Archive for the ‘basil’Category

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.”

24

08 2016

Black truffle pizza tricks

truffle pizza
I got some of my best ideas about how to adapt truffles for home preparations from Doug Psaltis of RPM Steak (rpmsteak.com), RPM Italian (rpmitalian.com), and Paris Club (parisclubbistroandbar.com) in Chicago, who is the biggest user of Aussie truffles in the U.S. Psaltis credits his comfort level with truffles to the seven and a half years he spent working for Alain Ducasse (he opened Mix in New York).

chef Doug Psaltis loves black truffles “I learned the best thing about truffles—that they are really delicate and not overpowering,” he told me. “There are a lot of aromas to truffle dishes but what I really savor is the actual flavor of truffle. Handled right, it’s light and delicate. You can add lots of butter and lots of cheese to make a Parmesan pasta with black truffle and it’s great. But sometimes I just prefer some crushed truffle, a little bit of garlic and pine nuts and just a sprinkle of cheese tossed in great pasta. Then the truffle comes through.”

Psaltis’s advice to cut back on the fat gave me a new way of thinking about truffles, since most traditional truffle recipes pair the fungus with lots of butter, beef juices, or other fat. (I’ve even seen chefs in Italy’s Piedmont shave white truffle over a plate of lardo, which is pure raw pork fat.) One of Psaltis’s other favorite treatments surprised me.

“I love a great burrata with tomatoes and black truffles,” he said. “You get a little bit of the earthiness and the tang from the burrata and the acid of the tomato and a little bit of raw garlic in there with the truffles.”

I’m looking forward to trying both of Psaltis’s treatments this summer when the new harvest is available. And when a chef of such accomplishment spoke about the simple pleasures of tomato, mild cheese, and black truffle, it inspired me to bring some of those same flavors together to make a black truffle pizza.

Restraint is part of the secret of any good pizza, and for a black truffle pizza it was even more important. I use a pretty standard pizza dough that’s easy to make but requires several hours to rise. It’s been adapted from a pizza class adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated adaptation of a New York baker’s no-knead dough that rises in the refrigerator. It’s best if it rises overnight in the fridge, but it works fine if you let it rise all day on the counter.

FOOD PROCESSOR PIZZA DOUGH


210 grams flour
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
150 grams ice water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In food processor fitted with steel blade, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Process 30 seconds to mix. With processor turned on, dribble ice water through feed tube until absorbed. Process another 30 seconds.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before proceeding. This allows the yeast to get a head start on the salt.

When the wait period is over, add salt and olive oil and process until the dough pulls away from the sides of bowl.

Turn out and place in greased 1-quart bowl to rise, preferably six hours or more. Punch down periodically when dough reaches rim.

This recipe requires some modest kneading on an oiled surface and then working by hand to stretch the dough into a 16-inch round. Cooked at 450°F, it produces a Neapolitan-style crust in about 10 minutes—crisp and browned on the bottom and slightly chewy on the top.

BLACK TRUFFLE PIZZA


truffle pizza 2The firm cheese is an aged goat cheese from the French Pyrenees that has a grassy/fruity flavor and melts very smoothly. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it for the perfect pairing with the delicate truffle flavor. The truffles only go in the oven for the last few seconds that the pizza is being cooked, mostly to activate their aroma and let the cheese melt around them.

Crust (as above) rolled out on pizza pan
3 ounces tomme de chevre Aydius, coarsely grated
1 ounce fresh goat cheese
1 cup diced fresh tomato, well drained
10 grams grated or shaved black truffle
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced

Distribute cheeses evenly on crust and top with diced tomato, as shown above.

Cook until crust starts to brown on the bottom. Remove from oven and sprinkle pizza with black truffle. Return to oven to cook another 30-45 seconds. Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and cut into slices.

05

06 2015

Top food with a view at Sophie’s, Dublin’s newest

Sophie's at the Dean Hotel in Dublin When it comes to good eating in Dublin, the best choices at the moment seem to be either the self-styled gastropubs or terrific restaurants in some of the hotels. The latest arrival is Sophie’s (33 Harcourt Street, +353 1 607 8100, sophies.ie) at the Dean (deanhoteldublin.ie), a chic new designer boutique hotel. Both restaurant and hotel opened at the beginning of December, so by the time we arrived on New Year’s Eve, chef Darren Mathews (below) had Sophie’s running on all cylinders.

Chef Darren Matthews at Sophie's in Dublin The top-floor restaurant and bar is surrounded on three sides by windows with views of the Dublin rooftops. It’s a spectacular space, with banquettes and some booths lining the perimeter of the room and — in true Irish fashion — a big bar in the middle. You get a peek at the kitchen coming in, and one corner houses the beehive brick oven used for making pizzas. The Dublin weather is right in your face, but the warm interior includes ancient living olive trees as part of the décor, which makes it easy to laugh at pewter skies and order another glass of wine.

There’s definitely a Mediterranean quality to the menu as well — the wait staff set both olive oil and fabulous Irish butter on the table — but Matthews blends Mediterranean and Irish traditions in intriguing ways. For example, he serves a pork chop with mascarpone polenta, sage, and crumbled bacon. And he dips into home cooking for some dishes, like the “smoked potato and sausage soup” sometimes offered as a starter. It was so good that we vowed not to leave the restaurant without getting the recipe. Apparently sensing our resolve, he sat down with us and wrote the recipe into our notebook. He started making the soup at a previous restaurant when he scooped out the centers of baked potatoes to make gnocchi and thought to use the skins in a soup. It’s evolved from there.

SMOKED POTATO AND SAUSAGE SOUP

Smoked potato and sausage soup at Sophie's in Dublin You might expect potato soup in Ireland, but probably not made with roasted potatoes. Mathews suggests using thick-skinned potatoes and baking them at 450°F until the skins are very, very brown. The flavor changes depending on the type of potato. After experimenting, we like russets best for their pronounced earthy richness. Mathews adds thyme to the potatoes when he makes the recipe at home. He garnishes with mascarpone; we prefer the tang of goat cheese.

Serves 4

Ingredients

500 grams (17.6 oz.) potatoes
50 ml (3.5 tablespoons) olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 liter (34 fl. oz) chicken stock
250 ml (9 fl. oz.) light cream
meat from two links of pork sausage, crumbled
mascarpone or soft goat cheese
1 bunch basil, cut in fine chiffonade
extra virgin olive oil for finishing

Directions

1. Chop potatoes and roast at 450°F for 45 minutes or until very brown.

2. Add olive oil to soup pot and sweat onion and garlic over low heat until soft.

3. Add cooked potatoes, stock, and cream. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. In a separate pan, fry crumbled sausage meat, breaking up into small pieces with spatula. Remove from heat and reserve.

5. Process simmered soup in batches in jar blender until smooth. (Immersion blender works but doesn’t yield as smooth a soup.) Return to pot, stir in cooked sausage, and bring back to a simmer.

6. Place rounded tablespoon of mascarpone or goat cheese in each shallow bowl. Ladle in soup and garnish with chiffonade of basil and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

12

01 2015

Tomatoes meet their match in bacon & basil

Tomatoes
BPL Courtyard RoomFaced yet again with an abundance of tomatoes, we didn’t have to travel far for inspiration. The inventive cooks of the Catered Affair prepare the food for the Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, including a lovely afternoon tea. Last year when we visited during harvest season, the chefs served a dainty version of a BLT. They placed a mixture of chopped bacon and chopped tomato between two small slices of bread with the crusts cut off. It was a lovely variation on a classic. This year we decided to use some of those prolific garden tomatoes to scale up the sandwich for a hearty lunch. We used English muffins and spread them with homemade basil mayonnaise, since basil is growing far more profusely than lettuce in the August heat. Each was topped with a big scoop of the tomato-bacon mixture for a delicious — if slightly messy — sandwich.

Finished sandwich

BACON, BASIL & TOMATO SANDWICH

Makes 3 English muffin sandwiches

Ingredients
6 strips of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
3-4 garden tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced small
3 English muffins, split and toasted
basil mayonnaise (see below)

Directions
1. Combine crumbled bacon and diced tomatoes and mix well.
2. Spread toasted English muffins with basil mayonnaise.
3. Divide bacon-tomato mixture in thirds and put between muffin halves.


BASIL MAYONNAISE

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients
1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil leaves and flowers

Directions
1. In a quart bowl, place egg yolk, garlic, sea salt, sugar, and vinegar. Whisk thoroughly until well blended. Drizzle olive oil into mixture, continuing to whisk vigorously until oil is completely incorporated and mixture thickens.

2. Place basil in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Add mayonnaise and continue to process until basil is thoroughly incorporated. Basil mayonnaise will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

20

08 2014