All Posts By: NANCY DeLUCIA REAL

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Chocolate Pastry Cream with Berries

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces On May 6, 2010 0 Comments

Catherine de’ Medici, an Italian noblewoman, introduced pastry cream or “crema pasticciera” to the French court in the sixteenth century. In turn, the French called it “creme patissiere”. While traditional pastry cream is made with eggs, sugar, flour and milk, contemporary versions of this recipe have added flavorings.

As a chocoholic, I created this pastry cream to satisfy my palate. I use this rich chocolate cream as a filling for cakes or simply served with berries. Rest assured that this is a definite crowd pleaser.

Active prep time: 3 hours (chill time)
Inactive prep time: 3 hours (chill time)
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups milk (2% is best – not too heavy and not too light)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed and cut into fourths lengthwise
1 cup fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar and cocoa, for dusting
1. In a 3-quart sauce pot, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until well-blended.

2. Gradually and vigorously whisk in the flour, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, making sure that each addition is completely absorbed.

3. In a slow and steady stream, pour in the milk while whisking continuously until all the milk is absorbed.

4. Transfer the sauce pot containing the milk mixture to a stove burner set on medium-low heat.

5. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.

6. Cook and stir the cream for 1 to 2 minutes or until it has thickened.

7. Remove the saucepot from heat and stir the melted chocolate chips and the vanilla into the cream. Mix until the mixture is uniform.

8.Divide the chocolate pastry cream evenly among four 4-ounce ramekins. Immediately cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

9. At serving time, top the chocolate pastry cream with berries and powdered sugar.

10. Set each ramekin on a flat dessert plate. Dust each plate with powdered cocoa and garnish with a strawberry and some blueberries.

Note: For more servings, just double or triple the recipe. Pour the cooked pastry cream into a porcelain or glass serving bowl, cool and refrigerate. At serving time, spoon the cream into individual bowls; dust with powdered sugar and cocoa. Garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves.

Variation: The milk can be substituted with soy milk, but the flavor will be different.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

In Salad Dressings, Salsas & Savory Sauces On May 1, 2010 0 Comments

In Italian cuisine, the ingredients must be fresh and simple. This traditional tomato sauce comes from the region of Campania in southern Italy – where I was an apprentice to my maestra and grandmother – Nonna Annunziata. This classic recipe is delicious with any type of pasta.

Prep time: 40 to 45 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (8 or 9 count)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 small onion, finely chopped
¾ to 1 teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
Dash nutmeg
6 to 8 fresh large basil leaves
1. Place tomatoes in a 5 or 6-quart saucepot; cover with cold water and bring to a boil.

2. Uncover and continue boiling on medium-high heat, about 5 to 7 minutes or until skins crack.

3. Drain tomatoes and cool to lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

4. Peel tomatoes and transfer to a blender; liquefy and set aside.

5. In the meantime, wash and dry the saucepot. In same saucepot, heat the oil and stir-fry the garlic and onion on medium heat until onion is translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Remove saucepot with onion mixture from hot burner.

7. Transfer the liquefied tomatoes to the saucepot and return to the hot burner.

8. Bring tomato sauce to a boil. Stir in the salt, sugar and nutmeg; simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust salt level. Cover the sauce and set aside.

9. Meanwhile, fill a 5 to 6-quart saucepot with cold water and bring to a boil.

10. Cook one pound of pasta (any variety) per manufacturer’s instructions (to avoid overcooking, begin tasting pasta after 6 minutes). Cook until pasta is “al dente” or crunchy-tender.

11. Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl or pot. Add 2 to 4 ladles of warm sauce to the pasta and serve in individual bowls.

12. Top each serving with a half ladle of sauce followed by slivered basil leaves. Add freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serve with your favorite wine.

Buon Appetito!

Text ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Nopales Frittata Burrito

In Eggs Selections On April 30, 2010 0 Comments

Nopales (cactus) and scrambled eggs are an important food staple in Mexico. I admit that the first time I was offered a scramble of nopales I thought it was unusual to eat a food with cactus leaves in it.

Believe it or not, nopales, onion, eggs and tomatoes wrapped into a burrito make for a nutritional breakfast that everyone will enjoy.

In my bicultural home I created the Nopales Frittata Burrito, enjoyed immensely by my Italian Mexican son and all his friends. Try this recipe – the burritos won’t last very long!

Prep time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

FIRST, COOK THE NOPALES:
2 to 3 large fresh nopales (cactus leaves), without thorns and cut into 1/2-inch squares, rinsed and drained
-OR-
One 15-ounce jar cooked nopales, rinsed, drained and cut into 1/2-inch squares

1. To cook fresh nopales: In a 5-quart saucepot bring 12 cups water and half the onion to a boil.

2. Add the fresh cut nopales and cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes or until nopales turn a lime green color.

3. Drain and rinse the nopales in a colander under cold water.

4. Discard onion, drain nopales again and set aside.

NEXT, PREPARE THE NOPALES FRITTATA:
1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and halved
3 large egg yolks
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 vine-ripened tomato, quartered, pulp removed and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1. Meanwhile, chop the remaining onion in 1/2-inch pieces and set aside in a small bowl.

2. In a separate 4-cup mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks, egg whites and salt together; set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Stir fry either fresh or jarred nopales with the chopped onion on medium heat, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the tomato pieces and stir fry an additional 2 minutes or until onion is translucent and mixture begins drying out. Set heat on low and pour the egg mixture over the nopales, onion and tomato in skillet.

5. Cover and cook about 2 minutes or until underside of frittata looks golden when lifted with a spatula.

6. Divide frittata into 4 to 6 wedges and flip each wedge over. Cook on low heat an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Transfer the frittata pieces to a flat plate and set aside.

FINALLY, HEAT THE TORTILLAS & ASSEMBLE THE BURRITOS:
Four to six 8-inch flour tortillas

1. In the same skillet set over medium-low heat, warm two tortillas at a time, turning them over every 30 seconds until warmed through.

2. Repeat with remaining tortillas while beginning to assemble the burritos.

3. Place a warm tortilla on an individual plate and set a frittata wedge in its center horizontally.

4. Roll up one-third of the tortilla, folding in the sides to seal and roll up completely. Repeat with remaining tortillas and frittata wedges.

Serve with a favorite salsa or garnish with tomato slices.

Note: Fresh nopales (cactus leaves) are sold at farmers’ markets or Latin American markets, flesh cut into squares and bagged. If buying whole cactus leaves with thorns, place one leaf at a time in a large paper bag set on a counter and scrape off the thorns with a knife. The bag will prevent thorns from flying towards you or all over your kitchen.

Text ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real
Burrito Photograph Only ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Kitchen Trick – Reading a Recipe

In Kitchen Tricks On April 28, 2010 0 Comments

Always read a recipe completely before diving into it. As you read the recipe, it will become virtual reality. For example, if reading, “Take one stick of butter at room temperature and mix it with 1/2 cup of sugar,” imagine the mixture in a bowl, turning into a cream …

Later on, when really mixing the two ingredients, it won’t feel so unfamiliar because you already played it out in your mind.

Text ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pasta alla Messicana

In Fun Foods, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 16, 2010 0 Comments

In the summer of 2007 I worked at my aunt’s restaurant, La Locandina, located in Southern Italy. Having been exposed to Mexican cuisine for many years in California, I decided to bring ingredients to make foods from south of the border. When I prepared and served Mexican food, the Italians went wild over new flavors such as cilantro, avocados and chiles, especially in this pasta dish that I created. Make my Mexican pasta and post comments to let me know how your guests liked it!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
3 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, rinsed and chopped (measure first, then chop)
1-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound any variety short pasta
2/3 cup frozen peas
2/3 cup whole kernel corn, frozen
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned (cut into matchsticks)
1 large ripe avocado (peeled and cut into cubes or slices at serving time – this prevents blackening)
2 fresh Serrano chiles, finely chopped and set in a small serving bowl
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, set in a small serving bowl

1. In a 4-quart pot, bring 10 cups of cold water to a boil.

2. In the meantime, combine the tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon salt and olive oil in a large porcelain or glass serving bowl. Toss lightly and set aside.

3. Add pasta and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boiling water and cook on medium heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente (crunchy tender).

4. After 8 minutes, add the peas, corn and carrot to the pasta during the last minute of the boil (if softer pasta is preferred, cook another minute or two).

5. Drain the pasta, peas, corn and carrot in a colander.

6. Transfer the pasta and cooked vegetables to the bowl containing the tomato mixture. Toss lightly and taste.

7. Serve in individual bowls and garnish pasta with the avocado. Ask guests to add chiles and cheese, if desired.

Accompany this exciting pasta dish with your choice of red or white wine.

Buon Appetito!
Buen Provecho!

Tips:

To avoid overcooking pasta, begin tasting it after a 6-minute boil. Most pasta varieties require an 8 to 10 minute-boil.
When cooking pasta containing durum wheat semolina, there is no need to add oil to the water.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real