Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2024 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
I’m always searching for markets where I can find unusual items we like to have from time to time but are not available in your neighborhood markets. As I mentioned in previous posts, there are times when we have our special TV dinners such as when watching a special sports event or concert especially during the Olympics. I try to make these dinners interesting and when possible a small, easy to prepare meal, such as caviar with chopped egg white, egg yolk, onions, toast and a glass of champagne. Always helps when watching Federer, who sometimes keeps me on the edge of my chair a little easier. Or maybe it is a duck terrine magret, saucisson de canard (duck sausages), or foire gras with a light salad and a glass of Sauterne. For dessert I might prepare Vermicelles mit rham (pureed chestnut with cream) or on a scope of vanilla ice cream or meringue. In Switzerland you can buy Vermicelles in a tube and when squeezed out it looks like spaghetti. One of our favorites is a selection of French cheese with fresh fruit, a nice crisp baguette and a bottle of Bordeaux. Sounds a little extravagant, but on occasion having these foods at home is far less expensive then in a restaurant and actually very easy to prepare.
For your special guests you might want to include bit of exquisite to your dish and add shavings of truffles, black or white from Italy or France over a dish of freshly made pasta. And I love risotto nero made with squid ink. So where to get these items became an obsession as soon as I arrived in Florida. I was sure that with such a large population of Europeans, I would find what I was looking for. Although I’m far away from these foods that I use to enjoy in Europe, I have at least found a supplier that will make it possible to bring back some of those wonderful dinner memories and hopefully add a few more to the list.
Marky’s specializes in French, Spanish, Russian, Italian and other International foods in a warm and inviting environment with service that is accommodating and knowledgeable. They will not only answer your questions but will also pack you up with your selections and a bag of ice. If you can’t get to Miami, you can place an ordered on their website and have it delivered. A side benefit to visiting the store however is that the Marky’s location is in an area that has many small ethnic restaurants. These small family owned establishments look so interesting that going into Miami late in the afternoon once-in-a-while and discovering some delicious place to eat after shopping is an added adventure.
I was thrilled when I found Marky’s – International Food Emporium, which has a Russian connection in Miami. You can read more about Marky’s on their website and if you visit the market, try out some of the small restaurants in the neighborhood. I will write about them as I also discover them.
Marky’s 687 NW 79th St, Miami, FL 33150
My grandmother would make biscotti for days before Christmas and hide them in an armoire in her front hall under lock and key. If she allowed any of us to get close to them, they would have disappeared long before Christmas. But if we asked her nicely, she never said no. She took the key out of her apron pocket and unlocked that treasure chest filled with sweet, spiced biscotti and handed you some of your favorites.
She had a small white sideboard with a roll-down top. Here she made all her biscotti and that sideboard was our first stop when we entered her kitchen. We could never understand how so many wonderful desserts could be prepared on such a small surface. When I was young I remember her cooking on a black iron stove and blocks of ice being delivered for her wooden icebox. She was in her element even through she wore herself out during holidays. Her family showed their appreciation by filling her home with all their kids in a flurry of noise feasting on all her specialties made with a strong dash of pride. The variety of cookies, cakes, stuffed artichokes, pasta and breads, that came from that kitchen was like being in Grandma’s Christmas Wonderland. We all loved and looked forward to these holiday reunions.
The tradition continues with members of our family preparing their favorite biscotti for events such as wedding, showers and holidays. Every child in our family begins to take part in this tradition at an early age. You don’t have to encourage them, as they can’t wait to get their little hands in all of that dough. It is a way to bond with the kids and make them part of a family tradition. We know that future generations will enjoy these recipes and get to know a little about Grandma and our heritage.
An Italian family can have many versions of the same biscotti and every person takes great pride in their recipe. Pizzetts are a family recipe that is used on almost every tray we make. Pizzette are a double chocolate biscotti scented with spices, roasted almonds, orange zest, expresso and chocolate chips. They are the star attractions on our cookie trays for Christmas and every special event. You can make these cookies in advance and freeze them for up to 2 months unfrosted.
My Christmas greeting to all my readers and let me know if pizzettes are on your Christmas dessert table.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 minutes @ 375ºF
Yield: 4 Dozen
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup roasted almonds, cut in half
4 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate. chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup warm water, orange juice or coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn sryup
2-3 tablespoons Brandy or Cointreau, Grand Marnier or tablespoon Kahlua
Mix the cocoa powder into the water or juice. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl including the nuts, add orange zest, almonds and chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and the water cocoa mixture. Slightly beat the liquid while in the center well and begin to bring in the dry ingredients (you may have to add a little more liquid if it is too dry). Gradually add vegetable oil to form the dough. You may need to wet your hands with oil. The Dough will be thick and will have an oily glaze. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut small portions and roll out the dough in the form of a cylinder. Pat down the top and cut into 1” slices on a diagonal to form a diamond shape. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 375º F for 8-10 minutes. Do not over-bake the cookies as they will be become dry and hard.
Melt the chocolate with the butter over a double boiler or in a microwave oven. Add the liquor a little at a time. Taste and add more if needed. The original recipe did not include liquor and is fantastic just with the chocolate, butter and a little syrup.
Frost the cookies when they are completely cool.
It is quite amazing how people swam around vendor stands in the markets in Italy when funghi porcini are in season. The king of mushrooms are as impressive as they are delicious. They are tossed with pasta, cooked in risotto, are simply delicious grilled with herbs – a meal in itself, served fresh as a salad, sautéd with olive oil and herbs or baked, they can be marinated in olive oil or topping on pizza.
When selecting porcini the gills should not be yellowish-brown, which means that the mushrooms are becoming over-ripe. Do not buy them if they have dark under-caps or black spots and also check for holes in the stems where there might be worms. The short round stems should be firm and white. They have a rich woodsy rustic flavor and are simply beautiful to look at.
Brush off any dirt you may find and wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. Store them in a paper bag, not in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic wrap. You do not want mosture to form on them. Prepare them as soon as possible when fresh or they will dry out.
Porcini mushrooms are also dried, found year round in supermarkets and must be hyddrated and have a more intense flavor when cooked. When making risotto or pasta sauce you can also use the hyddrating liquid in the sauce adding a deep concentrated flavor.
Porcini can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Fresh Porcini are not as popular in the US as they are in Italy where they are almost over harvested and the collection is regulated. Taking pictures of Porcini is a passion as they are such a beautiful mushroom.
Risotto Funghi Porcini
Risotto With Porcini Mushrooms
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as first dish 2 servings as main course
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups broth (homemade or store bought, vegetable, chicken)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. fresh Porcini mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium chopped onion
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Freshly ground pepper
Put the butter and oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the rice and allow it to cook until it becomes opaque. Pour in the wine so that it just covers the rice. Stir and allow the rice to absorb the wine on medium heat. Heat the broth and begin to add it in by just keeping the rice covered with liquid. As soon as the rice absorbs the liquid, add a little more. Stir constantly, continue this process until the rice is almost done (has a bite). Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook in the rice for another 2-3 minutes. The entire cooking process takes about 20 minutes. Remove the rice from the stove and add the grated cheese, stir and add a little freshly ground pepper. Stir in the cold butter.
Note: Risotto cannot be leftover. It must be served immediately as the rice will absorb all the remaining liquid and it will be uneatable.
Note: You can substitute fresh Porcini with about 2 oz. dried Porcini mushrooms, which can be found in the most markets. Soak them in tepid water for 30 minutes before using them. Add some of the hydrating liquid to the risotto giving it a more intense flavor.
When I first visited Apuglia, I was taken by the beauty of the shoreline. I was on a search to discover the place of my heritage, to understand a little more about my grandparents as I thought I would also discover a little about myself.
Since my family has been in the food business from the time my grandfather immigrated from Vieste (FG) Italy, food was where I jumped in first. The traditions and approach to food can be a starting point for anyone searching for answers about their heritage as so many traditions are wrapped around how people eat and go about it. I wondered if any of the recipes my family made would be exactly like those in Vieste or if they had been changed to satisfy the taste of the now American family. I write often about these recipes, but one that I found when writing up my family’s recipes was taralli and the important roll they play in Italian cuisine.
When I went through the soiled and hand written recipes of my aunts and grandmothers, I found many taralli recipes. Taralli with fennel and anise seed, black or red pepper flakes, made with egg or baking powder, wine or beer. They were boiled then baked, or just baked. This amazed me because although my family are experts at making Italian biscotti, they never made taralli, with the exception of wine taralli and egg taralli at Easter.
Taraill should be named the national biscotti. They are served with an aperitif, in a breadbasket, as a dessert, by hungry children as a snack and dunked in wine over a conversation or for breakfast. Taralli are eaten any time of the day by everyone young and old. They can be found in every market and bakery and in most homes. It became my quest to learn how to make taralli at home.
The Pugliese have a saying “Tutto finisce con taralli e vino”, no matter what the argument it can always be solved with a glass of wine and a handful of taralli.
Black Pepper & Fennel Taralli
Prep Time: 1 hr. 15 min.
Cook Time: 20 minutes at 375º F
Yield: 7 Dozen
8 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 ounce dry yeast (1 package is 1/4 ounce or 7g)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, crushed by hand
3 tablespoons fennel seed, whole
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup oil
12 oz. can beer
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl add the warm water and dry yeast. Let it rest in a warm place for 15 minutes until it foams. In a separate large bowl, add all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and add the egg. Gradually add oil, the yeast mixture and beer alternating with the flour mixture until the dough is formed. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and workable. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest on the counter for at least one hour.
Form the dough into a cylinder about 1/2″ thick, and cut them into pieces about 6″ long. Take each 6” long piece of dough and bring the ends together to form an oval shape. Press the ends together with your thumb. Brush the taralli with the egg wash and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375º F. They should be lightly brown on the top.
NOTE: They will last about 1 month stored in a paper bag or a metal container. Do not put them in a humid place.
In Italy, sorbetto is served as a dessert but it is wonderful on a beautiful summer afternoon served as a cool flavorful drink. It can be made with many different kinds of liquor and sorbet. I first had this in Milan and in traveling around Italy, found it in many other restaurants. This is a light dessert drink that is wonderful after a meal of heavy flavors or fish.
Sorbetto Al Limone
Prep time: 10 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup lemon sorbet (homemade or store bought)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 short glass Vodka
1 slice lemon
Whip the cream to light peaks. Put the sorbet in a blender with the Vodka. Blend and remove to a bowl. Hand mix the whipped cream and sorbet mixture until it is smooth, but foamy and pour into a burgundy wine glass. Place a slice of lemon on the edge of the glass, and just before drinking it squeeze the lemon over the top.
NOTE: Use complementing liquor with a fruit sorbet. This can be done with other fruits such as pears sorbet with Père Williams, green apple sorbet with Calvados, or strawberry sorbet with Fraises.
There are many articles written about the health benefits of almonds. Low in saturated fat and containing calcium and magnesium, vitamin E and compounds called phytochemicals, which may help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Jordan almonds are considered the best and are sweet almonds coming from Malaga. Bitter almonds are grown in the south of France, Sicily and North Africa. See the web sites at the end of this article for more information on the benefits of almonds and their origins.
Almond oil is extracted from both bitter and sweet almonds but the seed of the bitter almonds are used to make almond oil and almond flavoring are used in confections. Pure almond extract can be purchased at any market, but the intense flavor of almond oil makes a very big difference in baked goods. When using oil vs. extracts, you use just a few drops. Most Italian markets sell these oils and a little goes a long way.
In Italy desserts are often flavored with honey, chestnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts and almonds. The biscotti originated in the Tuscany and it is thought that they were flavored with almonds from Prato. The cookies are known as “cantucci” and they can be found in every pasticceria in the Tuscany. Cantucci are mostly eaten with a glass of “Vin Santo” a sweet wine. Many restaurants serve small almond biscotti with coffee and some will have a bowl of them on the table at all times. It is probably the most well-known and popular biscotti. Almonds are used in many different varieties of biscotti and also mixed with fruits and chocolate.
Other desserts made with almonds in Italy are a rich bread or flat cake known as “panforte”. A cookie called “Cartellate” is made in Apuglia. It is fried dough in the shape of a cartwheel (cartellate means cartwheel in Italian) and filled with toasted almonds, honey, chocolate and spices. Amaretto is a liqueur with an almond flavor. The base of the liqueur is primarily made from apricot pits. Apricot and peach pits have similar oils and taste like almonds. The original version of Amaretto was made in Saronno, Italy and is also used to flavor many Italian desserts and coffee. Marzipan, which is a mixture of sugar and almonds is used in confections. One of my favorites is a candy called “Brocante con mandorle”, (Italian almond brittle). It is very hard and you must to be careful of your teeth when you eat it. Unlike most brittle, this is thick and hard made with toasted almonds, sugar, honey, corn syrup and almond oil or almond flavoring. Colorful sugar candied almonds known as “confetti” are arranged in exquisite decorations for wedding cakes and mixed with trays of biscotti.
Cantucci are use in all of our biscotti trays, they are one of our most asked for biscotti. Cantucci are hard so they make a good base for our “Torta Festiva” or “Torta di Biscotto di Nozze”.
Make a full recipe and stored in a metal container, they will last a few weeks. They can be frozen up to two months – they defrost very quickly. You will always have biscotti to serve with coffee when friends drop by.
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes @ 350ºF
Yield: 2 1/2 Dozen
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cups roasted almonds, cut in half
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons water
ROASTING THE NUTS
Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and place in a 400ºF oven for 15 minutes. Shake the pan several times to turn the nuts so they cook evenly. Let the almonds cool. Cut the almonds in half.
In large mixing bowl, place the dry ingredients and toasted almonds. Make a well in the center and combine the remaining wet ingredients (water, oil and eggs). Oil your hands to mix the dough. Place the dough onto a floured board and work until completely combined. The dough will be sticky to work with. Refrigerate for one hour.
Make loaves about 14” long and 2” wide, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and place them in a 350ºF oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and slice on a diagonal 1” apart.
To freeze, do not slice but wrap the whole logs tightly in plastic wrap. Slice the logs when you are ready to serve them. They can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Note: Cantucci can be double backed a few minutes on each side for a drier harder result.