Wow. You folks sure love your vanilla! We had a record 636 entries, that’s more than any giveaway we’ve done in the past. Thank you everyone for entering. I’m no statistician, but I think Vanilla Bean Ice Cream might just be the most popular vanilla recipe, but other common responses seem to be vanilla buttercream, vanilla whipped cream, vanilla sugar cookies, and vanilla steamed milk.
Without further adeau, I’d like to announce the winner of the vanilla gift pack:
Congratulations, Sara! You’ll be receiving a lovely sampler from Beanilla! Can’t wait to see what you do with it! :)
A huge thank you to Beanilla for sponsoring this giveaway. If you are looking for an affordable source for high quality vanilla beans, Beanilla is your place.
As for the rest of you, I’m not leaving you empty handed. You all seemed to love the labels I designed, so I figured, why not give those away, to everyone?
Click to download: Homemade Vanilla Extract Labels
The .pdf file includes labels for 5 different varieties of homemade vanilla extract, including Tonga, Madagascar, and Tahitian (pictured above) as well as the addition of Bourbon and Mexican varieties. Simply print onto white sticker paper (available at office supply stores or online), cut out, and adhere to bottles. Please note these labels are for personal use only. Enjoy!
It’s been 3 months since we returned from Italy, and there are still a few dishes that we cannot get out of our heads. Dishes that we knew, the second we tasted them, that we had to recreate (or at least try to) once we got home. One of the most unique and memorable was Testaroli, a crepe-like pasta that we enjoyed one afternoon in Manarola, on the Ligurian coast.
When I ordered the trio of testaroli, I thought I’d be getting a pasta with three different sauces. Granted, that is what I got, but I’d never seen pasta like this before. I was quite surprised when the plate arrived at our table; it was not what I was expecting.
Think of testaroli as the Italian version of a savory crepe. The traditional way to serve it is smothered with Genovese pesto, a specialty of the region, though the restaurant dish had variations with tomato sauce and olive oil as well. As I searched for recipes, most called for the crepe to be cut up into pieces or strips after cooking, and then boiling those pieces just like you would pasta. So maybe what we had wasn’t traditional, but it sure was good.
While I don’t think our version was quite as delicate as the Italian version (and maybe that’s more a result of our amateur crepe-making skills than anything), this dish was incredible and will definitely become a regular addition to our dinner regimen. The testaroli itself isn’t spectacular. Instead, the testaroli serves as more of a canvas for whatever sauce or topping it carries, which is why it is important to use the best pesto you can find if you can’t make your own. I’ll admit we did not make our own pesto this time (store didn’t have basil and we didn’t feel like driving all around town looking for some). But lucky for us Lazzaroli’s, the little Italian pasta shop in our neighborhood, stocks a kick ass homemade pesto. Kudos to Tom on this one, as his handiwork really made this dish.
Testaroli al Pesto
1/2 cup whole wheat white flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 big bunch fresh basil leaves, picked from the stems
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, approximately, plus more for the pan
1 onion, cut in half
Using a fork, stir water into the flour to form a thick batter. Continue mixing with the fork until all clumps have disappeared and the blend is homogeneous. Mix in salt to taste. Set aside and let sit, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and 2 teaspoons cheese. Pulse gently, just until roughly chopped. Pour in the olive oil bit by bit as you continue to pulse the basil and cheese mixture. When enough oil is in the bowl to make the ingredients pulse smoothly, pulse continually until all the oil has been added and the mixture is smooth and homogeneous. Season, to taste, with salt.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a 6-inch, non-stick omelet pan over high heat. Stick a fork in the top of the onion half, and use the cut side of the onion to spread the oil evenly around the pan. When oil is very hot, add a small ladle (1/4 cup) of the batter to the hot pan. Immediately swirl the pan to coat bottom with batter, and cook until crepe loosens from side of skillet and underside is pale golden, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until both sides are golden brown. Repeat with the remaining batter, re-greasing the pan when needed, until all the batter has been used. Keep crepes in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Top crepes with pesto and a sprinkle of cheese. Serve immediately.
Yes, it’s after Christmas. Yes, I’m posting a holiday gift idea when gift giving is probably the last thing you want to be thinking about. In my defense, I had to wait, otherwise it would have ruined the surprise for our parents, who each received a set of these for Christmas. For what it’s worth, this is not a last minute gift. I let mine steep for about 6 months. So you should be thanking me for giving you such a fabulous gift idea you can get started on so far in advance. You’re welcome.
Homemade vanilla extract. It sounds so… complicated. So involved. Something akin to distilling your own whiskey or something. But you’d be surprised how simple it is. As easy as pouring some booze into a bottle with a few vanilla beans, and then forgetting about it for 6 months. I think we’re all capable of that.
For this particular batch I purchased three different varieties of vanilla beans: Madagascar, Tahitian, and Tonga. I just love the idea of comparing the subtleties present in each variety (obviously, because I’ve done it before with eggplant, summer squash, figs, and garlic) and the three-extract sampler made the gift that much more special. The final product was packaged in 4oz amber bottles and stickered with a lovely designed label indicating the variety. I knew our parents would appreciate them so much more than a store-bought present.
Hooray for planning ahead.
(Psst! If you like the labels I designed here, you can download a free printable pdf of them to use for your very own homemade vanilla extract!)
Homemade Vanilla Extract
6-10 fresh vanilla beans (more beans will yield a stronger extract in shorter amount of time)
16 oz. (2 cups) vodka or other liquor
Split vanilla beans and scrape out seeds. Cut pods into 1" pieces. Put both seeds and pod pieces into a glass jar or bottle. Fill with vodka and seal. Store jars in a cool dark place, gently shaking the mixture several times a week. For best results, allow to brew for at least two months, if not longer. The extract will get better with age.
Strain out solids prior to using.
You can also refill the bottle with more vodka as it is used. Occasionally you may also want to strain out the old vanilla beans and replace them with fresh beans. This is also a great use for old beans or beans used for other purposes (once you've scraped out the seeds for your other recipe, simply cut up the empty pod and add it to your extract.)
Guess what? I’ve got another giveaway for you! I wanted to include this one in giveaway week, but since these bottles were actually given to family members, that would have ruined the surprise. So I had to wait. Call it a belated Christmas gift, if you will.
Beanilla, online retailer of gourmet vanilla beans and vanilla products and where I purchased my beans for this project, has so kindly offered one lucky reader a gift set that includes 3 Madagascar vanilla beans and 3 Tahitian vanilla beans, plus a 1/2 ounce jar of ground vanilla. I truly believe in having fresh vanilla beans on hand at all times, and Beanilla is a quality and affordable source (ie: not the dry and dull beans that they sell in the grocery stores for $10 a pop). Do yourself a favor, buy a bunch. When the price per bean is so reasonable, you don’t have to treat them like precious objects; you’ll find yourself using them to gussy up your everyday dishes and baked goods.
***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***
Simply leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question:
What is your all time favorite vanilla recipe?
Entries open through 1/8/11 at 11:59 CST. I’ll be randomly selecting the winner the morning of Sunday, January 9th. Prize will be shipped to the winner directly from Beanilla. Beanilla is willing to ship this prize internationally.
Want Extra Entries?
Increase your odds of winning! In addition to the main entry comment, leave a separate comment for each bonus entry.
1. Follow @loveandoliveoil on twitter and tweet the following:
I just entered to win a vanilla sampler from @beanilla and @loveandoliveoil! Enter here: http://bit.ly/eHuESh
2. Like Love & Olive Oil on Facebook (or if you are already a fan just say so!)
Be sure you enter a valid email address, because if your name is drawn and I can’t get a hold of you within 48 hours, I will choose an alternate winner. You may also want to add me to your address book (lindsay AT loveandoliveoil DOT com), as I’d hate for your congratulatory email to end up in the spam folder.
Happy 2011, everyone! We’re celebrating the New Year with a fresh new layout for one thing (if you’re reading this through a feed reader you may want to click through and check it out). What started as a desire for bigger photos turned in to a pretty significant redesign (funny how that happens), but I think you’ll like it. Please excuse the currently dull and image-less archives. I have to go back and edit old posts, something that takes up quite a bit of my precious time. It’ll get done, eventually. As always, if you encounter any issues with the new design please let me know.
And now, on to these cupcakes!
These adorable little mini cupcakes were made for an evening of celebration: celebrating New Year’s (duh!) but also celebrating a surprise engagement. A double surprise in that Erin didn’t know about the proposal, nor the giant party she was having at her house afterwords. Luckily she had plenty of friends to bring plenty of food, and a fiance who took care of every little detail. Congrats to the happy couple!
Whether it be for a New Year’s Eve bash, or an engagement party, these festive cupcakes work perfectly for any celebration. I do wish the strawberry cake had come out a bit more pastel pink, but the slightly red hue was pretty nonetheless, especially once topped with a dollop of champagne buttercream and a shimmery dot of fondant.
I think they were a smashing success!
Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes (or 48 mini cupcakes)
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup champagne/sparkling white wine
1/3 cup strawberry puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup champagne
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk or cream, as needed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut milk, champagne, strawberry puree, sugar, vanilla, and oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until relatively smooth. Fill cupcake liners with a scant 1/4 cup of batter (cups should be just under 2/3 of the way full). Bake for 18-22 minutes or until set, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Bring champagne to a simmer in a small saucepan. Continue to boil gently until only 2-3 tablespoons of liquid remain. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
For frosting, cream butter in electric mixer for 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Slowly add 1 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons reduced champagne and mix. Continue to add confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until light and fluffy. Add cream or more sugar as necessary to achieve proper consistency. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.