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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Basic Art of the bubbly....

Now that the holiday seasons are upon us cocktail parties and feasts surround us. While food is one of the most important ingredients to these events and the cocktails and even those wine pairings with food are fun and festive- did you know that those imported mineral waters can also be paired with foods and courses.

Water tastings and pairings have become as important as the wine tastings in Itally. Many fine dining places have not only wine menus but also water menus.

So, if you would like to add an interesting touch to your holiday event- add in water tasting or pairing with imported mineral waters- certainly a healthy touch to any meal.
And while in the US we may think of water as all virtually the same- in Europe- waters come from many different mineral springs. The quality and quantity and types of minerals depend on the spring that the waters come from. They do have many different qualities and health benefits and are even prescribed for various ailments.
But also many of the waters- especially the ones that are naturally carbonated do really aid in digestion. So while you may want to drink a plain (uncorroborated water) to quench your thirst- if you are enjoying a heavy meal -you might want to consider adding a few glasses of mineral water between courses this holiday season.
To practice the fine art of water tasting this season, here are some tips for your holiday table;
*Place two water glasses at each place setting- one for non-carbonated and one for naturally carbonated water.
*To really appreciate the fine art of mineral water-serve naturally carbonated imported waters. These waters were carbonated naturally by the springs they come from. Serving plain soda water that has been carbonated by a factory is not the same thing.

*Serve the naturally carbonated mineral water chilled to a temperature of about 45 degrees. Serve non-carbonated water chilled to about 50 degrees.

* Do not add ice cubes to the water-this will diminish the true flavor of the mineral water. chill the water itself.
*Encourage your guests to drink the naturally carbonated mineral water between courses during your meal, this will naturally aid in digestion.
This is another healthy addition to any meal or party and no calories either!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Panettone.. another Italian Holiday delight

Copyright, 2005-2007, Maria Liberati
Editor: Julia Tulba

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s time to prepare for Christmas and Christmas baking/. While visions of sugarplums are now dancing in your head and you are planning your holiday baking here is info on our favorite Christmas dessert and its’ history..Enjoy!

Christmas in Italy would not be the same if it did not include panettone, the traditional sweet bread that is prepared and enjoyed during the holiday season. Although its origins are said to be from Milan, Italy, its immense popularity has made it a requisite treat throughout the world. Panettone is no longer prepared by the Italian nonna (grandmother); in today’s global society, the sweet bread is also made in many non-Italian kitchens, as well as being a favorite item to buy in the stores. The word panettone derives from the Italian word panetto, which means a small loaf of bread. The traditional version of panettone contains orange and lemon zest, as well as raisins, which are added dry and not soaked. However, as a means of appealing to a widely diverse consumer market, other versions of panettone have been made available, such as plain or chocolate. For many panettone aficionados, however, the traditional versions remain the favorite. Most panettone breads have a cupola shape, and are served in slices that are vertically cut. A sweet hot beverage or a glass of sweet wine usually accompanies panettone. Although the process of making panettone can be a very time consuming affair, numerous recipes have been amended to make it less laborious, so that it may be enjoyed by all during the holiday season. These much easier recipes still retain the bread’s delicious taste, just when nonna made it. With its origins dating back to the Roman Empire, its popularity has made panettone a timeless classic.

This recipe is for a simpler version of panettone. You can bake this in a high but small cake pan lined with parchment paper. Or a 1 lb coffee can lined with parchment paper. Many gourmet cooking stores now carry the distinctive brown paper that commercial panettone is baked in-if you want that distinctive look.

Copyright 2005-2007-Maria Liberati
From the best selling book series The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter – (softened-left out at room temperature)
1 teaspoon orange or lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups slivered almonds
2 cups golden raisins (optional)
3 cups chopped mixed dried fruits (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Take either a small high cake pan or a clean, empty 1-pound coffee can.
Line either with a parchment paper, cut to fit, and butter paper. Some paper should be overlapping top of pan or can so you will be able to take bread out when finished by lifting on edges of waxed paper.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Beat in
softened butter, lemon peel and extracts. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking
powder and salt and blend into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir
in almonds, raisins and dried fruit. Pour batter into prepared pan or can and place
on a baking sheet. Bake 55 to 60 minutes, or until bread is golden on top and a
toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool bread in can for 10 minutes. Lift bread out of pan by parchment paper edges on top. Turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.
To serve, cut into thin wedges.