Monday, February 28, 2011


This was quite a transition weekend.  I know of five people who moved to new places and my niece is one of them.  She and Joe are officially new homeowners and her timing was impeccable for we were able to transfer many items to her new abode and are thrilled they will enjoy them.  I know Helen and George are smiling.  She wants to decorate it in the 70s fashion so they fit in perfectly.  Congratulations Melissa and Joe!  Enjoy your new digs.
I just have to share these two new breads I recently discovered.  My family is big on deli sandwiches and the Turano whole grain is so delicious and makes excellent toast.  The pita bread is a nice variety for dipping into hummus or olive oil, oregano and parmesan cheese after warming.  Speaking of warming, it looks as if our winter days are waning and since it is the last day of February, March provides a mental transition into spring.  Thanks, Mother Nature.  I can't wait!
To celebrate, I baked lemon cupcakes with green-colored frosting and sprinkles since St. Patty's Day is almost here.  Dan and Darcy will have their one year anniversary on that date; we must decorate accordingly.  Recently I discovered a new-to-me cheese which is the highlighted subject for today and look forward to using it more often.  I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of recipes from this ingredient.

Mascarpone is a fresh, very rich cow's milk cheese with double or triple cream (60-75% milk fat.) Its texture resembles a sticky pudding and is the color of cream.  The main ingredient is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese and is not made from whey, as is ricotta.  Mascarpone originated in the southwest of Milan in the late 16th century. It is a specialty used in various dishes of the Lombardy region of Italy.

Mascarpone cheese is the staple in tiramisu which literally means to pull up.  The biggest problem with mascarpone is that most people pronouce it as if the r is before the s instead of in front of the p ~ marscapone.
Italian Chicken Spirals with Basil Mayo Dip

6 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (2 lbs.)
6 think slices prosciutto (2.5 oz.)
6 medium spinach leaves, stems removed
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 small shallot
1/2 clove garlic
red pepper for basil mayo
white and/or purple flowering kale (optional)

Place chicken breast half, boned side up, between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.  Pound chicken lightly to 1/4 inch thickness.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast halves.  Set aside.

Place spinach leaves in colander; pour boiling water over leaves in the colander set in sink.  Drain spinach on paper towels.

Place a chicken breast half, smooth side down, on cutting board or other flat surface.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange a slice of prosciutto on chicken.  Spread a rounded tablespoon of cheese evenly over prosciutto.  Arrange a spinach leaf on top.

Roll chicken lightly from one long edge and place, seam side down, in a greased shallow baking pan.  Repeat with remaining chicken breast halves.  Combine olive oil and paprika; brush over chicken.

Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink; cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate several hours.

For Basil Mayo: Combine mayonnaise, fresh basil, shallot and garlic in a food processor blow or blender container.  Cover and proces or blend until almost smooth.  Cover and chill up to 4 hours.

To serve, trim off ends of chicken rolls.  Cut each chicken roll into 6 slices.  Arrange slices on serving plate.  Serve Basil Mayo spooned into a sweet pepper half and garnish with fresh basil.  Makes 36 appetizers.

Make ahead tip:  Prepare chicken.  Cover and chill up to 8 hours.  Prepare mayonnaise.  Cover and chill up to 4 hours.

Of the recipe shares, the appetizer is the most time-consuming.
Pasta Shells with Walnuts

4 oz. dried tricolor medium shell macaroni or cavatelli
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 tablespoons butter
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup coursely chopped walnuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan cook the green onion in butter over medium heat for 1 minute.  Reduce heat.  Add the mascarpone cheese.  Cook and stir until cheese melts.  Add milk and stir until sauce is smooth.  Stir in Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts.  This is a meal in itself.

Now for the dessert!
Strawberry Dessert Pizza

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup whipping cream
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely finely shredded lemon peel
4 cups sliced strawberries
chocolate curls or grated chocolate

For crust:  in a medium mixing bowl combine flour and brown sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Press firmly into an 11 to 13 inch pizza pan.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light brown.  Cool completely.

Just before serving, in a medium bowl beat whipping cream with an electric mixer on low speed just until soft peaks form.  Add mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and lemon peel; beat until fluffy (mixture will thicken as it is beaten.)

Spread cheese mixture atop cooled crust.  Top with strawberries.  Garnish with chocolate curls or grated chocolate.  Serve immediately.  Makes 12 servings.

I chose these recipes because I have all the ingredients in the house to make them immediately, but I urge you to browse around for whatever strikes your fancy.  I am amazed at how this dainty cheese can be utilized.  Enjoy.

Adios, February. Hello, March...xo