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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Check It Out -- Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar

So we have recently discovered a fun new shop in Chapel Hill that we wanted to share with you, Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar (  Their specialty, as you may have guessed, is flavored oils and vinegars and they have them ON TAP!  It's awesome. 

For those who are local, you can go around the room and sample each of the different types.  It was like being a kid in a grown-up candy shop.  For the oils, there is bread to dip and for the vinegars, just a little shot will do ya.  They provide water to cleanse your palate between savory sips.

For those who are not local, they have a listing on their website of all the different flavors, as well as recipes to use them in so make sure to check it out.

In the shop they offer a 4-sample set in addition to 200 mL and 375 mL bottles you can find online.  For our first foray, we got a Red Apple balsamic, a Tuscan Herb olive oil, a Cinnamon Pear balsamic, and a Picual (Chilean) olive oil, so be on the look-out for some new recipes.

If you aren't in the area, I would suggest going online to see if there is something similar near you.  It's a great way to branch out and try some new flavors and, if you're anything like us, get inspired to create something new in the kitchen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

St Honore

The Kay family spent four years in Italy and we had a favorite Graticola (“gridiron” restaurant) that we visited weekly. They introduced us to this most wonderful dessert. Light, airy, and truly decadent.

Though St Honore is usually made as a whole cake, we decided to personalize the desserts for our dinner guests and made everyone their own miniature version. The result was a mini castle of puffy perfection for each person.

Okay, with the exception of the lobster ravioli, we managed to make everything else pretty uncomplicated to put together…until now. There are a lot of moving parts, but there are some shortcuts you can take and we’ll let you know what those are, but for the more adventurous of you, the long scenic route is worth the effort to get there.

St Honore

A puff pastry basket filled with vanilla pastry cream and ringed with chocolate cream-filled profiterole attached with caramel syrup and decorated with Amaretto whip cream.

Puff pastry (for basket base)

2 ½ cups cold flour (yes, put it in the fridge, you want it COLD)
¾ tsp salt
3 sticks (24 tbsp/12 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cups very cold water

– or –

Frozen puff pastry sheets (skip down to preparing the pastry base instructions if you go this route). Just follow directions below for cutting out shapes and bake according to package directions.

The reason that you want all of your ingredients to be cold is so they will blend, not stick, when you work it with your fingers. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run your hands under cold water before you begin to work the pastry to help keep your body temp from making things too mooshy.

Mix the flour and salt then sift them onto the cut butter. Work them together until they form a crumbly mixture. Flatten as many of the butter lumps as you can with your fingers. Begin adding in the water a little bit at a time. You want the dough to be smooth and even, not sticky. If it gets sticky, add a bit more flour to it.

Once your pastry dough has reached the desired consistency, put the pastry dough in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Making the pastry layers – you do this using the roll-fold-fold method. Roll out the dough to about ½” thickness then fold a third of it over onto itself and the other third over that (like tri-folding a letter). Roll it out again then fold a third, then fold the other third. Roll-fold-fold, roll-fold-fold, repeat. You can do this as many times as you like. The more often you do it, the more pastry layers you create.

Preparing the pastry base – roll out the dough to about ¼” thickness and cut out two 4” circles (two circles per dessert). Using a 3” cutter, cut out the center of one of the two circles and keep the outer edge; this will be your “basket” rim, the inside part can be re-rolled to make other bases. Brush the edge of the full circle with water and set the rim piece on top.

Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes until puffy and golden. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

For better process photos for the puff pastry, check out this link:

We used a 4” ridged tart pan for our base and then a 3” ridged cookies cut to remove the center. You can use round cookie cutters or even deep-edged storage container lids.

Vanilla pastry cream

2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp flour (all purpose)
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks or 2 whole eggs
2 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter

– or –

your favorite pre-made, or mix and make, vanilla pudding

Stir the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt together in the bottom of a heavy saucepan.

Whisk the milk and eggs together. Add them to the dry mixture in the saucepan and blend well until sugar is dissolved.

Over medium heat, cook mixture for 12 minutes. Stir occasionally for the first 5 minutes then stir constantly for the last 7 minutes until it thickens and comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute while stirring then remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

Pour the pastry cream into a bowl. Let it cool then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

If you press a piece of Saran over the cream before you put it in the fridge, it will prevent a skin from forming on the top.

Chocolate pastry cream

3-4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Follow the same instructions for the vanilla cream and add in melted chocolate after you stir in the vanilla and butter.

– or –

your favorite pre-made, or mix and make, chocolate pudding

Choux paste (for profiteroles)

For the choux paste recipe and how to photos, refer back to

– or –

you can buy frozen pre-made cream puffs, thaw them and use them to top the puff basket

Instead of spooning the dough into a ring shape, take a pastry bag with a round tip and squeeze out (3D) quarter-sized “puffs” (profiteroles) onto a cookie sheet. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can use a zip lock bag. Fill with the dough and then snip open a corner to squeeze it out through.

Bake at 425° for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Turn off oven and allow centers to dry.

Once they are cooled, poke a small hole in the bottom of the puff. Fill a pastry bag with the chocolate pastry cream and using a fine tip (or zip lock with a smaller corner hole), squeeze the chocolate into the profiterole.

Okay, at this point we're not providing anymore Ors because if you've slid through til this point, it's about time you put some actually work into it. :)

Amaretto whip cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
1-2 tbsp Amaretto

Make sure cream is cold, it whips better this way. Using an electric blender, whip until cream makes soft peaks, add in the sugar and continue whipping until it forms hard peaks. Slowly mix in Amaretto to flavor.

Caramel syrup

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup water

Combine sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Boil over medium heat. Cook until syrup turns amber in color.


Fill the center of the puff pastry basket with the vanilla pastry cream.

Dip the bottom of the chocolate-filled profiterole in the hot caramel syrup and attach to the edge of the basket.

Evenly space out the profiteroles (about 5 per basket) and fill in the spaces between with Amaretto whip cream.

Present to guests and enjoy the oohs and aahs before total silence descends.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dressing Up

Yippie super special extra bonus recipe!  You guys are excited, we just know it.

Salad dressings are really fun to experiment with.  We love whipping up batches of vinaigrettes and lately have become fond of attempting creamy dressings.

For the anniversary dinner we offered a fig vinaigrette as well as a creamy olive and roasted garlic dressing.  We served them on just a simple tossed salad with sun dried tomatoes and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Since we didn’t actually measure anything for the vinaigrette, we’re going to feature the creamy dressing on this post (email us if you want a list of ingredients and approximate amounts, we’re happy to provide).

Creamy Olive and Roasted Garlic Dressing

Cloves from 1 head of roasted garlic (see notes on roasting)
¼ to ½ cup pitted olives (we used a mixture from our antipasto platter)
8 oz. sour cream (light or fat free work just as well as regular here)
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
¼ cup red wine vinegar
pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor combine all of the ingredients except for the pepper.  Blend until smooth (there will be a few pieces of olives floating, that’s okay).  Season with pepper.  If you need salt you can use that too, we found that our olives were plenty salty enough to carry the dressing.


-If you use light or fat free sour cream, you may want to add just a touch of olive oil.
-To make a thicker dressing add more sour cream or cut back on the vinegar.  To make a thinner dressing, add more vinegar (and maybe a touch of sugar to cut the extra acidity)
Roasting Garlic:

Cut just enough off the top of a full head of garlic to expose most of the cloves. 
Place head of garlic in aluminum foil, and drizzle the entire head with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.
Wrap and roast at 400 for 30-45 minutes.  You will know the garlic is done if you can squeeze the head and feel the cloves give.  There should also be a really nice brown color on your garlic.

When you garlic has cooled, squeeze out the cloves.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Alla Romana

Hmmm, Saltimbocca alla Romana…another family favorite that made it to the menu (thanks Dad Kay) along with a colorful and flavorful Herbed Roasted Veggies dish. Sounds intimidating, but both are pretty easy to put together. The nice thing is that you can prep ahead of time.

Now we don’t have precise measurements for either of these recipes because the amount you use will vary depending on how much you plan to make. We’ll give you some guesstimates, but will leave it up to you to use your now-prolific cooking skills to figure out what you’ll need.

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Veal cutlets, pounded flat (about 2-3 oz per slice)*
Prosciutto, thinly sliced (1/2 oz per slice)**
Sage leaves, whole
Flour, for dredging
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
White wine

Dredge the cutlets in flour seasoned with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Make sure each side is evenly coated.

Using a toothpick to secure them, topped each piece with a slice of prosciutto and one whole sage leaf.

Since we were pre-prepping, we stored them in a Tupperware container and separated each layer with a sheet of wax paper. Then we popped them in the fridge until we were ready for them.

Heat up about 1-2 tsp of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, put the cutlets in. You can start with either side – top side down or bottom side down. Sear one side for 1-2 minutes and then flipped it over to sear the other side. Remember, it won’t take long because the cutlets are so thin.

Lower the heat and pour in the wine, about 1/2-2/3 cup for 4-6 cutlets. You don’t want the cutlets floating, but you want enough to cover the bottom of the skillet. It will start to thicken up and create a nice coating within a few minutes. Flip the cutlets a couple of times while the sauce is thickening to get an even coating on both sides.

Serve immediately or if you don’t, set them on a plate in a microwave with the door closed (but do not turn on the microwave!). The closed space will act as a warming oven, not allowing the heat to escape.

* Our cutlets were approximately 4 oz. each and we cut them half for cooking. For those who are local, we got our cutlets from Cliff’s Meat Market in Carrboro, NC. They came pre-pounded and individually packed (which was a treat) and he carries them year-round (something that other markets did not).

** We recommend Citterio Prosciuto (tutto naturale!). For the price, you get more for your money compared to other brands and it’s the perfect thickness for the saltimbocca.

Herbed Roasted Veggies

Mini or small eggplant, large chop*
Zucchini, large chop
Cipolline onions, halves
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if needed
Yellow pepper, cut into large pieces
2 tbsp basil, fresh, chopped fine**
1 tbsp oregano, fresh, chopped fine**
Olive oil, to coat
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Before you prepare the other vegetables, you’ll want to “de-moisturize” the eggplants (yeah, we made that term up). Cut the eggplant into large chunks and set them aside on a paper towel. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and cover with another paper towel. This will help draw out the extra water and make them easier to roast.

Mix all of the chopped veggies in a large bowl. Add in the basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour in enough oil to coat the veggies evenly. It’s best to start with a small amount and add more until you get the consistency you want on them.

Pour the prepared veggies into a baking dish or onto a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 375° for about 45-60 minutes or until the veggies are browned to your taste. Make sure to stir the roasting veggies often so that they cook evenly and don’t burn on one side (maybe every 15-20 minutes would be good).

* If you are pre-prepping the veggies, then do everything according to the recipe above EXCEPT leave out the eggplant. Those should be de-moistured and added in right before you pop them in the oven. The rest can sit in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

** If you are using dried herbs, then use about ½ the amount indicated above (1/2 tbsp = 1-1/2 tsp)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Seeing as Mom & Dad Kay are big fans of white wine, the wine selection they chose for the meal was from Orvieto located in central Italy north of Rome.  The region is well-known for it's whites.

Orvieto wines are from the made from a blend of Grechetto and Trebbiano grapes, and they tend to be semi-sweet to sweet, dry and pale gold in color.  A nice light wine for summer dinners.

Another family favorite is a wine called Est! Est! Est! from Montefiascone, just south of Orvieto.  Not only is it a tasty wine, but the story of its name lends it an extra charm.  Way back in the way-way back times, there was a German cardinal, John of Fuger, who had a penchance for good food and wine.  Having to travel south through Italy, he sent his manservant down before him to check out the inns along the way that would serve wines to his liking.  The inns were to be marked with the word "Est" meaning "It is (good)."  The manservant found an inn in Montefiascone with a wine that was so fabulous, he marked it with "Est! Est! Est!"  Turns out that John of Fuger was not disappointed by this confirmation of fabulousness and imbibed it in such great quantities that he died of indigestion.  The end.

Don't you love a good story?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Maine Inspired Italy

Oh lobster, how we love you (and by we, we mean at least ½ of TCC’s team). When K2’s dad asked us if we could use lobster in the menu (translation, I want lobster, so fit it in), we both immediately thought about doing a Lobster Ravioli. After a few brainstorming sessions we came up with the final dish, lobster ravioli in a browned butter sauce.

Lobster Filling:

1 large shallot, minced
1 Tbsp. white wine
olive oil
8 oz. cooked lobster meat, roughly chopped (you can substitute any cooked shellfish)
8 oz marscarpone (you can also substitute ricotta)
1 tsp. brandy
½ tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground bay leaf
zest from ½ lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into a pan, sauté shallot until you see it just starting to caramelize (low heat). Once it’s starting turning a slight brown, add in your white wine to deglaze. Put the mixture into the fridge to cool it slightly.

In the meantime, combine lobster meat, cheese, brandy and lemon juice. Add in nutmeg, ground bay leaf, lemon zest, and cooled shallot. Spice to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate the filling until you're ready to fill your ravioli.

For the ravioli, if you’re motivated (and we were), you can make your own pasta. The recipe for pasta is fairly simple, semolina, flour, eggs, water, and a touch of olive oil. We did learn that the semolina (00 preferably) was the key to making a nice dough. We got our recipe from The recipe made enough for about 2 dozen – 2 inch ravioli.

If you’re not motivated to make your own dough, you can use wonton wrappers. It doesn’t have the same freshness, but it works, and it’s still pretty darn tasty!

Back to homemade dough. We found that when rolling, we opted to roll to a “5” thickness on the pasta machine (our machine went to 6). Because the filling was fairly substantial we wanted a thicker pasta.

Making the ravioli:

After rolling we shortcutted the process by laying out the sheet and created 4-6 ravioli based on the length of the sheet. You’ll have to eyeball to assess how many ravioli you can get out of each sheet.

Place ½-1 Tbsp. filling for each ravioli (depending on the size you choose to make) on ½ of the sheet of pasta (check out the picture to see what we mean). Leave adequate space between your fillings, so you can crimp the edges.

Wet the edges of your pasta sheet(either with water or an egg wash). Wet the edges between the filling as well. Fold over the filling, pressing the edges and between the ravioli, crimping the sides. Make sure when you’re crimping you’re sealing really well so you don’t lose any lobster filling.

Cut between each bit of filling, and crimp the newly cut sides. Tah Dah, ravioli!!

Fresh pasta cooks slightly faster than dried pasta and will vary, but this will give you a good idea of when to take it out of the water.  Place your ravioli into boiling water, once it starts to float give it another 3 or 4 minutes more. You can always take one out and eat it to test its doneness.

Browned butter sauce:

1 stick butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine.

Melt butter in a pan, keep the heat on low and let the butter continue to ‘cook’. Eventually you will start to see it turning brown, go ahead and take it off the heat.

Mix in your lemon juice and white wine. Pour this over your cooked ravioli, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts. To make the dish extra special, add a few pieces of cooked lobster meat on top.

We topped ours with a small sprinkling of grated Fiore Sardo (smoky sheep’s cheese)… YUM!!!


- if you have any cooked lobster meat leftover and want to freeze it for later, put it in a freezer bag with milk (about 1 tsp per 1/2 lb of meat), remove the excess air and put it in the freezer. The milk keeps in the flavor of the lobster and keeps out the freezer taste.

- The lobster filling recipe makes quite a lot. If you find you have leftovers use it in omelettes, on top of nachos, mix it with some milk or cream and make a rich pasta sauce.

(fun with pre rolled pasta dough)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Say Cheese!

Despite the fact that there are more than 400 different types of cheese produced in Italy, we limited our usage to three. But as two of the three were cheeses we’d not tried before we were pretty pleased with our selection and thought you’d like to know more about them.

For the Antipasto, we chose CRUCOLO, an artisanal cheese made from cow's milk. There’s only one producer of this cheese and that’s the Rifugio Crucolo, located near the Val Campelle in Trentino (northern Italy).

The Crucolo is matured for at least two months. It’s an ivory-tannish color, chocked full of irregular holes. The flavor is likened to a creamy version of Parmigiano Reggiano, both buttery and mild but with a nice tangy finish. It’s a great snacky cheese and can be served with either sweet (grapes or figs) or salty (olives and salami).

For the Lobster Ravioli, we were seduced by a taste of a smoked FIORE SARDO, or as its more commonly known, Pecorino Sardo (“pecorino” means “of sheep or relating to sheep”). It’s a firm cheese makes from a breed of ewe native to the Italian island of Sardinia.

The taste is a balance of salty and sweet to begin with, but the smoked version adds a whole other depth to it. We had it grated because it’s best to take in small to moderate amounts so that it doesn’t overpower what you serve it with.

We found that the lobster could hold its own though (and they made a really nice couple).

For the salad, we went with a PARMIGIANO REGGIANO, a pretty well known cow’s milk cheese. We served it as large shavings so that it would add a pop to the salad. It’s got a nice salty tang to it which went really well with the sweeter elements like the fig vinaigrette.

We found the Crucolo and Fiore Sardo at The Southern Season in Chapel Hill and picked up the Parmigiano Reggiano at the Whole Foods in Durham, NC, both of which have really wonderful cheese selections.

We definitely encourage you to explore new cheese options when you put together a meal because the results can be spectacular.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quick, Easy, Impressive Antipasto...and Dipping Oil Too!

Thank goodness for gourmet food stores. Our local favorite, The Southern Season, made it incredibly easy to whip up a really impressive antipasto.

What you need:

Mixed Italian olives – we chose Sicilian, Cerignola and threw in a few Kalamatas (just because we could) which provided a nice variety of colors and shapes.

Cured meat – we chose a nice hard handmade Italian Salami, but you could use pepperoni or prosciutto or softer salami as well.

Cheese, of the Italian variety – we got a Crucola which is a semi-hard cheese with a mild sharpness to it.

Pickled veggies – you can find these on many olive bars, or in a jar near where the olives are kept in the grocery store. In the stores near us, they come in both hot and mild varieties, we recommend the mild, as the hot tends to deaden your tastebuds.

Crunchy breadsticks – if you’re feeling particularly motivated, go ahead and make them yourself…then send us pictures, we want to see. Because we were already making two other breads for this meal we ended up buying some.  We really liked the super thin ones.

Crostini – this is where you can get really creative. We went with a sweeter crostini to balance out the saltiness of everything else. We used fresh-made ciabatta bread and sliced it into appetizer-sized bites. We toasted the slices slightly to give them just a little texture. We then used Bel Paese, an Italian cream cheese, and sweetened it with honey. We slathered the bread slices with the sweetened cheese and topped them with slices of fresh fig. Unfortunately the figs we ended up using were a little bland so we sweetened up the slices by tossing them in some sugar and honey before we served them.

Speaking of bread (no, really we were!)...

You know how when you go to one of those super fancy Italian restaurants, the waitstaff will prepare an oil and spice dip for your bread at the table? Well, this is how to do this at home, it’s really easy and the amounts are going to depend on how many dipping oils you’re mixing up.

2 parts garlic powder
1 part Herbs de Provence
1 part salt
1 part pepper

Mix herbs and place ½ tbsp in a shallow bowl. Pour good quality olive oil over the mixture and dip some freshly made Italian bread (or French bread if you're feeling multicultural) in it!


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

46 Years and Counting

Can’t believe it’s already been a year since we posted Mom & Dad Kay’s last anniversary dinner, but here it is again.

This year we decided on an Italian feast in memory of the four years they lived in Rome. We really wanted to make at least one of the main courses a seafood dish and before we could even finish asking Dad said LOBSTER!  It pays to have family in Maine, so a big shout out to Judy for assisting in the provision of fresh Maine lobster to make this anniversary dinner a big hit.

For dessert we went with a traditional pastry treat which happens to be Mom's favorite (and K2’s too!). Usually, St Honore is done as a large single "cake" and cut into slices for service, but as you know, we at TCC like to push that envelope and decided it would be more interesting to make individual treats for our guests and, as you will see, it was certainly worth the time and effort to put those together.

So here's the tease for what’s to come this month, may we present...


Antipasto (Appetizer)

Sicilian, Cerignola, and Calamati Olives, Breadsticks, Fresh Fig Crostini with Honeyed Bel Paese, Crucola (Italian semi-hard cheese), Pickled Cauliflower, Carrots and Celery, and Dried Italian Salami

Primo Piatto (First Plate)

Ravioli di Aragosta – homemade Maine lobster ravioli in a brown butter lemon sauce with pine nuts, parsley, and grated Fiore Sardo (smoked Italian sheep’s milk cheese)

Secondo Piatto (Second Plate)

Saltimbocca alla Romana – veal cutlets with prosciutto and fresh sage cooked in a simple white wine sauce

Contorni (Sides Dishes)

Arrostire le Verdure – roasted zucchini, Cipolline onions, grape tomatoes, yellow pepper, and mini eggplant

Insalata Mista – mixed field greens, sun-dried tomatoes, and shaved parmesan with a choice of Creamy Roasted Garlic-Olive Dressing, Fig Vinaigrette, or Olio e Aceto (oil & vinegar)

Pane – homemade peasant bread with herbed dipping oil

Dolce (Dessert)

St. Honore – puff pastry baskets filled with vanilla cream and topped with chocolate cream-filled profiteroles and Amaretto whipped cream

Bevande (Drinks)

A variety of Italian white wines for dinner and Amaretto di Saronno to follow.

Buon Appetito a Tutti!