This will be my first trip to Italy. Admittedly, the first Italian I’ve studied? Menu items. Tips from friends I will test out include: making reservations (even if same day, apparently it’s a respectful gesture), seeing the outdoor sites early in the day to avoid the heat (the Forum, Coliseum), seeing the churches early enough in the day since the close early afternoon, and saving tours of museums for later in the day (say, after a nap) to cool off.
Two weeks ago, I tried out the much-buzzed about Roman restaurant: Locanda in the Mission. I won’t be back. Really slow service, really expensive food which did not match the value. Immediately after going, I decided to give a go at a simple dish, an Italian equivalent of the comforting mac & cheese, called Cacio e Pepe. That roughly translates to “cheese and pepper”. It’s pasta water mixed with pecorino cheese and pepper. Simple ingredients, tricky to make well. I can’t wait to try this and Carbonera. I saw an episode of No Reservations, where Bourdain ate Cacio e Pepe out of a cheese bowl. Not sure if I’ll find that place in Rome, but I do hope to find something as delicious.
Here’s a recipe you can try at home for this dish, sans cheese bowl.
If making for two, I recommend 1 lb of fresh egg pasta. 1/4 cup of pasta water. 1/2 cup of percorino and 1-1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Ciao for now. Will post when I return.
Here is the winning recipe for the pie Molly and I (a.k.a Team Peace o’ Pie) created for SF Food Wars 2011 Pie or Die competition. Note that I’m not at liberty to share the techniques behind the secret pie crust recipe. But I will list the ingredients: unsalted butter, water, salt, all purpose flour. We don’t use lard. I recommend using your favorite flaky 100% butter pie recipe.
Lemon Shaker Pie with a Sugary Dusting of Violet Petal Dust (photo by Lisa Boghosian)
Lemon Shaker Pie with a Sugary Dusting of Violet Petals & Zest
This pie has a double crust (top and bottom). Before you lay your top crust atop the pie, be sure to cut out 4 vents (narrow long slits).
Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
- 3 lemons
- 1-1/2 cups of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup of flour
- 2 tablespoons of softened butter
- 1/3 cups of water
- 1/3 cup of lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- Line a pie pan with your favorite all butter pie dough (again, apologies, but Peace o’ Pie’s dough recipe is a closely guarded secret). Prepare another pie dough round for the top and pre-cut 4 vents for steam to escape.
- Zest the 3 lemons and set aside.
- Remove peel and white pith from one lemon, section and set the lemon sections aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar cinnamon and salt. Add the water/lemon juice combo, and eggs. Whisk in the lemon zest and lemon sections. Stir in softened butter.
- Pour mixture into a pastry lined pie pan. Lightly brush the outside edges of the bottom crust with egg wash. Place the other dough round on top and seal the edges. Create a nice flute all along the outside edge. Brush the top and out side fluted edge of the crust with egg wash. You really want to make sure your edges are sealed. You don’t want a leaky pie!
- Lightly sprinkle the top of the pie with about a teaspoon of sugar.
- Back directly on the oven rack for 45 minutes. If you are concerned about spills, place a piece of foil or baking sheet on the rack below. Metal pie pans are best.
- Once the pie has cooled completely, sprinkle sugary petal dust and more lemon zest on top and serve!
Ah…but what about the sugary violet petal dust? Read on…
Sugary Violet Petal Dust (Makes 1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon of African Violet Petal Dust (find this at cake specialty or candy making shops). A little goes a long way!
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- Zest from four lemons
- Mix together and spread on parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Let dry for 24 hours (zest needs to dry out a bit).
- Keep in sealed container.
Tonight I stopped by Pica Pica on Valencia and tasted their coconut lime slushy. I immediately wanted to make a pie out of that taste. It had that Coco Lopez smooth — slighty waxy — finish, with the island sweetness of the coconut cream and subtle acidity of lime. Perfectly refreshing on a ‘hot’ day that lingered in 70’s in San Francisco.
I texted my pal Lisa of I.E. Ice Cream suggesting she try that as an ice cream flavor. On the verge of obsessing on coconut-lime, I started to dig around for the origins of the coconut and lime duo. That’s when I discovered Dum Dum Flavor History. Remember Dum Dums? Those skinny little pops that weaseled their way into your Halloween bag every year between the KitKats, Snickers, candy corn and Unicef pennies? The only flavor I can clearly remember enjoying (or ending up with) is cream soda.
The flavor history of Dum Dums is fascinating because it’s actually documented for us (Note: being here in California, I had to see if Jelly Belly had an equivalent timeline. They don’t). From 1924 (when the company was founded) to 1955, the company added flavors. Then from 1960-2000 began the intense experimentation, like adding butterscotch and watermelon, and “dropping” of flavors like raspberry, chocolate and black cherry. For the past 10 years, Dum Dum has been on a more promotional kick with their “mystery” flavors and putting some flavors on “vacation” rather than dropping them. I’d say one flavor I’m glad I never experienced was buttered popcorn. That debuted in 2000 and was dropped, er, put on vacation the following year, when Sour Apple made a comeback.
If Dum Dum came out with a coconut-lime pop, I’d love to try. Well really, I’d like Lisa to make coconut-lime ice cream for me.
Six experimental pies and one month since we started prepping for SF Food Wars, Team Peace o’ Pie has taken home the Judges’ 1st place and the People’s Honorable mention.
A Twist on Shaker Lemon Pie -- Team Peace o' Pie
What makes this sweeter than ever is that we bested our last year’s place (Judges’ 2nd).
I mentioned before what participating in an SF Food Wars is like for me (“”To me, SF Food Wars is much like Fernet: at first, a little voice in my head says, “Hell yes, let’s do this,” both make me giddy and willing to talk to strangers, and finally, both leave me feeling hung-over, wondering, “What was I thinking?””).
This year was different for several reasons:
- Experimentation: We baked 6 pies and experimented every which way with filling, toppings, levels of sugar in the crust, number of pies in oven, number of slits in the top crust, etc.
- Mindful spending: We tried to calculate costs carefully so that we could at least break-even provided we placed. We also were mindful of how we spent our time. Do we bother with little design details like adding “vote for us” tags on each slice? We considered it, but really it wasn’t worth the time to us. We knew up front how much energy we were willing to exert in order to maintain a sense of fun (even if we ‘lost’).
- Planning: We budgeted our time, measurements and baking cycles so we had enough time to drop-off items at the event, park, set-up and serve.
- Prep-work: We did as much in stages as possible, setting aside about eight hours the day before to prep and bake.
- Location: This we had no control over. But happily, it was a sunny day in front of the Ferry Building. This added to the cheery attitude of everyone, really. Even better, we were able to wear short-sleeved dresses without a goose bump in sight.
Things that stay the same at SF Food Wars: meeting new people, like the delightful @thetomatotart and her crew of gals (http://www.thetomatotart.com/
I was asked by friends if we’ll compete the next time around. My answer: not sure. Feels kind of good to end on a high note.
Mary (left) and Molly (right)