Monday, December 16, 2019

Pistachio Shortbread

I love pistachios, so when I want a cookie, I'm usually thinking of how I can incorporate them into the batter.  I had some leftover salted pistachios in the pantry and decided to fool around with a recipe that I ripped from a magazine, and for the life of me I can't figure out which one it is so I can give them credit for the idea.  I have tweaked theirs a bit, and Dr. C. and I think it's a winner. The good news is that you can make the dough ahead and refrigerate or freeze it, and the baked cookies also freeze well.  I still haven't decided if they need a little dip into some semi-sweet chocolate.  I'll update you when I decide!

Pistachio Shortbread
Makes about 30

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chopped salted pistachios
1/4 cup raw sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddles, cream the butter and sugar together for 3 to 4 minutes, until very creamy.  Add the vanilla and beat again.
Add the pistachios and flour with the mixer on low speed, combining, until the ingredients just come together. 

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, and press into the pan.  (I cover the dough with plastic wrap and use a small roller to get it evenly into the pan, but you can pat it in, too)

Sprinkle with the raw sugar, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden brown in color.  

Cut the shortbread when it comes out of the oven, and allow to cool completely in the pan.  

The shortbread will keep in an airtight container for 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.  Buon appetito!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Cherry Amaretto French Toast

Dr. C's Kiwanis club came to the house for their annual Christmas get together today.  Yesterday I decided to try out a new recipe that has been rolling around in my head.  I would deem it a success since there wasn't a crumb left!
Not only is this simple to make, but you also have to make it a day ahead of time, and then it's just pop into the oven for about 45 minutes and you have a beautiful delicious French toast.  These French toast bakes are great if you have a crowd in for the holidays---instead of flipping French toast, you can bake it and then serve it.
I started with frozen cherries (since fresh are out of season) from Trader Joe's.  Flavor them with Amaretto, of if you want to make it alcohol-free, I'd use a bit of almond extract or some orange juice.  I like the pairing of the cherries and almonds.  There is a layer of mascarpone, again, flavored with Amaretto or almond extract, and then custard soaked bread goes on the top.  Easy peasy.

Cherry Amaretto French Toast
Serves 6 to 8

4 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Two 8-ounce containers mascarpone 
2 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno
2 tablespoons sugar
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
One pound loaf Brioche, egg bread like Challah or Hawaiian Sweet bread sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds for garnish
1/4 cup unsalted butter
cinnamon sugar for garnish

Coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
In a bowl, combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and Amaretto.  Pour into the prepared pan. 

In another bowl stir together the mascarpone, Amaretto, and sugar.
Spread over the cherries in the pan. 

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, sugar and cinnamon.
Dip the brioche into the egg mixture and lay over the mascarpone in the pan.  
My local grocer sells this delicious brioche; it's awesome for French toast

I was able to do 2 layers.  Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread evenly.  Sprinkle with the almonds, brush with the butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or up to 36 hours.  

Remove the casserole dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 45 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling, and the top is browned.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.  

This holiday season welcoming friends and family in is one of my favorite pastimes, and this dish is a winner.  Buon appetito!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Finding Collepino

Yesterday we decided to take a drive up to Collepino, a tiny town with a population of about 13, high above Spello on Mt. Subassio.  We had been here 20 years ago, but hadn't been back and had heard of a great restaurant there, so we thought we'd go for lunch.
Traversing the winding narrow road I kept saying, this is too far, I'm sure we missed it, but then turning a corner, we saw a town, and sure enough, we made it.

Our welcoming committee was a new litter of kittens; the grey and white ones were hiding, but the black babies were so cute and curious.

As we made our way through the town to find the restaurant, the views were delightful.  We got to the restaurant only to find it was closed.  October in Umbria means that many places are only open for dinner, and on certain days to take advantage of the dwindling tourist market.  So, we hopped back in the car and headed back to Spello, with these beautiful views to savor.  Ciao for now.


For the past several years, I've celebrated my birthday here in Spello accompanied by the Angelini family and Dr. C.  This year is a BIG one, and Dr. C. surprised me by flying in our daughter, son-in-law and son Ryan for the celebration.  Let me tell you no one celebrates like the Italians! 
Chef Marco Gubbiotti prepared our dinner, and for dessert, I'd requested a gelato cake from his gelateria Amandola. (best gelato in the world) 

Marco calls this one truffle carbonara: poached egg, crostini crumbs, pancetta, and truffles

Risotto with porcini and butternut squash

Pork two ways:  chop and mini-porchetta

A few days before the celebration my brother and his wife arrived for 3 days; we toured Gubbio where our grandparents were born, and enjoyed some family time here in Spello and Montefalco. 

On the day the entourage arrived, they were still here and got to enjoy lunch together with our kids.  It doesn't get any better than family gathered around the table. 

To further celebrate our family at Enoteca Properzio sent us to the Arnaldo Caprai winery for a wine tasting.  This is one of the largest producers here in Umbria, and the setting couldn't be better. 

Sagrantino, not quite ready

To say I was overwhelmed by the weekend would be an understatement. I'm so grateful to the family at Enoteca Properzio for arranging the celebration with my family this weekend, their generosity and love are astonishing, but then this is Italy, and their passion for what they do is evident every day.  Living here is one big celebration of love, food, and family.  Ciao for now.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen

Black Truffles
Dr. C. and I landed in Rome late after a 4-hour delay in Newark.  We drove to Spello and fell into bed, tired, and happy to be in our happy place.  The days since our arrival have been a joyous reunion with the Angelini family at Enoteca Properzio, as well as long-time friends from the US, UK, and Australia. 
Umbria is famous for its truffles, although the Piedmont gets the press, the truffles here are amazing.  Our first day here, we sat at the enoteca from 11 a.m. and closed it at 9 p.m.--- I'll use the excuse that we were jet-lagged, and couldn't face the walk up the hill to our apartment. 
At aperitivo time, we were served bruschetta with freshly grated truffles---this was mind-boggling. 
Simple food is what defines Umbria; this slice of heaven on a plate is merely toasted bread, a bit of extra virgin olive oil and shaved truffles.  Everything about this dish is why I love being here; simple, flavorful and satisfying.  The other dish that we love here is fresh tagliatelle with shaved truffles.  The tagliatelle is tossed with green gold (extra virgin local olive oil) and then topped with shaved truffles. 
Mama Mia!
This pasta is served with Sagrantino, the local grape that only grows here.  When you eat this dish and drink the wine, you are eating and drinking Umbria. 
As the week has gone on, we've enjoyed drinks and meals with our family and friends here. 
Prosciutto e Melone


Mediterranean Salad: mache, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Sicilian tuna


Our host and brother, Roberto Angelini with our friend travel writer Sanghyun Baik 
So come to Umbria for the truffles, stay for the hospitality.  Each night I stand on the terrace at this apartment and watch the lights in the distance on the hills, and this week there has been a full moon to light the night. 

Ciao for now.