Yearly Archives: 2014

Walk-Around Tasting with the Italian Trade Commission

Mortadella displayMortadella display

Earlier this month, I was invited to attend a walk-around tasting of Italian food products by the Italian Trade Commission.  The goal was to introduce us to the AICIG (Italian Association of Geographical Indication), an organization that works to protect and preserve the designation of authenticity of Italian food products, as well as to let us actually sample those products, thus giving us a deeper appreciation for the quality and tradition behind these edibles.  This organization represents the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) sectors at the national, European Union, and international levels, helping them to promote their products and to raise awareness of these food certifications.

Prosciutto sliced on the machineProsciutto sliced by machine

Food certification and guarantees of authenticity in production are an area taken much more seriously in the European Community than in other areas of the world.  The process to receive one of these designations is time-consuming and expensive, but the rewards of doing it and the recognition of these products at that level can be financially very important.  It isn’t just about the labeling rights, however, as these designations are also a matter of preserving Italian culinary and cultural traditions, ones that have hundreds of years of history behind them, something that the Italian government and their local authorities work very hard to maintain.

Grana Padano displayDisplay of cheeses

Among the products that we had the opportunity to taste were cheeses, prosciutto, vinegar, and olive oil.  Our host location, Osteria del Principe also served us several delicious dishes, including a deliciously creamy Risotto ai Funghi, that showcased Italian cuisine.  These foods reinforce the passion and commitment that the trade commission and its members have for items that they feel deserve to carry the “Made In Italy” stamp.  They have indicated that over the next year, they will be having more such events, including one just for Italian wines, to introduce us further to the quality and care with which Italian products are made.

Buon appetito!

Thank you so much to the folks at PadillaCRT for inviting me to take part in this event. For additional information about the Italian Trade Commission, please visit their website. For additional information about the AICIG, please visit their website.

Dessert-apoolza at Baked Tribeca

Cookbook displayCookbook Display

On Thursday night, I dropped by Baked‘s new-ish Tribeca location for Dessert-apoolza, a cookbook signing and tasting event that raised moneys for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and Getting Out and Staying Out.  The former organization, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is one with which I have a personal connection, and, well, having dessert for dinner is just one of those perks of being a grown-up (the other is having dessert for breakfast), so this was right up my alley.  If you’re looking for some cookbook ideas for this holiday season, check out these ones that were at the sweets-fest last week:

Ample Hills ice creamsAmple Hills Creamery – Egg Nog and Drunken Thanksgiving Ice Cream

Samples of two seasonal flavors of this local ice cream company were available for tasting.  The Egg Nog was a creamy, frozen version of its namesake holiday party beverage.  The Drunken Thanksgiving combined pumpkin, gingersnaps, and bourbon.  This can take the place of pie at my holiday feast any year.

Baked - Tri-color Bars Wintermint CakeBaked – The Tri-Color Bar Wintermint Cake

The hosts for the evening put out this seasonal, festive mini-cakes for everyone to try.  They have several cookbooks as well as a range of baking mixes.  Really, though, stopping by one of their shops to pick out treats to take home (or to eat on site) is the way to go.

Baked Ideas displayBaked Ideas – Cookies

I’m a big, big fan of cookies, as I’ve mentioned in the past, so it was no surprise that I wanted to hang out at this table for a while.  Patti Paige had several different kinds of cookies, including gluten-free ones, available for the guests to try.  She even had decorating supplies for us to create our own designs.  My cookie frosting M.O., however, hasn’t changed since childhood and is just to slather on a glob of icing and to pop it in my mouth, which wasn’t exactly what I think she had in mind.

Butter & Scotch - S'mores PieButter & Scotch – S’mores Pie

Samples of the fabulous S’mores Pie and Bourbon-Ginger-Pecan pie from Butter & Scotch were available at this tasting, so I tried to limit my self to just one sample of each, along with copies of Allison Kave’s terrific book First Prize Pies.  Aside from Ample Hills’ ice cream, I’d take any of these pies on my holiday dinner table, as well.  Keep in touch with these ladies, as they’re opening up a brick & mortar shop in Crown Heights any week (day?) now.

Dorie Greenspan signing cookbooksDorie Greenspan signing cards

No discussion of the year’s best cookbooks, or must-have baking books in general, would be complete without mentioning ones by Dorie Greenspan.  I had a chance to talk to one of the women who worked on testing the recipes for her most recent volume, and she glowed as she raved about how delicious all of them were, including the Palets des Dames and Limoncello Cupcakes we could taste during the event.

Ovenly displayOvenly display

Two of my favorite kinds of cookies – Salted Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter – were on the table by the Ovenly folks on Thursday.  I always enjoy seeing their baked goods around town, as I know that they’ll be something special.  Fortunately, these were packed up for me to take away to save to eat later.

Buon appetito!

Dry-Brine Turkey for Thanksgiving 2014

The TurkeyThe Turkey

I’ve been absent from the writing portion of this website for a little while now.  Catering and events busy season kicked into gear, and I had also taken a full-time position in a catering kitchen at the end of July.  Those factors, plus some personal things I’ve been dealing with for the past few months resulted in a blog and recipe-testing hiatus.  Hopefully, you were all still keeping up with me via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  What has gotten me back into the swing of things is this gorgeous, fresh turkey from Cascun Farm in Greene, NY, which I prepared for the Thanksgiving feast that I hosted on Thursday for the “Castaways,” or “Orphans” gathering this year.

Set up for guestsGetting ready for guests to arrive

Having spent quite a few Thanksgiving holidays far away from family over the years, both in New York City and when I was living overseas, I really enjoy these get-togethers.  I’ve celebrated the day for a several years with a few of the same folks who were at my apartment on Thursday.  Then, there were other people whom I was meeting, and whose food I was trying, for the first time.  It’s always an interesting dynamic and can get quite lively, with stories shared of holiday meals and family traditions.  So, I knew that I had to make sure that the turkey was delicious and flavorful.  No pressure at all for the hostess of this meal, right?  Nope.  None at all.

Finished TurkeyThanksgiving 2014 Turkey

The fact that I’d never, ever cooked a turkey before shouldn’t matter, should it?  An article in Bon Appetit about dry bringing the bird and spatchcocking it.  I decided against using the latter technique and for using the former.  After consulting a few websites about cooking time, I figured that allowing about three hours cooking time would work for a turkey of this size (about 12 pounds).  In the end, I realized that the turkey is just a large chicken, and I treated it (lovingly) just like that, stuffing herb butter under the skin and basting during cooking to promote a golden, crispy skin and moist meat.  There was hardly any left over at the end of the evening, definitely not enough to make Turkey Curry.  I can put this down as a success and look forward to next year’s meal.

Dry Brine Turkey

Prep Time: Overnight for the turkey to brine, plus 3 hours cooking time (allow for 3 1/2 hours with resting time)

Serving Size: About a pound of meat per person (we served 11 people)

Ingredients:

1 12-pound Turkey, preferably fresh

To Brine:

1/2 cup Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Thyme, fresh, chopped

1 Tablespoon Rosemary, fresh, chopped

1 Tablespoon Sage, fresh, chopped

To Cook:

3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, softened

2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Thyme, fresh, chopped

1 teaspoon Rosemary, fresh, chopped

1 teaspoon Sage, fresh, chopped

Dry Brine MixtureDry Brine Mixture

Unpack the turkey.  Remove the neck, giblets, etc. and reserve for making gravy or stock.  Put the turkey on a rack placed on a baking sheet and let it sit for a few minutes while making the brine mixture.  Combine the salt, thyme, rosemary, and sage in a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt mixture all over the turkey, making sure to coat the entire bird thoroughly and evenly.

Turkey brining in the fridgeTurkey brining in the fridge

Put the turkey in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 8-12 hours at least.  Some folks I spoke with in the catering kitchen said that they leave it even longer.  When ready to cook the turkey, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and rinse off the brine.  Pat it dry.

Butter-Herb MixtureButter-Herb Mixture

Make the herb butter by mixing together the unsalted butter, olive oil, and herbs.  Notice that there’s no salt added.  The brine will have seasoned the meat, so there is no need to add extra salt.  Plus, with the gravy and stuffing and side dishes, there will be plenty of seasoning on everything.

Butter under turkey skinButter stuffed under turkey skin

Gently pull the skin away from the meat and stuff the herb butter underneath the skin of the breast and legs.  Try to distribute it as evenly as possible.  Place the turkey in the oven and let it cook for 30-40 minutes.  Baste the turkey, brushing the melted butter and fat over the legs and breast meat.  After that, turn the temperature down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to cook the turkey for another 2 1/2 to three hours,* until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finished TurkeyThe finished turkey

Remove the turkey from the oven.  Tent it with foil and let it rest for 30 or so minutes while making the gravy and reheating the side dishes.  Carve the turkey and serve.

Buon appetito!

*Kitchen Witch Tip:

Balancing out the cooking time to have moist breast and thigh meat was one of the concerns that I had.  One way around this is to place foil over the breast meat if it looks like it is getting overcooked.  Basting the meat every 30 minutes or so also helps to keep the meat moist and juicy.

Mercato Notturno at Union Square Greenmarket

Bologna City of Food

Friday night, between the end of work and the start of going out with friends to see The Ivory Tower at Cooper Union (if you are curious about some of the real costs of higher education, I highly recommend seeing this movie), I swung by the Union Square Greenmarket for one of their two upcoming night markets.  This one called Mercato Notturno (night market in Italian), featured foods from Italy as well as a pasta-making demonstration.  There was also a table at the market that had information on it about Expo Milano 2015: “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life,” where the United States will have a pavilion.  For me, it was a little trip back to Bologna, the central focus of the market, where I lived for several years.  Here’s some pictures from the event:

Pizza al FornoPizza al Forno by Pizza Moto

Risotto with PestoRisotto alle herbe from Risotteria Melotti

Mortadella di Bologna on the slicerMortadella on the slicer

Info sign about chefsInformation about the participants

dolce non dolceDolce non Dolce by Agostino Jacobucci

Ricotta made with the leftovers from the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano along with a syrup made with Lambrusco and pistachio powder.

La SfoglinaLa Sfoglina – Stefania Civolani of Trattoria del Gallo

Rolling out pasta doughStarting to roll out the pasta

Rolling out Pasta SheetRolling out the sheet of pasta (la sfoglia)

Cutting the pasta into squaresCutting the pasta into squares

Adding tortellini fillingAdding filling to make tortellini

Forming tortelliniForming the tortellini

Cutting tagliatelleCutting pasta sheet into tagliatelle

Showing la tagliatelleShowing off le tagliatelle

Ribbons of tagliatelleRibbons of tagliatelle

Nests of Pasta“Nests” of pasta drying (i nidi)

MBA in Food & WineMBA in Food & Wine at the University of Bologna

For those who would like to find out more about Bologna and its cuisine, or just about the marketing of Italian food in general, you might consider looking into this new program put together by the University of Bologna’s Business School.  To learn about Bologna, in general, you can see my photos of the pasta class that I took at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese and read about a trip outside the city to drink wine and enjoy pasta in a vineyard nei colli (in the hills) and about my adventures traipsing around the city eating gelato.

NettunoStatue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

Buon appetito!

“The Dynamic Flavors of Beer – Tasting and Pairing” with John Holl at the 92nd Street Y

The American Craft Beer CookbookCookbook by John Holl

“We were a country founded on beer,” stated John Holl, the author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook at last Thursday’s talk with Kitchen Arts & Letters at the 92nd Street Y: The Dynamic Flavors of Beer – Tasting and Pairing.  The starting point of his mini-seminar was having us taste some of these beers so that we could see the range and nuances of several of the beers currently being brewed in the United States.  In his book, he tries to capture the stories of these and and others being made in this country at the moment and to highlight not only their diversity but also the variety of foods that we are eating with them at this point in time.  “Beer and Food have really come up together,” he told us.

Beers SampledBeers sampled at tasting

Before we delved into the matching up of beer and food, Holl explained to us the proper way to sample a beer.  “You don’t swish and spit.  You taste and swallow,” he said, pointing out the differences between a beer tasting and a wine tasting, noting that there were no dump buckets on the table for us to pour our beers into.  There are who different methods of experiencing the aromas of a beer, he told us.  “The Bloodhound,” where you do quick bursts of sniffing in the fragrance, and the “Drive By,” where you pass the glass back and forth across your nose, taking a deep breath as it goes by.  Just as with wine, mouthfeel plays an important roll in sampling beer as do the aromas and finish.

Food PlateFood plate

The questions he told us to keep in mind when trying the beverages we were tasting that day were: “Would you have it again?” and “Would you have another one after that?”  He also instructed us that the best way to get a beer into a glass was to pour straight down the middle.  Unlike what I, and others, have been taught all of our beer-drinking and -pouring lives, you do want a bit of a head on top of the drink.  It helps to build the aromas.  Here’s a list of the beers that we tried and the pairings that Holl did with them:

Golden ExportGolden Export by Gordon Biersch

This is a “standard American lager,” according to Holl.  It tasted just like the beers of my college years, light, drinkable, best served cold.  One of those beers that goes down smoothly on a hot summer’s day (possibly after mowing the lawn) or after a long shift at work.  It was a doable match with the pretzel on the plate.

Victory FestbierVictory Brewing Festbier

For me, this beer had quite a few dry cider notes, almost a cross between a lager and a cider, but not in a Snakebite kind of way.  (I have memories of those from my time living in the UK just out of college.)  It finished clean on the palate, which was nice with the pretzel that we tried with it, wiping up the saltiness on my tongue.  I could see some really great food pairings as it might play well with dishes with a bit of spice (as well as maybe using it to cook with for a buttery roast chicken.).

Boulevard Brewing Co Wheat BeerBoulevard Brewing Company Wheat Beer

This selection was a light, refreshing beverage, but I have to admit, I’m not generally a fan of wheat beers.  The Manchego that we tasted with it brought out some fruity, clove, and even ripe banana notes, which was kind of intriguing to discover about it.  During the Q&A at the end of the session, Holl pointed out that as it is often served with an orange or lemon wedge, it can also be a good match with briny seafood dishes, a pairing which might just change my mind about these beers.

Great Lakes Brewing Co - Edmund Fitzgerald Porter Great Lakes Brewing Co. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

I grew up with the lyrics to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” so I found it interesting that someone had named a beer after that incident.  This was the beer I was most looking forward to sampling all evening, just from a personal standpoint.  I’ve recently gotten into milk stouts and porters, as there are just those times when you really want something more complex and deep – velvety, darkly toasted with chocolate and toffee notes, which, by the way make this a great pairing for creamy desserts, or for the aged Gouda that we had with it that night.  As my friend who was with me said, its aromas reminded her of affogato al caffè.

Smuttynose Finestkind IPASmuttynose Brewing Co. Finestkind IPA

To end the evening, we sampled an IPA with a Maytag blue cheese.  For me, IPAs are intrinsically linked to Indian food.  As Holl pointed out to us, IPA is style that runs the gamut and can go with everything from the aforementioned spicy food to carrot cake.  It was definitely robust enough to handle the blue cheese and made me wonder how it would do with a steak in a gorgonzola sauce (a recipe for which is in his book).  That might be a project to bring some friends together for dinner and a few beers some time soon.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t mind my trying this pairing out on them.

Buon appetito!

Thank you to Kitchen Arts & Letters for inviting me to attend this event.  If you would like to drop by their store (which I encourage all cooks and cookbook lovers to do, as their selection and expertise is amazing), please visit their website for their current hours.  In addition, they are hosting several other food talks in conjunction with their neighbor, the 92nd Street Y.  Those talks can be found on the Y’s website.

Homemade Black Licorice from Food52

Ingredient setupRecipe Ingredients

This post is for all the black licorice lovers out there.  To be clear, I am not one of them.  This is dedicated to my one of my brothers and one of my sister-in-laws who absolutely love the stuff (these two are not married to each other but to other of my siblings).  In our house at Easter, there was always the sorting of the jelly beans with swaps of black for red or orange ones.  It was my first experience ever with barter and a kind of currency exchange.  The rates weren’t all that great.

Licorice packed upThe resulting candy

When I saw this recipe on Food52, I thought, “Meh, why not?”  I enjoy making sweets, so this could be another interesting recipe to add to my portfolio.  Besides, it could make a unique holiday gift.  Turns out, this was super simple to make, just as easy as a caramel sauce or Almond Toffee, and the method is rather similar to cooking each of these: boiling hot sugar and butter and other stuff brought to just the right temperature.  Just make sure to have a candy thermometer on hand to test the temperature.

Spoon w dyeSpoon with dye

I found black food gel at New York Cake & Baking Supplies, which also has a lots of different colors of sprinkles and food colorings for baking.  By some miraculous twist of fate, I did not get black dye all over my kitchen.  Instead, the only casualty of this culinary experience was the wooden spoon I’d used to mix everything together.  With time, I hope that that will wear off.  Here’s how the recipe came together:

Butter melting into panEverything in the pan

Melted togetherAll melted together

Bubbling moreAll bubbling

Mixed in flourFlour mixed into sauce

Mixing in black gelAdding in black food gel

In loaf panCooling in loaf pan

Out of loaf panReady to cut into pieces and eat

Licorice packagedLicorice packed up and ready to go

I brought in samples for the pastry team at work and gifted some to a licorice-loving friend for his birthday.  They all really seemed to enjoy it.  Everyone said they would have amped up the anise flavor to at least double the recipe amount and would have added a touch more salt as well.  Be aware, too, that moisture does have an impact on the results, so if you are in a humid area, you’ll want to store this in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Buon appetito!