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This cake is pretty light. We use yogurt instead of butter, and give the cake body with lots of apples. The batter starts out looking like more apples than batter, but then as it bakes the apples shrink and the cake forms beautifully. This is a delicious pairing of apples, cardamom, and buckwheat. It is quick and easy to put together for dessert.

1 cup yogurt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups apples, peeled and diced
½ cups almonds, ground
Garnish: Crème Fraîche

Whisk together the yogurt and the sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs and orange blossom water and whisk.
Sift together the flours, cardamom, cinnamon, and baking powder in a separate bowl.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir.
Stir in the apples and ground almonds and pour into a 10” spring-form cake tin.
Bake at 350ºF for 45-50 minutes.

Garnish with a spoonful of fresh crème fraîche.

This cake demonstrates the historical connection between Swedish desserts and Middle Eastern ingredients, which was established through Viking trade routes into the Middle East and Central Asia.
December 16, 2008   |   6 comments
Tags: Desserts, Europe, Winter
Cooking Show Video

Watch as we make a delicious Swedish-inspired Viking Apple Cake. This cake has no butter, but gets its body from yogurt. We enhance the flavor with buckwheat and cardamom, which although are two very strong flavors, they work together beautifully. The apples make this a great Winter cake to make for cozy evenings by the fire.

December 16, 2008   |   1 comments
Tags: Desserts, Europe, History, Winter

This spaghetti dish is easy to prepare and full of flavor. Egg yolks are full of protein, and create a thick and comforting pasta sauce, without any added cream. This spaghetti dish is meant for 1 person. Just double the portions if you are cooking for more than one person.

100 grams whole wheat spaghetti
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 anchovies, finely chopped
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
Freshly grated black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with a heavy pinch of salt.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for the amount of time indicated on the package.
Meanwhile, heat up the olive oil in a small sauté pan and cook the garlic gently. Add the anchovies to the pan and lightly sauté until they are slightly stiff then remove from heat. Gently beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl.
When the pasta is "al dente", scoop out about 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta.
Quickly transfer the pasta back into the pot, along with the garlic and anchovies, and enough cooking liquid to keep the spaghetti loose and moving. This is best done ¼ of a cup at a time. Add the egg yolks and toss rapidly with a wooden spoon or tongs so that the spaghetti is well coated with everything. Stir in the cheese and season with the freshly ground black pepper.


December 3, 2008   |   2 comments
Tags: Entrees, Europe, Pasta & Risotto
Blog entry

One of the fun things about shopping at the local farmers market is discovering new things. At first glance, it looks like there are a lot of apples, cheeses, breads, and some meat. However, if you look carefully at each stand and examine the names of the fruits and vegetables, you see that there are vegetables you have never tried, apple strains you have never heard of, and herbs that you thought only grew in other places.
I did not quite know what I was going to eat for lunch the other day. I had just gotten back from Italy and was excited to eat some home-cooked veggies. I love Italian food, but I had been in pasta overload, and was missing some fresh vegetables. I found some beautiful sunchokes and smoked trout, and was trying to figure out the best way to use them in something light and healthy. Then I cam across some Crosnes. It looked like a crate full of little white worms, something that you would go to the doctor to get out of your system. But I was intrigued. I asked the women what they were, and they described them as small little tubers. I love tubers: sweet potatoes, yucca, taro, potatoes of all shapes and sizes, sunchokes- well, why not try another one? I took them home and looked them up online. It turns out that they are native to China, but the French imported them in the late 19th century, and they got their name from a town in their adoptive country.
They are small little tan tubers, and combined with smoked trout and sunchokes, I knew that I would need some color on my plate. I decided to jazz up my salad with some grated carrots, cilantro and thinly sliced watermelon radish. In the end I had a gorgeous salad that looked like a party on my plate.
Anyway, the point of this entry is to say that I had never had Crosnes before, and had no idea what they were before a week ago. But I bought them and tried them, and now my world is just a little bit bigger. So go to the markets, read all the signs and find something new to try. Do not be afraid!

November 21, 2008   |   4 comments
Tags: Europe, Local
Blog entry

I have been in Rome for the past week and have been picking up a bunch of restaurant tips for people who might find themselves in the hungry in the "Eternal City". I have roamed (pun intended) around the main viales, narrow vias, and tiny vicolos day in and day out. Before coming I found a Gourmet Collector's Edition on Rome from 2003 and circled all of the places that I wanted to try. I also used a few of my family's trusted guidebooks, but those were not as descriptive or telling. Here are a few of my discoveries on where and how to eat in Rome. There will be more names and addresses to follow.

First, you must try all of the typical Roman pasta dishes. Cacio e Pepe is a simple dish of spaghetti with grated cacio, a local ewe's milk cheese, and black pepper. Amatriciana is a tomato-based pasta sauce with rendered guanciale (cured pork jowl). I have had spaghetti, penne, and rigatoni with this type of sauce and they are all great. Alla Gricia is also made with guanciale but with pecorino romano, and no tomatoes. And of course, carbonara. Carbonara is a heavier sauce of egg yolks and pancetta. It is hard to go wrong by eating one of those dishes, and they all usually come out to be about 8 or 9 euros.

For lunch I really would recommend sticking to panini and pizze if you are on a budget. Rome calls what we would think of to be focaccia "pizza bianca". You can find it "stuffed" with different ingredients and they make great sandwiches for no more than 3 euros. The best one I had was at the famous il Forno in Campo di Fiori. It was strozzaprieti cheese, walnuts, and arugula. Yum.

As for meat dishes, stick to simple things. Saltimbocca a la Romana, meat with sage and ham in a wine sauce is a sure bet. If you want to try some different traditional foods, head down to Testacchio, which lays to the south of the city on the Aventine hill. Besides visiting the Pyramid of Caius Calus and the tombs of Shelly and Keats in the Protestant cemetary, you should definitely make a stop at Checchino dal 1887 for Coda a la Vaccinara. It is an oxtail stew with tomatoes and spices and even some chocolate (apparently).

There is no need to eat dessert in a restaurant in Rome. We have been to many different places and the desserts are always average, yet they are almost always 9 euros (and very small). Instead, go to a gelateria and have an ice cream for about 4 euros. Our favorite of the week was Gelateria dei Gracchi located on the via Gracchi in Prati, a few blocks from the Vatican. It is a hidden parlor, more known to the locals than to tourists, and the flavors are phenomenal. The Ricotta and Pear, Chestnut and Rum, Persimmon, Apple and Cinnamon, Cream of Pinenut, and Date and Fig are ALL to die for.

Next time I will follow up with a short list of my favorite restaurants and shops to buy artisinal goods.
A dopo!

November 14, 2008   |   1 comments
Tags: Europe, Fall, Travel
Blog entry

Being in Rome has given me some new perspective on the food situation in the United States. They say that the Jewish food of Rome is the oldest and most authentic, because it has stretched back so many thousands of years. Carciofa a la Giuda (Jewish style Artichokes) is a must-eat dish in Rome and is served in almost every food establishment. What is interesting about Roman Jewish cuisine is that it was born in the Ghetto, and is some of the simplest Italian fare that there is.

Street food in the Ghetto was a necessity. Many people did not even have kitchens, and would have to buy their food from the streets. Most of the food was fried, and just seasoned with salt and lemon.

It almost makes perfect sense right now to see how being strapped to the bare necessities brings out what is really important for nutrition and what is really convenient for preparation, in order to produce a real traditional recipe. I would not go so far to say that the present-day situation in the United States could ever be compared to the misery of life in the Jewish ghetto, where people were only let out between from dawn to dusk, but there is something to be learned from the example.

Lately there has been so much hype in the US about the economic crisis. Newspapers and magazines want to publish stories on “how to eat on a budget”. It seems almost ludicrous to me to look at the way we sensationalize the situation, but never really get down to the bottom of it. Americans are so used to eating whatever they want whenever they want, that we do not come close to having an equivalent to Carciofi a la Giuda. “Experts” say eat locally and seasonally- well that seems obvious to me. We should have been doing that all along. Everywhere else in the world (before the influence of the SAD-Standard American Diet), people eat locally and seasonally because it is the only way to eat. There is nothing else available. Why should we pat ourselves on the back for that concept? It has to be more than that. We cannot try and “invent” a real traditional Fillinyourregionorcity dish; that is superficial and gross.

It will be interesting to see how we come out of this, what foods become important to us, and what we become famous for. If hamburgers and fries symbolize our domination of modern convenience, what will symbolize our economic collapse?

November 12, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Appetizers, Europe, History, Mediterranean, Travel
Blog entry

Boy, do I feel stupid. I guess my New York mentality got the best of me today. I wanted to eat at this restaurant in the Piazza Navona, because I read that they specialized in truffle ice cream. That was a bad literal translation that I should have been more aware of. Or maybe I was just in denial. Tartufo is a very common dessert in Italy. It is made of chocolate ice cream layered over a filling of either vanilla ice cream, real chocolate, or candied cherry to form a little rounded mound. The outside is covered in powdered chocolate. It is called “tartufo”, because it resembles truffles, those special delicacies found on logs. Even though I have eaten the dessert tartufo many times in my life, I trucked myself over to the piazza for what I thought would be truffle flavored ice cream. It’s the season, right? Boy did I feel dumb. The waiter proudly set in front of me their specialty of the house- tartufo. A little dome of dark chocolate ice cream with a candied cherry filling covered with roughly chopped chocolate. Ah yes, a 9 Euro treat not nearly resembling the truffle- flavored ice cream that I had hoped to find. I guess in Italy I should only look for truffles on pasta dishes, and not in my desserts.

November 12, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Desserts, Europe, Travel

Buckwheat crepes, or Crêpes de Blé, are filled with savory ingredients and widely eaten across France. Hard cider is the drink of choice to go with these thin pancakes, and we would not want to stray from that tradition. This recipe is for buckwheat crepes filled with a mixture of goat cheese and goat milk yogurt, topped with smoked trout and chives. All of these ingredients can be sourced from the Northeast region, and are to be paired with some local hard cider. Our pick is the Autumn’s Gold from Eve’s Cidery.

For the Crepes:
1 cup unbleached white flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
3 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk (divided)
½ cup butter (1 stick), melted
½ cup cold water

Mix together the flour, eggs, salt, and ½ cup of the milk in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, adding the water last until the batter is quite thin. If you need to, use a blender to get the batter completely smooth. However, a few little lumps will do no harm.

Heat up a skillet on a medium high flame to be hot, and pour in some batter. Tilt the pan immediately to spread the batter all around in a thin layer. Once the edges are cooked through and there are little bubbles everywhere, use a spatula to flip the crepe over in the pan. It takes a few sacrificial crepes to get the hang of what you are doing, so do not get discouraged if your first ones are not perfect circles. The dough makes enough for about 12 crepes.

For the Filling and Garnish:
1 log of fresh chêvre (if you can get one with chives, even better)
4 tablespoons of goat milk yogurt
Fresh chives
1 filet smoked trout
1 tomato or roasted red pepper, medium dice

Mix the cheese and yogurt together, along with some freshly chopped chives, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This mixture should be thick, but easily spreadable.
Spread a dollop of the yogurt/cheese mixture in the center of the crepe. Fold it over in half, then in half again. Repeat for the remaining crepes. Use a fork to flake the trout filet, and then top the crepes with the diced tomato and fresh chives.

This is a great recipe for crepes using buckwheat flour, just how they do it in France. They are filled with a goat cheese spread and topped with flaked smoked trout and chives.
September 30, 2008   |   9 comments
Tags: Entrees, Europe, Fall, Fish, Healthy, high-fiber, Local, Whole grain

This is a delicious recipe for Italian Ricotta Cheesecake from Autumn Stoscheck of Eve's Cidery. The day we ate this, they had picked at least 2 pecks of plump blackberries from their friend's orchard. Be creative with the topping, but use what is fresh and in season.

1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb cream cheese
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs
5 tablespoons flour
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup melted butter, cooled
2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 325ºF.
In a food processor combine the ricotta, cream cheese, and sugar. Add eggs, flour, lemon juice, and vanilla.
Fold in the butter and sour cream
Pour into a buttered spring-form cake pan.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave untouched for another hour.
Top with some fresh fruit in season!
Serves 8.

Autumn Stoscheck shares her family's recipe for this Crustless Italian Ricotta Cheesecake. It is incredibly delicious, especially when topped with plump freshly picked blackberries and raspberries. At Eve's Cidery they like to pair it with their Apple Ice Wine.
September 30, 2008   |   43 comments
Tags: Desserts, Europe, Fall

A granita is an Italian frozen dessert, like sorbet it's a combination of fruit juice and simple syrup but it has a grainier texture more similar to shaved ice. This is a simple summer dessert requiring very little equipment. Bitter Campari and sour hibiscus make an unlikely pair but are quite refreshing in this granita.

3 cups water
½ cup dried hibiscus (sorrel) flowers
1 cup Campari
½ cup agave nectar
Juice of 1 lemon

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil with the hibiscus flowers. Add the campari and agave nectar and simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Taste the mixture to see if it is sweet enough and that some of the alcohol has evaporated.
Squeeze over the lemon juice, and then strain the liquid into a bowl.
Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then refrigerate until cold.
Freeze in a deep baking dish or glass or tupperware, scraping up the ice mixture every ½ hour or so, so that ice crystals do not form.
Serve in a martini glass with a sprig of mint.

A granita is an Italian frozen dessert, like sorbet it's a combination of fruit juice and simple syrup but it has a grainier texture more similar to shaved ice. This is a simple summer dessert requiring very little equipment. Bitter Campari and sour hibiscus make an unlikely pair but are quite refreshing in this granita.
August 10, 2008   |   2 comments
Tags: Desserts, Europe, Summer