Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ricotta Hazelnut Lemon Cake

Ricotta Hazelnut Lemon Cake

It's been a long time since I felt moved to wax poetic about cake, but this recipe, which I ended up adapting based on what I didn't have on hand, is worthy of a sonnet; possibly an ode.

This is an elegant cake, suitable to serve to dinner guests or people you love. It's also a portable cake that holds up to being wrapped in wax paper and transported to a picnic or friend's house. Or in your messenger bag in case of emergency. It goes beautifully with Prosecco after dinner or is perfect with a good strong espresso for breakfast. Best of all, it takes about 10 minutes to put together, so it's an excellent last minute desert.

The rich, nutty flavor and texture of the hazelnuts is offset by the clean citrus of the lemon zest - which I encourage you to add an extra pinch of if you feel so inclined. The addition of ricotta means no butter, which I promise you won't miss at all. There's nothing fussy or gooey about this moist, dense cake, but it I think it will satisfy even the most hardcore cake lover. I did not dust it with powdered sugar because I thought it was divine just the way it was, but I'm all for gilding the lily if that's what makes you happy. Which this cake does.

Lastly, if you don't dig hazelnuts, you can substitute almond meal and almond extract. Both the hazelnut and almond meal are made by Bob's Red Mill, which you can score super cheap at your local Ocean State Job Lot or most any supermarket. Enjoy!

Ricotta Hazelnut Lemon Cake

(Seriously adapted from


1 cup whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4 cups hazelnut meal
1/4 scant cup flour
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F., position the rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan (or use Baker's Joy)
In a stand mixer, beat together ricotta, egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth.
Stir in lemon zest, hazelnut meal and flour.

Whip egg whites in separate bowl until they form soft peak
Fold half the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture, then fold in the rest.
Spread batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds.
Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean and top is lightly golden.
Let cool 10 minutes then remove sides of the pan.
Let cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.

 2010-2014, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tunisian Olive Oil Mayonnaise

Check out Zetouna

  • Quite by surprise, a friend I've gotten to know through the magic of Facebook offered to send me a sample of her imported Zetouna Tunisian Olive Oil. Sonia is Tunisian, but lives here in the United States with her family where she owns and operates a gourmet shop in up-state New York. When she said she'd send me a sample, I gladly accepted, never imagining that I'd receive 6 different types of infused oils, along with 3 other samples of first cold pressed and organic olive oil. Each one tastes distinctly different but equally fruity, rich and clean - none of that rancid, bitter flavor that so much commercial olive oil often tastes of. I'm afraid that I'm forever spoiled. Since receiving her gift, we have dipped bread in it and made salad dressing. Last night I used it to fried eggplant and veal cutlets, all with the same delicious results. Please take a second to "like" her facebook page! Better yet, place an order at if you really want to treat yourself or give someone a truly unique, high quality gift.
If you're wondering what makes this olive oil so special, here's the deal: 
  • Zetouna is a kosher, extra virgin olive oil from the country of Tunisia. It is hand harvested and cold-pressed in an old-fashioned style perfected by local farmers, dating back to the 8th century BC. 
  • It is 100% Tunisian olive oil, and is recognized by connoisseurs for its distinguished taste and unique flavor.

Given the alarming and growing information we have about GMO's (genetically modified food), I've been trying to make more typically store-bought things from scratch when I can. Even then, assembling basic non GMO ingredients can be a challenge. So when I got my hands on some organic eggs and fresh lemons, my mother's simple recipe for homemade mayonnaise seemed like the perfect way to use Sonya's Zetouna Olive Oil. The result was nothing short of amazing.  I used a combination of her fine herb and garlic infused olive oil which smells as good as it tastes. Of course, you can use any olive oil you have, but in this case,the better the quality, the more sublime the mayonnaise.

Lemon Infused  Zetouna Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The whole process takes about 5 minutes from start to finish 
Good enough to eat by the spoonful - seriously

Tunisian Olive Oil Mayonnaise

3 egg yolks
1 tsp. coarse grain mustard
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. fresh basil
1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice
1-1/4 cup combination olive oil and canola oil (50-50 of each)
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine egg yolks, mustard and garlic until well blended.
Using the feed tube (or by hand VERY gradually) add olive/canola oil combination, blending until emulsified.
Stop machine and scrape down sides.
Using the feed tube, add lemon juice until desired thickness is achieved.
Salt and pepper to taste

Store in clean, airtight glass container in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Copyright 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vanilla Latte with Vanilla Syrup and Vanilla Infused Raw Sugar

After a two month hiatus from my world travels, I was inspired to pick up my pans and camera this afternoon. Earlier today I found myself was standing in line at a coffee shop that shall not be named but that rhymes with Far Shucks. I was ready to suck it up and order at Tall Vanilla Latte to sate by caffeine and vanilla craving, when I got to thinking about how badly I was being ripped off. Now I don't mind paying a little extra for really good stuff I can't make myself, but coffee? vanilla syrup? steamed milk? Hello? I rather put my hard earned money in my gas tank - I know for sure I can't make petrol.

In my kitchen, one latte costs about .25 cents. At trendy, overpriced baristas, a Tall Vanilla Latte costs close to $3.00 bucks. Needless to say I left, and here I am - showing you the way to a super delicious, steaming cup of rich, dark coffee, swirled with a pillowy mound of frothy hot foam and sweetened with homemade vanilla syrup. And as if this weren't sexy enough, it's topped off with a sprinkling of vanilla-infused raw sugar.You don't need any fancy equipment or supplies, so have fun and experiment with different simple syrups and garnishes, using this recipe as your template!

Other than milk, all you need is right here: rich, oily coffee beans, vanilla syrup and raw sugar

 I like to use a mug that takes two hands to hold - but you can use whatever makes you happy

Vanilla Latte
1/2 cup super strong rich coffee or espresso
1 cup skim or 1% steamed milk
2-3 teaspoons vanilla syrup (see below)
1 tsp. vanilla infused raw sugar for garnish (see below)

Vanilla Syrup (Recipe can be doubled)
1 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine water and sugar in a heavy sauce pan bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add vanilla.
Let cool then store in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Infused Raw Sugar
2 cups raw sugar
1 vanilla bean

Pour sugar into a resealable jar, place vanilla bean in center of sugar and seal.
The longer the vanilla bean stays in the sugar, the more heavenly the scent and taste.
*I never take it out - just add more sugar as needed

Make the Latte
1. Brew your coffee as you normally do, but don't be afraid to add an extra scoop. If you grind your own beans, even better!
2. Pour syrup into bottom of good sized coffee mug.
3. In a glass measuring cup, pour in milk.
4.Using a frother (available at most stores like Target, BB&B), froth cold milk until good and foamy. If you don't have a frother, use your blender as though you were making a frappe.
5. Microwave milk for about 20 seconds (watch carefully so it doesn't overflow) until the you see the foam expanding (depending on your microwave this may take longer).
6. Add milk to syrup and cup.
7. Pouring down the inside of the cup so as not to disturb the milk, pour desired amount of coffee.
8. Top with a sprinkling of vanilla-infused raw sugar.

&#169 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Italy! Carrots with Horseradish Sauce ~ Carote Al Rafano

Admittedly, I'm unstylishly late to the horseradish lovers party. It just wasn't something (probably one of the only things) that I never ate growing up. Not because I didn't like it, but because we just didn't have it our fridge. But, like anyone who suddenly develops full-on adoration for a previously unknown thing, I'm all in. It's slightly sweet and spicy, a little hot, and tangy enough to alert your tongue and nose. Not actually a radish, this herb is related to the turnip, cabbage and mustard. Thought to have first been grown in Southern Russia and Eastern Ukraine, horseradish has many uses that vary according to country and region. In this case, it's mixed in with cream, yogurt and lemon as a dressing for a lovely Northern Italian summer carrot salad.

From the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy (# 4 on the map), horseradish grows abundantly in this northern region. The greens can be used, but if a stronger flavor is preferred, the roots are picked in winter. I don't grow horseradish, so I simply used a jar brand with no additives. If you use it fresh, grate it finely. This clean, colorful salad is a beautiful, easy accompaniment to any meal. Use the freshest carrots you can find to ensure the tender, sweetest flavor and most vibrant color. If you feel like adding a little crunch, toasted pine nuts would be a great addition.

The basics: Cream, lemon juice, horseradish, yogurt and carrots - that's all folks!
 Create wide flat strips by pressing down hard with the vegetable peeler
 Plate carrot strips, top with dressing - garnish with parsley and radishes

Carrots with Horseradish (Carote Al Rafano) Adapted from Italy The Beautiful Cookbook, by Lorenza De Medici

1 lb. carrots
1 lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt
6 Tbsp. horseradish (jar or grated fresh)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish.

Wash and peel the carrots. Place in a bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes and the juice of one lemon. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Dry the carrots and  peel by pressing firmly on the carrot with the vegetable peeler to get wide, flat strips.
Blend the cream and yogurt, add the horseradish with salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange carrots on a plate, top with as much of the horseradish mixture as desired.
Garnish with fresh parley, radishes or other herbs of your choice.

© 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Italy! Amaretti-Stuffed Peaches ~ Pesche Ripiene Agli Amaretti

Now that my around-the-world cooking journey has ended I get to country hop to my heart's delight, and I can't think of a country I'd like to explore more than Italy. Sitting on my kitchen counter is Italy The Beautiful Cookbook, by Lorenza De Medici. My Dad and his wife gave it to me in 2002 after I'd spent two hours at their house leafing through it, inspired and amazed by the recipes, but until now, hadn't had the time to delve deeply into the book's glossy pages and fascinating text. Divided up by region, as Italy's cuisine differs vastly depending on location, the book offers 250 full color pages of Italian meat, fish, salad, vegetable, rice, pasta and desserts recipes. Most striking is how every recipe is both simple and uses only the freshest, whole foods: olive oil, vegetables, lemons, parsley, garlic, seafood, meat, wine and pasta - everything made from scratch, yet easy and uncomplicated. The result is spectacularly beautiful, delicious food that takes no time at all to prepare and tastes as good as it looks. Nothing fussy, nothing pretentious. My favorite kind of eating.

So, over the next month, maybe longer, I'm going to pick my favorite recipes from the different regions in this book.  Needless to say, my family is totally stoked that they won't be eating peanut stews in the foreseeable future. I've already found a new Italian market in my area that carries some of the harder to source ingredients like real amaretti biscuits, homemade ricotta and dried chestnuts - I'm like a junkie who's just found a flush new street pharmacist.

Hereto-with, the first recipe - perfect for summer: Amaretti Stuffed Peaches from the Piedmont region (#1 on the map) of Italy. Don't get me wrong, I love chocolate desserts and pastry, almost more than I love my children, but fresh summer fruit and whipped cream is untoppable  - I don't think that's a word, but you get what I mean. Ciao!

Amaretti bicuits are delicious alone, with coffee, ice cream or added to whipped cream
Beautiful summer peaches are in season now and make an easy, elegant dessert - Slice and add to the simple syrup to poach, then cool before filling
mmmm....whipped cream - I could never say no to you fat (said in a Homer Simpson voice)
Crush up the cookies - a rolling pin works too
One egg yolk is added to the whipped cream with the crushed cookies
Fill with whipped cream mixture, pour syrup around peaches and serve

Pesche Ripiene Agli Amaraetti - Recipe Adapted from Italy The Beautiful Cookook, by Lorenza De Medici
(Amaretti Stuffed Peaches)

1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
6 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
12 amaretti biscuists, crushed
1 egg yolk, beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped

Boil the wine and sugar on a low-medium flame for 5 minutes to form a simple syrup.
Poach the peach halves in the syrup for 5 more minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon and let cool.
Fold the amaretti crumbs and egg yolk into the cream.
Fill the peach halves with the cream mixture.
Arrange on a serving platter and pour the remaining wine syrup around the peaches.
Serves 6

© 2010-2012 What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

day 197! Zimbabwe - Sosaties (Grilled Marinated Meat with Apricots)

At last, twenty-six months after starting this world-wide cooking journey, I have reached my final country, Zimbabwe. I can't begin to express what an amazing trip this has been, and none of it would have been possible without the love, support and generosity of my family and friends. Looking back, I could never have imagined all the incredible food, experiences and friendships I've had the privilege to try and experience. Special props go to my Mom, who taught me everything I know about food and love. To my sister and brother who can cook it up and throw it down like the bosses they are. To my husband and children, who sampled, critiqued and went along with all my crazy rambling, endless peanut stews and still love me (you guys are saints). And to very special friends: Beth, Merri, Lucy, Lisa, Ben and John (who gave me tonight's recipe and wants everyone to know he's an Irish-Italian stud). Lastly, to all my new friends from around the world who gave me recipes, advice and shared your cultures with me with such openness and generosity - I am honored to be in your company.

A landlocked country in the southern part of Africa, Zimbabwe is bordered by South Africa, Bostwana, Nambia and Mozambique. At one time a British colony, Zimbabwe declared its independence in 1980. The main languages spoken in this African country are English, Shona and Ndebele. Although most of the country is a savana, it also has mountains, a tropical climate as well as evergreen and hardwood forests. Home to the world's biggest and most spectacular waterfall, the Victoria Falls attracts tourist from around the globe to witness its raw and beautiful power. Rich in biodiversity, Zimbabwe boasts 500 species of birds, 350 species of mammals such as rhinos, baboons and giraffes as well as a huge range of reptiles such as snakes and lizards. Zimbabwe has one of the largest platinum and diamond resources in the world, but these vast and valuable resources have not been fully realized due to poor governmental oversite, corruption and mismanagement. Fortunately, this is beginning to change, making the promise of the country's future more optimistic.

Food in Zimbabwe is based on mealie meal, a cornmeal and water porridge that is eaten alone or with gravy, vegetables such as spinach, greens, beans, sour milk, dried fish or peanut butter. Peanut and tomato based stews are also a common staples. Due to British colonization, rice, pasta, melon, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and potato-based dishes along with porridge and tea are still eaten by many. For weddings and graduations, goat or cow might be enjoyed. Closer to the South African border, Afrikaner recipes using jerky, sausage, beef lamb and pork might also be cooked for special occasions.

Chop up some onions, saute and add spices, vinegar and jam - simmer until thickened
Apricot jam, garlic, salt and curry (not pictured, tamarind paste)
If using dried apricots, reconstitute in sherry overnight - otherwise, use right from the box as is
Grill and serve!

Sosaties (Grilled Marinated Meat with Apricots) - Adapted from Global Gourmet

2 pounds lamb, cut into 1" pieces
1 pound pork, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 garlic clove, peeled
Salt, pepper
4 tablespoons oil
1 cup onions, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in
2 tablespoons red wine
1/2 pound dried apricots
1/2 cup dry sherry

Place the lamb and pork pieces in a large bowl that has been rubbed with the clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and toss.

In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, then add the curry powder and garlic. sauté for another minute. Add the sugar, tamarind paste, vinegar, and jam and stir well. Stir the cornstarch mixture and add it to the onions, and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. This should take about 3 minutes. Cool, then add to the meat and toss well. Marinate for 2-3 days.

One day before preparing the sosaties, combine the dried apricots and sherry in a small bowl, cover, and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain meat from sauce and reserve. Thread lamb, pork, and apricots on skewers. Grill over charcoal until browned on all sides. Serve with heated reserved sauce.

© 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 196! Zambia - Pineapple Chutney - Up Next, Zimbabwe

Today is the fist day in several weeks that I've had time enough to make a dish representing the second to last country in my world cooking journey. I decided to get up early to catch the morning light, as it lends such a beautiful patina to photographs. I'm pretty sure my neighbors think know I'm officially nuts. And, if you could have seen me hauling pineapple, peppers, lemons and oranges outside at 6 a.m., then tripping over my tripod on the way out the back door (in my pink dragonfly p.j.'s), you'd nod vigorously in agreement. I used to be quite sane but that was BT ( before teenagers). Don't be too judgy, though. If you woke up to Eminem's nasal tirade streaming out from under your kid's door every morning, you'd be loco too. But I digress.

A landlocked country in Southern Africa, Zambia is roughly the size of Texas or France and is known as one of the more peaceful, highly urbanized countries in Africa. Bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, Zambia is home to 72 ethnic groups. Originally, the country was inhabited by Khoisan people, but was colonized during the 13 century by the Bantu. European explorers discovered the country during the 18 century. In the 19 century, the country became a British colony of Northern Rhodesia, but by 1964, Zambia declared independence from the UK. In recent years, the country has undergone a strong period of economic reform, but the economic infrastructure of the country remains largely that of subsistence farming. Owing to vast natural resources and rich mineral and copper mining, the country has promising potential to someday compete in the global market.

Zimbabwe's climate is tropical to sub-tropical. Peanuts, cassava, chilli peppers, beans and corn are all grown here. The staple diet is corn-based in the form of Nshima. Maize or cassava flour are ground and mixed to a thick porridge that is eaten alone or alongside condiments with meats, fish, sour milk or beans. In fact, Nshima is such a huge and important part of the culture, that songs, poems, stories, rituals and folk lore have regularly referenced this dish that nourishes and sustains the country's people.

Pineapple Chutney
Cup up orange and lemon, leaving skin on
 Chop tomatoes, onions and peppers
 Chop fresh pineapple
 Sliver candied ginger
 Pot everything in pot, along with wine vinegar and simmer for about 30 minutes
 Cool and place in clean jar - I'm serving this with grilled chicken tonight :)

Pineapple Chutney (Recipe Adapted from Celtnet)

1-1/2 cups green bell peppers, cut into 1/2 sections
1 cup onions, chopped into 1cm pieces
1-1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 whole lemon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes with skin left on
1 whole orange, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, with skin left on
7/8 cup sultanas
2 cups fresh pineapple cut into 14-inch dice
1 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 Muscovado sugar
4 tbsp preserved candied ginger, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp salt

Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan and simmer gently for 30 minutes (if the mixture seems too thick add up to 1 cup of pineapple juice). When ready allow to cool a little then pack into hot, sterile, jars.

© 2010-2012, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved