Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Caffé Shakerato

While wandering about Barnes & Noble the other day, a good way to kill an hour and you wallet, if you're not careful. While looking through the cookbooks I happened upon an eye catching book of coffee and espresso recipes. How could I not?

Among the 80 recipes, one in particular grabbed my attention as an easy and fast afternoon treat, the caffé shakerato. I had read about the drink briefly in the August 2007 issue of Bon Appétit in an article (or maybe comic would be more appropriate) in which the writer, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, details her road trip through the length of Italy.

The drink itself is very simple. All you need are:
2 (or so) ounces of Espresso
1 (or so) tablespoon Simple syrup
Ice (about 6 cubes are suggested by the book)

Place the ice, espresso, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker, and shake about 45 seconds.

Pour into a clear glass or, ideally, a champaign glass.
See? Easy! Plus, if you shake it well enough you can enjoy the show as the foam cascades up the glass, like a pint of properly poured Guinness.

Mmm, just sweet enough, yet still has a good espresso kick. The foam is especially delicious. ^_^

Monday, February 25, 2008

Homemade nutella = blissful goodness in a jar.

Having missed World Nutella Day, due to me not even knowing about it till yesterday, I decided to play catch up, by making my own 'tella, no less.

I went to rummaging through the vast tubes of the net until I found a recipe that sounded doable. The process isn't nearly as complicated as I had originally anticipated. Just a few simple ingredients, about an hour, and before you can say Tetaumatawhakatangihanga-
kupokaiwhenuaakitanatahu, you have nutella.

It's quite exceptional when warmed up and drizzled on a fresh bosc pear.

The texture of homemade nutella is to Nutella, what Adam's Natural Peanut Butter is to Jif. Being sans hydrogenated oil, it is a bit more fluid and the oil can separate, thus requiring you to give it a stir if it's been sitting for a few days. But why would it? ~_^

Homemade Nutella
Yields about 1¾ cups of goodness.

2 cups raw hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. almond oil (any nut or vegetable oil will work)
pinch of salt

Heat you oven to 350°F. Place the hazelnuts onto a sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Allow the nuts to cool before wrapping them in a dish towel to rubbing them to remove the skins. Don't fret if you can't get all the sinks off, we just want to get rid of most of it, lest out nutella be bitter.

Place the now cooled and skinned hazelnuts in a food processor and process on high until the nuts turn into a smooth butter. It took me about 3 mintues, but could take up to five. At this point, it should look like natural peanut butter. You now have some yummy hazelnut butter, but we're not done yet. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and process until again smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Process some more. The mix will be pretty stiff by now, so we want to add our oil. I used three tablespoons, but you may need up to ¼ cup, depending on how thick or spreadable you want your nutella. Process until smooth.

Now all that's left to do is jar it up and refrigerate. Or you could take a big spoon to the 'tella and enjoy straight-up.
For some ideas for what to do with your new jar of bliss, check out Ms. Adventures collection of 50 Nutella Day recipes.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bemused By Butter

I was making my way through a Wal-Mart the other day grabbing a few grocery items at a frenetic pace, mostly out of a deep desire to get out of that mullet convention as fast as possible, when I glanced at the dairy section. It was there that I spied something I had never seen in the blue-vested depths of Wal-Mart, Challenger Unsalted Butter, a go-to necessity in the kitchen, no? The low price struck me as odd, despite the fact I was--very annoyingly--in Wal-Mart, but I grabbed a box anyway. When I got home I soon found out why Wal-Mart even had the stuff, much less at such a low cost...

Seems Wally's World must get the rejected and diverted butter, deemed unsuitable for more better markets. ^_^; Granted, it is the same thing I'd find at Harmon's or Target...I just found this amusing.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

To combat the flu, Elderberry Syrup.

Having been assaulted by a touch of what I believe to be the flu bug, I figured now would be a good time to make a batch of my surefire flu and cold cure, Elderberry Syrup.

I was introduced to this amazing, though simple, extract in my Ethnobotany class, a couple of years ago. Under the instruction of the genius Dr. Clark, we were exposed to many uses for wild plants. One of the most useful, Dr. Clark taught us, was the Elderberry, often known as the "people's medicine chest" because of its many medicinal uses, not the least of which is a cure for flu. There is an element in the Elderberry which prevents the flu virus from attaching itself to the cells in your body, thus preventing it from spreading. This, in turn, reduces the severity and duration of the illness.

My method is simple, first, I thawed out about three cups of elderberries. I then took my stick blender to them and pulverized them as best I could. Next, I poured the puree into a pan, added a shot of vodka (this helps to extract the beneficial alkaloids), and brought the mix to a gentle boil. Finally, I strained out the pulp and bottled my syrup.

One shot in the morning, and one shot at night, just as the shaman ordered.

If you fear the flu as well, but don't want to go through the trouble of collecting wild elderberries and making your own extract, go check out your local health food store and look for Sambucol, a popular elderberry formulation that is said to also work wonders against influenza.