All About Farro

You may remember the Farro Porridge Bread #1 & #2 I slogged through making.  Although I enjoyed the challenge, I much prefer using the grain cooked in salads.  Head over to Foodlander to see some great salad ideas I found from fellow food bloggers.

 

 

Deep Dish Easter

As you my loyal readers know I have been on somewhat of a history kick for inane and slightly off-beat foodstuffs lately.  I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t been able to eat any proper food (only softies) since my dental event, but I’m still on a roll.  Here is a very traditional Easter dessert recipe that I adapted slightly to utilize way less sugar and yet it still turned out delicious.  It is homey, rich, creamy and it smells awesome while baking.  It’s called Pastiera Napoletana.

The Pastiera is a tart always eaten at Easter time in Naples, Italy.  It is made from a very special and centuries-old recipe which has two particular ingredients which make it unique:  moisture taken from the orange tree blossom and cooke wheat berries.  Also used in the recipe are ricotta cheese, candied fruit peel and classic short pastry. I added a few dates and molasses, as well as a hearty ladle-full of Fig Sue  . . . just because.  Making this tart does not require any great ability, just a little time and patience.  And a springform pan!

The Pastiera is tied to early pagan springtime festivals and the modern version was probably invented in a peaceful and secret Neapolitan convent, Sa Gregorio Armeno. Apparently an unknown nun wanted that cake, which had come to be a symbol of the Resurrection to have the perfume of the flowers of the orange trees which grew in the conent’s gardens.  She mixed a handful of wheat to the ricotta cheese & eggs, and added water which had the fragrance of the flowers of springtime.  The nuns of this convent were considered to be genus in the complex preparation of the Pastiera and used to prepare a great quantity for the neighborhood families during Easter time.

Every good Neapolitan housewife considers herself to be the one and only authentic baker with the best recipe for the Pastiera.  There are two different ways of preparing the Pastiera:  the oldest one mixes the ricotta cheese to the eggs, the most recent and innovative one recommence to mix thick pastry cream into the ricotta which makes the Pastiera softer.

The pastier must be cooked some days in advance of Easter, no later than Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to mix properly to elicit the unique citrusy-sweet taste.

I adapted my recipe from the wonderful Emiko Davies‘s recipe, who writes a weekly Italian column for Food52.  I did not use powdered sugar in the crust, and in place of sugar in the filling I added dates and a touch of molasses.

Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted cold butter (I like to freeze mine)
2 cups flour
1 whole egg, plus one yolk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbps sugar

Ingredients for the filling:

10 ounces (280 grams) of cooked wheat berries or about 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) of uncooked wheat berries
1 cup cream or milk
2 tablespoons butter
12 ounces fresh ricotta
6 fresh medjool dates, soaked for a couple of minutes in warm water

1 Tbps molasses
2 whole eggs, plus two yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 oz. candied citron, finely chopped

2 oz. candied lemon peel, finely chopped

Make the Dough:

1.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl (I used a food processor this time, but with the dough blade; often I just mix by hand with a fork and knife). Chop the cold butter into small pieces and pulse together in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and lemon zest and knead just until the mixture comes together. If you find it a bit dry, add some cold water, a tablespoon at a time until it forms a dough; if it’s too wet, add a bit of flour. Cover in plastic wrap and rest at least 30 minutes or overnight.

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Dough in the Food Processor. I froze the processor bowl and blade for 1/2 hour before mixing.

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Oops: got holes! But look at that unincorporated butter!! Yum!

I didn’t have enough dough because . . . well I didn’t really measure (I’m terrible this way!) so I made a little more for the lattice:

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Made Some Extra Pie Dough

 Make the filling:

1.  Place the cooked wheat berries in a saucepan over medium heat with the butter, milk and lemon zest. Bring to a boil gently, stirring occasionaly until it becomes very thick and creamy like oatmeal, about 15 minutes. Let cool until needed.

2.  In a blender, food processor or mixer, beat the eggs and extra yolks with the ricotta, dates, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon and orange blossom water until creamy. Leave this mixture to rest several hours (better if overnight) in the fridge. Fold the cooled wheat berry cream and the rested ricotta mixture together with the finely chopped candied citron.

3.  Roll out about two thirds of the pastry and place in a 10 inch greased springform tin. Cut off any overhang and add to the remaining pastry, roll out again and with a pastry crimper wheel, cut long strips about ¾ an inch wide. Fill the pastry base with the ricotta mixture and even out the borders of the pastry to the level of the mixture. Lay the long pastry strips gently across the top to form a a criss-cross diamond pattern, pressing the strips on the edge of the pastry very gently. If desired, you can brush the lattice gently with some egg wash to make it shiny.

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The Pastiera Filled with the Wheat Berry Cream

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Latticed!

4.  Bake the pastiera for 1 hour at 390ºF (200ºC) until the pastry is golden and the pastiera is amber-brown on top. Allow to cool completely inside the springform pan before removing or chilling. Ideally serve the pastiera the next day (remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating to take away some of the chill). Store any leftovers in the fridge.

I Wish I Could Import Smells into my Media Library!!!

I Wish I Could Import Smells into my Media Library!!!

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This Sucker Is Heavy

 

Tahini Date Caramel

Bananas with Broiled Tahini-Date Caramel on Butter Toasted Oats with Coconut Cream

Bananas with Broiled Tahini-Date Caramel on Butter Toasted Oats with Coconut Cream

I have an acquaintance from college who ended up, after college, moving into a house about 100 yards from the house I grew up in.  She moved into the notorious “banana tree house” that all of us neighbors secretly wanted to tear down because of the wildly overgrown banana forest in the front yard.  Anarchistic and unkempt looking, it didn’t jive with the otherwise clean cut Santa Monica gardens on the block.  20 years later, and a spectacular house remodel later, the lot now contains a massive craftsman, multi-leved house . . . . and an only slightly neatened banana thicket.
I’ve been curious as to whether the tree produces any edible fruit (didn’t look like it), and last week as I was biking to work I saw her in the front yard and she gave me a banana. A very green and closed up banana.  I put it in a brown paper bag inside a dark cupboard and hoped for the best.  A week later, still barely peel-able.  Then I got an idea.  In Thai cuisine you often see on menus “green” papaya and mango salads that utilize very underripe fruit.  So I surgically removed the banana fruit from it’s peel and decided I’d broil it with some caramel sauce on top.  I got the caramel sauce idea from one of my favorite all-time cooking sites Use Real Butter.  Jen lives and cooks full throttle and I love her style.  Plus she’s a bonkers awesome photographer.  Go check her out.  Anyhow, she made Tahini Date Caramels with Sea Salt that I believe was adapted if not wholly taken from the Kitchn.  The recipe appealed to me because of the absence of sugar, even though we all know dates are relatively high in natural sugars.  Still, if you’re gonna have sugar, have it with some good vitamins and antioxidants and straight from the earth, rather than processed!
So, for this Fiesta Friday I bring you a nice shallow bowl of butter toasted oats in coconut cream, with broiled tahini-date caramel banana lattice.  I stuck an egg in the middle just for fun.  And some sprouted toasted raw buckwheaties.  It. Is. Delicious.
Here’s the Recipe:
I recipe Tahini Date Caramel   . . . . thinned out with 1/4 cup coconut cream and 1/4 cup water
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Creamy Tahini
Dates
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Medjools
Coconut Cream
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Coconut Cream
The Caramel
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Sauce (Ain’t much leftover!)
Next, cook up some oatmeal by taking 1 cup of steel cut oats and toasting them in melted butter for about a minute or two.  Then proceed to cook oatmeal as normal; 1 parts oatmeal to 2-3 parts water depending upon your type of oats/directions.
Spread out oats in a bowl and create a pocket in the middle into which you crack 1 egg.
Slice 1 banana lengthwise into 4 pieces and place in lattice design across oats and egg.
Brush 2-4 Tbsp sauce over banana slices.
Pour in a little almond milk or milk if you like, or cream, and broil for 5 minutes or until sauce starts to brown, but before it burns of course.
Serve up!
Finished Dish with Buckwheaties
Finished Dish with Buckwheaties

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