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Italian Free-Form Apple Tart (Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana)


Italian Apple Crostata

I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pasta frolla:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Apple filling:

3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt

For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.

For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.

making the crostata

Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.

Cut rolled pasta dough

Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.

Making the lattice crust

Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.

Making the tart dough edge

Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.

Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.

Italian Free Form Apple Tart

Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.

*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.

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Sweet & Simple: Black Cherry Clafoutis


Cherry Clafouti

Black Cherry Clafoutis

The other day I suddenly had a strong craving for dessert. Most likely this was result of my having eyed some gorgeous black cherries on the sidewalk at Todaro Brothers, my favorite local market down the street. I suddenly remembered a simple, delicious French dessert called Clafoutis that I learned how to make in cooking school, and decided this would be the perfect dish to satisfy my sweet tooth and take advantage of the delectable fresh cherries that were calling my name.

Cherries

Gorgeous Cherries

Clafoutis is a dessert originating in 19th century from the Limousin region of France. The name stems the verb clafir, which literally means “to fill” – (the fresh black cherries with a custard like batter). The dish calls for slivered almonds and butter along with a hint of almond and vanilla flavors, covered in a custard-like batter and baked. It is finished with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and served lukewarm. Clafoutis is also made with apples, plums, pears, blackberries or raspberries, and is even better with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream – the perfect remedy for a hot summer day.

Cherries

Cherries ready for pitting

The traditional way of making Clafoutis is to leave the pits in the cherries which give a more intense cherry flavor to the dish, but you can also choose to pit them before baking, giving it a milder cherry flavor and making it easier to dig in and enjoy this delicious creation. Either way it’s sweet and simple to make, so follow your heart’s desire. One bite, and you’ll be in love. Savourer!

Cherries and Almonds in Buttered Dish

Cherries and Almonds in Buttered Dish

Cherry Clafouti

Pouring the Custard Batter over Cherries

Ingredients

1 c fresh black cherries, pitted (or unpitted if you prefer)
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting once baked)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a medium size oven proof casserole or skillet and toss in almonds and cherries.

Whisk together eggs, sugar and brown sugar, salt and flour; mix together. Slowly whisk in the milk, almond and vanilla flavoring until you have a smooth custard-like batter and pour over the cherries into the baking dish.

Bake for 45 mins to an hour until the Clafoutis is lightly browned (you can test the doneness with a toothpick in the center – it is done if it comes out clean). Let cool to room temperature, then dust with powdered sugar and slice into wedges (or rectangular slices if made in a square or rectangular baking dish). Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4. If baking for a larger crowd, double the recipe and bake in a large 9×9 or 10×7 baking dish – this will serve 6-8 people.

Clafouti with Powdered Sugar

Sweet.

Simple.

Simple.

Cherry Clafouti

and Oh So French.

Other Clafoutis recipes you may enjoy:

Dave Lieberman’s Blueberry Clafouti

Michael Chiarello’s Apple Clafouti

Julia Child’s Plum Clafouti (via Gratinee)

Ina Garten’s Pear Clafouti

Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Clafoutis with Caramelized Oranges

There’s No Place Like Home


Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.

That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for Comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabars on the Upper West Side with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the Cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, real cream, prime European butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta and this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese

Recipe adapted from Terrance Brennan and Andrew Friedman, “Artisanal Cooking

Ingredients

¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmiagiano-Reggiano
5 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher Salt
White pepper in a mill
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte, grated (from 5 ½ ounces)
1 cup Fontina, chopped into small pieces
½ cup mascarpone
1 ½ cups dry pasta (macaroni, penne or your choice)
4 slices of bacon or prosciutto, cooked and crumbled
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the water into a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cook the bacon or prosciutto, drain and crumble and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.

Put the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt it over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly, but not letting the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cook for 5 minutes, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 4 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 grinds of pepper, the Gruyère, Fontina and mascarpone, dashes of nutmeg and cayenne, and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a colander and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce. Add crumbed bacon/prosciutto and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30-35 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley. Oh, and be prepared to swoon.

Serves 4 as a side dish. For a main course, double the recipe, serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.

The Last Supper: Gutsch’s Linguine


Gutsch's Linguine

As the New Year begins, so do New Years resolutions. Some of them we keep, some of them we don’t, but one of them we universally all decide is to eat healthier and shed a few pounds from all the holiday gatherings and fat-laden food. So, back to reality it is. Starting tomorrow. Holiday over. Back to work. Back to the gym. A pledge to living healthier, eating healthier and cooking healthier. A fresh start for the New Year. For my last hoorah, I decided to make one last supper before the regimen begins: Gutsch’s Linguine and Clams. Bacon. Butter. Pasta. Clams. Delicious melt-in-your-mouth flavor and OMG – so not a diet friendly dish. But you know what? You might as well enjoy your Last Supper and go all out, so that I did. And I enjoyed every last bite of it.

Gutsch’s Linguine and Clams

Makes 2-4 servings

4-5 slices of bacon, cut ¼” strips
1/8 c. sliced green onions
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1 – 6.5 oz can chopped clams (or baby whole clams)
¼ c. sliced black olives
1/8 c. snipped parsley
1/16 tsp. black pepper
6 oz. Linguine

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp and drain, reserving 1/8 c. drippings in the skillet. Set bacon aside.

Cook onion and garlic in drippings until tender, not brown. Stir in butter until melted**. Drain clams, reserving liquid.

Add clams, bacon, olives, parsley and black pepper and stir together.

Add half of the reserved clam liquid, heat through and keep hot over low heat**. Meanwhile, cook linguine and drain. Mix together with the clam mixture in the pan and place in a warm serving bowl. Top the pasta additional parsley for garnish.

Serve this dish with a green salad, crisp white wine and some crusty Italian bread. Delish!!

**You can also throw a little white wine in with the clam liquid and let it simmer down and substitute olive oil for the butter if desired.

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