Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.


When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Fruit and Chocolate

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I have a thing for the combination of dried fruits and chocolate, like dried apricots dipped in chocolate. Every holiday season I plan on dipping some variety of dried fruit or candied fruit in chocolate, but I know, in the end, I will be the only one who eats them.

photo from Windy City Sweets

photo from Windy City Sweets

Then I came across a recipe that combines chocolate and dried fruit – figs, to be specific – with nuts thrown in. And these bars seemed like something everyone would love.

The original recipe is in the book shown below, and it combines bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and figs. Doesn’t that sound spectacular? I made the switch to hazelnuts just because I happen to have a lot left over from the holidays; plus they’re my favorite nut.
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I typically would have added different fruits to the mixture as well, but I held back, limiting it to the nuts and figs like in the actual recipe.

This batch was made last week, and what my husband didn’t eat went into a freezer bag. Maybe I’ll pull them out on Valentine’s Day. But what is funny, is that he wouldn’t eat a chocolate-dipped fig, yet he gobbled up these bars.

And that’s life cooking for people, isn’t it?!!

So here’s the recipe as printed in the cookbook.
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No-Bake Chocolate, Macadamia and Fig Slices

100 grams/6 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
300 grams/10 ounces dark/bittersweet chocolate
100 grams/3 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
6 digestive or other sweetmeal biscuits/graham crackers
100 grams/2/3 cup shelled macadamia nuts
100 grams/2/3 cup ready-to-eat dried figs, chopped

Place the butter and chocolates in a double boiler and slowly begin melting the chocolate. I omitted the honey.

Meanwhile, grind the graham crackers, or whatever biscuit/cookie you’re using, in a food processor until smooth.

Measure out the hazelnuts, or whatever nut you’re using, as well as the figs. Add them to the graham crackers.

By now the chocolate should have begun melting. You want to be patient and wait until it’s smooth and shiny.

Mix together the chocolate and the goodies, then immediately spread into a foil-lined baking dish. The recipe suggested a 7″ square pan, I used a 5″ x 9″ rectangular pan. No greasing of the foil is necessary.
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Let the mixture cool, then cover the pan tightly and refrigerate for a few hours.

To serve, slice in the shape of biscotti, and top with a light dusting of cocoa.


As you can imagine, these are a wonderful chocolatey treat. I like their rustic appearance as well.

I enjoyed one with an afternoon coffee, though it was hard limiting myself to one.
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I wasn’t kidding when I said my husband finished off all of the bars that didn’t fit into the freezer bag, which I think totaled six. Well, he’s not on a diet.

verdict: These are fabulous. I’m really glad I omitted the honey. My only complaint is that these could be heavier on the dried fruit and nuts. Next time I’ll include dried cherries and apricots.

Semifreddo

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Semi freddo means half frozen in Italian. It’s a pretty good description of this dessert, which stores in the freezer, but gets soft within a few minutes at room temperature. It’s really not like ice cream. It’s like a sabayon folded into whipped cream, but then slightly frozen. Is it worth it? Yes!!!

I’ve actually made this dessert three times before. Horrors. I know. I usually make something new when I have an excuse to make a dessert, like for company. But this semifreddo is so good that sometimes I need to make it just to be reminded how delicious it really is.

This version uses dried fruits and crystallized ginger, and is topped with a berry sauce for a pretty presentation. But I’ve also made a pumpkin version that was incredible. In fact, I should make that for Halloween… I could probably make one a month easily, using whatever is in season – think strawberry, cherry, cranberry, citrus, etc… Semifreddo of the month club!

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Anyway, this dessert is very easy although it does take time. Fortunately, it can be made the day before, and just taken out of the freezer before serving. If you’ve never made a semifreddo, it’s time you did!!! It’s delicious and elegant.

Semifreddo with dried fruits and crystallized ginger

2 3/4 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Riesling
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 cup mixed dried fruits, I used plums and cranberries
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Then refrigerate until needed.
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Place plastic wrap going both directions in a large loaf pan, with plenty hanging over. My pan is 9″ long, but 6″ deep. And this recipe fills it up.
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Have the orange zest handy.
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And have the dried fruits and ginger handy as well.
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Place a large pot of water on the stove on simmer, large enough to create a bain marie for your mixing bowl.

Then place the egg yolks, wine, and sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat the three ingredients until nice and smooth, then place the bowl over the simmering water.
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Continue beating.
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And beating.
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You will notice the mixture increase in volume, and also become lighter in color.

After about ten minutes of beating or so, depending on a few factors, it will thicken as well.

Test the mixture with a thermometer – it should reach 160 degrees Farenheit.

When this happens, remove the bowl from the water, but continue beating until it cools, which should taker 7 or 8 minutes, depending on a few factors. If you want, have a pan of icy water on hand to put the bowl in, like I did, to expedite the cooling of the sabayon.

After it has cooled off, beat in the orange zest.

When you are sure that the mixture isn’t warm anymore, begin folding the whipped cream into the sabayon.
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Gently but persistently fold in the remaining cream. You don’t want any streaks.

Then fold in the dried fruit and ginger.
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Place gently in the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
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Immediately place in the freezer. After about one hour, cover the loaf pan with the overhanging plastic wrap. I also add another layer of plastic wrap to insure that the semifreddo doesn’t absorb any off flavors from the freezer.

The semifreddo can be made up to 3 days ahead, but I always make it a day ahead. To serve, I unwrap the semifreddo and turn it out onto a flat serving platter. Let it warm up for a few minutes, then slice it into 1/2″ slices. You can always use a knife that is held under running hot water to make the slices, then wipe the knife after each slice and repeat.

Top with a nice amount of chilled berry sauce and serve. Additional berries are optional.

note: All kinds of different additions can be used in a semifreddo, but I stick with smaller pieces of dried fruits. Larger, dried cherries might interfere with the slicing process. Also, nuts like pistachios and chopped macadamias would be fabulous as well. It’s a very forgiving dessert!