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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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.





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.





Tomato Confit

22 01 2009

The Count works part-time at something (I don’t know what) in Cairo.  He smells of dust and tombs every time he comes back.  Egyptian tomb walls by rhombitruncatedAnd he always bring something home with him, every time.

This time is was a box of tomatoes.  TOMATOES?!Red ripe tomatoes by Lubrico

Each was individually wrapped like something very special…similar to the pears that come each Christmas.  Just looking at them, it was hard for a small dog to understand why one would haul a box of tomatoes all the way from Egypt.  Then the wrappers came off…

The smell of fully ripe pomodori filled the entire cucina.  Heaven.  Just like late summer all over again.  Visions of pushing my snout into overripe tomatoes laying idle in the garden rushed into my little brain.  rotten tomatoes by demetri paridesIt dawned on me: the closest place to find ripe tomatoes in winter: Cairo.

Grazia quickly made off to the counter with every one.  She washed them and cut them in quarters.  She took all the seeds out and the inner chambers were sliced away to appear in some later-on sauce.roast tomato soup by †eardrop

She lay them all inside down on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and salted them carefully, then pushed them in a slow oven for 3 hours. 

The result? Tomato Confit After by Jake(ymon)Tomato Confit, to toss with penne nd garlic; to serve with a roasted chicken, to place atop a fine slice of bread with a little goat cheese; all are joyously delicious.  Perfect for a little taste of summer on a cold winter day.tomato confit by chez pim

Chow!





To Market

23 07 2008

Grazia is in the kitchen again.  Today it’s hot and muggy and the flame on the stove is gone.  Today dinner will be cold.

 

She and I go to the morning market before the heat begins to rise.  Piazza di Campo de' FioriCampo di Fiori is crowded with tourists and Romans, alike.  The vegetable stands overflow with summer produce.Campo di Fiori

 

Verdant basil, tiny ruby tomatoes, Cherry tomatoes. So lovely. Maybe this will get your kids to eat salad?sweet onions, baby green beans: the meal will be simple and sumptuous, the aim of most Italian cuisine. A loaf of fine country bread Italian Bread 12/27/06and a large jar of olive oil soaked Mediterranean tuna.

 

Did I mention I love tomatoes?  I pull the sweet cherry variety off the bushy plants that sit in clay pots around our terrazzo…just the low fruit.  I’m allowed that without being chided.  But the tomatoes on the terrazzo are still green so, today, we buy Campo di Fiori fare. 

 

Here is what Grazia does with her market bounty:

 

Toss together the tomatoes, a handful of torn basil, thinly sliced onions and blanched, chilled green beans.  Add the drained tuna.  Toss again. 

 

While Grazia brushes slices of fresh bread with olive oil, grills them on one side, then rubs them with a clove of garlic, I search the floor below the tossing for bits of anything that might have escaped the bowl….

 

The salad is chilled until dinner time.  The toasts are put to one side in each bowl.

 

Balsamic vinegarModena > Sealed Bottles of Balsamic Vinegar and freshly grated parmesan is added over each serving at the last minute.  And the empty bowls are mine….

 

Chow.

 

 

 

 

 

 








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