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Aug 31, 2012 11:49 PM

September 2012 COTM My Calabria: Vegetables, The Calabrian Pantry, Desserts

Please post your reports here for these dishes:

Vegetables…..233 - 268

The Calabrian Pantry…..269 - 310

Desserts…..311 - 360

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  1. I originally posted this elsewhere when I made the dish but thought I'd re-post here now:

    Funghi con Pomodoro – p. 254

    Tomatoes and wild mushrooms are abundant at our local market so this dish seemed like the perfect accompaniment to our grilled steak. I used chilli flakes vs the whole dry chilli and a mix of cherry tomatoes and chopped zebras. I also added some chopped garlic. This was a simple dish but the flavours were big and bold. We’ll definitely have this again. High heat cooking ensured the mushrooms stayed dry and caramelized. Delicious! I also grilled some panini that I'd spread with the lovely basil compound butter from FWAD.

    1. "Peaches" with Pastry Cream p. 333

      These were not hard to do, but time will be consumed. I was afraid shaping the cookies would be tricky, but two slightly flattened spheres do the trick.
      The dough is butter, flour, sugar, milk, eggs, baking powder -- and lemon zest makes a nice hint/scent of fruit. The cookie is of course soft when warm, and you excavate a little hollow in each one -- pastry cream will go inside. (This isn't hard to do and goes pretty fast.) They do firm up when cool, but aren't crisp or brittle like shortbread.
      The pastry cream is milk, more lemon zest, egg yolks, sugar, and flour. Lemon-peel-steeped milk is combined with well-whisked sugar and yolks, thickened with flour, cooked 'til thick enough to hold its own. When cool, the pastry cream fills the hollows you've carved and sticks two cookies together.
      Then you paint, with a pastry brush and colored rum, each "peach".
      The book also suggests using maraschino liqueur (which is clear), and peach schnapps.
      It took more food coloring than I thought it would (red and yellow) to color a small amount of rum. But YMMV -- proceed with caution! This painting is messy -- my silicone pastry brush just slopped liquid, it didn't really *brush*. But in no time I had some orangey balls. Let them dry just a minute or so, to soak in the booze, and roll in sugar to mimic peach fuzz.
      Below, a branchlet from my backyard peach tree and a plate of these Pesche con Crema -- can you tell which is which? :)

      7 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        First of all br, the peaches from your yard look stunning! I'm so craving one...picture perfect peaches! Your cookies look amazing and I wish I could reach into the screen and have one right now! Alas, I don't think I'll be making these but I really enjoyed reading your post and wish someone would make these for me!!

        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          Thank you, Breadcrumbs and qianning.
          Yes, the peaches are nice like that every year -- they aren't much bigger than golf balls though.
          By the way, if anyone does make these, I'd suggest fine-grained sugar (NOT powdered) for the "peach fuzz" -- it would look more delicate.

          1. re: blue room

            Fresh peaches from your own tree, what a treat that must be!
            Both photos look fantastically tantalizing, great job!

            1. re: blue room

              Really good job blue room! Beautiful. So ... how were they (or did I miss that in being stunned by how pretty they look?)?

              1. re: LulusMom

                They are sweet and gently lemony, even more gently boozy. To eat, you pick one up, twist, then you have one half in each hand. Lick the pastry cream off or just bite into the cookie -- your choice. Actually, I've googled other recipes for the same since making them, and some people mix chopped nuts and chocolate to fill the "pit" hollow. When I was making them I was thinking how almost anything could provide the flavor, inside and out. As they are now though, a mild flavor.

              2. re: blue room

                That is just lovely Blue room! Both your peaches, and the filled cookies. Great idea to phtograph both.

                I am excited to pick up my copy from the library tomorrow. It finally came in.....

              3. Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana with Fresh Ricotta), p. 252

                The author explains in the headnote how this is a much lighter version of this dish than is traditional. The eggplant is cut crosswise into rounds, salted, brushed with oil, and baked for 10 minutes per side. Then it is layered in a baking dish with the quick tomato sauce from p. 53, whole milk ricotta, and grated pecorino or or Parmigiano cheese. In the headnotes, the author states a preference for pecorino here, so that is what I used. It makes the recipe title a misnomer, but so be it.

                This dish is so simple, but absolutely delicious. The simple tomato sauce deserves a post of it's own, so I'll give it one, but for now I'll just say the the bright, pure tomato flavor of that sauce was a perfect foil to the creamy ricotta. The eggplant softened up beautifully without being greasy or soggy. And the pecorino was, I'm convinced, the right choice, being a brighter, tangier flavor than Parmigiano.

                24 Replies
                1. re: MelMM

                  That's so funny Mel, not only did we both cook this on the same day but we must have been posting about it at the EXACT SAME TIME!!! LOL!!

                  Glad you had the same reaction to it that we did...absolutely delicious!!

                  ETA: I'm deleting my original post and re-posting under your review.

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Apparently great minds not only think alike, but get up at the same time in the morning!

                    I too, see a grilled version in my future. I think it would be sublime.

                    1. re: MelMM

                      Very funny isn't it Mel? I've asked the mods to delete what's left of my original post...for some reason it's not letting me delete the photos.

                      I was eyeing the zucchini parm recipe in the book but I feel like I'd prefer to roast or grill the zucchini vs fry it since this technique worked so well. We'll see.

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        I was eying that same recipe. I even picked up some zucchini yesterday with it in mind.

                  2. re: MelMM

                    Parmigiana di Melanzane – Eggplant Parmigiana with Fresh Ricotta – p. 252

                    This is a wonderful version of one of my absolute favourite Italian dishes. The author is quick to point out that this recipe is not a traditional Calabrese preparation in that the sliced soppressata and hard boiled eggs are omitted and the Caciocavallo cheese is replaced w fresh ricotta. Feeling the traditional dish was too rich for her palate, the author adapted a recipe for a dish she enjoyed at a restaurant in Scalea. Though she notes that the Calabrese normally fry the eggplant slices (as did I up until now), in her version the eggplant is roasted or grilled.

                    Preparation is very straightforward and, if you have the Quick Tomato Sauce on hand (recipe p. 53) then you’ll have very few ingredients to work with as you pull this together. Eggplants are sliced and placed on a parchment lined baking sheet then brushed w evoo and dusted w kosher salt before roasting @ 400° until lightly browned and tender. Though the author suggests this will take approx 20 mins, it took 30 in my case. While my eggplant were getting soft, they weren’t browning and next time I make this I may use convection to see if that helps dissipate some of the steam and shortens the process.

                    Slices of cooked eggplant are placed atop a thin layer of tomato sauce in a baking dish. Eggplant is then topped w more tomato sauce, grated pecorino and dollops of fresh ricotta. This process is repeated and if all goes well you’ll end w a layer of eggplant which you’ll top w a final layer of sauce. In my case, things didn’t quite work out that way. I would have needed to use a smaller pan to have more layers however, if that were the case, the recommended 2.5” deep pan would have been inadequate as my rectangular pan was that depth and my ingredients almost filled the pan. I ended up spreading the final (small amount) of sauce atop a cheese layer and popped the dish in the oven to bake. RC recommends 30 mins @ 400° however mine took about 45 mins.

                    I did make one slight adaptation on the recommended ingredients. I had approx ¾ cup of grated mozzarella on hand so I sprinkled it in with the cheese layers to use it up.

                    This was exceptional and one of the best eggplant Parmesan dishes I can recall making. mr bc, a confirmed eggplant-hater said he “loved” this dish and felt it was just as good as his favourite lasagna. I couldn’t have been happier!! I can’t wait to make this again w grilled eggplant, I’ll bet that will be spectacular.

                    Quick Tomato Sauce review & photo posted here:

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      It is so heartening to hear you say Mr. Breadcrumbs hates eggplant, loves this. Every time I cook eggplant I'm appalled at the oil -- but this way maybe will work. And of course the rest of it looks delicious. I now have rennet and (plastic) basket molds at the ready for my homemade ricotta too. Probably next week.

                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        Parmigiana di Melanzane, p. 252

                        If not for all the raves here, I'd likely not have tried this: I got my husband to eat (and learn to love) eggplant with eggplant parmigiana--the one that involves breading and frying slices (that absorb tons of OO) and lots of mozzarella (not to mention a fair amount of work). In fact, he always asks for it (AND Veal Parm!) for his birthday, so I was a little afraid to mess with one of his favorites. Add to that that he's not overly fond of ricotta in baked dishes and that I'd once tried baking eggplant EP and ended up with chewy, dried out slices.

                        Clearly, my technique had been all wrong. I loved the way these slices worked in the finished dish. They were creamy, and my husband didn't even realize they weren't fried. I doubt I'll go back to frying (though I did miss--just a tad--the breadcrumbs).

                        I made about 1/3 the recipe, using the Quick Tomato Sauce (p. 53), and 1 lb of eggplant; because of the size of my baking dish, I ended up with only three layers. I used a goat milk ricotta from one of my favorite FM vendors, as it was all he had, but he assured me that it was mild tasting (and it was), and a good pecorino romano. Although the initial eggplant baking/browning took longer than the recipe suggests (30-35 minutes in my case), I baked the completed dish for the recommeneded 30 minutes, and it was perfect. We ate this with some grilled sweet Italian sausage, asparagus, and a little cucumber, grape tomato, and onion salad..

                        Once again, COTM reports force me out of my comfort zone. We both loved this lighter, less labor-intensive version; DH said he'd gladly settle for it any time--but also said he wouldn't mind if I added a little mozzarella next time.

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          ncw I love that this worked so well for you and know exactly what you mean about the impact of the COTM on your cooking. Tonight I made a COTM dish I'd never have noticed had it not been for the buzz here. Also, what a beautiful baking dish...will you tell us more about it? (aside from cookbooks, I also have a bit of a thing for kitchenware...go figure!!)


                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                            Yes, it's funny about COTM--I've had this cookbook a while, and not much in it interested me until this month. Although I haven't had as much time for cooking, I've got several recipes marked after reading all the reports.

                            And I may as well 'fess up--kitchenware is my other addiction too. This particular dish is something I picked up on the clearance shelf at TJMaxx a few years ago (a place I try to stay out of as I can always find something for the kitchen that is such a bargain, you know?). I love the color and the scalloped edges, but what I really love is the size--perfect when I'm cooking for two.

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Here in Canada we have Winners which is a TJX Company and the TJMaxx counterpart here. We also have HomeSense vs HomeGoods and like you, I try to avoid them as inevitably I end up coming home w some item I just can't pass up and don't have any space for! I love that dish, it's beautiful!

                      2. re: MelMM

                        I am attempting this dish as I type, sauce is on the stove and eggplant is in the oven.
                        I do not, unfortunately, have the book yet!
                        You and breadcrumbs gave such great descriptions earlier that I felt compelled to wing it.
                        Any advice or proportions you think I need would be most appreciative.
                        It smells good in here already, even though it's hot as heck. Oh well, laboring on labor days to make up for all those days of vacation!

                        1. re: rabaja

                          rabaja kudos to you! 1/4 cup of sauce on the bottom of your 2 - 2.5 L. baking pan (at least 2.5" deep). eggplant layer next, don't overlap (according to the book) top w 1/2 c. sauce then 2 tbsp pecorino then approx 2/3c ricotta in small evenly spaced dollops. Repeat 2 more times but don't sweat it if you can't...see my post. finish w 2tbsp pecorino. Bake until bubbly hot and the author says to rest for 30 mins...which I did. We just had leftovers tonight and it was even better than day 1...buon appetito rabaja...let us know how it turns out.

                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                            Thank you so very much breadcrumbs!
                            You are my life saver!

                            1. re: rabaja

                              Can't wait to hear how you like it. mr bc loves it and even preferred it to his chicken tonight...high praise from a confirmed meat-eater!

                            2. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Parmigiana di Melanzane

                              Ok, we loved this dish. It was so simple and delicious, and it just sang out End of Summer. Using produce from our own garden was icing on the cake.

                              I'd harvested almost 11 lbs. of tomatoes yesterday morning, so I made a triple batch of sauce. It was a mixture of Early Girls and Heirlooms, which yielded a slightly watery sauce, but I cooked it down a little more at the end and it had a nice body when all was said and done. Loved how simple the ingredients were, and I used great restraint with my garlic and basil leaves, although I decided to put the sauce through my food mill when it had cooled some, so the garlic was pureed in.
                              -I just couldn't throw away the juice from my tomatoes after peeling them, but I wanted to get rid of the seeds, so this was my compromise. I now have almost 4quarts of tomato sauce in my fridge and freezer, with really very little effort.

                              I guessed on the amount of eggplant to roast, and didn't really end up with quite enough to make three even layers in the parmigiana, but almost. I sliced up a rosa bianca and a traditional globe and oiled them on one side and roasted at 400 on a rack, so no turning. They got nice and tender and brown. Love the no-frying required in this recipe.

                              Once I had my sauce and eggplant it was smooth sailing, thanks to Breadcrumbs quick response. I ladled and layered and dolloped and sprinkled, filling my almost 2 qt. gratin easily. I used a sheeps milk ricotta and the suggested pecorino.
                              Into the oven for 40 minutes, gave it an extra long rest while we cleaned up a painting project. -that is a testimony to how easy this dish was to put together. I made the sauce and the completed dish after painting my living room. Take-out was not ordered. Woot!

                              It was very well received, but I don't think it would have been a replacement for a meat dish with my husband. We grilled pork chops and had those with the parmigiana and sautéed spinach. Maybe one generous serving leftover, but that's only because I started with only two eggplant. Next time I'd double that, though they were home grown so probably smaller than what you may find in the market.
                              Looking forward to getting this book from the library soon, and again, a great big Thank You to Breadcrumbs!

                              1. re: rabaja

                                You are so welcome rabaja and I'm glad you enjoyed this. It really is a quick and delicious dish isn't it? The roasting of the eggplant is revolutionary for me...I'll never look back!! Of course I will try grilling before the summer's out though. Glad this worked out for you!

                                1. re: rabaja

                                  I think using a food mill instead of seeding tomatoes is a very classic Italian technique... at my friend Sly's cooking school in Puglia, this week is 'tomato sauce week', when they put up all the tomatoes for a YEARS worth of sauce.

                                  They do it like that, cauldron's and cauldrons of roma tomatoes cooked with just a bit of bay leaf, garlic and one sprig of thyme and oregano per giant pot. All goes through a food mill (big industrial version that travels on a truck from house to house doing this for all the Italian ladies in the area), then put up in bottles saved all year... usually they do over 600 bottles during this week at his school!

                                  Glad you like this way of making eggplant parm. I do it this way always - but usually grill my eggplant. So light, easy to digest, and as good as lasagna with less calories and carbs.

                            3. re: MelMM

                              Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana with Fresh Ricotta) p. 252

                              I have not had this dish since I was in my teens. In the version I knew, the eggplant was deep-fried in breadcrumbs and then layered with a heavy tomato sauce with lots of mozzarella cheese. I've always loved eggplant (especially tempura), but eggplant parmesan (the way I knew it) was never a favorite. Based on the reviews and having a lonely eggplant in the fridge, I decided to give it a try and am glad I did. Tender eggplant, bright tomato sauce, and creamy ricotta make for a delightful combination of flavors. Uncomplicated and tasty. I hope to try the zucchini version, but plan to oven roast the zucchini instead of fry.

                              1. re: BigSal

                                I made this too, and this was much the best eggplant parm I've had!

                              2. re: MelMM

                                Another rave for the eggplant parm. I didn't have a good sized casserole dish so I made two small ones, but I was able to achieve the correct number of layers in both. I also had to Bake the dish for longer than 30 minutes as my oven is slow, and so the top dried up a bit. I was wishing for a bit more sauce. Still it was absolutely delicious. I used her quick tomato sauce and fresh ricotta from joes dairy in NYC and pecorino Romano for the hard cheese, and the flavors went incredibly well with the eggplant. My favorite thing about this dish was the roasted eggplant. Usually this dish is so heavy with fried eggplant or, worse, breaded and fried eggplant. Ioved the lightness that roasting imparted, and I think grilled would be even better, but I don't have a grill.

                                1. re: Westminstress

                                  Yet another rave for the eggplant parm! I made the quick tomato sauce following the recipe exactly but had to cheat a little on this one.

                                  I decided to make this spur of the moment after dinner. I had the tomato sauce, pecorino and eggplant, but no ricotta. Since I was home alone with my 3 little kiddies (already bathed and in jammies) so going to the store is out of the question. So substitution was a necessity. I subbed full fat cottage cheese. I am slightly embarrassed to say I don't think I've ever had fresh ricotta so not sure how far off this sub is. Happy to say the eggplant was great!

                                  I must say, I was not too excited by the idea of My Calabria. Library didn't have it and I didn't buy the book because it just didn't grab me. But if the Sugo di pomodoro and this recipe are any indication, I just might have to buy this book.

                                  1. re: greeneggsnham

                                    I think that sounds like a great sub, as I almost always have cottage cheese, but ricotta, not so much (the one I buy spoils so quickly!).

                                    Did it curdle at all, or just melt like the ricotta would? I can see how this would be lighter on the waistline, as well.
                                    Very impressed you had the energy to do this in the evening, after the three kiddies were bathed and in me out just thinking about it!

                                    1. re: rabaja

                                      It mainly melted although, if looking for them, you could see a few individual "curds." It mainly integrated into the dish and just added a little creaminess without standing out as an individual element on its own.

                                      Yes, the fact that I could do it after bath is a testament to how easy the dish is once you have the sauce made!

                                2. re: MelMM

                                  Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana with Fresh Ricotta), p. 252

                                  Except I made it with zucchini, because I had that from the farmers' market. I made a half recipe, roasting the zucchini. It ended up being a small dish, though I did make four layers of zucchini - roasted it until browned and tender, it loses a lot of volume! I prepared the various components - sauce (for which I used Pomi tomatoes), zucchini, ricotta (which I made) - the day before, so all I had to do yesterday was grate the pecorino and assemble the dish before putting it in the oven.

                                  I thought the dish was good, but I wasn't blown away by it. I offer this with a grain of salt (and am taking it that way for myself!) because, obviously I didn't quite do it as intended. I definitely will try it with eggplant (which I love) sometime.

                                3. The original comment has been removed
                                  1. Sun dried zucchini - Calabrian Pantry

                                    As I mentioned earlier, I am having trouble being motivated by this book. Having said this, I really like the pantry section. I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday and I am going to attempt the sun dried zucchini this week. If all goes well, I will use it as a topping on crostini and report back on both this weekend. Wish me luck!

                                    Blue Room, I am so glad to see you made the peaches with pastry cream. They looked so pretty I tabbed them myself. I don't think I'll get around to making them, but they are quite beautiful and I really wanted to see how they came out. Thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through your post.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      I'm really curious about this recipe. Can't wait to hear how it comes out.

                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                        You know, when I saw that pantry chapter in the book I thought to myself, "well if you don't like the Italian food you'd still be able to use this section".