Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Quest Concludes Victoriously...

I knew Whole Foods couldn't let me down! Just 3 feet from the entrance, what do I see but an iced barrel full of mascarpone cheese on sale! It's as if the Whole Foods gods looked down at me from their tree-huggin' temples and threw me a bone. I got some odd stares from my overly excited reaction to this cheese. I even saw one woman walk over to it after I moved on to inspect what was so arousing. Needless to say, she wasn't as impressed.

So with my genuine mascarpone cheese in hand I can finally make some GDL fruity desserts including Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese.

It's a beautiful presentation for such a simple preparation. You start by juicing a lemon and combining it with sugar and brandy. In another bowl, the coveted mascarpone cheese gets mixed with a hint of vanilla. These get set aside while you brush a grill or grill pan with olive oil. Pitted and quartered peaches are grilled until golden with obvious grill marks. Add the peaches to the lemon mixture to coat. White wine is poured over the sweet lemony peaches and topped with a dollop of the mascarpone topping.

The textures of this dessert are so sensual you could melt. It's creamy coolness over soft warm fleshy peaches with a slight tingly buzz from the alcohol... mmmmm. I feel like I'm writing a harlequin romance novel. But seriously, it's that good. Enjoy it with someone you love! Bow chick-a bow-wow.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Quest for Mascarpone Cheese...

Richmond has quickly become one of my favorite places. As a big-little city, it offers quiet quirky neighborhoods with all the conveniences of a large metropolis. One thing it doesn't have... Mascarpone Cheese!!

What is wrong with this city? How can you deprive yourself of this cool creamy sweet cheese? It's not right and to be honest, I'm a little pissed off. Yeah, I'm talking to you Richmond! You're on my list!

It all started with my decision to make GDL's Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese. Sugar, check. Lemon juice and vanilla, check check. White wine, please- it's a staple in my kitchen. So out I go for the remaining ingredients- fresh peaches and mascarpone cheese.

My first attempt was the little market behind my apartment building creatively called The Market. No go. Mealy peaches and not a hint of mascarpone to be found. Bummer. A short car ride and I'm at my favorite Kroger that is the most "gourmet" and "organic" of all the Kroger's in Richmond. Trust me, I've been to them all. As loyal readers know, I'm quite particular about my supermarkets and the right store can make grocery shopping an absolute thrill for me (see Organic Heaven post from February).

But alas, no mascarpone cheese. I even go so far as to ask the bakery if they have some in the back that maybe they could just package up for me. But you would think I asked for them for the oven itself and they shooed the crazy cheese lady away. At least they had nice peaches.


OK, Whole Foods has never let me down. I drive across town to the one and only Whole Foods in Richmond. I walk out of the 100-degree heat and through the glass doors. A cool fruity breeze greets me and I get a burst of confidence- I will find my mascarpone here! I fly past the rows of colorful organic produce and round the corner to the dairy/soy case. Vegan cheeses, organic varieties, tofu this and soy that but no go on the mascarpone.

Over to the deli/bakery/prepared foods area that has the big refrigerated case with the most expensive and most pungent cheeses in the store. I look and look, sniff and sniff, debate just buying brie for dinner to make me feel better after this cheese debacle but eventually walk out empty handed with a growling tummy.

No Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese tonight. Maybe not ever while in Richmond. But one silver lining came today. Googling 'Mascarpone Cheese' generated a mere 364,000 results one of which led me to a mascarpone substitute! It sounds a little heavy and I'm sure it won't compare to the cool silky smoothness of mascarpone but I'm giving it a whirl.

This weekend, I will whip up one 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese with a quarter cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons softened butter. You will get my full report next week. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Biscotti Calling...

Last weekend on a rainy Saturday afternoon I suddenly got ‘all about Italy.’ Roman Holiday was on and I was making GDL’s Citrus Biscotti. Biscotti meaning, “twice baked” were popular long before individually packaged ones were sold near every Starbucks register. Their dry consistency means they can easily be stored for long periods of time. Biscotti came in handy during long journeys and wars and were a staple food of the Roman Legions.

My grandmother makes biscotti at Christmas and though nothing compares to Mimi’s baking, I’d say that Giada’s citrus biscotti come in a close second as the best biscotti I’ve ever tasted. Made with orange zest and lemon juice the dough is baked in two long loaves, cut into finger long cookies and baked again. And when dunked in coffee, they are absolutely delicious. But don’t take my word for it- my best review came when I found Jared in my kitchen after work one day this week making coffee saying he was craving my biscotti all day.

That same night I made GDL’s Pasta Primavera. I had fresh summer squash from a friend’s garden and though I usually prefer raw crispy vegetables, these fresh veggies baked in olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper were so melt-in-your-mouth-fantastic. Added to bowtie pasta it was a delightful summertime meal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my biscotti are calling me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Americano Italiano...

These last two weeks were full of summer fun with good friends. Between my good friend Jamie coming to visit from Boston and Fourth of July weekend with Jared and Virginia friends, I had many opportunities to cook, eat, drink and be merry.

My girls weekend with Jamie had much on the agenda. From a mani pedi to a wine tasting to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, we managed to do it all and fit in some great meals. One sandwich shop fueled my obsession with panini- Baker's Crust is basically a step up from Panera Bread but the sandwich and salad I got were so decadent that I've recreated them for lunches in the past week. The salad they called "Wine Country" and had greens paired with strawberries, grapes, pears, candied pecans with raspberry vinaigrette and topped with a goat cheese crustino. Thankfully we were headed to a vineyard later that day because the salad beckoned the vino. My sandwich crammed mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, grilled squash and goat cheese into a grilled sourdough slices. Heaven between rustic bread!

But my Italian panini took a back-seat on Fourth of July weekend and mostly ate veggie burgers while my meat-eating loved ones downed steaks and barbeque chicken legs and bratwurst. Although one GDL recipe did make a reappearance Saturday night when I served Orzo with Parsley and Tomatoes at my courtyard July 3rd dinner. Perfectly fresh and cool on a 100 degree evening.

With entertaining and the holiday weekend behind me, I promise that new GDL recipes are in store! Overdue in fact. So stay tuned!