Insalata Caprese Loaf

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Baking for the letter ‘I’ left me pretty confused. The almost obvious choice was the Irish Soda Bread which has also been on my to-bake list for quite a while. But at the same time, I had decided on the bread theme for this month and the soda bread is technically not bread since it uses baking soda and not yeast. Further research on Google also told me that it is treated as cake in Ireland even though it is called bread and treated as such in the rest of the world.

Like always, the solution presented itself when I was trying to solve another problem. I have been eating more salads now to compensate for all this bread baking and eating. When I was figuring out a tomato salad, I came across this one called Insalata Caprese which means ‘Salad of Capri’. I figured I could put this delicious salad into a loaf and ta da! So, that is what I did. The significance of Insalata Caprese is that it depicts the colours of the Italian flag which is white, red and green. It is a simple salad with fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves sprinkled with salt and pepper. I had seen fresh mozzarella at the newly opened gourmet store near home and promptly bought it.

I was a little apprehensive about the cheese melting and flowing out of the bread but that did not happen. Only a small amount of cheese oozed out but not much fell on the pan and all was well. So when you braid this bread, ensure you do not leave gaps between the strips because that can lead to the cheese oozing out.

Country – Italy

Makes a 10″ loaf

Recipe for the dough from ‘Easy Sourdough Recipes’

WHAT WE NEED

All purpose flour                        1 1/2 cup

Sourdough, unfed                       1/2 cup

Warm water                                 6 tbsp

Instant yeast                                 1 tsp

Salt                                                  1 tsp

Olive oil                                         1 tbsp

Fresh mozzarella cheese           120 gms

Tomato, large                               1

Basil leaves                                   3-4

Salt & Pepper

WHAT TO DO

  • Mix the flour, sourdough starter, yeast, salt and olive oil with the water
  • Knead to form a smooth dough, around 7-8 minutes by hand
  • Keep covered in a greased bowl till it doubles in size, about an hour
  • Punch it down and keep covered again to rise again for an hour
  • Cut the tomato and mozzarella into 3-4 slices each
  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle of around 8*6″
  • Leave a gap of an inch and place the mozzarella and tomato slices alternatingly in the centre of the rectangle
  • Tuck in the basil leaves between the mozzarella and tomato and sprinkle the salt and pepper
  • With a knife or dough scrapper, cut finger wide strip on either side of the fillings
  • Fold in the top of the dough and then fold in the strips alternating between the two sides
  • Tuck in the dough at the bottom of the loaf
  • Set aside for 15-20 minutes

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  • Preheat the dough at 220C
  • Reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for 20-25 minutes till the top is nicely brown
  • Remove from the oven and let cool
  • Serve warm
  • Enjoy!

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the letter ‘I’.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 75

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Grissini

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When you have a kid, you assume certain things, things like you can influence the kid’s behavior. The practical side of you points out that the influence may be significant in the first few years and less so as the years go by. But you expect to have some control on your kid. Then the Gods and your mother laugh at you when the dear kiddo turns out to be a person of her own as early as a year old and you are staring dumbstruck. I always thought I could influence my daughter’s food habits. I figured I would provide her with a good variety right from the beginning helping her to have a diverse palette and score one over genetics. But that was not to be. She inherited her palette from her father and my mother and so loves the typical traditional south Indian food of sambhar and rice and pickle. I tried hard to get her to like bread and cheese. Okay, okay, it was pizza. But how can a kid not like pizza? She can if she has a father who stoically takes his wife for an Italian dinner and a grandmother who grumbles when she crosses a pizza parlor. The daughter, being polite, would take a single bite, declare it wonderful and then, much to my dismay, refuse to touch it again. Finally, during this mega marathon, she has liked quite a few of my preparations with today’s dish being her favorite. She actually came for seconds, thirds and many after. Hurrah!

Today’s dish has a rather interesting history. It originated in Torino in Piemonte, a region of northwest Italy. The most popular origin story is linked to the health problems of Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy.  It was invented around the end of the 17th century by  a baker, Antonio Brunero who was commissioned to create something that the young duke could digest. Antonio decided to take a part of the dough use to make ghersa, a typical bread of Torino, and stretch it out into long, thin strips. Once baked, the thin bread sticks were crisp and easy to digest. In the France of Louis XIV someone attempted an imitation, by getting to Paris two craftsmen from Turin, but the air and water of the Seine were not so good and the results were modest. Napoleon sent regularly imperial couriers in Turin to stock the grissini because they seem to relieve his ulcer and called them ‘little sticks of Turin’.

They were initially the length of a pencil but nowadays they are popularly used as table center pieces during dinner and each stick is sometimes a foot long.  They are crisp all the way through and can be flavored with various herbs, seeds, and spices. They are most commonly wrapped with paper-thin slices of prosciutto for a classic presentation, but they’re equally delicious served just as they are.

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Country – Italy

Makes 15-16 breadsticks

Recipe adapted from here

WHAT WE NEED

Whole wheat flour                              1/4 cup

Warm water                                          6 tbsp

Honey                                                     1/2 tsp

Instant yeast                                          1 scant tbsp

All purpose flour                                  3/4 cup

Extra virgin olive oil                            1 1/2 tbsp

Salt                                                           3/4 tsp

Flavoring of your choice – dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

  • Mix all the ingredients together till combined together
  • Knead for 5-7 minutes in a mixer or till smooth and shiny
  • Shape the dough into a ball and keep it in a greased bowl and cover with cling wrap until doubled in volume
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment or grease it well with olive oil
  •  If you are making more than one variety of breadsticks then divide the dough into as many equal parts. I divided the dough into 2 parts for 2 different flavors
  • Mix your chosen flavoring into the dough and knead for a couple of minutes. If you are mixing any seeds like sesame, etc then don’t mix into the dough
  • Roll out each part into a rectangle. The length of the rectangle is decided on how thin you can roll and the size of your baking tray
  • Cut the dough into finger width straight lines and roll each one into a rope ensuring they do not tear away in the middle
  • If you are adding seeds, then spread it as a straight line upto the length of your bread sticks
  • Roll over each rope on the seeds which will stick on
  • Place the ropes on the baking tray 1/2″ apart and let them rest for 15-20 minutes
  • Preheat the oven to 220C
  • Bake for 5 minutes and then rotate the pan once and bake again for 4-5 minutes or till it is golden brown in colour
  • They can easily blacken because the sticks are thin. So keep watching the oven once the pan has been rotated
  • Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container upto 3 days
  • Enjoy!

These sticks can be served with soup or a dip of your choice. They are also perfectly tasty when you just bite into one of them.

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon under the letter ‘G’.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 75

Focaccia

 

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When I was formulating the list of breads to be baked, I was wondering what I would bake for F since I already had written about the most popular ones – Fougasse and Focaccia. Then when I actually checked my blog, I realised that I had not blogged about Focaccia. I was shocked, to put it mildly, that I had not written about this one in the multiple times that I made it over the past 2 years. The good news is that I got a bake for ‘F’ and the bad news is that the husband has been mercilessly teasing me while munching on the delicious focaccia that I baked.

The thing is that somehow, I miss out on the most popular item in any of my interests. I love watching movies but I missed watching The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump. Exactly! The two of the biggest hits, Oscar winners and classics. I finally watched them few years ago, thanks to the husband who was laughing throughout. I love to read books but again, I am yet to read The Catcher in the Rye. Can you believe that? Truth be told, even people who have read only 2 books in their life have read this one. So now this has happened on the blogging front too. Tragic!

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Focaccia, as is known, originated in Italy and is similar to pizza. The word orignates from the Roman / Latin words ‘panis focacius’. Panis means bread and focacius means fireplace. This is because, in the Roman times, focaccia was baked on the ashes of the fire and not on the tray above the fire. It is similar to pizza in some ways but different in others. It mainly differs from pizza is that pizza dough uses lesser yeast and salt as compared to focaccia. The additional yeast gives focaccia the capacity to absorb lot of olive oil. It does not have too many toppings and is generally restricted to salt, pepper and rosemary though nowadays there are other toppings added to make it more flavorful.

One thing we need to be careful while baking this dish with onions is that the onions tend to blacken and spoil the taste. So it is essential to keep a watchful eye on the oven and remove it before any significant damage is done. Now on to the recipe –

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Country – Italy

Makes a 12″ focaccia

Recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

WHAT WE NEED

Lukewarm water                     1 cup + 6 tbsp

Instant yeast                              1 1/2 tsp

Salt                                               2 tsp

Sugar                                           1 1/2 tsp

Olive oil                                       2 tbsp

All purpose flour                      3 1/4 cups

Onion, small                               1/4

Extra Virgin Olive Oil               2 tbsp

Dried rosemary leaves             3/4 tsp

Salt & Pepper

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and olive oil with water in a large bowl
  • Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon till all the flour is mixed in
  • Place the dough in a greased bowl
  • Cover and allow the dough to rise and collapse or flatten on top, around 2 hours
  • Refrigerate for atleast 3 hours and upto 5 days
  • The dough can be used immediately after its rise but it is easier to handle it after refrigeration
  • In a pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil and add finely sliced onions to it
  • Saute the onion slices till they are softened but not browned
  • Flatten the dough into a rectangle in a baking tray using your hands or a rolling pin to 1/2 – 3/4″
  • Using your fingers, create indents in the dough at regular intervals
  • Spread the onion slices over the dough leaving a 1″ border around the edges
  • There should not be too many onions and the dough should be seen else it won’t brown properly and look pale
  • Sprinkle the rosemary, salt and pepper on the dough
  • Llightly drizzle some olive oil but not too much which will make the oil flow down the sides
  • Set aside for 20 minutes
  • Preheat the oven at 220C
  • Bake for around 20 minutes or till the top browns nicely
  • Cut into wedges and serve warm
  • Enjoy!

 

Notes

  1. The extra virgin olive oil can be replaced with olive oil
  2. I added some olives because I wanted to finish them off. You can add them if you like

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This is my post for the Mega Marathon for the letter ‘F’.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 75

Bruschetta

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I made Bruschetta as part of my Italian Lunch Spread. It is quick and easy to put together and will serve well as a snack or starter of choice for unplanned guests. It is an almost no cook dish and the ingredients are usually available at home and this can help brighten up a meal by giving it that probably missing zing. Bruschetta is usually made with a baguette but I used the regular sandwich bread and topped it with tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and it turned out lip smacking if I may say so myself.

WHAT WE NEED

Sandwich Bread                                        5-6 slices

Tomatoes, medium                                 3-4

Garlic cloves, large                                 2

Vinegar                                                      1 tbsp

Butter (optional)                                    to toast the bread

Salt & Pepper

 

WHAT TO DO

  • Make a small ‘x’ shaped insertion to the tomatoes with a knife
  • Immerse the tomatoes in hot water for 5-7 minutes
  • When the skin has loosened up, peel the skin off, deseed and chop the tomatoes finely
  • Mince the garlic and mix it with the tomatoes
  • Add vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well and set aside
  • The bread slices need to be toasted to a crisp. It can either be toasted in a pop up toaster or on a pan
  • If you are toasting it on a pan, apply little butter and toast till each side turns golden brown
  • Then turn the gas to simmer and let the bread slices remain for a couple of minutes on the pan. This will make the slices very crisp
  • Just before serving, top the bread slices with the tomato mixture and serve
  • Enjoy!

 

Italian Lunch Spread

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Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on my blog or talking to me will know I adore all things cheese and all food Italian. I have been planning on making a full fledged Italian meal forever now but never got around to doing it. The Thali theme for this month’s Blogging Marathon finally forced my hand and I ticked an item off my bucket list.

Disclaimers first – This may not be an authentic Italian meal considering it is purely vegetarian except for an egg in the Eggplant Parmigiana. This would be the meal you would have in popular Italian restaurants in India. My limited research tells me the meal usually consists of –

Soup

Antipasti / Starters

Primo / First course – Usually a risotto or pasta

Secondo / Second course – Usually some meat or fish

Dolce / Dessert

I have made –

Mushroom Soup

Bruschetta – A simple and lip smacking starter that goes well with the soup

Pasta in Arrabiata Sauce for the First Course

Eggplant Parmigiana – A tasty baked eggplant dish topped generously with cheese

Mushroom and Capsicum Pizza with lots of Mozzarella cheese – I used a healthy pizza crust recipe with oats and wheat flour which results in a guilt free indulgence.

Vanilla Panna Cotta – An easy and quick dessert to round up the meal

The usual Italian meal also includes a cheese platter and seasonal fruits. I have omitted them and replaced that with a Pizza in typical Indian style because all we know about the Italian cuisine is pizza, pizza and some more pizza.

I have detailed the recipe for Bruschetta here which is a perfect answer to an easy and tempting starter and can be made quickly if you have unexpected guests.

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This is my post for the Blogging Marathon under the theme – Thalis.

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Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM#74

Via Milano – brunch review

This weekend, the husband, daughter and I were to head to Mysore for a long awaited weekend trip. But due to various reasons, we did not. The husband, in his brief guilty conscience, promised me a delicious lunch of my choice. Poor guy! He spoke to soon.

After spending extensive time on the internet, particularly the various restaurant review sites, we were undecided. Suddenly, the husband had a flash. He remembered that his colleague has suggested an Italian place which had a good buffet and the name of the restaurant began with a ‘L’ or an ‘M’. He did not remember anything else, not even the location. Me, the genius, ‘Googled’ and ‘Googled’ till Google almost gave up. Finally I discovered Via Milano and the husband’s memory agreed it to be the one. We made reservations for the Sunday brunch.

Via Milano is in Koramangala, near Sony Centre on the third floor. One of my must haves in a restaurant is good parking space. You would laugh if you are not a resident of Bangalore. Else, you would completely understand. Well, this one has valet parking. Good beginnings! Thanks to the traffic, we reached more than 20 minutes late but they were nice to keep our reservation.

Once, they saw my little girl and her pram, they showed us to a corner where we could keep her comfortable and also not be in the way of the other patrons. That was a relief. I feel mighty uncomfortable if I need to keep adjusting the pram for others to move about. The large glass walls gave us a good view of the street and we settled down comfortably.

God! I have written more than a page and still not a word about the food. Damn me!

Anyways, we had the option of choosing between the brunch with or without alcohol. Driving plus daughter does not bode well for a meal with alcohol. So the husband and I settled for the mocktail meal. Between the two of us, we tried 4-5 mocktails, all of which were good. But, it was kind of surprising that every one of them had pineapple in them which set me wondering about people who don’t like pineapple. I did, so no worries there. The appetizers were plenty and visually very appealing.  They had bruschetta, baked and stuffed mushrooms, eggs, hummus and pita bread and a large variety for toppings including dry fruits, fried garlic, etc. I was wondering why was hummus and pita bread a part of an Italian spread. But then, I love both of them and hence decided to eat without getting into too much detail. The non-veg section had prawns, chicken, fish, etc. I don’t eat them but they did look delicious.

The next on the menu was the pasta. They only had three varieties which were the more common ones – spaghetti, penne and fussili. I was looking for more variety. The vegetarian toppings were totally yummy. I had broccoli, corn, olives, mushrooms with the white sauce. I am kinda proud about my white sauce but this one was simply out of this world. The husband, though was loyal to say mine was better.

The pizza was a thin crust one with cheese and tomatoes. It was also very delicious  and I had over three slices. Guilty pleasures! The main course consisted of khus-khus rice with mixed vegetables, lasagna and eggplant broccoli roll. I did not like the rice dish too much. Not that it was bad but the others were much better. The lasagna was succulent and well cooked. The eggplant broccoli roll was outstanding. It was a simple dish with fantastic results. I plan to try making something similar at home. Fingers crossed.

We could hardly eat anything after this heavy a meal but it also seemed like a sin to miss out on the desserts. So we called for those as well. The dessert platter had vanilla panacotta, chocolate mousse and tiramisu. The vanilla panacotta was nice but not exceptional and seemed a little bland or it could just be my anti-vanilla bias talking. The mousse was light, airy and melted in my mouth. It was not too sweet and one did not feel like one had actually had the dessert. The tiramisu was fresh and soft and a dream finish to an awesome meal.

A quick word about the service – The people at Via Milano were extremely friendly and informative. Despite it being a buffet, they took pains to actually walk me through the dishes enquiring about my preferences and making smart recommendations. The service was quick for the made-to-order items as it was for the bill. They were even nice enough to enquire if I needed a juice or something else to give my daughter. Haven’t seen this kind of attention in a long time now. Definitely a kid friendly place!!!

Another fun aside was that coincidentally most of the other tables also had at least one kid. So, it was fun mingling around with other patrons.

All in all, it is definitely recommended to visit Via Milano for a happy Sunday Brunch!

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