Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Hey kids.. sorry, but you probably won't be seeing a post on my Daring Baker challenge this weekend. Unfortunately what I thought was a simple cold has gotten worse and it's about kicked my arse. Combine that with work and my procrastination issues and well.. no Tiramisu in my kitchen this month. :(

I did buy all the ingredients, so I'm ready to go in that respect.. just need my nose to dry the freeg up and then figure out a way to assassinate the lil fuckers in my head who are pounding the backs of my eyeballs with sledgehammers. Gah. So we'll see..

In the meantime, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for 1000's of creative and beautiful Tiramisu participants.. everyone did (as usual!!) an amazing job with the challenge! Huge hugs to both Deeba and Aparna for being wonderful hostesses this month.. they picked an awesome challenge of making homemade mascarpone and lady finger cookies! From what I've read in our private forums, both of the recipes are delicious! I REALLY want to find out for myself!


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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Croque-Madame

I had heard of the croque-monsieur sandwich often in the past year or so.. apparently it's making the rounds in the foodie-blog world, since that's where I discover many foods I'd never heard of before. It sounded intriguing, something I might want to try one day, but nothing to add to the MUST MAKE list. I mean seriously, it's a grilled ham & cheese sammie. No big whoop.

And then I was going through some magazine last week - for the life of me I can't remember what it was called - and saw this photo of the most awesome looking sandwich I'd ever seen. It had a fried egg on top! I don't think I've ever spoke of my obsession? fascination? complete and utter GLEE when it comes to the fried egg, specifically the yolk. But there's a twist. Yes, I love fried eggs for breakfast (or dinner) with the usual accoutrements - buttered toast, sausage or bacon, hashbrowns, you know.. heart attack on a plate? :) But this obsession - fascination - complete and utter glee that I feel when I see something topped with a friend egg, that normally wouldn't be topped with an egg.. I just.. can't find the words without sounding gross. Salivate upon seeing oozing yolk is what it is, but frankly, I just grossed myself out by saying that. Salivate and oozing really shouldn't be in the same sentence. Hopefully you yolk lovers out there will get where I'm coming from.. if not.. maybe try to block out what you've just read by closing your eyes tightly and singing LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU MISS GROSS-Y MCGROSSTER extremely loudly until the images go away. :P

It was the mental vision of a crispy baked sammie loaded with cheese and that broken yolk oozing (I can't stop with the fakkin oozing! Someone give me a better word for crissakes - and don't say "runny" cuz that squicks me out too!) down the side of it that had me in such a tizz.. hell it could have been a rabbit turd & peat moss sandwich and I would have been drooling all because of that egg. I once saw a salad made of greens, roasted sweet potato chunks and a big old fried egg on top and although I haven't made it YET, I still drool over the thought of it. A salad with roasted chunks of sweet potato for crissakes? All because of that ooz glorious fried egg.


As I read the intro to the recipe and realized it was a croque-monsieur with a fried egg thrown on top, the sandwich jettisoned to the MUST MAKE list tout de suite. So I ripped the pages out, brought it home to show hubbs and he agreed, we needed to have this for dinner ASAP.

Basically, if ya'll haven't heard of the croque-monsieur, it's ham & cheese (usually gruyère or emmental) between two slices of bread that have been slathered with a bechamel sauce, and then more cheese on top. It's baked until the edges are lightly browned and the cheese is melty and bubbly. Once it comes out of the oven, you slap a fried egg on top to create the croque-madame, throw a nice salad next to it and call it heaven on a plate.

I made a few changes to the recipe. I couldn't find the jambon de Paris ham it called for, so I used prosciutto. I'm not a big bechamel sauce by itself kinda gal, so I decided to doctor it up by tossing in a couple generous handfuls of gruyère (I still had quite a bit left over from the bread) and just the barest peench of ground mustard. I used a loaf of French miche, which I bought at Panera - miche, I assume, means fakking huge. It's a very large square loaf of French bread just perfect for grilling, baking, toasting and of course, making a croque-madame. :)

Hubbs made a cucumber, tomato, olive & red onion salad in balsamic vinaigrette to go with and I think that's really a must. At least for us.. this sammie is rich, kids. It definitely needs a salad or other light side with it. I had considered frying potatoes & onions, making our dinner more breakfast-like, but am glad that I didn't.

So who doesn't like a ham & cheese sammie, eh? I like them, they are O.K., not my favorite but I've eaten many in my day. Who hasn't? Feel about the same way? Kinda meh? Yeah well.. make this kicked up hot ham & cheese sandwich and I doubt you'll ever go back to the usual. We were both amazed at how good this was. Admittedly, the prosciutto wasn't the right ham. It was too salty, but that still didn't take away much from the sandwich in whole. And it was fun to eat a "gourmet" hot ham & cheese with a fork & knife! I suppose you could pick it up and eat it as you would any other sammie, but it'd be kinda messy.. but hey, if that's your thing, go for it. ;)

I urge you all to go out and buy a good ham that's not too salty, a big chunk of gruyère or emmental (I'm sure Swiss would be just fine) and a dozen eggs and get to making this for your dinner this week - and then throw it into your rotation every once in a while. It's a bit of a splurge both in price and calories, but you won't be sorry after you take that first bite. Trust me. SO. FAKKIN. GOOD.

Croque Monsieur or Madame

Serves 4

For Bechamel sauce:

3 TBS. butter
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole milk (I used fat-free and it came out just fine)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt & white ground pepper to taste

For the sandwiches:

8 slices high-quality bread. (the recipe called for "Pullman" loaf, I used French) sliced 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick.
12 oz. thinly sliced jambon de Paris (high quality wet-cured ham, not too salty)
10 oz. Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated
4 whole eggs (for the madame)

Over low heat, in a small saucepan, melt butter then whisk in flour until blended. Continue to whisk while pouring in milk to avoid lumps. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until thickened. This should take about 10 minutes. (If you are only making enough for 2 the sauce thickened within 2 minutes) Once thickened, season with nutmeg, salt & pepper. (This is where I added a couple handfuls of grated gruyère and the smallest pinch of ground mustard) Take off heat, set aside.

The recipe says you can make the bechamel sauce up to 24 hours early. Place plastic wrap directly on the sauce so it won't form a skin, then refrigerate. Gently reheat a few minutes before you are going to use it.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Place the 8 slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Spread the bechamel sauce evenly to the edges of all the slices (you may not need all of the bechamel). Divide ham between only 4 slices covered with bechamel, keeping the ham within 1/4 inch of the edges.

Top all 8 slices with equal amounts of grated gruyère cheese, again spreading it evenly within 1/4 inch of the edges. Place the 4 slices with bechamel and cheese (cheese side up!) on top of the slices layered with ham. Bake until cheese topping is melted and golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes (it took about 20 minutes in my oven)

To make the croque-madame, fry 4 eggs sunny-side up (I went with over easy, because egg slime is A VERY BAD THING) and place one on top of each sandwich. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and serve immediately.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

OHMYGOD - Where's The Flaccid Sea Creature??

Kids! I don't know what the hell has possessed me, but I've baked. And not for a Daring Baker's challenge, either. I baked on my own. WTF? Here's what I'm thinking.. ya'll should run out and buy lots of bottled water, saltine crackers, canned goods and toilet paper (never be without toilet paper!!). Dig yourself an underground shelter in the back yard and prepare yourself for some kind of natural disaster.

I don’t bake unless it’s a DB challenge! Something bad is surely going to happen! And bread! Lord almighty I NEVER bake bread on a whim or on my own - NEVER. This disaster is going to be a doozy – I’m tellin’ yas!

Wait.. don’t go getting all panic stricken just yet. I still have my usually long ass story to tell. Come back. Sit down. Join me in a glass (or twelve) of your favorite alcoholic beverage.. believe me, it’ll calm those shaking hands. Or is it just my hands that are shaking? Whatev.

Anyhoo, something made me finally bake THIS RECIPE again. Go look. Because if you don't go look you won't understand what a wonderment this baking adventure was. Seriously. GO. LOOK.

Did I lie? Is that not the most frightening things you've ever seen? It's like science fiction and pornography combined. And I ate those bad boys. All 4 of them. In like a week. If even. It was the best damn cheesy bread I've ever had and at that juncture in my life I didn't think anything could be as good as Panera's Asiago bread. But those 4 cheesy baked monstrosities were phenomenal. I kept saying that I would make them again.. but baking is sooooooooo fakking stressful for me. The Baking Gods hate my ever-livin guts. They laugh at me at every occasion. They mock me at the drop of a hat. They sneer and point at me while whispering behind my back. I don't know what the fakk I ever did to piss them off, but I obviously did.

And now, what? 2 years later? Something possesses me to make them again. I made the starter last Thursday night. I was unsure how far ahead you can make a starter, so I enlisted the advice of my bread baking guru, Mary. She told me I can make it a few days ahead, which eased some pressure as I knew I wanted to make it this weekend, but was unsure of the exact day. HAR! Yeah.. in other words - how long could I procrastinate before my started died and I chickened out? Gah.

Well.. come to find out the Baking Gods were watching - AS PER FUCKING USUAL. You see, the recipe calls for instant yeast. I didn't even comprehend that.. I used active yeast. So after 15+ hours (I had to work on Friday), it hadn't gotten very bubbly and pretty much looked just like a wad of dough. Not good. So I got on the King Arthur website and with an expert. It was immediately pointed out that I used the wrong yeast. Duh. I thanked her and then realized…
Baking Gods – 1 / Lisa – BIGFATFUCKINGZERO.

I didn't have instant yeast, so I sweet talked my beloved Hubbs into running out to get me some. Bless his cotton socks. Soon I had the correct yeast and more bread flour. I started again - this time around 6 a.m. Saturday morning. I figured it’d be good to go around 2ish that afternoon, then I’d make the dough and allow it to rise until Sunday morning. Way longer than what’s called for, but I’ve read that if you let your dough rise for a long time, the better the flavor of the bread.. and hell, any excuse to actually put off baking it. Yeah, the memory of the smoke detector going off and black billowy smoke spewing from my oven the last time I made this bread was pretty damn strong.

Well my powers of procrastination are pretty damn.. uhmm.. powerful. I managed to conveniently “forget” the starter on Saturday afternoon. And Saturday night. On Sunday morning I remembered it and said to myself, “Hey dipshit, you need to make the bread today.” And then I blocked it out again. I had plans with my girlie friends to go shopping at Trader Joe’s.. and I’ve been out of Tejava tea for a month. Nectar of the (non-baking) Gods, I tell ya! So my mind was conveniently “elsewhere”. :P

When I got home Sunday afternoon, I put away the groceries, poured myself a big glass of tea and got the flour out. I was going to make the dough! Go me! Making the dough took roughly 5 minutes. Mmmm hmm… 5 whole fakking minutes of my time. A spare 5 minutes that I just couldn’t seem to find all day Saturday and most of Sunday. You see this is how my mind works. And believe me, I know I ain’t right. Knowing full well how delicious the bread would end up, I still did everything I could to drag my big fat feet in making it. It’s like I’m a glutton for my own punishment. What. The. Freeg?

Before I went to bed Sunday night, I punched the dough down because obviously I wasn’t going to make the bread. Today was a rare morning.. I actually woke up after my husband. That happens maybe twice a year? And I’m usually sick.. but whatev, I woke up later and the first thing out of his mouth wasn’t the usual grumble-speak “mrn’ng” or even “is the princess FINALLY up?” it was, “My goodness, doesn’t that freshly baked bread smell delicious?” What an ass. This was his way of telling me that the dough had been sitting out far too long and if I was going to bake bread then I better shit or get off the pot. Visual there.. sorry. Moving along..

A lovely collage of basically the same photo of the mini loaves/buns.. *slurp*

I finally made my bread today. FOUR days after making the first batch of starter. FOUR. I had made two batches of dough so that I could make the mini “loaves” and a couple regular sized loaves. This time I cut the mini loaves much thinner.. and they came out more like bun size, which was perfect. Smaller means that the insides can’t rise out from the base reminiscent of the alien bursting out of that guy’s chest. I didn’t make flaccid geoduck/penis this time. They turned out bakery beautiful! I was AMAZED. I know today is a holiday for us in the US, but uhmm.. is this also a holiday for the Baking Gods? Or did I just take so damn long that I fooled them into believing that I’d never actually bake the dough?? Either way.. it all turned out great! Even the regular sized loaves, which I was unsure of because I hadn’t attempted that last time.

Today is a day to mark on the books. Today I BEAT THE SHITE out of the Baking Gods. Today I made myself proud. Today something horrible is going to happen.. so really now.. get off your asses and start digging up your back yard. You can thank me for the head’s up after it’s all over. ;)


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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mezze - It's What's for Dinner

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

This month's Daring Cook's challenge brought a whole new culture into my life. I've never eaten ANYTHING Middle Eastern before, although my sister loves it and has been telling me for months that I need to try it. I have to admit, Middle Eastern fare, never really thrilled me because when I think of that kind of food, I think of beans. *shudder* Chickpeas, lentils, black beans.. all of those lil pasty tastin' legumes. If you're new to this here lil blog, then you might not know of my strong dislike of beans. Frankly, I'd rather eat live bees. ;)

But I am happy to say that I was completely wrong, which is nothing new. :P Yes, Middle Eastern food does contain beans, but there is so much of a variety of other foods - I had no idea! I wanted my Mezze to be special, so I called upon my home girls. My G's, if you will. June, Blimey & Amy - 3 of my favorite people in alla world. As per usual, they were up for it and all agreed to find a Middle Eastern recipe to bring to the party. Yay!

I decided to make a cold Lebanese carrot salad, green beans (one of the few that I'll eat) Lebanese style, Kalamata olive tapenade as well as the mandatory hummus and pita bread. June brought a delicious Tabouli and Amy brought a refreshing and really delicious cucumber Raita. Unfortunately, Blimey got sick so she couldn't join us, and we missed her tremendously.

We piled everything onto the kitchen table and started eating immediately. SO GOOD! My absolute favorite was the green beans Lebanese style. Holy cow, I could eat that daily. I wouldn't even share much of the left overs with the gals because I HAD. TO. HAVE. IT. the next night with a roasted chicken. Delish! I really enjoyed the small bites of everything.. and liked to combine different dishes to see what went best with what. My favorite combo was a lil Kalamata tapenade on some pita followed with a lil dab of cucumber Raita. Salty with a nice tang. *slurp*

As for cooking this feast - no problems really at all. I got a lil nervous when my pita didn't balloon up like Audax's and it didn't really brown up on top. The bottoms browned up nicely though. And although parts were flat and parts were bubbly it was really good pita. June was the resident Middle Eastern connoisseur and she said the pita was excellent and she loved the other dishes as well. Score! I know it was good food because I realized afterward that we had no meat and didn't even miss it! It wasn't consciously planned that way, but since it happened, I'm going to say we dedicated our vegetarian dinner to Michele. :D

Eating this way is definitely fun - true party food. Next I want to do a Tapas night and then a dim sum night.. I'm looking forward!

Michele, thanks so much for turning me on to this delicious food and showing me how easy it is to make pita bread! I'll definitely be making it again! You did an excellent job hosting! Love you!

Check out all the rest of the amazing Mezze feasts from our Daring Cook troops! Just seeing what they've uploaded to the forums makes me all kinds of hungry for Mezze all over again! ;)


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Donuts. Is There Anything They Can't Do?

A few weeks ago, my friend Michele and I were talking about recipes and doughnuts came up, like they eventually always do if you're having a conversation with me. :P Ahh yes, I love me my doughnuts. But I won't let myself eat them very often. *sigh* I know how bad they are because of their deliciousness. Anything that tastes that good is definitely a heart attack or stroke disguised in fluffy goodness covered in powdery sugar or chocolate. Or maple. Or bacon. Or cinnamon sugar. Or whipped cream. Or just plain for those days when you're trying to eat healthy. ;)

So we decided that we must make homemade donuts. This past Sunday was D-day. I went with Alton Brown's recipe. I was a little nervous because, yanno, Alton can bring in a lil too much science. But the recipe was straightforward, thank the baby Jebus. The only problems I ran into were bad timing and way too hot oil. The timing thing - you need to heat milk to melt the shortening. Then you have to wait until it cools to lukewarm because you'll be mixing it with the water/yeast mixture. Well the *first* time I did it, I started to heat my milk and immediately poured my yeast into the lukewarm water, not taking into account that after the milk melts the shortening it'll take some time for it to cool off enough to add it to the yeast. Doh!

You wouldn't believe how fakkin long it takes for hot milk to cool the fug down. Jebus. My yeast/water mixture had already bubbled and was sitting on the bottom of my very cold metal Kitchenaid bowl. If you listened closely enough you could hear their itty bitty teeth chattering and their itsy bitsy knees knockin'. :( I was blowin' on the milk.. fanning it with a kitchen towel.. put it in the fridge for 10 minutes.. the bottom of the bowl wouldn't cool off. I mean this stuff was HOT. So finally, we (Hubbs was present) decided to put the damn bowl out in a snow drift. I mean, seriously. It's not like we were trying to cool off GALLONS of milk.. it was just a cup or so for crissakes, but it wouldn't cool down.

And no, this had nothing to do with my desire to be eating warm, fluffy, mouth-wateringly, rings of yumminess. Much. 'kay well maybe it had a lot to do with my impatience over having to wait for the prize, but I tell you - that milk was volcano hot. Outside it went. :P

Okay well what are two people to do while waiting on milk to cool? They get all caught up in Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl VI is what they do. We couldn't peel our eyes away from the cuteness if we tried. OHMYGOD. Chubby puppy bellies! Wagging puppy tails! Floppy puppy ears!!! Much more delicious than any doughnut! And when we finally did remember there was molten hot milk sitting in a snow drift on our back deck, this gal jumped up immediately, tripped over her dog, caught herself before completing a full face plant into the arm of the loveseat and then promptly tripped over the blanket she had been cuddled under while watching oodles of puppies attacking each other and stuffed footballs. That was more exercise than I've had in weeks. GAH.

As you might have guessed, the shortening was no longer liquefied. It sat in greasy lumps in the ICE COLD milk. Mmm hmmm...

Meanwhile.. my yeast had passed on to the great bread bakery in the sky. It was a pitiful scene. No bubbles. Just murky muck sitting on the bottom of the bowl. *sigh*

So I cleaned up my lil yeasty dead soldiers, put the milk back on the burner until the shortening JUST started to melt. Waited 10 minutes and THEN brought yeast and lukewarm water back together again.

After all of that, putting the dough together was a snap. The waiting was the hard part.. at one point I felt like standing in front of the bowl containing the dough ball and screaming "HURRY THE FAKK UP FOR CRISSAKES!! DOUGHNUTS! HUNGRY! NOM NOM NOM!!!"

Once I had them shaped and rising the last time, I heated my oil in a wok. I knew it was kinda hot, but I didn't want a greasy doughnut, so I figured a little hotter than it called for would be a good thing. And it was. Although they came out a little darker than you'd see in a doughnut shop, they weren't burnt or greasy. They were light and fluffy and uber delish. I did a good job of refraining from putting a platter on the table, throwing my hair up into a ponytail, putting my hands behind my back and doing my best impression of a pig feeding in the trough. It was hard though. Delicious homemade doughnuts, still warm and covered in cinnamon sugar.. OH. MY. GOD. SOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD.

It's super easy to make doughnuts and home and really the waiting isn't all that bad - 1.5 hours total rise time is all it calls for. You can make several varieties with one batch of dough and depending on size, you can get quite a few doughnuts. The only way I can describe the size of mine is they were the size of doughnuts you buy prepackaged in a grocery store.. like from Pepperidge Farms if anyone is familiar. I didn't have a doughnut cutter, nor even a round cutter. So I used a wine glass and to cut the middles out, I used the cap of a 2 liter bottle of soda. HAR! Worked like a charm! :) I used the scraps to make twists. We were going to fill some of them, but that didn't happen for whatever reason. I know these doughnuts freeze well too. Course I wouldn't know that from this experience. I packaged them in freezer bags and left on the counter overnight because it was too dark for photos after they came out of the oil. And after I took photos the next day, I put them back into the bags and then something else caught my attention.. Oh look! A chicken! That night they were pretty much stale. So eat 'em quick or freeze 'em soon!

Go check out Michele's doughnuts! She filled hers with yummy stuff! :)


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