The ‘I’ in Italian is for Irish

17 03 2013

St. Patrick’s Day. I am green for the occasion. Frankly, I could have done a better job myself simply rolling in the freshly mown spring grass.1034471684_03013052f1_t

The meal this evening: Green pasta with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and vodka….vodka?105683306_458e9335c6_t

I suppose it’s a better choice than Irish Whiskey. At least vodka is flavorless. A reflection on the Russian culture? Makes a dog think.4202198032_b137b8ff79_t

The cook tosses a handful or two of baby spinach from the garden into the churning pasta dough, passes it through a hand-cranked cutter and out come stands of verdant linguine, like the long, slender grasses of mid-summer.7379440830_051b9132b8_t

The sauce: Creme fraiche to begin. Fraiche because it’s straight from the cow next-door, thick and rich; ice cream without the sugar.3249757365_9a5e6951a7_t

Vodka we have discussed. Gives the dish a piquant edginess. Another Soviet quality, perhaps?

The two, warmer together over a low flame lend a sweetness to the kitchen that hovers in the air like the aroma of some heady, unnamed blossom. Unwrap a package of tender, gently smoked Irish salmon and the kitchen becomes a perfumery. Heaven.2343601360_f2f4aff6c4_t

Cook folds the salmon pieces into the sauce. Checks for flavor, swiping a privileged finger through the mix, adds a splash more vodka to both the sauce and her glass of fresh-pressed juice. I guess the Russian liquid must have SOME merit.

The green pasta is boiled in salty water in the time it takes me to make it to the corner of the yard to water the basil, and return.

Linguine drained, sauced and served with a generous sprinkling of fresh parmesan and a glass of crisp Italian wine.865303675_d9436aea2b_t

Now THAT’S St.Patricks Day in style.374491_441513399262757_326224331_n

Chow.

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Doggie Dolci

9 08 2012

Cook is in the kitchen making fresh ricotta. I lie under the butcher block awaiting all things making their way from table-top to floor: eyes straight ahead; ears perked to hear the launch above.

Dinner was an hour ago. Any dog knows that there must be a bit of a nibble before bedtime lures a canine to the pillow.

So does Cook.

Who knew that a chicken and a bee could conspire to create such heaven? The happy marriage of winged things, no doubt.

Behold, Canine Zabaglione:

1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. honey
1 tablespoon fresh ricotta

Combine milk, egg and honey whisking until frothy and slightly thickened. Pour into a bowl belonging to the nearest available dog and place a dollop of fresh ricotta in the center of said receptacle.

Wait for the dog’s appropriate pleasure at your devotion and satisfaction to his stomach to be expressed in a cursory lick to your ankle.

Chow.

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Fava is for Fav

2 05 2012

To a small dog, spring means more sun, less mud, sprouts in the garden and spring lambs.

Together it’s the perfect formula for a basket of fresh Fave beans,

a chunk of salty Pecorino straight from the mother of a newborn sheep and a plot of dry grass under the shade of a Chestnut tree with a glass of Friulian wine.

Available in most farmer’s markets this time of year, the fava bean is a bitter, crunchy vegetable that, when eaten raw from the shell and paired with a great Pecorino cheese, describes the very flavor of spring.

Or try it in risotto…with Pecorino.

Or in pasta…with Pecorino.

Or sauteed, pureed, served as a bed for bitter Rapini, drizzled with a fine olive oil….and topped with shaved Pecorino.

Or forget the Fave….eat the Pecorino. Drink the wine. Nap.

Chow.





French Delights

26 07 2011

I am freshly fluffed and feeling fine.

We made an excursion to the open market in Nice today.  The smells were exquisite: artisan cheeses, provencal sausages, crisp white wines, multitudinous flowers conjuring the famous perfumes of Grasse just up the hill….and Socca.

Socca is a simple staple of Southern French fare.  It is ubiquitous in all the open markets in this area.  And, I always get a wedge.  I assume this is because nothing about it is bad for the figure of a small dog.

I watched carefully today as an old man concocted the batter.  Pezzo di torta, as we like to say: piece of cake.

Following is my translation.  I estimate it would serve 4 humans…or 1 dog:

The man put 1 1/2 cup chick pea (garbanzo) flour in a medium-sized blue bowl.  He added 1/3 cup of a lovely pale green olive oil and 2 cups of water and then stirred the whole slurry with a whisk.  He bent down to let me see the mix: a soft, smooth, lump-free batter that smelled like a rich bean cake.

He then poured a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, round pan, about 13-14 inches wide, like something one would use for Paella (ah, that trip to Spain last summer!). The Socca was only about 1/2 thick, or so.

He popped the whole thing into a very hot oven (I estimate, by the tinges on my whiskers when he opened the door, that the temp was 500 degrees).  He let this bake for what seemed to be 20 or 25 minutes.  Anyway, when it was set in the middle and browned at the edges, he took it out, drizzled it with more olive oil (about a tablespoon, I think, and sprinkled coarse salt and fresh pepper on top.

It was then cut into wedges and each was served on a piece of parchment paper: warm, salty heaven. I guess you could add herbs, or spices to the batter.  There are probably endless possibilities.

Personally, I think it would be a great light summer meal, with a tossed green salad and a glass or two of Provencal Rose wine.  

Alas, no one asked me.

I eat it alone, treasure on the street… a la cobblestones.  Still, heaven.

Chow.





Delices de France

23 07 2009

I am freshly fluffed and feeling fine.

We made an excursion to the open market in Nice today.  The smells were exquisite: artisan cheeses, provencal sausages, crisp white wines, multitudinous flowers conjuring the famous perfumes of Grasse just up the hill….and Socca.

Socca is a simple staple of Southern French fare.  It is ubiquitous in all the open markets in this area.  And, I always get a wedge.  I assume this is because nothing about it is bad for the figure of a small dog.

I watched carefully today as an old man concocted the batter.  Pezzo di torta, as we like to say: piece of cake.

Following is my translation.  I estimate it would serve 4 humans…or 1 dog:

The man put 1 1/2 cup chick pea (garbanzo) flour in a medium-sized blue bowl.  He added 1/3 cup of a lovely pale green olive oil and 2 cups of water and then stirred the whole slurry with a whisk.  He bent down to let me see the mix: a soft, smooth, lump-free batter that smelled like a rich bean cake.

He then poured a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, round pan, about 13-14 inches wide, like something one would use for Paella (ah, that trip to Spain last summer!). The Socca was only about 1/2 thick, or so.

He popped the whole thing into a very hot oven (I estimate, by the tinges on my whiskers when he opened the door, that the temp was 500 degrees).  He let this bake for what seemed to be 20 or 25 minutes.  Anyway, when it was set in the middle and browned at the edges, he took it out, drizzled it with more olive oil (about a tablespoon, I think, and sprinkled coarse salt and fresh pepper on top.

It was then cut into wedges and each was served on a piece of parchment paper: warm, salty heaven. I guess you could add herbs, or spices to the batter.  There are probably endless possibilities.

Personally, I think it would be a great light summer meal, with a tossed green salad and a glass or two of Provencal Rose wine.  

Alas, no one asked me.

I eat it alone, treasure on the street… a la cobblestones.  Still, heaven.

Chow.





Mozzarella in May

23 05 2009

 Mozzarella cheese. (dy1) There’s nothing like mozzarella cheese, especially when it comes in spring.  Fresh on the heels of calving, mozzarella in May is glorious. 

The Italian buffalo is a huge, red-eyed beast which lumbers across the grassy hillsides and wallows in the cool mud-streams along the valleys.  True mozzarella comes from Italy’s Campania region.  Naples is it’s center.  The mozzarella dairy, or caseificio, La Fenice, near Presenzano, is one of our favorite haunts for fresh cheese.

We drive about an hour south of Rome and in we walk.  The smell of buffalo hangs like overripe raw meat in the yard outsidePaestum buffalo's - and do they make great mozzerella! by rubinsteins_in_spainbut inside the dairy is immaculate.  The centerpiece is a large, shallow vat with a hundred white balls of mozzarella bobbing like tennis balls in the milky water.  The finished product, room-temperature and gooey heaven.

A man in the back room is beginning a new batch.  I watch as buffalo milk is brought in and curdled.  The whey is separated and the curd is ground in a mill, then molded and placed in hot water, stirred and kneaded like bread until it is smooth and shiny.  Then, small pieces are pulled away and formed into balls and brined for a short time.  Mozzarella made in the morning is ready by dinner time.  Warm, soft, rich and fresh.

Sure, it’s good with tomatoes and basil and a drizzle of balsamicMaking pizza by borud; tossed with pasta and tomato sauce; on any thin crust pizzaHomemade Pizza - Making of a Dough God by Bumbling B.

But there is nothing like true, fresh, still-warm mozzarella, hand held by the one you love, melting on your tongue and into your memory as spring fades into summer.

Chow.





Easter Bunnies

4 04 2009

I know why rabbits are a ubiquitous sign of spring; and it’s not just the Easter Bunny.  rabbit - looking at you! by phamp197xRabbit traps are set in Chianti like clockwork come spring.  The man who runs our farm in the country stacks them high in the flat bed of his Ape, Rabbit trapping by State Records NSWand off we go, down a white gravel road, deep into the wood to set them.Wabbit Twap by a.d.miller

Two days later we return.  Only one trap holds a prize, but it is just enough for a proper Sunday dinner.

The local Italian rabbit is fat and tender and toothsome, especially when the farm cook , Grazia, prepares them.  How to cook rabbit by hans sThis is the way:

Heat the oven to 350.  Whisk together one bottle of Chianti, 1/4 cup of red-wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Cut a 3 lb. rabbit into pieces…Braised Rabbit by MindtoEyetoss the fur to any small dog who might be nearby.  Season it (the rabbit, not the dog) with salt and pepper, then dredge each piece in flour.

In 1/4 cup of olive oil, fry the rabbit, turning once, until browned…about 6 delicious smelling minutes. Braised Rabbit by MindtoEye

Transfer the rabbit  into a deep baking dish.  Add a hand-full of crushed garlic cloves (about 16-20) to the skillet until golden: another 3-4 delicious smelling minutes.  Pour the wine mixture into the skillet and scrape up the browned bits.  Pour the sauce over the rabbit in the baking dish.  Scatter the top with a handful of sage leaves(about 15) and 5 or 6 rosemary sprigs. 

Cover with foil and braise in the oven until tender…another 45 delicious smelling minutes.  Then, uncover and raise the over temperature to 450, basting rabbit until the sauce is thickened….yes, another 25 minutes of splendorous scent. 

A little salt and pepper; a bottle of Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico by S.Stavroucrusty bread Peter Reinhart's French Bread by foéÖþoooeyand green salad Green Salad by Sarah89j  Ecco, you have the perfect spring-time Sunday dinner.

Chow.








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