Tuesday, December 27

Lavender Love: Rosemary Cake with Lavender Glaze

As part of my lavender craze this year - I became addicted to this simple yogurt cake with rosemary topped with the most mouthwatering lavender glaze! The rosemary - lavender combination is delicate & delicious!

The batter is exceedingly versatile, as you could just as well substitute the rosemary for thyme, or orange zest, if it catches your fancy. It is best to use whole fat dairy when baking and this is no exception - we use a thick creamy Italian whole fat yogurt, Greek yogurt would work wonderfully as well. The cake keeps well for up to a week, guaranteeing a couple of days worth of breakfasts and nibbles -- that is if you can show restraint & not eat it in one sitting!

Rosemary Cake With Lavender Glaze Recipe

Makes one 9-by-3-inch loaf

For the Cake:
5 ounces/ 140 grams all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

5 ounces/ 144 grams sugar

2-3 inch sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
3 ounces/ 90 grams plain yogurt
2 large eggs

2¼ ounces/ 63 grams vegetable

Preheat the oven to 340F/ 175C. Butter a 9-by-3-inch loaf pan and place it on a baking sheet.
Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and chopped rosemary, then add the yogurt and eggs and whisk vigorously until all the ingredients are well blended. Add the dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate, then fold in the oil with a rubber spatula. The batter is ready when it’s smooth, thick and has a satin-like sheen. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until the cake’s edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. The cake should be golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf should be clean.
Run a knife between the cake and the pan’s sides, let cool to room temperature before glazing or slicing.

For the Glaze:
½ cup milk

1 tablespoon dried lavender buds

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Place the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat and add the dried lavender buds. Let the mixture steep for 5-8 minutes, then strain the milk, and whisk it into the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until you get a smooth and opaque glaze. Pour or spoon over the cooled loaf.

More Lavender Recipes:

Saturday, December 24

Buon Natale

 Merry Christmas ~ Buon Natale
Wishing you all a festive holiday filled with pasta & Prosecco!
Tanti auguri per un anno pieno di salute, felicita' e cibo delizioso!

Thank you all for everything!
~ Ashley & Jason, cats & chickens

Saturday, December 10

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Italophile

From $5 to $500, this gift giving guide is perfect for the lover of all things Italian. Whether if it's for you or someone special on your Christmas list, at any budget you can say Buon Natale!

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Lover of Italy
1. Adopt an olive tree from Nudo Olive Oil in Le Marche! Imagine dunking your bread in your own oil from your own tree thousands of miles away on a hillside in Italy. Adoption includes certificate & two deliveries of olive oil.  - $109

2. The Marling Menu-Master for Italy: A Comprehensive Manual for Translating the Italian Menu
Stick this pocket guide in your pocket, order with confidence and never go hungry in Italy!  - $9.95

3.  Make pasta at home with the Atlas Pasta Machine, simple to use & will last a lifetime. (Skip the temptation to buy the pasta drying racks - totally unnecessary - a clean sheet will do!) - $75

4. I like to tell people to "get lost" in Italy, part of the fun is exploring back roads and small villages but you can easily get lost without a good map (and trust me, don't rely solely on a GPS.) The best of the best is the spiral bound Michelin Atlas Italy - $15

5. Parli Italiano? Give the gift of language with Rosetta Stone, the tried & true way to learn Italian at home. - Special $399

Thursday, December 8

Eat Your Greens: Savory Chard & Prosciutto Tart

Eating your greens, never tasted so good: Savory Chard & Prosciutto Tart
Nutrient rich swiss chard goes by many names (bietola in Italian), found in many colors and is a cousin of kale. Chard is a hearty green with a nice bitter bite, holding up better than spinach when cooking. Its fibrous leaves wilt nicely into soups, perfect simply sauteed with garlic & olive oil or elevated to more than just a leafy green when mixed with prosciutto and packed into a savory pie shell!

Garden Tip: Chard is a regenerating plant meaning you can cut it to eat & it will reproduce more leafy greens.
Chard Tart Recipe
Torta di Bietola

Pastry Dough
2 3/4 Cups (250 gr) all purpose flour
3/4 Cup (150 gr.) butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
2-3 Tablespoons ice water
pinch of salt

Sift flour into a mound, add the butter & pinch of salt. Rub together with your fingers or food processor. When mixture resembles crumbly coarse sand incorporate the egg & water. Knead 2-3 times.
Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

2 Cups (400 gr) of cooked, drained and squeezed dry greens (chard, spinach, escarole, etc.)
1 Cup (250 gr.) sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
zest of half a lemon
generous handful of Parmesan
2-3 slices of prosciutto, chopped
salt & pepper
1 egg, separated

Cook your greens in boiling, salted water depending on the toughness (spinach may only need 20-30 seconds, chard needs 3-4 minutes).  Drain and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the greens. Combine the greens in a bowl with the ricotta, parmesan, lemon, prosciutto, salt & pepper. Taste & check your seasonings.

To Assemble the Tart:
Preheat oven to 350 F/ 185 C

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and split in half. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm thickness and line the bottom of a tart or pie pan. (We use 9-inch or 25 cm but you can make individual tarts as well.)

Once pastry is lined in pan, brush with egg white then fill with a generous amount of the chard mixture (filling in evenly).
Top with the other half of the dough, rolled out to the same thickness. Pinch the edges, closing the tart securely. Brush the top with egg yolk. Cut 2-3 slits to allow  the steam to escape.

Place in oven, bake 45 minutes - 1 hour until pastry is golden brown & filling is bubbly. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, December 4

Christmas Shopping by Candlelight

The tiny medieval village aptly named Candelara (Le Marche) is the host to an unique holiday market in Italy - lite only by candles. The first & second weekend of December all artificial lights are turned off for Candele a Candelara, and the city is lite only by the glow of wax candles.  Visitors marvel at the myriad of candles available for purchase (along with loads of other holiday gifts & chatchkies), glimpse a sight of Babbo Natale and sip spiced wine as they wander the glowing cobble stone streets. 
Don't miss the living nativity scene, reenactments of Pinocchio by street artists and Santa's Workshop for the kids!

The flickering candlelight, crisp air & Christmas joy make for a magical night and one of a kind market in Le Marche!

Candele a Candelara - 3, 4, 8-11 December 2011
Candelara di Pesaro (outside Pesaro) Le Marche, Italy

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