The theme for my recent visit to Grace-Marie’s Kitchen Cooking School was Italian Cucina Sunday Supper, which I was looking forward to very much, because Grace-Marie grew up in an Italian American family and has been to Italy five times eating her way through the Northern half of the country, so she knows her Italian food. The Chicken, Sausage, Asparagus and Mushroom Pasta we had was very similar to a dish she had in Italy, but instead of asparagus, the original had fresh artichoke hearts.
“I always try to explain to the students that my dishes may not be 100% authentic,” Grace-Marie said, “but they are my version of what I’ve experienced based on what is fresh and available where we live, thereby, ‘making it my own’ … something I encourage them to do — change the recipe however they like, making it their own version, but most importantly, inspiring them to get in the kitchen and cook!”
Here you can see Grace-Marie using a microplane to zest the lemon to flavor the cheesecake. She gave a demonstration on how she separates the egg yolks from the whites, before mixing the yolks with the ricotta, sugar and zest in the food processor. The heavy cream is beaten with cream cheese and sugar until thick, and a cup folded into the ricotta mixture. Then the egg whites are beaten with sugar until thick and also folded into the ricotta mixture. It is poured into the cookie crumb coated pan and baked until the top is barely browned and the center is a bit “jiggly.” Before serving, the sliced strawberries were mixed with fruit preserves, then spooned over the cheese cake with a dollop of whipped cream. It was divine!
Our starter salad for the luncheon was a Provolone Bruschetta topped with Spring Cucumber & Roasted Red Pepper Salad. The crusty Italian bread was first spread with garlic that had been simmered in olive oil and then mashed into the oil. This was topped with slices of Provolone cheese and baked until melted. Over this bruschetta went the roasted red pepper, cucumber, parsley and caper salad which was dressed with an olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette. This salad was so beautiful with shards of Parmesan cheese on top for garnish.
An exciting thing that happened in January was that I had one of my photos on the cover of a magazine! You can see that the photo is of Grace-Marie’s Fiesta Papaya, Pineapple and Avocado Salad which I posted about in May 2010 and had also been in the Beach Magazine. The editor liked the photo so much he decided to use it for the South Bay 2011 Menu Guide cover. Grace-Marie and I were very proud of ourselves, let me tell you.
Here are the friends who came to the Italian Cucina Sunday Supper cooking class. Thank you for coming and sharing this wonderful food from Grace-Marie’s Kitchen at Bristol Farms.
For additional recipes from Grace-Marie’s Kitchen, look under Categories in the right-hand column.
Click for the Italian Cheesecake Recipe
Strawberry Glazed Italian Ricotta Cheesecake
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup Almond Biscotti or Amoretto Cookies (purchased), finely ground
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Coat bottom and sides of a 10”-12” spring form baking pan with the butter. Sprinkle the ground cookies over the bottom, then tilt the pan to coat all sides with the crumbs. Place onto the baking sheet.
2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained well if necessary
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange zest, finely grated
3 tablespoons Amaretto Liquor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 /4 cup granulated sugar
1. Combine the ricotta, sugar, egg yolks, flour, zest, Amaretto, vanilla and salt in a food processor. Process until blended well. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
2. In a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, cream cheese and sugar until thick. Fold 1 cup of cream mixture into ricotta mixture. Reserve the remaining cream for the garnish.
3. In a stand mixer, in a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Increase the speed and slowly add the sugar until thick and creamy. Fold into the ricotta mixture. Transfer to the prepared spring form pan.
4. Bake 60 minutes until risen, the sides begin to pull away from the edge of the pan, the top is barely browned and the center is a bit “jiggly”. Run a knife inside the outer ring of the spring form pan, then cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving.
2 pints strawberries, sliced or diced
1 cup preserves (strawberry, raspberry, fig, apricot, etc), warmed and cooled
To garnish – powdered sugar
To garnish – reserved whipped cream
1. Combine strawberries and preserves.
2. Remove outer ring on the spring form pan. Sift the powdered sugar over the top of the cheesecake. Slice into portions, plate and garnish with a spoonful of strawberries and a dollop of cream.