Tag Archives: pastry

On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

20170325_103101

 

20170325_094649

The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

20170324_102227

On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

20170324_131819

The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

20170324_133436

20170324_135353

Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

20170324_191233

Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

20170324_192939

OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

20170324_194232

We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Life

Olive Tapenade Tart Soleil

20160828_093352

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love Smitten Kitchen. It is my favorite food blog and is as much a pleasure to visit for the writing as it is for the recipes. When I wanted to make something special to bring to the memorial for my sister-in-law, this is where I looked.

I didn’t follow the filling recipe, though it looks tasty. I used an olive tapenade recipe I’ve served on little toasted French bread rounds. The recipe made a lot more filling than needed for the tart, so I’ve scaled it down here.

If you have leftover filling you can spread in a sandwich or add it to a salad.  As Deb Perelman mentions in Smitten Kitchen, you could try other savory fillings, such as pesto or something with sharp cheese, or try a sweet version with Nutella.

20160828_070340

Olive Tapenade Tart Soleil with Lemon Feta Dip

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Tart Ingredients:

1 package puff pastry, with two pieces of pastry inside (thawed overnight in fridge)

filling (below)

1 egg yolk

water

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Filling Ingredients:

1 clove garlic, peeled

leaves from a sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 can (7.5 oz.) ripe olives, drained
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/4 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained (I was out so used a few tablespoons of tomato paste)

about 1/4 cup olive oil

 

Dip Ingredients
6 ounces feta, crumbled (Trader Joe’s sells Pastures of Eden brand feta. It is creamy and a little less salty than some – I love it)
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup olive oil

zest from one lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste

Directions:

Make the filling: Blend all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor with the chopping blade until finely chopped. With motor running, slowly pour in olive oil until smooth and spreadable. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Assemble the tart: Roll one package  of puff pastry flat and cut a 12-inch circle; use a 12-inch round platter (I have a mesh screen splatter guard that worked well) for a guide or cut a pattern from parchment paper. Repeat with second dough, setting one aside in the fridge until needed.

20160828_061940

20160828_064642

Put first round on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread filling on dough, leaving 1 inch margin around the edge. Dab edges with water and place second round on top.

20160828_072214

20160828_072850

Set a small glass (about 2.5 inches across) upside down in the middle of the tart. Using scissors, carefully cut through both layers of dough and the filling, cutting it into four sections. Leave the center, under the glass, intact.

Now cut each section in half, making 8 pieces, and again, making 16 strips and finally one last round ending with 32 strips of pastry.

20160828_073851

Remove the glass and twist each strip of pastry carefully.

20160828_074228

Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of water and brush over pastry dough, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

20160828_075554

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown all over.

While tart is baking, make Lemon Feta dip. Combine all dip ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with a chopping blade and process until smooth. Place in bowl for dipping.

Remove tart from oven, let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter.

20160828_121622

I’d barely gotten it onto the buffet table when my youngest brother sampled it, twisting off a spiraled ray of pastry and olive. Before I could take a picture, he had another on his plate.  I cropped the photo to show the rest of the tart.

Thanks for the visit.

20160828_093341

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Gingerbread Christmas

Gingerbread Cottage

Getting ready for Christmas is always a hectic time for me.  I want to make gifts for my family and friends.  Rem takes care of most of the decorating of the apartment but there are always more gifts to be crafted, cookies to bake, cards and packages to send and stocking stuffers to buy.

This year at work, Friday the 22nd was the last day of finals as well as the last day to finish packing up my office before moving to a new building during our Winter holiday.  In the midst of this busy time I caught a cold.  It was, needless to say, inconvenient.

Slowing down was the obvious answer and really the only solution for me.  I wasn’t going to get everything done and it didn’t really matter.

One thing I kept on my to-do list was a visit to Creekside Bakery in Novato to see their beautiful gingerbread cabin.

Front Porch of Gingerbread Cabin

This bakery, tucked into a shopping center, make a gingerbread structure every Christmas, but this was the first one we’d seen. A gingerbread man holds open the door on the front porch, welcoming one and all into the rustic cabin.

The following photo is pretty dark, but it gives you an idea of how big the gingerbread cabin is.

Rem for scale

We went on Sunday in the pouring rain.  We sat down with hot chocolate  and a ginger-pear scone (me) and coffee and bear claw (him).

Pear-Ginger Scone with Hot Chocolate

Coffee & a Bearclaw

The pastries were still warm.  I didn’t stop to take a picture before I started eating and sipping.  The whipped cream was not from an aerosol can.

They really get into Christmas at Creekside Bakery.

Jazz Cats in Santa Hats

From the wall mural of Jazz greats in Santa hats (cats in hats?) to the little village on a side counter.

Village I

IMG_0039

Which, by the way, I think I could have lived in happily if only I were a bit smaller.  With a small bakery, miniature pub, bookstore, school, bank, quilt shop (surely they supply a few other craft supplies there too) and more, it was a lovely arrangement.

A Christmas tree in the corner was decorated with ornaments of cups of coffee, tea, hot chocolate and pastries painted in mouth-watering detail.

Bakery Christmas Tree

In addition to a case full of freshly baked pastries, the cookies included gingerbread and iced sugar cookies.  I love the muffler-wearing polar bear and the gingerbread men with frowns amidst their smiling brothers.

Iced Cookies

Gingerbread

The piece de resistance was the gingerbread cabin.

Cabin Interior

I didn’t get a good picture of the potbellied wood burning stove in the other corner but please note the little pink ham in the small yellow oven, all made from fondant.  The tiny ham is even studded with cloves!

Back Door with Wood Logs

The whole setting is formed out of Rice Krispie-marshmallow hillocks with fondant-covered boulders coming through the snow.  Gingerbread log and post fencing surrounds the property and a small deck is on one side. Little logs of rye bread sticks are stacked outside the cabin ready to bring inside, and an owl sits in a tree nearby.

We were inspired to go home and bake.  We made simple but delicious Spice Cookies, a favorite recipe I got from my sister.  I asked her where she got it and she thought it was out of a magazine years ago.

I know most of us are cookied-out around now but at least bookmark this recipe for next year when things are just starting to get crazy.  I found that rolling and cutting out cookies is relaxing for me, and the delicious way the house smells during the baking make this an activity I want to keep on my list.

Spice Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. orange zest (zest from one large orange)

2 Tbsp. dark corn syrup (we used light because we had it – dark would provide a richer color and more pronounced flavor to the finished cookies)

1 Tbsp water

3 1/4 cups flour (+ additional flour for rolling out cookies)

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

Optional:

Sanding Sugar or other decorative sugar for sprinkling on cookies before baking.

Directions:

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Add egg, orange zest, corn syrup and water and beat until combined.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add flour mixture to sugar and butter mixture and mix until combined.  If using a hand mixer, you will probably need to save your mixer at the end and stir by hand.

Press dough into a ball, put in a plastic bag, and chill in the fridge for an hour or so.

Set oven to 350F.

A portion at a time, roll dough out on lightly floured board, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.

Cut with cookie-cutters and place on parchment paper covered baking sheets or lightly greased baking sheets.  We used nonstick spray.

Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cool for a minute or two on baking sheet before removing to a rack to finish cooling.  If they sit too long on the baking sheet, they tend to stick.

Roll and cut the remaining dough – reroll scraps until all dough is used up and bake as above.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

4 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Life

Ferry: Edmonds to Kingston & Poulsbo

Rem and I rode a car ferry for the first time while on our vacation.  We’ve taken the local Golden Gate Ferry from Larkspur or Sausalito to San Francisco but this boat was BIG.  It dwarfed the ferries in the San Francisco Bay.  I read on the Washington State Department of Transportation site (WSDOT) that the SPOKANE carries 188 cars!

Many passengers stayed in their cars, tipping back the seats and catching a little snooze while we crossed from Edmonds to Kingston.  We got out to explore the ferry and enjoy the view…

Our destination was the scenic town of Poulsbo, which has the nickname “Little Norway”, on Liberty Bay.  It was about a 20 minute drive from the ferry terminal once we landed in Kingston.

It was a beautiful, warm day.  We decided to start with lunch and enjoyed fish and chips, sitting on a sunny deck.

We strolled the waterfront after lunch.  The bay had the feeling of a lake surrounded by pines.

Sven O’Donnelley, one of Rem’s ancestors, was an early Poulsbo settler.

We continued our walk down Front Street, window shopping at the quaint shops.

The architecture and murals add to the charm of the town.

Next stop: Sluys Bakery.

Their front window is an enticing display of pastries including several kinds of cinnamon rolls and doughnuts.  Inside, cases and shelves display a wide variety of pastries,  cookies, pies, bread and rolls.

Choosing wasn’t easy, but Rem finally picked a Viking Cup which is a large cinnamon roll topped with a mound of cream cheese frosting.

I got a Krispie: a giant oval spiral made from sugared puff pastry – like a palmier or elephant ear.

A screen on the wall was running a fascinating video showing bakery production behind the scenes.

I’m not sure but I think the banner painted on the wall behind this regal golden pretzel (or whatever it is) might say: “Give us this day our daily bread”.

Soon it was time to head back to Kingston and the ferry journey across Puget Sound to Edmonds.  We were one of the last cars on to the boat.

I still have a few more vacation posts to come.  I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.

Thanks for the visit.

6 Comments

Filed under Life

West Marin Sunday Drive (Part 1)

Rem and I enjoyed an outing to Pt. Reyes Station Sunday to see the wonderful Box Show at Gallery Route One. It is well worth a visit if you live in the area and will be up until the closing party and live auction on Sunday, September 18.

We usually get our picnic knapsack out but we didn’t even bother with that.  I had a fleece (that I never put on), a baseball cap, my camera, a fanny pack and some water.

It was a beautiful morning.  The fog had rolled back and the Nicasio Reservoir (see first photo) looked lovely.

We weren’t the only ones heading out to Pt. Reyes Station.  We passed loads of bicyclists making the trek and found many more in town.

Most of them were in line at the Bovine Bakery or outside eating in the sunshine.

I like the attitude of this bakery as much as the wonderful pastries.

Regulars keep their mugs on a shelf marked “Private Cups”.

Moo?

Rem decided on the Morning Bun Coffee Cake – too big to consume in one sitting.

I was happy to see the “petite pastry” plate and chose a Chocolate Croissant and a mini Morning Bun.

I shared.  (OK, yes, it was a good thing that I went to Jazzercise AND had a big hike on Saturday).

We strolled down the street and were welcomed at the Pt. Reyes Community Garden.

Toby’s Feed Barn was our next stop.

I was delighted to see yarn bombs by artist Streetcolor.  I mentioned yarn bombs here.  They’re so cheerful and unexpected.

We wandered in and out of shops waiting for Gallery Route One (GRO) to open.

I snapped a little portrait in a shop window then browsed and found a birthday gift for a friend. I found a card that I want to copy in a future post.

Still to come: picnic lunch.  Thanks for stopping by.

2 Comments

Filed under Life

Day 17: Friday Photos in San Francisco

Rem and I picked up celebrating his birthday month with a wonderful, relaxed meander through the North Beach neighborhoods of San Francisco.  My creation for Day 17: photos from our day.

We started with pastries at Victoria Pastry and progressed on to pizza and chicory salad for me, calamari friti and meatballs for Rem at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, with Rem picking up a chocolate truffle at Z. Cioccolato in between to keep up his strength.  We continued right on to amazing gelato at Naia Gelato (mine: tiramisu and canoli, his: chocolate mortale and canoli), a stop at Molinari Deli for fresh mozzarella, salami and bread (to eat later) and a final purchase of tri tip from Little City Selected Meats.

It was a beautiful day with interesting and beautiful sights at every turn, sunny weather, landmarks to admire and people to watch. But we weren’t finished.  We left North Beach and went to Flax art & design where creative people shop.

It is just an amazing place and delightful to visit.  I could have spent much more time and money but luckily I’d made a careful shopping list and we had limits on both our time and budget.  I stuck pretty closely to the list and enjoyed the store very much.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little visit to North Beach and Flax.  The photos were:

Thanks for stopping by!

2 Comments

Filed under 30DOC, Life