Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hazelnut Cake with Ricotta and Pears Filling

The base of this cake is made from egg whites only and it was one of the reasons I got interested in this recipe, because I was wondering what to do with the leftover egg whites that I had in my refrigerator

Besides that purely technical aspect, I thought the recipe was worth trying because the cake turned out delicious. It was very light and moist.The base is baked with ground hazelnuts which adds a nice flavor. It is a layered cake and between its two layers there is a cheese and pears filling. Originally fresh ricotta is used for the filling, but if fresh ricotta is not available, it could be replaced with mascarpone. The moisture comes from the syrup that is obtained from cooking pears and is drizzled over the cake at the end.

Hazelnut Cake with Ricotta and Pears Filling

4 egg whites,
3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts,
1/3 cup all purpose flour,
2/3 stick unsalted, room temperature butter,
2 pears peeled and cut into small pieces,
1/4 cup water,
1/4 cup rum,
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra 2 tbsp,
1 cup fresh, drained ricotta (or mascarpone) cheese,
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream,
1/4 cup icing sugar to finish.

1. Preheat oven to 350F. 2. Place hazelnuts in a food processor and grind them into sand-like consistency.
3. Add flour, sugar and butter to the nuts and run the food processor until well blended.
4. In a separate large bowl whisk egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the nut mixture.
5. Grease with butter an 8-inch round baking form with a removable wall and line it with wax paper. Spread the nut mixture evenly and bake for about 20 minutes until firm. Let the cake cool down.
6. In a medium bowl mix water, rum and 1/2 cup sugar and bring it to boiling. Add cut pears pieces and simmer them until soft. Drain the pears and let them cool.
7. In a medium bowl whisk ricotta, 2 tbsp sugar and whipping cream until fluffy. Add pears and mix gently.
8. Place the cake base on a serving plate. Cut in half and spread the cheese filling over the bottom layer.

9. Cover it with the second layer, press gently so the filling spreads between the layers. Drizzle the top of the cake with the rum syrup, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pasta with Roasted Walnut Pesto

Pasta is not only very easy to make but can also be made from almost any ingredients. After the excesses of holiday cooking I now enjoy very simple dishes that can be made from whatever I have in my kitchen. This pasta is a perfect example of what I mean. It is made with walnuts, which are easy to store and I always have in my pantry. Walnuts are one of the most healthy nuts, a source of omega-9 fatty acids, zinc, selenium and antioxidants. My kids do not appreciate walnuts so I made this pasta to smuggle walnuts into their menu.

The recipe is my own combination of different walnut sauces which I tried from various Italian cookbooks. It can be made similarly to a traditional pesto sauce with just an oil, or it can be enriched with a little bit of cream. It is best served with spiral type of pasta which gets nicely coated in pesto.

Pasta with Roasted Walnut Pesto

1 box of fusilli or rotini pasta,
1 cup of roasted walnuts pieces,
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs,
1/3 cup fresh parsley,
1-2 garlic cloves,
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil,
2-3 tbsp warm water or table cream,
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan,plus extra for serving,
a pinch of grated nutmeg,
salt, pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta in plenty of water.
2. Roast walnuts in the oven or on the frying pan until light brown. Rub between hands to remove dried skins.

3. Place walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, and oil in a bowl of a small food processor.

4. Run the engine until the content of the bowl turns almost into a smooth sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add either water or cream, until the sauce reminds a thick cream.
5. Season the pesto with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
6. Pour over the hot pasta, toss, and finish with shredded Parmesan on top.