Monday, July 31, 2017

Torta Paradiso al limone

Before National Blueberry month is over (yikes, that's today!) and before all those sweet/tart local berries disappear from farmer's markets, I thought I'd post this cake that I made a least a month ago. 
Blueberries not only taste delicious, but the plump berries are packed with healthy nutrients for you. They're a good source of fiber and manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy. They're also high in levels of vitamin C. and they're low cal - only 80 calories per cup and no fat -- making them the perfect summertime snack.
I used them as part of the filling on this cake called "torta paradiso al limone" -- a recipe that popped up in my Facebook feed a long time ago from an Italian site called "Strabuono - Solo Cose Buone" (translates to "Extra special - Only Good Things.")
The recipe was written with metric measurements, and I've included those for you -- actually measuring by weight is always more accurate than using the standard American method of 1/4 cup, 1/2 cup and so on. Be aware that the original recipe didn't include the whipped cream in the filling, nor the blueberries, but I'll take any excuse I find to include seasonal berries (and cream) in a recipe.
The cake includes plain Greek yogurt, but I had some lemon Greek yogurt in the fridge, so used that instead (hey, does that yogurt counter the calories from the whipped cream? - Don't answer that.).
It's a little firmer than a sponge cake, but not as dense as a pound cake.
The filling recipe calls for making your own lemon curd, which I did. But you can always buy a jar of it if you don't want to go through the trouble.
Homemade lemon curd however, is infinitely better than what you can buy. Make sure you strain it to get out any solids. (As you can see, I almost curdled the curd -- not good, but straining it saved the day.)
You can use the curd just as is, which is the original recipe, but warning - it's really, really tangy and lemony. Instead, I thought the strong lemon flavor needed to be tamed a bit, so I combined the curd with some whipped cream (also because I lost a bit of the curd from overcooking and nearly curdling it.)  Spread the filling over half the cake, then place blueberries all over the filling. Top with the other half of the cake and refrigerate. 
Warning - the filling may be too soft and start oozing out the sides, making for a messy looking cake. But once you refrigerate it for an hour or so, the filling will start to firm up. Smooth out the sides with a spatula to tidy things up.
Decorate the top with more berries (I added some fresh currants in addition to the blueberries).
A little sprig of mint completes the decoration.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.

Ingredients for the cake:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar (180 grams)
pinch of salt
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup plain or lemon flavored Greek yogurt (125 grams)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (60 grams)
1 3/4 cup flour (200 grams)
1 tablespoon baking powder (1 bustina lievito per i dolci) 
1 tsp. vanilla

for the filling:

juice and peel of two lemons - (this makes a very lemony filling. If you like it less tart, use one lemon only)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (20 grams)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
2 eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream

blueberries - enough to cover the middle
confectioner's sugar - to dust over the top

Directions:

Beat the eggs, sugar and salt together until fluffy. Add the lemon peel, yogurt, oil, flour, baking powder and vanilla and beat until combined, a couple of minutes.
Pour into a 8 or 9" prepared cake pan (buttered and a dusting of flour.)

Bake at 320 degree Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celcius) for 35-40 minutes.

For the filling, place the juice and lemon peel, plus the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Simmer until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Add the two whole eggs and cook for a couple of minutes over low heat until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. (Be careful, it's easy to overcook and for the eggs to curdle.) Strain through a sieve and let cool, covering with a piece of plastic wrap directly over the curd, to avoid a "skin." Whip the cream until the point just after soft peaks start to form (but not too much or you'll have butter!) Fold the cream into the lemon curd.
Cut the cake into two sections. Spread the lemon cream over the bottom half, then fill with a layer of blueberries. Cover with the top layer of cake, and dust everything with powdered sugar.
Decorate with more berries and a sprig of mint.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Corn, Avocado and Radish Salad


If your weather has been anywhere near as hot as what we've had in New Jersey this past week, turning on the oven to prepare dinner is about as appealing as donning a ski parka in a sauna.
Naturally, cold dishes like salads come to the rescue when the temperatures are too hot to cook, but not just any old "lettuce-and-tomato" cold salads.
I was inspired to make this after seeing something similar online from Helena, who goes by the handle @brat_h_ on Instagram.
Helena used grilled corn, and I heartily endorse that approach, although I had a leftover ear of boiled, but delicious, Jersey corn needing a home.
I added and deleted a few things from her dish, based on what I had on hand. One thing I didn't have was the chipotle powder she used, so I mixed a little paprika and cayenne together. I also subbed fresh oregano for the cilantro, since my husband isn't a cilantro fan, and we've got plenty of oregano flourishing in the garden. As you can tell, you can make the salad your own depending on what's available to you.
Scatter all the ingredients across a bed of mixed lettuces that have been seasoned with your favorite vinaigrette.
Then drizzle on some of the dressing and decorate with the red currants, if you can find them.
If not, try to find some tiny red cherry or grape tomatoes to give the dish a really festive look.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.

Corn, Avocado and Radish Salad 

Ingredients for salad:
1 ear of corn, boiled or roasted, removed from the cob
 1 ripe avocado, sliced
2 red radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 green pepper, sliced thinly
red onion, sliced thinly
fresh red currants (if you can find them) 

mixed lettuces, dressed lightly with your favorite salad dressing (I like to use extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, a little honey, a little Dijon mustard, plus salt and pepper.)

Creamy Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonaaise
1/2 cup sour cream
grated zest from 1 lime
juice from 1/2 lime
a sprig or two of fresh oregano leaves, minced
1/4 tsp. paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
salt, pepper
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a jar.

Toss the lettuces with a light amount of the oil and vinegar dressing (the creamy dressing will add another layer, so you don't want to overdo it on the oil and vinegar dressing). Arrange the lettuces on a platter, then place the rest of the ingredients on top of the lettuce, in an "artful" way.
Drizzle dabs of the creamy dressing on top.
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Friday, July 14, 2017

Summer Melon Salad with Prosciutto and Mint Vinaigrette

With temperatures hovering in the 90s here in the Northeast, who wants to turn on the oven or slave over a hot burner? 
Not I, and probably not you.
When I saw this beautiful salad in Coastal Living magazine, I knew this would be perfect for one of those steamy days as we've had this week. Picking a ripe melon is difficult, but I let both the cantaloupe and the honeydew sit on the counter for a few days to be sure they were at their peak. 
The combo of sweet melon in season, with fragrant salty prosciutto isn't a new one, but the mint vinaigrette takes it to a new level.
Got a partner with a he-man appetite who requires a heftier meal? Then just add a couple of hard-boiled eggs on the side, a hunk of good cheese, or both.
Breadsticks are always a good idea too, especially when they're covered in lots of seeds.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.


Summer Melon Salad with Ham and Mint Vinaigrette
recipe from Coastal Living

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used white balsamic)
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, divided
1 small cantaloupe (about 3 lb.) halved lengthwise
1 small honeydew melon (about 3 lb.) halved lengthwise
2 oz. (I used 1/4 lb.) thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Whisk together vinegar, shallot, honey and salt in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until incorporated. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped mint. Set aside.
2. Remove and discard seeds from 1 half of each melon; cut each into 2-inch-wide radial spokes, about 6 slices each. Reserve remaining melon halves for another use.
3. Using a sharp knife, follow the natural curve of the melon to remove the rind. 
4. Arrange melon pieces and prosciutto slices on a platter. Drizzle vinaigrette over the top; sprinkle with black pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon mint.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Zucchini


 Is the basil in your garden reaching its peak, but the tomatoes nowhere near being ripe? 
Just when you'd like the basil to cozy up to those tomatoes in a salad bowl, these crops never mature at the same time.
If you prune your basil now however, it will re-sprout a second crop in time to use with those tomatoes that will ripen in a few weeks. Don't cut off all the basil leaves however - just trim back to a juncture above a pair of leaves.
If you don't prune your basil (or at least pinch the tips when they start to flower), the basil will go to seed and you'll lose the opportunity for that second crop.
But what to do with the armful of basil you pick now when they're aren't fresh tomatoes for a salad? 
That's easy. Make pesto!
I've written posts on pesto before, including pesto with shrimp (click here), and a basic pesto primer (click here) that shows you how to make a real pesto alla Genovese, and how to keep your pesto a bright green color.  
Since I recently had some zucchini from the farmer's market looking for a home, I combined it with the pesto and served it over fusilli pasta.
If you're a traditionalist (or a glutton for punishment), try making pesto with a mortar and pestle - the way I had it the first time I ate it in Italy at the home of one of my cousins.
 Not up for so much elbow grease? No problem. It's a snap to make in a food processor. 
You can whir everything together, then start the pasta cooking while you sauté the zucchini.
In the time it takes to boil the pasta, dinner can be on the table.
Buon Appetito!
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.

Pesto with Zucchini
(enough for one pound of pasta)
2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil

These amounts aren't exact. A lot depends on how firmly you pack the basil into the measuring cup, how large the garlic cloves are, and of course, your taste buds.
4 cups basil, loosely packed
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 cut pistachios (or pine nuts)
extra virgin olive oil (as much as two cups, as needed to obtain a loose pesto)
1/4 cup - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese 
1 pound pasta - trofie, linguini or trenette are common in Italy with this sauce, but farfalle (bowties) or fusilli (pictured above) are nice too.

Sauté the zucchini rounds in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper to season. Cook until softened, but not mushy.

Start the water boiling for the pasta while you prepare the pesto sauce.

If using a food processor: Tear leaves from stem, wash, dry and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, nuts and a small amount of the olive oil. Start with 1/2 cup and keep adding more until it flows smoothly when you dip a spoon into it, but not so thin that it falls off in a stream. Use your judgment.
 Add parmesan cheese if serving immediately. If you're planning to freeze it, don't add the parmesan cheese until after you defrost it and are ready to serve.
If using a mortar and pestle, start with the washed and dried basil leaves, garlic and nuts and add a small amount of coarse salt to help break down the leaves. Pound with the pestle and slowly add a little bit of olive oil. Keep working the mixture with the pestle and add the rest of the oil as needed. The process takes a lot of patience and time.
After the pesto is made and the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, holding onto a half cup or so of the water. You can use this to thin out the sauce when you're mixing the pesto into the pasta.
Mix the pesto with the pasta, then add the sautéed zucchini. Toss everything together, adding more pasta water if you need to thin out the sauce. Serve with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
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