Monthly Archives: December 2010

Happy New Year / Buon Capodanno

As 2010 winds down, folks will be celebrating the arrival of2011 in a variety of ways.  Earlier inDecember, I was at a lecture about Italian Holiday Traditions at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side featuring Francine Segan.  Listening to her speak brought me back tosome wonderful times that I’d spent ringing in the new year with friendsoverseas.
As she explained, many of these traditions feature specificfood items, and, as with most things in Italy, also have regionalvariations.  In Bologna, a typical dishis a pile of lentils (to symbolize money) topped with slices of zampone (astuffed pig’s trotter) or cotechino (a sausage variety), and garnished with potato purée.  Eating this meal on New Year’s Eve(capodanno), in addition to wearing red undergarments that evening and/or the first day of January, issupposed to bring good luck and fortune in the coming year.

While I don’t know how accurate that legend actually is, I can tellyou that the savory, melting fat and spices from the zampone / cotechino flavors the lentils justwonderfully.  The hearty taste andtexture of the flavored legumes is a perfect balance to the smooth and creamy potatomixture.  If I could get my hands on thepork component of this dish here in Virginia (our usual sausages aren’t quitethe same thing), I would make this for my family to eat tonight.

My mom used to make something of a similar nature for NewYear’s Day.  For us, we would gatheraround for a special meal to start off the year, usually featuring a ham ofsome sort, if I remember correctly.  Shewould also try to feed us Hoppin’ John, a Southern classic made with black-eyed peas and a ham hock, with the similargood luck aura of the Bolognesi lentils. This, I distinctly remember as not a hit at the dinner table.  I don’t recall it making an appearance morethan a couple of times.
However, for us, tonight it will be dinner with a toddler,his parents, and my dad.  We’ll be havingthe Spaghetti and Meatballs that I wrote about ages ago as being a familyclassic.  Having made this same dish overthe summer with my two oldest nieces, it seems like the next generation is alsobecoming a fan of it (and one of my nieces is a pro at making evenly-sized and -shaped meatballs).  Even ifthere aren’t any beans to represent money, the sauce for this dish is very red,so maybe that will be enough to bring us all good fortune for 2011.
Buon appetito and Buon Anno Nuovo!

Co Co. Sala Chocolate Lounge & Boutique

While my friends are slogging their way through the snowdrifts in New York, I’m still sitting tight inVirginia.  I had planned to make my way back today, butit looks like from the news reports that the city continues to be difficultto get around.  Besides, I’d already made anappointment to visit one of the amazing chocolatiers whom I’d first met at theChocolate Show in November, so I thought keeping that was probably a better useof my time instead of fighting the transportation woes back home.
Co Co. Sala started out as a dessert-only restaurant about three years ago butthen expanded to include dinner and brunch service. Their boutique opened this year to sell their gorgeous and deliciouschocolates separate from the main dining area. From what I read on their Twitter feed and see in the online reviews, itseems like they have many ardent fans.  Theyalso received a 2010 RAMMY award from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington for “Your Favorite Restaurant” as voted on by the public. Given that they are located in a neighborhood that I remember frommy post-college days working in DC as being run down and kind of on the scary side, even inbroad daylight, it is great to see a business like this one thrive in a newly-revitalized section of town.
Being back home for the holidays provided the perfect reasonfor me to head into the city to see their space and to talk to the executivechef Santosh Tiptur about his work.  Hegraciously answered my questions and told me about how they started out,adjusting the meal offerings along the way to showcase not just his wonderfuldesserts but also to put chocolate and other unique ingredients on the savoryside of his menu as well.  They doprivate events and classes and even have chocolate and champagne tastings, too.
I wasn’t able to enjoy a meal there, yet, so I’m going tolink to another site where several DC-area food bloggers were able to try avariety of dishes so that you can see that angle.  Their chocolate, however, was anothermatter.  At the boutique, I was able to try a few bitsof their unique and diverse artisanal chocolate line from the samples tray.  The highest quality, freshestingredients go into their product, and you can taste it in every bite.
The Black Forest had a fragrant, tart layer of raspberryfilling located just below a thin coating of dark chocolate all on top of acream layer.  The Praline Crunch transported me back to the finest chocolate shops inBrussels withits thin, beautiful dark chocolate coating covering a creamy, crunchyinterior.  The 72% Cacao chocolate just melted in my mouth taking me away tochocolate heaven.  On the recommendation of the person workingat the boutique, I tried his favorite chocolate, the Rosemary Caramel.  Theoutside of dark chocolate with white and green speckles hid the deep, richsilky caramel perfumed with woodsy, herbally rosemary.  While it might sound odd, this flavor combinationworked perfectly.
It is the care andattention to the craft of putting together these chocolates from their exteriordesign to the delicious taste within that make them stand out for me.  This is quality that comes through in everymorsel.  While I haven’t had the chance to taste every single one of their selections (maybe a goal for 2011?), some of the chocolates I have tried would have been very warmly welcomed in my Christmas stocking.
Chef Tiptur explained that he uses no preservatives in hischocolate, which accounts for their amazing flavors as well as their delicatenatures.  White chocolates should be keptfor no more than a month.  For darkchocolates, they need to be eaten within two months.  At the moment, the best way for you to try their fantastic products is to visit the boutique or the restaurant in Washington, DC.  Chocolates are also available via mail orderthrough their website.  I’m hoping thaton my next trip, I’ll get to try out their food, but for the moment, I’llsettle for savoring the memories of their wonderful chocolates.
Buon appetito!
Thank you so much to Chef Tiptur for talking to me today and to co-owner Bharet Malhotra for organizing our meeting.  If you would like to hold an event at Co Co. Sala, please contact their Manager of Development & Events.

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce

Happy Holidays to everyone! Now that the presents are bought and hopefully wrapped (did you get any of my Holiday Gift Ideas?), it’s time to settle down and enjoy the celebration, especially if it involves a great family meal. Once upon a time, in my family, we had turkey on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made me really bored with that meat. Then, for reasons that are still not clear to me, my mom made a change, and we started having Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce for the latter feast. With the exception of one sibling who doesn’t like red meat at all, there haven’t really been any complaints about this switch.

This year, to accommodate various schedules, our actual Christmas dinner was held last night. When I floated this meal as a suggestion for the gathering, it met with little resistance and several “yums.” The other components of the dinner, like the vegetables and desserts,are negotiable, but the core essence remains the same: a rib-in roast cooked slowly to a lovely rare texture, rich custardy Yorkshire pudding, and creamy, home-made horseradish sauce on the side. For me, this is the quintessential family holiday dinner, sitting around a table with my siblings, parents, and other family members.  Sometimes, I think about preparing it at another point in the year, but I can never quite make myself do it.  It wouldn’t feel quite the same.
As you can see, this card with the instructions has been used quite a bit.  It’s tagged as part of the Recipe Box Project I started a few years ago (see the first post for the details).  I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally and haven’t been able to find it on line to attribute it.I’ve made some adjustments to it, as I’m sure my mom did as well.  I consider it part of the evolutionary process.
At least two cooks and then anywhere from two to four other people (not including the little ones) were in the kitchen at any one time, and that’s not including my father who poked his head in from time-to-time to offer“advice” or make a comment.  This process did not end up, by some miracle, in bloodshed, tears, or burnt food.  We even managed to get dinner on the table within 30 minutes of what I had originally guess-timated as our start time.  I consider that to be a success, even if  some folks needed to “pre-ssert” to make it through to then (photo above).  Maybe this is a meal that you can try with your family for next year to make a part of your holiday traditions as it is for mine.

 

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce
Roast Beef
Rib-in roast of beef (you want some fat left on the meat)
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. ground thyme
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let roast come to room temperature.  Rub all over on all sides with the salt,pepper, and thyme (add more as necessary).
Roast in large pan on rack for 20 minutes per pound for rare.  Let roast stand for 10 minutesbefore carving.  Do not discard any of the fat that is in the bottom of the pan. If making Yorkshire Pudding,tent the meat with foil to keep warm as pudding cooks.  Also, do not be offended if any of your relatives decide that they need to cook the meat more in the microwave or on the stove.  This is also an annual tradition in my family.
Yorkshire Pudding
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 c. whole milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Create a well in the bowl and pour in the milk and the eggs.  Whisk everything together thoroughly so that there are no lumps in the batter.
Cover and chill batter for two hours.  After removing roast from pan, pour batter into same pan with the beef drippings (melted fat)*.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake batter for 10-15minutes more until golden brown and cooked through.  Serve with Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce.
*There needs to be between two to three tablespoons of fat for this to cook this properly.  You canal so add melted bacon fat to the pan to make up the missing amount if the fat from the meat didn’t add up to that much (which is what I had to do last night).
Horseradish Sauce
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 c. plain breadcrumbs
1/2 lb. horseradish, freshly grated plus 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
 OR 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Combine the sugar, mustard, breadcrumbs and horseradish together in a small bowl.  Fold in cream until everything is mixed thoroughly. Chill until a few minutes before serving.  Serve alongside Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Here’s how the sequence of events played out last night, to assist you with your meal preparation. First, we put the Roast Beef in the oven, as it was going to take about three hours to cook it.  Then, at about the 30-minute mark, I made the Yorkshire Pudding batter and put that in the refrigerator.  At about an hour out from the meat being done, I made the Horseradish Sauce so that it could chill and the flavors could meld.  When the meat came out of the oven, it was placed on a cutting board and tented with foil to stay warm while the Yorkshire Pudding was baking.
By the time the pudding came out of the oven, the Horseradish Sauce was on the table,someone had started to carve the meat for us all to start filling our plates.  Pies and vegetables and other sides were prepared during same time as this whole process, as my parents have two ovens so we could cook two parts of the meal at the same time.  If you have just the one oven, as I do, I’d recommend making the pies in advance and just reheating them that day.
Buon appetito e BuonNatale!

More Holiday Gift Ideas!

Well, it’s getting down to the wire, so hopefully, you have all of your holiday gifts bought and maybe even wrapped.  I have an ever-growing pile of things to take with me to Virginia that I have to figure out how to pack.  So, really, when I was at the New Amsterdam Market’s last market of 2010 yesterday, I shouldn’t have bought anything, right?

Alas, I couldn’t resist.  Even thought I was heading to brunch only a little while later, I had to pick up a few things.  There were just so much great stuff.  It started at the beginning, at the info table.  There, Nils Wessell had these gorgeous, handmade butcher’s block cutting boards.  Made in Brooklyn of materials from Pennsylvania and glue from Ohio, these were just stunning, but practical, works of art.  The waste from production is composted at a local center.  Good thing I hadn’t seen these earlier, otherwise they would have been at the top of my Christmas list.  Well, there’s always my birthday next year.

One of the new vendors to me were the folks at Nuts + Nuts.  The nuts are produced in Indonesia by the owners’ family and local farmers.  Then, they are transformed and packaged into various flavor combinations.  I tried the Spicy flavor which is in the center bin in the photo.  Perfumed with kaffir lime leaves, spices, and peppers, the citrus hits your palate and then is followed up by the heat from the chilies only to return with more citrus notes.  The packets are perfect for that mid-afternoon snack fix, and the boxes would make great gifts for the cashew-lover on your list.  I didn’t try the other flavors but am looking forward to tracking them down again.

In mystroll through the market, I chatted with Jen from LiddabitSweets (glad to hear the shipping is done!), Vince at Cellars at Jasper Hill, and Grace at TableTales (who was doing a brisk business in the cold weather).  Weswung by NordicBreads to stock up on their wonderful ruis bread.  I also had a nice talk about Italy and their possible cooking school plans with the people behind Fresh Flavors Catering, who had this greatdisplay of New York-made Italian food items.


Then,on the last row, there were the folks from The Bent Spoon.  They had oneof my all-time favorite flavors at the New Amsterdam Ice Cream Festival last summer.  A friend of mine and I tried their deeply chocolatey hot chocolate.  I haven’t had cup this delicious, this velvety warm since I lived in Italy.  With a dollop of real dairy whipped cream and a wafer cookie, this cup could have been a replica of the cioccolata calda con panna that I used to treat myself to every so often during the winter when I lived in Bologna.    


Although they were really trying to push everyone towards the hot chocolate, we were all there for their amazing ice cream, no matter where the thermometer was hovering.  I got a scoop of Peppermint Stick and one ofEggnog, the holiday’s greatest flavors in one cup. The cool, mint flavor with chunks of candy cane and sliversof chocolate was perfectly refreshing.  Nothing at all like the little ice cream cups from elementary school.  The Eggnog managed to capture thebooziness and creaminess of this drink, all in a frozen confection.  I was so disappointed that I didn’tpick up a pint of each of them, as they sold out by the time I circled backaround the market to pick up the last of my holiday gifts.  I guess I’ll just have to plan betternext year!

Buonappetito!

Gifted at Brooklyn Flea

Yesterday, I braved the cold and bone-chilling temperatures to head to the Williamsburgh Bank Building in Brooklyn to check out the Gifted holiday fair at the Brooklyn Flea.  Once inside, there were several floors of stalls to visit.  What I was looking for were some of the food vendors.  My goal was to find some great foodie stocking stuffers to take back to my family in Virginia.  I didn’t even realize we were doing stocking presents until I got an email from my sister last week.

Off in a side room, I found some of my favorite local food makers.  I think I went a bit crazy at the Liddabit Sweets table.  There are going to be some sugar-high kids at my parents’ house on the 25th, and I’m not talking about the grandkids.  I can’t reveal all, in the event that my siblings are going to take the time to read this post, but there’s popcorn and brittle and lollipops, and candy bars in my goodie bag.

I also managed to make room for a couple of jars from Rick’s Picks.  If you’ve read any of my previous post about their products, you can probably guess which ones I bought.  I also passed by Schoolhouse Kitchen‘s table to chat with them and to pick up their absolutely delicious Cherry, Blackberry, Sage, and Clove Spreadable Fruit.  What was really great about the day, however, was also that I also got to meet some new vendors and to sample some wonderful new treats.  Some of these should definitely make your holiday gift list.

One of the people I talked to for a bit was Jenna of Whimsy & Spice.  I knew when I passed by her table that I’d seen the gorgeously-designed and very practical measurement conversion charts previously.  She has it in wall format as well as as a tea towel.  I was drawn to the beautiful cookies and sweets in various flavor combinations like chocolate and cardamom and pumpkin and ginger.  I decided to pick up some Caramel Marshmallows to enjoy in a cup of steamy hot chocolate in an attempt to keep warm this weekend.

I didn’t have to look very far to find a hot chocolate mix.  Nunu Chocolates, which I’d first seen a the Union Square Holiday Market, was serving hot chocolate “shots” for $2.00 each.  I was hoping that a taste of it might warm up my toes.  At first sip, I savored the taste of smooth, creamy chocolate with a hint of cinnamon.  Then came the kick of chili.  This mix is flavored based upon their Mezcal Chili chocolate.  They also have various boxes of caramels and other chocolates for sale at their stands.

Another item with which I fell in love was The Brooklyn Salsa Company‘s line.  Made with mostly locally-sourced ingredients, the flavors in these jars are fresh and pack a big punch.  Named after New York boroughs, each one has its own personality to match.  The Queens would be perfect to have alongside a filet of some whitefish to give it a tropical flare.  The Manhattan and Staten Island ones were good as eating salsas, but I could also see them being good to use to make a tray of enchiladas or to dress up huevos rancheros.  I picked up a jar of the Bronx which, with its smokey, roasted eggplant and pepper layers, reminded me of Arthur Avenue and shopping in the Italian markets but with more of a kick.  The Brooklyn was hot and should be on your list of things to buy for the person who likes spicy things.  A seasonal flavor was the Sleepy Hollow, which I wished I know about for Thanksgiving.  It would have been perfect to have on hand to finish off the last of that turkey.

The other two food stands that were in the same section were McClure’s Pickles and Fine & Raw Chocolate.  Having picked up a couple of jars at Rick’s Picks, I knew that I didn’t have any room for their Bloody Mary Mix.  Next time, I’ll have to correct that.  I did try the Crystals + Sea Salt Chocolate and the Bonbon at Fine & Raw.  The later was smooth and rich and almost truffle-like to taste.  There was a mild aroma of coconut from the way that they process their chocolate which added to the luxurious mouth-feel of the sample I tried.  The box of two was small enough to fit into my goodie bag.

On my way out of the market, a non-food stand caught my eye.  I know, hard to believe that my foodie mission could be diverted, but these items are very cute and practical.  Map Tote‘s environmentaly-friendly, locally-made, bags each feature a different city map drawn in a unique and whimsical design.  I wish I’d discovered these earlier.  They also had wine totes and t-shirts.  Some of these might make it into the homes of friends and family.  And, in a moment of filial solidarity, I voted that Minneapolis/St. Paul should be the next city designed.

So, if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet or are just looking for some unique items to have on hand as gifts, I recommend that you get thee to the Flea before Gifted closes on the 23rd.  Also, if you need other ideas, check out my original post for food-themed holiday presents for this year.  Hope that you find some delicious ones!

Buon appetito!

Turkey Curry Salad Sandwich

This morning, my day started in a bit of panic mode.  I was getting ready to attend an all-day training seminar and realized that we were supposed to pack a lunch so that we could also listen to a guest speaker during that time. I’m really not good at bringing my lunch, even when I work fulltime, so I was sort of stumped as to what to do.

Rummaging around in the fridge I happened upon a bit of a surprise.  Shoved into the back of the top shelve was leftover Turkey Curry, from post-Thanksgiving.  Remember when I talked about how turkey was the gift that kept on giving in my family?  I conducted the “smell test,” and it seemed o.k.  (Oh, you know the one: When someone opens up that random jar of stuff in the back of the fridge and asks you to shove your nose in it to see if it smells bad.)  All I needed to figure out was how to recycle it as something to take for lunch today.

From the Pita Chips / Crisps that I made last week, I still had a couple of extra pita pockets.  I also discovered that I had some extra almonds from the Almond Butter Crunch and a jar of Squadrilla Chutney. This made my creative culinary wheels start to kick into motion, even if my morning caffeine hadn’t quite gotten into my system.  What if I created a Turkey Curry Salad Sandwich?

So, I took the leftover turkey curry, which was about a cup, and figured out what I need to do next, based upon another curry salad that I’d eaten ages ago.  I added a dollop* of the chutney, a couple of squirts of mayonnaise, a small handful of almonds, and, then, for some freshness, put in about a tablespoon of chopped cilantro.  What I was looking for was a citrusy, tangy, tart balance to the spiciness of the curry.  The turkey really needed something to perk it up at this point.

When I unwrapped my sandwich a few hours later, I wasn’t disappointed.  This was much more interesting than your usual chicken or turkey salad sandwich.  It had several different flavors going on in every bite, with nothing too overpowering in any one of them.  I don’t usually opt for sandwiches for lunchtime, so it was nice to have something that was flavorful and multi-dimensional.  Best of all, I saved money by not buying something to eat, and I finally got rid of the last of the Thanksgiving turkey.

Buon appetito!


*Kitchen Witch Tip:
I know that not all of my readership is based in the U.S. and that not all measurements are standard.  To assist in using my recipes, I’ve included a Measures / Conversions page on the site.