About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Crespelle alla Fiorentina

This is a Tuscan favorite dating back to the middle ages. The French claim the crepe's origin but the Tuscans claim that Catherine Medici introduced it to the French Court. This dish is often served on Christmas.

Crepe Batter
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons melted sweet butter
2/3 cup luke warm milk
Pinch of salt
Butter to grease the pan

1 1/2 pounds ricotta (sheep or buffalo preferred)
2 1/2 pounds stemmed spinach, wilted1
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
A pinch nutmeg
White pepper
Sea salt to taste

Italian White Sauce with Cheese

This sauce is especially used for crepes, cannelloni or lasagna.

8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
8 tablespoons “00” flour
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 cup on onion stock (see below)
1 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
White pepper

Onion Stock
Add one whole onion, cut up and one whole bay leaf to 2 ½ cups of cold water. Boil until onion is tender. Strain. Use this clear onion stock for this recipe.

Melt over low heat unsalted butter add and blend over low heat for 3 - 5 minutes flour. Slowly add cream, onion stock, chicken stock. Cook and whisk the sauce until it thickens. Season with white pepper. Add grated Parmesan cheese. Correct the seasoning. If the sauce has to stand for an extended period, it may be re-heated and strained through a medium strainer.

Passata di Pomodoro
3 ripe, peeled and seeded vine ripened tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
A small bunch of Italian sweet basil

Prepare a passata of tomatoes. Heat oil and simmer tomatoes with basil covered on medium low. Stir occasionally, mashing any parts that have not broken down. Cool and set aside until needed

Make the batter. Let batter rest in the refrigerator for an hour before using.

Make the crepes using either a well seasoned or a non-stick pan using a patty of butter for each crepe. Cook on both sides. No need to brown.  Hold cooked crepes layered between parchment papers until needed.

Prepare filling in a food processor. Taste it, add salt as needed. Crepes are delicate so the filling that is spread should not be too stiff. It may be softened by adding a bit of cream in the processor.

Assemble crepes each in its own 10 inch buttered oval Au Gratin pan. Roll cheese-spinach filling in crepe. Lay filled crepe lengthwise in pan, and then cover each crepe with white sauce. Top crepe with grated pecorino Romano cheese and a bit of passata.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 20 minutes until done.  Remove from oven and serve hot garnished with a sprig of fresh basil.


1.      You may use pasta to make these, and in that case, they would be called Cannelloni or manicotti. If using fresh pasta, there is no need to boil it. The moisture in the sauce will cook it in 20 minutes. Manicotti, however, need be pre-boiled.

Squash with Shallots and Garlic served with a Tarragon White Wine Sauce

2 yellow squash, end removed, cut into ¼ thick lengthwise strips
2 Cloves minced garlic
2 small shallots, diced
2 tablespoon butter

Béchamel sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
2 ½ Tablespoons flour
¼ cup dry white wine1
½ Cup Half and Half
Chiffonade of fresh tarragon
White pepper and sea salt to taste

Sauté squash in butter with shallots and garlic on medium. Until lightly browned. Drain pieces on paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Keep in warm oven.

Make Béchamel sauce by whisking over medium heat butter and flour. When roué is beginning to turn light tan. Remove from heat and whisk in wine. Return to heat, adding half and half or cream along with fresh tarragon. Correct seasoning when thickened.

Plate squash and garnished with béchamel sauce. Garnish with a sprig of basil.

  1. Wine choice is up to you. You may use part vermoth and part sherry or even a White Zinfandel. Add a pinch of sugar and a touch of vinegar or lemon can heighten the flavor of the sauce. Including finely chopped sorrel will add a lemony tinge.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Pear and Ginger Cake

Based on Penny Stephens What's Cooking Italian .

The taste is subtle. If you want to moderate the ginger, use 2 teaspoons. Pears are not a prominent flavor in this recipe. You may want to try adding vanilla or even orange extract. 

14 tablespoons Cup sweet butter softened
7/8 Cup white sugar
¾ Cup  flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2~3 Teaspoons grated ginger
3 eggs, room temperature
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar

Grease and line the base of a springform cake tin with buttered parchment. (If you like, line the sides of the pan with parchement as well. The cake shrinks when done so the side parchment is really not necessary.) Preheat the oven to 325 F*.
Cream together 12 Tablespoon of the butter with the white sugar on low speed. Wisk in eggs, one at a time. Sift baking powder and flour together. Add flour mixture, and ginger.Whisk mixture 2 minutes to a smooth consistency. Add a pinch of salt.
Sprinkle well buttered bottom parchment paper with brown sugar. Cover the bottom surface with uniformly thin pear slices. Use all of them; it does not matter if they are overlapping. Dot with butter.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, making sure it is roughly level. Put a wrap of tin foil on the bottom of the springform to prevent butter leak from the topping.

Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is delicious served warm with cream or vanilla ice cream. Best eaten within a day or two of baking.

1.       The baking temperature varies with the depth of the pan. Changing the pan size alters both the baking temperature and time. Larger, more shallow pans need increased heat; smaller, deeper pans need decreased heat. The size of a baking pan or dish is measured across the top of the container from the inside edge to inside edge. The depth also is measured on the inside of the pan or dish from the bottom to the top of the rim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Gifts from the Sea Risotto (Frutta de Mare)

This is a Venetian dish and very often, it is made with mussels, clams, squid and shrimp. You can use what is on hand in your area. Normally, tomatoes and mushrooms are omitted. It does not take long to make, and, most chefs to take advantage of the seafood’s freshness, prepare this the day they shop the ingredients.  The better the seafood or Premium Fish Stock (see http://www.barharborfoods.com/stocks.php), the better the risotto. The Bar Harbor Seafood Stock is sold online at Amazon

4 Tablespoons very flavorful extra virgin olive oil
2 Shallots finely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small stock of peeled celery, chopped, optional
1 Mediterranean Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (Carnaroli rice)
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
4 cups prepared seafood stock (boil shrimp shells to help flavor this stock)
2 Cup chicken stock
1 pound shelled white ocean shrimp
2 baby lobsters, 3 ounce, slit shells down lengthwise
1 pound diver scallops
Sea Salt
1 clove crushed garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper optional
White Ground Pepper
Pinch or Italian oregano
1 level teaspoon of sugar
Halved Sun Gold Tomatoes or other ripe baby tomatoes
Cremini mushrooms sliced thin
Garnish chiffonade of fresh basil and diced chives for

Keep the stock warm in a separate pan. Boil shrimp shells, a bay leaf, and some threads of saffron to help flavor this stock. Skim out bay leaf and shells before using stock.

In a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped shallots, optionally a pinch of red pepper, celery if you are adding it and chopped carrot. Cook just until shallots clear but do not brown. Add the rice. Stir and toast until all kernels are coated and fragrant about 2~3 minutes stir constantly.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Allow wine to cook down and then ladle in the stock to just cover the rice. Add crushed garlic, sliced mushrooms. Cook and stir ten minutes, stirring frequently, maintaining a level liquid by adding more stock.

Add the scallops, tomato halves, oregano, lobster tails, and continue cooking covered until rice is soft but still very al dente. If too dry, add more stock. Add the shrimp, cook for just two more minutes covered. Remove from heat. Season with sea salt and white pepper. Garnish with basil and chives. Serve immediately.