Archive for the ‘Reference book’Category

Valpolicella Classico matches chocolate-spiked ragù

Valpolicella with chocolate-spiked ragù
We discovered a Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013 nestled among bigger reds in our limited wine storage. Not having a lot of room to hold wine means drinking bottles when they’re ready. With the 2014 already in the market, we figured this welterweight red was ready to go.

Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013But what dish would do it justice? The Marchesi Fumanelli family (www.squarano.com) has been making top-flight Valpolicella wines since 1470 at their estate just outside Verona. Perhaps the age of the vineyards (up to 40 years) accounts for the clean flavor and deep fruit expression. The blend has a backbone of 40 percent each of Corvina and the bigger clusters of Corvinone. The rest is Rondinella, which deepens the color and gives the wine more body. The finished wine is aged 8-10 months in French barrique—most of it second and third passage.

We prefer this approach to Valpolicella Classico over the increasingly common practice of adding the pomace from an Amarone pressing to the fermentation of the Valpolicella grapes. (Both wines use the same grapes, but those destined for Amarone are partially dried to concentrate the sugars.) We think the lingering toasted, caramelized Amarone flavor in what is properly called Valpolicella Ripasso often masks shortcomings in the Valpolicella itself. The Classico Superiore approach at Fumanelli lets the grapes speak for themselves.

Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore is a fine red for sipping, though the hint of ash in the finish (typical of Corvina) cries out for food. A brilliant ruby red, it presents a nose of black cherries and blackberries. Those flavors carry through on the palate—along with the bitter almond or ashen note. It’s velvety in the mouth with a long, satisfying finish.

Finding a dinner dish


Maybe it’s the season, but it seemed a good companion to dark chocolate. But we wanted a savory dinner dish to accompany the wine, so we did a little digging. Savory chocolate often means Mexican mole poblano or mole negro, but both dishes would overwhelm the Valpolicella. Then we stumbled on a recipe that’s been kicking around in magazines and online for the last few decades. It’s a ragù of browned pork, onion, red wine, and tomato, slow cooked and finished with just a little dark chocolate and cinnamon. Said to have originated in Abruzzo, it’s usually served with fresh egg pasta called chitarrina. The pasta is rolled out in sheets and cut on a box frame strung with fine wires like guitar strings.

We’ve made some adjustments to the basic recipe given by Michele Scicolone on page 173 of her masterpiece 1,000 Italian Recipes (Wiley, 2004). Michele calls for using a pound of fresh tagliarini. We made our own fresh pasta (1 1/3 cups flour, pinch of salt, tablespoon of olive oil, 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk), and cut it with the tagliatelle rollers. It weighed about 10 ounces and made two generous dinner entree servings. If you use a pound of pasta, you could serve a less saucy pasta course to four diners. Just don’t forget the Valpolicella Classico.

ABRUZZESE BITTER CHOCOLATE RAGÙ


Ingredients

1 onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pound ground pork
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon sugar
pinch of cinnamon

Directions

In heavy saucepan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until onion begins to turn golden. Crumble in the pork and continue cooking. Break up meat with spatula. Cook until pork begins to brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Don’t skimp on the pepper. You need the flavor to round out the dish.)

Add wine and bring to a simmer for three minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Bring to a simmer and cook slowly for about an hour, stirring now and then. Sauce should thicken.

Stir in chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon until chocolate melts. Keep sauce warm while cooking pasta. Add cooked, drained pasta to sauce all at once and toss to coat. Add extra cooking water if necessary to achieve a saucy texture. Serve immediately.

31

01 2017

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

Lonely Planet captures taste of place

From the Source Thailand and Italy from Lonely Planet
We’ve always believed that one of the best ways to get to know people is to eat at their table. Lonely Planet, the erstwhile backpacker guidebook series that has been heading steadily upmarket since it changed ownership in 2013, must agree.

Last month Lonely Planet (under NC2 Media) launched the first of a projected large line of books about different cuisines. Called “From the Source,” they pair a writer and a photographer to chronicle the flavors of a country through heavily illustrated recipes for regional dishes.

The first two volumes tackle the cuisines of Thailand and Italy, which is a pretty tall order. The recipes are given in both metric and U.S. measure, and they are intricately detailed. In the Thai book, this means delineating every spice that goes into a particular curry. In the Italy book, it often means detailed descriptions of technique, complete with explanatory photographs. (The primer on making gnocchi is reason enough to buy the book.)

Each recipe is introduced with a one-page description of the dish, how it fits into the national cuisine, and who supplied the recipe (everyone from home cooks to esteemed chefs). These books are the next best thing to being there—letting you preview a place before you go or attempt to bring the taste of travel back home.

From the Source – Thailand: Thailand’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best and From the Source – Italy: Italy’s Most Authentic Recipes from the People That Know Them Best are both available at the Lonely Planet online bookstore (shop.lonelyplanet.com), or from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They list for $24.99.

Better yet, buy it at your local independent bookstore. Ours is Harvard Book Store (harvard.com), and it has both titles. What’s yours?

09

10 2015

One more rave for 1,000 Foods

Fernando Canales stirs angulas in a cazuela in Restaurante Etxanobe in Bilbao
When Mimi Sheraton published 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover’s Life List (Workman, $24.95) late last year, she probably had much the same experience as Tom Sawyer did when he hid in the rafters at his own funeral. Not that she didn’t deserve the praise, but she was variously lauded as the second coming of Brillat-Savarin, M.F.K. Fisher, and Julia Child, and every restaurateur to whom she ever gave a well-considered review hastened to return the favor. Mimi Sheraton earned all those accolades long before she wrote this book.

1000 Foods book jacket 1,000 Foods really is something of a masterpiece, but we’d liken it more to Remembrance of Things Past than to any more analytical tome. It is a memoir of tastes enjoyed, repeatedly sampled, and understood. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the 900-plus pages of text, and we’re looking forward to reading through a little at a time, savoring each bite. This single book is a distillation of one very perceptive writer’s ideas about what is worth eating.

We doubt we will ever achieve Mimi Sheraton’s easy familiarity with so many world cuisines, but we know Spanish cuisine very well and can quite appreciate the way she handled it. Her coverage ranges from the rarefied (a meal at the now-shuttered elBulli) to the commonplace (eating tapas standing at the bar with friends). La Pepica Valencia paella She treats both extreme delicacies such as angulas (glass eels, shown above with chef Fernando Canales at Restaurante Etxanobe in Bilbao) and more humble dishes such as sopa de ajo (garlic soup with a poached egg) with equal respect and enthusiasm. She offers a knowledgeable treatise on the pricey ingredient of saffron, and speaks lovingly and intelligently about the most famous dish to use it, Valencian paella. At right, a waiter presents a pan of paella at La Pepica in Valencia. As Sheraton notes, it is the place in Spain to eat the dish.

We can’t think of a single signature Spanish flavor that Sheraton missed, and we look forward to using the book as a guide to exploring cuisines with which we’re less familiar.

08

03 2015