Blog Posts by Zester Daily

  • Pizza for Easter? Southern Italians Have a Legendary Pie That's Perfect for the Holiday

    Pizza ripiena is a rich, filling, seasonal treat.By Nancy Harmon Jenkins

    You may know some Italian-Americans who adore the Easter treat often called "pizza gaina." If you've ever wondered what this spring delicacy is, the name is Italo-American for pizza chiena which is Campanian for pizza ripiena, aka pizza rustica, a legendary treat, a thick pie. You could call it Italian quiche and not be far wrong -- rich with salumi, eggs and cheeses, pizza ripiena by any name is served up at Easter from Naples to Bari and points south.

    Related: Can classic Italian food really help you live longer?

    It's a staple for Pasquetta, or Easter Monday, a national holiday in this sensible country, when families debark for the countryside bearing picnics of leftovers from Easter lunch. Pizza ripiena can be both a centerpiece for an elaborate picnic and a handy tool for filling up children's empty stomachs before the main course comes out.

    Related: Still feeling pizza adventurous? How about a Turkish blue cheese variety?

    For this

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  • Tips for Making Perfect Scrambled Eggs

    A few tricks can make your scrambled eggs delicate and perfect.

    By Clifford A. Wright

    Consider the egg in its perfectly cooked state: scrambled.

    No less an authority than James Bond concurs. In "Thunderball," as his housekeeper May prepares what he considers a "proper food" -- four scrambled eggs, four rashers of American hickory-smoked bacon, hot buttered toast (not whole meal), a big pot of double strength coffee and the drink tray -- Bond ruminates, "Plenty of time to watch calories when one gets to heaven." In every book written by Ian Fleming, Bond's favorite dish is scrambled eggs. In fact, "scrambled" should be as famous a phrase as "shaken, not stirred."

    Scrambled eggs are about the finest food you can imagine. If you disagree, your eggs have been improperly cooked. An overcooked egg is simply garbage.

    Related: Who's afraid of eating raw eggs?

    Country scrambled eggs -- which are cracked into a pan and whisked in the pan as they cook -- do nothing for me. I also am not a fan of the classic French method of making

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  • It's Pi Day (3/14), so Celebrate with a Classic American Baked Dessert -- Pie!

    Sweet or savory, the pie is a nearly perfect homemade dish.Editor's note: It's March 14, also known as Pi Day (3/14, get it?). So enjoy a whole day dedicated to one of the all-time best homemade dishes -- pie. Check out pie's colorful American history and our recipes for everything from traditional apple and pumpkin to spicy and exotic Spanish cheese pie.

    By Kathy Hunt

    Pie certainly isn't a new food. Its origins date to the ancient Egyptians, who shared this baked good with early Romans. It was the latter who published the first known pie recipe: rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie.

    We have the English colonists to thank for bringing pie to America. In England, pie typically contained a savory rather than sweet filling. As a result, the colonial American versions featured meats and/or vegetables and often possessed hard, inedible crusts. Hearty meals, they were baked in long, slender pans that resembled and were called coffins.

    Related: Looking for a savory gooey treat? Try Spanish cheese pies.

    Once shortening and

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  • Expand Your Cocktail Repertoire with Bitters -- 4 New Spirits You Should Try

    Add campari to your liquor cabinet.

    By Jordan Mackay

    A taste for bitter is not generally associated with the American palate, which is often noted for its sweet tooth, given our love of soda, milk shakes, mocha lattes and such. Unsurprisingly, the tradition of bitter alcoholic beverages comes from Europe, where many less sweet aperitifs and liqueurs evolved out of the 600-year-old tradition of medicinal alcoholic infusions.

    The component flavors that we know as bitter come from nature. Roots, barks, peels, leaves and flowers were the medieval world's salves and cure-alls.

    Eventually these medicines evolved into health tonics, as their bitter elements were known to have positive effects on indigestion, headaches and other annoyances. In Italy and Eastern Europe, the category of the amaro developed, where thick, dark spirits like Unicum, Jagermeister and Fernet Branca were taken as a digestive dose of bitter to help a big meal settle.

    Related: They brew up more than beer in Colorado? Check out Rocky

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  • The Flavorful White Meat You Haven't Tried yet (But Should)

    Cooking rabbit is much easier than one might expect.

    By Laura Holmes Haddad

    Trying to re-create a favorite dish is a bit like trying to relive your first love: It's an often fruitless effort and never quite the same as the real thing. But I've been determined to duplicate a plate of rabbit in mustard sauce I tasted eight years ago just outside Dijon, France. It was perfection: two beautifully braised rabbit legs served in a creamy mustard and white wine sauce (a dish, I discovered later, that is traditional to the region: Lapin à la Moutarde, a nod the birthplace of Dijon mustard).

    The delicate meat flecked with tiny, grainy mustard seeds inspired me to abandon chicken and order rabbit whenever possible.

    Related: Looking for another rabbit recipe? Try rabbit ragout.

    Rabbit is truly a spectacular meat. The flavor is more complex than chicken, but it lacks the pronounced gaminess of lamb. But convincing my fellow Americans that the other other white meat is worth trying has proved difficult. Maybe it's the white

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  • Looking for a Simple but Sophisticated Weeknight Meal? Have Risotto at the Ready

    Versatile, simple risotto is a great break from the boring weeknight dinner routine.

    By Martha Rose Shulman

    Risottos fall into my file of template recipes that I always make the same way. The vegetables or seafood that I stir into the risotto define the dish. They're usually at least partly cooked and seasoned before I begin the rice, unless it's a seafood risotto. I don't hesitate to impulse buy at the farmers market because I can always use a given vegetable in a risotto.

    If fava beans and asparagus look wonderful, for example, I'll buy a couple of pounds and know that if I don't use them for anything else, that's where they'll end up. Even humble vegetables like carrots and leeks can become elegant in the form of a creamy risotto.

    Related: Try Roman-style risotto with delicious spring nettles.

    I usually avoid ordering risottos at restaurants (except in Venice). Chefs tend to be heavy-handed, stirring in lots of butter at the end of cooking, and they often overcook the rice, which will continue to absorb moisture after it's pulled from the

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  • 5 Best Tips to Get Adventurous with Asparagus -- It's Coming in Season Now!

    Fresh asparagus -- white or green -- is starting to show up in markets now.

    By Sue Style

    In the western, industrialized, urbanized world where everything is available all year round and we've almost lost our sense of the seasons, our own locally grown asparagus can be a rare and precious treat. Let's vote with our shopping baskets, turn our backs on (and our noses up at) the imported, canned or frozen stuff, punch the air and rejoice that some things are still truly seasonal. There's a time to eat this wonderful vegetable, and it's now.

    As to which is the best kind of asparagus, white or green, opinions are sharply divided. Loosely speaking, Anglo-Saxons favor the green, as do generally the Italians and the Spaniards. In Alsace, the Black Forest or Switzerland, people are more into the white or the mauve-tipped varieties.

    Related: Learn how to cook straight from your bountiful garden this year.

    Tip 1 -- Steaming: When cooking asparagus, there's just one rule: Keep it simple. A tall, straight-sided asparagus pan with a wire basket inside

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  • How to Rescue a Kitchen Disaster

    The trick to rebounding from a blow-up in the kitchen.

    By Barbara Haber

    Last week I received a call from a friend who needed help with a cake. He had baked it in a heart-shaped aluminum pan for his wife's birthday, and because he hadn't sufficiently greased the pan, the cake came out in pieces. What was he to do? I asked whether his wife liked chocolate, and when he said she did I suggested that he glue the cake together with a simple frosting. After all, layer cakes have lots of frosting, on top and between layers, so why not have unexpected veins of frosting throughout a cake? He took my recipe for a delicious and sticky chocolate frosting and reported later the repair was a success and that the cake looked and tasted really great.

    Julia Child shows us how it's done

    As it happens, real people, even famous people, suffer food disasters and don't mind telling about them. Julia Child did television work not only for her own shows, but as a regular feature for TV's "Good Morning America." She would tape her spots,

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  • How to Find the Best Gluten-Free Cookbook

    Four new cookbooks aimed at the gluten-free market serve a variety of needs.
    Editor's note: The sale of gluten-free food and beverages increased 30 percent from 2006 to 2010. If you're part of the growing gluten-free crowd, you might be looking for a good cookbook.

    Depending on why you're avoiding gluten and what kind of cooking you like to do at home, your needs for a gluten-free cookbook will vary.

    Here's a look at four new books aimed at this growing market that covers everything from special occasions to gluten-free vegetarian meals.

    By Wendy Petty

    1. "Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef"

    Both as someone who has experienced the stages of gluten grief, and as a food nerd, I found "Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef" to be especially appealing. Written by Shauna Ahern, and her chef husband, Daniel Ahern, this cookbook not only illuminates tantalizing gluten-free dishes, but also chronicles their love story. This isn't just a collection of recipes, it's a good read.

    Out of love for Shauna, who is a celiac disease sufferer, chef Danny Ahern saw to

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  • Learn to Make Your Own Cannoli

    Homemade cannoli

    By Clifford A. Wright

    The greatest sweet of all time, cannoli, is rarely made at home, but there's no reason why you can't. Sure, you need special equipment, but it's not beyond the talents of a home cook. To enjoy the process as much as the sweet itself, you must understand its cultural context in Sicily.

    The convents of Sicily are the great repositories of Arab-influenced desserts, the so-called dolci di badia, or abbey sweets. Other examples are muccunetti, an almond dough stuffed with fruit conserve from Mazara del Vallo and sweets from the Convento di Santa Caterina on Piazza Bellini in Palermo, where they make cannoli as well as pasticcini farciti con conserva di arance e bergamotto (pastries stuffed with orange and bergamot preserves) and marzapane di mandole e pistacchio (marzipan of almond and pistachio).

    * * *

    Related: Check out some other great homemade desserts at Zester Daily ...

    Make croissants at home

    Bourbon-spiked chocolate cake

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