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Rum, Yum: How a Midnight Snack Was Born
Feb 24th, 2010 by
What were you expecting: a photo of us in bed eating this delightful treat? Keep dreaming!

What were you expecting: a photo of us in bed eating this delightful treat? Keep dreaming!

Tricia had a craving for oatmeal with blueberries one night. She had been reading about this dish in a magazine or saw an ad there and mentioned it sounded good. So I said, we have frozen blueberries. I’ll add them to some oatmeal and we’ll have a snack.

I got out of bed, walked into the RootsLiving kitchen, poured about 3/4 of a cup of blueberries into a bowl and defrosted them in the microwave. I then went to the cereal cabinet, only to discover our two boys had eaten all of the oatmeal.

Hmm. What to do? I quickly surveyed the ingredients in our refrigerator and found some part-skim ricotta that was leftover from my “Vegetable Lasagna Masterpiece.” I then flashed back to my father making impromtu desserts using ricotta, rum and sugar.

That’ll work, but this dish needs something else. I walked into the RootsLiving butler’s pantry and saw an open package of “lemon snap” cookies. They’re like ginger snaps, only with a lemon flavor. I had bought them because as far as cookies go, they are a low-fat, low-calorie treat. And I knew that the flavors of lemon and blueberry work well together.

I crumbled about two cookies each in the bottom of two cereal bowls and then soaked them in dark rum (I’m lucky because I have Nardini rum, which can only be bought in a small mountain region near Lucca, Italy. In fact, you can’t even get this in Florence, which is only an hour or so away. Although this rum was perfect for this dish — and is also known for blending perfectly in a cup of espresso — you can use any good dark rum, such as Myer’s or Mount Gay.).

When the cookies were soft (about a minute later) I added a few heaping tablespoons of the ricotta in each bowl and about a teaspoon of sugar. I then stirred this concoction up and drizzled the warm blueberries with their juice over it.

The flavor was not too sweet, not too fruity, and had just the right kick to lull us off to sleep.

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OK. You heard the story, and now here’s the quick-scan recipe:

Ingredients/Shopping List

  • Lemon Snap Cookies (About four or five)
  • Dark rum (To taste, about 3/4 of a shot for each serving)
  • Part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Sugar (To taste, about one teaspoon per serving)
  • Blueberries, frozen. (About 3/4 of a cup, defrosted and warmed in a microwave oven.)

What I did:

I got out of bed.

Crumble the cookies in two cereal or dessert bowls. Add rum and let sit until cookies are soft (about one minute).

Add about 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese to each bowl. Sprinkle each bowl with a teaspoon of sugar. And mix well.

Drizzle the blueberries and their juice evenly into the two bowls.

Eat in bed. Sweet dreams.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.)

Florentine Rags (Cenci)
Jan 28th, 2010 by
Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.

Some people add a little lemon juice or lemon zest to the dough but this recipe did not call for any.

Here’s another recipe from the classic 19th century Italian Cookbook, The Art of Eating Well, by Pellegrino Artusi.

Cenci are a Florentine winter treat, made from Epiphany to Mardi Gras. This deep-fried pastry looks like little rags and tastes a little like fried dough, but not as heavy and never greasy.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • All-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups)
  • Butter (2 tbsp.)
  • Confectioners’ sugar (1/3 cup, plus more for dusting the finished cenci)
  • Large eggs (2)
  • Brandy (1 tbsp.)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (Optional; 1/4 cup or less; just enough to make dough)
  • Vegetable oil or lard (enough for deep frying)

I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.

I recommend using a cast iron skillet when deep frying. Get the oil good and hot, but not smoking.

What I did:

Making the Dough: Mix all of these ingredients in a bowl, making a fairly stiff dough. You may have to add a little water to incorporate all of the ingredients. Knead the dough thoroughly on a lighted floured surface. Add a little flour if dough comes out too soft. Shape into a ball and flour it. Let it rest, covered, for about an hour.

After it rests, the dough will much softer and easier to roll out. (If the dough formed a crust while it sat, knead it a little before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a thin rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick).

Use a pastry wheel (or knife) to cut it into strips as long as your palm and two fingers wide.

Twist and crinkle the strips and then fry them in the hot oil or lard.

Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to catch the extra oil.

Transfer to a clean plate and when cool, dust them with confectioners’ sugar.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

Pane alla Cioccolata (Chocolate Bread)
Jan 5th, 2010 by
This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This light, fluffy bread with chocolate chips takes several hours to make because the dough needs to rise twice.

This lightly sweetened bread is great with a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine. The recipe comes from “The Italian Baker” cookbook, by Carol Field.

I’ve made this several times before but this time it tasted better than ever. The texture was light and more like soft Italian bread. In the past, it’s had more of a cake consistency. I think the difference was sifting the flour (actually I don’t own a flour sifter and instead push the flour through a fine sieve with a butter knife) and using a food processor (instead of working it all by hand).

And oh yes, in the past I’ve spread cream cheese over each slice but this time I splurged and used Mascarpone. I’ll never use anything else or make it any other way.

Recipe: Makes 2 round or oval loafs

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp, warm water
  • 4 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (sifted or pushed through a fine sieve with a butter knife)
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp, sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp butter, at room temperature, cut up into four pieces
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

What I did:

Stir the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1/3 cup, plus 1 tbsp of warm water in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy (about 10 min.)

Put the flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. Process with several pulses to mix well.

Stir 1 1/4 cups of cold water and the egg yolk into the dissolved yeast.

Put the pieces of butter ontop of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

With the food processor running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube as quickly as the flour can absorb it and process it until the dough gathers into a ball.

Process for another 40-45 seconds, pouring the chocolate chips through the feed tube during the last 10 seconds.

If necessary, knead dough a little more on a floured surface until it is velvety, elastic, and moist.

First Rise: Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rise until doubled (about 2 hours).

Second Rise: Punch the dough down and cut it in half on a lightly floured surface. Shape each piece into a round or oval loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Spread Mascarpone cheese on a slice and enjoy. Makes a good dessert or breakfast treat.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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