Fun blog happenings
|June 6, 2011||Posted by ameliaps under contest, Uncategorized|
A few fun things have happened recently to this tiny blog (thank you to all of you for following Z Tasty Life!):
- My last post (“Full cup, empty bowl, half-full glass“) was featured on today’s Food News Journal
- I was invited to speak on a panel at BlogHerFood a couple of weeks ago (topic: “Off the Dish: Writing About Food in Travel, History, and Experience”) with Donna, Diana and Garrett - see partial transcript here (nothing will render the live experience but these snippets will give you an idea of the rich discussion we had). The whole conference was so full of wonderful encounters with inspiring food writers, bloggers and editors. I came away a richer person, ready to push my food blogging boundaries.
- The Atlanta TV station Channel 11 showed a segment of me cooking – see video here (another one with a spicy summer tomato-onion marmellata is coming soon, stay tuned)
- My husband and I were interviewed by gastronimic duo (so fun): post soon
- I was asked by Greg at Sippity Sup to write a guest post on my childhood summer memories (post should be featured on his blog next week: I will let you know when).
- I was selected as a finalist in a contest sponsored by Barilla and Foodbuzz - following is the last challenge
Let’s talk about the Barilla contest. I was very excited when my meal made entirely of tortellini (appetizer: mini-caprese; main: Tortellini spiedini, caramelized red onions, pancetta and rosemary Tortellini with Pecorino; dessert: Tortellini “seadas” style, with honey and orange zest) was a finalist, together with other 5 entrants. For the final challenge we were asked to create an Italian meal, including an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert, featuring Barilla tortellini, for a chance to win a trip to Italy. How could I not enter this wonderful opportunity? Oh, to get a chance to visit family again…
I rolled up my sleeves and had some fin in the kitchen reinterpreting some classic Italian dishes in tortellini format. There are some great flavor combinations from different regions and traditions that I wanted to highlight throughout. While we were not requested to use tortellini for every part of the meal, I did it anyway. Here is what I created:
- Appetizer (Antipasto): sautéed tortellini skewers (spiedini di tortellini saltati) with a side of caramelized baby red onions and reduced balsamic vinegar. The flavor and texture of this fast appetizer reminds me a lot of Chinese pot-stickers: crispy on the outside and still moist in the inside. I added some red onions as a side which complement the sweet and tangy flavor of the balsamic glaze.
- Main (Primo): a) Sicilian style tortellini with eggplant, cherry tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, Parmesan (tortellini alla siciliana) b) Tortellini with butternut squash, brown butter, sage and Parmesan (tortellini con la zucca) c) Individual tortellini pies with cream, ham and peas (timballetti di tortellini con prosciutto e piselli). I made three first courses because I could not decide which one was the tastiest…they all were. They are all re-interpretations of classic regional dishes, made with convenience in mind but with all the full flavor of the originals
- Dessert (Dolce): Fried Carnival tortellini dusted with sugar and served with chocolate-hazelnut cream (tortellini fritti di Carnevale con crema di cicciolata e nocciole). I wrapped them up in a parchment paper cone, to give them the more fun look of a street food, because Carnival is very much a street fest. In the northern region of Lombardia, during Carnival, they make fried ravioli dusted with sugar (ravioli fritti con zucchero). This was the inspiration for my tortellini fritti. I added a chocolate-hazelnut (e.g. Nutella) dipping cream for the side which adds a bit of deserved sweetness
Even if I don’t win, at least I travelled virtually to Italy through these flavors! Here are the recipe ideas I created:
Appetizer (Antipasto): sautéed tortellini skewers (spiedini di tortellini saltati) with a side of caramelized baby red onions and reduced balsamic vinegar.
Crispy and fast to make, these skewers make a fun appetizer. In a heavy skiller pan, pour 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Skewer the Barilla (cheese) tortellini (cooked earlier according to package directions, in salted water: as many as you are hungry for!) and then sautee them in the pan. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction(this is available at some stores, or you can make your own by slowly cooking down a bottle of balsamic vinegar with a few tablespoons of sugar until it is reduced to creamy consistency). Serve with a side of tiny red onions, caramelized (you can use my cipolline in agro-dolce recipe).
a) Sicilian style tortellini with eggplant, cherry tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, basil, Parmesan (tortellini alla siciliana)
Pasta alla siciliana is one of my all time summer favorites: it is Sicily in a plate. The real thing is made with fried eggplant, but for this quick version I sautee them. Dice an eggplant in small pieces. Half a few cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup). Sautee the eggplant and tomatoes in 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil for 10 minutes until eggplant is crispy and tomatoes are soft. Toss with one package cooked Barilla (cheese) tortellini (boil in salted water according to package directions, while you are making the sauce). Add fresh basil, about 1/2 cup diced smoked mozzarella (or regular, if you prefer), fresh grated Parmesan, and some pepper.
b) Tortellini with butternut squash, brown butter, sage and Parmesan (tortellini con la zucca)
Zucca (or a pumpkin that is very similar in flavor to butternut squash) is a typical filling of ravioli… so this is a fun variation: on top, instead of inside the pasta. Dice half a butternut squash in medium dice. Cook until medium soft (either in the oven at 350F about 45 minutes or microwave about 1 minutes with a few tablespoons of water in a covered plate). Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan. When foam forms, remove it and allow the butter to slightly brown, until a “nutty” aroma develops. Drop in the sage leaves and allow them to “fry.” Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss with one package cooked Barilla (cheese) tortellini (boil in salted water according to package directions, while you are making the topping), together with a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Add fresh grated Parmesan and some pepper. Top with a few fresh sage leaves.
c) Individual tortellini pies with cream, ham and peas (timballetti di tortellini con prosciutto e piselli)
This is an easy week-night luxury. You can use store-bought pie crust for the outside of the pies (unless you want to go the extra way and make it yourself). You boil one package Barilla (cheese) tortellini according to package then toss them in the pan with 1 cup heavy cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg TT and thawed peas (about 2 cups), and a few slices diced ham (in Italy, this dish is typical with “prosciutto cotto” – boiled ham). Roll out the pie crust in a few small ramekins, fill with the tortellini, peas, and ham, and top with more pie crust. Poke with a fork, and bake at 400 until golden, about 30-40 minutes.
Dessert (Dolce): Fried Carnival tortellini dusted with sugar and served with chocolate-hazelnut cream (tortellini fritti di Carnevale con crema di cicciolata e nocciole).
This was a really a fun dessert to make and reminiscent of a happy time for kids: the Carnival, when they go around the street singing, dancing and tossing colored paper confetti in their whimsical outfits. I fried the pre-cooked tortellini (half a package of cheese Barilla tortellini). Then, dusted them with plenty of confectioners’ sugar and served along side chocolate-hazelnut cream (such as Nutella), in a cone made with parchment paper.
NOTE: I was eligible for this contest and received free Barilla tortellini as part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Tastemaker program.