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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

Tuna Empanadas (Empanadas de Atun)

In Appetizers / Starters, Fish & Shellfish, Fun Foods On September 3, 2014 0 Comments

For those of you who are following my posts on a regular basis, you must have figured out that I’m maintaining that “Spanish” state of mind. Last April and May, as we explored the culture of Spain on a daily basis, we’d walk far distances. Since this made us very hungry, our noses always followed the exquisite aromas of warm breads baking.

As we walked into a panaderia or bakery, we could immediately spot the freshly-made empanadas de atun or tuna empanadas. Each one cost only one Euro -that’s USD $1.40. Of course, I ate at least three at every sitting. (BTW, I ate anything I wanted in Spain and lost 4 pounds at the end of that trip!)

Here’s my delicious recipe for tuna empanadas. They can be made ahead of time, cooled and frozen in double freezer bags for up to two weeks. Serve these tuna empanadas as a starter for a dinner or a party – they’ll steal the show!

Prep time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Bake time: 12 to 15 minutes (per baking sheet)
Makes: 24 to 30 (3-inch) empanadas

Ingredients for the Pastry:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten with 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water in a bowl
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water

Prepare the Pastry:
1. In an 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and black pepper.

2. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add the beaten egg-and-water mixture to the center of the well.

3. Using a fork, gradually (a little at a time) mix in the flour from sides of well until a soft dough forms.

4. With one hand holding the bowl, use the other hand to pick up the mound of dough.

5. Gently knead it inside the bowl, grabbing a little flour at a time.

6. When dough has amalgamated and it is smooth, set it aside on a smooth, floured surface.

7. NOTE: The flour surface should be either a clean granite counter or a wood board used exclusively for doughs (due to contamination, a previously-used chopping board is NOT advisable).

8. Cover the dough with an overturned bowl and set it aside while you prepare the tuna filling.

Ingredients for the Tuna Filling:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (pulp and seeds discarded)
1/3 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped (the jarred variety can be used)
One 7-ounce can tuna in oil, drained and oil discarded
3 tablespoons minced, fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the Tuna Filling:
1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.

2. When the oil is hot, stir in the chopped onion and bell pepper.

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the onion mixture until it is translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. When onion mixture is translucent, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and roasted bell peppers.

5. Stir-fry the onion-tomato mixture for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.

6. When the mixture has thickened, add the drained tuna and, with a wooden spoon, break it up.

7. Cook the tuna mixture for about 2 to 3 more minutes, or until it has heated through.

8. After 2 to 3 minutes, stir in the minced parsley, salt and pepper, to taste.

9. Transfer the tuna mixture to a glass or porcelain bowl; cover it and set aside to cool while you roll out the pastry.

The tuna mixture should look like this:

Image.TunaFilling.Empanadas

Roll Out the Pastry:
1. Lightly and evenly flour the granite counter or wood board.

2. Divide the pastry dough in half. Set one-half of the pastry dough aside, underneath an overturned bowl.

3. Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the pastry dough to 1/8-inch thickness. From time to time, as you roll out the dough, you will need to lift it and flour the underside as well as the top.

4. When dough has been rolled out to a 1/8-inch thickness, using a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut circles into dough.

5. After cutting circles into dough, preheat oven to 375°F.

6. Line two 12X18-inch baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

7. Fill a 1-cup bowl with cold water; set aside.

Assemble the Empanadas:
1. Carefully lift one dough circle off surface and hold it in the palm of your hand.

2. Place scant 1 teaspoon tuna filling in center of dough.

3. Dip index finger in cold water and run it along edges of dough. You may need to repeat this so that entire perimeter of dough is moistened.

4. Fold the dough in half, creating a half-moon. Slightly press the edges closed.

5. Place the raw empanada on a lightly-floured surface.

6. Beginning at one end of the empanada, curl up the dough edges to create a scalloped pattern all the way to the opposite end of the empanada.

7. Place the empanada on parchment-lined baking sheet; set aside.

8. Repeat assembling the empanadas, lining them up on the baking sheet as you go along (each baking sheet will hold 12 to 15 empanadas).

9. When the first dough has finished, roll out the remaining dough as instructed above.

10. After you have assembled ALL the empanadas and placed them on baking sheet, they will look like this:

Image.EmpanadasonSheet

Make the Egg-Wash & Bake the Empanadas:

1. Separate the egg yolk from egg white. Discard the egg white.

2. In a 1-cup bowl, combine the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon cold water.

3. Beat together with a fork until mixture has amalgamated – this is the egg wash.

4. Using a basting brush, baste each empanada with egg wash.

5. Place baking sheet with empanadas on a rack positioned in center of preheated oven.

6. Bake the empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes.

7. After 12 minutes, using a spatula, lift the underside of one empanada.

8. If the underside is light golden brown, the empanadas are done. If it is still white, bake the empanadas for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

9. When empanadas are done, set them aside on a counter to cool slightly (in baking sheet).

10. Serve the empanadas hot.

NOTE: Tuna Empanadas can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and frozen in double freezer bags. To freeze the empanadas, make sure they have cooled completely after baking. When empanadas have cooled completely, carefully place them in double freezer bags, seal and freeze.

TO THAW AND REHEAT: Three hours prior to serving, remove the empanadas from freezer bags and place them on a platter set on a counter to thaw. At serving time, preheat oven to 350°F. Place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet, set on a rack positioned in center of oven. Heat the empanadas for 10 to 12 minutes. After 10 to 12 minutes, cut an empanada in half and taste it to make sure it is heated through.

Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Olives Stuffed with Marinated Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers

In Appetizers / Starters, Fun Foods On July 22, 2014 0 Comments

Although I’ve been back from Spain for weeks, I’m still craving its exquisite gastronomy.

I discovered this wonderful tapa (appetizer) in Madrid – green olives, stuffed with marinated anchovies and piquillo peppers. The piquillo pepper is a variety of chile that is sweet and is void of heat. It’s absolutely exquisite in this appetizer.

Here’s how to start your next Spanish dinner – serve Olives Stuffed with Marinated Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers alongside Sangria – the Spanish Cooler (previously published on this website).

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Makes: 20 pieces

Ingredients:
20 large green, pitted olives from a Spanish or Italian specialty foods stores (sold by the pound, in brine)
20 marinated Spanish anchovies (sold at Spanish or Italian specialty foods stores)
One 6-ounce jar of marinated, whole piquillo peppers
20 toothpicks

Prepare the Ingredients:

1. Working on a cutting board, cut each olive in half, lengthwise; set aside.

2. Remove marinated anchovies from package and drain them; set aside.

3. Remove piquillo peppers from jar and drain them in a colander.

4. Pass the peppers under cold water in colander and drain completely.

5. Transfer piquillo peppers to a cutting board; pat them lightly with a paper towel.

6. Cut the piquillo peppers in half or in fourths (cut them in the way they will best fit inside olives).

Stuff the Olives:

1. Take one anchovy and one piece of piquillo peppers; place them inside two olive halves.

2. Secure the olive with a toothpick; place it on a plate.

3. Continue stuffing the remaining olives.

4. Serve immediately or, alternatively, cover the plate of olives with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. This starter can be refrigerated up to 4 hours prior to serving.

6. Serve this starter on the same day you have assembled it. Leftovers can be covered in plastic wrap and enjoyed the next day.

Text & Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery – Home of “The Godmother”

In Fun Foods, Nancy's Articles On January 18, 2014 0 Comments

BayCities.PeopleDeli
What’s all the hubbub about at Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery (hereinafter referred to as “Bay Cities”)? For most people, it’s about the pre-made, fresh salads, pastas, eggplant parmigiana, meatballs, deli meats and desserts. However, among all those selections, there’s one item that is the VIP of all foods here! Standing on its own, Bay Cities even pays tribute to it.

BayCitiesHomeGodmother
It is the “Godmother” sandwich!
BayCities.Godmother

Eating this sandwich is almost surreal – at first, you bite through a golden crust of soft, freshly-baked bread (it’s made every morning on the premises). Then, you sink your teeth into ham, domestic provolone, mozzarella cheese, salami, peppers, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayonnaise and more. The experience of tasting all these flavors simultaneously is HEAVENLY!

The wonderful personnel at Bay Cities knows that you can’t wait ’til you go home to enjoy the sandwich. So as soon as you dash out the door, you’ll find tables and benches where you can instantly devour the “Godmother” in peace. No distractions, please!

BayCities.PeopleEat

Bay Cities is one of the food sanctuaries I run to for “hard-to-find” ingredients. You name it and Bay Cities has it. Let’s start with the artisanal pasta varieties that I love so much! Are you looking for chiocciole or ziti? Look at how deliziosi they look – hard to choose, isn’t it?

BayCities.ChiocciolePasta

If you want to treat your dinner guests to something unique and colorful, then I suggest the Italian Harvest® Organic Orecchiette. Orecchiette is an Italian word for “little ears.” Orecchiette are from the southern Italian regions of Puglia and Basilicata.

BayCities.Orecchiette

You still need a sauce. You can start by purchasing tomatoes in glass jars. Go ahead and select your favorite brand.

BayCities.TomatoJars

You will probably need premium quality olive oil to start making that sauce.

BayCities.OjaiOils

One of the brands I prefer is none other than our local Ojai Olive Oil Company® 100% Organic olive oil. If I run out of this pure olive oil, I can quickly pick up a bottle or two at Bay Cities in Santa Monica, instead of driving 125 miles into the Topatopa mountains.

Bay Cities also carries my favorite flour for making pizza.
BayCities.AntimoCaputo
If you’re not sure about what cheese you need, Lawrence is the cheese meister and is sure to guide you in the right direction.
BayCities.CheeseWheel

How about dessert? Since it’s a few weeks after Christmas and New Year, Bay Cities still carries Italian traditional panettone used during the holidays.

BayCities.Panettone

Tre Marie Panettone® is my favorite brand. This panettone is moist and rich with luscious ingredients. Notice all the fruit Tre Marie® Panettone contains. I’m sure you’ll want to rush back into Bay Cities to buy a panettone for dessert. You can order a coffee or cappuccino and enjoy it outside before heading back home.

panettone-with-berries20071226panettone-loaf1

Oh – I forgot something! I’ve gotta go back inside to get that beautiful dish I was looking at and, of course, Bay Cities’ delicious, homemade bread. Buon Appetito!

BayCities.Plate&Bread
Text & Photographs ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real
[except for Antimo Caputo The Chef’s Flour photograph]

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
1517 Lincoln Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA. 90401
310-395-8279
http://www.baycitiesitaliandeli.com

Easy Pita Breads

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Fun Foods On December 6, 2013 0 Comments

Pita is a slightly leavened bread, flat, round or oval and varied in size. The term pita derives from the Ancient Greek pēktos, meaning “solid” or “clotted”.

For centuries, citizens of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey, Israel, Syria and Egypt have made pita bread using a recipe similar to this one. Make these fresh and easy pitas early in the morning – they’re delicious with jam and butter.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Inactive prep time: 20 minutes (dough rising & baking)
Makes: Twelve 8-inch pita breads

Ingredients:
1 envelope Rapid Rise yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 to 1½ cups warm water
4 to 4½ cups unbleached, organic white flour
1 tablespoon salt
vegetable or olive oil (to oil a bowl)

Prepare the dough:

1. In a small saucepot, combine the yeast, sugar and water.

2. Cover the saucepot and let yeast mixture rise 8 to 10 minutes or until it looks puffy.

3. Meanwhile, in a 4 to 6-quart mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt.

4. After the yeast mixture has risen, make a well in the flour mixture. Add the liquid yeast mixture to center of well.

5. Begin mixing in the flour from sides of well into the liquid yeast mixture.

6. A dough should start to form – if dough is too dry and does not amalgamate, add an additional 1/2 cup of water.

7. Gently knead the dough inside bowl until it is smooth (2 to 3 minutes). Set dough aside on a plate, wood board or plastic board.

8. Oil the bowl and return dough to the oiled bowl.

9. Cover the dough in bowl with a clean kitchen cloth or aluminum foil.

10. Set bowl with dough on a wood board on a counter (no granite or marble) away from draft. Alternatively, transfer the covered bowl to a cold oven.

11. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

12. After 10 minutes, knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

13. Divide the dough into 12 equal balls.

Rolling out the dough and baking the pita breads:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Oil and flour two 12 X 18-inch baking sheets; set aside.

3. On a lightly floured board and using a rolling pin, flatten one dough ball.

4. Roll out the dough ball into an 8-inch circle and place it on a baking sheet.

5. Repeat rolling remaining dough balls, placing them on baking sheets – each sheet should hold 6 dough circles.

6. Bake the pita breads for 3 to 5 minutes.

7. After 3 to 5 minutes when the pitas puff up slightly or look light golden, turn them over and bake for an additional 2 minutes.

8. Check to see that both sides of pita breads look light golden. If not, bake for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

9. When pita breads are done, transfer the baking sheets to a counter.

10. Serve the pita breads warm, with jam and butter or with salads. Cold pitas can be filled to make quick appetizers or “pocket” sandwiches.

Text and Photograph ©2013 Nancy DeLucia Real