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The Cynosural Blog

Ideas on the best of the best in news, technology, practices, services and people impacting communications, life and work styles



Sat, 31 Dec 2011 11:49:48 +0000

A Lone Raw CaggionettiCaggionetti Dusted with Turbinado Sugar and the Spice NutmegA Plateful of Fried Caggionetti dusted with turbinado sugar and nutmegCaggionetti are a fried Christmas cookie from the Abruzzo region of Italy. My paternal Grandmother, Leni, made them every year. Unfortunately, no one in the family ever got her recipe. They look like a fried ravioli, filled with a chestnut paste and dusted with sugar and spices. I've been making them the past few years, playing with ingredients, and I've finally have a recipe that I wish to share. This makes between 50 & 60 cookies The dough is made with olive oil, white wine and flour. If you don't have a pasta machine to roll out thin, flat sheets of dough, won ton wrappers may be substituted. Pastry 4 to 4 & 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil - the fruitier the better white wine Mound the flour up on a [marble if you have it] pastry board, make a well in the center, add the olive oil, begin kneading the oil into the flour and add the white wine until you have a very stiff dough, similar to a pasta dough. Run it through your pasta machine at least twice until it is nice and thin. Use a ravioli cutter, round cookie cutter or a glass to make 2 & 1/2 inch round circles of dough. Filling My grandmother made a filling of chestnut, cocoa, raisins, figs and hazelnuts. I've seen recipes using citron, walnuts, almonds, chocolate, or cicci instead of some or all of those ingredients, and ones with no cocoa or chocolate. 12 ounces of roasted chestnuts 1/4 cup of raisins soaked in the wine must before boiling or tawny port 1 pint of Grape or Wine must boiled down to about two ounces of syrup, if you can find it, or 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar and/or honey plus tawny port 1 cup of hazelnut meal 6 donatto figs done Melissese style with the tough stem removed, quartered length-wise and chopped coarsely 1/4 cup of fine quality, unsweetened cocoa a few grinds of allspice Mix all of these ingredients together. Making the cookies Using two spoons, take a chestnut sized ball of the filling, and make it egg shaped by scraping it between the spoons, then place in the center of a dough circle. Rub water around the outside edge of the dough. Pull the dough up around the filling, press together at the watered edge, and then crimp with a fork, turn it over, and crimp the other side. Heat a cast iron pan, add about a quarter-inch of olive oil. When hot, add enough cookies to the oil to fill the pan. Turn every two minutes until the dough is golden brown [usually about 8 minutes total]. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then dust with sugar and spice [I used nutmeg, but cinnamon, clove, allspice, cardamom, or any combination works too]. Original post blogged on The TeleInterActive Press powered by b2evolution.[...]

Mac N Cheese

Mon, 08 Aug 2011 03:47:46 +0000

A picture of the finished macaroni and cheese dish

Mac'n'Cheese is a favourite dish, but the one place that I posted my recipe is gone now. Let's see if I can recreate it.

Inspired by an episode of Bones, I make my Mac'n'Cheese with leeks and pancetta now. For a vegetarian version, use your favourite vegie bacon, sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon while frying.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add a big handful of your favourite sea salt, and cook 1 pound of Rustichella d'Abruzzo penne for 8 minutes [two minutes less than the minimum recommended cooking time. Drain and set aside.

Clean by cutting off the roots and green part, and soaking the white part in salted cold water, and thinly slice two medium or one large leek(s) and sweat in 3 tablespoons sweet butter with freshly ground rainbow peppercorns until translucent. Salt to taste. Alternately, sweat in the pancetta grease or the fat in which you sautéed the vegie bacon.

Slowly add three flat tablespoons of flour and stir for two or three minutes to make a roux.

Slowly pour in three cups of milk to make a bechamel like sauce. Cube and then stir in one-half pound of [raw milk, if you can find it] asiago, one-half pound of fontinal [the Italian Fontinal, not the Danish Fontina] and on-half pound of monterey jack cheeses, until melted. Add one cup of heavy cream. Other variations may use a bit of mustard powder or seeds, Sierra Nevada mustard with stout, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce [remember it has anchovies], pesto, or any of a number of tapenades.

Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and pour into a buttered glass lasagna or casserole dish.

Grate one-quarter pound of good quality parmigiano reggiano, and mix with one-half cup of fresh bread crumbs and the sautéed pancetta or vegie bacon. For the bread crumbs, I often make tiny cubes of whatever left-over bread I have around, soak in milk, squeeze nearly dry, and then add the cheese and savory. Sprinkle over the mac'n'cheese and dot with more sweet butter.

Bake at ~350ºF for 30 minutes or more, until the sauce is bubbling up around the edges and the topping is lightly browned.

And remember, recipes are guidelines, not rules. Experiment. Try different cheeses, sharper, milder, mixed. Add other stuff. Make the dish yours.

Chili for a Chilly Day

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 10:42:58 +0000

I haven't posted a recipe in a while, but as Friday swung our weather from bright blue, warm days into chilly, rainy winter in a quick snap of the fingers, I thought it was time to make the first chili of the year. I've been building this chili recipe since high school, when I first added a block of unsweetened chocolate to the mix, into college when I first added dark beer. Now, the recipe contains hints of a molé sauce as well, and I make my spice mix in advance, to allow the flavours to blend. Oh, and open a bottle of your favorite dark beer, or two if you want to start drinking Set the beer aside to become flat. Beans While adding beans are optional, I'm planning to do so, and since I'll be using dried beans. This step has the longest lead time. First, I buy my dried beans at Phipps Country Store and Farm in Pescadero, CA. They are about an half-hour drive from me, and I'll visit them several times a year to replenish my supply of dried beans. They have an huge selection of dried beans. For red chili, I use a combination of black beans and one or more dried beans from the kidney family: Big Mexican Red Kidney, Cranberry, Pinto or Red beans. Cranberry are my favorite; they're a big, meaty bean, with a nutty flavour that compliments the creamy black bean nicely. Phipps now has an online store, so you can buy their great beans even if they aren't a convenient drive from you. I'll use about two pounds of beans, one pound of dried black beans, and the second pound made up of whatever kidney varietals I'm using. As I said, Cranberry beans are my favorite for chili, and that's while I'll be using with the black beans today. Put the dried beans in a strainer, and rinse under cold water. Carefully check the beans, removing any discolored, withered or soft beans, as well as any foreign material such as stems or stones. Place the beans in a kettle and cover with enough cold water to top the beans by two inches. Remove any "floaters". Add a bay leaf. Do not add any salt or acids [tomato, vinegar, etc] as these will wrinkle the beans. You can let the beans soak overnight, or bring the kettle to a boil, simmer the beans for five minutes, and then let the beans soak in the hot water, covered, for an hour. After the hour soak, remove the beans, retaining about a cup of the water and the bay leaf. All of this just prepares the beans. They're not cooked and ready to eat yet. Either in advance, or an hour before serving, put the prepared beans back into the kettle, add the reserved soaking liquor and bay leaf and a red [hot] or yellow [sweet] onion, peeled and studded with cloves. Do not add salt nor acids. Cover with enough cold water to just top the beans. Bring to a boil, place on simmering bricks, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender. Chili Base This is the real "Chili" with Tex-Mex, "Texas Red", Chili con Carne, and Chili with Beans being stews based upon Chili. I start with about five pounds of tomatoes and five pounds of peppers. The tomatoes can be heirloom, cluster, or whatever you have in your garden or local store that are fresh, feel heavy for their size and are very ripe. If you use anything other than red tomatoes, your chili may have an odd colour, but the flavour will be great. I usually use an equal, by weight, combination of chili peppers and bell peppers. In California, at this time of year, there is a great selection of chilies: poblano, anaheim, astor, etc. I generally avoid green bell peppers, as I prefer the flavour of the red, orange and yellow ones. Today I'm using almost three pounds of poblano chilies and two pounds of red, orange and yellow bell peppers. I start with the tomatoes, as they'll take awhile as well, and can also be prepared the day before, as the beans can. Bring a large pot or kettle of cold, salted water to a boil. While it's coming to a boil, using a very sharp knife, I use a "bird's beak" hooked knife, remove the stem end from each tomato, and score an "X" in the skin at the opposite e[...]

Panettone French Toast on Boxing Day

Sun, 28 Dec 2008 08:56:22 +0000

This is a picture of Panettone made into French Toast served with very crisp baked bacon

Il Panettone is a traditional Christmas bread. The best that I've found imported to the USA is La Loggia. Bauli is also good, but not as moist. Naturally leavened, it somehow survives months on a cargo ship and weeks in a refrigerator after opening, without preservatives. A tradition is to make French Toast out of the Panettone on the day after Christmas, or Boxing day. Here's my recipe. Preheat an oven, preferably with a baking stone in it, to 400ºF.

  • One egg per person, separated
  • One teaspoon of Gran Marnier, two drops of vanilla extract, a grind of sea salt and a grate or two of nutmeg
  • One tablespoon of heavy cream per person
  • Two Slices of Panettone per person

Note that there isn't any additional sugar. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, beat the egg yolks with the remaining ingredients, excepting the Panettone slices. Fold the seasoned egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Butter a glass baking dish that is sufficiently large enough to hold all of the Panettone slices in one layer. Pour half the batter into the bottom of the baking dish, arrange the panettone slices in one layer in the baking dish, cover with the remaining batter. If possible, let it sit overnight, or at least for two hours in the refrigerator. Place the baking dish in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, then into another oven, or reduce the heat, at 225ºF for another 15 to 30 minutes. I also like to serve this dish with crisp bacon or pancetta. Cook thickly sliced bacon in a 225ºF oven for two hours. Drain the fat after the first half-hour and then arrange the bacon on paper towels and cover with more paper towels and cook for the remaining time. You might like powdered sugar over it or maple syrup. I like it plain.

Festivus Hogswatch Solstice Christmachanukwansa 2008

Thu, 25 Dec 2008 02:39:36 +0000

The winter holidays are upon us, and it's time to cook and cook and cook. Of course, the holidays are all about people, but for me, only from the standpoint of them eating what I cook. Solstice For Solstice, I made one of my favorite dishes, Maccheroni alla Chitarra con Abruzzo Polpettine, though I made it more of a ragù with the meatballs as the recipe says, veal shanks and pork baby back ribs. I made over three pounds of meatballs, as I'll be using them for Christmas supper as well. I served the veal shanks on Solstice, as that's what I like, and since it's also the day I turned 53, I figured what I like mattered. Dad likes the pork ribs, so, that's what I'll serve on Christmas Day. I hunt the solstice shrub on this day, traditionally, but this year I went the day before, as it rained on the Solstice. I brought it up to the living room on the Solstice and set it up to be decorated later. Christmas Eve Friends and relatives from around the Bay Area to Carmel decided not to brave the wet weather that we're having this year. Bunkey is still in Iraq, though this is his last year. Without the big appetites that I was expecting this year, we're not doing the traditional seven fishes this year, just four. For four people. This year, we'll be having a soup of anchovies and white beans, Dad's making his tuna in marinara over spaghetti and I'm make a putanesca sauce to go with it. We're also having Chilean Sea Bass, brushed with olive oil and lemon, roasted in the oven and Shrimp Scampi. I'll be serving a latke type of side with those last made of four potatoes and two zucchinis, stripped in a mandolin (or the big holes in a cheese grater), squeezed dry, and mixed with two leeks, sliced thin and sautéed, and two eggs, patted into cakes and fried, then served with sour cream. Part of the fun of Christmas Eve is decorating the solstice shrub and watching Hogswatch (the movie based upon the Terry Pratchett book, and my favorite winter holiday movie). Christmas Day Four people again will be eating on Christmas Day, so nothing too elaborate. Dad is making Italian Wedding or Holiday soup (chicken stock, spinach, teeny-tiny meatballs and cubes of parsley frittata), and I'll be making spinach & cheese ravioli with the meatballs and pork rig ragù from the Solstice and a roast chicken basted with a rosemary twig dipped in olive oil & garlic, served with Brussels Sprouts & Chestnuts, as I make for Thanksgiving. Boxing Day This year we're going to friends for a ham dinner on Boxing Day. I'm looking forward to eating and not cooking. New Year's and Epiphany Three more winter holidays are coming, and don't forget that the 12 days start too. New Year's Eve is often crab cioppino, New Year's Day is often baby back ribs in sauerkraut, ham hocks and hopping john, and other fine stuff. I'll blog about these holidays later. That's all of that. Enjoy your holidays, whatever your beliefs, and may Peace be upon the land. Original post blogged on The TeleInterActive Press powered by b2evolution.[...]

Thanksgiving 2008

Wed, 26 Nov 2008 22:34:24 +0000

This year we've decided not to go to The Sardine Factory in Monterey, with me cooking on the weekend. I'll just be cooking tonight and tomorrow. At the request of @IdaRose and @TiffanyAnderson via Twitter, where I'm @JAdP, here's my menu and recipes. Nothing new really. I'm following my traditions of the past few years. As always... Don't forget to preheat your oven(s) and simmering bricks. Colonial Virginia Peanut & Chestnut Soup Parboil raw peanuts in the shell for about 10 minutes, then roast them for another 10 in a medium oven. Cut an X in the shells of raw chestnuts and roast in the medium oven for about 20 minutes. Allow the peanuts to cool, and then put the chestnuts in a brown paper bag, just until they're cool enough to handle, and then shell them. Cook a rich vegetable stock that includes the normal onion, parsnip, carrot, celery, bouquet garni and garlic, but also has a diced turnip in it. When the stock has been simmering on the bricks for most of the day, add the peanuts, still in the shell, as well as the shelled and skinned chestnuts into the stock. After about 10 minutes, remove the peanuts and allow to cool, and then shell. Using a stick blender or a food mill, purée the stock, leaving all the vegetables and chestnuts. If too thick, add more stock or hot water to thin. Shave a raw turnip with a mandolin or slice it thinly with your favorite, sharpest knife, and add the cooked, shelled peanuts and slices of turnip to the soup, and cook for another half hour - salt to taste. Pumpkin Soup Take the "lid" off two sugar pumpkins, scrape out the seeds and fibers, and roast for two hours at 325°F Scrape out the meat of the pumpkin, and allow to cool Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven - they make great garnish later Bring 8 cups of fire roasted vegetable stock to a boil, add the roasted pumpkin meat, fresh thyme, fresh ginger grated, a bouquet garni of bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, dry sherry and sautéed onions Cook for two hours, then purée in the pot or by passing it through a food mill bring back to a boil and tip in a cup of heavy cream right before serving Spiked Spiced Cranberry Orange Sauce Here's a "per bag" recipe. 12 ounces fresh, whole cranberries, washed and picked over for stems or wrinkly, bursting, rotting rejects 1 glass [~6 oz.] of sherry, port or mistral 2 or 3 Satsuma mandarin oranges - remove the rind, cut in half along the torus cross-section and remove any seeds one cup turbinado [raw] sugar a bouquet garni consisting of a cinnamon stick and 5 cloves Put it all in a heavy pan [I use porcelain coated cast iron] and over a high heat, stirring often during the cooking, until the cranberries start to pop, about five minutes, than remove to a lower heat [I use simmering bricks over a gas flame] to simmer until the oranges release their juices [get mushy], remove the spices and cool overnight in a heavy crock or non-metallic bowl - may be served whole or passed through a food mill or processor Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding A vegetarian version in a pan is what I'm making, as well as using it as the stuffing by mixing with mild sausage and stuffed into the bird. I use a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms, so the first step is to soak the dried ones [this year porcini and mixed wilds] for an half-hour in a 50/50 mix of white wine and warm water [never use stale water from the hot water tap for cooking]. The only fresh mushrooms I'm using this year are cremini and portabello. 1 medium red onion, Italian torpedo if you can find it, sliced two cloves of garlic, two carrots and two stalks of celery, sliced 1 tablespoon each of unsalted butter and olive oil sautée until the vegies are soft About 1-1/2 pounds of fresh mushrooms and four ounces [dry weight] of the dried mushrooms are used; remove the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquor and pass the liquor through cheese clot[...]

Comfort Food

Mon, 30 Jun 2008 05:54:11 +0000

Every once in awhile, we all need comfort food. There's no one recipe, or one meal, even for each person. Comfort food is whatever makes you feel secure, protected, comforted. Tonight, I needed some comfort food, and here's what I made. Creamed Corn Why am I starting with creamed corn? Because of the items on this menu, it takes the longest to make. "WTF?" you ask. "You open a can and heat it. How long can it take?" To which I say "Yuck!". Here's how I make creamed corn. Preheat an oven to 400ºF and get some ears of corn, one per person, plus some more, as fresh off the stalk as you can: grow it, get to a local farmer, whatever it takes, but every minute the corn is off the stalk, it's losing sugar and taste. Gently peel back the leaves on the corn, removing only the toughest outer leaves. Rub off the strings. Pull the leaves back over the kernels, and place each ear in a bowl of salted water. Once all the ears of corn are prepared, wrap each in heavy duty aluminum foil and place in the hot oven for 45 minutes. At the end of 45 minutes, heat a heavy sauce pan (I use porcelain coated cast iron) over low heat, preferably on simmering bricks. For each ear of corn, add 1 pat of butter, a bit of turbinado sugar, a grind of white pepper, and an half-cup of heavy cream to the heating pan. While the mixture is heating, unwrap the corn and return to the oven to brown for 15 minutes. About the sugar: if the corn is from your back yard, you should need very little, if picked that day, perhaps a quarter of a teaspoon, if from some warehouse and a chain supermarket, maybe a whole teaspoon per ear. Once the cream mixture has heated and the corn has browned, remove from the oven, and peel back the leaves. Using the leaves as an handle, which should be cool enough to hold, use a sharp knife and remove the kernels from the cob. Add the kernels to the heated cream. If need be, add cream until the kernels are covered, or better floating in the cream. Increase the temperature and allow the cream to boil for 3 minutes, return the heat to low or the pan to the simmering bricks and keep warm, stirring, until the meal is ready to serve. Garlic Mashed Potatoes I use yukon gold, and either one small or one-half medium potato per person. Peel and halve the potatoes, add to salted, cold water in a heavy pan. Peel one garlic clove per person, and add to the pan. Heat over high heat until boiling, lower heat to maintain a simmer, check after 10 minutes and keep heating until the potatoes can be easily pierced to their center with a fork. Remove the potatoes and garlic cloves from the boiling water, and allow to drain. Pour out the water, and return the pan to the stove over low heat. Add an half-tablespoon of butter to the pan, with the garlic cloves and a grind per potato of white pepper and another grind of nutmeg. Allow the butter to brown at the edge, and the garlic to lightly brown. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream per person to the butter and bring to a boil. Put the potatoes back into the pan, and mash with a potato masher; alternately, you can pass the potatoes and browned garlic through a coarse-disk food mill into the pan. Whisk it all together, and stir over heat until you're ready to serve The Beef I generally like Niman Ranch Ground Round for the meat. You can use any ground beef, or thin steak, pounded or not, or dry-aged New York Strip. For comfort food, the ground, for fancier meals the strip. You can dress up the ground with sautéed onion, Worcester Sauce, mustard powder, egg, whatever. You can rub the steak with a crushed garlic clove. With good quality meat, I don't like anything hiding the flavor. Use anywhere from 4 ounces to half-a-pound per person. Six ounces is a standard restaurant portion. Heat a pan over medium heat, add extra-virgin olive oil. Brown the meat for at least five minutes on a side, unti[...]

Lasagna Lasagne

Sun, 08 Jun 2008 21:44:44 +0000

For her birthday, Mom asked for lasagna and cheesecake, as she's somewhat fanatical about both. I had a meeting in Palo Alto on Friday, so picking up a tiramisu cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory was a no brainer, as I knew I wouldn't have time to shop and prepare both things. The Americanized lasagna with which I grew up, and that will make my Mom the happiest is cooked from dried, curly-edged pasta layered with a ricotta and cheese mixture and tomato-meat sauce. I would prefer a more traditional lasagne, as made by Gianugo Rabellino. But, I also want to make a vegetarian lasagne. So, I'm combining the Italian tradition with the Italo-American tradition, and I'll make two lasagne, one meat with a ragù and one vegie with eggplant and portobello mushrooms. On a recent visit, Gianugo told me that portobello isn't a mushroom's name in Italy, but that there is a portobello orange. Here's the mushroom: Click to view original size I'm also using so-called Italian Eggplants, which are smaller, more slender, less bitter and with fewer seeds than the large, globular Eggplants more commonly sold in the USA. Click to view original size The cap of the mushroom is about 4-inches (~10 cm) across. I'll make a sauce from these, similar to a ragù, but using the eggplants and mushrooms without any meat. I'll also be serving some extra sauce on the side, the same as in my post on Abruzzo Polpettine, but with a rack of baby-back pork ribs rather than the veal shank, as my father prefers the ribs. I'll be using sheets of fresh egg pasta, cut to fit the pans that I'll be using. These sheets don't have curly edges After cutting to fit the pans, blanch in salted, boiling water for two minutes and set aside, laying flat or draped over a drying rack. In addition to the ragù and eggplant-mushroom-tomato sauce, I need enough besciamella sauce for both lasagne. The tomatoes are cooking down in the wine with a red onion studded with bay leaf and cloves. I've cleaned, sliced and sautéed the mushrooms with garlic, in olive oil, and simmered in red wine. The eggplant was sliced, salted, set aside to drain (necessary with larger eggplants, and a matter of caution with these, to remove the bitter, soapy oil that eggplants have in their seeds) and sautéed in more olive oil and garlic slices. So, while the tomatoes, are cooking, I made the besciamella, and started blogging Béchamel or Besciamella Fill a greater-than-2-quart crockery bowl with hot water and set aside. I started with 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) of unsalted butter. Melt them over low heat in a large, porcelain coated pain. When the butter is melted and just starting to foam, grind in 16 turns of white peppercorns, and slowly whisk in a cup of unbleached, white wheat flour. Allow the flour to cook for at least three minutes, but don't let it brown. While the flower is cooking, heat in the microwave (or start this earlier if in a pan on the stove) 6 cups of whole milk mixed with one cup of heavy cream. When the flour is cooked, slowly whisk in the warm milk & cream. Cook for five more minutes over medium heat, whisking frequently. Grate a quarter-pound of locatelli romano hard, sharp cheese and whisk into the sauce. Salt to taste. Drain and dry the crockery bowl. Transfer the besciamella into the bowl, cover with a square of buttered parchment paper, and allow to cool for three hours. Ricotta & Cheese Now to make the cheese mixture. Start with ricotta. By the way, ricotta isn't a cheese, more of the anti-cheese, as it's made from the whey that is left-over when the curds are made into cheese. For my two lasagne, I'll need four pounds of fresh ricotta, with one egg per pound plus one egg per tray of lasagne, making for six eggs total. Mix in grated cheeses: one-half pound of parmigiano-reggiano, one-half pound of pecerino-toscano, and one-quarter po[...]