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Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • One bottle (750 mL) of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot)

  • One peeled and sliced orange (keep peel to add zest to taste into cooking pot)

  • 1/4 cup of brandy

  • 8-10 cloves

  • 1/3 cup honey or sugar*

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 tsp fresh or 2 tsp ground ginger (allspice can be substituted)

  • Serves 4-6

Preparation:

To make the perfect cup of mulled wine, combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the honey or sugar has completely dissolved. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have been well blended it is ready to serve. Ladle the mulled wine into mugs (leave seasonings behind) and enjoy! * The 1/3 cup of honey or sugar does make a sweeter-styled mulled wine, feel free to cut honey/sugar down to taste.

Pear Tarte Tatin

Pear Tarte Tatin

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 2 pounds (about 6 medium) firm-ripe pears, cored and peeled

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation:

Working on a clean surface, roll the pastry dough into an 11-inch circle and chill.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet. Add the sugar and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly caramelize the sugar. The sugar is done when it has turned a medium golden brown hue. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the honey, and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices. Toss the pear slices gently, but thoroughly, with the lemon zest and nutmeg. Arrange the pears in a single layer in the hot caramel and honey in the skillet.

Return the skillet to the stovetop and cook the pears over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the pears start to turn tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and drape the pastry over the spiced pears, fitting the overhang down between the fruit and the sides of the skillet. Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry turns golden brown. Cool the tarte Tatin in the skillet for 30 minutes before inverting it onto a serving platter.

This pear tarte Tatin recipe makes 8 servings.

Chocolate Rum Balls

Chocolate Rum Balls

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond flour (best without the skins, in this case)

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

  • 2 Tablespoons powdered erythritol, xylitol, or other sugar alcohol*

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 Tablespoons rum, brandy, whiskey, etc — vary according to taste

  • Artificial sweetener to taste – about 1/2 cup of sweetening power

Preparation:

*Note on erythritol: I realize that the erythritol is a special ingredient. Some stores are starting to carry powdered sugar alcohols, or you can order online. I haven’t figured out how to make really delicious chocolate treats without it at this point. Erythritol is the sugar alcohol with the least blood sugar impact, but you can use others. If the erythritol you use isn’t powdered, it won’t dissolve much in this recipe. I recommend running it through a blender first, but I’m happy that the most recent erythritol I got came powdered, which is great.

1. Mix all dry ingredients together in bowl.

2. Add vanilla and liquor. If the artificial sweetener is liquid and concentrated, add it to the liquor. Since there are different liquid sweeteners of different concentrations, you may have to play with the total amount of liquid, and cut down on the liquor, or add water. Usually the total liquid you want is about 2.5 to 3 Tablespoons. Add the liquid slowly and mix until it all comes together.

3. Roll into balls.

The flavors will mellow over the next few days. Store in covered container in refrigerator or cool place.

Carbs depend on serving size. 17 balls will get you exactly 1 gram of effective carbohydrateper ball, plus a tad over a gram of alcohol and 1.5 grams of fiber.

CHEESY PASTA CASSEROLE

CHEESY PASTA CASSEROLE

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) sun-ripened cherry tomatoes, ideally from Montecalvo Irpino

  • 1/2 pound (220 g) mixed pasta from Flumari (in the Province of Avellino)

  • A rib of Gesualdo (Province of Avellino) celery, finely chopped

  • 1/2 pound (220 g) potatoes, ideally from Montoro Superiore (Frazione di Banzano, Irpinia), peeled and cubed

  • A Cipolla Ramata (coppery onion) from Montoro, peeled and chopped, and Lello insists it be ramata, not white or purple

  • 8 basil leaves from san Michele di Serino — the basil, he says, that Irpinians “exported” to Liguria

  • A half cup of extravirgin olive oil, ideally from the Ravece cultivar

  • A dusting of Carmasciano Pecorino (One could use quality Romano if one had to)

  • 10 bits of Quanciale from Sturno (Guanciale is cured pork jowl, one could also use flat pancetta, and dice a single 3mm (1/8 inch) slice

  • A half pound to a pound (2-400 g) smoked Caciocavallo Podolico, cubed — the amount depends upon your appetite and how cold it is outside

  • 2 quarts (2 l) vegetable broth, made as you prefer, simmering

Preparation:

Before the procedure, a note: Caciocavallo Podolico is a cow’s milk craft cheese from the Irpinia region; it is firm, and fairly elastic when young, becoming sharper and more crumbly with age, and will soften when heated. Tradition dictates the forms, which are shaped like gourds, be made in pairs that are tied together with a string and slung over a pole to age, hence the name — Cacio (cheese) (a) Cavallo, astride, in this case astride a pole. If you cannot find smoked Caciocavallo Podolico use either regular Caciocavallo or if need beProvolone from a small form (provolone forms vary tremendously in size, from small to enormous).

Returning to the procedure, heat the olive oil in a broad fairly deep earthenware pot. Saute the guanciale, and when it has begun to brown add the onion and the tomatoes, and after a few minutes the diced potatoes, celery and basil. Simmer the mixture as if you were making an “easy” sauce, and after about 15 minutes add the vegetable broth.

Bring the mixture almost to a boil and add the pasta.

Cook the pasta over a gentle flame, adding only a little more broth if necessary; you will end up with a very thick mixture of pasta and potatoes. I would add that you should occasionally give the pot a brisk shake, or even gently stir the contents, lest the mixture stick and burn.

To bring it to perfection, let it rest for 2 hours, then stir in the cubes of smoked Caciocavallo Podolico, and dust all with the Pecorino. Heat through for 15 minutes in a preheated 300 F (150 C) oven, and you’ll enjoy the world’s best pasta and potato casserole!

Food – Wine paring: The structure, complexity, and perfect balance reached by the Cantine Contrada’s 2003 Fiano Di Avellino make it perfect for this dish, though one could also opt for a Fiano Minutolo.

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