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Ricotta Tzaziki Dip with Crackers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On July 15, 2015 1 Comment

Because I’ve been teaching art and culinary courses (which I absolutely love) all summer, I didn’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen. When I tested this amazingly quick recipe at home, my husband said it was fantastic. I think you should be the judge – enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:
1 pound (16 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh dill weed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green onion, root and dark green tops discarded; flesh cut into 1/4-inch thick circles
Juice of 1/2 lime
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 Persian (small) cucumbers
One 6-ounce package crackers (any variety)
Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

Directions:

1. In a 2-quart bowl, combine the ricotta, dill weed, garlic, green onion, lime, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of black pepper; set aside.

2. Cut off tips from one cucumber. Peel the cucumber and cut the flesh lengthwise in half.

3. Cut each cucumber half lengthwise in half once more (you have made 4 spears.

4. Cut the spears horizontally into 1/8-inch pieces.

5. Stir the cucumber pieces into the ricotta mixture; set aside.

Assemble, Garnish & Serve the Ricotta Tzatziki Dip:

1. Transfer the crackers to a serving platter; set aside.

2. Take the remaining cucumber; cut and discard tips.

3. Do not peel the cucumber, but cut it into 1/8-inch thick circles.

4. Place each circle on a cracker.

5. Mound a small dollop of the ricotta tzatziki on each cucumber circle.

6. Garnish with fine slivers of mint leaves and/or dill weed (cut the slivers with shears).

7. Serve immediately.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

Shepherd'sPie

Sherpherd’s Pie

In Fun Foods, Meats On February 27, 2015 0 Comments

Don’t you just love the winter months? This is when we can eat foods that warm the heart and soul. One of my fav’s is Sherpherd’s Pie – our family recipe is made with mashed organic potatoes, corn and ground beef or turkey. Enjoy this one-dish dinner next to a fireplace and let the evening linger with a few glasses of wine…

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds Yukon Gold organic potatoes (or other favorite variety)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound organic ground beef or turkey
3/4 cup finely chopped white or brown onion
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (optional – for mashed potatoes)
One 15-ounce can organic corn, drained, rinsed & drained once more

Prepare the Mashed Potatoes:

1. Peel the potatoes, cut them into 3-inch chunks.

2. As you cut the potatoes, immediately place them in a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot, covered with cold water (this will avoid blackening of potatoes).

3. After all potatoes have been placed in sauce pot, drain them and cover them with cold water once more.

4. Bring potatoes to a boil.

5. Boil potatoes on medium heat until they are cooked through – about 7 to 10 minutes.

6. After 7 to 10 minutes, test the tenderness of potatoes by piercing one of the chunks with a fork or pointed knife.

7. When potatoes are cooked, drain them in a metal colander.

8. Return potatoes to the sauce pot and mash the potatoes with a masher; stir in the butter or olive oil.

9. Add salt, ground black pepper and the broth, to taste.

10. Cover the mashed potatoes in sauce pot and set them aside.

Prepare the Ground Meat Filling:

1. In a 12-inch skillet and on medium-high setting, heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

2. When oil is hot, add the ground meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon continuously (this will avoid large clumps).

3. As soon as the meat turns gray, stir in the chopped onion with salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

4. Cook the meat mixture for 5 to 7 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and onions are translucent.

5. When meat is cooked, transfer it to a clean, metal colander to drain over a bowl.

6. Let meat drain for about 5 minutes.

Assemble & Bake the Sherpherd’s Pie:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Oil or butter a 10 X 10-inch baking dish (alternatively, a rectangular or oval dish can be used).

3. Transfer half of the mashed potatoes to the baking dish, spreading the potatoes evenly.

4. Add half of the drained meat mixture, spreading it evenly over the mashed potatoes.

5. Spoon the drained corn over the meat.

6. Top the corn with remaining mashed potatoes.

7. Cover the Sherpherd’s Pie with baking dish cover or with aluminum foil.

8. Set Shepherd’s Pie on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake for 20 minutes.

9. After 20 minutes of baking, uncover the Shepherd’s Pie and place it underneath oven overhead grill.

10. Grill the Shepherd’s Pie for 4 to 5 minutes (stand watch in order to avoid charring).

11. Serve Shepherd’s Pie immediately. If desired, add a little ketchup on the side.

Wine Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon (with ground beef version)
Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (with ground turkey version)
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

SweetheartPannaCotta

Sweetheart Panna Cotta

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Fun Foods, Holidays On February 6, 2015 0 Comments

Wanna treat your Sweetheart to something special? Try this panna cotta recipe which is made with maple syrup and agave nectar (no sugar). Garnish this Sweetheart Panna Cotta with whipped cream (contains sugar) and your favorite candies!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cold water
2-3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup agave nectar
1-1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1-1/3 cups Half N’ Half cream

Directions:
1. In a six-ounce glass or cup, combine the water and gelatin. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart sauce pot, bring the maple syrup and agave nectar to a boil.

3. Simmer the syrup and nectar for 8 to 10 minutes, until it reduces by half.

4. Stir in both creams.

5. The agave syrup may solidify. If this is the case, whisk the mixture over low heat until the agave syrup dissolve.

6. Remove sauce pot from heat and stir in the gelatin with a whisk (make sure it dissolves completely into the liquid panna cotta).

7. Divide the liquid panna cotta into six 4-ounce ramekins.

8. Cover the ramekins with foil and transfer to refrigerator to set for 2 hours or overnight.

9. At serving time, garnish the panna cotta ramekins with whipped cream and candies.

Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real

HallowenCakesOct.'14

Halloween R.I.P. Carrot Cakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Fun Foods, Holidays On October 18, 2014 0 Comments

This year, for Halloween, I transformed my traditional carrot cake into spooky R.I.P cakes. They’re topped with buttercream frosting and, of course, tombstones.

These Halloween carrot cakes are fun to make, especially if you include the kids. Happy Halloween!

Prep time: 20 minutes (for the cupcakes) and 20 minutes (to mix the frosting and decorate cupcakes)
Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes: 12 cakes* (cupcakes)

Ingredients for Carrot Cakes:
2 cups finely-shredded carrots – do this first and set aside in a bowl
1-1/2 all-purpose, unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Make the Carrot Cakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 3-cup bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

3. In a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla.

4. Beat the mixture until it is uniform.

5. Fold in the shredded carrots and walnuts and mix well. The batter will be firm.

6. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake papers and divide the batter evenly among them.

7. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

8. Bake the cakes for 20 to 25 minutes.

9. After 20 minutes, insert a sharp knife in center of one cake. If knife comes out dry, the cakes are done. If not, bake the cakes for an additional 5 minutes.

10. When the cakes are done, transfer the muffin pan to a kitchen counter; set aside to cool for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream frosting:

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting:
One package (16-ounces) confectioner’s sugar (this is powdered sugar)
One stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
6 drops red food color
9 drops yellow food color

Prepare the Buttercream Frosting:
1. In a mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, cream the sugar, butter and milk together. Alternatively, stand-mixer fitted with a bowl can be used.

2. When the buttercream frosting is creamy and uniform, mix in the food color. This will convert the white frosting into a light orange frosting.

3. When the frosting has turned orange, using a spoon, transfer it to a frosting bag fitted with a star tip.

4. Using a swirling motion, pipe the buttercream frosting onto the cakes.

5. Add a Halloween decoration of your choice to each cake.**

PREPARE CAKES ONE DAY AHEAD: These Halloween cakes can be baked a day ahead, cooked and transferred to a platter. Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate them until the next day.

FROST THE CAKES ON THE DAY OF SERVING: Prepare the buttercream and frost the cakes up to 2 hours ahead. Cover them with tented foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Alternatively, you can use a standard loaf pan. This will result in a carrot cake or bread.
**For this recipe, the R.I.P. cupcake kit was purchased at CVS Pharmacy® in Los Angeles.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.GrapeFocaccia

Grape Focaccia (Schiacciata all’uva)

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Fun Foods On September 19, 2014 0 Comments

Tuscany (a region in Italy) and California have similar terrain and weather. Although we are thousands of miles away from Tuscany, in the last couple of months we’ve been enjoying the grape harvest.

During this time of year, Tuscans make an exquisite schiacciata all’uva (Italian, pronounced “SKEE-YA-CHATA”), also known as grape focaccia. Although preferred grapes for this recipe are the Muscat or Concord variety, white or red grapes work just as well.

Ingredients:
1-3/4 cups lukewarm water (warm up the water in a small sauce pot)
1 teaspoon active, dried yeast
1 teaspoon granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light olive oil (plus a little more for oiling the baking sheet)
4 cups all-purose, unbleached flour
1 pound fresh grapes (Muscat, Concord, White or Red varieties)
5 to 6 tablespoons granulated, unbleached sugar
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

Prepare the Focaccia Dough:

1. In a 2 to 3-cup metal bowl, combine the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 cup of the warm water by SWIRLING THE MIXTURE AROUND – DO NOT MIX IT WITH A SPOON.

2. Cover the yeast mixture and set it aside on a warm surface such as a wooden board (do not set it on cold marble, granite or tile – it will not rise).

3. Let yeast mixture rise for 10 minutes or until it has puffed up.

4. After yeast mixture has puffed up, gently transfer it to a 6 or 8-quart mixing bowl.

5. Using a wooden spoon, GENTLY stir in the remaining 3/4 cup water, salt and 1/3 cup olive oil.

6. Gradually (one cup at a time) stir in the flour, working it in with each addition.

7. Each time you add the flour, make sure it is all absorbed and the batter or dough becomes uniform.

8. Keep adding flour in 1-cup increments until a smooth, elastic dough has formed.

9. With lightly-floured hands, transfer the dough to a floured wood or plastic board (do not transfer it to marble, granite or tile).

10. Gently knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.

11. Lightly oil the mixing bowl (there is no need to wash it).

12. Return the kneaded dough to the oiled bowl.

13. Cover the dough in bowl with a clean cloth; set it aside to rise for 45 minutes to one hour (or until it has doubled in volume), away from drafts.

Assemble the Focaccia or Schiacciata:

1. Wash, dry and separate the grapes from their stems; set them aside in a bowl.

2. When dough has risen, oil an 18 X 12-inch rectangular baking sheet.

3. Preheat oven to 425°F.

4. Meanwhile, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball;
lightly flour each dough ball.

5. Set one dough ball aside in the same bowl.

6. Working with one dough ball, roll it out on a lightly-floured wood or plastic board to roughly the size of the baking sheet and to not more than 1/2-inch thick.

7. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet, stretching it to fit (if needed) in corners.

8. Using a fork, make scattered holes in dough.

9. Divide 2/3 of the grapes over the dough in sheet.

10. Sprinkle half of the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the grapes on dough.

11. Repeat the rolling-out instructions for the second dough ball.

12. Carefully lay the stretched-out dough (in one quick sweep) over the grapes in baking sheet.

13. Roll up the edges of dough from underneath to the top of the focaccia or schiacciata.

14. Slightly push down top of dough to create dimples all over.

15. Scatter the top of the focaccia or schiacciata with remaining grapes.

16. Sprinkle the grapes with remaining granulated sugar and olive oil.

17. Bake the focaccia or schiacciata 15 to 25 minutes or until it looks golden brown and grapes look cooked or caramelized.

18. To test doneness, lift bottom of schiacciata with a spatula. If it is golden brown, the schiacciata is done.

19. Cool the schiacciata to room temperature.

20. When ready to serve, cut the schiacciata into square servings and dust with powdered sugar.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real