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Entries in apple pie (3)

Monday
Nov122012

An Italian Thanksgiving? Have Some Apple "Pie".

I'd like to discuss an oxymoron: Italian Thanksgiving.

As you know, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday. Italians have similar feast days of thanks, called Le Feste di Ringraziamento, but these are usually religious holidays, held at various times of the year.

Thanksgiving comes but once a year. And "thanks" be for that...there is only so much gin on the planet to appease Aunt Emily's tolerance for turkey. And speaking of turkeys, you most likely wouldn't find one on a table in Italy, as they are pretty hard to come by in that country.

Which brings me to my point: What we have here is an Italian-American Thanksgiving, and as such, it presents a challenge to John and myself. You see, our passion for Italian food extends to protecting the authenticity of its traditions....when and where is limoncello served? Why are rice dishes more popular in the North of Italy? And etcetera.

So where Thanksgiving is concerned, we really only have our Italian-American family traditions. However, many of these (except for serving Aunt Emily copious amounts of gin) are derived from actual Italian food and holiday traditions. And with Thanksgiving on the horizon, this is what we would like to focus on:

How to incorporate traditional Italian foods into your feast, giving your holiday some Italian flair.

And in true John and Elana fashion, I will begin with pizza.

I can't think of a dessert more American than apple pie, or more appropriate to Thanksgiving. Except when the "pie" in question is, in fact, a pizza pie. I think this is the beauty of pizza – its versatility. A traditional Southern Italian food, pizza has been adopted by American culture wholeheartedly (admittedly not always in the healthiest ways).

This particular "pie" is a true collision of Italian and American cultures. It combines an earthy whole wheat crust with farm fresh apples, thinly sliced gouda cheese, plump cranberries, fried sage and a smattering of honey.

This pie works as an appetizer, a wonderful addition to an antipasto plate, or as a sweet and savory dessert, to be served along side a selection of other cheeses and fruit.

Here's how you do it:

What You Need:

1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (found here). This recipe makes 4-5 personal sized pizzas. You can also purchase uncooked pizza dough from your grocery store or local pizzeria.

3 apples, thinly sliced. Use what your local orchard is dishing out. I like Honey Crisp, but I also threw in some Golden Delicious and a tart Granny Smith.

1/4 Gouda cheese. You want something semi-soft.

1/4 cup dried cranberries

6-8 sage leaves, fried in olive oil and crumbled

honey - as much as you like

salt to taste

What To Do:

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and heat to 500 degrees for at least a half hour prior to using it.

In the meantime, thinly slice the apples. I sliced mine to an 1/8" thickness. 

Next, slice the cheese.

You can also prepare the fried sage by heating tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, place in the sage leaves. They won't take long to fry, about 30 seconds or so. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to absorb the oil (like bacon!). You can crumble them with your hands, and once the pizza pops out of the oven, sprinkle them on top.

Sprinkle some semolina flour or cornmeal on a pizza peel and stretch out a pizza dough round to about 10-12" in diameter.

Place some of the apple slices down on the dough. Don't overload it with slices at this point, just about 8 should do it. 

Follow up with some slices of cheese, and then another layer of apples.

Don't make your pizza too heavy – save some toppings for the other pies! 

Sprinkle with a little salt and a handful of cranberries.

Drizzle with honey. 

Shimmy the pizza into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes. 

Using the pizza peel, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with a little more honey and sprinkle with the crumbled, fried sage.

Buon Appetito!

What You Should Drink:

I politely begged Jameson Fink of Wine Without Worry to give me a pairing recommendation for this pizza. Here is what he suggested:

When Elana asked for my help picking a wine to pair with pizza, I said, “No problem.” Tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni? Have a Chianti. Boom. Done! Then I actually paid attention to what she told me: a pizza topped with apple, gouda, cranberries and fried sage. Gouda grief! I’d have to put on my thinking cap.

In honor of Elana’s family heritage, I’m sticking with my initial thought of an Italian wine. And in honor of my personal penchant, I’m selecting a rosé. Which gives me the opportunity to go on a mini-wine rant. You think rosé is just for summer sipping? Let me give you my best John McLaughlin: WRONG! My pick, the 2011 “Il Chiaretto” from producer Azienda Agricola San Giovanni, has year-round charm and appeal. It’s from the region of Lombardy, not far from the lovely shores of Lake Garda. A refreshingly unusual blend of four grapes (Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera, and Sangiovese), it is pizza-ready.

So let’s take a look at Elana’s culinary creation, starting with the cranberries. (Especially since Thanksgiving thoughts are turning in my head.) A dry rosé has a reminiscent tartness; a fine match whether cranberries are a side dish or atop a pizza. And rosés also have a savory, slightly herbaceous quality perfect with crispy fried sage. Plus the acidity in the Il Chiaretto will play nice with crisp apple, and cut through the rich gouda to get you ready for another dang slice.

Last but not least, it comes in a squat, stubby, attention-getting bottle. Turns out it’s a bottle with a purpose. I asked Birk O'Halloran, who is a manager for the company that imports the wine (A. I. Selections), about the bottle. Here’s what Birk had to say:

When I spoke with [owner/winemaker] Paolo, he told me that by his calculations about 70% of the total carbon footprint of wine comes from the glass. The bottles he uses are about 30-40 grams less than a conventional bottle. This has been one of many ways he tries to minimize the carbon footprint of his wine. If you look on the back label you can find amount of carbon produced by the production of the wine. Since he has started recording it he has lowered it every year.

I would also add that this design makes it less difficult to knock over on a table crowded with pizza and friends.

Thursday
Nov012012

Dutch Desserts Heal a Sprained Ankle

Let's talk about combinations. Some things just go together, for example:

Salt and pepper.

Chocolate and pretzels.

Maple syrup and bacon.

Milk and cereal.

Wine and cheese.

Coffee and donuts.

I could go on, but I'll add just two more: 

1. Trail runs and sprained ankles.

2. Mixed berries and the most unbelievable pie crust I have found to date.

I'd like to address these last two in particular.

To #1, I should perhaps add, "momentary lapse in sanity" and make it threesome. A few weeks ago, I decided to do a trail run at Muscoot Farms. This was not a good idea. But it was fall! It was a farm! There was a farmer's market with donuts (and, yes, coffee) awaiting at the finish line. I thought, hey, it's only five miles.

Five miles of the most treacherous terrain I've encountered on foot. It was one part steeple chase, 1 part train run and 1 part gauntlet. I fell three separate times. And then I stepped on a rock and twisted my ankle. I was (and am) very cranky about it.

To ease my mental and physical anguish, I bought pie from Dutch Desserts who were hawking their wares at the farmer's market following the run.

These pies looked amazing. They had mini and regular sizes, and the mini's were pretty hearty. They stood about three inches high (hooray for spring-form pans!), with a lattice crust top that enclosed different fruit, chocolate or pumpkin fillings.

I was immediately attracted by the mixed berry. It spoke to me. Its deep purple color put me into a trance. Which, considering I had just run up almost-vertical hills, was probably not too difficult. But still. A trance, I tell you. I purchased it and one of its raspberry peach siblings. 

Only the mixed berry survived the ride home to be photographed. Let me first discuss the crust. 

THICK. BUTTERY. Flaky...but not too. It didn't crumble when pressed with a fork (thank you, copious amounts of butter). And it wasn't dry. It was like a soft-baked cookie, nestling a dense, almost pudding-like terrine of fruit.

How dense? Pretty darn so. The fruit was packed in tight, resulting in a fruity compote with the consistency of Greek yogurt. I mean this as a good thing. As an added bonus, the fruit wasn't too sickly sweet. You could taste the actual berries. I would say of the two, the crust was the sweeter of the combination.

If you are no where near Muscoot Farms, you can purchase pies directly from Dutch Dessert's website here. And with all number of holidays approaching, I suggest you make haste and do it soon. Like now. Go one, get!

Just don't go racing around on any trails, you might sprain an ankle.

Monday
Nov282011

Highlights from a Iaciofano Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Monday! How was everyone's holiday? Still recovering? I thought so. Before we wander too far away from the dinner table, I'd like to recap the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2011.

As usual, Marmo made way too much food. John ate way too much apple pie. Aunt Emily drank way too much gin (thank goodness), The Box did way too much complaining about turkey being unpalatable. And I was generally good natured, pleasant, and fun to be around. I'm sure everyone would agree with that assessment.

Ahem! What follows below are the food-related highlights from our family Thanksgiving. These recipes can be used throughout your holiday season. Some of the (especially the featured cocktail) should be earmarked for use throughout the year....

I learned to make this drink at a Champagne Cocktail class given at the Astor Center. We made a lot of cocktails that night. At least I think we did.... This one is slightly sweet thanks to the Grand Marinier, delightfully citrusy, and fizz-tastic. It's fun, festive, and they go down rather easily.

The Moonwalk Champagne Cocktail

What You Need:
Makes 2 drink cocktails
A Cocktail Mixer, strainer, shot glass
Lots of ice cubes
Champagne - get one you would drink on its own, without additions
Grand Marinier
Grapefruit juice
1 orange
1 teaspoon sugar
2 champagne flutes

What You Do:
Fill your cocktail mixer with ice.

Pour two shot glasses worth of Grand Marinier into the mixer.

Pour one shot glass of grapefruit juice into the mixer.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of sugar into the mixer.

Seal the mixer and shake it well for about 10 seconds. Don't be afraid to make lots of noise - that's the fun part (aside from drinking the resulting cocktail, that is).

Fill the champagne flutes half full with the resulting mixture.

Top with champagne.

With a peeler, peel away a two small curls of orange rind. Twist, and plop into the filled champagne flutes.

Serve! Make more. Serve those too....

This soup was the clear winner of the meal. Is it weird for a soup to walk away with the crown? Maybe but this Roasted Chestnut and Hazelnut Soup had it all: creamy, nutty and smoky (bacon AND prosciutto!). Make this ALL WINTER LONG. Please.

What You Need:
Makes 6 servings - from the Silver Palette Cookbook
1 pound raw chestnuts in shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped bacon
3 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon chervil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy
Creme Fraiche for garnish

What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the chestnuts according to this recipe.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, prosciutto, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, chervil, salt and pepper. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and the stock. Stir in the chestnuts. Heat to boiling. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, toast the hazelnuts in the oven (or the toaster oven!) at 350 degrees until they begin to brown - about 15 minutes (less time in the toaster oven as it takes less time to heat up). Remove from the oven and rub the hazelnuts back and forth in a kitchen towel to remove the skins. Let them cool and then chop them coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the milk, cream and brandy.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, adding a handful of hazelnuts to each batch. Pour the pureed soup into a clean pot, taste and adjust the seasonings if you like.

Gently reheat the soup until it is hot. Ladle it into small bowls and garnish each with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.

For the turkey (seen above), there was much debate. Initially, we were going to fry one. All poultry puns aside, we chickened out. Instead, we decided on a Maple Glazed Turkey, based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. We even made The Box go to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day to pick up the Riesling. We are nothing if not compassionate.

For side dishes, we did a little experimentation. Usually, we got for a Cauliflower Gratinee – a creamy, baked perfection of a dish that just happens to be vegetable based.

This time, we decided to ditch the cream (I really don't know why) and try out the Crispy Cauliflower with Capers, Raisins and Breadcrumbs recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine. The combination of raisins and capers was my favorite part of this dish, as it provided that salty sweet flavor combination that I enjoy so much. It was a touch dry, and I prefer the gut-busting cream option (it's the holidays, after all, people).

For dessert the clear winner was the Apple Pie. Every year Marmo claims that this is the best pie she's made yet. She wonders if it's a new kind of butter she used.

To be honest, the pie tastes the same to me every year - AMAZING. It really is, hands down, the best apple pie I have ever had. EVER. The pie was gone by the end of the night. Can you guess who ate the whole thing? It wasn't me this time.

Seriously.