Friday, August 27, 2010

Introducing guest bloggers, Two Tablespoons

Meet Ryan & Jennifer, Tiny Teaspoons' contributing guest bloggers. Ryan has a bachelor of science degree in nutrition and is currently finishing up his MBA before heading to law school and Jennifer is on the cusp of becoming a veterinarian (you are almost there Jenn!). This foodie power couple will contribute all sorts of nutritional, tasty, epicurean knowledge, including everything about every beer known to mankind (trust me Ryan has hundreds of beer tastings documented - no I am not kidding). I look forward to seeing what they have cooking up for us!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Foodie Faux Pas: Speck Candy

Hello! This post is for all of you out there who find foods that are never supposed to be mixed together and wonder what were they thinking?!? Perhaps you will sneer at me for some of my opinions, but I still must create this category of posts for the Tiny Teaspoons blog. Today's "Foodie Faux Pas" is Bacon Candy! We all know that Germans love their pork products but this is just a little strange for me. Maybe Americans can equate it to cigarette gum that kids buy - so we promote faux lung cancer candy, they promote faux artery clogging candy. The funniest part to me is that the candy's logo even has picture of a piglet to show everyone that "yes" this is indeed bacon candy. I know all of you want to run to the store to pick up a bag of this delicious speck, but before doing so I must tell you it isn't bacon flavored - it is sugary marshmallow. If you are curious, the direct translation of "ein sack voll speck" is "a sac full of bacon."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant

After living in Berlin for a year, I finally went to the Maybachufer Wochenmarkt (aka the outdoor Turkish Market) in Kreuzberg. All I can say is WOW. I cannot believe I didn’t take advantage of this resource Mecca sooner! Drew and I met up with a few friends, grabbed lunch, then sat and listened to music while we gorged in olives, schafskäse and lamb schawarma. There were endless amounts of goodies at our fingertips and our eyes were in sensory overload from the vibrant colors of fresh produce, spices and colorful locals. It was the perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon. After coming to my senses, I think I made a few wise purchases. I purchased light as well as dark purple eggplants, white peppers, and a pale colored green zucchini – only because these vegetables stood out of the norm for me (ok fine - not the dark purple eggplant).  I was so excited to see what I could make out of these market prizes. I stared at my ingredients for awhile until I came to the conclusion that I would make Mediterranean stuffed eggplant. Taaadaaaah!

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant
(serves 2)
1 eggplant
¼ cup of diced up zucchini
1 small white bell pepper (or red bell pepper if white isn’t available)
1 small yellow onion diced
3 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Flavored bread crumbs (Germany only offers plain so I season them myself)
1 whitecap mushroom
1 tsp of pinenuts
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 small vine tomato
¼ cup of crumbled Feta cheese
½ tsp salt
Lemon juice

Step 1: Veggie Prep
Always rinse your veggies before handling. Dice up the zucchini, garlic, onion, mushroom, tomato and pepper. Cut the eggplant lengthwise and scoop out the middle leaving approximately .125 inch  buffer to the edge of the skin. (wow I prep my eggplant like I design an ad).  Set the insides of the eggplant aside. Lightly salt the inside of the eggplant and place face down in a glass oven dish until later use. Chop up the eggplant insides into smaller pieces and sprinkle garlic powder and a ½ tsp of salt over the top.

Step 2: Sauté Veggies
In a large skillet coat bottom of pan with olive oil. Add in onion, ½ of your minced garlic, diced zucchini and diced eggplant. Sauté vegetables on a medium heat. Add in pine nuts, chopped pepper, chopped tomato and cinnamon. Mix in the tomato paste and stir thoroughly.

Step 3: Prep the Breadcrumb Paste
In a medium sized bowl add the remaining garlic, flavored bread crumbs and olive oil. Mix together until it becomes a paste-like texture (adding more olive oil until you are happy with the texture).

Step 4: Mixing
Add the diced mushroom, the sautéed vegetables and the feta cheese into the pasty-breadcrumb bowl. Mix everything together so the breadcrumbs coat the entire mixture.

Step 5: Stuffing
Stuff the breadcrumb – vegetable mixture into the shells of the eggplant. Sprinkle lemon juice on top and place them in the middle of the oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) for 40 minutes.

Step 6: Serve
Remove from the oven and sprinkle more lemon juice over the top the eggplant, plate and serve.

Quick peek of the Maybachufer Wochenmarkt


Friday, August 20, 2010

Culinary Destination: Rome

It is time to do as the Romans would and take you down the culinary roads of the eternal city. My stay in Rome this summer was quite a treat. Our neighborhood, Trastevere, was the prime place to escape from the tourist sites and enable us to live like a local. Drew and I loved cooking in our kitchen and shopping in the fresh market, Campo de' Fiori. On days dedicated to exploring, we hunted for affordable trattorias and found some great gems! We encountered that every menu had basic specialty dishes such as bucatini all'amatriciana, cacio e pepe, spaghetti alla carbonara and gnocchi alla Romana. It turns out that we made a better amatriciana sauce at home, with some tips given to us by the local butcher (the key is spicy guanciale). In my opinion, it is best to only have carbonara when they serve it with homemade pasta and gnocchi is best eaten on Thursdays when it is made fresh. Pizza is always the perfect, never disappointing meal, after a long day of walking. And although, I love the traditional dishes, my favorite meal was the Zucca di Risotto (pumpkin risotto) from a Calabrian trattoria. Drew and I stumbled upon La Zucca Gialla, just behind Piazza Navona, on Via del Governo Vecchio. We were hooked on the melanzane (eggplant) croquettes and the pumpkin dishes. The risotto
was creamy, flavorful and al dente - simple yet out of this world! The portion was just enough and the flavors melted in your mouth so much, that we craved it every few days. All jokes aside, we wound up eating here 3 more times! We never could seem to get away from ordering the same dish, but we did cheat and bring guests to try their meals. All in all, we had the melanzane croquette, the pumpkin risotto, the pumpkin ravioli (the risotto was better), the spaghetti alla vongole, maccheroncelli pasta served with spicy black olive and cuttlefish sauce, the rice croquette and the gnocchi. Everything was delightful and after stuffing ourselves, we wandered over to Piazza Navona to watch the street performers finish off the evening. Rome has so much to offer both historically and culinary and no matter how long one stays it is impossible to see it all.

My Best of Rome List:

Da Luigi
Location: Piazza Sforza Cesarini 25, 00186 Roma
(main road is Corso Vittorio Emmauel Due on the left side if heading toward the Vatican)

Recommendation: Prosciutto Crudo with Melon, Mussels, Clams, Risotto stuffed Pomodoro, Penne alla Vodka and my favorite Paglia e Fieno alla Papalina (fresh yellow and green pasta with a mushroom and pea cream sauce)

La Zucca Gialla
Location: Vicolo della Cancelleria 4, 00186 Roma
(near Piazza Navona)
Recommendation: Zucca di Risotto (pumpkin risotto)
Filetti di Bacala
Location: Santa Barbara Largo dei Librari 88, 00186 Roma (066 864018) (Campo de' Fiori)
Recommendation: Don't sit and eat - walk to the back where the kitchen is and order the fried bacala to go. They will wrap it in paper and send you off with a hot filet.
Panini Stand by Campo de' Fiori
Location: I think it is on Via dei Baullari just off of Campo de' Fiori (Melissa is standing in front of it)
Recommendation: Hot Pressed Panini with Prosciutto Crudo and Fresh Mozzarella
Pizzeria ai Marmi
Location: Viale di Trastevere 53, 00153 Roma (06 5800919)
Recommendation: Pizza with topped with Arugula
Pizzeria da Ivo
Location: Via di San Francesco a Ripa 158, 00153 Roma
(06 5817082) (Trastevere)
Recommendation: Pizza Margherita
Pizzeria Dar Poeta
Location: Vicolo del Bologna 45, 00153 Roma (06 5880516) (Trastevere)
Recommendation: Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella
La Casa Del Caffe' Tazza D'Oro
Location: Via degli Orfani 84, 00186 Roma  (Pantheon)
Recommendation: Granita di Caffe con Panna

Bir and Fud 
Location: Via Benedetta 23 00153 Roma (06 5894016) (Trastevere)
Recommendation: Escape Italian cuisine and order a micro brewed beer and homemade potato chips

La Taverna de' Mercanti
Location: Piazza de' Mercanti' 3a. 06/5880449 (Trastevere)
Recommendation: Splurge for expensive authentic Roman Cuisine with rustic ambiance

Gelato Wars (Drew vs Marni)
Drew and I have had the biggest debate over gelaterias in Rome. In fact, Drew is so loyal to his gelateria that we had to go there, every night we were in Rome, in 2006. The ONE time I wanted to try a different place (earlier in the day) he told his gelateria that I wasn't loyal and cheated on them!

Drew's favorite:
Fragola e Limone owned by Alessandro and his mother
Location: Via Giustiniari Next to the Supermarket Desparo near the Pantheon
Flavors: Coffee and Pistachio
(I must admit, the limone is delicious and Alessandro and his mom make you feel like you are part of the family)

Marni's favorite:
Portofino Cafe
Location: Via Cola di Rienzo (Shopping Street not too far from Vatican)
Favorite Flavors: Chocolate & Frutti di Bosco (has seeds)

You can never really go wrong with Giolitti - but it is a tourist trap.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Recipe: Fried Foccacia Caprese

My first recipe post: Lately, I have been trying to emulate the flavors of my trip to Campania (southern region of Italy which you may have read about in my last post). I have come up with a way to incorporate my latest pizza dough creation with a Caprese twist. Here are the results: “Fried Foccacia Caprese”

Oregano Pizza Dough (by hand):

1 pkt or dry active yeast
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 ½ tsp of salt
3 tbs of sugar
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 ¼ tsp of oregano
4-5 cups flour

Step 1: Yeast & Water
To create the dough (by hand) dissolve the packet of yeast in the 1 ¼ cup warm water inside a large glass bowl. Make sure the water is not too hot, nor too cold - this could kill the yeast. To know if the yeast is active, it should bubble when you stir the mixture. Let the yeast dissolve completely before adding any other ingredients.

Step 2: Dry Ingredients
Once the yeast is dissolved, add 3 tbs of sugar, 1 ½ tsp of salt, 2 ¼ tsp of oregano and 1 tbs olive oil.
Mince 2 cloves garlic while these flavors adhere. Add the two minced cloves of garlic to the bowl.

Step 3: Flour
Before adding the flour, make sure the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add in the cups of flour in one cup increments, while mixing the dough together in the interim.

Step 4: Kneading (w/ TLC)
Knead the dough thoroughly but not too hard. Form your dough into a ball in the center of your bowl and cover it with either a very lightly dampened cloth or plastic wrap (I prefer the cloth).

Step 5: Rising
Let your dough rise for at least an hour and a half to two hours.

Step 6: Frying! (for purposes of this dish)
Roll out the dough into a small circular flat shape (roll it very thin). Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil. Heat olive oil (not too hot) and place the thin dough into your frying pan, flipping it back and forth a few times until it bubbles up and is lightly golden. Remove dough and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess grease. (Notes: You will have plenty of dough to make multiple batches. If you refrigerate the dough make sure you bring it back up to room temperature before handling again.)

Insalata Caprese:

1 Fresh tomato diced
Fresh basil 7 leaves (amount of your desire)
Fresh mozzarella drained (1/2 of fresh medium sized ball)
1 clove garlic (minced)
Modena Balsamic Vinegar

Step 1: Mozzarella
Drain the fresh mozzarella of excess liquid. Then pull apart or chop up the mozzarella into bit sized pieces.

Step 2:  Tomato & Basil
Rinse and dice up tomato and basil

Step 3: Garlic
Crush and mince up a fresh clove of garlic

Step 4: Assemble
Sprinkle the minced garlic on the hot fried dough. Add the diced tomato, mozzarella and basil.

Step 5: Serve
Lightly drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the foccacia and serve.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Culinary Destination: Valle dell’Angelo (Region of Campania, Province Salerno, Italy)

Drew and I had the opportunity to live in Italy for six weeks this past summer. The culinary landscape exceeded our expectations by far. Imagine going into any grocery store or market and there was a surplus of Italian ingredients (heaven). In 2006, Drew and I hit all the major tourist cities (Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Amalfi, Salerno and Genoa). This time around, our perspective and resources were different. Our home base was the charming neighborhood of Trastevere, Rome. We had our own kitchen and were wide-eyed about actually living in Italy for a substantial amount of time. From there we took trips south, heading into the region of Campania. This region offers some of Italy’s best culinary experiences and is famous for its buffalo mozzarella. The region encompasses the lemons of Capri and Sorrento as well as the vongole of Naples. My favorite destination that I will always hold true to my heart is my family’s home town of Valle dell’Angelo. For those of you who love a local experience, nature, hikes and agritourism – Valle dell’Angelo is the place to go. It is still Italy in the raw. Valle dell’Angelo is nestled away in the Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano. There are many mountain towns in this area and you can easily gain access to hiking trails, caves, olive groves and breathtaking views. A trip to this area is best for the anti-tourist-tourist. As you linger from town to town I must emphasize getting on board with Italy’s Slow Food Movement. Try as many of the locally produced foods as you can. Drew and I stayed in a locanda (inn) in Valle dell’Angelo and were fortunate enough to eat the best Italian food we have ever had in Italy and in our lives. Our gracious hosts, Angelo and Carmela, took care of us beyond belief. Carmela was our chef of the evening. She presented us with a phenomenal primi of rigatoni ragu, followed by secondi which was chicken in a wine sauce with olives and vegetables. She then topped off the meal with a liquor-infused cake, famously known in the area, for dessert. Angelo poured us endless amounts of homemade wine and guided me on a genealogy tour of the entire town. We also had the pleasure of obtaining a bottle of limoncello produced by the Coccaro & Bruno family. I am so excited to have this keepsake and not to mention the limoncello was delicious too!

My other recommendations for this region:

Baia: Underwater Archaeological Park offers incredible views of sunken cities toured by glass bottom boats. Visit The Underwater Park of Gaiola.

Valle dell’Angelo: explore this mountain getaway by hiking and absorbing the local culture at the Locanda in the city center. Enjoy the local salami, cheese, limoncello, olive oil and wine. Read more on Valle dell'Angelo Daily Traveler: Dispatches from the editors from Conde Nast Traveler: In Praise of Bawdy Italian Folk Songs

Paestum: Offers Italy’s best preserved Greek Temples

Salerno: Offers the most affordable boat ride to Amalfi & Positano. I highly recommend eating spaghetti alle vongole.

Sorrento: Offers the most direct and hassle-free way to access Capri. Eat at La Kambusa near the port. The owner has his own lemon grove and a bed & breakfast located in the heart of the town.  He is one of the lead producers of limoncello in the area. For a more-than-satisfying dining experience, I highly recommend the foccacia, mussels, salmon gnocchi and the saffron walnut ravioli at La Kambusa.

Capri: Hike to the Arco Naturale, with a refreshing, fresh-pressed, blood-orange granita in hand. The stand can be found in the town of Capri in the piazza where the funicolare drops you off. Enjoy the breathtaking views and swim at the Marina Piccoli. It’s Capri need I say more?

Agropoli: Must have the buffalo mozzarella and explore the old historic center. Agropoli has had its hand in history with occupancy from the Turks, Greeks, Bourbons etc.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome to my Test Kitchen

Hello everyone! Welcome to my tiny teaspoons blog.
It is official - I am launching this blog to share many of the dishes I will be creating in my test kitchen for my upcoming cookbook project. I figured, having a blog will keep me motivated to conjure up new recipes and receive some feed back on each post. This past year I have been traveling around Europe, exposing myself to new cuisines and exploring new cultures and customs. Over the course of my travels, I have been inspired to try new dishes, new cooking techniques, new spices and have come across some interesting and odd findings. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures and try out some of the dishes I have and will be creating.