Posts from February 2012

Egg, Soy, Nut and Sugar Free, Spinach, Pear and Beet Salad with Sherry Dressing

Whether for health reasons or making a choice to eat in a more balanced way, The Dairy Free & Gluten Free Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, Paperback, January 2012) by Denise Jardine offers 150 recipes (from Pancakes to Pizza) for all occasions and seasons.

For lunch or dinner a salad is always welcome. In the winter say it with pears

Spinach, pear, and beet salad with sherry dressing

Free of egg soy nut sugar

serves 4 to 6

3 medium golden or red beets, trimmed
6 cups stemmed baby spinach leaves, lightly packed (about 1 bunch)
3 ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 cup peeled, cored, and diced ripe Bartlett or Bosc pear (1 or 2 pears)
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon gluten-free Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Date Syrup (page 189) or honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Spinach pear and beet salad (2)


To prepare the beets: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil, enclosing them completely. Roast the beets in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Allow the beets to cool completely, about 2 hours or overnight. Using a sharp paring knife, peel the beets and slice them 1/2 inch thick.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing.

To prepare the dressing: Combine the diced pear, sherry, olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, mustard, date syrup, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and correct the seasonings.

To assemble the salad: Place the spinach in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the greens and toss to coat. Divide the greens equally among 4 to 6 plates. Arrange the pear slices and beets atop the greens, and scatter the cranberries over them.

Serve immediately.

(* "Spinach, Pear, and Beet Salad with Sherry Dressing” recipe from THE DAIRY-FREE & GLUTEN-FREE KITCHEN by Denise Jardine, Paperback published by Ten Speed Press, January 2012, all rights reserved

Grappa Green or Olive Green, Organic Offerings from Cavalierino, Wine Too

It is common to make a green statement with Organic Olive Oil (unless the oil in question is organic in name only).

More unusual I suppose is green (organic) Grappa.

I tasted both the Organic Olive Oil and the Grappa Riserva from Cavalierino, an Italian producer present at Italian Wine Masters 2012 tasting today in New York.

IMAG0597 (1)

They also make wines, one of which is Vin Santo pictured above alongside olive oil and grappa.

Since property, located on the hills of Poggiano includes farm they also sell cured meats like Lardo and Rigatino di Cinta Senese.

Sipping and dipping into Italy's offerings for Green Day # 212

Previously:  Beginners Guide to Building a Green Roof Garden via Scandinavian Green Roof Association

Brunello, Chianti Classico, Nobile and Prosecco Superiore 2012 U.S Tour Opens February 7 in NY

I will not be in Italy for Preview of Vino Nobile beginning on February, 18 at the Fortress of Montepulciano. 

I will make up for it in a small way by attending the Italian Wine Masters tasting in New York on February 7 which opens their 2012 U.S Tour.

20 wineries who belong to Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano will be amongst the 100 or so producers at the event.

The other 3 members of this quartet of top Italian wine producing regions present are Brunello, Chianti Classico and Prosecco Superiore (for the bubbly).

One of the producers I will meet is Terre di Melazzano which besides making Chianti Classico wines invites visitors to stay for Farmhouse Vacation.


If you are interested in wine technical poetry check Winemaking Glossary shared by Consorzio.

The music of words like 'Acescenza' which stands for Volatility (When a wine assumes an altered, vinegary, acidic odour and flavour to excessive acetic acid) don't make you think of anything offensive.

(* Photo above from Terre di Melazzano website)

Glam for Your Valentine, Scrumdilliumptious White Chocolate Cake from Sugar Sugar

In our internet age, recipes on index cards are replaced by their online, virtual version.

It does not mean we want to turn the computer on while cooking and this led the Sugar Mommas to select a number of baking recipes to be couched on paper for their book Sugar Sugar (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Fall 2011)

The Sugar Mommas duo consists of Kimberly "Momma" Reiner (a lawyer turned fudge queen) and Jenna Sanz-Agero (a lawyer turned big hair glam rock band singer with Vixen) which goes to show that all roads lead to cookbook writing.

Scrumdilliumptious White Chocolate Cake
Submitted by Shawn Jones
From Ruth Hutchison’s recipe, Obion, Tennessee, or Bunny Hampton’s recipe, Sweetwater, Texas

Like many family treasures, this heirloom recipe comes with a dispute over origin and ownership. It’s not clear whether it belonged to Shawn’s aunt Bunny or her great-grandmother Ruth “Mom” Hutchison. Everyone in the family has a different recollection. In this case, you just throw up your hands and say, “Unsolved mystery, but it tastes darn good!”
Shawn has fond memories of visiting Aunt Bunny in Sweetwater, Texas. “No one could tell a story better than Bunny.” This recipe always reminds Shawn of Aunt Bunny’s hilarious tales of her twin brothers (one of which is Shawn’s dad) playing cowboys and Indians, and mistaking her closet for the bathroom in the middle of the night, or of how her rescue dog got the fancy name of guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The controversial New Age mystic and spiritual leader was known for a large collection of vehicles and other worldly possessions. Nicknames were not tolerated, as Bunny believed abbreviating her dog’s name was sacrilegious. Bunny said she loved her dog, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, so much that when she passed away she was leaving everything she owned to the dog. No matter where the cake derived from, it is chic, beautiful, and tasty, and would be lovely for any occasion, from a hillside picnic in Napa Valley to a wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Scrumdilliumptious White Chocolate Cake

Makes 1 (9-inch) round layer cake

½ cup water
1¹⁄³ cups white chocolate chips
½ cup water
4 large eggs, separated
2½ cups cake flour (see Sugar Mommas Note)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans or almonds (optional)
1 batch of Scrumdilliumptious White Fudge Glaze (recipe follows)
Diamond-studded dog collar



Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans (or use nonstick baking spray with flour) and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, add the white chocolate chips, and stir constantly until completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.

Place the egg whites in a medium bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 4 minutes. Set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs yolks, one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and mix on low speed until blended. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the buttermilk. Add the remaining flour mixture and blend until just combined. Add the vanilla. Use a spatula to gently fold in the stiff egg whites. Stir in the coconut and/or chopped nuts, if desired.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the cakes in the pans on top of wire racks for 10 minutes, then carefully turn the cakes
out onto the wire racks and let cool completely.

Place one cooled cake layer upside down on a serving platter and pour about one-quarter of the glaze over the top, spreading evenly with a knife or an angled spatula. Place the middle layer upside down on top of the bottom layer and spread another one-quarter of the glaze over it. Place the third cake layer right side up on top of the second layer and complete the glazing of the top and sides.

Scrumdilliumptious White Fudge Glaze

¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter, sugar, milk, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool without stirring. When the mixture is cool, beat until it is thick enough to spread (a handheld electric mixer on medium speed works well for this purpose).

Sugar Mommas Tips
sugar mommas note: You may use all-purpose flour, but we recommend Swans Down cake flour.

sass it up: We like to fancy up our cakes and make them look extravagant. Leave the sides bare and insert big, plump fresh raspberries or halved strawberries in between the layers on top of the frosting. Then add a ring of berries on the top edge of the frosted cake. This makes for a very impressive presentation.


(*From Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story by Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero/Andrews McMeel Publishing, Fall 2011, All Rights Reserved)

Mezzelune Dolci, Candied Fruit Filled Half Moon Pasta, Recipe from Pasta Italiana

In his introduction to Pasta Italiana (Kyle Books USA, January 2012), Gino D' Acampo writes that he cannot remember, growing up in Italy, having a meal where pasta didn't feature.

Some savory, some sweet as my first recipe pick from his book.

Mezzelune dolci, Half-moon-shape sweet pasta filled with candied fruit

This is a classic Neapolitan dessert that is usually eaten around Easter time. I remember like it was yesterday my grandmother filling the pasta with candied fruits and ricotta cheese and me trying to help her as much as I could, because I knew I’d get an extra serving at the end. You can use good-quality chocolate chips instead of candied fruit.

Serves 6 to 8

For the sweet pasta

3 whole eggs and 2 extra yolks, plus 2 eggs, beaten, for brushing
21/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
1 quart vegetable oil, for deep-frying
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

For the filling

3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped zest of 1 orange
10 almonds, finely chopped
11/2 ounces candied fruit, finely chopped




1 Beat two of the whole eggs in a bowl and set aside.

2 To make the sweet pasta dough, in a food processor, place the remaining one egg and two egg yolks, add the flour, butter, and Amaretto, and process until mixed. Turn out the mixture onto a well-floured counter and knead for 2 minutes until you have a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3 To prepare the filling, in a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

4 Flatten the prepared pasta dough with your fingers so that it can fit through the rollers of the pasta machine. Flour the pasta lightly on both sides and start to roll it from the widest setting to the thinnest. Make sure you keep the pasta dusted with flour at all times. Lay the pasta sheets on a well-floured counter. Cut into circles using an 3 1/4-inch cutter—you should get 28 to 30 circles.

5 Place about a teaspoonful of the filling in the center of each circle, sharing it out equally. Brush the edges of the circles with beaten egg and fold over to make half-moon shapes. Press down to seal with your fingertips. Using a fork, press the edges again to secure the filling.

6 In a large saucepan, heat the oil until hot and smoking. Carefully drop in the sweet-filled pasta and deep-fry for about 15 seconds until golden all over. (Be very careful and work in batches—no more than five at a time.)

7 Once cooked, remove the mezzelune using a slotted spoon and place on some paper towels to soak up any excess oil.

8 To serve, place all the mezzelune on a large serving dish and dust with plenty of confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm with a little glass of Amaretto or Vin Santo.

Rather than use exclusively images of food, Pasta Italiana serves Italian flavors with photos of places and people. The girl on bicycle reminded me of a lunch I had years ago at the terrace of an Italian restaurant not far from French border. A church was nearby and a girl on a bicycle passed by and then came back. Each time she signed herself while going past church.

(* Recipe from Pasta Italiana by Gino D'Acampo, published by Kyle Books in January 2012, photography by Kate Whitaker, all rights reserved)

Jell-O-Up Your Valentine's Day with Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cups from Hello Jell-O!

Jell-o has now become a way to create temprary art pieces like Lower Manhattan Jell-o Version by Liz Hickock.

Some girls just wanna have fun.

Amongst them, Victoria Belanger aka The Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn whose gelatine based creations will be featured (50 of them) in her book Hello, Jell-O! to be published by Ten Speed Press on February 28, 2012.

Here's a sneak preview just in time for Valentine's Day

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cups Recipe:

Makes 6 dessert cups

As soon as a dessert involves something served in a chocolate cup, it has my undivided attention. This fabulous dessert crosses indulgent chocolate with a filling of light, fruity raspberry mousse. Individual servings are perfect for sharing. (Or, if you’re so inclined, not sharing.) You can garnish these little gems with whipped cream and chocolate shavings, or a couple of jaunty raspberries, if you like. Refrigerate any extra mousse in a separate container to snack on later.

Chocolate Cups
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening

Raspberry Mousse
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup sugar
11/2 cups fresh raspberries
2 cups whipped cream (1 cup heavy cream, whipped)




To make the chocolate cups , in a small saucepan, heat the chocolate chips and shortening over high heat, stirring continuously until melted. Using the back of a metal spoon, spread the chocolate evenly inside six 31/2-inch foil muffin liners. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

To make the mousse, in a bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow the gelatin to absorb the water for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Transfer the gelatin mixture to a blender. Add the berries and blend until liquefied. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture through the strainer to strain out the seeds.
Refrigerate until thickened (see page 9).

Rinse the blender of any remaining raspberry seeds and return the thickened raspberry gelatin mixture to the blender. Add the whipped cream and blend until smooth.
Refrigerate until thickened (see page 9).

Carefully peel away the foil from the chocolate cups. Spoon the mousse into the cups and serve.

I wish I had been first to share this recipe. 

(* Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cups recipe reprinted with permission from Hello, Jell-O!: 50+ Inventive Recipes for Gelatin Treats and Jiggly Sweets. Copyright © 2012 by Victoria Belanger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Angie Cao)

Creative Chefs Pick Color, Texture, Size, Flavor of their Veggies thanks to Ugglarps Gront Farm

Fortunately (unfortunately), since last September, I have more stories on the cutting board than time to write them, a number of them related to my visit to Copenhagen for Nordic Feed Food Conference.

One of the presentations we had at Carlsberg brewery for Saturday program was by Mikael Jidenholm who runs a farm in Sweden thanks to whom chefs around Europe and beyond can pick color, texture, size, flavor of their vegetables like a painter chooses colors on his palette.

Flying vegies

Mikael Jidenholm talked to us both about local Swedish vegetables and herbs and also his own creations. Mikael  is the owner of Ugglarps Grönt farm in Halland (southern Sweden).

If my memory and my notes do not fail me, they offer no less than 29 different types of carrots (including one below).


They keep an updated online catalogue (with images) of what the farm has to offer at a certain point in time.

A small part of what they sell is foraged.

Of course not everyone of us can afford to order from Ugglarps Gront farm.

Should you put a price tag on creativity?

(* Ugglarps Gront website is in Swedish)

14 Macaron Flavors at Le Petit Paris, 1 at Whole Foods, Montclair Shopping

I shared my Les Petits Macarons Interview with a client and today she asked me to pick 15 macaroons (macarons) for her.

I called my local Whole Foods and was chagrined to find that they offered only one flavor, coconut, and it was not store baked.

I went back to my local search board and was pleased to see that a recent addition to the Montclair food scene, Le Petit Paris, had no less than 14 flavors, all store made.

I picked 2 each of 7 flavors including Coquelicot, Cherry, Hazelnut-Chocolate, Pistachio and to round the 15, one Jasmine Green Tea macaron.


Le Petit Paris also offers a number of pastries, sandwiches and cappuccino, espresso, hot chocolate served in Paris themed cups.

The shop opened 6 months ago is the creation of a French couple from Paris.


Macarons are $2.75 a piece

Free Brazilian Arts, Music, Dance and Film Festival, New School, NY, February 27

End the month of February with rays of sunshine thanks to Brazilian Arts, Music, Dance and Film Festival presented by Student Film Collective at New School in New York.



Event Date: Monday, February 27th from 6 to 9:30 – Location: Wollman Hall – Event Name: The New School Brazilian Arts, Music, and Film Festival  “Free Food, Films, Live Concerts by 2 Brazilian Bands from the Jazz School – Amanda Ruzza/Chris Stover Quintet and – Scott Kettner’s Maracatú NY Free to New School Students Come hang, eat and dance with us right after you are done with class!

Last sentence makes me wonder if it is opened to general public. I guess it is since they are spreading the word via social media.

Umeshu and Shoshu Liqueur Filled Chocolates for a Japanese Valentine's Day

Showing your love with sweets is common practice on Valentine's day.

After mentioning that February 2012 is Shochu Month is New York, I discovered thanks to Robbie Swinnerton of Tokyo Food File that Shochu and Umeshu Liqueur Filled Chocolates are one of the options Japan offers.

Umeshu bonbons

I would be curious to know what other liqueur filled chocolate bonbons are popular around the world for Valentine's Day.

Liqueur heart, Valentine's Day in Japan for Tokyo Thursdays # 221

Previously:  February is Shochu Month in New York, Low Calorie, Healthy Spirit in Japan, Really?

(* Photo courtesy of Tokyo Food File, all rights reserved)