Archive | December, 2011

Christmas Morning: Spinach Pie

31 Dec

Christmas Eve is usually the big Capasso meal.  Which means we like to scale it back on Christmas morning (sort of).  Spinach pie combines veggies and eggs in a handheld snack that’s easy to hold while you’re opening presents.  And it’s so easy, a 19-month old can help you prepare it!

SPINACH PIE
1 garlic clove, crushed
2T olive oil
2 10oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2lb mozzarella cheese, cubed (use the brick cheese, not a fresh ball)
1/4C Parmesan cheese, grated
8 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 unbaked 10-inch pie crust

Swish garlic in heated olive oil. Remove from skillet and add spinach, stirring to coat with oil. Combine eggs, cheeses, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add spinach and stir to blend. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool, slice and serve.

See? I told you a 19-month old could do it. Mangia!

Sara’s Specialty: Cannoli

28 Dec

My sister-in-law Sara established herself early as the Big Boss when she met my brother, fresh out of college, almost 15 years ago.  Chicago-born and raised, she is also Italian and right away got in the kitchen and got her hands dirty.  She’s been perfecting her classic Christmas dessert for years– so dedicated she is to cannoli, my uncle Tom actually composed an original song for her one year, off-the-cuff… Cannoli Lady.  I think 2011 will be remembered as the year she outdid herself (with the addition of some mascarpone cheese to the filling and sprinkles to the outside).

She had some help from our little chef (and Little Boss) this year, too.

NOTE: we chose to make the ricotta filling for these instead of the pudding filling.  We also used store-bought shells, from our favorite Italian bakery, but if you’re feeling ambitious, the recipe to make them follows.  You’ll need a cannoli tube.

CANNOLI (Makes about 25)

SHELLS
2C all-purpose flour
1/4C sugar
1/8t salt
1/8t cinnamon
1 heaping T shortening
1 egg
3oz dry red wine
Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  Cut in shortening as you would for pie crust.  Stir in egg and add the wine a little at a time to make a manageable dough.  Knead on floured pastry cloth for about five minutes until dough is smooth.  If sticky, add a little more flour.  Place in covered bowl and let rest for about 30 minutes.  Cut dough in thirds and roll out a portion at a time into a thin sheet.  Using a one-pound coffee can, cut circles out of dough.  Dab a little water on one edge of the circle (for sealing) and wrap loosely around a cannoli tube.  Place a few at a time into hot oil and fry until lightly browned.  Remove and place on absorbent paper.  Gently remove shell from tube.

RICOTTA FILLING
1lb ricotta cheese
1/4C powdered sugar
1T candied fruit, minced (we just used orange zest)
1/2C whipped cream
1t vanilla
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

In blender or with mixer, blend ricotta and sugar until smooth.  Fold in the remaining ingredients until well-blended.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

WHITE PUDDING FILLING
3C milk
6T sugar
6 heaping T cornstarch
1t vanilla
2 drops cinnamon oil
1T candied fruit, minced
1C whipped cream
Chocolate almond bar, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved
Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Place sugar and cornstarch in top of double-boiler.  Slowly add milk until cornstarch is dissolved.  Cook over boiling water until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon oil.  Fold in the candied fruit.  Cool completely.  Fold in whipped cream and chocolate bits.  Fill shells just before serving.  Sift powdered sugar over cannoli and decorate with a halved cherry on each end.

Sneaking a taste

Sara is The Cannoli Lady

These are a showstopper.  I know so many people who’ve never tried them, or say they don’t like them.  Just make these and you’ll have a room full of (fat and happy) cannoli converts.  Mangia!

Christmas Eve Dinner: Beef Tenderloin

27 Dec

Though I’m sure I’ll get some grief somewhere for this, we here at For Antonina are not traditionalists.  We don’t insist on Seven Fishes every Christmas Eve.  Though we love seafood, sometimes, we’re in the mood for meat.  Sure, it doesn’t follow religious tradition,  but I know T doesn’t mind.  She’s never been a stickler for anything.  Good food is good enough.

So here’s a recipe we cooked on Christmas Eve and I think it makes a great winter meal.  Meat me!

BEEF TENDERLOIN STUFFED WITH SPINACH (Serves 4)
1 2lb beef tenderloin, skinned
1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach
Salt and pepper
3oz. provolone cheese, shredded
1/4C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2t garlic, minced

FOR SAUCE
1/2C porcini mushrooms
1C chicken broth
1T all-purpose flour
2oz.  red wine
1t garlic, minced

Stick skewer through the center of the tenderloin and make a hole large enough to stuff.  Cook spinach and squeeze dry.  Mix with the cheese and garlic.  Stuff tenderloin.  Rub the outside of the meat with butter.  Bake, uncovered in a 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or to desired doneness.  Remove from oven and keep warm.

Rinse porcini and soak in the chicken broth for about 10 minutes, or until they start to soften.  Place mixture in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for a few minutes.  Blend flour with butter to make a roux and add to broth to thicken.  Add wine and garlic and continue to simmer for about five more minutes.  Slice beef, place on serving dishes and cover with a little sauce.

Dinner is served

We served our meat with a simple arugula salad and a side of polenta (follow package directions).  Mangia!