Truffle Atop Poached Egg and Wild Asparagus Risotto

IMG_5711What an evening of taste bud surprises! WOW.

We took an evening tram to meet my son’s friends at a café.  Because it was the night before the Easter Holiday, every seat was taken. Quite a wait for a table. Everyone celebrating being off the next workday.

Bummer-  BUT  When the friends arrived they had a discussion for an alternate plan.  Wow, did I ever luck out that the café was full.  One went to procure a  bottle of red.

The first delight was I’s Sour Cherry apéritif which he’d made.  At first,  I was worried it might burn but my concerns were totally unfounded.  In fact, the drink defined summer captured in a slim crystal cylinder.  All I can say it the ruby liquid of summer’s sour cherries woke up every taste bud in my mouth.  Delicious.  Not to sweet, not too tart, zero burn. Perfection!

And then the surprise of M’s creation- Poached egg on fresh bread with the fruitiest most fragrant olive oil drizzle AND the unexpected luxurious truffle on top of the gently poached farm egg.  Or “home eggs” as my family refers to them.

I was feeling quite content with all I had eaten. Italian cheese and olives to start and then the Sour Cherry apéritif and the lovely truffle surprise.   And then the Wild Asparagus Risotto was ready to eat.  Freshly Grated Cheese on top. Oh my.  So bold.  It was wild! A flavor I’dd never before experienced,  created by a culinary expert.

I was happy to meet my son’s friends and be invited into a Zagreb home to experience  these tastes and more importantly their friendship and hospitality.

Sretan Uskrs and Hvala for a wonderful evening in Zagreb.

IMG_5711 iPhone photos don’t do justice to this dish.

 

 

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The wild asparagus simmers

 

 

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Words are inadequate to describe this bold Wild Asparagus Risotto. WOW!

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Maria Bakes Peach Cookies

Maybe you’ve been to a celebration and seen the fancy cookies that look exactly like a peach?

Meet Maria Costa.  If you live in Pittsburgh and need alterations on just about any fabric or piece clothing,upholstery or some throw pillows to match your couch, Maria is a seamstress.

But on Thursday she was baking peach cookies for her grandson’s First Holy Communion.

The first step.  Another day she’ll be cooking a vanilla pudding and filling the two halves of a ” peach”,  “gluing” them together with a finger of the filling spread on the bottoms and rolling the joined cookies in Peach Schnapps and then granulated sugar. She might add a leaf or two but no pretend stem as someone once choked on one. (Survived)

I was picking up my friend Barb to go to the art store and she asked if I could pick her up at Maria’s home instead of her house. I thought I was just picking her up.  Turns out Barb and Maria been baking all morning and Barb was taking good notes.  I was thrilled to smell the tempting baking aroma and see part of the process of the baking of the peach cookies.

They’d spent the morning baking. The dough used fifteen eggs as she thought they were on the small side but the recipe calls for a dozen!

I saw the giant wooden spoon she used to make the stiff dough. Mixers have been broken previously.

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Another day Maria will cook the filling and put the two hard halves of the peach together.  Roll them in Peach Schnappes( a hint of rosy food coloring added) and then confectioner’s sugar.  Each “peach” will rest in a pretty pleated cupcake paper on a platter.

Maria showed us the seedlings starting in her backyard garden.  Her fig tree.

Maria pointed out the province where she’s from- Calabria- Vibo Valentia   Italy

I hope I get invited with my friend to see the rest of the process in making the fancy peach cookies.  It was really nice to be welcomed into her kitchen.  The heart of her home.

Tastes Better When Someone Else Prepares and Serves

Classic winter lunch made and served by my daughter Laura. Hit the spot on a gray chilly day.

img_3117Cheddar and Monterey Jack on wheat was the grilled cheese. She used the stovetop cast iron grill I gave her for Christmas. (Which covers two burners)

When Your Neighbor Brings You Pancetta

When your neighbor brings you pounds of pancetta, what else can you do? (Thank you Joaquin.)

Find a recipe, quickly.

I read some eat pancetta raw but that turned me.

Next time I’ll slice it more thinly. First, I warmed the dish in the oven, cooked the cut up pancetta for about 8 minutes in my cast iron skillet and then drained it on paper towels. Tossed  the eggs, cheese, minced garlic cloves mixture  onto the hot drained spaghetti  in the warmed casserole   Freshly ground pepper. Rich and good. Next time I’ll hold off on salting the pasta water as the pancetta and cheese made it salty enough.  The recipe called for 1/2 cup white wine which I didn’t have on hand so poured a glass of red to accompany this perfect dish for a snowy day.

Spaghetti Carbonara  

There’s plenty of pancetta left for several meals if you have any suggestions.

Macarons – First Attempt

img_3045img_3047Macarons go for about $2.50 apiece at the French bakery. Martha Stewart said you could bake them at home for about 18 cents apiece.  My friend V did some quick calculations in my kitchen and seems it’s more like 50 cents each

I’ve watched a video several times, purchased the best ingredients, and splurged for a baking mat with perfect circles embossed in the material. (Not factoring the equipment into the cost.)

Here’s the result.  Some of the macarons seemed a bit chewy. Did I underbake  them? Was the humidity a factor? Did I whip the egg whites correctly? Did I fold the dry ingredients sufficiently? I let them sit before I put them into the oven. Perhaps I used too much batter on each circle as the seemed to puff up like white mushrooms.  I will watch another video I found The Science of Macarons. If you have made them before please share any tips.

I got the ganache right. Had to put it over hot water after awhile as it firmed up, though.

I found another recipe to try next batch.

 

 

Hopkins County Stew

My neighbor up the street made a vat of Hopkins County Chicken Stew.(recipe)

She served it at their New Year’s Eve Party Saturday night.

I sent a text to thank her for the nice time and she texted back and invited me to come up around 4, bring an empty container, fill up! I took up a quart jar but she had a couple of gallons.

Yum.

When I got there, I was in awe of the huge pot she made it in. She was in the midst of major clean up from the party.  Steve and I  ate the warm penne and sweet sausage she sent home along with some stew.  Thanks for sharing your leftovers.

I’d never even heard of Hopkins County Stew from Texas.

Turns out there’s a big festival in Sulphur Springs Texas  (the fourth Saturday of October) and here is an excerpt from their webpage

“The cooking competition began in 1969, but the roots of the dish date from the late 1800s, The county had approximately 100 schools back then and it became customary to celebrate the end of each school year with stew suppers that were cooked in iron pots over open hardwood fires. 

There were no recipes.  Families just brought what they had and threw it in the pot.  The meat most likely was squirrel, and typically the most dominant vegetables were potatoes, onions, corn and tomatoes.

There is still no authentic recipe for Hopkins County Stew.  For the annual cook-off, contestants may use chicken or beef (no squirrel) and there are separate prizes for the best stew with each meat.”

Here is another link to a recipe   I will have to ask Susanne which one she used.  The ones listed above (potatoes, onions, corn and tomatoes) are still the dominant ingredients.

 

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