I made that!

Tuesday night, my new favorite night of the week

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of by brandi on March 10, 2009

Spring is SO close, I can almost taste it already. Well technically I did taste it tonight. Another Tuesday night of cooking and general happiness. My friend Brooke had a birthday that I missed out on, so a little dinner celebration was definitely needed.  I had 2 heads of cauliflower that needed some love, and I can no longer ignore the California grown asparagus popping up in the grocery stores. And to confuse seasons even more, I just remembered a tupperware filled with cherries that I froze this summer (during a particularly crazed moment of “cherry season is ending – I need to store some immediately to get me through winter!”). I, of course, promptly forgot about them when pumpkins and citrus started showing up, but now I am ready to put those babies to good use.

So a feast was born: beet and arugula salad with homemade goat cheese and a meyer lemon dressing, asparagus risotto with poached eggs and pancetta, roasted cauliflower with lemon, capers, anchovies & bread crumbs and for dessert an almond panna cotta with a cherry almond caramel sauce.


And it was delicious. Well, except for the goat cheese that never became cheese.

Do I have pictures? No. We ate it so fast that I forgot to snap some to share with my friends. Oops.

Well maybe just one…


and just one more…


Meyer Lemon Gelato

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, The Creamery by brandi on February 15, 2009

I really should be posting about the fabulous Valentine’s Day dessert that I slaved over last night. That would have shown all of you what a lovely girlfriend I am. Alas, I ended up working an 11 hour shift that started at 6am, so John showed me what a lovely boyfriend he is by letting me off the hook. Instead, I’m here to talk about ice cream.

I’ve been wanting to make some ice cream for months. I don’t even really like eating ice cream all that much. I’m just into the process of stirring air into cold custard until it’s something else entirely. I’ve picked up an ice cream machine with the intention of purchasing several times, but I always stop myself. It seems dangerous to have that kind of weapon at home. And spinning ice cream is easy, I could spin me and John straight into obesity without too much effort. So when my landlords offered to let me borrow their machine occasionally, it was the perfect plan. So begins my odyssey into ice creams, gelatos, sorbets & sherberts. In many ways, making ice cream is the perfect way to express the fruit seasons. It’s basically HEALTHY!

Since we’re dead in the middle of winter, I chose to kick things off with a Meyer Lemon Gelato (please do not ask me the difference between ice cream & gelato, because no matter how many times it’s explained to me, I just don’t get it).

I first whisked together some lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks & sugar.


Then I heated it up over simmering water to pasteurize the eggs, all the while whisking it into a frothy fluff.


Then I chilled it over some ice while heating up some milk, cream & (more – YAY!) sugar.


I poured the hot cream mixture into my lemon mixture (slowly, since I’m not trying to make scrambled eggs here). Then I chilled that for a bit before pouring it into the ice cream spinner. I let it spin for about 30 minutes, checking in on its progress every few minutes. Once it was “there” I spooned the gelato into some containers to finish chilling in the freezer. At that point is was just a matter of when we cracked. We TRIED, we really did, to make it 2 hours, the suggested time in the recipe.


We probably made it an hour. So it could have been a tad firmer. But still – not a bad late valentine.



5 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup fresh meyer lemon juice (about 8 lemons)

1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt


– In a medium stainless steel bowl, beat the egg yolks, water and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in ½ cup of the sugar. Add lemon zest.

– Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk vigorously for 3-4 minutes, until you have a thick foam. Remove from heat and cool in an ice bath while continuing to whisk for another minute.

– Mix cream, milk, corn syrup and remaining ½ cup sugar in heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and slowly whisk into egg mixture. Return to ice bath and add the vanilla and salt. Taste and adjust flavor if desired. Let chill in ice bath, stirring occasionally.

– Spin in an ice cream maker according to that maker’s instructions. Transfer to freezer and freeze for at least 2 hours to firm.



Pizza! Pizza!

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, Playing With Yeast by brandi on January 26, 2009

Last night was a pizza sweatshop! 8 pizzas and still not enough…my friends can EAT. Thank you Nir for whipping up one of your delicious salads. And Jimmy, my dear pie apprentice for sharing your gorgeous banana cream pie.

Yesterday was John’s birthday, and we had about 16 people coming over for dinner to celebrate. In an attempt to be armed and ready, I made my dough the night before and let it hang in the fridge until it was needed. Dough is so weird (in a good way OBVIOUSLY). This was an especially wet pizza dough.


Bronson was on team pizza with me, running the toppings bar while I did the shaping. I’ve only made pizza a couple of times before, and Bronson is a veteran (though he’s from Chicago, and I bat for team thin crust). He helped keep things running smooth, saying things like “Add more flour” and “It needs more flour”.


We kept it in freestyle mode with the flavors, in hopes of appeasing the meat-eaters and vegetarians. There was red sauce. And green sauce (A pesto I had made in the summer with fresh basil and then froze). And sausage, peppers, sautéed onions, chanterelles, and of course: homemade mozzarella.




And my self proclaimed “Best in Show”: Pesto, Red  Yellow Peppers, Mozzarella & Meyer Lemons.


This was one of those meals that really gets my juices bubbling. I made EVERYTHING: the dough, the cheese, the sauces.  All I need now is a farm so I can grow my own veggies…

Home Creamery: Mozzarella

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, The Creamery by brandi on January 23, 2009

Sunday is John’s birthday, and we’re having some friends over for pizza and poker. When I hear pizza, all I can think is: I get to make mozzarella! I’ve tried making mozzarella once before, but didn’t get curds strong enough to stretch. I was using Strauss Creamery milk, which is unhomogenized and not pastuerized at high temps like some  conventional milks, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that. I blame my “vegetarian” rennet. I just ordered some real rennet from a cheesemaking supply website last week, so it is ON!

First I combined my milk with some citric acid, and heated it up a little to start the curd-making. Then I added my new and improved rennet and continued heating it.


Once I could see the whey go clear, it was ready to be stretched. I drained out the whey and popped the curds in the microwave to get them all melty. Then I started kneading and stretching until it looked like this:


It’s so nice when things do what they are supposed to do! That’s Bean in the lower right of the photo. She doesn’t like to be left out of ANYTHING. Since I’m not gonna be eating it now, I put it in some cold water to cool it off and keep it moist until pizza time.


I know, they look like little brain balls. I’m not sure how to make them round and smooth. Next time I’ll just do one of those twisty shapes. but anyways – Yay! Cheese! Stay tuned for pizza…

This is the story of a winter squash.

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, I Like Salt Too by brandi on January 7, 2009

It was just another day in the life of a butternut.


And then I roasted him.

And then he was pureed and had flour kneaded into him.


And then he was rolled into thin sheets of pasta.


And stuffed with more butternut squash, along with some cheese and walnuts.


And then he was folded up into cute little hat shapes.


And then after he was boiled and tossed with browned butter, fried sage and parmesan, he was dinner!