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La Dolce Vita's Profile

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brandy/ eau de vie etc. in the US

Have you tried Beverages and More (BevMo)? I live in the SFV, and there is one on Sepulveda, near Burbank. They have quite a collection of fruit spirits, many of which look quite tasty. I bought a bottle of Mathilde pear liqueur from them a year ago, and it is scrumptious -- very fruity, just the right level of sweetness, made in France, I believe.

Nov 06, 2009
La Dolce Vita in Spirits

Need a recipe for chocolate cookies that will work in an ice cream sandwich.

If you have time, you should look at Emily Luchetti's book, "A Passion for Ice Cream." It is a top-notch cookbook, and it is my constant kitchen companion during the summer ice-cream months. She has a recipe for chocolate cookies that will work for ice cream sandwiches. I have made them, they are delicious. I have to say, though, that the gingersnap-lemon-ice-cream sandwiches are some of the best I have ever had, and even chocoholics love them.

Dec 03, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Dilemma: 2 turkeys/1 oven

I vote for using the grill. I treat my grill like an oven when I am tight on space in the kitchen. And it is an oven, except that it won't regulate it's own temperature by shutting itself on and off like an oven does. So you have to keep an eye on it and make sure the roasting temperature stays constant. If you have a gas grill with one burner that can be turned down to low, this should work. I once had to bake cakes and cookies and sticky buns for a county fair competition on my grill when my oven quit. I won a few ribbons anyway.

Nov 26, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

making a 3-4 bone prime rib for t-day need ideas

Penzey's spices makes a prime rib rub that I think is absolutely delicious. I have eaten it right out of the container, in small sprinklings. Try it. It might give your prime rib the oomph you're looking for.

Nov 24, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Thanksgiving vegetable ideas other than green beans

Petite green peas, frozen, are excellent if cooked properly--which means, not overcooked. And they go very well with mashed spuds and gravy.

Saute a minced shallot and a minced clove of garlic in a few tablespoons of butter. Add the frozen peas without thawing, along with a pinch of sugar. Cook 2 or 3 minutes, until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and perhaps a splash of sherry vinegar if you are so inclined.

Nov 17, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

How do you eat so well and control your weight?

I'm a dress size 6, and I had to work really hard to take off the pregnancy weight that had me in a size 12. I'm obsessed with good food, and my weakness includes all carbohydrates. One of my strategies is this: I almost never eat commercial baked goods, including bread. Forcing myself to actually make the cookies and breads I crave means that I can't pig out on them all day, every day, because I don't have time to bake everyday. I freeze whatever I can't finish. For some reason, the freezer is an effective barrier for me, because I often don't want to take the time to search for and defrost, say, a pastry that's lurking way in the back. I also try to have special nights (such as Friday Shabbat dinner) where I let myself eat whatever I want, including a second slice of cake.

Jun 02, 2008
La Dolce Vita in General Topics

Best vanilla extract

I replicated one of Cook's Illustrated experiments, using Madagascar vanilla extract ($15 per 4-ounce bottle) in one pound cake, and vanillin ($3 per 32-ounce bottle) in another. Most tasters preferred the vanillin poundcake. However, when I am making vanilla ice cream, where the product is not really cooked, I use the more expensive Nielsen-Massey vanilla.

May 14, 2008
La Dolce Vita in General Topics

Bridal Shower Menu Suggestions

I forgot to mention that in some cookbooks I've seen recipes that call for strips of eggplant or zucchini rolled with a ricotta filling, topped with tomato sauce and cheese, and baked. It seems like a relatively easy and elegant vegetarian dish.

May 13, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Bridal Shower Menu Suggestions

You could go in a more Mediterranean direction, such as cheese-and-spinach phyllo triangles. For a vegetable salad, one of my favorites is Israeli salad, which is bascially finely diced cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, tossed with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and maybe some minced herbs such as parsley, mint, or dill.

May 13, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

What do Chowhounds do for a living (besides eat of course)? [old]

I have a Ph.D. in English. I write fiction and non-fiction (some of which has been published.) My husband and I are homeschooling our three children. We don't have a television (for philosophical reasons), but we do have a commercial undercounter dishwasher that is one of the best pieces of kitchen equipment I've ever owned.

May 02, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Not About Food

Countertop material: granite vs. solid surface (corian) vs. engineered stone (silestone)

Let me add my 2-cents to the confustion. Eleven years ago, I had corian installed in my kitchen. I wanted to avoid grout lines (I make a lot of pastry, so being able to roll out dough on a smooth surface is critical). What I didn't like about corian is that it looked dated after not too long, and had "plastic" appearance. However, I have an aunt and uncle who are chefs, and they have white corian with an integrated sink that looks wonderful in their kitchen against dark cherrywood cabinets.

I just remodeled my kitchen two months ago, and replaced the corian with Caesarstone (which is an engineered quartz product). I love the Caesarstone far more than the corian. The color selection for Caesarstone is very good. I went with a gold-beige color called "creme limestone," very neutral, no strong pattern. My main reason for staying away from granite was that I didn't want the dark color or the strong pattern. Caesarstone looks like stone, and it doesn't stain easily. I can scrub out stains with a little scouring powder. I can put hot pans on it. I have received a lot of compliments on the way it all turned out.

Good luck with your decision.

May 01, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Cookware

ice cream maker

I have the Cuisinart with a compressor, and I love it. I use it throughout the summer, and it produces wonderful ice cream and sorbet.

One caveat: The machine is made of heavy-duty stainless steel, but some of the moving parts are plastic. I ordered extra plastic parts just in case something breaks and the model is no longer being made. I'd hate to put a perfectly good machine into the trash just because of a small plastic part. I suggest you do the same, if you decide to buy the machine. Good luck and happy ice cream making!

May 01, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Cookware

I'm looking for a book about American food

I recently read Patric Kuh's book, "The Last Days of Haute Cuisine," and I also read "American Food" by Evan Jones. They were good, but now my curiosity has taken another direction.

I'm looking for a book that gives a history of how American food evolved. I'm not primarily interested in regional differences, but rather how Americans developed a taste for Cheeze Whiz and Wonder Bread, and yet can mainstream something that was once considered "exotic", such as quiche or bruschetta. There are so many choices in the average American supermarket, from really good produce to terrible processed junk, all in the same place. I'm curious why the good food hasn't overtaken the bad, sort of a culinary "survival of the fittest."

What got me thinking about this is that I come from a family of excellent Italian cooks who can create stunning dishes from the Old Country, and yet think nothing of doing a jello-and-cool-whip dessert, or a Turkey Noodle Bake with canned mushroom soup.

I've also noticed that mainstream magazines such as Woman's Day and Ladies Home Journal now carry recipes that 20 years ago would have been too "ethnic" or too exotic for the average American.

So are there any books out there that can satisfy my craving for a good history on American food in its best and worst forms?

Feb 25, 2008
La Dolce Vita in Food Media & News

Water filter systems for the home, advice needed

I just did a search of the Chowhound site to find out what's been said about water filters. It seems to be determined by individual preference. Some people are happy drinking straight from the tap, others are happy with a Brita filter, and still others like their whole-house system.

I have a reverse osmosis filter for my kitchen tap. It works, but I'm tired of changing the filters every 6 months. Also, I am thinking about getting a particular kind of dishwasher that needs soft water (otherwise, it will be ruined by the hard tap water.)

It looks like I'm headed toward a complete home water system at some point. Aqua Solutions seems to have good information on their website, and I would consider going with them, but I want independent verification before I commit.

Those of you who have a whole-house system, how much maintenace does it require? How big is the unit? Do you still need a reverse-osmosis somewhere for getting the salt out? Is it difficult to rinse soap off your hands?

Or, if you know any book or website where such systems have been rated (I'm not sure if Consumer Reports covers this kind of thing), I would be ever so grateful.

Feb 27, 2007
La Dolce Vita in Cookware

Flavoured Stovetop Popcorn

Okay, this is going to sound weird. I pop the corn in some oil (preferably peanut oil), in a big cast-iron pot. Then, I toss with kosher salt. I pour some maple syrup on it, and dust with a sprinkling of smoked ancho chili powder. The smoky-spicy-maple-salt combination is, to my palate, exciting.

Feb 13, 2007
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Nasturtiums, dandelions... foraged food's foray into restaurants?

Favorite grass? I'll bet there are a lot of folks who'd love to bring their favorite grass to restaurants, but smoking in public places is now illegal. :)

Seriously, though, when properly prepared, dandelion greens can be delicious. They were the a treat for us Italian peasants when I was a kid. A lot of Italian and Mediterranean food that was once considered peasant fare is now tres chic among those who weren't lucky enough to come from that background.

My vote would be to do more with rhubarb stems. Pie is good, but I'll bet it could be spectacular in savory dishes.

Feb 08, 2007
La Dolce Vita in General Topics

Where can I buy basalmic vinegar in bulk?

Where do quality restaurants buy their basalmic vinegar? Do they buy it by the cask? What brand is a quality kind of basalmic that can be used in cooking? I make a lot of vinaigrette, and I get tired of going through 8-oz bottles at $11 a pop. Also, I live in Los Angeles, so if there are local stores that sell big quantities, I'm there.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

Feb 08, 2007
La Dolce Vita in General Topics

Is there a noticeable difference between silpat and parchment for baking cookies?

For several years, I've been using silpats as cookie sheet liners. A few weeks ago, I used parchment. I can't tell for sure, but I thought the parchment-baked cookies were a shade crisper on the bottom. Then again, I may be wrong.

Okay, all you experienced bakers, am I imagining things? Is there really a differnce between the two?

Oct 05, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Pastitsio

My mother, who is part Greek, made it when I was growing up. There are lots of authentic versions of the recipe, so don't worry. As long as it is a layered casserole of ground seasoned meat and macaroni, with a white cheese sauce, it should be fine. Good luck!

Oct 04, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Need suggestions on organizing my cooking utensils

As I've become more adept at cooking, I've amassed a collection of utensils. I don't just have a few silicone scrapers, I have about 10. Ditto for the clamshell tongs. I have half a dozen whisks of various sizes. Eight ice-cream scoops. And then there are the microplane graters, and all the baking cups and measuring spoons.

Here's the problem. My utensil drawer is a mess, and I spend way too much time trying to locate stuff when I need it in a hurry. It drives me nuts to rummage through a drawer for serving utensils when my guests are seated at the table.

I thought about hanging as much as possible on the backsplash of the stove. What do you think? Is having the tongs and whisks neatly arranged behind the stove practical? Does it look okay?

I also thought about installing a bunch of hooks on the inside of an upper cabinet door to hang everything, so that the kitchen doesn't look too cluttered. Opinions? Suggestions?

Oct 03, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Cookware

Kitchen Renovation

For countertop material, consider Caesarstone. They have a website. The stuff doesn't look plastic-y like Corian. It is a composite stone (meaning that it is real stone, ground up, and bound together with some sort of polymer).

I have Corian now, and I love the smoothness of it, but I don't like the plastic look. I personally plan to go with Caesarstone when I get my countertops redone. I love granite, but most granite I've seen is too dark or too busy of a pattern for the look I'm trying to achieve in my house. Still, a lot of people have it, and if you love it, go for it.

Another recommendation: Vent-a-hood for over the stove. I've had mine for 10 years, never a problem.

Sep 15, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Cookware

How many of us Chowhounds are fat? [Moved from General Topics]

I'm 5'5", and I weigh around 128. It took a lot of discipline to lose all the pregnancy weight (I was up to 185 just before my last daughter was born). Since March, I have dropped from a size 10-12 to a size 4-6. I went to Weight Watchers for about 3 meetings, got the hang of the system, and have been able to maintain it ever since.

I love cooking and eating more than ever. Because I don't have the liberty to stuff my face with whatever is in front of me, I have become a very discriminating eater. I now enjoy creating desserts more than actually eating them. Or, more exactly, I can get a lot of enjoyment out of a much smaller portion, and take more pleasure in the skill of creating it. I almost never eat commercial desserts because invariably, I can make it better at home.

Over the years, I've become a lot less judgemental about extra fat that people carry around. When I was young, it was easy to be a "skinny" snob. Now that I'm older and have felt what it is like to be a larger woman, I appreciate how hard it is to carry extra pounds, and harder still to lose them. Unlike some anti-fat crusaders, I don't see extra weight as a moral failure.

Sep 14, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Not About Food

Something wonderful with almond paste and stone fruit?

Oh, heavens! Streusel on oatmeal sounds too delicious! I can't wait to try this on the weekend. Thanks for the tip!

Sep 14, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Biscotti-- eggs or butter?

Hands-down, the best biscotti recipe (in my opinion) can be found in Corby Kummer's book, "The Joy of Coffee." He gives two recipes, one with butter (from an Italian lady) and one without butter. The one without butter is my favorite. It is crunchy, totally delicious, and easily converts to a chocolate biscotti (he gives directions for this, if I recall correctly.)

Sep 13, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

marshmallows?

I saw recipes for marshamallows in Lisa Yochelson's book, "Chocolate Chocolate." Haven't tried her recipe yet.

I've made the recipe from Helen Witty's "Better than Storebought." Good, if you like marshmallows. Making your own is better than paying $40 a pound for the gourment kind they hawk at places like Williams Sonoma around Christmastime.

Sep 12, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

simple, easy way to spruce up haricots verts?

Brown butter is particularly nice with toasted almonds.

Sep 06, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Anybody Almost Always Overdo & Drive Self Insane Cooking For Dinner Party?

I totally sympathize with your plight. I can tell that you know what you are doing, that you are a good cook and hostess, but that you get infected with the "Wouldn't-that-be-cool-to-cook" bug, which tends to strike at the last minute and make you doubt everything you know from experience.

I've worked out a few rules that work for me:

1. Absolutely no frying, unless I can do it days in advance and freeze it.

2. I try to always make sauces and vinaigrettes the day before. If the sauce won't hold in the fridge, I scrap it. I have been known to drive myself crazy with last-minute sauces, and I refuse to do it anymore.

3. I do the shopping one or two days in advance.

4. I limit myself to two or three "complicated" dishes, including the dessert. If there's dessert in the freezer (and in my house, there is almost always dessert in the freezer), all the better. Complicated dishes include home-baked bread, lasagna, beef wellington -- anything that is time-consuming to put together.

5. For the not-complicated dishes, I do simple steamed vegetables, edamame tossed into a pot of boiling water, pre-washed salad greens from Whole Foods. I also buy good bread if I don't have time to bake it, plus some good cheese and grapes.

6. I keep notes on what has and has not worked in the past. Okay, this sounds anal, I know. But it has saved my sanity and it has kept me from repeating fatal mistakes, especially for big holiday parties such as Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

7. I take time to really think about the menu, and then I write it down. I frequently have guests with opposite dietary requirements, so I try to kill two or three birds with one stone, (for example, a pizza that satisfies the vegetarians, picky kids and mainstream-food-loving crowd)

8. I remind myself that most people who come to my house are not comparing my cooking to that of Alice Waters. They probably just ate at Subway yesterday, so I anything I serve is going to be marvellous. And if they don't think so, there's obviously something wrong with their taste buds ;)

9. I have learned to put on my make up at least a half-hour before the party starts. There were one or two parties where I skipped this step altogether, and I looked more frazzled than I felt. Several guests commented: "You look so tired."

Anyway, these rules have helped me. Good luck on your next party.

Sep 05, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

Traditional Margaritas for a non-Margarita crowd . . . Advice? Suggestions?

I'm not sure if this should be on this board, or the spirts board, so forgive me, moderators.

Yesterday I made semi-traditional margaritas for a cookout. Most of the people there don't drink them, and those that do, drink margarita mix.

I squeezed 2 cups worth of lime juice, added 1 cup tequila (the gold-colored anjeo commemorativo kind), half a cup of triple sec, a few teaspoons of sugar to counteract the sourness of the lime juice, a bit of pureed ripe honeydew melon to add a fruity note. I churned it in my ice cream maker to freeze it down to a slush. Texture was great. I scooped it into salt-rimmed margarita glasses. The ice-cold melt-off was for sipping while the rest of it stayed semi-frozen.

I used less tequila and triple sec than what my "Boston Official Bartenders Guide" would recommend (They say 1.5 times tequila to the amount of lime juice). Still, I got comments like "How much tequila did you put into this stuff?" "Wow! This is strong!"

Personally, I thought they were delicious. They were very tart and tequila-y. My husband says not to worry, that I should make them according to my taste. But if I'm willing to share, should I have shaped the flavor profile more by adding more sugar? Are traditional margaritas becoming a thing of the past as people rely on radioactive green mix or sip super-fruity concoctions from places like Chi Chi's?

Sep 04, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Spirits

Easy, simple but impressive hostess gift?

Would you be opposed to buying something? When I'm in this situation, and don't have time to cook, I buy a bottle of good olive oil. Agrumato makes olive oils that are pressed with lemons or oranges. Such a gift has been well received by my foodie- and not-so-foodie friends.

Sep 01, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking

13x9x2 inch cakes--can you make these multi-layer?

The number of servings you get from a cake depends, in part on what other food is available at the party. If there is a lot of kid-friendly food available, then a 9 x 13 inch cake will go far. If there isn't much other food available, then hungry kids will eat more cake, even if they normally don't care for it.

The other factor is adults. I have found that adults can pack away sizeable portions of cake, and come back for seconds, particularly if it is good cake. Homemade cakes from scratch are so much superior to boxed mixes and supermarket sheet cakes, that I always figure the cakes I bake for parties will get eaten in larger quantites than what you would normally figure for the same size commercial cake of lesser quality.

I almost always use Cake Bible for my recipes, but I do find the serving information inconsistent. The cakes that serve 50, in the back of the book, are not proportionally larger than the ones in the front that serve 12. I think this is because RLB is assuming that at a wedding or other festive party, there is going to be a lot of other food, so people won't eat as much cake.

Earlier this summer, I baked a birthday cake for a friend's son, who was turning 8. The hostess told me there would be about 25 children, plus adults. I figured about 50 to 60 people altogether. I baked a single vanilla layer in a rectangular pan that measured 18 x 12 x 2 inches (A half-sheet pan, in other words). This was about the equivalent of four 9-inch round layers, or twice the amount that a 9 x 13 inch pan makes. I just doubled the recipe for a double-layer vanilla cake. I had no problem baking it(I used magi-cake strips to allow the center to set before the sides got overcooked.)

By the end of the birthday party, there wasn't much cake left. There was enough for my hostess to keep (about 6 or 7 servings), and I took about 5 servings home for my family. A cursory check of the garbage can (I admit I do this--especially when I'm providing food for a party) showed that not a lot of it went to waste.

Here is a website that talks about pan sizes: http://www.baking911.com/pantry/subst...

Good luck!

Aug 30, 2006
La Dolce Vita in Home Cooking