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August Bonus Recipe: Fore Street’s Tomato Tart

Maine Is Not All About Lobsters

our homemade lobster rolls from Jasper White by Kitchen Detail BlogGoing to Maine for the summer seems to be on my Instagram feed a lot these days.  It is an iconic, truly American vacation destination.  One thinks immediately of lobsters,mussels and oysters galore,  charming antique stores, and New England Bed & Breakfasts.  For some silly reason, I resisted Maine’s charms until I was  reluctantly dragged by my sister-in-law, who now resides there. I was an instant convert, and the Resident Wine Maniac and I have returned happily several times – once even in February. To keep the Maine mood going, we make the lobster roll from our stained copy of Jasper White’s Lobster At Home.  After lots of comparison shopping, we still vote his recipe to be the best – and we are not alone!

 

Fore Street  Grill Is A Mustjendeanphoto of Fore Street Restaurant

But no matter the season, when we fly into Portland, we always, always eat at Fore Street Grill. This unique restaurant  is my idea of farm-to-table heaven.  Its  unassuming chef and crew are  devoted to nose-to-tail cooking. Plus they feature Maine food products at their best.  And certainly we could, but we never eat lobster there, in favor of  too many other unusual seasonal delights, such as their delectable appetizer featuring monkfish liver.  But our  go-to dish, when we are lucky enough to find it available, is this divine tomato tart. 

Do-It-Yourself Fore Street Tomato Tart

Fore Street Tomato Tart made at home from Kitchen Detail BlogSadly, I have no precise recipe for this superlative use of tomatoes. But from our culinary forensic investigation, we have unearthed  a video describing the Fore Street tart, coupled with some Internet efforts to help us re-create this Fore St tomato tart version taken by Kitchen Detail Blogsimple, but devilishly clever, dish.  Fore Street has a local farm grow Jet Star tomatoes especially for the restaurant, but we have used Campari and something awfully similar from our local farmers’ markets. All yield great results. If you make your own puff pastry – terrific – as this is an easy and unusual use for it. If using a commercial version, I highly recommend DuFour over Pepperidge Farm.  And although the video voice-over detects savory tastes like sage, she’s wrong – it is a little more like a combination of marjoram and thyme. After trying out topping the tart with lightly whipped cream mixed with goat cheese, I switched to crème fraiche, with much better results.  I use my Mauviel copper  or Pillivuyt individual bakers, But you can use the De Buyer Blini pans, as they do at Fore Street. And please don’t try this with cherry tomatoes or even plum tomatoes – you’ll completely miss out on the unique flavor and texture of this dish.  Home version is on the left and the Fore Street Grill version is on the right.   Please check out the somewhat informative video from The Cooking Channel as a start. The rewards are substantial!

 

Fore Street Tomato Tart
Serves 4
This is a drop-dead delicious tomato appetizer but only with the right tomatoes!
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 sheet of puff pastry - your own or store bought (Irecommend DuFour) enough for four 5-6 inch circles
  2. 12 Jet Star or Campari tomatoes (or local equivalent)
  3. Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Good quality Sherry Vinegar or Balsamico
  5. Fleur de Sel or Fine Sea Salt
  6. Freshly Ground Pepper
  7. 1-2 tbs fresh summer savory
  8. 8 oz plain goat cheese, a whipped soft or log version
  9. 4 oz creme fraiche
  10. snippet of chives and savory
Instructions
  1. Roll or unfold your chosen puff pastry sheet.so that you have about a 1/16 inch thickness..
  2. Using a guide to match the top circumference of your individual baking dish, cut four circles, ovals or squares.
  3. In each baker, add a tbs of your favorite EVOO and a half tbs of sherry vinegar or balsamico with a sprinkling of chopped summer savory, salt and pepper.
  4. Lightly stir this mixture and bake for a few minutes in a preheated oven (350F)
  5. Add the tomatoes, cut side up so that the halves fill the dish - it usually takes four or five halves.
  6. Place your circle of puff pastry over the top and put in oven.
  7. Bake until the pastry is puffy and golden. Check after 15-20 minutes.
  8. Invert onto small plates and add the following "mousse" to the top.
  9. Whip the goat cheese, creme fraiche with the chopped herbs: it should have a mousse like texture.
  10. If you refrigerate it, let it warm up a bit before topping the tarts.
  11. Serve warm as soon as you put the "mousse" on the top of each tart.
Notes
  1. Jet Star is the preferred tomato at Fore Street, but I have had to resort to Campari and also a similar but unnamed tomato at my local farmer's markets.
  2. You can used a loosely whipped cream instead of creme fraiche, but I found that the creme fraiche preferable.
  3. No savory? Use a soft lemon thyme instead.
Adapted from The Fore Street Grill
Adapted from The Fore Street Grill
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

 

 



Food For Thought: Waste Not Want Not – Composting

Composting is the Dark Horse Of Sustainability

watermelon compost from CompostAlexAll I knew about composting was what I read in gardening magazines and observed in more ambitious friends’ back yards.  I tried a very small composting drum on my deck and was overwhelmed by the odor of failure. How is it, I wondered, that composting is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Landfills are the single largest human source of methane emissions in the world.   Composting can diminish the effluvia, and it reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers. With little knowledge of this,  I separated glass, plastic, and paper and cardboard, but food waste either went down the disposal or in the general trash.  I was awakened by the sophisticated programs for recycling and composting in EU countries. Interesting to note that my daughter in Italy has to separate in her home: organic waste, general waste, paper and cardboard, glass and metal containers, and finally, plastics.  There are separate public dumpsters in Bologna for organic waste, glass and metal, and dirty diapers.  The rules are less stringent in the UK, but many localities utilize municipally collected food waste to be recycled into bio-energy. 

@FoodandCompost Is A National Compost Forum

But did you know that we now have an interesting public/private partnership for composting developing in Alexandria? Its roots are in the Twitter Josh Etim of CompostAlexhandle @FoodandCompost of Josh Etim  – definitely a mover and shaker in getting US cities to adopt and adapt composting centers.  With @FoodandCompost, you can share or learn about urban composting, how-tos in other cities, events, and contacts for setting up local composting collection centers — plus companies or methods to help you plunge into the actual process. 

@FoodandCompost‘s offshoot is a Facebook page now called CompostAlex.com, which has detailed the  inspiring and ongoing story of creating compost collection and production in Alexandria.  What we have is a real partnership between the City government and its citizens.  I first noticed people in my neighborhood carrying little beige, covered plastic containers to the Saturday Farmers’ Market at Market Square.  The City sets up a tent with covered containers, informative brochures, and the ubiquitous composting containers for sale at a reasonable price.  You fill your container with vegetable and fruit waste (flower arrangements too) and bring it to their station on Saturdays. There are now composting stations at four Alexandria Farmers’ Markets.

CompostAlex Is Our Local Go-To Resource

Marktet Sguare Alexandria Compost StationCompostAlex is responsible for engaging the City government and Alexandria neighborhoods in forming partnerships (or in their lingo,  PARKnerships) with the City’s Department Of  Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities to create more compost collection centers. If you follow their Facebook page, you’ll find out if there is a place in your area where you can drop off household food waste, get advice on how to start one in your neighborhood, or whom to contact to help you become more involved with this growing sustainability movement.  While CompostAlex and @FoodandCompost are somewhat intertwined, they both serve different functions.

Currently, the program that I participate in is operated by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. It’s a food scrap drop-off program that collects materials at farmers markets and then has the material composted at a Prince George’s  County industrial facility. The City wants to see if the public will engage in composting, given the opportunity. To be involved, a person gathers food scraps from their home, and bring their collected finery to a Farmers Market Day drop-off program. CompostAlex promotes public awareness of this pilot project.

CompostAlex does not take in food scraps directly, but instead directs people to participate in the City of Alexandria’s food scrap drop-off program, or through a local business’s composting program. In the DMV region, food scrap compost is either composted in a backyard, at a local school compost site, in a specified community garden designed for food scrap composting, or at the PG County facility. The majority of current food scrap collections is believed to be composted in PG County.

 People can purchase bags of compost made from the PG County facility at local Home Depots, Ace Hardware stores, and garden centers. Here’s a link to the list of PG County garden-ready compost retailers. Note that if the compost is in a bag called Leaf Gro, then it comes from wood waste that is composted. Currently, the other compost product called Leaf Gro Gold comes from composting food scraps, and it’s available only for bulk purchases through the PG County facility. A customer must call them to set up the purchase.

 

Being Part Of A National Movement

This publicly and privately supported  composting service is part of a larger movement comprised of individual municipal efforts, which arecomposting volunteers for rustbelt.org not nationally tied together under an agency. City governments across the country are supporting one or many composting services, such as 1) New York City Composting Project, 2) Seattle and King County’s Tilth Alliance, 3) Boulder County’s programs, 4) Austin’s Composting programs. Some of those programs are large scale and spread across a community, for both curbside pick-up and commercial business organics (food/yard) recycling, while other programs support what is known as Community Composting. Community Composting tends to be smaller in scale than a large business or government program, and can describe anything from a neighborhood doing its own composting, to a small business fulfilling the needs of a specific community, to a non-profit engaging in compost and farming/gardening activities.

Take a look a few other community composters : 1) LA Compost located in Los Angeles, 2) Rust Belt Riders located in Cleveland, 3) Compost Now located in Raleigh,

4A) DC’s Food Scrap Drop-off and 4B) DC’s Park’s and Rec Community Composting program, and 5) Red Hook Farms in New York City. Both the large-scale composting adoption and smaller scale community composting are independent movements and represent a growing trend of our society becoming involved with composting personal food scraps. The emerging “umbrella” of compost movements is taking shape, and  people are stepping up to lead so that composting becomes part of our society’s normal infrastructure.

If you don’t have a program in your neighborhood, use this information to get one started! Remember, we used not to separate paper, glass and plastic for recycling and now we do. 

 

 

 

 


You Need This: Line Cook Spatula Is A Must Have

Why This Particular Spatula

Lamson line cook spatula in actionExamining the contents of one of the two canisters I keep at hand for everyday  stove-top tools, I realize there is one I pull out almost every time I light a burner.  It is called a fish slice, chef’s spatula or fish turner, but we’ve always called it a line cook spatula, because the Cuisinettes sold hundreds of them over the years to line cooks in restaurants.  Its design is so old (and so useful) that it was mentioned in PG Wodehouse stories in the early 20th century.  Jeeves’ employer considered it a worthy wedding gift for friends. 

If you never got one as a wedding gift, get one for yourself now.  You truly need this. Its ingenious design allows you to flip eggs or fish fillets with ease. I have even used the sharp edge to divide soft foods in the pan before flipping.  The angled end allows for edging under a sticky surface with little fuss.  The slots work two ways: obviously grease or water runs off in the transfer from pan to plate, but also they serve as a flat whisk when you want to deglaze a pan to create a sauce.  It ticks all the boxes for a perfect spatula. The turner itself is strong but extremely flexible. [I learned the hard way that tempered and hardened high-carbon stainless steel makes a tool more durable and flexible. Anything less is perilous.] The “big toe” allows you to get into the corners of your pan for scraping and stirring.  And, sorry Frenchies, you can’t beat it for turning crepes without a tear or a crease. 

 

Lamson Does It Best For Left And Right Hands

And now for the winner design: drum roll please. We tried versions made from silicone-based extrusions and found that they had neither the flexibility nor the thinness that made the traditional design so successful. It needs to be light weight,razor thin but sturdy enough to lift hamburgers and pork chops. 

Lamson product image of line cook spatula

This is where the American company, Lamson Products, excels. They have two models in a smaller size for both right and left hands (blade is 3×6 inches) plus a Lefty Lamson line cook spatulalarger right hand size (4×9 inches).  The handle we prefer is their POM black one with aluminum rivets.  It is heat- and water-resistant so that it is dishwasher safe.  It has a full tang construction unlike some cheaper versions, where the spatula part is glued to the handle and covered with a collar. [Again, hard lessons learned with these.] Lamson also offers a “lifetime warranty,” which, in 30 some years of heavy use, I have never had to inquire about. 

 

Getting Here Was Not Easy

Lamson litho from company websiteLamson’s history as an American manufacturing company is as interesting as that of Sabatier in France (which will be the subject of another blog post). It started as a cutlery manufacturing facility in a low mountainous area in Massachusetts where running water created the power to run the equipment. Since 1837, Lamson-Goodnow became synonymous with high quality knives and tools in the US. Some of their pieces are featured in the Smithsonian as part of a White House set used when Ulysses S. Grant was president. Lamson-Goodnow had its years of troubles, both natural and financial, until it was rescued by a group of local investors that wanted to rekindle Lamson as a great American brand. They moved the facilities, upgraded the technology, while insisting on maintaining high standards, instead of trying to compete with cheaper levels of tools.

A Good Deal For Kitchen Detail Readers 

As a reader of Kitchen Detail, Lamson is offering any of these models for purchase with a 40% discount when you buy directly from their company. Take advantage of the code  S18lacuisine when you check out at their site.

 Promotion code currently not set to expire. Offer valid while supplies last or manufacturer modifies promotion.

Take advantage of this KD reader 40% discount on the spatulas discussed above at their website.

Enter S18lacuisine during final checkout in the PROMO CODE field (Do not enter it in the notes tab)

 


Food Lit: Portuguese Food & History Lesson

Book cover photo of The Food Of Portugal - Real Portuguese Food RecipesUsing A Cookbook To Plan A Trip

Planning a trip?  Wading your way through guide books, websites, articles, recommendations?  Try reading a cookbook on the local cuisine.  Before my recent trip to Portugal, I ordered a copy of Jean Anderson’s The Food of Portugal to try my hand at some delicious Portuguese food. Published in 1986, this book is much more than a cookbook.  It is part travel-log, part guidebook with a great, easily reproducible map, a language guide and a thumbnail of Portuguese food history.

There is a chapter on The Language of Portuguese Food, Drink and Dining including a 32-page glossary, alphabetically arranged, of food words and phrases “to introduce the American to rudimentary kitchen and restaurant Portuguese, to attune the ear and focus the eye”. A chapter takes you through the wines of Portugal including how to read Portuguese wine labels.  Ms. Anderson spent a large part of her life experiencing Portugal, its food, wine, custom and people.  This book covers seashores, metropolitan cities, and mountain terrain from the Algarve’s southern most area to the Alto Douro in the north.

Check Out Elizabeth’s Trip

I traveled to Portugal in May.  The two weeks were spent sampling enormous amounts of fresh fruit, tasting delicious vinho verde, and eating fresh fish expertly and simply prepared.  Hard to pick a favorite fish: plump, charcoal grilled sardines (sardinhas) drizzled in olive oil; baked hake (pescada), red mullet (salmonetes), big, black fish or scabbard fish (peixe espada) and bacalhau (salted cod) …. the signature fish of Portugal.  It is said that there are as many different recipes for bacalhau as there are days of the year.

My favorite was any fish simply grilled and slathered with fruity olive oil and simply seasoned.  One variation was fish prepared with potatoes and vegetables in a tomato base and cooked in a “cataplana”.  This hinged metal or copper container is shaped like a giant clam shell that is filled with the ingredients and clamped shut.  The items steam-bake and all the flavors mix together producing a juicy sauce that is mopped up with chewy Portuguese bread.  (note, I’ve used mine to cook chicken as well as fish…delicioso!)

Sources and A Portuguese Fish Recipe

pescadeli from websiteIt is difficult to find a good fish market in the DC area, but our favorite one is Pescadeli which is owned by a Portuguese group (their butcher shop across the street is excellent too.  It is home to several ingredients the Cuisinettes adored and stocked at the shop and on our website.  Nunez de Prado Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Moulins Mahjoub salted capers, couscous, preserved lemons,Ortiz anchovies and their preserved tunas –  all  at good prices.  Weep no more!  Ask them for hake or cod to make this dish from Jean Anderson’s book.  This is the season of tomatoes, peppers and onions that go into this recipe. Use a shallow ceramic casserole such as the porcelain ones by Pillivuyt  or terra cotta helps to insulate the fish from the heat while the dish is baked. 

Baked Hake Lisbon-Style
Serves 4
An easy main course to make with local tomatoes and peppers. Don't forget the ground cloves as it truly adds to the flavor of this dish.
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsley chopped
  2. 1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced
  3. 1 small sweet green pepper, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
  4. 3 tbs olive oil for sauteing
  5. 2 tbs minced flat leaf parsley
  6. 4 juicily ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
  7. 1/4 cup dry white wine
  8. pinch ground cloves
  9. 2 tbs tomato paste or finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
  10. 1 tsp fine sea salt
  11. 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  12. 1.5-2lbs hake, cod, grouper, or haddock, cut into 1inch (2.2cm) slices.
Instructions
  1. Saute the onion, garlic and green pepper in the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat 5-6 minutes until limp.
  2. Add the bay leaves, parsley, tomatoes, wine, cloves, tomato paste, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a simmer, and maintain slow simmer when you cover the pan and cook 20 minutes.
  4. Uncover and cook longer if necessary to have this become the consistency of a thick pasta sauce.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F (170C) and generously butter a ceramic baking dish.
  6. Place fish slices close together in baking dish, making sure that the dish provides a close fit.
  7. Pour the tomato sauce over the pieces, cover and bake 15 minutes.
  8. Uncover and bake until fish flakes at the touch of a fork and this takes just a few minutes more.
Notes
  1. Some liquid develops in the baking of this dish. It depends on the fish chosen, whether it has been frozen or not. Pour off the liquid. Reduce and pour on top of the finished dish for an added kick of flavor.
  2. I always use a Pillivuyt or terracotta baker. Ceramic insulates the fish during cooking and the dish will have a much better texture.
Adapted from The Food Of Portugal
Adapted from The Food Of Portugal
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

Some Facts about Jean Anderson

To learn more about Jean Anderson, check out her website http://www.jeanandersoncooks.com  or go to her Facebook Page. She describes herself as “cookbook author/editor, food and travel writer/photographer, food scientist/nutritionist, problem-solver (“Recipe Doc”), writing coach.” Many of you may be familiar with The Doubleday Cookbook (with Elaine Hanna) or The Grass Roots Cookbook showcasing American regional recipes.  The Food of Portugal was named “Best Foreign Cookbook in the 1986 Tastemaker Awards.

I strongly encourage you to get a taste of Portugal with her book by  exploring her easy-to-do Portuguese recipes.  Perhaps they will inspire you to plan a trip as I did.  

Elizabeth DiGregorio

 




Juicy Post: A Family Riviera – San Benedetto Del Tronto

Beach Vacay, Italian Style

lungomare image from rivieradellepalme.comIf you follow Kitchen Detail on Instagram, you probably know by now that I just had my first Italian beach vacation. While I loved the white sandy beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and spent my adolescence prowling the boardwalk in Rehoboth, Delaware, nothing prepared me for the delights of San Benedetto del Tronto. This unique resort on the Adriatic Coast of Le Marche, Italy, is set against the foothills of the Appennine mountains, offering a welcome breeze and a lovely backdrop to blue sea and blonde sand. With a series of stone breakwaters, the beach has plenty of warm, shallow water that invites young and old alike to enjoy swimming, rafting and playing all day long. San Benedetto Del Tronto itself has two distinct areas: San Benedetto proper and the area where we stayed – Porto D’Ascoli. Tatiana, the KD Travel Scout for all things Italian, chose this last area partly for its one-lane-one-way beachfront road, which is easily crossed with little ones. It also shortened the distance between our family and the thrills of the sea.  And as you read on, you will see why we all fell in love with this Riviera delle Palme

A Setting For All Ages

As you drive into San Benedetto, an unwavering  line of palms and oleanders welcomes you. In fact, the urban landscaping here, with its modest scale, should inspire American beach destinations. Hotels are not skyscraper high; apartments and villas are designed with clean minimalist lines, engaging colors and attractive architectural details. Beach kitsch is not overwhelming, and evening or morning walks on the lungomare with its intimate bicycles of all data-lazy-sizes Messer chichibio collatethemed gardens are a delight. We were a family of grandparents, parents and children, and we were not alone in strolling along this beautifully paved walkway every night, stopping for a meal or gelato after dinner. Children have lots of small seaside play areas that require only their imaginations and some stamina – so much better than arcades of video games and whack-a-mole.  Bikes for singles, doubles, triples, quadruples and yes, even sextuples are available – and no matter your group, you should definitely try it at least once.  Hilarity and exercise make a delightful combination.  

We chose a ground floor apartment at Cala Luna Suites which was directly across from fully serviced beach concessions. It had an enclosed terrace with a large retractable awning – perfect for dining morning, noon and night. We paid for a space in the garage and an optional cleaning service with weekly fresh linens. The apartments were perfect for rambunctious boys to build raceways, forts and hideouts, while an older group could either watch the World Cup or set up our own aperitivo hour. If you want something more luxurious, consider one of the hotels such as the Smeraldo Suite Hotel – which has a first-class restaurant, Messer Chichibio, where we happily ate several times.  Your favorite holiday search engine will guide you to the sort of lodging and dining venues you want.  There are neighborhood grocery stores that have local specialties and basic necessities, if you don’t feel like doing the short drive to the IperCoop supermarket nearby. 

Daily Diversions

etoile 56 beach with services in San BenedettoHaving spent my summers helping my brothers install our beach umbrella, unfold chairs, and then pack them up at night — plus inflating rafts and carrying food to the beach every day, I went through an anti-seaside vacay period. What I did not realize was that all I required was a beach with services! And these abound in almost endless charming fashion in San Benedetto. San Benedetto (and its Italian sister destinations) has a dizzying array of beach “concessions” where, for a fee, you rent umbrellas with tables and chairs. Most offer outdoor showers right on the beach.  Memo to self: Italians bring a swimsuit change, on the theory that it is uncomfortable and unhealthy to sit on the beach in a wet one.  You can leave beach toys and paraphernalia under your chairs .  Your concessionaire proprietor cleans his beach section every evening, furls your umbrella and then preps it in the early morning. Our concession was run by Dino and several brothers, one of whom owned the edicola across the street where we bought newspapers, Italian cooking magazines and assorted tools for building sand castles. 

If you dread inflating the flamingo or shark raft, no worries, they do it for you there. If you’re reluctant to purchase a raft for your children, they collect abandoned ones and hand them out to those who ask. An Aperol Spritz in your chair or on their patio? Done. Breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, cappuccino and pastry? Right there under the patio parasols. A simple quick lunch or dinner? Most concessions have their own little Itallian beach coverupsdining area serving midday and evening fare. New to me was the parade of women in beach cover-ups (they would never call them muumuus).  And no self-respecting vacationing female would have just one. Guys just wore their assorted swim trunks in varying shades of bravado. And in case you had not brought enough of these seaside fashion statements, vendors along the beach had them for sale, along with hats, sunglasses, and beach-appropriate jewelry.

La Scogliera in San Benedetto Del TrontoPlus the almost endless number of concessions dotting San Benedetto’s lungomare are just wonderful to explore. Some offer flashier dining and dancing – Chalet Da Andrea, for example.  If you want something quiet but with casual elegance you may want to check out Chalet La Lancette. Our favorite ultra easy-going beach shack was Chalet La Scogliera where I could not stop eating their version of Spaghetti with Clams. They also had Trippa di Pesce one night, a local specialty that was so slurpily good that I am practicing it for a future KD post.   But no matter what style of restaurant you choose, children are always welcome. 

Getting Around San Benedetto

Our crew arrived by plane, train and automobile. San Benedetto has its own train station, while airports include nearby Ancona and Pescara with larger hubs like Bologna and Rome a little further afield. We wanted to explore the area so we rented a car from the local Avis agency. Once in San Benedetto you can easily use the bus to go up and down the main drag or rent a bike. The spacious bike path follows the coast north to Grottammare and as far as Cupra Marittima.

Plan on two weeks if you are a family group, which allows plenty of beach time, savoring restaurants and markets, plus a chance to take day trips as farConero from the .baiadiportonovo.i away as Assisi and Spello or just up into Le Marche’s hinterland with picturesque towns like Ripatransone and Offida. A worthwhile stop is Ascoli Piceno, which has one of the most wonderful piazzas in Italy. Charming shops and little cafes are nestled in between some pretty astonishing Roman and medieval history. Or you could make a short trip to Mount Conero with its dramatic coastline, turquoise waters and delicious restaurants like Da Emilia.  

Nancy & Tatiana Pollard


In My Neighborhood: Local Restaurants Run By Real People

Real Local Restaurants In A Sea Of Corporate Misadventures

It is hard enough to shoulder the responsibility of being the nation that spawned a foul flotilla of fast food restaurants both domestically and abroad. If you don’t want to suffer the same burgernfries in Alexandria that you do in your hometown, it is difficult to find a place to eat that is truly local, where the owner is actually a restaurateur and not a venture-capital group looking for a food concept. 

When La Cuisine was open, the continuing cry from visitors would be: “Where is a nice local place for a meal? You run a cooking store, so we figure you would know”. We still get emails from our Kitchen Detail subscribers asking for local dining advice.  So, while  I am married to a Wine Maniac, and he always wants to see what is offered for wine,  I am on the lookout for cocktails and beers, too, as a welcome alternative.   We are not talking fancy-schmancy, but we are thinking about wine or beer by the glass that does not taste like colored water, or a nicely made drink.  We are thinking that inexpensive wine does not have to cost four times  what I can get at Balduccis or Whole Foods.  While I don’t mind seeing a burger on a menu (it does seem to be the default choice for a lot of people),  I am much more interested in menu choices that reflect local produce and selections from good small purveyors. I’m always delighted when restaurateurs highlight both organic and local produce on their menus.  If Sysco is your everyday food-supplier, most likely neither the Wine Maniac or I will  be happy.

Explore Local Restaurants in Del Ray And Old Town

So here are some of my favorite restaurants that offer meals driven by fresh and usually local ingredients,  which have lovely and affordable drink lists. All are run by local owners and not by some clueless committee. Three are in Old Town and two in Del Ray, which is another lovely, unique neighborhood to visit if you are staying in this area. 

A La Lucia is  run by Michael Nayeri, who ran the front of the house for Gallileo in DC, hence the Italian trail running through the place.  He is extremely knowledgeable about wine, and his selections show it.  The seafood  choices are excellent, and the mainstays of his menu are varied by season and are wonderful.  They make their own mozzarella, burrata and ice cream. Stuffed zucchini  blossoms in season?  Check.  Crispy, not greasy,  soft shell crabs?  Check.  An excellent grilled veal chop? Check.  Oh, and the focaccia is so addictive, the Cuisinettes used to call it “Crack Bread”. Wonderful for adults of all ages and children who chaperone them. 

Delicious offerings from our local restaurantsOur second local recommendation  is  Nasime, a lovely and intimate Japanese restaurant carved from a tiny slice of the Lamplighter on King Street.  It is our date-night treat.  Best to make reservations, but occasionally there will be a couple of seats at the last minute.  Only one menu is served, and it varies according to what the chef- owner likes that day.  You eat what is offered,  so there is no salad with the dressing on the side – which to me is a good thing.brut wein bar collage in neighborhood restaurants

The somewhat new kid on the block is Brut Wine Bar — the  revamped  Grape+Bean  run by restaurant veteran Dustin Lara (he also makes a mean cannele).  A growing selection of bubblies is paired with simple but lush dishes. One of Dustin’s goals is to have one hundred sparkling wines on the wall for us to choose from -a laudable enterprise.  I think he has the best cheese and charcuterie platter in our area  And if you don’t want bubbles, there is a nice selection of wines to choose from for your meal or purchase.  

 Our most frequented watering hole in Del Ray is Tacqueria Poblano.  Actually, we order their slurpily delicious In my neighborhood restaurant Taqueria PoblanoMargaritas with water on the side.  And even though it has two other locations, Tacqueria Poblano is truly home-grown in its ownership and management.  Budget- and child-friendly — we have never seen  anyone of any age turn down their tortilla chips and salsa.  Refreshing agua fresca in several flavors, along with child- sized portions of quesadillas and tacos will keep little ones happy. Two repeats for us are the Duck Carnitas and the Rajas Poblanos. You can sit outside and watch the Del Ray world pass by, or eat inside in a packed, homey atmosphere.  

Yet another, more roomy restaurant that plays well with  grown-ups or children equally well is Del Ray Cafe. TheDel Ray Cafe image from Zebra Publications owners had a lovely old-fashioned French restaurant in Old Town, which got mowed down in litigation when they wanted to move it to a stately Federal building on Washington Street.  Old Town’s loss is Del Ray’s gain.  You can eat inside in a casual dining room, or take your kids upstairs (and my grandsons have enjoyed this immensely) or eat on a real screened porch, if the weather be good.  They focus on organic and locally sourced products for all their menus, which remarkably include delicious breakfast choices  as well as  a well-thought-out lunch and dinner menu.  

We all talk about eating local, and when local is superior to corporate concepts, it deserves a social media shout-out.  We invite you to let us know the best spots in your area. 


Food And Film: Mostly Martha Is More Than A ChickFlick

  1. I Hate Bad Remakes

mostlymarthapicfrombigotherThere is something about summer that prompts us to indulge in a little escapism. Books and films are the perfect havens, and in them we’re looking for less drama and more distraction.  But for myself, I’m still looking for a little meat, not just dessert.  There has to be a plausible plot line, some good editing and script writing. Perhaps you have already  been subjected to the film No Reservations – which was one of those unfortunate attempts in the US to remake the German film Mostly Martha into some cinematic goo for our citizenry.  As a nation of  good film creators, we should not have to resort to this. Still, reading through the comments from critics and viewers alike on Rotten Tomatoes almost makes having watched this cinematic rehash worthwhile. 

 

And Now For The Real Martha

So if you have not seen the original 2001 romantic comedy from writer-director Sandra Nettlebeck yet, you are in for a delicious distraction that has some meat on its bones. Ms. Nettlebeck has cleverly played Teutonic efficiency against Italian joie de vivre. The camera work is exquisite, musical selections from Manfred Eicher are delightful, and the performances from  Martina Gedeck  and Sergio Castellito are deliciously spot-on.  (If you have not seen some of their other films – here are some you should put in your queue: Gedeck in  the searing film The Life Of Others and Sergio Castellito   in  Don’t Move and Paris, Je T’aime). Mostly Martha should be on your list of top favorite food films. There were a couple of poignant revelations that I took away from the film: one was Martha’s niece, fearing that she would forget what her mother looked like, compulsively watching videos of her last vacation with her mom. Another was that even with a romantic ending, Martha’s neuroses still lodged quite comfortably in her mind.  Oh, and her panic attack looking at a messy kitchen still resonates with me. Little frisson of self-recognition there….


Travel Alert: A Golden Time Along Portugal’s Silver Coast

Settling In and Day Tripping

The brochure lured me in with promises of glorious beaches, bewitching grandeur, superb cuisine, magical landscapes, dramatic history and warm, friendly locals. It placed all this against an intoxicating backdrop of elegant ceramic tiles and soulful Fado music, and I was hooked. Soon I was on a flight for Central Portugal and the Silver Coast.  It did not disappoint. 
Cascaise view from Liz's hotel

I explored Lisbon for a few days on my own, then joined a travel group in Cascais, a coastal resort town about 17 miles due west. (I recommend Cascais over Lisbon for an extended stay). 

Cascais has a strong connection to Italy, as it was the favored summer vacation getaway of the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II. Other notables followed, and the town morphed into a kind of Portuguese French Riviera.  But Italy is everywhere. Architecture and gardens reflect Italy’s glorious villas, and two fabulous gelato shops boast authentic Italian origins:  Gelateria Italiana and Santini.

A beautiful tile sign signals the major street and pays homage to the last Italian King, Humberto II. which sports a wonderful park and museums. Here, you’ll have no shortage of historical houses, museums, a long- established fish market, art galleries and easy transport to take you up or down the Portuguese coast. Down the road is Estoril, filled with casinos, grand hotels and villas.  Estoril is where Ian Fleming hatched his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale.

 

Day Trips Abound On The Silver Coast

The Silver Coast, the area between Porto and Lisbon, is filled with art, history, architecture, azulejos (tiles), great food and wine, and Cascais is the perfect launching pad for day trips.

Sintra is a must-see, an easy day trip from Lisbon or Cascais. The Pena Palace, built by the German-born Prince Ferdinand, is a magical, KistiTwo Travelog image of Sintra Kitchenarchitectural smorgasbord ~Gothic towers, Renaissance domes, Moorish minarets, Manueline carvings, and even a shout-out to the House of Mouse.  The Prince’s cousin “Mad” King Ludwig built the Disneyesque Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria.

The Palace is room after room of delightful azulejos,  excess designs and carvings, gardens and one of the most beautiful kitchens ever.  The copper kitchenware alone is worth the trip.

Moving North ~ Obidos and Beyond

Obidos street scene in castle wallObidos, a medieval walled city, was from 1282 to 1833, presented to the Portuguese Queens as their wedding gift.  We stayed at a wonderful inn, each room named for a Portuguese queen.  The two streets that frame the town are filled with tourists during the day, but empty out at night and early morning.  In the off=hours, it’s just you,  narrow cobblestone streets, small shops, and a few stray dogs.  The foreboding grey castle walls are a sharp contrast to the charming, sweet street scenes.

A great day trip from Obidos is the medieval town of Tomar, in which the Convento de Christo was once a Knights Templar stronghold. The Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in the 14th century and its Portuguese branch turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, supporting the country’s maritime discoveries of the 15th century.  The Convento was placed on the World Heritage list of UNESCO in 1983.

Tomar is a short drive to Fatima.  Often crowded, but beautiful, Fatima is redolent with beeswax from the burning candles and rich with inspiring visible displays of faith and hope. More easy day trips from Obidos are Batalha, Nazare, and Alcobaca — some of the prettiest small towns. Batalhaview fromChris Travel Blog

Batalha monastery is a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic and Manueline art, the latter style named after King Manuel I. Churches and monasteries built during his reign were financed in large part by the spice trade with Africa and India.   Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the monastery is a World Heritage site, officially called Santa Maria da Vitoria.  

A short way down the road is Nazare, a resort town with long sandy beaches and high cliffs. We had wonderful fish for lunch —fresh seafood cataplana, made with chunky hake, shrimp, potatoes and a delicious tomato-based sauce; large grilled sardines; and cold beer — all spiced with the fresh sea air. [Look for a future article on Portuguese food in Kitchen Detail with a local source for ingredients.]

AlcobacafiremplacePinterestAnnaMax

Our last stop for the day trip was Alcobaca. The Cistercian abbey is a World Heritage site that transports you back into the Middle Ages.  The Mosterio de Santa Maria de Alcobaca was, in its heyday, one of the richest libraries in Portugal.  Agriculture in the area was abundant and the Abbey’s vast kitchens turned out feasts.  The kitchen is amazing, the “sinks as large as bathtubs, two vast fireplaces that could roast up to seven oxen at one time, and beautiful, iridescent tile that would be right at home today.  This is one of the two fireplaces.  Amazing!

Returning to Lisbon, Belem is an easy stop. It is  rich in Portugal’s Golden Age history and considered a “suburb” of Lisbon. It has at least a couple of days’  worth of treasures worth exploring. During the Age of Discovery, before embarking on their ocean voyages, sailors would stay and pray at the Monastery of Jeronimos, and the Belem Tower would greet them upon their return.  Belem survived the great 1755 earthquake, so the sturdy Manueline architecture gracing the Monastery should be on your list.

Custard Tart Wars And Wimples

guardian 15 best things to eat in the world: belemcustardtartsBelem is also the birthplace of the famed pastel de nata, amazingly delicious custard tarts invented in the 18th century by monks at the Jeronimos Monastery.  It was common practice to use egg whites to starch the nuns’ habits, and their elaborate wimples (the big, white, stiff headgear) demanded a lot of whipped egg whites. So, with a ton of leftover yolks, what is a nun to do?  Both monks and nuns combined the egg yolks with abundantly available sugar to make delicious, two-bite-size custard tarts.  What started as a great “mixed-use project” became an economic boon that kept the monasteries alive during the liberal revolution. The famed Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem has lines stretching around the building, but it is worth the wait.There is a custard tart war of sorts between Belem and Lisbon:  the Fabrica in Belem vs. the Manteigaria (butter shops) in Lisbon. Treat yourself to some comparison shopping.

  Time Out in Lisbon And  The TimeOut Market

 A definite must-go  in Lisbon is the Time Out Market,  a foodie’s dream come true. Easily accessible by metro or on foot, food hall and market both offer the best of Lisbon and Portugal food, wine, flowers, and artisan products under one roof. You can eat cheaply or dine sumptuously and, if feeling flush with euros, take home a bottle of Port…A long, leisurely stop here will bring you to the most delicious storefront:  Manteigaria, Fabrica de Pasteis de Nata.  I had the creamiest, right out of the oven, custard tart here.  So worth the calories….and two of them in a little carboard box… for just 1 euro!  An extra euro for uma bica, the black and robust ristretto, (café) and you are all set.  Life is good, and tasty. 

Lisbon is built on hills and the streets paved with small, slippery limestones.  In the distance you can see a small “golden gate bridge,” built by the same company that designed and constructed the one in San Francisco.

On All Saints Day 1755, Lisbon was devastated by a massive earthquake that spawned tsunamis and fires.  Everywhere the old is woven into the new. The Amalfa, the Chiado, Bairro Alto, Mouraria, and the Baixa are the main districts and walking is not for the faint of heart.  Good walking shoes are a must and a walking stick is helpful when navigating the limestone brick streets.    There are wonderful Fado restaurants, more than 40 museums, including one on Fado, azulejos, costumes and decorative arts.  Many of the churches, such as the Church of San Roque, have museums with exquisite art.

 A walk through the Amalfa district will introduce you to amazing street art, but if more traditional art is your thing, try the Museu Nacional De Arte  amalfastreetart viaPinterewstAntiga, the Gulbenkian Museum, and the Sao Roque Church, with the eye -popping Chapel of St. John the Baptist.  The tile museum has a panorama scene of pre-earthquake Lisbon.

And Don’t Forget To: Get a LisboaCard at the airport:  it is good for train/metro/bus travel as well as museum fees; take a walking stick; don’t be too proud to ride a hop on/hop off bus or hire a tuk-tuk; make friends with the metro/train, especially the Cais do Sodre station; and, practice using a little Portuguese…the locals appreciate it!  Obrigada!!

Elizabeth DiGregorio


You Say Focaccia, I Say Focacce

Focaccia Started As A Disposable Plate

pompei fresco panisf ocuciusBite into a wedge of focaccia and you are channeling the Ancient Greeks, Etruscans, and pilgrims traveling to or through Italy during the Middle Ages — not to mention a few random Renaissance artists.  From panis focacius, (bread + hearth) the Latin term for dough flattened over a stone slab, covered in ashes, and baked in the hearth comes today’s soft, leavened focaccia.

Originally, it was unleavened, used as “disposable plates” for soldiers, sailors, and travelers who needed quick, nutritious, easily transportable and long-lasting provisions.  The flat disk would serve as a dish, holding a variety of toppings, from salty fish to olives, herbs, and cheeses. Then, in early ecological fashion, it was eaten so there would be no waste. Ultimate recycling.

Liz DiGregorio and I think  that summer is the perfect time for you to perfect your ancient bread skills.  Then you’ll be ready to take focaccia with you on a picnic or pull it out of the freezer for a barbecue.  Or make a quick sandwich, grab a book, and go out to your favorite park just to relax.  It is, indeed, the best disposable plate. 

There Is More Than One Focaccia

While many Mediterranean countries have their own focaccia-style breads, we are focusing on Italy.  The Slow Food Dictionary to Italian focaccia with carmelized onions & marash pepper in a basket Regional Cooking lists 15 different versions of focacce (plural of focaccia).  While they all share the basic common ingredients, the Italian imagination takes over, and each region puts its individual spin on the final product.  The toppings vary from place to place.  Sometimes the name changes. Some are savory. Some are sweet. Some are filled with cheese or vegetables. But all are delicious and reflect Italy’s regional pride.

Most focacce are made with a high-gluten (hard) flour, but some regions use flours common to their area, such as ceci-bean, corn, chestnut, cake flour, and flour into which mashed or riced potatoes are added.  Some type of fat along with water helps bind the flour and produce the crisp crust.  Lard was the original fat of choice, but now butter and good olive oil lead the way.  The best quality olive oil is required to spread over the dough to fill those yummy indentations that give focaccia its classic look.   Salt, to Italians, evokes centuries of salt wars, and bread with and without salt distinguishes one region from another.  Focaccia contains salt in the dough and as the final touch after it is baked.  Good table salt works for the dough, and coarse salt, like Maldon, sprinkled on top of the fresh-out-of-the-oven product is delizioso.

Travelers’ Aid

If traveling to Italy is in your future, you will find that focaccia is part of a large repertoire of flat breads. The thinnest is pizza, then schiacciata, and finally, the loftiest of the flats, focaccia.  Here is a geographical glossary of focaccia-diversity to watch for when you are on your Italian vacation and staring at local menus — all of it sourced from Elena Kostiouskovitch’s  diverting book, Why Italians Love To Talk About Food.  

Liguria: Focaccia di Recco (cheese-filled focaccia); focaccia di Voltri (thin dough coated with corn flour and baked on a hot plate); and focaccia Genovese (also called fugassa), which most closely resembles the focaccia we experience in the US.

crescentonedibolognaEmilia Romagna:  In Emilia, focacce called “chizze”  are made, stuffed with slivers of parmesan and then fried in lard.  In Bologna, it is called Crescentone. Bits of lard are added to the dough.   

Tuscany:  In Pistoia they make necci, focaccias of chestnut flour.  Chestnut flour is also used in the focaccias of Garfagnana. al testo focaccia from madonna del piatto

Umbria.  The local focaccia is called “al testo”.  It is cooked on a testo, or disk, which in the past was made from river gravel.  Today, the testo is made of cast iron.

Lazio:  In Gaeta, the focaccias are called “tielle” and are often dressed in the famous Gaeta olives, the color of red wine, small and aromatic  

Sicily; Messina has focaccerie, focaccia shops; Catania schiacciate filled with cheese, anchovies, onions, and tomatoes and black olives; Syracuse and Ragusa call stuffed focaccia “scarce.” 

Tips, Techniques, and Recipes

Looking through numerous cookbooks, online recipes and videos, one can easily become overwhelmed by focaccia abundance. We have included three different recipes for focaccia in this post.  The first is from Flour bakery and cafe group in Boston,  and it is a really good American take on focaccia.  It will give you a poofier, lighter focaccia, perfect for splitting for  our sandwiches.  The second is a recipe from Cucina Italiana, which we have had to rework a bit, but it is chewy and coarser and a bit flatter.  The third is from an Australian book on Italian cooking, which uses only all-purpose flour (the other two specify bread and all-purpose flour).  This would be my go-t0 recipe if I had no access to really good quality bread flour. 

If you are mixing by hand, Italian cooks feel strongly that the flour should be mixed  into the liquid a cup at a time until the dough is too stiff to stir.

You must knead either with a dough hook or by hand until you can do the “windowpane check” with your dough.

If you use a blued/black steel  baking sheet, the bottom crust will be darker than if you use an aluminum sheet.  Both are very good as long as they are commercial quality.  We don’t like stainless steel baking sheets, as the heat conduction is so poor. 

All of them should be dusted heavily with semolina (semola) or cornmeal on the baking sheet. 

You can use your baking stones or quarry tile, which will give a crisp bottom crust.

Nonstick baking sheets or really light weight ones will give you very disappointing results.  The high heat required for focaccia (400F and higher)) will make lighter sheets buckle and also affect the traditional non-stick coatings.

A dough or bench scraper is your friend when manipulating a moist and sticky dough

 You can freeze baked focaccia for up to one month.  Wrap in a heavy-duty freezer bag.  To thaw, let it sit in its wrapper at room temperature overnight. Or wrap it in foil straight from the freezer and pop it into a low oven (under 300F) until heated through.  You can refrigerate a baked focaccia for only a day or two. 

You can freeze unbaked focaccia dough, too, after the first rise.  

 Chilling the dough encourages it to settle down and behave. After the first full rise, punch down the dough, cover and refrigerate it overnight, let dough return to room temperature,  then proceed with the shaping and final rise. You most likely will get a “holier” texture if you do this. 

And always, always, make divots with your fingers after the shaped rise, as they hold the olive oil and the salt, plus create focaccia’s signature look. Below the recipe cards is  a Cucina Italiana video on a little “secret” to improve the top crust. 

 

 

Focaccia Dough with All Purpose Flour
This will make two focacce about 10x15 inches. You can freeze the dough after the first rise.
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 tsp (4gr) caster or superfine sugar
  2. 2 tsp (5.7gr) dried yeast (instant yeast is faster)
  3. 3 cups (705ml) water (lukewarm if it is dried yeast)
  4. 2 lbs (907gr) all purpose flour
  5. 2 tsp (7.5gr) fine sea salt
  6. 3 tbs (45ml) olive oil
  7. cornmeal or semolina for dusting.
Instructions
  1. Combine the sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup (59ml) water to activate it, which may take as long as 5 minutes. .
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, adding 2 tbs olive oil, yeast mixture and 3/4 of the remaining water.
  3. Mix and then add the rest of the water, a little at a time until you have a loose dough.
  4. Knead this either with a dough hook or by hand at least 8 minutes.
  5. It should be smooth and leave an impression when you an indentation made by a finger springs back immediately - or do the bread windowpane check.
  6. Oil a large bowl with remaining olive oil and roll the dough in the bowl to coat it.
  7. Cut a shallow cross in the dough with a sharp knife.
  8. Allow to rise (covered loosely in plastic or cloth in a warm draft-free place for 11/2 hours until dough is doubled in size,
  9. Alternatively, cover and leave in fridge for 8 hours- slower rise will yield a looser texture in the baked bread.
  10. Punch down the dough and divide into two portions (you can freeze one or store it in fridge for 4 hours but bring back to room temperature to form)
  11. Start by rolling the portion out into an 8x11 inch rectangle and then stretch or push out into a 10x15 inch rectangle.
  12. Lightly grease your baking sheet and dust it with the semolina or cornmeal.
  13. Allow it to rise inside a loose plastic bag or under a towel for around an hour or two.
  14. Your dough is now ready for the final recipe choice and be baked at 425F for 20-30 minutes.
Notes
  1. Suggestions from this book are: 1 cup of green olives pressed into the dough, then dosed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and leaves from two rosemary sprigs
  2. OR 3 oz diced pancetta, pressed in the dough followed by 10 basil leaves, torn in half, pressed in, dosed with olive oil and topped with grated Parmigiano
  3. OR 1 cup Gorgonzola, mashed with 1-3 tbs mascarpone, gently spread across with 10 sage leaves, torn in half and 2 tbs Italian pine nuts scattered on top..
Adapted from The Food Of Italy
Adapted from The Food Of Italy
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/

 

  

 

Locatelli Focaccia
an adaptation of a classic - and easy to do- focaccia. Use it with traditional toppings in the signature indentations or stuff it with salume and cheese.
Print
Ingredients
  1. 250 gr (2 cups) all purpose flour (00 if possible)
  2. 250 gr (1.97cups) high gluten bread flour (Caputo Rinforzata is a great one)
  3. 7 gr Instant Yeast or 15 gr dry yeast
  4. 300 ml(1 1/4cups)water
  5. 4.3ml (3 tbs olive oi)l (or melted lard)
  6. 50gr (3 tbs sea salt
Instructions
  1. By hand mix the two flours, yeast or use a dough hook in a mixer
  2. Add the water,olive oil (or melted lard) and the salt.
  3. Mix with a wood spoon, not with your hands.and allow to rest 10 minutes
  4. If using a dough hook in a mixer,just mix it until you get a shaggy dough.
  5. Then knead until you get a smooth supple dough.
  6. You can use the windowpane check before allowing it rise.
  7. Allow to rise in a greased bowl, covered until double in bulk.
  8. Once it has risen, spread it with your hands across a baking sheet that has been dusted with semolina
  9. You should have a rectangle at least 10x15 inches or a bit larger
  10. Let it rise for another 20 minutes before making the indentations.
  11. Make a mixture of 3 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs water and dose the focaccia with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt along with the oil and water.
  12. Put into a preheated oven at 400F for about 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. there is nothing better than serving any focaccia right out of the oven, or warmed up in foil on the grill.
Adapted from Cucina Italiana
Adapted from Cucina Italiana
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/
Rosemary & Olive Oil Focaccia
Yields 10
A fluffier, more American focaccia that makes a good sandwiich base too.
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 cup (420gr) water at body temperature
  2. 1tsp (3.5gr) dry yeast
  3. 3 1/2 cups (420gr) unbleached all purpose flour
  4. 1 1/4 cups (190gr) unbleached bread flour
  5. 1 tbs (18gr) sea salt
  6. 2 tbs (50.4gr) sugar
  7. 3/4 cup (150gr) olive oil
  8. handful of cornmeal for baking sheet
  9. 2 tbs (3.5gr) roughly chopped fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. In a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine water and yeast and allow it to dissolve and activate - less than a minute.
  2. Dump both flours, 1 tsp salt, and all the sugar onto the water and turn mixer onto lowest speed.
  3. Mix dough on low for 30 seconds to keep flour from flying out of the bowl (bane of KitchenAid design)
  4. When dough is shaggy looking, add 1/2 cup (100gr) olive oil, aiming at side of bowl.
  5. Knead for 5 minutes in mixer until dough is smooth and supple.
  6. Hand kneading will take 8 minutes.
  7. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough, turning it so that the entire surface gets slicked by the oil.
  8. Cover with plastic or cloth and allow to rise in a draft-free place
  9. In about 2 to 3 hours, the dough should have doubled in bulk.
  10. Flour your hands and work the dough out of the bowl onto counter.
  11. Stretch it into a 10x15 inch rectangle (25x38cm) .
  12. Place on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet and sprinkle flour on top of the dough.
  13. Cover loosely with plastic or cloth and allow to rise until it is puffy and pillowy.
  14. Preheat the oven to 425F and have a rack in the center.
  15. Remove plastic, dimple the dough with your fingers.
  16. Sprinkle the rosemary across the surface and spoon the 1/4 cup (50gr) EVOO and the remaining salt. (I used coarse sea salt and did more than she requires)
  17. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown
  18. Allow to cool before slicing.
  19. Focaccia will keep in closed paper bag for no more than 3 days or tightly wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap in freezer for 2 weeks.
  20. Allow to thaw to room temperature and refresh in 300F for 5 minutes oven or if frozen, it will take about 15 minutes.
Notes
  1. Variations are plenty but one would be 1 cup (140gr) chopped assorted pitted olives strewn along with the rosemary.
Adapted from Flour - Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe
Adapted from Flour - Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe
Kitchen Detail https://lacuisineus.com/
 

https://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/tutorial/i-consigli/il-segreto-della-focaccia-perfetta/





Food and Film: The Last Magnificent – Jeremiah Tower

Jeremiah Tower – Pre-Superstar

the Last Magnificent Jeremiah TowerIt is fitting that this post celebrates a documentary Anthony Bourdain produced, before his death stunned us all earlier this month. And this film is one that, like its protagonist, is mysteriously unknown, especially considering the popularity of Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, the BBC Great British Baking Show and films such as Julia and Julie or Big Night.  I had my own curiosity, as I  supplied cookware to  Jeremiah Tower around 1980 when La Cuisine was in its pre-adolescence.

Time-Life Books had moved into Alexandria (and its arrival here was anticipated with a breathlessness similar to that surrounding Amazon’s search for a second headquarters). Tower was a consultant for food photography and recipe development for a series of 28 books about cooking. He worked in a photography studio fortunately situated on the second floor of the building next to mine. Although Time-Life hired another local chef-guru, Jeremiah was clearly the driving force. It was his hand and esthetic that determined how the recipes were cooked and presented  for the entire series.  Knowledgeable without being condescending, urbane but not a lounge lizard, courtly but possessing a  wicked sense of humor, Tower was someone  I enjoyed immensely. 

I had occasionally wondered what had happened to him, knew that he had established a glitterati-studded restaurant (Stars in San Francisco), and that  Emily Luchetti was his pastry chef (because I baked a lot out her first cookbook). But by the time I was able to visit San Francisco to dip my fork into some famed restaurants, Stars had disappeared and so had Jeremiah Tower.  

Bourdain On Tower

This documentary is enjoyable because it reveals not only the justifiable fascination that Bourdain had with Jeremiah Tower but also our error in beatifying culinary celebrities such as Alice Waters or Mario Batali. Not surprisingly, he spoke of Tower as the most important chef in America. 

 “He was easily the most influential.  Everyone cooked like Jeremiah Tower. Everyone wanted to be Jeremiah Tower or at least bask in his presence.  His restaurant, STARS, became the template for the modern American restaurant.  He was arguably the first celebrity chef.  He was most definitely the first chef anyone wanted to sleep with.  And yet, one minute he was there, then he was everywhere and then he was gone. Why did the man who nearly everyone agrees was absolutely instrumental in how and what we eat in restaurants today disappear?  And why was he written out of history, his accomplishments dismissed, attributed elsewhere, the whole subject suddenly uncomfortable?”

And the Director’s Discovery

 Lydia Tenaglia, the film’s director, said she thought this would be an interesting biopic of a successful restaurateur. “What I found instead was a rich and complex story of an artist, one who continuously endeavored to reconcile his artistic dreams and visions with the “vulgar reality of life….Driven perfectionist, egotist, seducer, ringmaster… Jeremiah Tower is indeed one of the most controversial, outrageous and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy.  Almost overnight, the sexually-omnivorous, Harvard-educated Tower transformed the landscape of not just American food but its restaurants and dining rooms as well.  And yet his name has largely been obliterated from history.  The Last Magnificent explores the life of this complicated man,” she said.

This cinematic tale of an unwanted child, not unlike the character Mary in “The Secret Garden” – but Jeremiah wanted  a bit of food instead of a bit of earth to transform –  is compelling in its exploration of an immensely talented, complex man who was not afraid to disappear and yet live.

Watch the trailer below to get a taste of this remarkable film which was one of the last contributions of Anthony Bourdain