Tag Archives: Figs

Terrina di Gorgonzola, Fichi, Noci e Marsala (Gorgonzola Cheese, Figs, Nuts and Marsala Wine Terrine)

27 Jan

Gorgonzola terrine is an elegant recipe that you can serve at a buffet or as an appetizer, either with crackers or Italian ciabatta bread, and accompanied by nice glass of fruity white wine or an aged Port wine.  This delight is also suitable as a cheese course in an important dinner.  The pungent and distinct Gorgonzola flavor blends well with the sweetness and tenderness of the figs and the crunchy flavor of the nuts.  This is a rich recipe, but there also a healthy side to it, of course!!!!.  In fact figs are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals while walnuts, in addition to vitamins and minerals, also pack high amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which as we know is beneficial to keeping your heart healthy and your cholesterol low.  (At least this is something to balance out the gorgonzola!)  With Italy’s reputation as the country of love and passion, it’s no wonder that a popular legend ascribes the origin of Gorgonzola cheese to a love story.  One evening a young boy working as an apprentice in a dairy factory neglected his job, because he was “distracted” by a visit from his girlfriend and forgot to tend to his daily task.  The next morning he found the milk curds covered by mold!  He tried to cover his negligence mixing the curd from the day before with a new batch.  He didn’t get rid of the mold, but the result was a new cheese never produced before and that now enjoys a solid and devoted following.  This is, of course, only a legend to lend a little extra passion to this delicious cheese, which is made by adding a species of mold to fresh curd from whole pasteurized cow’s milk.  It was already being produced in the Middle Ages, and its name comes from the town of origin, Gorgonzola, to the east of Milan.  Nowadays several cities in Lombardy and a few in Piedmont are the main centers of Gorgonzola production.  During these cold winter days I would also suggest enjoying sweet Gorgonzola spread on warm polenta. (for more on polenta, see the Brasato al Barolo con Polenta recipe https://passionandcooking.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/brasato-al-barolo-con-polenta-breased-beef-in-barolo-wine-with-polenta/ ).

TERRINA DI GORGONZOLA, FICHI E NOCI (GORGONZOLA CHEESE, FIGS AND NUTS TERRINE)
Preparation time: 40 minutes + 3-4 hours refrigeration                         Servings: 6-8

Tortina zola small

INGREDIENTS
10-12 dried figs
½ cup dry Marsala wine
400 g (14 ounces) sweet Gorgonzola (dolce) cheese
280 g (10 ounces) goat ricotta cheese
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) + 4-5 nuts to garnish
80 g (3 ounces) mascarpone cheese

DIRECTIONS
1.Finely slice the figs and soak in the Marsala in a small bowl for at least 30 minutes
2.Line the inside of a loaf pan with baking paper, allowing it to extend amply beyond the edge of the pan.  Divide the gorgonzola into 3 equal parts, remove the crust and place a gorgonzola cheese layer (about 1 cm, ½ inch thick) into the pan.  (I use a regular loaf pan as a form, filling only one end of the pan.)  Cover the gorgonzola with half of the figs, then place half of the ricotta cheese on top (about 1 cm, ½ inch thick).  Add half of the nuts on top of the ricotta
3.Repeat the same procedure, and finish with the third Gorgonzola cheese layer
4.Cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours
5. Remove the plastic wrap and lift the terrine carefully from the pan holding the baking paper.  Place the terrine on a serving plate and remove the baking paper.  Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of mascarpone and garnish with some nuts
6. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature, then serve in slices. 

Note: You can store the left over terrine (if there is any!!!) in the refrigerator for one day in plastic wrap.  (Fresh ricotta does not keep very well once opened)  Anyway this recipe is tastier when it is eaten the same day it’s prepared.  There are two types of Gorgonzola: sweet Gorgonzola (dolce) and aged Gorgonzola (piccante, or zesty).  The first one has a distinct but mild flavor and a creamy texture, while the second one has a stronger taste and a hard, crumbly consistency.  You can freeze sweet Gorgonzola cheese, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for a few weeks.  -Paola

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Pan dei Morti (Bread of the Dead)

28 Oct

The Pan dei Morti are traditional Italian cookies prepared for the Day of Dead (Commemorazione dei Defunti) celebrated on November 2nd, the day following All Saint’s Day (Ognissanti).  On these two holy days Italians honor the souls of deceased relatives and loved ones, and many believe that the spirits return to Earth to visit those ones they have left behind.  In fact, the use of other cookies (amaretti and savoiardi) or left over sweets as ingredients clearly symbolizes the transmutation of the old into the new.  It is also interesting to note that dried fruit and figs, also fundamental in this recipe, were always present in pre-Christian offerings to dead people. Cacao is a modern acquisition to render these sweets as dark as the earth in a burial ground.  In ancient times, honey, browned on the stove with a little butter, was used to get the same result for color and sweetness.  The Pan dei Morti recipe has as many variations as there are regions in Italy, and this particular one is a specialty of my own region, Lombardia.

This version has the advantage of being easy to prepare, but at the same time it is delicious and fun to eat.  The cookies are dense, chewy and moist, with a little crunch from the ground cookies and toasted pine nuts to remind of dead people’s bones.  (My husband remarks that the ghoulish background to these cookies makes them perfect for Halloween, too.)

PAN DEI MORTI (BREAD OF THE DEAD)

Preparation time: 40 min.               Baking time: 15-20 min.

INGREDIENTS
150 g (5-6 oz) dry amaretti cookies
350 g (12 oz) ladyfingers (large Italian savoiardi are best)
130 g (1 cup) blanched whole almonds, toasted
130 g (1 cup) pine nuts, toasted
120 g (4 ¼ oz) dried figs
120 g (4 ¼ oz) raisins, soaked in Vin Santo
300 g (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
300 g (about 1 ½ cups) sugar
10 g (2 teaspoon) baking powder
60 g (½ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs (4 egg whites and 2 whole eggs)
100 ml (½ cup) Vin Santo
Powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 170°C (350°F)

  1. Toast the pine nuts and the almonds separately for about 5 to 6 minutes on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 170°C (350°F) or stirring constantly in a non-stick skillet on the stove.  Keep separate and set aside
  2. Soak the raisins in Vin Santo
  3. Using a mixer, finely grind the ladyfingers and amaretti cookies, and place them in a very large mixing bowl
  4. Finely grind the almonds, and then separately grind the figs as well.  Add both to the cookie mix (the damp figs may clump together; just add the clumps into the dry ingredient mix). Add raisins.
  5. Sift together the flour and the baking powder, then add to the cookie-almond-fig mixture.  Stir in sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and pine nuts.  Toss until completely blended
  6. Pour the eggs and the Vin Santo over the dry ingredients and mix well until smooth and doughy
  7. Line the baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper
  8. To form the cookies, first flour your fingers.  Scoop out a ball of dough of a size somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball.  Using as little flour as possible flatten the ball into an oblong shape with pointed edges, about 4 ½ -5 ½ inches (12-14 cm) long and about 2 ½ inches (6 cm) wide.  Use just enough flour to work the dough and keep the cookies from sticking to the baking paper.
  9. Place the cookies on the baking sheet, leaving some space between each.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly puffed, with a brown color and crisp look
  10. Dust with powdered sugar sprinkled on top
  11. Remove from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

Note: This recipe makes about 48-50 cookies.  These butter-less cookies are light and pretty healthy, and they are rich in nuts and dried fruits.  Some recipes also call for candied orange peel, another good flavor for this time of year, so feel free to throw in a handful if you wish. This “dead man’s bread” is best eaten fresh, although the cookies keep well for several days, too.  -Paola

Crostata con Confettura (Jam Pie)

6 Oct

…..The crostata is perhaps  the oldest Italian dessert.  A popular tradition traces the origin of this Italian pie to the ancient Romans. This is the first kind of baked dessert that, as little girl, I learned to make from my mother.  It evokes memories of many happy hours spent with her in the kitchen preparing delicious food. This Italian version of an American pie can be prepared by using different ingredients such as jam, fresh fruit, ricotta cheese, chocolate (kids love a Crostata di Nutella) and pudding. It can satisfy a wide variety of palates! In Italy, it is not only eaten as a dessert, but often for breakfast too, with a hot cup of espresso or capuccino, or with tea in the afternoon.

CROSTATA CON CONFETTURA (JAM PIE)
Preparation time: 1 h               Baking time: 40 min.           Servings: 6-8

INGREDIENTS
300 g flour (245 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour and 55 g (⅓ cup) potato starch)
5 g (1 teaspoon) baking powder

100 g (½ cup) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
130 g (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
grated zest of half lemon
350 g (1 cup) jam (fig, plum, strawberry, raspberry, peach and etc..)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 170°C (350 °F)
To make crostata you first need to prepare the “pasta frolla”:

  1. Cream the butter
  2. Combine all the ingredients, handling them as little as possible
  3. Wrap the dough (the pasta frolla) in wax paper and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, on a lightly floured board roll (or gently pat the pastry dough in the pan) ⅔ of the pastry dough to 4 mm (a little less than ¼ in) thickness, to line the bottom and sides of 24 cm (10 in) springform pan. 

The edge should have a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 5 mm (¼ in).  Prick the pastry bottom with the tines of a fork (four or five times is sufficient), then spread with the jam on the pasta frolla.  Roll the remaining pastry on a lightly floured board (3 mm), then with a sharp knife or pastry cutter cut it in strips (5 mm) wide and make a lattice top on the layer of jam. There might be some leftover pastry.

Bake the crostata until golden, about 35 minutes. Unmold the pie as soon as it is ready and let it cool on a rack. If left in the pan it will turn irremediably soggy.  It is great freshly baked but it definitely improves after a day if kept in a closed container.

——

Note: Usually the crostata crust is quite hard.  I prefer a tender, fluffy crust.  My recipe calls for starch,  baking powder (a leavening agent) and creaming the butter; all contribute to making the dough lighter.  A note on the jam: select a jam that is relatively low in sugar, or prepare your own.   For example the crostata in the picture has fig jam on top (see the recipe in the fig jam post).  Jams that contain a higher percentage of sugar tend to be negatively affected by the baking temperatures, turning sticky and ruining the final result.  -Paola

Confettura di Fichi (Fig Jam)

6 Oct

…..la delizia per eccellenza.  Figs are an ancient fruit, first appearing in the earliest of historic accounts.  They are the symbol of abundance and fertility, and they were even used as a sweetener before the advent of refined sugars.  Figs are rich in calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and high in fiber.  They are one of the most delicious and versatile fruits found both in savory (for example with Prosciutto di Parma) and sweet recipes.  In summer I have a ritual of making confettura di fichi, fig jam, a versatile ingredient for sweets and desserts, a filling for a brioche (breakfast pastry) or a condiment for cheese (it is delicious with Pecorino).  The whole point of making jam is so that you can then use it to make something else … that is even more delicious!

CONFETTURA DI FICHI (FIG JAM)

Preparation Time: 50 min.

INGREDIENTS
1 kg  (about 2 ½  lbs) fresh figs
300 g (1 ½ cup) granulated sugar
juice of one lemon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash the figs in plain cold water
  2. Cut off the stems, peel and dice the figs
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the diced figs, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium low heat, stirring constantly.  Cover and simmer over low heat for  40-45 min, stirring frequently.  Remove the cover and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. When the mixture gets quite thick, begin to stir constantly to keep from scorching.  This recipe makes 640 g of jam.

Good jam should cook until the temperature reaches 220-222°F/104-105°C on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use this test: Place a small amount of jam on a spoon and pour back sideways into the pan.  At first it will be liquid, then later two separate drops will form on the spoon. The jam is ready to be removed from the heat when it falls off the spoon as a single drop.  You can preserve your jam using your preferred canning recipe (refer to my post on strawberry jam for my canning method).  -Paola

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