine sauce over them. Or scoop some cinnamon or vanilla ice cream in a bowl and add the figs with dribbles of the wine sauce.
Note: reduce the sugar and serve the figs with a main course of game, pork or chicken.