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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Whole Foods

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I was strolling through the Whole Foods market when this display wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano caught my eye. Oh yeah, the “on-sale” sign too!

Right behind the Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is an enormous wall of cheeses from around the world, I mean that literally! There are cheeses from all over the world, and I’m planning on trying a few of them in the very near future.

The most amazing moment was watching the process of opening an eighty-pound Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel.

 

It turns out, this is a pretty big undertaking, and definitely takes some time to complete. Once that wheel is cracked open, it’s pretty awesome! I bought myself a couple of big wedges. When I returned home from the store, I placed one in the freezer and one in the frig. I think it’s going to be a pasta night!

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A Ladies Luncheon At Lynn’s Home

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My very good friend Lynn asked me if I would have a cooking class/ luncheon at her home. Without hesitation, I said yes! Her home is located in the Historic district of Orlando. This was the perfect place for Lynn and her friends, Marian, Jean, Diane, Gloria, and Sandy to spend some quality time together. I thought it would be a great idea to put a menu together. Show the girls some tips, and cooking techniques that they could take home and use when they’re cooking for their families.

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Earlier in the week, Lynn and I met to iron out all the details. We came up with a plan and set it in motion. Gifts for the girls, a tablescape that would compliment the Italian theme, and then, of course, the menu. The day before the luncheon, I went shopping and found some great seasonal ingredients at the local farmers market in town. I wanted the centerpiece for the table to also echo a few of the ingredients I was using. A large rustic bowl filled with pink grapefruits, lemons, fennel fronds, and fresh bay leaves.

Menu:
Peach Bellinis
Cheese Board, Parmesan, Parmigiano- Reggiano, and Grana Padano
Fennel Salad With Grapefruit, Red Onion and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese garnished with edible flowers
Kale And White Bean Soup
Homemade croutons
Eton Mess By Way Of Italy (menu category -desserts)
Peach And Fresh Mint Iced Tea

I set up a small cheese board filled with shards of different types of Parmesan cheeses. The saltiness of the cheeses paired really well with the cocktail I made. I chose to serve Peach Bellinis  Fresh peach puree mixed with Prosecco sparkling wine, garnished with a strawberry. A traditional cocktail that originated in Venice, Italy.

I went through the steps for each course step by step. The ladies were taking notes which made me feel pretty special. They asked great questions and I think they went away realizing that when you use fresh and seasonal ingredients, cooking can be fun as well as delicious. I want to say that these were some of the sweetest ladies and I hope that we’ll be able to get together again in the near future. Lynn, I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to help you with this amazing luncheon.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 to 40 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 2 6-quart Dutch ovens with lids

Recipe For Kale And Cannellini Bean Soup:
Know as Beans And Greens Soup
All ingredients divided evenly into two 6 quart heavy bottom pots

2 bunches of fresh kale, stems and center rib removed coarsely chopped
4 15-ounce cans of white Cannellini beans -drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 stalks of celery diced halved and coarsely chopped
2 large onions coarsely chopped
8 carrots peeled and 1/2 inch diced
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of grated fresh nutmeg
2 Fresno chilis seeded and minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
8 cups of water (amount of water may vary slightly)
2 2-inch pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (1 tablespoon per pot)
1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper (1/2 teaspoon per pot)
2 fresh bay leaves ( dried are fine)
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary leaves
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
*E.V.O.O drizzle (drizzle on top as a finish to the soup)
Accompaniment: homemade croutons

Note: smoked sausage is an option to add to this soup (slice crosswise 1/4 inch thick pieces)

Directions:
Turn the burners to medium-high heat allowing the two heavy bottom pot to heat up. Remember that all the ingredients will be evenly divided into the two pots. Once the pots have come up to temperature, adjust the temperature to medium. Add in the olive oil, diced onions, minced Fresno chili, celery, diced carrots, and tomato paste. Stir all the ingredients together cook until vegetables start to soften, around 10 minutes. Make sure to season as you go by adding Kosher salt, black pepper to taste.

Add the minced garlic, bay leaves, and freshly chopped rosemary leaves continue to stir. About 3 to 5 minutes in, add in the unsalted chicken stock, cheese rinds. Slowly add in the half of the chopped kale leaves to each pot. Using a spoon, start to submerge the leaves into the liquid. Next, slowly add in the water and the rest of the chopped kale. This is the point is where you’ll be able to see if you have enough liquid, (refer to the pictures above) allowing 3 inches of space at the top of each pot.

The kale will wilt as it cooks, and most of the ingredients will also release their water. Not to worry, (cooking soup uncovered) as the soup comes up to a boil, water will also evaporate as the soup cooks. Now, the drained Cannellini beans. Next, it’s time to add the 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and the freshly grated nutmeg to each pot. Stir all the ingredients together. Bring the soup up to a boil, reduce the temperature and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until the kale and carrots are tender. Once finished, cover the soup pots until ready to serve.

Serve in porcelain bowls with grated Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a drizzle of good *E.V.O.O.

The dessert you see in the pictures above, “Eton Mess By Way Of Italy”  and “Homemade Croutons” recipes can be found by clicking on the links below.

*E.V.O.O. is an acronym for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

 

Eton Mess By Way Of Italy

 

Homemade Ciabatta Croutons

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Savory And Sweet Puff Pastry Treats

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Puff Pastry is a staple in my house. I use Puff Pastry for both sweet and savory recipes. I’ve been making these two for many years.  Ina Garten, from the Food Network, also had an episode where she made these recipes. What was crazy about it was, my recipe for Elephant Ears was close to Ina Garten’s recipe. The Cheese Straws, well they were a bit different. I used Grana Padano cheese with mine, whereas she used two kinds of cheese, Parmesan and Gruyere. When I made this recipe, I added the Gruyere to mine too and they were delicious. Two kinds of cheese are better than one!

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 16 elephant ears
Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, parchment paper, and rolling pin

Ingredients: (for one sheet of puff pastry)
1 cup of granulated sugar divided into 2 bowls (1/2 cup per bowl)
1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

Directions For The Elephant Ears:
Preheat oven to 450-degrees F.

The first thing is to move the puff pastry to the frig the day before so it will thaw out overnight. You want to work with it as cold as possible. Set up two bowls, one with granulated sugar mixed with a pinch of Kosher, and one with sugar and cinnamon combined.

Spread the bowl with the sugar and salt mixture all over a flat surface like my cutting board. A marble surface is fine too. I unfold the pastry and lay in right on top of the sugar mixture. The top of the pastry, pour the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly all over covering the top. So now there’s sugar on the bottom surface of the pastry, and cinnamon sugar on the top surface.

You need to move quickly so the dough remains as cold as possible. Take a rolling pin and roll the pastry out into a rectangle, about 12 inches square. Doing this it allows for the sugar to be pushed into the pastry on both sides. Next, fold the sides of the square towards the center so they meet in the middle. Repeat this process again with those halves to the folds meet in the middle, as shown in the pictures above. Then fold both halves on top of each other making 6 layers.

Next, slice the dough into slightly under 1-inch slices. Place the slices, cut side up onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake the pastry for 5 minutes, or until the bottoms are caramelized and brown, then flip them over with a spatula, and bake for another 4 to 5 minutes. This will allow for the other side to caramelize. Carefully move each one to a rack to cool.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 24 cheese straws
Equipment: 2 rimmed baking sheets pans, food processor parchment paper, pizza cutter

Ingredients:
2 sheets of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry thawed overnight in the frig
1 large egg for the egg wash (beaten with 1 tablespoon of water)
1/2 cup of freshly grated Grana Padano cheese ( divided into two bowls)
1 cup of freshly grated Gruyere cheese ( divided into two bowls)
1 teaspoon of freshly minced basil leaves
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions For Cheese Straws:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
First, grate the cheese in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Once all the cheese has been grated, then roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board. You want it to be a rectangle, about roughly 10 by 12 inches.

Divided equally into two bowls add the grated Gruyere, Grana Padano cheese, chopped basil, Kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. Brush egg wash over the top surface of one of the pastry sheets.  From one of the prepared cheese bowls, spread the cheese over the top of the brushed pastry.

Using a rolling pin, press the cheese mixture into the pastry. Next, use a pizza cutter to slice crosswise the pastry into 10 strips. Twist each strip and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each one over and bake for another 2 minutes. Be sure to keep a close eye on them, watching that the cheese doesn’t burn.

Cool and serve at room temperature.

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