Sunday, January 13, 2008

Focaccia, Devil's Eggs, Arancini, and Brownies with Gelato

The cooking-bug I had last week did not wear off. I had to get few more recipes out of my system. I cooked a couple things for fun and others for some guests we had over for Sunday supper. The main course for that meal was "pasta al forno" (baked pasta), of which I forgot to take a picture and therefore decided to cover in a future blog. Jenna asked me to make it again in the near future as she wants to learn how to prepare it.

First off is one of my favorite treats: Focaccia bread. I prefer salty dishes over sweet ones and I love bread. So a salty Focaccia bread fits perfectly the purpose for which my taste buds were created. The recipe is simple:

- Four cups all-purpose flour;

- Two Tbsp dry yeast;
- Lukewarm water;
- Extra-virgin olive oil;
- Coarse salt;
- Dry rosemary.

Dissolve the dry yeast in a couple of cups of lukewarm water and add to the flour. I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer to prepare the dough. Add enough water to obtain a dough that is elastic, but that does not stick to the bowl. I usually let it go for about 5-7 minutes. I let the dough raise in the bowl by adding a bit of flour and covering it with a clean dish cloth. Let the dough raise until it doubles in size. Grease a cookie sheet, place the dough on it and flatten with a rolling pin. I love the Pampered Chef rolling-pin (see picture) to do this job. It is smaller than my regular wooden one and allows me to stretch the dough as to cover the whole cookie sheet. Cover with the dish cloth and let it raise again for 30 minutes. Pre-heat over at 420 degrees. Puncture the dough with a fork in several places. Brush abundant olive oil (using a spoon or cooking brush) on its surface and sprinkle with coarse salt and rosemary leaves. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden. The Focaccia bread should turn out a bit crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Your house will smell like heaven for hours. You can serve it warm instead of rolls (see picture below) or cut the pieces in half and fill them with your favorite cold meat and cheese for some great sandwiches or panini.

Focaccia Bread

The next one is another simple dish. This morning I just start having a craving for Devil's eggs. My grandmother makes the best ones in the world and I will never be as good as she is, but here is my simpler version:

- 6 hard boiled eggs;
- 1 can of tuna in olive oil (I bring mine from Italy where they use extra-virgin olive oil);
- Mayonnaise;
- Paprika;
- Capers.

Cut the eggs in halves. Remove yoke and mix in a small bowl with mayonnaise, tuna, paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place spoonfuls of the mix back in the eggs and add a caper on each one for decoration (and a little kick to your taste puds). They might not look pretty, but they were yummy!!! (By the way, keep them refrigerate until ready to serve!!)

Devil's Eggs

Arancini (= small oranges) is a typical Sicilian dish. These are nothing more than fried rice balls with a variety of fillings. I made two kinds: large with a filling of meat and peas, and small with a filling of cheese. As I was preparing them, I felt like I was surrounded by vultures... In fact, as soon as I got the Arancini out of the frying pan and onto a paper towel, Jenna and the kids started attacking them and I barely saved few for a picture to share...

Risotto recipe:
- 2 lbs Arborio rice;
- Butter and extra-virgin olive oil;
- 2 Tbsp dry onions;
- 1 TBSP minced garlic;
- Saffron;
- 3 bouillon cubes;
- Parmesan cheese.

Sauteed the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil. Add rice and stir. Add hot water, a cup at the time (let the rice absorb the water before adding the next cup). STIR CONTINUALLY!! Also, add the saffron, salt and pepper to taste, and the bouillon cubes. It takes about 30 minutes until it is soft and tender. When ready, add abundant Parmesan cheese and stir. Let it cool down until you can handle it with your hands. In the meantime, prepare the meat and peas sauce for the filling:

- Two cups of ground beef;
- 1 can of peas;
- 1 can of tomato sauce.

Cook the meat thoroughly and add the can of peas and tomato sauce. Stir on low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it cool down.

For the final Arancini you need bread crumbs and vegetable oil in a fry pan. I used a wok. Make balls of rice with your hands about the size of a small orange. Make a hole in each one of them and with the help of a small spoon place the meat sauce in it. Close with more rice and pass in the bread crumbs. I made also some smaller balls and placed a piece of string cheese in it. I figured that my kids might enjoy these ones better. Heat the oil to 400 degrees. Be careful not to burn yourself. Cook the rice balls until golden (almost orange). Place on paper towel and let them cool a bit. They are good warm or cold.


This dessert was the result of improvisation. As I said, we had people over for dinner tonight and I did not have much time to prepare one. As you may remember, last week I made some chocolate Gelato (Italian ice-cream). See recipe here. I remembered placing the Gelato in a large Styrofoam cup, which was still in the freezer (I guess it went unnoticed this whole week...). So, I decided to celebrate a dessert marriage between Italy and the US and combine the Gelato with some good all-American brownies. I had a nice brownies mix ready to use from Lehi Roller Mills, which my boss gave me as a Christmas present. Using a knife, I cut the Styrofoam cup lengthwise thus obtaining a Gelato cylinder, which I then sliced and placed on the dessert plates. I topped it with a generous piece of brownies and completed it with few touches of whip cream and milk chocolate crumbs (obtained by placing a chocolate bar in the food processor). Voila':

Brownies and Gelato


  1. Yum! I love the cooking insight on your blog (and the cute pictures of your kids are nice, too!). I'm going to try the rice balls - they look delicious!


  2. Wow. I wish we lived next door to y'all!

    I LOVE foccacia and I'm totally with you on the salty being so much better than sweet. I really don't have much of a sweet tooth...although your desserts look pretty darn tempting!

  3. Katie I wished you lived next door to us too! Wow, what fun that would be for us and our girls.