Shiny Chocolate Ganache

 This ganache can be used as either a frosting or a cupcake filling.  For a frosting, dip the tops of cupcakes into the ganache while it is still slightly warm.  For a filling, chill the ganache for at least 1 to 2 hours.  Then, fill each cup in a cupcake pan only half full with batter, and scoop about a teaspoon of ganache into each cup.  Pour the second half of the batter over the ganache.  Bake as usual according to cupcake recipe.

(from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 4.5 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cream

Directions

  1. Pour the chocolate into a medium bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling.  Immediately pour the cream onto the chocolate, and mix the chocolate until it completely melts, creating a silky smo0th ganache.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

 

This is Ina Garten’s cupcake recipe.  I knew it was perfect for my big little surprise.  Ina’s dishes are always of the highest quality, and these came out beautifully, as expected.

The whipped butter made the cakes so moist and fluffy.  And the buttermilk created a creaminess most cakes go without.  Unfortunately, I had already started the recipe when I realized I didn’t have buttermilk (I tend to do things like that).  However, it was crucial that I make these cupcakes, so I made the fastest Publix run of my life.

 

To frost the cupcakes, I made a decadent chocolate ganache.  Just heat some cream and pour it over chocolate, and the ganache is ready to go.  I originally intended for the ganache to fill the cupcakes, but I didn’t give myself enough time for the ganache to set in the fridge.  So, I simply dipped the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache, and viola, I had glossy, beautiful cupcakes for my little, Hanna.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Chocolate Ganache (from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 4.5 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup cream

Directions

  1. Pour the chocolate into a medium bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just boiling.  Immediately pour the cream onto the chocolate, and mix the chocolate until it completely melts.
  3. Once the cupcakes and ganache has cooled, dip the cupcake tops into the ganache to frost.

Cupcakes (from Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line 18 cupcake pans with greased paper liners.
  2. Cream the butter and 2 sugars until light and fluffy.  If possible, use an electric mixer – however, I whipped it by hand.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.
  5. In yet another bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Alternately in thirds, add first the buttermilk mixture and then the flour mixture into the whipped butter, gradually incorporating everything.  Do not over blend the batter.
  7. Divide the batter halfway into the cups, and scoop a teaspoon of ganache into each cup.  Divide the remaining batter over the ganache to fill the cups.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before frosting.

 

Chocolate Ganache Brownies

If you like rich flavors, you will DIE for these brownies.  They are d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.  The ultimate dark-chocolate lover’s dream – not too sweet, with an intense chocolate flavor, just what I like.  They make up for my brownie disaster last week, which was a total fail.

The idea to add the ganache came out of mere necessity.  I needed to use up the leftover ganache from my big little cupcakes, so I decided brownies would be perfect.

And they were.

This is the first recipe that I’ve really played around with, because I usually don’t have the guts to divulge from what’s printed.   The result of my ingenuity, however, was spectacular.  The ganache was literally boiling up over the brownies when I pulled them out of the oven.  Once they cooled, I had to give ’em a try.  They were chewy from the brownie batter and gooey from the ganache – perfect.

Warning:  These brownies are rich, considering the ganache is solely cream and chocolate, so be careful how many you eat.

My roommate, for example, regretted eating two in one sitting; she got a tummy ache from all the sugar.

Knowing myself, I’ll probably finish them by tonight  (no joke).  But really, I do have to control myself.  I don’t want to end up in the hospital from a sugar high.
.

Chocolate Ganache Brownies (from Allrecipes.com)

Ganache

Ingredients

  • 4.5 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Pour the chocolate into a medium glass bowl
  2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan, until it boils.
  3. Immediately pour the boiling cream onto the chocolate.  Don’t let the cream boil for more than a second or it will over boil.
  4. Simply mix the cream and chocolate until the chocolate completely melts, leaving a silky smooth ganache.
  5. Refrigerate the ganache until it sets, for a couple of hours.

Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9 x 9” baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs.
  3. In another bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.  Slowly mix it into the egg mixture until well blended.
  4. Spread half of the batter onto the pan.  Evenly distribute small scoops of ganache on top of the batter.  Pour the second half over the ganache.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

The ganache distribution. (Not very pretty)

Update : So it’s been two days since I made these brownies.  There’s not one left.
I’m embarrassed.  Kate and I ate them ALL.
Okay, so we had some help from my big Sheridan, I’ll admit, but she ate two.  Not cool.  If I keep this up I’ll be huge.
…I guess I’ll stop baking these sugary dishes.          NOT.  
I’ll never stop!  Mwahahah.

The Crepes of Brittany

Imagine.  You awake from your bed and walk outside to a beautiful morning.  The sun greets you, and the deep blue sea lies behind your cliff top home.  Waves are crashing below, sending up perfumes from the ocean.  From afar, fishing boats are bobbing across the horizon, each hoping to catch their share of fish for the day.

Brittany Coast (Virtualtoursit.com)

I just described a morning in Brittany, France (source).  I’ve heard so much about this beautiful place, so I had to describe it to you.  It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

(Google Images – Brittany, France)

I would love to go there.  However, not for the beaches.  Not for the fishing.  And not for the seafood.

But for the crepes.

A French sweet crepe (courtesy of traveltosun.com)

A crepe is a delicious thin pancake made with egg, sugar, flour and milk.  There are two French varieties; sweet, and savory.

Sweet crepes are made with white flour, and filled with fruit, cream, and sweet sauces.  Most restaurants serve them for breakfast, or as a dessert.

A scrumptious galette. (oldwayspt.org)

The second variety, the galette, differs from the sweet crepe in just one aspect – the flour.  Buck wheat is used instead of white flour, giving galettes an earthy flavor.  These savory crepes are traditionally filled with foods such as ham and cheese, but the variety is endless. (Source)  Some are filled with asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Special tools are needed to create such thin crepes – they can’t be flipped with a spatula like American Pancakes.  First, Chefs pour the batter onto a billig; a round, cast iron griddle.  Then, a rozell (a wooden rake) is used to evenly spread the batter around the billig (source).

A rozell. (cookismo.fr)

Once cooked on one side, the crepe is delicately flipped using a long metal spatula.  After a matter of seconds, the crepe is folded in half and filled with toppings.

I figure Brittany has the best crepes simply because they invented them.  They created the label ”Crêperies Gourmandes,”  to ensure high quality creperies.  Creperies honored with this label must have a well-rounded knowledge of their food, and a welcoming spirit.  Only the best are granted this respected seal (source).

Delicious.  (I would smile too if I could make crepes like that.) Courtesy of Fabrisons.com

Although I’ve never been to France, my roommate, Kate, visited Paris this summer.   She and her family ate at Mon Amor, a famous creperie.  Kate’s ham and cheese crepe was, as she put it, “the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and gooey.”  Oh boy.  Even Andrew, Kate’s brother, fell in love with the crepe.  Previously, Andrew had refused to eat French food.  When he came upon Mon Amor’s street food, however, he could not resist.

Watch this video of Mon Amor, to see the pros work their crepe-making magic.

This video shows many varieties of crepes, both sweet and savory.

My Brownie Disaster

You’re probably expecting to see pictures of a decadent “disaster” of brownies drizzled with chocolate syrup and ice cream, and chocolate chips and what not.  But, I’m sorry, there are no pictures.  In fact, I discarded any evidence that my attempt ever happened.

Just be grateful that I’m sharing it with words, because it’ll cost me my pride.

The Disaster

Here’s what happened.

Two of my friends came over to study at my house, so we decided to make something sweet (because that’s what girls do).  Brooklyn suggested cookies, but I suggested brownies.  I guess I had the last say; because we made attempted to make brownies.

For some reason, I was in a rush to make these brownies.  I don’t quite know why.  Maybe it was because I wanted to start studying already?  (As nerdy as that is, I think that was why).

Regardless, as soon as we stepped through my front door, I sprinted to the kitchen and started grabbing bowls and spoons and ingredients.  Next, I did my usual quick Google search and found a recipe named “chocolate fudge brownies”, which was right up my alley.  I was craving chocolate, as always.

So, I followed the recipe and melted the butter and cocoa, and everything was fine.  I threw in an egg and some vanilla, and everything was still fine.  Then, I added the final two ingredients: baking soda and flour….

Notice anything missing?  Maybe you caught my slip up, but I sure didn’t.  We expected to see a smooth fudgie batter emerge, but, oddly, our batter turned into a flubber ball the more we mixed.

Hmm….

“I don’t think this is how it’s supposed to be, Lauren” Paula said.  “Just keep stirring, I’m sure it’ll come out great!” said the idiot (me).

We stirred away…and then tried the batter.  It had to be thrown away.  It was a grainy, gross, bland, stretchy disgusting mess.  I could go on and on with the adjectives.  I had no idea what we did wrong.  Sadly, we balled up the excuse for a dessert and tossed it away.  Thank God.

I would like to say that the brownie fail can be attributed to the recipe, but honestly, it was all my fault.  Somehow, I added flour instead of sugar.  How?  Because I rushed.  I’m always in a rush.  I need to calm myself and take things slowly every once in a while, or I’ll make mistakes like that.

The moral of the story?  Have patience, or something as simple as brownies can turn into a total fail.

Fermentation

The Process

Fermentation is a method for preserving food which dates back thousands of years.  This process was especially useful for historical societies during the winter, when fresh vegetables and meat could not be gathered.  Scientist and foodies alike know that fermentation centers around attracting the right kind of bacteria.  There are those bacteria that will preserve food, and those that will decay it.  During this particular process, the desirable bacteria and enzymes convert the sugars and starches in food into alcohol and organic acids (Davesgarden).  It sounds unappetizing, but actually, the process adds flavor and nutritional value to foods.

Lactobacillus, bacteria that preserves food. (Davesgarden.com)

Clostridium botulinum – bacteria that spoils food (Davesgarden.com).

We encounter fermentation virtually everyday, but most of us don’t notice.   It wasn’t until I read about the origins of sushi that I realized how much this process is used to make our food.  Without it, we wouldn’t have cheese, bread, beer, or yogurt, just to name a few.  Right now, I will be zeroing in on some fermented products that I thought were most interesting around the world.

Beware, these products are stinky and old – but delicious, so I hear.

Sushi

You may be surprised to learn that Sushi originally referred to a way to preserve fish, not to eat it, according to The History of Sushi.  In the 4th century, Southeast Asians fermented salted raw fish in rice.  The lactic acid from the rice would preserve the fish, and decay the rice.  After a span of 2 months to 4 years, the fish would be ready to eat, and the rice discarded.  This process is referred to as nare-zushi (nare meaning fermented).

(From web-Japan.org/nipponia)

The above picture is of a crucian carp which was caught in Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest fresh water lake.  After being salt-pickled for one month with its row inside, the fish was preserved in rice for one full year.  Newcomers to such a dish will most likely be turned-off by its strong aroma and pungent flavor. (web-Japan.org)

Doenjang (Fermented Bean Paste)

The Koreans utilize fermentation in countless traditional dishes, such as kimchi (fermented cabbage) and zushi, but I found the process of fermenting beans to be the most interesting.  These beans are grown, stone-ground, and thrown into a pot for years to produce the salty, spoiled taste that Koreans love as a condiment.

Korean Doenjang (Mykoreandiet.com)

“Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmermon has some footage of a Korean farm with rows upon rows of clay soybean fermenting pots.  Frankly, its bizarre.  You’ll also get to see him try 8-year-old fermented soybeans – whoa!

Surströmming

Lastly, I found Surstromming to be quite intriguing because, according to 18 Stinky Foods Around the World, its smell is so putrid, that it is often compared to “rotten eggs, vinegar, and rancid butter.”  Surstromming is a Swedish herring that is fermented first in barrels for a number of months, and then in tin cans for another year.  The fermentation in surstromming cans is so strong that some airlines have banned it because it is an explosive hazard.  To see a man’s attempt to eat this putrid fish, watch this video and you will die laughing.

**I should probably point out that 17 of the 18 “stinky foods” are fermented, to give you an idea of the bacteria’s odor power**

Mom’s Lasagna – So Easy

It’s easy.  It’s cheesy.  And it is so good.

I’m talking about my mom’s lasagna, one of my all-time favorite meals.  When I started this blog, I knew I had to post this recipe ASAP, so every other human being could try this masterful dish.  It’s perfect for a party, a chill night-in, or just about any other occasion you can think of.  Classic, and delicious.  I’m sold.

Anyone who hasn’t made lasagna before would be amazed at how easy it is.  Here’s the process:

Brown the meat.  Make sure it’s lean meat, like 93%, or it will be too greasy (I made that mistake).

Add the sauce and water;  boil for 5 minutes.

Mix the egg and ricotta.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce on bottom of the pan.  Layer noodles, and spread all of the ricotta on top.

Add half of the mozzarella, and sprinkle half of the parmesan.  Cover with 1/3 more sauce.

Add another layer of noodles, 1/3 more sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan.

Cover the lasagna with foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

You’re all set!

Ingredients

  • 1 13 x 9 inch pan
  • 8 oz. lean ground beef
  • 4 oz. water
  • 1/2 lb lasagna noodles
  • 1 C shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 C whole milk mozzarella (fresh works best)
  • 15 oz. whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 28 oz. spaghetti sauce (my mom uses Raos)

Instructions

  1. Brown the meat in a large skillet.  Add the sauce and water, and boil for 5 minutes.
  2. When sauce is reduced, spoon 1/3 into the bottom of the pan, and arrange a layer of noodles on top.
  3. mix the egg and ricotta, and spread over the noodles.  Evenly spread half of the mozzarella, and half of the parmesan on top of the ricotta.  Pour 1/3 more sauce.
  4. Add another layer of noodles, and the rest of the sauce on top.  Finally, add the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
  5. Cover with foil.
  6. Cook for 45 minutes covered, and 15 uncovered.
  7. Enjoy with some french bread and a light salad.

Chocolate Pecan Coconut Crunch Cookies

I had no reason to make these.

I was simply sitting on the couch at the yellow house when Kate popped up out of no where and said:

“I really want some cookies.”  I thought a second, and then yelled “No!”

I was fighting the urge.  I didn’t want anymore sweets on account that I had been eating so much sugar over the past couple of days.

With obvious disappointment, Kate said okay, and sat on the couch.

I turned my attention back to Paula Dean making some sort of chocolate cake.

…..Dangit, I thought to myself, I really want some cookies.

You’ll never guess what I did next.  I made cookies…

Pecan Coconut Chocolate Chip to be exact.

I do these things to myself all the time.  I say I won’t tempt myself, but I end up baking a dozen cookies.  Why does that happen?

I originally got this recipe from Allrecipes.com, but I added a bunch of stuff to it, to make it even better.

Once I had made the cookies, I wanted to photograph them.  But how?

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.

I figured, since I’m new to this blogging thing (and made these oh-so-delicious cookies), I needed to look towards the big dogs to get some inspiration for my photos.  (My cookies deserve better than my expertise in snapshots).  So I searched  some of my favorite blogs and found great photos.  I then ventured out into the unknown and tried to replicate them.

Photo 1

First off, I’ll show you the photo from Bakeat350.

(From Bake at 350)


Look at how beautiful these look.

I want one.  Now.

She has the focus on the closest cookie, and it’s gushing chocolate all over.  I love having things in the background, like she has the cookies on the sheet.

Here’s my attempt with my cookies.

Not bad eh?

I have to say I am proud of this.

My closest cookie is definitely in full focus.  The only difference is that the background cookies are farther away, so they’re harder to focus on.

Don’t they look yummy?

And so golden brown?

Photo 2

Another Bakeat350 pic.

(From Bake at 350)

The arrangement is so pretty, and I love the bright plate.  Also, the shadowing is awesome; it looks like the light is coming from the right.

My attempt.

I was rather sad at how poorly my lighting came out.  Maybe I took them at the wrong part of the day?

I know it’s good to have some shadows, but mine are taking over this picture.  I swear this was the best one – however pathetic that may sound.  I’ll just have to deal with it.

Now it’s time to look at another one of my favorite blogs, ClosetCooking.

This guy is awesome, no joke.  I don’t understand how he gets such amazing pictures.  Every single one looks like it should be featured in a magazine.

The pictures that I’m mimicking are some of his more simple arrangements, but if you check out his blog you’ll be in awe of his more intricate photos.

Photo 3

(From Closet Cooking)

Can you say gooey?

This cookie looks like I can grab it right out of the picture.

I want my pictures to bring my creations to life (and make viewers hungry), and this picture does just that.

Get ready for my gooey pick..

Tada!!

I love this picture.  So yummy.

I even got a piece of coconut in the picture!  Yes, yes I know, I’m amazing.

Photo 3

Now for the final pic.  It’s one of the simplest, but it looks awesome.

(From Closet Cooking)

So simple, yet delicious – just like chocolate chip cookies.

Now my turn.

Believe it or not, I had the most trouble with this one.  It took me forever to make a triangle that didn’t look lopsided.  I had to switch around the sizes of the cookies for several minutes.

It’s not amazing, but it’s not bad either.  The camera I used wouldn’t focus on all three of the cookies, only one.  Maybe I’ll go out and buy a more expensive camera…Not.

It’s true that photography is all about lighting.  My pictures came out so much better when I waited until the sun was shining throughout the house.  And these little mimics helped me out a lot.  I’m definitely doing them again in the future!

Chocolate Pecan Coconut Crunch Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/8 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the vanilla and egg to the butter mixture, and mix.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture, and mix.  Fold in the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut.
  3. Bake on a cookie sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges.
  4. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.

Pizza Hut: Working Against a Neapolitan Tradition

Ninety-three percent of Americans have eaten pizza last month (Pizza.com), and virtually every American has, at one point in our lives, picked up the phone to order a pizza from Pizza Hut.  And, upon arrival, we’ve opened the cardboard box to reveal a heavy circle of bread shining with a thick sprinkle of white cheese – and perhaps a few pepperonis.  Such a pizza differs greatly from Neapolitan pizza, which was the one of the first versions introduced to America.  Today, Restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut offer merely a globalized version of Italy’s signature culinary creation.  Since the first Pizza Hut opening in 1958, a shocking 34,000 more have been built, according to A History of Business.  When compared side by side, the difference between Neapolitan and American pizza can be seen immediately.

Now, let’s compare the two.

The top picture is of a Pizza Hut pie, and the bottom is of a Neapolitan.

Size

A typical Neapolitan pizza is about 12” in diameter.  It’s common to order one pizza per person, because Neapolitan pies are so light.  At Pizza Hut, however, customers have the option to purchase a 16” pizza.  Although there is the option for a 10 and 12 inch pizza, all I’ve seen people order is either the 14” or 16”.  While a Neapolitan pizza feeds a single person, and Americanized pizza can feed up to ten!

Crust

Most Americans expect a crunchy crust from a pizza.  If one ordered a Pizza Hut pie and found that it was floppy or soggy, they would probably take it back and complain.  However, Neapolitans actually prefer soft and pliable dough.  Their pizza can even be called “soupy”, because its sauce tends to pool in the middle.  Watch this video from Slice.SeriousEats.com to learn more about “soupy” pizza.

In this picture (from Serious Eats) you can see the pooling of the sauce in the center of the pizza, causing its “soupiness”.

This Pizza Hut crust is much thicker than Neapolitan varieties.

A thin slice of Margherita from Tavolo V’s. Picture by J. Pollack Photography.

Toppings

One of the greatest ways that American and Neapolitan pizzas differ is in their toppings.  To true Neapolitan “purists”, there are only two types of pizza; the marinara, and the margherita.  The marinara consists of tomato, oregano, basil, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil – no cheese.  As for the margherita, kudos to Raffaela Esposito.   He impressed the Queen Margherita of Savoy by displaying the colors of the Italian flag in the pizza: (red) tomatoes, (green) basil leaves, and (white) mozzarella (Source: Pomopizzaria).  He was also the first to use cheese on pizza.

The Margherita pizza

A classic marinara pizza from Wheelsoftitaly.com

The Pizza Hut menu, on the other hand, offers a plethora of pizza varieties.  To name a few, there is the Supreme Pizza, with their “signature blend of pepperoni, pork sausage, beef, mushrooms, red onions and green peppers”; the Meat Lover’s Pizza, “loaded with pepperoni, ham, beef, bacon and sausage”; and the Ultimate Cheese Lover’s Pizza, “covered in creamy Alfredo sauce and topped with delicious cheeses”.

Pizza Hut Ultimate Cheese Lover’s

Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza, “loaded” with toppings.

Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s Pizza, piled high with meat.

As you can deduce from the pictures, there is a minimal amount of toppings on the Neapolitan pizza, and a maximum amount on the Pizza Hut varieties.  The Neapolitans thought there should be an equal balance between the crust, sauce, and cheese, so that each aspect can be tasted equally.  However, Pizza Hut franchises share the American mentality of  “the more the merrier”.  Adjectives such as “covered, and loaded” are used to describe the extent of their toppings.  The American pies are smothered in meat, cheese, and sauces that takeover the dough.

Holding on to Traditions

As a way to combat the Americanization of pizza, Antonio Pace, of the restaurant Ciro a Santa Brigada in Naples, created the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.  The association aims to protect the Vera Pizza Napoletana (Real Neapolitan Pizza) by publishing strict Pizza Disciplines  outlining how a “real pizza” should be made.

The Pizza Disciplines cover virtually every aspect of the pizza.  I am not going to describe the whole eleven page document (that would be ridiculous), but I will summarize it.

The dough should be “soft, elastic….and easy to fold.”  Furthermore, towards the center, it should be especially “soft to the touch and taste”.  In terms of The Marinara’s appearance, the tomato sauce should be bright red, and unite equally with the green of the basil, the white of the garlic, and the olive oil.  The Margherita pizza should have equally spaced pieces of mozzarella, as well as evenly placed basil that is a dark green, as a result of the cooking process.

Continuing, true Neapolitan pizza should be cooked solely in a wood fire oven, at 905°F.  This is essential because it creates the desirable charing of the crust, and cooks it in just 60 to 90 seconds.  The document goes even further to list the only acceptable ingredients for the pizza and how much must be used, but I will not go into that.

If you would like to see how a real Neapolitan pizza is made, watch this video (scroll to bottom of the page) from Passion-for-pizza.com.

Italian pizza lovers such as Antonio Pace believe it is their duty to protect the honesty of Neapolitan pizza.  “We are against the cultural and commercial deformation of our pizza and against its industrialization; in fact, the ready-to-eat and frozen pizzas sold in supermarkets have nothing to do with the original ones,” says Pace (Source = Passion-for-pizza).    The globalization of American pizza is taking over, with a source stating that 4,570 Pizza Huts are located outside of the U.S., as of 2011.  It is important that Italy does not lose a part of its rich culinary history because of these profit-hungry restaurants.

**All photos were taken from Google.com/images, unless stated otherwise**

Quick and Fancy: Chicken Piccata with Asparagus Gremolata

This summer in California, Michael (my brother), begged me to make chicken piccata.  I don’t know why, but I kept procrastinating.  Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly crave tart things.  Or because I’m selfish – I make things when I want to make them.  That being said, I received a sarcastic comment from Michael anytime I put out a meal, because it still wasn’t chicken piccata.

Two weeks later, I finally got the recipe from the queen of Italian cooking, Giada De Laurentiis.  Boy is she pretty.  Anyways, I made it for lunch that same day (I figured Michael had waited long enough).  He was pleased with the results.  I admit I was too.  Not only is this dish a little tart, but it’s rich and buttery as well.  You’ll want to sop up every bit of sauce.  Each ingredient – the fresh parsley, the tart capers, the sour lemon – holds its own, in a harmonic way.  I’m glad I diverged from my usual flavor escapades – savory/sweet – to attempt this classic Italian dish.  It was all my idea (cough cough).

All main dishes should have a complementing side dish.  I wanted something Italian, so I searched the Food Network and came upon an asparagus gremolata from Rachel Ray.  I, being ignorant, didn’t know what gremolata was, so I quickly looked it up.  Gremolata is essentially parsley, lemon zest and garlic chopped finely together with olive oil.  How convenient!  I could use the zest of the lemons and the leftover parsley from the piccata (I’m so economical).

The asparagus complemented the chicken beautifully.  I was afraid that using parsley, lemon and olive oil in both recipes would taste repetitive, but it did not.  The lemon zest in the gremolata gives off a completely different lemon note from the lemon juice in the chicken.  Similarly, the drizzle of olive oil is more pungent in the asparagus than in the chicken piccata sauce.  Garlic can go with anything, so that was not a problem.  However, I did not know that raw garlic was spicy.  I had never used a recipe that called for it raw, besides a pesto.  It was a kick of flavor, though, and I will try it more often in the future.

Chicken Piccata (Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half  (I just pounded them to a little less than an inch instead of butterflying)
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (zest them first if making asparagus)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (less sodium)
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Mix about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper with about a cup flour on a large plate.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour on both sides, and shake off the excess.
  2. Over medium-high heat in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  3. When the butter and oil start to bubble, add 2 pieces of the chicken, and brown each side for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove onto a plate.
  4. Melt 2 more table spoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.
  5. When it bubbles, add the rest of the chicken, and repeat the browning process.
  6. Once the chicken is removed to the same plate, add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil, while scraping up the brown bits for extra flavor.
  7. Return all of the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a platter, and whisk in the last tablespoon of butter, until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with parsley.

 

 

Asparagus Gremolata (thanks Rachel Ray)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds thin asparagus
  • salt
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 8 to 10 anchovies ( I used 1/2 cup pitted green olives instead, which was great)
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley (I used Italian)

Directions

  1. In either a shallow pan or tall saucepan, steam the asparagus in salted water for 5 minutes, or until tender
  2. While the asparagus cooks, combine the parsley, lemon zest, garlic, and anchovies/olives to finely chop them together, forming the gremolata.
  3. Remove the asparagus onto a platter, and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Generously sprinkle the gremolata on the asparagus, and serve hot or at room temperature.