Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Sweet Finish--Chef Titina's Tiramisu

Americans love this desert. There's a version on almost every Italian restaurant menu, and in almost every Italian cookbook. Capri Flavors cooking students who sign up for the Fiesole menu (featured again next week--see details below) are always excited about the Tiramisu.

Chef Titina's take on the famous desert is classically simple and traditional. As in most of her cooking, ingredients are very important. They should be of the highest quality and as authentic as possible.

Don't skimp on the cocoa Titina advises. She always reaches for the one pound bag of imported Cacao from Elenka that Capri Flavors sells to pastry shops, restaurant chefs and home cooks who really like chocolate

One more hint--if you want the authentic Italian "pick me up flavor" of Tiramisu, use espresso beans to make your coffee. (Also available at Capri Flavors. Coffee is one of their biggest sellers.)

Here's the recipe Chef Titina's cooking students always can't wait to taste:

Classic Italian Dessert

36 ladyfinger cookies
1 lb or 450 grams mascarpone cheese
5 egg yolks
1 whipped egg
½ lb or 250 grams sugar
12 ESPRESSO cups (approx. 3 oz each) of black coffee (no sugar added)
1 small glass of liquor of your choice (Cognac or Brandy)
powdered plain cocoa

Serves: 6-8; Preparation time: 20 minutes; Cool Time: 2 hours; Level of Difficulty: Simple

Beat the egg yolks together with sugar in a bowl until a frothy mixture results; stir in the cheese and mix carefully. Add the whipped egg and then the liquor. Mix well into a smooth cream.
In a baking dish, spread a layer of cream, soak the ladyfingers in coffee, turning them on both sides and then line them on top of the cream. Pour a second layer of cream onto the ladyfingers and then arrange more ladyfingers soaked in coffee on top of the cream. Top with another layer of cream, spreading it evenly with a spatula. Using a sieve, sprinkle the powered cocoa generously over the cream. Put into the refrigerator for at least two hours.
The “Tiramisu” is at its best if you prepare it one day in advance.

Fiesole Menu

Risotto alla Milanese (Risotto with Mushrooms)

Maiale al Finocchio (Pork with Fennel)

Peperoni Saltati (Bell Pepper Saute)

Tiramisu (Classic Italian Dessert)

Fiesole Menu schedule

Mondays : 8/17, 9/21, 10/20, 11/30

Fridays : 8/21, 9/25, 10/30, 12/4.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Cook Class All-Star--Limoncello

This week in Titina's Kitchen--a cake from her home island of Capri, flavored with the Island's signature liqueur, Limoncello.

You can find this potent, sweet, ultra-lemony drink in area liquor stores. But if you want the authentic limoncello experience, make your own. The recipe (below) is a cooking class all-star, treasured by Titina's students, many of whom make it annually for holiday gifts.
Limoncello is good for flavoring cakes, and cheese cakes, great in icings, and wonderful mixed with sparkling Italian soda.

In Chef Titina's kitchen at Capri Flavors, a bottle always comes out of the freezer at the end of the class meal.
Servings are tiny, in special imported ceramic cups made just for drinking limoncello. The drink should be sipped slowly and savored along with good conversation at the end of the meal. Taking time to enjoy wonderful food, laughing and lingering at the table is one of the most important lessons in Chef Titina's kitchen.

Here's the rest of Monday Night's Class Menu--followed by Chef Titina's limoncello recipe.

Parma Menu

Crespelle al Formaggio e Prosciutto (Cheese and Ham Crepes)

Aragosta al Balsamico (Lobster in Balsamic Sauce)

Melenzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)

Torta di Capri al limoncello (Capri Cake with Lemoncello)

Parma Menu DatesMonday: 8/3, 9/7, 10/12, 11/6

Friday: 8/7, 9/11, 10/16, 11/20

Titina's Limoncello

¾ Liter of pure grain alcohol (Everclear)
8 lemons very fresh and a little green
1 ½Liter water
1 cup of sugar

Makes : 2 ¼liter limoncello

In cold running water wash the lemons well. Dry them and peel them very thin, being careful not to peel the white of the lemon. In a glass container big enough for a 2-Liter minimum, pour the alcohol and add to it the lemon peels.
Close the container and keep it in a cool place for 15 days. After the 15 days have elapsed go back to it and add the following mixture: boil in a pot the water and the sugar and let it boil for 10 minutes. This mixture must be left to cool.
Once cool, add the sugar/water to the container together with the lemon peels and the alcohol that have marinated. Close the container and let it stay for another 3 or 4 days after which remove the lemon peels and pour the liquid in bottles ready for drinking.
I prefer to keep it in a freezer and to drink it ice cold. It is a nice digestive and ends the dinner with a beautiful taste.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fried Peppers--No Recipe Required

Capri Flavors Chef Titina often makes Peperoni Saltati or Bell Pepper Saute in her cooking classes. It is beautiful and flavorful side dish and it's so adaptable. In summer, she may add chopped, drained eggplants and a fresh tomato from her garden. In winter, the eggplant might be omitted, and the peppers and tomato come from a jar.

But this time of year, as late summer gardens are winding down, the bulls horn-type peppers Italians love for frying (photo above) are in abundance.

If you're lucky enough to have a plant, it will might give you peppers until first frost (November here in North Carolina). If you're shopping at local farmers markets, there are several varieties to look for--cubanelle, sweet banana. The names are not really that important. What you want is an elongated pepper (think bulls horn shape) with a thin skin. Unlike bell peppers, these frying peppers don't need peeling. And cooking them is so simple--there's really no recipe required.

Here's how Capri Flavors Chef Titina deals with a bumper crop of frying peppers--

  • Wash and dry peppers. Cut in half and remove stems and seeds.

  • Heat olive oil in large frying pan. Then add peppers and fry until golden brown.

  • Reduce heat. Add chopped garlic, a chopped tomato, salt and pepper.

  • Cover and cook about 10 minutes, until peppers and tomatoes soften and blend.

  • Sprinkle with fresh basil or a pinch of oregano. Adjust seasonings and serve.