Thursday, July 31, 2008

A birthday treat

In lieu of a birthday cake for a recent celebration, we made a special sort of ice cream sandwich.

We start with a batch of Alton Brown's chocolate chip cookies. Here's an abbreviated version of his recipe (taken from, though I can't find it on the site anymore.)

Thin, crisp chocolate chip cookies from Alton Brown (

2-1/4 c ap flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
2 oz milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

bake at 375 for 13 – 15 minutes
bake on parchment paper

To these instructions, I add one more piece taken from an article in the New York Times: after making the dough, refrigerate it for 24 - 36 hours. The theory is that the liquids in the recipe moe thoroughly infuse themselves into the flour. We like the results - the cookies do seem more flavorful.

The other ingredient for the ice cream sandwiches is of course ice cream. Since the birthday girl had recently returned from a couple of months in Italy, we used vanilla/chocolate gelato from Bommarito's in St Clair Shores. Take a slice from their block of gelato, slap it between cookies and serve. Happy Birthday singing is optional, but makes it more festive.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Italian flatbread

The difficulty I have run into making the sort of Italian flatbread Italian restauants serve before the meal is that I never seem to roll it out thin enough. Solution: roll the dough out in the pasta maker - the dough comes hot from the oven thin and crispy and just plain delightful. A little flatbread, a little olive oil, a little salt - ahhhh!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Homemade pasta

Adventures in trying to figure out how to make homemade pasta:

Marcella Hazan says to use 2 eggs to a cup of flour (and no salt) while Silver Spoon says to use 1 egg for 7/8 cup flour with plenty of salt. Neither batch turned out perfect. Hmm, perhaps this takes some practice.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Italy and Ireland

After eight days in Italy and Ireland, a handful of eating experiences stand out as incredible in a generally wonderful week.

Trattoria Sostanza, Via Porcellana 25r in Florence, holds the top spot mostly because two of the finest food experiences of my life were there. First was the prosciutto di Parma, served as an antipasto. It was - incredible? sensational? heavenly? - some word must be right, but these aren't forceful enough. Exceedingly thinly sliced, the fatty ham simply evaporated on my tongue, leaving behind a silky sense of ideal fattiness and ham. My daughter had been in Rome for six weeks and was pretty sure she didn't like prosciutto until she tried this. She does now.

For the main course, my daughter ordered the Chicken in Butter dish. It arrived in a dish of bubbling, foaming hot butter. The chicken breast was deeply infused with the butter taste. It was wonderful.

Back in Rome, we ate one evening at La Rustichella. Rick Steves mentions positively their buffet, and after a week of my dollars being severely battered by the Euro, a meal on the frugal side seemed like a good idea. The buffet was terrible - cold, soggy, flavorless - but the lasagna - oh, the lasagna - made up for the buffet. The lasagna would have made up for months of McDonald's. It was thin, only four sheets of pasta with cheese, meat sauce and cream sauce between the pasta sheets. The pasta was perfectly made, the cream and meat sauces were intensely flavorful.

I will also mention a simple lunch we enjoyed in the Campo di Fiore. By night, Campo di Fiore is a destination hotspot for young travelers - American students, backpackers, and so on. In the morning, though, the Campo is a farmers' market. We bought a couple of fresh rolls, a few slices of prosciutto and a ball of fresh mozarrella. Our dessert included fresh cherries and the loveliest fresh strawberries I have eaten since last summer and the last of the few local wild strawberries we can find around here. A bossy American college girl informed me that I would certainly be sick if washed the fruit under the water from knee-high spigot that Italians use as a drinking fountain. We were fine.

Finally, in Italy, gelato deserves its own award for wonderfulness. Nearly everywhere we had it, it was intensely flavorful. I love it.

Finally finally, to Ireland. Well, to Dublin. The only decent meal I had in Dublin over two and a half days was a panini at Gertrude's in the Temple Bar. Fortunately, real Guinness made up for a lot of Irish culinary sins. Real Guinness is different from what we get here. American Guinness, to my taste, is much hoppier. Irish Guinness is, to my taste, smoother and sweeter.

Giovanni's in Detroit

So my wonderful husband took me and darling son and daughter to Giovanni's in Detroit. You drive through a manufacturing not-quite-hellhole/Mordor--vestiges of the manufacturing empire that's been Detroit.

And, ah, you reach an oasis of hospitality and wonderful food! A well-priced and varied wine list, warm and professional servers (our lovely server has worked there for 23 years and it was like she was serving us at her home.)

I had the pesce Francesa --a huge amount of delicate fresh lake perch filets in a flavorful sauce of butter, lemon and capers --the sharpness of the lemons and capers a great foil for the delicate fish. An herbed risotto could have been hotter but was textbook texture.

Darling daugher had a subtle, gorgeous brodo with pasta and amazingly flavorful meat cannellloni --sauce was so tomatoey! Son had ravioli with boursin cheese and sun -dried tomatoes in a wonderful lemony sauce with lucious chunks of crab meat. He said it's the best ravioli he had in his life.

Husband had a great charred pair of tournedos on pancetta risotto with wine reduction.
Steak was good, but not memorable as our other dishes; pancetta was deeply flavorful and rich, a good accompaniment for the steak (other option was polenta).

Hallmark was flavor, texure and excellence of ingredients. And the warmth of the staff, the owner visiting us.

As we celebrated our daughter's coming semester in Rome, this meal set the stage for the heart and soul of Italian food and sharing it with the ones we love.

This is what food made with integrity and love can do.