Monthly Archives: September 2011

Pasta with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers (Pasta alle zucchine e fiori di zucca)

This Wednesday, when I was doing my weekly shopping trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, I was kind of surprised to see how much summertime produce was still available.  I snapped up blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries to have with my yogurt and granola for breakfast (I’m trying to be very good after all that pasta and gelato in Italy.).  While I was walking around the market, one item in particular caught my eye, Zucchini Flowers.  I thought that the season for these was long over, so I picked up a box of them to take home with me.

I’ve been wanting to make a pasta dish with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers (or fiori di zucca in Italian).  I’d never eaten these delicate blossoms until I moved to Italy, and there I fell in love with them.  It wasn’t until several years ago that I started seeing them for sale in the farmers markets in New York.  Now, I find them on menus around town, people ask for my recipes, and I read about them being used in dishes featured in cooking magazines.

Zucchini “coins”

Zucchini has been one of those things with which I’ve had a love-hate relationship.  When it isn’t cooked to death, the way my mother made it when I was growing up, it is actually one of those vegetables that I enjoy eating.  I’m not a huge fan of it raw on crudite platters, either.  Somewhere in the middle, whether it is fried or sauteed, is really the best point at which to eat it, I feel, when there is some creaminess to it and a bit of a bite.  Here, I cooked it in olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese on top, added the zucchini flowers, and sprinkled it with another summertime favorite, fresh basil, to give it an herbal, anise-like snap at the finish.

I tossed this with some linguine that I found hanging out in my cupboard, but spaghetti would work well, too.  It seems like it will finally be getting a bit cooler after this weekend so summer really is winding down.  There’s just a short window left to make this dish this year.  Then, it will need to wait until next summer when the golden yellow zucchini flowers come back into season and bright green, tender zucchini flood the markets.

Getting everything ready

Pasta with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers (Pasta alle zucchine e fiori di zucca)

Serving Size: 2 starter portions

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tsp. Olive Oil (does not have to be extra virgin)

4 small, dark-skinned Zucchini, cut into round “coins”

2 cloves Garlic, minced

5 Zucchini Flowers, trimmed, rinsed and cut into strips cross-ways

1 Tbsp chopped fresh Basil

Black Pepper, freshly ground

Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

2 portions of dried pasta, such as linguini, trenette or spaghetti (not too thin), cooked according to the directions on the package

Assembly:

Start water to boil for the pasta and follow the preparation instructions on the package.  In Italian cooking, the sauce is made in advance of the pasta being cooked, so that nothing distracts from making the pasta perfectly.  In this recipe, you can make them pretty much side-by-side, although the pasta will take a bit longer to cook than the sauce.

Cleaned and chopped zucchini flower (left) and one waiting to be prepared (right)

You will also need to clean the zucchini flowers before you cut them up to eat.  As you can see in the above photo, there is a stem end that needs to be removed.  Make a slit in the side of the flower, carefully open it up to separate the yellow floral part from the stem end and the yellow fuzzy part coming up from the stem.  Discard those parts leaving only the yellow flower.  That part is what you will chop up and eat.  Rinse it carefully under water or brush with a wet towel to get rid of any dirt and bugs on it.

In a sautee pan large enough so that all the zucchini will fit in one layer, heat the olive oil for about 30 seconds over low to medium heat (It should not be smoking hot.).  Put zucchini in the pan and cook it on one side until the coins start to blister a bit and become golden brown.  This will take 2-3 minutes.  Flip them over to cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.

Sauteed zucchini “coins”

Add the garlic and mix together with the zucchini.  Be careful not to let the garlic turn brown as it will then develop an acrid taste.  Turn off the heat at this point.  Add 4 of the chopped zucchini flowers and 2 Tbsp of the basil.  Toss together letting the residual heat wilt them.  Set aside until the pasta is ready.

Sauteed Zucchini with Zucchini Flowers

Here is the beauty of this dish – it also makes a wonderful vegetable side course (or contorno in Italian).  If you want to skip the pasta, at this point grate some Parmesan cheese on the top of the zucchini and zucchini flowers.  Add a few grinds of black pepper and toss it together.  Then, as a finishing touch sprinkle the remaining chopped zucchini flower and fresh basil on top of it.  Serve immediately.

If using as a pasta sauce, drain the cooked pasta, reserving a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking liquid.  Add the liquid to the pan with the vegetables and toss together.  Put the pasta into the saucepan and stir to coat the pasta strands.  Place half the pasta mixture on each of two plates.  Add a couple of grinds of black pepper to each along with a dusting of Parmesan cheese, and the remaining chopped zucchini flowers and basil leaves.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

American Bounty Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America

Where I’m from “CIA” means only one thing, what is known as “La cia” in Italian.  It’s the halls of spook central located in Langley, Virginia.  When I moved to New York and started meeting people in the culinary industry, I had to get used to “CIA” meaning The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, rather than some shadowy, secret government entity.  It still makes me do a double-take from time to time when someone says, “He/she went to CIA.”

View from the terrace at CIA

This weekend through the New York Social Network, a handful of folks and I left the bustle of the city to head up to a dinner at this other CIA at their restaurant American Bounty, a destination that has long been on my list of places to try.  This was a fantastic way to meet a few new people, catch up with some that I already knew, and enjoy a great meal and lovely day out of town.  En route to our meal, we stopped by a local winery, visited a farmstand, and crossed the Hudson River via the walkway in Poughkeepsie, all while working our way up to the main event.

Tasting the 2008 Syrah at Robibero Family Vineyards

Fall colors and produce at Jenkins-Lueken Orchards

I hadn’t looked at the menu selections for dinner, but one of my companions had.  She seemed to be anticipating the deliciousness of the meal even before we left Manhattan.  Once we arrived, we took a quick spin around the terrace overlooking the Hudson.  I recognized the view from some of the camera shots taken during television shows broadcast from this location, but to see it in person was just amazing.  This really is a beautiful area, and it is a shame I don’t just hop on a train to get out here more often.

Walking into Dinner

Walking into the building, I just had a sense of awe and wonderment at all the culinary talent that has passed through these halls.  In the cases leading up to the entrance to the restaurant were an array of old kitchen and baking utensils, which I found very interesting to see.  When we arrived, we waited in the lounge to be seated and examined the menus at the host stand to see what we would each be selecting for dinner.  American Bounty sources ingredients from the Hudson River Valley area and focuses the types of dishes that are more regional American in flavor.

Crispy Artichokes with Basil Mayonnaise

When I first looked at my appetizer choices, I saw that they had ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossoms, one of my favorite things to eat.  Unfortunately, they were no longer on the menu.  Instead, I picked these Crispy Artichokes with Basil Mayonnaise.  Despite all my efforts, preparing artichokes at home is still not something I’ve really mastered.  Frying anything in my apartment is a recipe for disaster and a huge mess to clean up, so I thought this was a good choice.  They were wonderful, crunchy leaves, tender hearts, just enough sea salt to make them sort of like the best potato chips I’ve ever eaten.  Dipping them into the creamy, herby basil mayonnaise moved them up to the level of incredibly tasty.  I could have stopped here and been fine.

Grilled Center Cut Pork Chop with Gingered Tomato Jam, Spicy Mustard, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

My choice of mail dish was also along the lines of the appetizer.  Following the criteria for something I don’t have all that often and that I wouldn’t necessarily make at home in my own kitchen, I went with a big, center cut Pork Chop.  The meat was meltingly-tender with the sticky-sweet glaze a perfect balance to cut through the richness of the meat.  The tomato jam was quite good, but I thought that the glaze was fine on its own.  The creamy sauce on the side didn’t add that much to it, either I felt.  I enjoyed the mashed potatoes even though I thought that they were more puree style, and they did need a bit more garlic for my taste.  My only other niggle about an otherwise delectable dish is that I had asked for the pork chop to be a little bit pink so that it would stay really juicy and moist, and it arrived more on the well done side.

Back Yard India Pale Ale

To go with the first two courses, I had opted to try a Back Yard India Pale Ale from Cooperstown Brewing in Milford, New York.  I wanted to keep my drinking choice local, if I could, and also thought that with the main course, beer might be a better partner than wine.  I was not disappointed and might have found a new beverage to keep on hand in my fridge.  The malty, caramelly tones of this beer were a perfect balance for the crispy, salty, fatty artichokes as well as for the buttery-rich, sweet pork.  Being an ale meant that it didn’t overwhelm or under-perform as a drink to go along with this meal.

Kunik Cheese from Nettle Meadow

I was hoping that we’d be given at least a few minutes to digest before moving on to dessert, which were were.  We were also offered a cheese course featuring an array of American artisan cheeses.  A couple of the people at our table were so drawn into the cart that was brought to view that they picked out ones to try.  My dinner companion was nice enough to let me sample some of the Kunik cheese that he selected from Nettle Meadow.  Made of goat’s and cow’s milk, it had the smooth, creamy texture of the latter and a bit of pungency from the former while still being slightly sweet.  It melted tenderly on my tongue and made me almost wish I’d gotten some for myself.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Pistachio Ice Cream and Toffee Sauce

Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

What I was really saving room for, however, was dessert.  I wanted to see what creations we’d have to choose from given how many great chefs have come from this program.  The top photos is of the dish that I ate.  The bottom photo is the selection of the person who sat next to me and is probably what I should have chosen.  I thought that the Chocolate Cake was a bit dry and uninspiring, my dinner companion also confirmed the dry aspect, and I wish that the Toffee Sauce had been more than just a smear at the top of the plate, as it had wonderful burnt-sugar, nutty notes to it.  The winner on the plate was the Pistachio Ice Cream which was really delicious and had a great pistachio flavor to it.  The cookie crumbs on which it sat were unnecessary and distracted from the creamy sweetness of the ice cream.  I didn’t get to try the Profiteroles for myself, but the Chocolate Sauce smelled hearty and cocoa-filled, much like the kind my mother use to make.

Bellies full and palates satisfied with our experience dining at CIA, we settled our tab and piled into the van to head back to Manhattan.  We all agreed that it had been a very nice day out and that American Bounty lived up to expectations.  The service was well run, the food (despite some of my critiques) was really delicious and at a good price point, and the atmosphere was perfect for a small group.  This would be a great stop on a longer weekend excursion to Hyde Park, fitting in the Franklin D. Roosevelt house and library as well as some of the other scenic sites along the way.  I’m hoping that I get a chance to enjoy another meal there soon.

Buon appetito!

Mad Sq Eats Returns!

Today, Mad Sq Eats opened up again bringing delicious food vendors to a sliver of space across from Madison Square Park.  Having enjoyed some of the wonderful eats at this same event held this past spring, I’d marked my calendar to make sure I stopped by when it was up and running.  I had an appointment in the neighborhood this afternoon, which gave me an even more convenient excuse to head over there.

Before I even get to the food, can I just mention that these tablecloths and umbrellas are really darling.  This is probably the best-dressed street food fair I’ve ever seen.  On a grey, rainy day, these bright flowers livened everything up when contrasted against the washed-out buildings and concrete pavements of the city.  It could have almost been a watercolor painting.

Really, though, it was seeing what all the vendors had on display that I was interested in exploring.  As it was about dinner time, I knew I needed to make some important choices as to what to have for my evening meal at the market.  I was almost waylaid by waffles early on in my tour, as the guys from Wafels & Dinges were right there close to the start.  I also found out that they will be at several of the upcoming holiday markets in addition to their usual trucks around town.

The folks from NuNu Chocolates had some beautiful, delicious selections for sale as well as beer (also in growler form as in the photo).  Their store on Atlantic Avenue is a great place to take a break while shopping in that part of Brooklyn.  It was very convenient when the Brooklyn Flea was located at One Hanson Place.

Nearby to snack on while you tip back a glass of those suds (or wine, which they had, too), Sigmund’s Preztelshop has some of my favorites.  Their Cheddar and Truffle pretzels is on offer as well as the equally tasty Feta and Olive versions.  They had a Garlic-Parsley ones in another window along with a sweet Cinnamon Raisin.

For something more substantial, Flatiron locale Almond has a variety of sandwiches to tempt your tastebuds.  The hearty Moroccan Meatball Hero looked ideal for this dreary evening, but the Pastrami Sandwich and JB’s Jalapeno Cheddar Brat looked to be equally enticing dinner options.

To keep yourself going while trying to decide what to eat among all the wonderful selections from local food vendors, Coffee Connection is there with espresso drinks and various syrups to create your own custom beverage.  They were located next to Simon from Macaron Parlour, whom I haven’t seen in a while, so we took time to catch up.

He had so many gorgeous-looking things to sample, that I wasn’t sure that I could choose just one.  The Chocolate Chocolate Chip Fleur de Sel creation seemed so amazing that it is definitely next on my list to try.  Instead, I went with one of my favorites of theirs, the Nutella macaron.  The barest crisp of the exterior as your teeth bite into it yields to a soft, delicately sweet interior with a ribbon of hazelnut-chocolate richness waiting to hit your tongue.  It is pure perfection and the ideal small bite.

This section of the market must have been set up as dessert central, as a few stalls down from there were the folks from Cuzin’s Duzin, whom I first saw at Dekalb Market.  I was almost tempted as I saw these mini rings of fried dough coming hot off of the oil.  Then I turned as saw one my all-time favorite vendors who had the most enchanting display to signal the start of fall.

Cupcakes by candlelight, as the soft glow bathed Robicelli’s treats, what could be more romantic?  Check out the Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcake (pumpkin cake, espresso mascarpone buttercream, fall spiced chocolate covered espresso beans), as I did, to get you in the mood for the flavors of the season.  I’m not sure, however, that it got me thinking about hoe-downs specifically.  Check their Tumblr feed to see what I mean by this as well as for a list of the other amazing flavors that they’ll have available at this market.  They also have brownies and whoopie pies for sale as well.

On the other side of the market were other vendors putting together sweet treats, too.  At Bar Suzette, they were making crêpes to order.  Just look at the slather of Nutella going into this one.  It was definitely an option to be considered after I ate something that really qualified as dinner, not just a snack.

Nearby, on the same stretch of vendors was the stand for Stuffed Artisan Cannolis.  Not going to make it down to Little Italy to deal with the crowds for San Gennaro?  No problem.  Here’s a great way to get your cannoli fix without having to elbow up to the counter and scream your order.  They come in mini versions so that you can try more than one.

Not quite yet ready for dessert or have qualms about pre-sserting?  There’s plenty of savory options to choose from at the market as well.  This selection of Indian dishes from Junoon looked amazing.  It wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for for my own evening meal, but I think that they are definitely on my list to be considered during my next market visit.

The folks at Roberta’s Pizza had their oven fired and ready to go to serve hungry visitors, too.  I stopped by to watch them whip up a pie on the spot for some lucky customer.  The last time this market was held, they were one of the more popular vendors, so you might want to allow for a bit of a wait if this is what you are craving.

Speaking of craveable, it took all of my willpower to stay away from two of my favorite savory food vendors who are at the market.  Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s lobster rolls with succulent chunks of sweet meat or their delicate, flavorful shrimp roll with a zip of roasted-garlic and tarragon mayo will make you wish that summer would come back again, even with the steamy temperatures.  Fortunately, they are available in the city year-round.  Asia Dog, which I also skipped this time around, is always a win with great riffs on the classic hot dog.  The Vihn, a mock banh mi is still probably my top pick, with freshness from cilantro and carrots as well as a punch from the peppers and aioli, leaving a little bit of tingling on your lips after it is done to remind you how delicious it was.

A new set of folks whom I met there, were the people behind Perfect Picnic NYC.  I felt really bad that the gloomy, wet day wasn’t exactly the right fit for their concept, but I loved that they feature so many terrific local food artisans in their shop.  Click on the link above for their website to see what I mean.  On one of the crisp fall days that we have yet to enjoy, I can completely see calling on them to help pull together a hamper full of meats, cheeses, pickles, jams, relishes, and dips.  It was also delightful to see the owner’s daughter enjoying a very gooey, stringy-cheesed sandwich from The Milk Truck, which was located next to them.

So, in the end, I went with another favorite food vendor for my dinner selection.  I have to give a special plug to the guys behind Calexico Cart.  One afternoon, after dealing with getting new sheets and towels at a major department store’s sale, I was completely starving, having not planned very well about grabbing lunch during my errands.  They were pretty much shutting up shop at their usual perch in Madison Square Park.  Not a lot was left by way of selections, in fact, they had run out of most things and were short on ingredients.  This next part is what I really love about all the artisan, entrepreneurial-types who are a part of New York’s thriving food scene right now.

They threw together what they had left and made an amazingly delicious burrito creation just for me with black beans, carne asada, and a whole bunch of other good stuff wrapped inside.  When I saw them last night at the market, I knew that they had my dinner plans in their hands.  I was not disappointed at all.  Of the two tacos above, the Carne Asada and the Chipotle Pork, I have to say the latter won hands down.  Smokey, pull-apart tender meat with crunchy pickled onions, a bit of heat from the pico, and a mild cool-down from the crema.  It was the perfect flavor combination for me.   Now I get why they have lines of devoted followers at the markets when I see them.

I didn’t get to check out all of the vendor stands last night, and some of them were not open, perhaps because of the rain.  By the time I made it through my initial sweep, the wet stuff seemed to be coming down harder, and I was on the verge of being drenched.  Despite the weather, however, it seemed as though there were quite a few folks stopping by on the way home from work or en route to another evening destination.  It is a great hub of culinary treats that I highly recommend taking a detour to this part of the city to visit.  The market will be open until October 21.

Buon appetito!

My Gelato Tour of Bologna

Aside from all the pasta I ate when in Bologna last week, I also consumed a large amount of gelato.  The temperatures most days were around 90-ish degrees (30+ in Centigrade).  My pasta class was quite intensive and physical and was held in a non-air conditioned environment.  My hotel also did not have AC other than in the lobby.  With a humid, sticky atmosphere both outside and in wherever I seemed to go, this was the perfect excuse to eat ice cream for dinner.

Before I left, I had done some research on the topic of where to find the best gelato in town.  There were several lists from which to draw, plus I had some recommendations from people whom I met while there.  What is really interesting, as one of my Italian classmates agreed with as well, is that when I lived and studied in Bologna many years ago, it wasn’t particularly known as having great entries in this food category.  Pasta, yes, Lasagna, yes, other great dishes, yes, but gelato, while good varieties could be found in several neighborhoods, wasn’t really considered the city’s strong suit.

Grom (Via D’Azeglio, 13)

Oh, how times have changed!  There were so many great flavors and combinations to try.  I limited myself to a two or three scoop sample at each place and, in general, steered clear of all fruit versions or completely chocolate, with one exception.  For my first cone, I decided that the local branch of Grom would be my “gateway gelato.”  On occasion, I treat myself to one of their scoops at one of their stores in New York, so I thought that they would be a good benchmark for my mission in Italy.  The Sea Salt Caramel was creamy and light on the caramel taste.  I didn’t really pick up a good hit of salt in it.  The Ricotta with Almonds (the September flavor when I was there) was rich and nutty tasting due to the ricotta.  The almonds were meaty and, I think, toasted which gave its flavor a bit more complexity.

Gelateria Gianni (Via Montegrappa, 11)

For the next stop on my tour, I didn’t have to go far from my hotel.  Gelateria Gianni was about half a block away.  They make their gelato using milk from the cows in the region around Bologna.  Like many of the places I sampled, they make all their products in-house with the highest quality ingredients available in Italy and also from around the world.  What is special about their creations is that they have traditional flavors as well as some unique special blends.  How about a little Inferno (Hell) for a steamy afternoon?  This white chocolate, cherry, wafer combination was one of my choices above.  Or  Il Sole (Sun) creamy orange gelato, with chocolate and candied Sicilian almonds, which was probably my favorite of the two.  Even the man behind the desk at the hotel said that he indulges in them “ogni tanto” (sometimes).

Il Gelatauro (Via San Vitale, 98/b)

Around the corner from the school I attended then worked at in Bologna is a gelateria that has received lots of buzz for using organic ingredients and for creating some more unusual flavors with them.  One of my former co-workers, a native Bolognese, recommended that I stop by Il Gelatauro after our meeting as well.  Knowing her culinary credentials, I figured that she would not steer me in the wrong direction.  I have to say that the Smoked Green Tea (The’ Verde Affumicato) scoop wasn’t quite my cuppa.  I prefer the taste of the version from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory instead and found this one to have an almost acrid backnote.  Their Ginger (Zenzero) flavor was more up my alley with a creamy, zingy profile that worked well with my other choice Pumpkin and Cinnamon (Zucca e Cannella).  I’ve long been a fan of pumpkin ice cream, and they pulled it off perfectly.

Cremeria Sette Chiese (Via Santo Stefano, 14/a)

While on my way to dinner on Saturday, the day I arrived in town, I passed by Cremeria Sette Chiese.  They had a gorgeous display of ice cream bars as well as large tubs of inviting flavors of gelato.  When I met one of the owners/chef, he had just come out from the “laboratorio” in the back part of the store, as they make everything on location.  I tried the Caramel version from here and found it to be all right.  What really grabbed my tastebuds, however, was the Peccato al Gola (which my on-line translator says means “Gluttony”) with a creamy base supporting the sweet red swirls of local Amarena cherries and ribbons of rich dark chocolate.  Oh my.  He said he’d like to bring his gelato to New York.  With flavors this delicious, I’d definitely queue up for it.

Stefino (Via Galliera 49/b)

On the way back from pasta class one afternoon, I decided that I’d check out a place that I’d heard some raves about. Stefino isn’t a typical shop in that they sell from a window where their selections are displayed rather than customers going into a store to see all the choices.  I heard a few other English voices ordering as well, so I have a feeling that this one has been making the rounds on a few lists.  I had the Caribe (Caribbean) with the fragrance of rum and vanilla.  My other selection was the Mediterraneo (Mediterranean) with pistachios, almonds, and pine nuts.  Both of them were creamy, cool, and refreshing.

La Sorbetteria Castiglione (Via Castiglione, 44)

Not far from where I used to live is another place about which I’d heard lots of positive things.  La Sorbetteria Castiglione has a wide range of ice cream confections, including some beautiful cakes that would be a welcome addition to any dinner.  This time, I decided to sample the Amaro Extra (Dark Chocolate) on the advice of one of my fellow pasta class participants.  The reason I don’t usually go for chocolate gelato is that I find it to be a bit gritty, as this one was on my tongue.  As another classmate explained, this is generally because cocoa powder is used instead of processed chocolate to make it.  I don’t know if that is true, but the texture didn’t make it work for me.  On the other hand, the Cremino Guglielmo with mascarpone, espresso, and raw chocolate pieces was perfectly blended and tasty.  The hit for me, however, was the Dolce Emma which combined creamy ricotta gelato with sweet-sticky caramelized figs and zesty lemon peel.

Gelateria delle Moline (Via delle Moline, 13/b)

Back towards the university district I found Gelateria delle Moline with tables full of students taking an afternoon break.  Once I made my way up to the front of the line to pick my flavors, I opted for a scoop of cool and lively Fior di Latte con Mirtilli (blueberries wrapped up in milky creaminess) and rich Delizia di Croccante (a vanilla base with chocolate and crunchy bits).  Both of these were worthy entries in the giro di gelato that I was undertaking.

Cremeria Funivia (Piazza Cavour 1/de)

The cone in the photo above looks very sad, but I assure you it was completely and wonderfully delicious.  I’d seen Cremeria Funivia mentioned as the place to go for gelato in Bologna.  Fortunately, they have a location not far from the center of town (in addition to one outside of the city’s ring road) so I could fit it into my errands.  It was hard to choose, but I got a scoop of the Cassata Siciliana which was like having cannoli cream filling in ice cream form with chunks of dark chocolate and candied orange peel embedded in a creamy ricotta gelato.  The definite winner for me was the bright pink Amarenata scoop, flavored with and colored by the local cherries.  Candied nuts studded the gelato giving it an added boost.  There were no tables to eat at outside the gelateria so I made my way to Piazza Maggiore (the main town square) to savor the gelato before it melted while sitting on the steps of the church located there.

Venchi (Via Orefici, 23)

Before my flight, I grabbed lunch at Tamburini, a well-known and well-loved stop for locally made pastas, cured meats, and cheese, as well as a spot to get a reasonably-priced hot lunch.  On the way back to grab my bags, I walked by Venchi which was across the street.  A chocolate and gelato place, I figured that I should at least try it out.  They had some of the usual flavors plus a really deep, dark chocolate option.  Instead, I went for the Tagliatelle al Vegetariano, a combination of vanilla with milk chocolate chunks and cherries in syrup in a waffle cone, which became a soupy mix in the heat.

So what was the end result of the tour?  The Peccato al Gola from Cremeria Sette Chiese was in the lead before the Amarenata from Cremeria Funivia swooped in and took over.  Another strong contender for best combination was the Zenzero and Zucca e Cannella from Il Gelatauro.  It was not that difficult of a decision to make, in the end, despite the fact that all the gelati that I tried were tasty.  It was the combination of top-quality ingredients, a great blend of taste and texture, and just amazing flavor throughout each and every bite that made the Amarenata a winner.  You know, to really be sure, I think I might need to head back over there again to work my way through another round just to double-check that I didn’t miss something.

Buon appetito!

Pasta Making Course in Italy and European Food Travels

Last week, I spent five days in an intensive pasta making course in Bologna, Italy at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese learning how to be a “sfoglina,” or person who creates and rolls out the sheets of pasta that are the base for the delicious Italian creations that are typical of Emilia-Romagna in the north of the country.  You’ll know them by the names tortellini, tortelloni, tagliatelli, and pasta verde.  At some point, I promise I’ll string everything together, but for the moment, you can check out how it went by looking at the photo albums on my Facebook page.

Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna

Along the way, as it was only, oh, 90 or so degrees and sweltering each day (30+ for those of you counting in Centigrade), I took a tour of the many gelaterie in Bologna.  Those pictures are on Facebook, too.  I also uploaded them to my Foodspotting account along with several other pictures from my food adventures both in London and in Bologna.  Next week, I’ll post about all the flavors that I managed to sample and which one(s) made my list of favorites.  It was a delicious chore to undertake so I was happy to have to do so.

Lunch at Ottolenghi in London

I know that people knock dining in London, which was another stop on my trip, but there’s really a wealth of terrific places to eat and to discover.  I wrote about several of them in my post about eating around the city during my stop there in February.  It was wonderful to be able to visit some of them again and to come across other places to add to my list.  Most of all, I was able to fit in the amazing and highly-recommended afternoon tea service at Claridge’s.  I’m now going to have to figure out if I can squeeze that in for every visit I make over there.

Sunset over the West Side from my Rooftop

As much as I love to travel and see new places, or in this case to visit my old haunts, there really isn’t anywhere like home.  After two weeks away, I can’t wait to get back to the Big Apple, to my own bed, and to all the wonderful food adventures that are scheduled for this fall.  I hope you’ll continue to follow along with this site and check out my Events page as I try to keep up with as many of them as I can manage to make, discovering great new things to eat and to cook with along the way.

Buon appetito!

Guest Post from And Baby Cakes Three – Grandmother’s Broiled Grapefruit

While The Experimental Gourmand is off in her old stomping grounds of Bologna, Italy trying to learn the secrets behind making really delicious pasta by hand, Nicole of And Baby Cakes Three, a delicious blog about food with beautiful photos and recipes, is guest posting about food and memories. 

Food plays a great role in our lives and also our childhoods. Through food we discover flavor, texture, temperature, aroma, and taste. Through food we are nourished and sustained. Some people have bad memories of overcooked vegetables or being forced to sit at the table staring at a plate of liver and onions, being told there would be no leaving the table until it was all gone. Thankfully, I was not subjected to that kind of torture. I always asked for seconds (and thirds) as I was a particularly hungry, growing girl.

My first food memory is one that I’ve played over many times throughout the years. In the image, I am 5 or 6 years old sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen with my sister in Amityville, NY. I remember the deep red of the faux-brick linoleum floor and the hand-crank wooden coffee grinder. My grandmother placed a bowl in front of me containing a nice round grapefruit half. She gave me a funny spoon with teeth at the edge that felt strange against my tongue.

This was no ordinary grapefruit. My grandmother had lovingly segmented and broiled it with a bit of brown sugar to warm it through and take off that sour edge. It was a little touch that made breakfast cozy — as if breakfast in a grandmother’s kitchen could be any cozier. When my sister and I announced we were done, she took our spoons and helped us scrape out the rest of the pulp. Good to the last spoonful.

My grandmother passed away when I was in third grade, so I’ve clung to the few moments we shared in life. That’s why over childhood birthday parties with pizza and cupcakes it’s the memory of a grapefruit that I keep replaying. Proof that somebody loved me deeply, was happy to have me in their home that morning, and took extra care to show me that.

Broiled grapefruit

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Serving size: 2 portions

Ingredients:

1 Grapefruit

4 tsp. Brown Sugar

pinch of ground Cinnamon or ground Ginger (optional)

Assembly:

Preheat broiler setting on oven.  Cut grapefruit in half and cut away the sections from the membrane.  Sprinkle each half with 2 tsp. of the brown sugar (and cinnamon and/or ginger, if using).

Place each half underneath the broiler for 5 minutes until the sugar has melted and the top has begun to turn brown.  Check halfway through so as not to burn the grapefruit.  Let cool for a few seconds before eating it.

Buon appetito!