Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rosemary, and Olive Knots...and Photo Props

Question! How important is "prop setting" for your food photo?...is it the prop behind the food? ...or is it the importance of the photo of the food! Plating the food is to me, and the presentation of it....is  the most important thing! First of all, the props, the plating, the lights...natural is the best lighting, by the way!
So, really, which angle works best?...and what do you really focus on?...my most amazing knot shaped rolls, filled with sliced Kalamata olives, and chopped fresh rosemary?...or the fresh bunch of rosemary?...what about the beautiful Batik Cloth?...well, that should be and "eyeful,"...so bright, and pretty, the floral designs are absolutely gorgeous, on the background of a soft blue-green color! This was a gift given to me by my dear food blog friend for over one year now, Joanna (Jo)...from ChicGorgeous , whom I finally met in person, at the 3rd Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, and we share nearly one week of fun, and adventure, in San Francisco! She gave me this beautiful cloth, and what did I give her?...what do most American wear the most...all genders...a Baseball Cap!
Yes, an all American Baseball Cap, with of course, Palm Beach, Florida written on it, from yet, another famous 5 star hotel, The Breakers Hotel! (let's just hope Jo will pose with the cap, and takes photo with it to post on her blog)
Rosemary and Olive Knots...warmed up, on the second day; tasted even better!

Before I get to post the actual step-by-step direction, recipe...since now, I forgot the exact recipe from the book, which I didn't even really follow...just needed the idea. By now, I know the basic dough making for the yeast rolls, and I have become more "hands on" with the using of the dry yeast powder. Don't be afraid to use it, just make sure that the date isn't expired, and make sure that you start out with warm water to get the yeast started with.

I, for one, will tell you the source my recipes come from, or at least an idea how it came about, most of the times, unless it's a "hand me down" verbal recipe that I remember from making it over, and over again. It's just a matter of experimenting with various herbs, spices, and different ways of creating, and re-creating a recipe! I got this book called "The Modern Baker" by Nick Malgieri, from my local public library, and I fell in love with the book and all the amazing recipes, for cakes, rolls, and breads. I simply clicked on to my Amazon account, and ordered it online, for an unbeatable cheap price...and NEW! I took the book back to the library, just after I made these rolls, and forgot to copy the recipe, but my book will be arriving in a few days, or so! I just had so much fun with this dough, along with my little grandson, again. (I think he will follow his daddy's and my footsteps)...and he will become a chef, or a baker!

Rosemary, and Olive Knots
adapted from, The Modern Baker, by Nick Malgieri

3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons dry yeast (abt.1 1/2 packet)
1 1/2 cup almost hot water
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
additional extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper

Add the yeast to the warm water, stir lightly, and let it dissolve. I will foam up, a bit. In the meantime, in a large food processor, add the flour, the salt. Pour in the yeast with the water, and add the extra virgin olive oil Pulse a few times, to let the dough form, remove carefully, to a floured surface, and work the dough together, and add it to a large oiled bowl. Turn dough over, cover with plastic wrap, and a kitchen towel over the plastic wrap. Let it sit for 1 hour. It will double in size, just like on the photo, ready to start working the dough!

Punch down on the dough, lightly, and lift to put on a work surface, or a large board, to roll out into a 10x8 inch rectangle, or a large square.

The square or rectangle does not have to be precise, and as you can see the natural light is not enough, as in the upper photo. Spread the olive and rosemary mixture over the dough, just around the middle. 

Fold the dough over with the filling inside, once, or twice!

With a pizza, or pastry cutter, cut about 1 inch pieces, all the way through...again, I stress the fact the just one fold over would be easier to fold the knots.

Now, here comes my little assistant, wanting to see how the knots are made, but he wants to make his favorite Nemo fishy!

Don't worry about the knot shapes, just try to keep them the same size, as for me too! Next time I will pay more attention to detail. Now, you are ready to cover the rolls, by using a clean kitchen towel to cover them loosely, for 1 additional hour.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 25-35 minutes, till they are nice, and golden brown on the top!

By this time, it was about 6:00pm. full lighting had to be used, which is not the lighting you want for your photos.
I thing the simple rack was  a perfect prop, over the lovely butcher block table, Delicious rolls, cooling, right from the parchment line baking pan, The rosemary, and Kalamata infusion flavors were totally incredible, and the rolls were perfectly crusted on the top, and just right texture, and flavor! Yumm!
...and this was my grandson Luca's sole creation (age 5)...Nemo, his favorite fishy! He ate the entire roll, with a big smile...shared very sparingly with his sister, and promised to make this again, next time. From play dough to real dough, my little ambitious helper, was on a "roll!"
Good practice for your child, or grandchild, to help you bake something, especially with real dough!
Have a wonderful Tuesday!

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hungarian Kifli and a Quiet Weekend

While other people were piling up outside, after Thanksgiving dinner at various locations for the famous Black Friday shopping, 24 hours before, I was glad to get home and just chill out after a huge Thanksgiving feast with friends and family. Whatever happened to just the plain old "day after Thanksgiving Sale?"...now it's BLACK FRIDAY!...pretty scary, especially when you have to camp out the day before...luckily, this year they opened the doors at some stores, as early, as 9:00pm on Thursday, and midnight, instead of 4:00am on Friday! Granted, the sales are incredible, 40 to 60% savings, is for sure a bargain. I saw a few incidence on the news last night about an irate customer that was going around with pepper spray...spraying his/ her opponents so they can't get the bargains that she was aiming for: she did get arrested, but that is "bizarre" ...think I'm just going to take advantage on the online shopping, and leave the stress behind!
The reason this is called Hungarian Kifli, which means "crescent"  in English, or "kipfel" in German The dough is either a yeast based type of dough or in this case, is dough that is combined with equal amount of butter, and cream cheese, combined with flour. No eggs used in this recipe. This is the basic dough for the famous Rugelach, as well! On the front row, they are filled with ground walnuts, raisins and apricot jam, and in the back row, shaped like the Rugelach, but slightly bigger, filled with Nutella, which was the kids' favorite!
I also made the fluffiest, and most amazing Sweet Potato Pie, at the same time, with homemade pie crust. Lora and I were able to work alongside at the same time...making pies, and other pastries. As you can see, I got the favorite butcher block table, and she had the entire granite top counter, which she likes to use.
 I did not get a chance to take hardly any photos at the dinner party, but did not want to miss the chance of my son-in-law's Chef Fabrizio's Vegetable Lasagna, that was a huge hit!

 Lora's Cranberry cake...light, and moist, not too sweet, absolutely delicious!


1/2 lb. unsalted butter  (cold)
1/2 lb. cream cheese (room temperature)
2 cups all purpose flour
dash of salt (1/2 teaspoon)

In a large food processor, add flour, salt, small pieces of butter, and cream cheese. Do not process, just pulse to combine, little by little, until dough is formed, so that
you can work together into a ball. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for a couple hours.

Cut the dough in half, and on a heavily floured work surface work separately, each dough into a disk. No need for plastic wrap to roll the dough.

As you can see, I rolled the dough into a rough circle, without the ease of plastic wrapper, since the dough is not sticky.

This is roughly, about a 12 inch circle.

When you fold the dough back, you can actually see, that the dough does not stick to the surface...you know, you have a nice pliable dough to work with, without the aide of plastic wrap in the top, and bottom!

While you're working your dough...in another room is another little "worker" working his Play dough!

(grandson, Luca)

For the walnut filling:

2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup white raisins
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp. sugar

Mix all together in a medium bowl, Take half portion, (or entire portion) to process in a food processor. I use half portion. Spread half the amount, of the walnut mix, onto the dough, leaving about 2 inches of border.

Since I measure this to be a 12 inch circle, it came out to 12 portion of triangles cut. Filling was spread out more to the edge, after photo was taken.

Roll from the outside end, to shape into a crescent, and place on a parchment lined baking pan.

Kiflis nicely stacked up in a row, and ready to be baked.

Before baking the Kifli, brush egg wash over them.
(crack 1 egg, add a Tbsp. water, and mix)

The Kifli doesn't have to be perfectly shaped, as you can see in the photo, as long as it's rolled up, in shaped into a crescent=kifli...that's all that matters. It's the quality of the dough and the filling that makes the difference.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 2 dozen, large Kifli, or up to 4 dozen, if you make smaller ones. ( In that case, you would have to divide dough in 3 portions, instead of 2)

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones, and friends. We have so much to be thankful for in our country. Every morning when you wake up, and know you have peace, and not war, and extreme poverty in this land, knowing that our troops are out there in another land fighting for us, when they should be all returned, just know that you are safe...we are thankful for them! Do as much as you can for your family, your friends, and for your country, to make a difference. Let's all care for one-another, and keep our environment, and our land free, and safe! God Bless you all! Have a wonderful weekend!
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011


What was I thinking? This is the "butt" of my turkey from last year, which I actually posted on my blog last year! Now, I feel like I must have been the "butt" of the turkey jokes...yet, everyone was nice with their comments to me. No "butt" jokes! I still don't understand what was the reason behind this "turkey pose!" with yet, a scar on it's backside...what a turkey...turkey! The turkey was moist, and delicious...perfectly stuffed, and roasted to a golden bronze color! I will share with you our friends' turkey, after Thanksgiving, where we are invited for a feast!

Actually, I decided to upload the other photo of my beautiful stuffed turkey from last year...not to be rude, and just show the backside! I kind of miss, not baking a turkey for the first time, in over 30 years!

At any rate, I do have my lovely cranberry sauce with
vanilla, from last year...the more I look at those weird twigs (vanilla pods) the more I'm trying to figure out why I used it for decoration...the one pod looks like the letter U...for "unknown" perhaps, and the other pod is just uselessly leaning behind it! Just an observation from last year, but the cranberry sauce was so delicious, and just the right texture!

Cranberry Sauce with Vanilla, Maple Syrup, and Cassis

6 cups (about 1-1/2 lb.) fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over and rinsed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
1/3 cup crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest (from 1 orange)

Half a vanilla bean, split and scraped
Put 3 cups of the cranberries and all the remaining ingredients in a 3- or 4-qt. saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and broken down and the juices look slightly syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the remaining 3 cups cranberries and cook until these have popped, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat, discard the vanilla bean, and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate if not serving right away.


I have so much to be thankful for, this year... and you, my food blogger friends and my other blogger friends, facebook, and Twitter friends, are on top of my list this year!

I have spent way too much time on my blog this year, but the rewards were worth every minute of it getting to know more people, and actually making friends on a personal level that will be remembered for a lifetime I learned a lot from other cultures, and feel that I have traveled around the world, just by reading their amazing stories, and to learn about the foods of their region. You get to learn so much just by sharing your ideas, opening your homes, and kitchens, talking about families, friends, trips, but mostly food...good food, and that is what food blog is about, making friends, laughing, crying, but mostly sharing!
I have a beautiful family; children, grandchildren... which I am blessed with and I am thankful for, every day of my life!

As for social networks... Twitter, and have just recently joined facebook...but haven't delved into it yet as much as I would love to!
Every day, I check comments, and comment back as much as I can, and/or find new blogs to comment to, and make friends...hopefully! It is so important in our foodie community to support one-another, and through Foodbuzz, I have experienced just that, by joining the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival, for the first time this year, which was the 3rd annual event.

I have not joined hardly any...actually "none" of...social networks, other than Foodbuzz! All the other ones, which I did join, I forgot my password, or even the name of the site! For instance, just recently, I signed up for YELP...which is about restaurant, and business reviews. I did upload some restaurant photos, but have not posted a review yet. Also, Taste Spotting...I forgot my password there, as well!...and there is another site...Foodieview.com! Well, I signed up for that too, but have abandoned it, and forgot all about it. There's Etsy shop, and on that one I'm still trying to figure out how to copy and paste a logo!

There's Stumbleupon where I would get all those blogs to my e-mail, to stumble it...when I'm still stumbling here on my own, trying to figure out all these social networks. I actually joined FoodieBlogroll at the same time I joined Foodbuzz, but there, I felt lost...did not know how to connect with other food bloggers. I guess Food Gawker, is the biggy of them all where you have to have impecable photos, or else it gets rejected...I heard. (did not try out for that one either.) One very good networking I did sign up for is the Very Good Recipes, where you just register, and they do all the work for you to upload your posts!

A little preview of  my Hungarian Kifli that I made today for Thanksgiving to take to our hosts' house
So, I wish you all, here in the United States, and in other parts of the world where you reside,
A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving, and may you have a safe one as well, if you are traveling!
Hugs, to all!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto, and more of San Francisco

I almost totally forgot that, before I left for the 3rd Annual Blogger Festival, I did make a fabulous Butternut Squash Risotto, and I was reminded by my daughter Lora to be sure to post my risotto for the month of November, which is the SQUASHLOVE MONTH!  So, I'm linking this to the wonderful squash recipes that other bloggers have participated in, before the month is over.!
I love risotto so much, but I rarely make it, because Lora makes it often, as do Fabrizio, her executive chef hubby. He makes the most amazing seafood risotto, which really is my all-time favorite!
If you don't think this is the most perfect Butternut Squash Risotto, you've ever seen, or might have tasted...then I can personally come to your house to make it for you, just to prove it! As you can see for yourself, each grain of rice is perfect, and separated...yet, still the right amount of crunchiness on the inside! The flavor is, divine...I promise you, that!
I must sound like a broken record because, time, and time again, I keep bringing up Mark Bittman's Cookbook. As for me, it's like a "bible"...and a thrift find, which I have been bragging about, over, and over again! This is the basic book, where I adapted my Butternut Squash Risotto from.

Although, the recipe calls for Risotto with Vegetables, I followed the recipe, only to substitute vegetables, for butternut squash...therefore, adapting it that way.

Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted by me: from Mark Bittman's Risotto w/vegetables

4 to 6 cups, chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. butter, or extra virgin olive oil
plus 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch curly parsley, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio  rice
4 cups cubed, peeled, butternut squash, about. 2 lbs.
Salt, and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/3 cup)

Warm the stock over medium heat. Place the butter, or oil ( I used oil)... in a large saucepan or skillet, preferably non-stick, and turn the heat to medium.

When it's hot, add the chopped onion, the small cubed butternut squash, and cook stirring occasionally, until onion and squash is softened...about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the rice, and stir until it is coated with butter. Add a little salt, and pepper, then, the white wine. Stir, and let the liquid bubble away!

Begin to add the stock, 1/2 cup or so, at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy, nor dry. Keep the heat to med. to med. high, and stir frequently! (Constant stirring is not necessary.)

Begin, tasting the rice after 20 min. after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. It could take as long as 30 minutes to get to this stage.

When it does, add the 2 Tbsp. softened butter, a handful of the chopped parsley, and Parmesan. Check the seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve immediately, with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.
4 to 6 servings.

When you are on your own, after the Blogger Festival, you can catch the Open Top Sightseeing Bus right across, from the Grand Hyatt Hotel, by Macy's, at Union Square.

It costs $35. for a 24hr. pass, and you can save money by purchasing your ticket for $31. right at the hotel. It takes you, right around the city, and back. You can get off at designated stops, and catch another bus every 15 minutes to continue...just don't lose your pass!

Sights that I captured from the open top bus!

The bus makes 22 stops, where you can get off, and back on again, at the designated stops. This is about # 9 stop. Alamo Square.

I just love the Victorian style houses that they have all over San Francisco!

The ever famous HAIGHT-ASHBURY streets, from the sixties "hippie" era! Still, almost untouched, and the same. Old "burned" out hippies roaming the streets.

Would have love to get off the bus here, but would have to walk from # 10 stop, or backtrack from # 9. Did see a Goodwill store, right along the way!

My heart goes out to unfortunate homeless people like this poor man...his entire life in that shopping cart, and trash bags. So sad!

We're approaching the Golden Gate Bridge!

In the far distance, you can see Alcatraz. Too bad I didn't zoom in with the camera, for a closer shot!

I'm leaving you with this last magnificent view of the way back, from the Golden Gate Bridge. Good thing I had my nice royal blue windbreaker jacket. The weather was clear, sunny, and beautiful, but oh, so windy, and chilly!

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