Cheers….to a bubbly, bittersweet New Year!!

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I hope your Holidays were full of Love, Joy and Celebration!
As the last week of an intense year winds down, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy, creative, prosperous New Year.
This holiday season I tried 2 new sparkling cocktail recipes from Serious Eats. The Bellisimo Aceto, and the Minnesota Good-bye. Both of these cocktails are great holiday variations on the French 75 Champagne Cocktail. I love them first because they are bittersweet as opposed to sweet, and second the color is beautiful, festive and perfect for your New Years Bash 2017….
Cheers, Carlita….

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FALL COLORS….

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The fall landscape is rapidly moving from orange and golds, to the neutral browns and greys of bare trees and solid ground. I always look forward to fall vegetables, the dark greens of kale and bright warm colors of fall squash. Besides the sweet and earthy flavors and the burst of color on the plate, these foods are packed with iron, vitamin A and other essential goodies.

Pepita Salsa is a specialty of the Yucatan. My litmus test for authentic Mexican restaurants is the salsa they are serving in season. Winter salsas are usually made from dried chilies nuts and various herbs. If you want this salsa hotter, throw in a Serrano or jalapeno pepper. I enjoy the subtle taste of the spaghetti squash and don’t want to overwhelm it with too much spice. This is a great side dish and perfect for your vegan friends. If you have any leftover salsa it is awesome with chips!

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SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH PEPITA SALSA, serves 4-6

1 Spaghetti Squash

¾ cup pepitas, roasted on baking sheet in oven until brown around edges, 5-7 minutes.

1 poblano pepper

1 clove garlic

½ cup cilantro

½ cup parsley

¼ cup chopped chives (garnish)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup hot water

salt and pepper

Cut spaghetti squash in half, seed, rub cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast @ 400 for 40 minutes.

While squash is roasting, put the pepitas on a baking sheet and toast until brown around the edges.

Char poblano pepper on gas flame or under broiler until blackened, put in plastic bag for 15 minutes, peel and seed.

Put pepitas, poblano pepper, cilantro, parsley and garlic in food processor, slowly add the olive oil, then hot water and salt.

If the salsa is too thick add a touch more hot water. Shred the spaghetti squash, toss with salsa and top with chopped chives.

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TURKISH MEZE BEANS

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On one of my first trips to Turkey my sister’s nanny fixed a salad of flat beans with a light tomato, olive oil and lemon dressing, along with various meze dishes for dinner, all served room temperature. The original Turkish recipe uses more olive oil, but I have adapted the recipe to lighten it up, along with a few updates.

Romano beans are showing up more often in the green market and last week I even saw some yellow and purple ones. Look for beans that are a bright green color, firm and snap easily, avoid any limp ones.  Romano beans are fleshy, sturdy and almost impossible to overcook.

I love the silky sauce produced as the beans cook down in the olive oil and tomatoes. My summer fridge is always equipped with salads I can eat through the week, al freso. I especially love this paired with fried chicken and a cucumber salad, for an impromptu picnic.

Turkish Meze Beans

1 lb. romano beans, washed, trimmed, long ones cut to 3 inch pieces
1 medium size tomato, peeled seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 small cloves garlic, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin

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Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and cumin and cook for 5 minutes. Add broad beans toss in sauce and add 1/2 cup water. Cover the beans with parchment paper and put a lid on the pan, this will keep the beans submerged in the liquid as they cook. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, take off cover and parchment and let beans come to room temperature. Add juice from half a lemon, adjust seasonings and serve room temperature or refrigerate, beans will keep for at least 5 days.

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RYE PYE…..

IMG_0296 (1) My summer cooking lab is up and running. Project number one, tweaking my pastry recipes for pies and crostatas. After a rainy June the summer berries have been plentiful, and now we are moving into apricots, peaches and plums…..

I’m not a big fan of whole grain pie crusts. Desserts are not something I indulge in every night and I want them to be decadent. Unbleached white flour is usually the best way to insure a light and delicate crust. On the other hand, I’m interested in how different flours can add to the flavor profile of the crust, offering, nutty, earthy notes. When I came across this rye pie crust recipe I was interested in the flavor and texture the rye flour would give, especially for berry pies which need a sturdier crust. The recipe also substitutes cold beer for the ice water, which means you must finish the remainder of the bottle while making the pie!

For my filling I use cherries with a scant amount of chopped lavender and lemon zest. Lavender is a strong flavor so don’t overdo it. Berry pies do need a bit of flour tossed with the fruit so the juice thickens. Many pie filling recipes call for 1/2 cup, but I prefer a quarter cup, and for other fruit that does not give off as much juice, I sprinkle a small amount of flour on the bottom layer of pie crust. I don’t mind a bit of juicy juice with the pie, but if you want the filling more solid increase the amount of flour.

The Rye Pie crust comes from 101 cookbooks, follow the link for more detailed instructions.

CHERRY LAVENDER PIE with RYE CRUST

Filling:

3 cups pitted cherries

1/2 cup natural sugar

1/4 cup flour

fine chop zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teas. lavender chopped fine

sprinkle of salt

Preheat oven to 425.                                                                                                           Pit the cherries, there should be enough so they are heaping out of the pie shell. Butter and flour a 9 inch pie tin. Sprinkle cherries with salt, then add all the other ingredients and mix well. Line the bottom crust in pan and fill with fruit mixture. I used a lattice crust but there is enough dough for a full top crust. I used the extra to make a hand pie. I always brush the top crust with an egg beaten with a small amount of water. Bake in center of oven for 45 minutes

FLAKY RYE PIE CRUST – 101 Cookbooks

75 g / v. scant 2/3 cup rye flour 175g /

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

8 oz / 1 cup salted butter

1/3 cup / 80 ml cold water or beer

You can make the crust using the quick and popular food processor technique. BUT I always make it by hand, using the above ingredients, and this technique. If you like a super-puffy crust, do the folding in Pim’s instructions 4x. I usually like mine less so, and fold & roll just 2 or 3 times, depending on how the dough is feeling. The pie in the photo was 3x. 20150720_194902

CAMPANIA ON MY MIND….

Jersey Shore, not the Amalfi Coast

The truth is, I’ve never been south of Rome, most places north, but never in the sole and heel of the boot. I visit Campania, Basilicata, Sicily and Sardinia sporadically in my imagination. In that very vivid imagination, I’m reclining in a canvas lounge chair lined with a stripped beach towel on the Amalfi coast wearing a 1950’s sexy black one piece suit, Jackie O sunglasses, extra wide brimmed straw hat, in my hand is a chilled glass of Greco di Tufo.

The white wines of Campania caught my attention about 5 years ago at an Italian importer’s tasting. Finally the southern whites being imported had caught up to the northern Italian whites in quality. Bright and sassy, with ripe fruit and a mineral edge, the essence of summer on the Italian seashore, bottled and ready for the runaway. I think of these wines every year when the mercury goes above 75 degrees. Not that you couldn’t enjoy them all year, but their freshness and expression of pure fruit pairs perfectly with summer’s al fresco dishes.  The major white grapes of Campania are Falanghina, Fiano and Greco di Tufo, all thought to be of Greek origin. Most of these wines are meant to be consumed young, within 2-4 years. Top producer’s Mastroberardino and Terredora are the first family of Campania winemaking. After a family feud and court battle, one brother got the name, Mastroberardino, the other brother got the original vineyards, Terredora. Both of their wines are the textbook example of what these grapes can do with elevation and volcanic soil. I love their wines but I wanted to explore some smaller producers in the region, both of these producers are practicing organic, not certified.………

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Antonio Camputo, Greco di Tufo, Enoaelta, 2012- Camputo’s vineyards are at the foothills of Mount Vesuvius, volcanic and clay soil, 13% alcohol, fermented in stainless steel and bottle aged for 3 months. This wine had wonderful acidity to balance out ripe stonefruit, a complex stony edge, with a waxy texture similar to Vermentino. $17-$20.

Benito Ferrara Greco di Tufo 2011 – A small producer with vineyards located on steep slopes 450-600 ft. above sea level. Practicing organic and hand harvested, the volcanic soils are loaded with yellow sulfur enhancing the aromatic qualities of the Greco di Tufo. This wine has a light golden hue, creamy texture with round ripe stonefruit and a complex mineral finish, 13% alcohol. An elegant example of Greco, and would pair perfectly with scallops, lobster and any fatty fish and of course fresh mozzarella. $22-$24.

Pairing:
Burrata is a fresh mozzarella from Puglia, made with Italian buffalo or cow’s milk. The outer shell is pure mozzarella and the interior is cream and mozzarella. Burrata has a short shelf life, and is not always easy to find in the states. Since I’m recreating an imagined future trip to southern Italy I decided to try a local version of Burrata from Maplebrook farms in Vermont. It is made by a Puglian cheesemaker using cow’s milk and will stand up to any “real” Italian Burrata. Also good quality mozzarella works just fine for this recipe, just make sure you bring the mozzarella to room temperature where it’s cushiony goodness really shines.
I make my lemon salt by chopping lemon zest fine and mixing it with a good finishing salt. You can do this up to a day in advance. Top-notch ingredients are essential to this dish and if you have some Sicilian sea salt lying around, this is the time to use it.

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BURRATA WITH PEAS, FENNEL AND AIR DRIED OLIVES
(2 servings)
1 Buratta
1 large fennel, cut in half, cut out core and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh shelled peas, blanched in salted water for 2 minutes
8-10 air dried olives, pitted and chopped fine
good quality olive oil
juice of ½ lemon
lemon salt, finely chop lemon zest and mix with good quality finishing salt

Cut the burrata in half and put one half on each plate. Toss the fennel and peas with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of salt. Put on plate around the burrata, drizzle with good quality olive oil and sprinkle with the lemon salt.

lemon salt

MAY FLOWERS….

MAY 2014

Manhattan monsoon season is up and running.   Jumping overfilled gutters only to be sprayed by a passing bus.   Delicately hopping puddles of water in the subway station and wishing the umbrella I grabbed on the way out the door is the one that really opens. This weather calls for a braised dish and a large, warm red wine.

Perusing my little wine fridge, I come across a Chateau La Nerth, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 1998. Probably the first wine I bought to put away and not one I would be inclined to buy today, but at the time I wanted an impressive wine with ageing potential. Now I’m into the unknown, obscure producer living in the middle of his vineyard in an airstream!   When I buy wines to set aside for ageing I go for two or three of the same bottle in case I really love it and to gauge how it opens up over time. Keep in mind my apartment and wine fridge are miniscule and all above ground. The other Chateau La Nerth I opened a few years ago and had lost it’s funk and I assumed this one had also. A good time to clear the cellar to make room for new bottles and feed my new charred wood vinegar barrel. Well…….this one made the journey , it was a perfect example of an aged old-style Rhone, delicate yet powerful, touch of jam, spice, smoke, earth and black velvet tannins. Many wines coming out of the Rhone now are high alcohol powerhouses but this was more of a hefty version of burgundy. The vinegar barrel will have to wait!IMG_4058

Assuming this bottle was going in the vinegar barrel, it was not the perfect match to my chicken cacciatore and potato, fennel, pecorino gratin, but with an addition of mushrooms to the chicken it was good enough……

Usually this would be a special occasion wine with friends, but I had it all to myself for two days as the wine continued to open and unfold. Age is a funny thing, sonnets are written, a year is etched in the memory, this is why we get so obsessed with this nectar……..a sweet spring so far!

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FULL FAT EATING – COUNT ME IN!

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https://www.yahoo.com/food/a-case-for-way-old-school-eating-83648803017.html
Glad to see someone besides the French Women speaking out about this issue. Check out an article by Beck’s former chef. Although olive oil is my fat of choice most of the time, I love my french aop butter, drink whole milk, use half and half or cream in my coffee and eat an egg, yolk and all at least once a day. I enjoy meat about 3 times a week and always look for the most natural choice within my budget. The “diet” food industry has cut out much of the flavor, taste and satisfaction one gets from the “real” thing. The devil is in the portions!