Vegetable Butcher puts an edge on the harvest

Cara Mangini demonstrates techniques from her new book, The Vegetable Butcher
The vegetables that announce each season “give us little moments to celebrate,” says Cara Mangini, the author of The Vegetable Butcher, published earlier this year by Workman Publishing.

The Vegetable Butcher cover Mangini is proprietor of the “produce-inspired” restaurant Little Eater and its companion Little Eater Produce and Provisions in Columbus, Ohio. They are located in the historic North Market (59 Spruce St.; restaurant 614-670-4375, grocery 614-947-7483; littleeater.com) Mangini describes herself as on a mission to honor and support the work of farmers by “putting vegetables at the center of the plate.”

She certainly made a good case during a recent meal at Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts (44 Brattle St.; 617-868-2255; harvestcambridge.com), where she collaborated with Harvest executive chef Tyler Kinnett. The meal featured recipes from her book and demonstrations of the thoughtful preparation—and cutting—that goes into making something more complex than steamed vegetables and tossed salad.

Smashed beets from The Vegetable Butcher We had already been enjoying some of the last of the tomatoes and corn of the summer growing season. Mangini and Kinnett gave those summer staples a fresh flavor with a course of heirloom tomato panzanella with walnut-basil pesto and stracciatella. A course of corn fritters topped with mixed bean ragout followed. Even as we were lamenting the end of summer, Mangini and Kinnett anticipated the earthy fall flavors to come with a beautiful plate of smashed and seared beets with chimichurri, goat cheese crema, and arugula (above).

Each dish was a revelation of how delicious and satisfying vegetables can be with just a little extra thought and care. The Vegetable Butcher is organized alphabetically by vegetable, making it a quick reference when you get home from the market or farm stand. Mangini was kind enough to share her recipe for Turkish Carrot Yogurt Dip. It was served as a starter at the Harvest dinner and everyone at our table loved it.

TURKISH CARROT YOGURT DIP


Turkish Yogurt Carrot Dip from The Vegetable Butcher Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing
3 medium to large carrots (10 to 12 ounces total), peeled, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
1/3 cup pine nuts (or 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra as needed
2 cups low-fat or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely grated on a Microplane, pressed, or crushed into a paste

Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a pinch of the carrots to the oil to test it: The oil is ready if the carrots sizzle. Add the remaining carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften, about 6 minutes.

Add the pine nuts and salt. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are completely soft and browning and the pine nuts are golden, another 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is incorporated and fragrant, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let cool briefly to warm.

Place the yogurt in a medium-size bowl. Stir in the warm carrot mixture, and season with salt to taste.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl, and drizzle the top with olive oil. The dip will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

Serve with triangles of pita bread or with pita chips seasoned with sea salt.

26

09 2016

Lincoln Inn emerges as Vermont’s gourmet destination

Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont
The Lincoln Inn in Woodstock is among the most European of the little inns in Vermont, and not just because chef Jevgenija Saromova hails from Latvia. She and innkeeper partner Mara Mehlman describe the property as a “restaurant with rooms.” That’s a model common in the European countryside, and often signals great dining. Think, for example, of Maison Troisgros, one of the pioneers of modern French cuisine.

Woodstock isn’t Roanne, of course, and Jevgenija Saromova (or Chef Saromova, as she prefers) isn’t Jean or Pierre Troisgros. Not yet, anyway. But she has impressive classical culinary credentials and a personal style unique in northern New England. She worked in top restaurants in Italy, France, and England before joining Mehlman in Vermont. The two women have applied the model of the French “auberge” to an 1875 farmhouse with six charming, carefully decorated rooms and green lawns that roll down to the Ottauquechee River.

Innkeeper Mara Mehlman of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont A native Californian, Mara first dreamed of living in Vermont when she took a Vermont foliage bicycle tour. Years later, she purchased the property, thoroughly renovated the building, and re-opened the inn rooms in July 2014. It became a gastronomic destination when Chef Saromova arrived from England a few months later. The women clearly love Vermont—skiing in the winter, kayaking in the summer—but they have no intention of replicating traditional New England fare.

“We’re not about maple syrup and cheddar cheese,” says Mara. “This is fine dining.”

Chef Saromova explains. “I don’t like boring food plates,” she says. “I like to combine textures and flavors.”

Refined Dining


Chef Jevgenija Saromova of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, VermontChef Saromova spent nearly two decades as a member or leader of a kitchen brigade, but she works alone in the Lincoln Inn kitchen. Every dish is created to her taste and executed precisely as she envisions it. In effect, every diner gets the personal attention of the master chef. During most of the year, the restaurant serves a four-course prix fixe dinner Thursday through Sunday, with a more casual tavern night on Wednesdays. During foliage season, nights for dinner increase and tavern night goes on hiatus. The four-course meals—$55 per person—are gourmet pleasures. The menu changes daily. True to Chef Saromova’s word, it’s anything but boring. The Inn at Woodstock and other area lodgings send their foodie guests here for the full-blown fine-dining experience—complete with an excellent and surprising wine list.

Paul Newman Dining Room at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont In addition to the main dining room tables, one party per evening can book the Chef’s Table for a seven- or twelve-course tasting menu. Some of the plates are variations of those on the four-course menu, while others include specialized or especially precious ingredients. The Chef’s Table is served in the Paul Newman dining room (left). Newman and his family used to vacation here and a previous owner enclosed a side porch as their private dining room. One diner at the table faces a photograph of Newman in his prime, and some ladies have been known to fantasize that they were having dinner with the actor. We enjoyed a seven-course meal that ranks as one of the most memorable we’ve eaten stateside in a long time. Each course demonstrated another aspect of the chef’s ability to exploit taste and texture combinations for yet another striking composition.

Gazpacho served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chilled Gazpacho and Olive Tapenade Crostini


Chef Saromova grows her own kitchen garden in the river bottom land behind the inn. Despite this year’s drought, she had good crops of tomatoes. Her take on chilled gazpacho is especially sweet from both the tomatoes and the roasted red peppers. It also has just a hint of red onion. The saltiness of methodically hand-pitted ripe olives (Kalamata and Niçoise by the taste) in the tapenade brings out the fresh vegetable flavors, while the paper-thin crostini give visual interest to the composition of the dish and a satisfying crunch. The dish was reveille for the taste buds: Fall in and stand at attention.

Lobster served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lobster and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo


Butter-poached lobster tail is a classic of French haute cuisine. The technique demands a low temperature to keep the butter from browning. Lobster cooked this way is more tender than boiled or steamed. Orzo and chopped mild greens mixed with a judicious bit of mascarpone form a presentation base for the lobster meat. The sweetness of the cheese calls the lobster’s sweetness to the fore.

Sea bass and scallop served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Sea Bass and Seared Scallops


Neither sea bass nor scallops strike any diner as unusual, but Chef Saromova’s approach to serving them together as a fish course speaks volumes about her classical training and her command of technique. The sea bass—striped bass, in this case, rather than more conventional farmed sea bass—is roasted in a persillade. Traditionally, persillade is a chopped parsley and garlic preparation that most chefs use throughout a meal. This version was light on the garlic and included enough mustard and breadcrumbs that it sealed in juices of this sometimes dry fish. The scallop was perfectly seared—just barely cooked through. For contrast, the sea bass came with stewed black-eyed peas. The legumes emphasize the meatiness of the fish. The scallop sat on a pasta-like salad of thin strips of cucumber and white radish lightly dressed with champagne vinegar—sharp flavors that highlight the scallop’s delicacy.

beet and goat cheese salad served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Beet, Goat Cheese, Granita Salad


The photo above doesn’t really do justice to this inventive salad where so many things were happening on the plate. The slices of red and yellow beet (left side) were sweet and delicious. They paired nicely with fresh lettuce leaves and a slice of soft goat cheese. The pomegranate-orange granita, however, elevated everything with a tart punch. The pickled cherry was, well, the cherry on top. The “dust” on the plate was dehydrated beet that had been pulverized in a blender. It was a pretty touch. The salad completely refreshed our palates before the meat courses began.

Filet and escargot served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Filet Mignon, Ravioli, and Escargot/Oyster Fricasee


This dish is an embarrassment of riches. Fortunately, each of the premium ingredients was restricted to a small portion. The raviolo atop the small piece of perfectly cooked, perfectly salted filet mignon was filled with an explosive mix of truffle and foie gras—pretty much an orgy of umami. Surprisingly, the oyster shell filled with a fricassee of escargot and oyster was equally dark, savory, and garlicky. Even more surprising, the snails were juicy and tender. (Face it—snails are usually rubbery.) The sweet potato purée provided a contrast of smooth and sweet to chewy and meaty. It was a brilliant dish.

Lamb two ways served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lamb Chop and Smoked Lamb Breast


Lamb two ways is another Escoffier classic, but Chef Saromova’s variant is pure Vermont country. The lamb chop here is cut from a roasted rack. It was perfect. The second lamb dish was the breast—or brisket. She boned, rolled, and tied it up with string. After brining it for 20 hours, she cold-smoked with cherry chips for two hours, and braised it six hours until it was falling apart. As if the meats weren’t unctuous enough, Chef Saromova served them with figs poached in port wine. The little “berries” are actually balsamic glaze mixed with agar-agar and olive oil, then frozen so that they form little beads of explosive flavor. It’s just proof that such touches predate so-called molecular cuisine.

Chocolate delice served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chocolate and Fruit


Chef Saromova clearly favors creamy desserts. The chocolate delice—essentially a chocolate terrine with cookie crumb base and chocolate icing—is the ostensible star of this plate. The “bars” are a champagne and strawberry terrine. The flavor favors the wine over the fruit. By contrast, the strawberry sorbet tastes more intensely of strawberry than most fresh strawberries do. Capping it all off, the sweetened vanilla yogurt has a skin that makes it explode in the mouth.

Coffee, anyone?

Lincoln Inn & Restaurant at the Covered Bridge, 2709 W. Woodstock Rd., Woodstock, VT 05091; 802-457-7052; www.lincolninn.com.

Kitchen 324 bakery cafe nails breakfast

Green tomato Benedict at Kitchen 324 in Oklahoma City
If Kitchen 324 were in Paris, it would be a patisserie. Sweet-shop bakeries in the City of Lights often offer some of the best deals on breakfast, lunch, and even supper at a counter. (Quiche and salad can cost less than a drink at an outdoor cafe.) Kitchen 324, of course, is emphatically American. What else could you call the fried green tomato Benedict shown above? (Well, you could call it Southern, we suppose.)

The snazzy room in the classic 1923 limestone and brick Braniff building in downtown OKC has the bright white and stainless look that practically screams “clean!” (Yes, it was the headquarters of Braniff Airways, the airline that once linked the Midwest and Southwest to Latin America.) Its central location makes it popular for breakfast meetings, take-out coffee, and office worker lunches. We can’t speak to lunch or dinner, but we did grab breakfast here twice and were very impressed both times.

Sweet starts to the day


The pastry kitchen starts around 4 a.m. and morning pastries are big and luscious. The scones echo the biscuits of the savory menu, and there are always a few muffins. But Kitchen 324’s real forte is yeast-raised pastry. The house specialty is the “Joenut,” which we thought was a reference to pastry to go with coffee. (Don’t blame us—we hail from the homeland of Dunkin’ Donuts.) But we were told it was named after a pastry cook named Joe.

In general, the Joenut is a large raised bun cooked in hot fat like any yeast donut. The kitchen then pumps it full of some variety of cream or jelly, ladles a generous amount of glaze or ganache over the top, and decorates with anything from a sprig of mint or a candied slice of fruit to crumbled bacon. The Maple Bacon Joenut (below) is filled with custard, glazed with maple, and studded with bacon. We think it’s a true American original. Since this is OKC instead of NYC, it blessedly arrives without a calorie count.

Kitchen 324 (324 N. Robinson St., Oklahoma City; 405-763-5911; kitchen324.com) is open daily from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Maple bacon Joenut at Kitchen 324 in Oklahoma City

19

09 2016

Oklahoma onion burger an institution

Interior of Tucker's Onion Burgers in Oklahoma City
During the Dust Bowl years that made many Okies into migrants (see John Steinbeck), Oklahoma grill cooks began serving onion burgers. El Reno, about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, claims to be the birthplace. According to legend, cook Ross Davis invented the onion burger at the Hamburger Inn on Rte. 66 in downtown El Reno. He piled half a shredded onion on top of a nickel meat patty and smashed them together with a spatula. Presto! The onions transformed the wafer-thin patty into a substantial meal. Three diners in El Reno—Sid’s Diner, Johnnies Grill, and Robert’s Grill—specialize in the dish. The town also holds a Burger Day Festival in May.

happy diner at Tucker's Onion Burger in Oklahoma City The dust storms are gone, but a taste for onion burgers remains. In fact, one of the hottest chains in Oklahoma City is Tucker’s Onion Burgers (tuckersonionburgers.com), with three outlets. Tucker’s brings diner food into the 21st century with its polished modern settings that evoke the mythical malt shop past of the “Happy Days” era. That’s a familiar meme—think of the Sonic or Johnny Rocket chains.

Tucker’s is big on corporate responsibility. The beef is “ethically produced by regional growers” and the potatoes are hand-cut every morning and fried in peanut oil. The company goes to great lengths to reduce water use and electricity and recycles everything. The best modern twist is that every order slip is a paper bag. When the order is ready, the cooks slip it into the bag to go. Although Tucker’s does offer a salad and a turkey burger, most customers choose between single or double burgers, with cheese or without. Drinks include homemade lemonade and canned local craft beer. The burgers are delicious enough to live up to the hype.

Thrill of the grill


Tucker Onion Burger in Oklahoma City In fact, they were so good that when we got home we decided to adapt the onion burger idea to the charcoal grill, since meat always tastes better with a little smoke. Smashing thin-cut raw onions into burger on a hot grate was a non-starter. So we tried something different. We sliced a Bermuda onion 1/8” thick with an adjustable chef’s mandoline. Then we sweated the sliced onion with a little bit of oil and salt in a cast iron skillet until the pieces were soft. We drained them on a paper towel. When the onions were cool, we folded them into 12 ounces of ground beef (85 percent lean) and made two patties.

The onion made the burger a little “loose,” so we cooked them well on one side before flipping. A slice of cheese melted on top for the last 30 seconds helped to hold the burgers together to lift them onto buns. On balance, the onion was more distributed through the meat, and therefore a little more subtle than in a traditional onion burger. Those Dustbowl Okie grill guys were clearly onto something.

15

09 2016

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse upholds Western ways

Stockyards City in Oklahoma City shows a Western air
Every time a server places a grilled steak before a hungry diner at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the refrain is the same. “I’ll have you cut right into that,” the server says, “and make sure that we cooked it right.”

It’s hardly a surprise that beef gets special treatment at Cattlemen’s. It’s Oklahoma City’s oldest continuously operated restaurant. Originally called Cattlemen’s Cafe, it opened in 1910 right in the midst of Stockyards City to serve the ranchers, cowboys, and cattle haulers involved in sending beef to the markets back East.

Located slightly west of downtown, today’s Stockyards District remains the home of one of the biggest livestock markets in the West. Shops specializing in jeans, boots, 10-gallon hats, and belts with big buckles line the streets. In this cowboy corner of town, Cattlemen’s is a legend. During Prohibition, owner Homer Paul served homemade alcoholic libations in defiance of the Revenue men. The restaurant even changed hands in a game of dice in 1945. Putting up his life savings against the establishment, rancher Gene Wade rolled double threes to win—hence the “33” brand displayed prominently on the walls. The Wade clan owned Cattlemen’s until 1990, when it changed hands in a more conventional manner—in a sale.

Still point in a changing world


Interior of cafe side of Cattlemen's STeakhouse in Oklahoma City Cattlemen’s has expanded and gussied things up over the years. At some point it started calling itself a steakhouse. But the cafe room on the north side has changed hardly a whit since the Wades won the place. Grab a stool at the counter or slide into a booth with red vinyl seats and you get a feel for what Oklahoma City was like when it was a dusty cattle town on the Plains instead of a big city with a downtown bristling with skyscrapers.

The menu at Cattlemen’s is surprisingly long. We say “surprisingly,” since only a rookie or a vegan would order anything but steak. Even the breakfast menu has an entire panel of steak options, each of which comes with two eggs, home fries, and toast.

Lunch steak at Cattlemen's Steakhouse in Oklahoma CityThe beef ranges from chewy club steak (the lunch steak as shown here) to big T-bone steaks to the daily prime special. Like most restaurants, Cattlemen’s serves USDA Choice meats, but every day it has at least one cut that’s USDA Prime, which represents the top 2 percent of beef. Degrees of doneness are spelled out on the menu, just so there are no misunderstandings. Choice or Prime, it’s full of flavor, and the accompanying baked Idaho is flaky and comes with a copious supply of butter. (Cholesterol is not a big concern at Cattlemen’s.) For lunch and dinner, Cattlemen’s also has a really great selection of reserve wines, including Tim Mondavi’s Continuum and Blackbird Arise.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (1309 S. Agnew Ave., Oklahoma City; 405-236-0416; cattlemensrestaurant.com) opens at 6 a.m. daily and closes at 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, midnight on Friday and Saturday.

12

09 2016

Film Row gives a new twist on OKC fun

Film Exchange on Film Row in Oklahoma City
Hollywood met the High Plains in Oklahoma City as early as 1907. By the 1960s, literally hundreds of film exchanges operated in OKC as distribution points for almost every film studio in the U.S. Films fanned out to 37 cities from Film Row, until changes in movie technology changed the means of distribution. The heart of the current Film Row (www.filmrowokc.com) is the corner of Sheridan and Lee Avenues. Many old buildings remain, complete with ghost paintings of their studio names. The neighborhood has begun to emerge as a center for arts, entertainment, and dining.

A concert venue/dance club is rising behind the 21c Museum Hotel. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to entice, ranging from the main gallery of Individual Artists of Oklahoma (www.iaogallery.org) to the quirky coffee bar/art gallery/potting shed known as The Plant Shoppe (www.plantshoppe.com). Paramount Arts & Entertainment (www.theparamountokc.com) contains the bar and bistro Noir as well as a black-box theater used by contemporary drama companies. Its cinema shows movies on weekends in one of the original Paramount Studios screening rooms.

That Pie Truck on Film Row in Oklahoma City Only stretching about four blocks on Sheridan Avenue, Film Row is blocked off on the third Friday of the month for an event called Premiere. The main feature is a gathering of food trucks selling everything from barbecued brisket, pulled pork, and giant plates of nachos to bowls of vegan mac and cheese (made with cashew cheese) and green chile pork tacos. One truck serves only variations of s’mores and shaved ice with fresh fruit. No matter how enticing, save room for dessert from That Pie Truck (@thatpieplaceOK), the mobile variant of the brick-and-mortar bakery That Pie Place. We were so taken with the tequila key lime pie that we figured out how to make it at home.

TEQUILA LIME PIE


This variant of the time-honored condensed milk key lime pie comes out higher and a little lighter, thanks to the incorporation of some meringue into the custard. And because it is fully set by baking, it’s less likely than the original to weep or make the crust soggy. If you’re not a tequila drinker, you don’t have to buy a whole bottle to make the recipe. A standard nip provides just the right amount.

Tequila lime pieIngredients
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup (50ml) gold tequila
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
1 prepared graham cracker crust
sweetened whipped cream

Directions
Set oven at 325°F.

Place condensed milk in large bowl. Stir in egg yolks, lime zest, lime juice, and tequila.

In separate bowl, place egg whites and sugar. Whip with egg beater or electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Stir about a quarter of the meringue into the milk-egg-lime mix. Then fold in remaining meringue.

Pour mixture into prepared graham cracker crust. Place pie into preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. When jostled, it should seem mostly set but jiggle a little in the middle. Top will be slightly dry and perhaps just beginning to brown.

Cool on rack, then chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

08

09 2016

Imagining fresh starts in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City downtown from roof of art museum
The southern plains horizons of Oklahoma City seem to stretch to infinity in every direction. So do the streets, which line up in orderly grids. When a storm gathers, tumbling balls of black clouds pile up to the top of the sky and you cross your fingers that they don’t drop a funnel to the ground. When the sun shines, the whole landscape gets so hot that it looks like it’s about to sizzle. The heroic scale of the land and sky in this quintessential American frontier city of 610,000 allows it to sprawl 30 miles across in places. With all that elbow room, its distinct neighborhoods have matured like siblings in a big family—undeniably related but each with its own quirks.

You get a peek of the Downtown office towers in the photo above of an “Art After Five” concert and cafe on top of the striking Oklahoma City Museum of Art (www.okcmoa.com), itself the anchor for a downtown arts district. Just west of Downtown’s towers stands the up-and-coming Film Row neighborhood—see the next post for more on that. The area, where Hollywood studios came to meet Midwest exhibitors, sits cheek by jowl with some of the city’s early factories. Many of the low-rise buildings still service the oil and gas trade, but the new anchor for the west end of Film Row is the 21c Museum Hotel (www.21cmuseumhotels.com/oklahomacity).

Vision from the assembly line

Mary Eddy's banquettes in Oklahoma City It is the latest property in a small group of contemporary art museums with beautifully designed hotel rooms upstairs. The OKC hotel occupies a handsome building designed by Albert Kahn for Henry Ford. It opened in 1916 with a new-fangled assembly line to build Model T’s. Later, one of the first workers, Fred Jones bought the structure to make Ford parts and became one of the largest Ford dealers in the U.S. His heirs partnered with 21c to build the hotel. The restaurant, named Mary Eddy’s after Jones’s wife, is as homey as the name sounds and as contemporary as the art around it. In a nod to the automotive history of the building, the designer installed banquette seating (at right) intended to evoke the two-tone bench seats of the heyday of Big American Cars.

Chef Jason Campbell came from the Cincinnati hotel of the group, but his central Florida roots and training with a Moroccan chef in Orlando shine through. This being cattle country, he prepares an excellent strip steak with mild green chile peppers and a pine nut romesco sauce. (His burger is also very good.) Like many young chefs, he is enamored of charcuterie. His appetizer plate of house-made sausage, pickles, and mustard with a few cheeses and toast spread with drippings from the rotisserie is very popular. Called “Toolbox,” it’s also offered at the bar.

Truth is, Campbell really likes vegetables and does everything he can to make sure his diners do too. His grilled corn with miso and charred lime is a brilliant take on Mexican street corn. He splits the cobs and serves them in short, manageable pieces. Since we like to see how dishes come together, we ate at the dining room bar overlooking the open kitchen. We were quite smitten with a seemingly simple dish of glazed carrots. We had thought that they were roasted, but the glaze and slight char but came from reducing the cooking liquid until it evaporated. Campbell was good enough to share the recipe, which makes a side dish for a whole crew.
Open kitchen at Mary Eddy's in Oklahoma City

MARY EDDY’S HEIRLOOM CARROTS


For the carrots
1 bunch of assorted colored carrots washed and tops saved
4 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs thyme
2 cups orange juice
peel from 1 orange (a vegetable peeler does this task well)
Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)

Mary Eddy's heirloom carrots in Oklahoma City Add carrots to a large sauté pan along with all other ingredients and bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the carrots are tender. Check after 10 minutes. If the liquid reduces before carrots are done, just add water to cover and reduce again. The idea is to glaze the carrots with the sugar in the orange juice. Salt to taste after carrots are done.

For the harissa yogurt
1 tablespoon toasted cumin
16 oz Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons harissa paste
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
Lightly crush cumin seeds and combine all ingredients, stir, and check for seasoning,
If you like especially spicy food, add additional harissa paste to taste.

To finish and serve
1 cup cooked quinoa, prepared to package directions
2 tablespoons of chopped carrot top greens
zest of 1 orange
Extra Virgin olive oil

Add cooked quinoa to glazed carrots and toss with chopped carrot greens.

Smear yogurt on large platter. Pile carrot mixture artfully on yogurt. Sprinkle with orange zest and sea salt. Drizzle lightly with EVOO.

04

09 2016

Christo’s Floating Piers rise like Franciacorta bubbles

Floating Piers by Christo
For 16 days in late June and early July, the artist Christo let art-lovers walk on water. His “Floating Piers” project was his first outdoor installation since 2005 when he and his late wife and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, installed 7,500 panels to make gates in New York’s Central Park. Like the gates, the piers gleamed with celebratory saffron-colored fabric. Some 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes supported the 53-foot wide walkway.

Christo at Lake Iseo Nearly two years in the making, the environmental artwork connected two small islands in Lake Iseo with each other and the mainland. And now it’s all gone — but not before an estimated 1 million visitors experienced it.

The poignancy of Christo’s works lies in the tension between the heroic scale of their vision and their ephemeral nature. How appropriate that he chose the wine district of Franciacorta, one of Italy’s great sparkling wines! Years of work go into every bottle. When the wine is poured, the bubbles rise and form a delicate mousse at the top of the glass. But they burst, and the moment is gone—just like “Floating Piers.”

Exploring Franciacorta


People on Floating Piers Timed to the Franciacorta Summer Festival in June, Christo’s work brought a million people to the Franciacorta area, about an hour northeast of Milan. Because so much of Lombardy has cutting edge industry, many wine drinkers don’t realize how bucolic the region can be. In fact, the Strada del Franciacorta was established in 2000. The wine road promotes the region for tourism focused on wine and food. More than 100 wineries along the route handcraft their wines in the metodo classico—with a second fermentation in the bottle. The road also details more than 30 restaurants and wine bars and 30 hotels, bed and breakfasts, and agriturismo farm stays. The Cappuccini Resort is a restored 17th century monastery. (For information in English, see the web site: www.franciacorta.net/en/.)

The area is also great for cycling. The wine road association also details five cycling paths. Each traverses a different section of the region, passing through small villages and vineyards. They are named after different styles of Franciacorta.

The fall Franciacorta Festival takes place September 17-18 this year. It features concerts and food and wine exhibitions throughout the region. For complete details, see the downloadable flyer at www.franciacorta.net/en/festival/.

Franciacorta with food


Franciacorta Contadi Castaldi Saten Franciacorta wines are great for celebrating. But given the modest prices (most $25-$40), you don’t have to wait for a milestone or life-changing event. We recently celebrated the annual tomato glut with pasta tossed with chopped basil and peeled cherry tomatoes. (Dip them for 5 seconds in boiling water, immediately chill, and pierce with a sharp knife. The tomatoes pop whole from the skins.) We drank a Contado Castaldi 2010 Sàten. The “silky” style, unique to Franciacorta, emphasizes tiny pinpoint bubbles. By DOC regulations, that’s a wine made only from white grapes. This was all Chardonnay. It has a lot of acidic backbone, so it held up well with the tart fresh tomatoes. Several years of bottle aging on the lees gave it a toasty nose and faintly bitter aftertaste that complemented the food nicely. The yeasty nose was a perfect counterpoint to the spicy, floral notes of the just-picked basil.

For more about Franciacorta, see our post from last September: “Franciacorta: effervescent joy from Italy.”

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24

08 2016

Healthy poutine is not an oxymoron

Chef Gérôme Paquette and an appreciative diner at Montreal Poutinefest
“Eating vegetarian is a culture that grows every day,” acknowledges Gérôme Paquette, chef at L’Gros Luxe (www.lgrosluxe.com), a small chain of restaurants committed to a healthy lifestyle. “People are more cautious about what they are eating.”

But that doesn’t mean that diners want to give up flavor—or comfort food favorites such poutine. And Paquette (above left) is happy to oblige. “Creating a vegetarian version of poutine is not that complicated,” he says. He points out that it’s all about balancing flavors and textures of the sauce and topping ingredients.

In place of the typically rich meat gravy, Paquette creates a vegetable stock that he seasons as if it were a meat stock. For his Poutine Thai, he ladles the thickened veggie stock over the frites and adds the requisite cheese curds. He then and tops the basket with a substantive salad of bean sprouts, green onions, and cilantro. He drizzles a little hoisin sauce over it all, sprinkles on a few dashes of sriracha, and adds wedges of lime for the diners to squeeze over the dish to taste.

Thai vegetarian poutine at Montreal Poutinefest The result is a surprisingly elegant presentation. The gravy does not obscure the brightly colored vegetables and crisp frites. The sriracha adds a bit of heat and the bean sprouts and peanuts add a good crunch to contrast with the soft frites. It’s a dish that looks good, tastes good and is fun to eat. In truth, a serving of poutine can seem a little monotonous by the end. But the variations in texture and pops of flavor keep this version interesting down to the last bite. It is, in fact, the best seller at the L’Gros Luxe outpost. The woman above was thrilled to find a vegetarian option at the Poutinefest.

Paquette is humble about the success of the dish. “It’s good to create something with elements that you don’t think will go together – but they do,” he says.

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Caribbean flavors explode in jerk chicken poutine

Chef Jae Anthony cooks jerk chicken at Montreal Poutinefest
Montreal’s multiculturalism is one key to the city’s enduring appeal and its ability to constantly reinvent itself. Chef Jae Anthony is a case in point. His parents came from Barbados and Trinidad, and while Jae has roots in both Caribbean nations, he’s a Montrealer through and through. He operates the Seasoned Dreams restaurant in the Côte Saint-Paul neighborhood, just over the Lachine Canal bridge near the Ambroise-McAuslan brewery. You can get his cooking all year long at 5205 rue Angers, Montreal (514-769-2222; seasoneddreams.com). Seasoned Dreams specializes in Caribbean fusion cooking, He also A portable version of the restaurant travels around to festivals.

jerk chicken and pork poutine from Seasoned Dreams at Montreal Poutinefest Finding Seasoned Dreams was a breeze at the Montreal Poutinefest. You could literally follow your nose. Chef Jae and his partner Julien Chemtof were cooking outdoors over very smoky grills. One grill had whole jerk-seasoned pork butts slowly spinning on a rotisserie over charcoal. The other was a gas grill that produced voluminous clouds of smoke as Chef Jae cooked chicken marinated in jerk seasoning. Chef Jae proudly calls himself “the originator of Famous Montreal Style Jerk Chicken Poutine.” Seasoned Dreams offered a choice of jerk chicken poutine, jerk pork poutine, or a combination plate of both. (At the restaurant they also make a Haitian-style braised oxtail poutine, They also serve a classic poutine for Canadian purists.)

Authenticity shows


Because the cooking process was so smoky, Seasoned Dreams was set up at the downwind end of the food trucks and stands. That allowed the smoke to billow away toward the river. (Clocktower Quai sits on a particularly scenic part of the Montreal waterfront.) But diners made a point of seeking out the jerk poutine. As we waited in line for ours, we asked a woman standing nearby how she liked her jerk chicken.

“Caribbeans are the toughest critics,” she said, identifying herself as coming from Antigua. “If they like it, you know it’s good.” She didn’t just like it, she said. “I love it.”

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