Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Finally Here...

I feel like I've been planning this vacation for months...probably because I have. I'm insane that way...plan, plan, plan. Well we're finally leaving; tomorrow morning. 4:30AM to be exact. We're heading to Italy. I'm not looking forward to the "getting there" part; since once it's all said and done it will be about 24 hours of travel time. UGH!

We've rented a villa in Praiano, a small fishing village located 1/2 way between Positano and Amlafi, in the Campania region. We're planning to do a bunch of cooking and eating while we're there and even a little relaxing. (which is a pretty funny thought if you know me...since I never relax)

You might be thinking that things around here will be slow for the next two weeks; but stay tuned because I'm hoping to post via Italy if possible.

I'm off to bed now...Getting up 3:30AM is not going to be easy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Secret Obsession with Bread Making

The past few months I've been secretly obsessed with the book: Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, written by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This book is awesome. It's bread making made easy.

Prior to getting the Artisan Bread book I had never tried making my own bread...honestly I'd never made anything using yeast. Just the thought of baking with yeast scared me. It seemed way too involved and complicated.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day has definitely changed my way of thinking about bread making. Now I know it couldn't be easier and I'm totally addicted. The book demonstrates how with a few basic recipes you can create all kinds of wonderful breads.

So far I've made:

Italian semolina bread with sesame seeds; dense with a nice crunch.

100% whole wheat sandwich loaf; both good and good for you.

Boule (the master recipe)

Focaccia with olive oil and garlic and roasted red pepper fougasse

And last but not least sticky pecan caramel rolls

I think I'll go make a batch of these now...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Prepping for the Amalfi Coast...Spuma Di Zucchini

In preparation for our trip to the Amalfi coast my husband and I have been watching old episodes of Molto Mario; the ones titled “Simple Meals from the Amalfi Coast”

See our plan is to be able to use local ingredients and "cook-in" a bunch of our meals. I know…all the way to Italy and we’re going to stay in and cook. Don’t worry we’ll eat out enough and I’m sure I’ll have lots of blog posts to share with you when we get back.
So before we leave I thought I’d give one of Mario’s “Amalfi garden” recipes a try.

These little zucchini foam cups are a perfect light appetizer. Cool and refreshing in the heat we’re having here in Arizona. They will also be wonderful to eat on our Italian patio with the breeze coming in off the coast.

Zucchini Foam---Spuma di Zucchine
adapted from Mario Batali

Ingredients 6 to 8 small zucchini to yield about 2 pounds, sliced in half lengthwise
2 bulbs garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 4 tablespoons
11/2 teaspoons salt
Black pepper
1 1/4 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet, cut side down. Arrange the garlic cloves around the zucchini, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 40 minutes, until zucchini are blackened in some spots and garlic is golden brown.

Allow to cool and remove skins from garlic cloves. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the zucchini, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon juice, zest and heavy cream and process until smooth. Add the basil, process for 15 seconds and remove to a chilled bowl. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

To serve, place a 3 tablespoon dollop in the center of each of 4 plates and sprinkle with young arugula. Drizzle with remaining oil and serve.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aiello's Back Door Pizza

Do you have any idea what it’s like to drive for nearly 50 minutes with a fresh from the oven pizza in your backseat?

Well let me tell you it’s NOT easy. Once the smell of warm pizza makes it to the front seat you’ll find yourself torn between driving as fast as you can (doing the speed limit of course) and just pulling over to sneak a slice on the side of the road.

I found myself in such a predicament last night, when I decided to stop for an Aiello’s “back door pizza”(more on this later), on my way home from work. Oh and yes it takes me 50 minutes, on a good day, to get home from work but that’s a whole other issue.

Joe and Myrah Aiello just recently started selling pizza literally out the “back door” of their central Phoenix restaurant; Aiello’s. What a great concept. Call in advance; swing around back; grab your pie and head on home. Can’t get much easier than that and the pizza is delicious. They’re currently only making 50 pies per night; so when they run out they run out. Thinking about it now I probably should’ve keep this to myself. But what kind of "Food Hunter" would I be if I did that.

I have a theory about pizza; If you can eat it plain, without any toppings, and enjoy it, than you know it's a good pizza. Think about it; it’s not that hard to mask a so-so pizza behind tons of toppings. It’s a plain that lets the important ingredients really shine. So of course plain is what I got last night and I must say it was great.

Hailing from NYC Joe really knows his pizza…not that I’d expect anything less after having eaten at his restaurant. It’s NYC style; which I love. The crust was perfect; not thick like Chicago or thin like some gourmet brick oven pizza. It’s what I refer to, for lack of a better description, as real pizza. Although $16 might initially sound a little steep. You get what you pay for and not only was the pizza delicious it was huge. It was 18 inches and barely fit in the box.

So was it worth driving with it for 50 minutes in the back seat…Definitely. Although, next time you might just see me on the side of the road eating a slice. If you do...please just keep driving. I don’t share well!