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Entries in hazelnuts (2)

Monday
Feb132012

C'Mon....Give me a Bacio (kiss)!

Sometimes worlds collide. When this can happen in a way that doesn't involve the alarming effects of gravity literally pulling me down to the ground (or into a wall) and causing me harm, I love it.

It's rare, let me tell you. But sometimes these worlds collide in a most wonderful and advantageous way, as in this case, on which I am about to elaborate.

Many of you know I'm a graphic designer by day (check the About Section, peeps!), and if you haven't figured out by this time that I love food, I will really need to check your pulse.

I work at a studio called Square Root Creative where I am the Creative Director/Graphic designer/Hungriest Person in the Room/Champion Gum Chewer. And at this studio, we had the opportunity to acquire a food client – an ITALIAN food client.

Our client is Perugina, an Italian chocolate producer originally hailing from the beautiful, mountainous Umbrian town of Perugia. Perugia's specialty is truffles and chocolate. I am currently on a one-way flight there.

No! I'm sitting in my apartment.

At Square Root Creative, we had the opportunity to completely redesign the United States Perugina website, featuring as the star, the famous "Baci".

Baci are a chocolate confection produced by Perugina. A truffle-like assembly of dark chocolate ganache coating an inner core of chopped hazelnuts and milk chocolate that is an Italian sweetness party in your mouth. It's like a nutty, chocolate mini-slider.

Eataly recently sponsored an event demonstrating how Baci are made:

The above hazelnuts are awaiting their position on beds of milk chocolate and chopped nuts featured below:

Finally the whole contraption is dipped into tempered dark chocolate:

According to legend Baci was created on Valentine's Day in 1922, and since then has been a traditional Valentine's gift in Italian households.

Since Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and the Perugina site is now live, I thought I would show it off to you all. I worked with a wonderful group of designers, managers and programmers who all contributed to this site. I was also responsible for all of the product photography. All the photos you see in the "Products" section are mine!

So we've got food, Italian food, design, and chocolate. Did you feel the earth shake right then, or was it only me?

Anyway! As an added bonus, the new site offers recipes featuring Perugina products. So for today's post I have recreated the Baci Pancakes (original recipe found here). However, I modified it a bit in my usual fashion. The result was an intensely fluffy, cookie-like pancake with tangy cherries and excellent chocolate hazel flavor. And it was ever-so-slightly healthier. A teeny bit...

What You Need:

1 egg
2/4 cup soy milk (you can use regular milk if you like)
1/2 all purpose cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 oats
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
3 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 chopped Baci*
*Note: the Baci will be easier to chop if they are cold

What To Do:
Mix all the dry ingredients together until they are well combined.

Add in the egg and the soy milk (or regular milk) and mix until a thick batter forms.

Lightly coat a griddle or frying pan with oil or butter and heat until hot.

Drop generous 1/4 cup of batter onto grill per pancake. Brown on one side, then flip and brown other side.

Can be served with syrup, butter or just sprinkled with powered sugar.

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.