Friday, July 15, 2016

A Taste of Sicily, My Way

When the world as we know it, takes a turn, as it did yesterday in Nice, and last week here in the US, I head to the kitchen to put my head in another place.  I'm not ignoring what is going on in the world, but sometimes it's so horrific, I need to get away from the noise, and replace that with something that soothes my soul, and that is what cooking is for me: therapy. 

Next year I will be going to Sicily to curate a tour, to decide whether I think it's a good bet for my students, friends, and colleagues.  As I've been thinking about Sicily this week, I think of the typical Godfather references, the Mafia, the salt pans of Trapani, the wines from Mt. Etna and the bountiful seafood dishes.  




There is so much in Sicily, food-wise, it continues to be influenced by so many other cultures that the foods are hard to describe.  Today I made Caponata, a condimento, served either hot with a main course, or cold with wine and cheeses as an apperitivo.  I'm not exactly sure how I will serve it tomorrow night, but it's going to be delicious either with the swordfish from Catalina Offshore, or the cheeses from Venissimo.  Since the eggplant is coming in at Specialty Produce, it was time to take advantage of that, too. 
 Caponata
Caponata is an example of agra dolce, or sweet and sour.  For this version I am using balsamic vinegar (instead of the typical red wine vinegar) and golden raisins instead of sugar.  I like the balance these give to the otherwise robust ingredients.  
 
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped red onion
3 ribs celery, chopped, including the leaves
8 cups chopped eggplant (skin on)
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers packed in brine, drained and chopped if large
1/4 cup Spanish pimiento stuffed olives, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
salt and pepper

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium high heat and saute the garlic, onion, and celery for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  




Add the eggplant, and saute until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes.  
 

Add the tomato puree and vinegar, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, add the raisins, capers and olives, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 
Add the parsley and basil, season with salt and pepper.  The caponata is actually better served the next day, after the flavors have gotten to know each other.  

Wishing you a great weekend from San Diego, but dreaming of Italy. 



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Letter to Pete and the Laurel Diner

Dear Pete,
No one does breakfast the way you do.  I'd read about your diner on Road Food and when our daughter bought a house nearby, we had to come and try your breakfast.  We'd read about the lacy thin crispy hash browns, and the home made hash, but we had to see and taste for ourselves.  Unfortunately, we are now addicted: me to the Kiki and my hubby Dr. C. to the hash with two eggs over easy, our daughter to the Western omelette.  I haven't even tried anything else on the menu---why mess with perfection? 
Let me start with the Kiki:  shatteringly crisp hash browns layered with crispy bacon(or sausage) perfectly cooked eggs, cheese, sour cream and scallions---when they ask if you want toast, it would only interfere with this tower of perfection.  I dream about this breakfast, and since we live in San Diego, we only come a few times a year, but when we do come to Connecticut it's full on breakfast time.

Dr. C. loves the hash, which is made in house, instead of coming out of a can.  When he orders it, he knows that Pete will cook it with a crispy crust (the way it should be) and then two perfectly cooked eggs adorn it.  Homefries are crispy, and well seasoned on the side.  Toast?  I don't think so!

Our daughters' favorite is the Western omelette, with onions, peppers, and ham, griddled, then folded perfectly into eggs, with or without cheese, and turned to perfection onto the plate.   No one at Cordon Bleu ever did it that well, seriously.

Thanks to Pete and his staff for making breakfast fun again.  The Laurel Diner has been in Southbury since 1949, we are probably your biggest fans. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

To My Cincinnati Students and Friends: Come Along to Italy and the Road Less Traveled

This post is for my CooksWares students, and friends who have heard me talk so much about my love for Italy, our adopted hometown of Spello and the Italians.  Come along next May for the trip I've been wanting to take you on for years.  We will see beautiful hill towns, experience uncrowded villages, and end the trip in Rome.  It will be a week packed with food, wine, and culture, with a bit of time for shopping and relaxing, as well.  Umbria is the road less traveled, not nearly as overrun with tourists, its pleasures are many, and you will experience them all.  So, take a look at the brochure and get your deposit in soon.  I am leading this trip for another school in October, and it sold out in a week.  Space is limited, so come along and we'll experience a culinary trip designed just for you.

 -Highlights of this Small Custom Group Tour- May 13-22, 2017

•Rome:  1 Night Hilton Airport on arrival day, Classic rooms 

•Todi:  5 Nights Hotel Bramante,  Deluxe rooms with valley view 

•Rome:  2 Nights Hotel 47,  Deluxe rooms 

•All Breakfasts    •5 Lunches   •4 Dinners (one at a Michelin-starred restaurant) 

•5 Cooking Classes     •Cheese-making demonstration     •Truffle hunt 

•Guided tour of Assisi     •4 casual Town visits     •Private Vatican Tour

                                                               
                                      


Our first full day, we will have a cooking class at the hotel with their renown chef, and lunch.  After a brief rest, we will head to Assisi, the home of St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy for a private tour, and dinner on your own.

Day two we will head to Pienza to a working farm, and watch as pecorino cheese is being made, and then enjoy lunch at the farm.  Pienza is the home of the best Pecorino in Italy.



After lunch a short trip to Montepulciano, and a walk about before returning to Todi and dinner at the Michelin starred restaurant Casa Vissani.  

Day 3 takes us to Citta' di Castello in northern Umbria for a truffle hunt, visit to the truffle museum and then a truffle lunch.  We will return to Todi, dinner will be on your own.


Day 4 we will travel to the capital of Perugia, and participate in a hands on chocolate class at Perugina, directed by their master chocolatier.


After the class we will head to Spello (my adopted hometown) and have a wine and olive oil tasting and lunch at Enoteca Properzio, one of the top 3 wine bars in Italy, owned by my family, the Angelini's. Wine and olive oils are available for shipment home.



On our return to Todi, we will stop in Deruta for a ceramics demonstration and time to shop for ceramics. Dinner on your own.


Day 5 we will check out of our hotel in Todi and head to Rome.  On our way into Rome we will stop at Eataly, a 4 story food emporium for lunch on your own (there are 18 restaurants in the store) and time to shop for goodies to take home.


We will arrive at our hotel, and in the afternoon be taken to a pizza class.  Dinner will be your very own creation.  

Day 6, after an early breakfast, we will be transferred to the Vatican for a private morning tour of the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. The rest of the day will be at your leisure to explore the eternal city.



 Day 7, Check out and transfer to the airport.


Our travel agent will be happy to arrange before and after tour extensions for you.
Since space is limited, a non-refundable deposit will be required by July 21, 2016
COST IS FOR THE LAND PORTION ONLY:  Merlene will be happy to arrange airfare.

Pricing, not including Air:  Euros 3670 - Per Person, Double Occupancy (Approximately $4168 at exchange rate on June 6, 2016)
Single Occupancy (two spots, subject to availability) - Euros 4135  (Charges to your credit card will be in U.S. dollars equal to the active Euro exchange rate on the date that your payments process.  No foreign exchange fee charges will be incurred for the conversion from Euros to U.S. dollars)   
Respond Quickly – This special tour is Limited to 20 participants! Note:  The group minimum for this experience is 16 participants.  If for some reason group numbers fall below  the minimum requirement, extra costs may apply.   
Payment Dates Deposit Deadline:   July 21, 2016 Final Payment Deadline:  January 20, 2017
*Non-refundable Deposit:   Per Person double - Euros 1650;   Single - Euros 1800 *Travel insurance is available for purchase and is strongly recommended. Should you have to cancel for a ‘covered’ reason, non-refundable trip costs may be refunded if you have purchased travel insurance.  Further details of this coverage protection are available.

            
                                       

For the full itinerary and/or to sign up for this tour, Contact- Merlene Lynch   -  
Protravel International Direct:  760-489-2230          Merlene.Lynch@Protravelinc.com       
 California Sellers of Travel CST# 2063352-40                                                                               

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ciao Spello

As we get ready to pack up and leave, I've been thinking how this past 7 weeks has flown by.  Our first month in Rome at the American Academy was kind of like being Cinderella at the ball, and now these two weeks in our home away from home, Spello have felt like being hugged by our family here.


The weather this past two weeks has had us inside a lot, but on the sunny days we are hanging out at the enoteca, and enjoying just being here.  That whole mindfulness thing takes on a new meaning here.  Long walks, down side streets lined with flower pots and hanging flowers, getting lost and finding ourselves at the top of the hill, realizing we've walked in a huge circle, and coming back to our apartment are all part of what we do here.









Meeting old friends, and picking up where we left off in their lives, is another sweet part of being here.
Breakfast at Il Giardino in the morning is part of living here, and we love the view from their back yard.



Since the weather hasn't cooperated, we haven't done much to help with the flower gathering for L'infiorata, but yesterday Dr. C. and I pulled rose petals for about an hour resulting in some gorgeous colors for the design on our street.

We hope that the weather will moderate, so that the citizens can gather flowers to put down on the streets in 2 weeks time.  The flower petals have to dry and the weather has yet to cooperate.
Ciao for now, Spello, grazie per l'ospitalit√†, we will see you at the end of August.  Clicking these ruby slippers together and heading to the USA.