Thursday, December 29, 2016

Linguini alla Marcella with Mozzarella

I have to share this recipe with all of you before you make your New Year’s resolutions. Why? Well, it is exquisite in its decadence, clever in its simple execution and I think everyone should taste it at least once. This pasta was introduced to me several years ago by my then roommate and food guru, who based it off of a Marcella Hazan recipe. I made it our special way many times before I learned of her influence. The recipe was initially tweaked by my roommate and I have added my own touches, most notably, the addition of melty fresh mozzarella and a tiny burst of heat to compliment the rich, sweet sauce.

Use whichever type of pasta strikes your fancy. I usually make this with spaghetti, but I had linguine on hand.

Do try to get a dark honey, such as buckwheat. Those molasses notes make an absolutely stunning addition and elevate the tart, brassy flavor of tinned tomatoes. I usually find my buckwheat or wildflower honey at farmer's markets or small specialty grocers.

Linguine alla Marcella con Mozzarella

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 lbs pasta of choice
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut in half
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2“ pieces
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 - 2 teaspoons buckwheat (or similar) honey
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

1. In a medium pot over low flame, combine tomatoes, onion, butter and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce will need to simmer on low for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
2. In the last 20 minutes of cook time for the sauce add honey one teaspoon at a time, until it is as you prefer it (should be just a touch sweet, like a bursting-ly ripe cherry tomato) adjust for salt and pepper. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
3. Strain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. In a large mixing bowl mix pasta, sauce, mozzarella and pasta water together.

Serve garnished with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fruitcake French Toast

What to eat the morning after a decadent, delicious Christmas meal? It feels as though it should be special, something interesting and festive. Well, this spice packed french toast with boozey citrus maple syrup is a wonderful option for your Christmas day breakfast or brunch. And the syrup can be made ahead of time. It will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Since we don't have that much time before Christmas it will do just fine made the day before.

If you took a poll about how people feel about fruitcake it would probably--though half in jest--be described as extremely unpopular. I’ve had passable and even bad versions of fruitcake. But I’ve also had fabulous versions. Done well it is a real treat: a moist, dense spice cake with deliciously sweet and warm, fiery booze soaked candied fruit.
Since the flavors are really fabulous but the execution leaves much to be desired, I decided to try to honor the spirit of fruitcake in (hopefully) the best possible way: turning it into a moist, spicy, sweet brioche french toast topped with boozey candied orange peels accompanied by a maple orange cognac syrup.

I candied my own orange peels, a byproduct of which is orange simple syrup. If you can get them at your store just leave the orange simple syrup out. If you'd like to make your own candied orange peels, skip to the recipe at the bottom. These can be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Fruitcake French Toast

Serves 6

For the syrup:

1 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup cognac
2 Tablespoons  (approx 3/4 of an entire orange peel) candied peel, diced
1 teaspoon orange simple syrup

1. Combine all ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan over the lowest heat setting.
2. Cook for 20 minutes to infuse flavors and cook away some of the alcohol.

Serve warm over spiced brioche french toast.

For the toast:
6 thick slices stale brioche loaf
6 jumbo eggs
3/4 cup half n half
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon orange simple syrup
(Up to) 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1. In a bowl whisk together eggs, spices, vanilla, half n half, and syrup.
2. In a single layer soak bread slices for 2 minutes.
3. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and swirl to coat pan.
4. Flip bread and soak on opposite side for 2 minutes.
5. Shake excess egg off of bread and lay in pan. Turn heat down just a bit and fry for 5 minutes. Flip and fry for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with Maple orange cognac syrup.

Candied orange peels

Peel of one orange, cut into long, 1/2 centimeter wide strips
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cognac
1/2 cup simple syrup

1. Combine sugar, water and cognac in a small heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. When sugar has dissolved, add orange peel slices.
2. Cook at a lazy simmer for 25 - 30 minutes, or until white pith turns translucent.
3. Remove peels from pan, shaking the excess liquid back in the pan.
To make orange simple syrup: strain liquid. Stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, it will keep for up to two weeks.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Champagne and Elderflower Liqueur Cocktail

Tis the season to enjoy a good stiff drink or two. And I’ve got just the drink for the hectic holiday season: a strong, fancy, delicious champagne cocktail. Perhaps you can help me name it. I’m thinking some sort of play on a Bellini. How does a champagne and elderflower cocktail resemble a Bellini? Well, it also has fruit in it; a refreshing splash of ruby red grapefruit juice. What I didn’t realize when I mixed it up was that elderflower liqueur and champagne are a pretty popular combination. For good reason, as the strong, sweetly herbaceous, vaguely medicinal and liquorice notes of the liqueur are a fabulous fiery counterpoint to the light, tart effervescence of brut champagne. I found the combination to be a bit overwhelming, so I decided to add ruby red grapefruit juice. Together with vodka, elderflower liqueur and grapefruit juice are one of my favorite potent potable combinations, the reason being that the fresh, tart-sweet taste of the juice mellows out the liquorice and herbal tincture notes the perfect amount to make the two a highly enjoyable drink combination. Replacing vodka with brut champagne puts a fancy holiday twist on this scrumptious combination.

I use my homemade elderflower liqueur, but if you haven't any homemade on hand you can use St. Germaine.

Champagne and Elderflower Liqueur with Ruby Grapefruit Juice

1/2 flute (approx 2.2 ounces) brut champagne
3/4 ounce elderflower liqueur
3/4 ounce ruby red grapefruit juice

1. Fill a champagne flute halfway through with chilled brut champagne.
2. Combine juice and liqueur in a shaker over ice. Shake for a few seconds, then strain into the flute over the champagne.

Serve garnished with grapefruit twist.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Garlic & Rosemary Braised Carrots

Well, I've been away since Thanksgiving. The holidays with a toddler have been rather hectic. To make it up to my readers I'll be updating the blog with multiple posts this week. To start it off I'll be sharing a recipe from our cookbook, Foodies+ Christmas Around the World (see purchase links below). All of the proceeds are going to action against hunger. This recipe for deliciously savory braised carrots is from a good friend of mine, Lisa Watson, who blogs over at
For more great recipes, please purchase a copy of our cookbook and help support Action Against Hunger!


(From the cookbook)

This recipe is eaten as a side dish every year at our Christmas meal in Italy. The carrots go very well with any type of main dish. They take quite a bit of time to make, but the effort is worth it. The long cooking time concentrates the sweetness of the carrots, and the final browning caramelizes them, so don’t skimp on the time needed.

You can prepare the whole recipe up to 2 days in advance and keep the carrots in the fridge, in an airtight container, until needed. They can be heated up on the stovetop on a low temperature. Stir them occasionally when reheating.

Rosemary & Garlic Braised Carrots

Timings Prep Time: 15 – 45 minutes (depending on tools used)

Cooking Time: 1½ hours Total Time needed: 2 - 3 hours

Serves 4 people

1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) carrots
2 sprigs rosemary
1 clove garlic
8 Tbsp olive oil
Water as needed
1 tsp salt
Slice the carrots into rounds that are about 1 cm (½”) thick. Do not slice them too thinly, or they will fall apart when cooking. If you have a mandolin or food processor that does this for you, use it to save time. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the whole clove of garlic and the whole rosemary sprigs. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Add the carrots and salt. Sauté them on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add enough water to cover the carrots. Wait until it is simmering, and then turn the heat down to medium. Continue to cook the carrots, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour, gently stirring occasionally. If the water boils off too quickly, add more. You should be left with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan at the end of the hour. Turn the heat up to medium-high again and cook for 20 -25 minutes, until the water has boiled off and the carrots are browned. Stir often, otherwise the carrots will burn, but stir gently, otherwise they will break apart. Check seasoning, and serve immediately.

Coming up this week: an absolutely amazing champagne cocktail; later in the week a decadent breakfast dish perfect for a fancy Christmas breakfast. Stay tuned. ;)