Tag Archives: tiramisu

Trattoria Toscana *****

 
553 State Route #1
Whippany, NJ 07981
973.386.0303

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Everyone knows that New York is host to wealth of fantastic Italian restaurants–Marea, Babbo, Del Posto, Scalini Fedeli, Patsy’s, Carmine’s (just to name a few)–but outside of the city, off of route 1, lies a “hidden gem” by the name of Tratattoria Toscana. I use quotes because although it has a very inconspicuous location, it is well known among foodies, locals, and Italian’s looking for a proper pasta with gravy. This place is always jam packed and the delicious food being served is worthy of such loyal patronage.

Rodolfo Monti and his son, Giacomo (with names as authentic as their food), are the owner and chef of Trattoria Toscana, and although their menu offers a variety of well-loved Italian classics, their culinary speciality is certainly from the Tuscan region.

To start, I suggest the Sliced Pears, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan Cheese ($13) or my personal favorite, Mussels cooked in Spicy Tomato Broth with White Wine and Garlic ($11). Another great way to sample the menu is to split a pasta dish or two between the table as an appetizer. The Amatriciana cooked with pancetta, onion, tomato, and pecorino cheese is very flavorful red sauce with a delicious hearty bacon flavor.

For my main dish I ordered the Braised Short Ribs in a Chianti Wine Reduction, served with Parmesan Risotto and Garlicky Broccoli Rabe. As if all of these plate components aren’t already my favorite things to eat, they were also cooked to PERFECTION! The meat just seemed to fall apart each time I poked it with the fork, and the risotto was a perfect creamy compliment to the flavors of the Chianti wine reduction. The pair was like an upscale, Italian version of mashed potatoes and gravy. And the broccoli rabe, which can be a hit or a miss for many restaurants, was out of this world good. The garlic seasoning was just right and it was cooked without being too mushy. This dish certainly makes my list of Top 10 Food-gasm experiences.

My mom ordered the Tilapia Livornese topped with capers, black olives, caramelized onion, and tomatoes and served with oven-roasted potatoes. Stealing a small forkful from her was a challenge, thats how much she enjoyed it. The fish was light and buttery and the sauce was incredible.

My dad, on the other hand, opted for something a little bit richer–the Lollipop Lamb Chops in an aged balsamic reduction, served with risotto and roasted potatoes (see photograph at top). As you can see in the photograph, the lamb is cooked to perfection with a bright pink hue in the center of the meat. The balsamic reduction had a nice flavor but thankfully was used sparingly, so as not to take away from the quality taste of the meat. And the potatoes–although just a side component on the plate–were also very nicely done with a crispy outer shell and piping hot center.

After finishing with our main courses, we ordered a round of cappuccinos and a large piece of Homemade Ricotta Cheesecake to share as a table. The coffee was nothing special but the cheesecake was very delicious. It was not too dense or too sweet, and the fresh berries and whipped cream around the edges of the plate were great addition to each bite. A perfect way to end a fabulous meal!

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Filed under Cocktails, Italian Restaurants, New Jersey Restaurants

{ Tiramisu Cupcakes }

Tiramisu Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and Cocoa Powder

This year I am celebrating Christmas at my house in Philly with just my immediate family and my nagymama (meaning “grandmother” in Hungarian). But just because we don’t have a lot of people coming over, doesn’t mean that we aren’t making a big production out of the food situation. Every family has their thing, and ours is certainly food—the Von Trapps sang and the Bajeks cook! My mom had the holiday menu planned out weeks ago, but the stress of actually making it all didn’t surface until today, Christmas Eve. Why is it so stressful, you wonder?

It’s a simple answer. Four women, one kitchen—not enough room for everyone to do their respective food prep. Now our kitchen is far from small with two ovens, a six-burner Viking stove top, and an eight-foot refrigerator that resembles a walk-in closet (told you we were food people!), but tensions get high when sharing space and utensils. Of course all four of us have to have the same favorite knife! While us women slowly kill the Christmas spirit in the kitchen arguing over who is entitled to use the knife first, my dad retreats to the garage where he has been devising a squirrel proof bird-feeder for the past month or so (since the holiday cooking began actually). That tells you just how heated the kitchen gets…my dad would actually prefer to stand out in the freezing garage trying to solve bird hunger than be among us. However, the peaceful Christmas spirit is always revived once we all sit down at the table to eat together (partly because we can’t be fighting while we are eating!). We say a prayer, and then enjoy all of the delicious food that we have slaved over (even the birds are eating well this Christmas, thanks to the efforts of my father!).

This year I was in charge of dessert, and I decided to do a modern spin on an old classic—Tiramisu but in cupcake form. Tiramisu is a traditional Italian dessert made of biscuits dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs and mascarpone, and flavored with liquor and cocoa. It’s so divine that it literally translates as “pull me up,” which is exactly what it does with each and every delicious forkful. Trust me, there is no emotional crisis that a large piece of tiramisu can’t improve…for a foodie like me, at least! I figured that everyone in my family could use a little bit of tiramisu joy this season and sure enough, it worked. They were light and fluffy and tasted absolutely fabulous.

First, I made the cupcake batter, which requires a whole vanilla bean. These can be expensive at most supermarkets (especially whole foods, which costs about $10 for 2 beans), so I recommend going to your local baking supply store. I got mine at a baking store by my house and only paid $1 per bean…big price difference!!

As I always suggest when making cupcakes, use an ice cream scooper to distribute the batter evenly among lined cupcake pans. In fact, I even have two different sized scoopers, one for my regular cupcakes and one for my miniature bite-sized cupcakes. The minis are always a hit at parties because they are so easy for people to pop into their mouths, and you can always manage to find room in your belly for a mini even at the end of a big meal!

Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, you need to brush the tops with the marsala-coffee mixture, which gives the cupcake a great light spongy texture. (It also can help correct a cupcake that is slightly overcooked, because it adds the needed moisture). I suggest using a silicon brush, and do not be afraid to really brush it on generously because it prevents the cupcake from drying out, and the syrup adds such a great flavor! Believe it or not, the mixture will actually soak through to the center of the cupcake and you will get a taste of it with every bite. If you are making the cupcakes the night before you intent to serve them, do up to this step and then store in an airtight container, refrigerating overnight.

The mascarpone frosting is so simple, as long as you make sure that the heavy cream is whipped long enough to form stiff peaks! If you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, do not walk away while the cream is beat or it can become over beat and then grainy. Yuck! Oncethe frosting is finished, I pipe it onto the cupcake tops and then dust with a little cocoa power for decoration. They are tremendous! The recipes for the marsala-coffee syrup and mascarpone frosting follow the basic cupcake recipe.

{ Ingredients for Cupcakes }

**Makes about 18 cupcakes

  • 1 ¼ cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon course salt (Kosher salt)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
  • 4 tablespoons (half stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cu into pieces
  • 3 whole large eggs, and 3 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce (shot) marsala wine
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon freshly brewed strong coffee

{ To Make CupcakesPreheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Line cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Heat milk and vanilla-bean pod and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles apprea around the edge (not a boil!). Remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter until melted, and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and discard the vanilla-bean pod.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk together whole eggs, yolks, and 1 cup sugar. The set the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, and continuously whisk by hand until sugar is dissolved (rub between fingers to check) and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. With an electric mixer on high speed, whisk until mixture is fluffy, pale yellow, and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface for several seconds when whisk is lifted.

Gently but thoroughly fold flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches; stir 1/2 cup batter into the strained milk mixture to thicken, then fold milk mixture into the remaining batter until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups (using ice cream scooper!), filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until centers are completely set (test with toothpick) and edges are light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

To finish, brush tops of cupcakes evenly with coffee-marsala syrup (directions below); repeat until all or most of syrup has been used. Allow cupcakes to absorb liquid 30 minutes. Dollop frosting onto cupcakes; refrigerate up to overnight in airtight containers. Dust generously with cocoa powder just before serving.

{ To Make Marsala-Coffee SyrupCombine the coffee, marsala wine, and 1/4 cup sugar in bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.

{ Ingredients Mascarpone Frosting }

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

{ To Make Mascarpone FrostingBeat the heavy cream with whisk attachment of electric mixer on medium speed, until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat or the cream will be grainy! In a separate bowl whisk together the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture, until just combined. Use immediately.

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Filed under Baking, Recipes