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Image.RicottaCake

Ricotta Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Holidays On April 2, 2015 0 Comments

During Easter week, my family and I prepare a variety of celebratory foods. In my opinion, the best is always saved for last – the traditional ricotta cake.

Encased in pasta frolla or a sweet shortcrust pastry dough, the ricotta filling is rich with rum, cinnamon, sugar and eggs. The flavors of this ricotta cake bring back all the memories of Easter in Italy. It doesn’t get more authentic than this. Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Prepare the Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry Dough):
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch squares
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold water
One 9-inch pie plate
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling cake
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream, previously published on this website
1 pint fresh strawberries

1. Combine dry ingredients in a 12-cup mixing bowl.

2. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, blend in the butter until mixture is uniform and resembles small peas.

3. Mix in the eggs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently after each addition.

4. As soon as mixture amalgamates and dough is formed, divide it in half; shape each piece into a ball.

5. Wrap each dough ball in plastic wrap and freeze 10 minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, transfer dough balls to refrigerator while you prepare the ricotta filling.

Prepare the Ricotta Filling:
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup granulated, unbleached sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons Rum
Dash ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a 2 to 3-quart mixing bowl, using a wire whisk, stir together all ingredients.

3. Make sure the ingredients are well-blended; cover the bowl and refrigerate the ricotta filling.

4. In the meantime, roll out the pastry dough.

Roll out pastry dough:
1. With lightly floured hands, flatten one dough ball to a 6-inch circle.

2. Place dough between two floured 16-inch long waxed paper sheets.

3. Gently roll out dough to a 14 or 15-inch circle. To prevent sticking, peel off the waxed paper sheets and dust each side of the pastry sheet with flour two or three times while working.

4. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet. With one hand underneath bottom sheet and the other on top of exposed pastry, quickly flip pastry over and into a 9-inch buttered pie plate.

5. Peel off the second sheet. Gently fit the pastry into plate sides and, using a fork, randomly make holes in the pastry. Trim edges to a one-inch overhang and set aside.

6. Repeat rolling instructions with other dough ball; set aside.

7. Peel off the top waxed paper sheet from rolled out pastry; set aside.

Fill & Assemble the Ricotta Cake:
1. Pour the ricotta filling into the pastry-lined pie plate; set aside.

2. Using a pastry wheel, cut the second rolled-out pastry into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide strips.

3. Place the longest pastry dough strip across the center surface of ricotta filling.

4. Take the next longest strip and place it one inch apart and parallel to the first strip.

5. Continue placing the strips, one inch apart, until there are about 5 strips across filling surface.

6. In a diagonal fashion, place the remaining strips, in the same manner, over the first layer of strips.

7. Trim overhang pastry to one inch; roll the overhang underneath and tuck it between the plate and the pastry edges.

8. Using 1-inch wide aluminum foil strips, cover the pastry edges (this will avoid blackening).

9. Bake the ricotta cake for about 30 to 45 minutes.

10. After 30 minutes and to test doneness of cake, insert a pointed knife in center of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, bake the cake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Test again.

11. When cake is done, transfer it to a cooling rack or counter. Let cool to room temperature.

12. Cover the cake with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

13. Serve cake with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, 5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (see above) and fresh strawberries.
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

Spicy Herb Cheese

Spicy Herb Cheese (Homemade)

In Appetizers / Starters, Holidays On December 12, 2014 0 Comments

Think it’s challenging to make homemade cheese? Not at all. For the holidays this year, instead of buying a ready made cheese ball, buy a cheesecloth, whole, organic milk, distilled vinegar and voila! You’ve churned out fresh, homemade cheese!

This recipe is easy since it only requires a one-hour wait time with hardly any labor. The cheese contains fresh oregano leaves and a chili pepper. This exquisite cheese has a consistency that is between burrata and ricotta. Impress them all – Happy Holidays!

Note: Red dots in the photographed cheese are chili peppers.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Wait time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (for cheese curds to set)

Ingredients:
1 gallon whole, organic milk
1/2 cup distilled, white vinegar
1 cheesecloth, set in a medium-mesh, metal strainer over a medium glass or porcelain bowl or saucepot
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano or dried red chili pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or fresh chives
1 cup walnut meats
Assorted crackers or mini-toasts and raw vegetables

Boil Milk & Let Curds Set:

1. Pour 1 gallon milk into an 6 to 8-quart sauce pot.

2. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, warm the milk until it almost comes to a boil. The milk should not boil.

3. When the milk is hot and has almost come to a boil, set the sauce pot with the milk aside on a cold burner or a trivet set on a countertop.

4. Pour the vinegar into the milk – DO NOT STIR. Set the milk/vinegar mixture in sauce pot aside to sit for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, making sure to trim the cheesecloth so that you can push it down into a strainer set over a bowl or sauce pot; allow an overhang of about 8 inches.

6. After 10 minutes, you will see curds setting in the milk/vinegar mixture.

7. At this time, gently pour the milk-vinegar mixture into the strainer set with a cheesecloth over bowl or sauce pot.

8. If the sauce pot underneath the strainer is not large enough to take all the liquid, pour only half of the milk-vinegar mixture over cheesecloth.

9. It will take a few minutes for half of the liquid to go through completely.

10. When half of the liquid has gone through the cheesecloth and if bowl underneath does not look large enough to take all the liquid, set the strainer over another bowl or sauce pot.

11. Pour the remaining liquid over the curds in strainer set over bowl or sauce pot.

12. This procedure may take a few minutes.

13. When all the liquid (this is the whey) has been drained and collected in the 2 bowl(s) or sauce pot(s), transfer all the whey to a large sauce pot.

14. Add the salt, black pepper and chopped chili pepper to the whey.

15. Immediately pour they whey with the salt, pepper and chili pepper over the curds in strainer.

16. You may have to wait a few minutes for part of the whey to go through the curds in strainer.

17. As the whey goes through, keep adding the remaining whey mixture until you have poured all of it over the curds.

18. Set the curds/strainer aside to drain for 1 hour.

Form the Cheese & Refrigerate:

1. After 1 hour, scatter the chopped oregano leaves over cheese curds.

2. Lift the sides of the cheesecloth, bringing it up and around the cheese curds and slightly tighten it. If the cheese curds still appear wet, let them finish draining for an additional 10 minutes.

3. After 10 minutes, tighten the cheesecloth around the cheese, gathering it at the center top.

4. Carefully peel off the cheesecloth from the cheese and place the cheese in a 5 to 6-inch round bowl lined with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap has a 6-inch overhang.

5. Tighten the plastic wrap up and around the cheese and secure it with twine or an elastic band.

6. Cover the cheese in bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Unmold the Cheese & Serve:

1. TO UNMOLD THE CHEESE: Carefully peel off and unwrap the top part of the plastic wrap.

2. Open up the plastic wrap around the cheese, creating an overhang outside the bowl.

3. Place serving plate over cheese and quickly invert it.

4. Remove the bowl and peel off the plastic wrap.

5. Decorate the cheese with walnuts and serve with crackers, mini-toasts or celery and carrots.

Note: Homemade cheese will keep, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 5 days.

Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real

Image.TurkishMoussaka

Eggplant-Turkey Moussaka

In Holidays, Meats, Soups and Stews, Vegetables On November 23, 2014 0 Comments

Moussaka is an eggplant dish from Greece and Turkey. In Greece, it is layered with ground lamb and served hot. In Turkey, the eggplant is stewed with lamb and served warm or at room temperature.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m making eggplant moussaka from Turkey. It contains ground meat of the same name – lol! For those of you who are vegetarian, simply omit the ground turkey. Bon appetit!

Prep time: 1 hour
Serves: 4 to 6 (as a side dish)

Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant
1 large tomato
extra virgin olive oil (to brush eggplant and tomato)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (for sautéing the moussaka)
1/2 pound dark ground, organic turkey meat (or lamb)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium brown or white onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes® (canned)
1 cup tomato purée
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Dash freshly-ground nutmeg

Grill the Eggplant & Tomato:
1. Line a 12 X 18-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil; brush foil with olive oil and set aside.

2. Cut off and discard top and bottom of eggplant.

3. Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices and place the on foil-lined baking sheet (previously oiled).

4. Cut the tomato in half and place it (cut-side up) alongside eggplant slices on baking sheet.

5. Brush the eggplant and tomato with olive oil; lightly sprinkle each with salt.

6. Place the baking sheet on a rack positioned 6 to 7 inches away from top broiler element inside oven.

7. Grill the tomato and eggplant for approximately 8 minutes or until eggplant has turned golden brown.

8. When eggplant has turned golden brown, wearing oven mitts, transfer the baking sheet to a counter.

9. Transfer the tomato pieces to a bowl to cool.

10. Turn the eggplant slices over; brush them with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.

11. Grill the eggplant slices (on other side) for 6 to 8 minutes or until they have turned golden brown.

12. After eggplant is done, set the baking sheet to a counter; transfer eggplant slices to a plate to cool. Set aside.

Prepare the Moussaka:
1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet.

2. When the oil is hot (do not let it smoke), add the ground turkey (or lamb).

3. On medium-high heat, stir-fry the meat, constantly breaking it up with a wooden spoon.

4. Add the garlic, onion and chopped peppers.

5. Cook the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes.

6. When onion is translucent, stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato purée.

7. Cook the moussaka for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato sauce has thickened.

8. After 4 to 5 minutes, stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

9. Cook the moussaka for 5 to 6 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings.

10. Serve moussaka alongside one or more recipes from this website:
Hummus Heat with Pitas and Vegetables (see recipe index – Appetizers/Starters);
Persian Cucumber Salad (see recipe index – Salads);
Butternut Squash Risotto (see recipe index – Pastas, Rice & Legumes).

Text & Photograph © 2014 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