Truffle Palooza 2013

Posted: May 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Dessert, Local, Lunch, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

 


It’s been cold and wet longer than usual in the Cote d’Or area (Burgundy) of France, and our truffle producer warned us that finding truffles this day may, or more likely may not, happen. Truffles are mercurial; not making an appearance, for one reason or another at a given time, despite the skill of his truffle hunting dog – yes, dog.

Here in the Burgundy region, the truffles are brown vs. the black Perigord variety of Southwest France or the white truffles of Italy.

Pigs can be used to smell out truffles, but as our guide tells us “It’s easier to get a dog in and out of the truck; not so much a 200 kilogram pig. And, unlike the dog, it’s harder to stop the pig from eating the truffles it finds.”

 

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Guyanese roti

Posted: April 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Baking, Dinner, Recipes, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

 

Happily, a co-worker and I started chatting over the lovely lunch-time aroma of curry. This led us to discover that we each had lived – for a time – in Guyana, South America.

Memories of Guyana, like most unique locales – whether you are a traveller or an expat, are layered under by time. But the smells, textures and taste of food cuts through the cluttered layers of foggy memory. Guyanese roti with curry (any curry) is a great migratory journey!
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Bringing Villa Rosa dei Venti home – Part 2

Posted: February 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Minestra di Ceci

For part 2 of this revisit I thought I’d try one of the quicker recipes from Cooking Secrets of a Tuscan Family. One that can be banged out in about in about an hour. Actually this would be the middle timed version. The long method follows the book precisely by soaking dry chickpeas overnight followed by a 3 hour cooking. The faster method being chickpeas right out of a can and heated up. The way I prepared them was cooking canned Ceci for about an hour.

Ingredients. The list really couldn’t be easier. 1/2 lb. of dry chickpeas, 4 oz. of tomato paste, two garlic cloves some rosemary and extra virgin olive oil.

Substitutions. I’m really embarrassed. Yes gang, I used ‘boxed’ chicken stock. While getting my ingredients together I noticed our last two remaining boxes of Campbell’s low-sodium broth. I figure I’d use it up which would taste better than water. Terra hasn’t let me live it down. I apologize to you and your families.

Method. Either start with a soak or a can opener What you’re looking for are cooked, tender chickpeas. Once cooked, blend the chickpeas to a nice chunky purée. In a separate pot heat the oil and add in the rosemary sprig, crushed chopped garlic and a little salt. When you’re happy with the results, read: you haven’t burned the garlic, add in the tomato paste and mix well. Finally pour in the chickpea purée and heat the whole thing for another half hour. Season and serve.

The eating. I was really curious to taste this soup. I was concerned the tomato paste might take over. Was I ever wrong. The paste gives the soup a huge earthy taste. It tastes like Tuscany! And the rosemary adds a second assertive edge. Finally the little bursts of garlic and olive oil sneak in here and there to round out the overall smack. In fact the tomato taste is so wonderful, I wanted more! Next time I’ll add very ripe roasted tomatoes for even more strength. And cheese. My next bowl will certainly included some grated Parmesan.

Keeping it local. I suppose as long as I’m cooking Italian food I’ll never be able to keep things 100% local. My version of this soup used local rosemary and garlic and that’s about it. The chickpeas and tomato paste were both canned, probably goes without saying where the olive oil came from, and the salt and pepper, who the hell knows. Finally the stock, let’s never bring that up again. Final grade, D- for the grocery list.

Want to blow everyone away before serving your main course? Make this soup. It’s that good. But do yourself a favour, make real chicken stock. It’s so superior to anything you can buy. If you end up using broth from a box, lie.


Bringing Villa Rosa dei Venti home – Part 1

Posted: February 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Dinner, Recipes, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

While in Italy last May I took a cooking class in a small Tuscan town called Creti. It was a beautiful sunny day spent cooking, eating and drinking with the Micheli family on their property, Villa Rosa dei Venti. At the end of the evening I picked up a copy of their family cookbook “Cooking Secrets of a Tuscan Family”. Full of great recipes, it celebrates the Micheli family history as well as the food they grow and prepare. Over the next few posts I plan to revisit my time spent with the Micheli’s by cooking some of my favourites from their book.

“Rosa dei Venti” sauce

We cook a lot of Italian food here at SixTop Industries. Specifically pasta sauces because they’re quick and so good. Most are really basic but some get more involved. The nice thing about pasta sauces is that once you get the fundamentals down you can improvise. Each additional ingredient adds another level of texture and flavour.

The Micheli’s “house” sauce was unusual for me because it goes beyond the usual procedure of cooking vegetables, meat and tomatoes. Read on:

Ingredients. Normally I only use ground pork or sausage when making a meat sauce. This recipe has those but also some really cool extras. Begin with sautéing chicken and rabbit livers, crushed garlic cloves and fresh thyme sprigs in olive oil. Once nicely browned, finely chop the livers and add them in with the other meats. Those being ground pork, veal and Tuscan sausage meat.

Substitutions. Seeing as I don’t live in the most Italian part of the world, and Tuscan sausages are rare, I substituted “spicy italian” jobs from a local butcher. And not having rabbit livers on hand I just doubled the chicken livers. Doesn’t everyone have a big bag of those in the freezer?

Keeping it local. Yes we remain committed to keeping it close to home where we can. So obvious items aside like the olive oil, s/p and cheese, this was a very local sauce. We bought the carrots, onion and garlic at the Halifax Seaport Market from various stands. The ground pork came from the Canning Village Meat Market. The veal and sausages were labelled “Nova Scotia” from Pete’s and the chicken livers came from chickens at Windy View. I just realized two non-local items, the celery was grocery store and the jarred tomatoes also from Pete’s. So I give us a B+. It’s a list as mixed as the locations and people involved. An Italian family’s recipe cooked in Nova Scotia by a Alberta girl and Montreal boy.

Tomaotoes. Ornella (Mama) Micheli and daughter Barbara taught us a specific approach to adding the tomatoes. To start, use bottled tomatoes, not canned. When everything is browned, instead of just dumping in the whole bottle, you do something different. Without disturbing the meat and vegetables too much, create wells and pour in about half a cup of tomatoes into each. Do this in about seven or eight spots. Mama declared this procedure extremely critical! Only after some time of undisturbed cooking do you gently start to mix everything together and empty the bottle. I asked if less agitation makes the meat more tender. Yes, it does.

The eating. After a good hour of slow and low cooking the sauce turns a deep red and tastes smooth and mellow, yet strong. The liver bits melt slightly and add that familiar taste. When completed, sauce the pasta (not too much!), crack on some pepper and grated Grana Podano. With a final hit of extra virgin olive oil you’ll have yourself a meal. We ate ours with chilled Fontella Orvieto Classico.

Try this pasta sauce! It’s a nice change from the usual and doesn’t require tons of work. Now kick back, tuck in and stay tuned for Part 2