I recently did an Italian pop-up in Portland, and the undisputed star of the show was my gnocchi tossed in a tocco di carne sauce with shaved parmesan and drizzled with Paniole, a beautiful extra virgin olive oil from the Ciacci family, owners of the great Brunello estate Mocali. It’s a dish I absolutely love, but rarely if ever, make at home. It’s not that it isn’t memorable, or even ridiculously easy to make and simply addictive, it’s just that I cook a wide repertoire of food at home and dishes get lost and forgotten….
I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. Lady Gaga
Is it just me, or does this happen to you as well: every time I talk with an Italian, even a fake conversation in my head, I begin to talk with my hands? I know that sounds slightly racist and like I am stereotyping a wonderful and very diverse culture but I cannot help it. If I have a glass of wine before, it gets worse, I start adding an ‘a” at the end of key phrases, like who wants a meat- a- ball, eh?). Chalk this up to watching too many movies with Italian Americans as the subject, besides, who doesn’t want to be Italian?…
For father’s day, I made a very simple summer time dessert utilizing two of my favorite flavors, lemon and strawberries. It was the combination of two basic pastry components, Pierre Herme’s delicious lemon curd and a basic panna cotta recipe enhanced with a touch of zested lemon. I wanted to share this quick recipe with everyone. Sometimes simplicity is hard to beat.
Spring has slowly been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’ve gotten our miner’s lettuce, fiddleheads and wood sorrel. Yes, the halibuts have come and spring king salmon are making their legendary runs up the Columbia River. Even morels have started poking their curious honey combed heads through the forest floors. But what has been noticeably missing has been one of the oldest and most loved harbingers of spring; the fava bean. Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
Here are three recipes for you to savor this spring.
It seemed like only yesterday that the ink was drying on my last post and I had to start the next one. This project may very well end up killing me. I am a slow writer with a busy schedule and a small child. Anyone who does not have a child will never fully understand what the word “busy” actually means. I laugh out loud when younger, single friends tell me how busy they are with all the bars they have to go to and tv shows they need to watch. Try weaving in the curve balls parenthood throws you from time to time.
Portland’s week long ice storm ended as abruptly as it started and spring emerged victorious. With the demise of winter, so ended the season of heavy eating punctuated by the artery clogging big guns of French cooking and all the holiday classics. It’s fortunate because my belt did not have a wider notch to go to. My next move would have been similar to Homer Simpsons when he bought a mumu and decided to embrace obesity. My palate was looking forward to spring and a rebirth of lightness punctuated with bright, colorful splashes of flavor.
Provenance (from the French provenir, “to come from”), is the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of an object. – Wiki
We live in a time where being a great cook is simply not enough. Our clientele has become more knowledgeable and is always thirsting for more. We demand to know the provenance of our food. Its origin story. We crave the connection to the land and water from where we came. My favorite author, Antoine de Saint Exupery once wrote: “The joy of living, I say, was summed up for me in the remembered sensation of that burning and aromatic swallow, that mixture of milk and coffee and bread by which men hold communion with tranquil pastures, exotic plantations, and golden harvests, communion with earth.” These stories breathe life into our existence and onto our plates. They nourish our wild souls. Edward Abbey said “We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it.” It is a bridge to our wild ancestral past. The more advanced we get, the further from our origins we walk. Having this provenance, this golden communion, provides meaning and soul to our citified life. We may never walk in the woods picking wild boletes (cepes, porcinis) but we can enjoy them and reconnect to ourselves.
Good full red. Captivating aromas of ripe red cherry, mocha and violet complicated by an herbal nuance. Sweet, dense and juicy in the mouth, displaying bright flavors of dark cherry, flowers and spices. Finishes very smooth, savory and spicy, with outstanding energy and focus and plenty of early appeal. This complex, multilayered wine strikes me as the best I have ever tasted from Feudi del Pisciotto.
93 points Ian D’Agata, Vinous Media
Cerasuolo. If I had to use one word to fully describe Paolo Panerai’s excellent wine ‘Giambattista Valli’ that would be it. Cerasuolo means cherry like. This wine is so chock full with bright cherry, pomegranate and strawberry flavors I had to wonder if my wife didn’t swap the wine with fresh cherry juice to fool me….
Founded by Russ Raney in 1986, Evesham Wood is based on the idea that small is beautiful. To maintain a high level of quality, we rely on two basic principles: obtaining optimally ripe low-yield fruit from the best possible sites in the Willamette Valley, and using minimal intervention in the winemaking process. That approach is alive and well today, and is evident in every bottle we produce. – Winemaker/Owner Erin Nuccio
The Evesham Wood 2014 ‘Blanc de Puits Sec’ was a wine I had a preconceived notion about. When I looked at the label I fixated on it being a Gewurztraminer rather than the beautiful, dry Pinot Gris it is, or at least mostly is. In addition to the 85% Pinot Gris, there is about 15% Gewürztraminer and a smattering of Kerner, Rieslaner, Traminer and Pinot Blanc blended in. One deep smell of bright jasmine tea, roses and honeysuckle and I knew I was holding a winner….
“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” ~ Willie Nelson
I apologize for apparently having fallen off the edge of Earth for the past month or so. Bad blogger. I returned from the Alsace Wine Festival and jumped directly into the overloaded work frying pan. Between an intense business trip to Japan checking out wagyu farms and a company rebranding I have had little time to even think let alone write. I feel the need for two quick ricotta recipes to hopefully act as a life preserver to toss to both of my faithful readers who are drowning in a sea of despair….
I am in the middle of multiple intense moments finishing my first cookbook entitled ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ and editing my kickstarter campaign starting next week. It has been an amazing and wild ride that never could have been accomplished without the love, support and hard work of my wife Lisa. The downside to looking at food, thinking of food, photographing food is that I get super hungry and start to drool. My mind wanders and I begin to crave things. I saw some amazing Zucchini Blossoms at the Farmer’s Market and made these Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta in a Tomato Sauce for a petite goutte. A small nibble to carry me through the end of the day proofing. I need a break so I wrote down how I make these yummy treats.
As a recovering Chef and loving father I have serious reservations about my four year old’s aspirations to cook. On one hand, nothing could be more flattering then to have my son take an interest in what I did for 25 years and follow in my footsteps. As much as I have joked, I love cooking and thoroughly enjoyed my time in some of the best kitchens of the country. I made lots of great friends, learned a lot about different cultures and got to see the world one kitchen at a time. On the other hand, nothing can be scarier than to hand a small child, prone to being a small child, razor sharp implements. My dog has permanently crawled into a kitchen cupboard, completely unable to comprehend the madness unfolding around her. Sometimes I question my own sanity.
Anyone who knows me well enough quickly realizes somewhere along the way a few Italian chromosomes must have taken a big swim in my gene pool because I absolutely adore the rustic Italian cuisine too much for it to be coincidence. As a professional Chef, I had the good fortune to work with an amazing Woodstone wood burning oven complete with a four ton stone which provided some of the most reliable, even heat imaginable. Pizza making at home presents a challenge because it is hard to maintain consistent high heat in order to get the crust right. A lot of pizzaiolos like higher temperatures around 800 degrees, but I always prefer lower temperatures in the 600 to 700 range. The problem at home is most household stoves only heat to 550 degrees. But fear not, I have perfected a method so that you can make perfect pizzas every time. …
Hello, my name is Francois and I am addicted to pasta. I love pasta in all it’s shapes and guises, whether it’s the bowl of ricotta cavatelli with pork cheek ragu I had for lunch yesterday or the Kung Op Wun Sen (Shrimp and crunchy Pork Belly with Glass Noodles baked in a clay pot) I made for dinner just a few short hours later….
Today was a real watershed moment in my relationship with three year old son Beaumont. About two weeks ago we started bonding while cooking together at a small bed and breakfast on the Puget Sound. I was preparing food for an audition of a big TV show I am praying to get on and Beau was sitting on the counter, mimicking my every move. Each time I added an ingredient he would ask for the same thing then add it to his creation….
In my researching interesting pasta dishes for a restaurant I worked at, I came across this dish in Carol Field’s excellent book “In Nonna’s Kitchen”. I was taken by the rustic simplicity that I had to try it right away. I made it first for my sous chef Keith Schneider and dining room manager Frederic Watson. All of us were consumed by the simple flavors of basil married with tomato married with the soft pasta layers. I tried finding references in other Italian books and couldn’t really find much. The only other reference to it was a form of ancient flat bread baked directly in the hot coals of a fire….
- 1 small Watermelon, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles
- 1 each Yellow Tomatoes, peeled, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles
- 1 each Red Tomatoes, peeled, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles
- 1 each Green or Black Tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick, cut into circles
- 2 T. fruity Olive Oil
- 1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 c. Reggiano Parmesan, finely grated
- 1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 each Shallots, rough sliced
- 28 oz. can Piquillo Peppers
- 1 cup Simple Syrup
- 1 t. Fleur de Sel
- 1 T. Aleppo Pepper, or Espelette Pepper
- 1 each Lemon, juiced and zested
- 1 T. fresh Thyme, chopped
- Sauté shallots in olive oil.
- Mix shallots, Piquillo peppers, simple syrup, fleur de sel, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice and fresh thyme and puree in a blender.
- Freeze in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Reserve.
- Put small mounds of parmesan on a sil baking sheet and bake till melted, bubbly and lightly brown. Let cool for a few seconds, then pick up and lay over a wine bottle. Allow to cool fully retaining a rounded tile shape.
- Cut watermelon and tomatoes.
- Arrange tomato and watermelon circles on chilled plates.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill till you are ready to eat.
At Dinner Time:
- Drizzle with fruity olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with fleur de sel and black pepper. Put a scoop of pipérade sorbet in the center and top with a parmesan tuile.
Try adding fresh mozzarella and basil or creamy Feta cheese. They go amazingly well with watermelon and tomato. Next time you make gazpacho add watermelon!
Dry rosés pair unusually well with summer produce. Rosés usually have wonderful watermelon flavors that do nothing but complement the flavors in the salad. I would suggest a more robust rosé or perhaps a chilled light bodied red wine, such as a Gamay Noir.
- 2 oz. Olive Oil
- 2 medium Carrots, peeled, sliced
- 1 each Leek, cleaned, diced
- 1 rib Celery, peeled, diced
- 2 cloves Garlic, mashed
- Pinch Saffron
- 2 t. fresh Thyme Leaves
- 1 T. Flour
- 1 c. White Wine
- 4 cups Fish Stock
- 1 each Tomato, diced
- ½ c. Tomato Sauce
- Four - 4 oz. pieces Wild Salmon
- 24 each Mussels
- 12 each Shrimp
- 4 sliced Crostini
- 1 T. chopped Parsley
Mise en Place (before your party)
- Sauté carrots, leeks and celery in olive oil for about five minutes, or until tender.
- Add garlic and saffron and continue cooking till the aroma permeates the air and causes you to drool.
- Sprinkle flour and thyme and stir into vegetables.
- Deglaze with white wine and fish stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer.
- Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Check seasoning. Chill. Reserve.
Fire (when your guests are seated)
- Bring Gauzzetto to a boil. Add seafood. Cook about five minutes, or until seafood is cooked. Spoon into four warmed bowls, garnish with chopped parsley and a crostini then enjoy!
Leave the flour out if you are gluten intolerant. The flour simply adds a bit of body. Try adding a touch of chopped anchovy instead of salt. The anchovies give it a more authentic flavor. Try finishing with a splash of brandy. Most importantly, use whatever seafood is absolutely freshest. Remember recipes are simply guidelines rather than firm unbendable laws. Cooking for family and friends is one of the best ways to express love and friendship.
'Whoever receives friends and does not participate
in the preparation of their meal does not deserve to have friends.'
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Ah, the age old question, white or red with fish? Old wisdom would dictate a white but I think a light bodied red would work as well. For white wines I would suggest a Viognier, Gewurztraminer or any other white varietal that has a touch of residual sugar to counterbalance the acidity in tomatoes and spice in the broth. For reds, try a light Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sangiovese or Grenache. Salmon and Pinot is always a fantastic combination. If you can’t decide then default to Champagne. Champagne goes with everything!
- 50 grams fine Polenta
- 200 grams ground Pistachios
- 50 grams Flour
- 1 t. Baking Powder
- 125 ml. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100 grams Butter, melted and cooled
- 3 each Eggs
- 200 grams Sugar
- 1 each Lemon, zested
- 1 each Orange, juiced
Silk Road Cherries
- 250 grams Cherries, pitted
- 25 grams Butter
- 75 grams Sugar
- 25 grams Pistachios, ground
- 1 stick Cinnamon
- Pinch Nutmeg
- 1each Vanilla Bean, split and scraped
Mise en Place (before your party)
- Mix polenta, pistachio flour, flour and baking powder together.
- Mix extra virgin olive oil and melted butter.
- Beat eggs and sugar till pale.
- Mix eggs into olive oil.
- Add wet to dry.
- Add lemon zest and orange juice.
- Butter and paper four - 4 ounce ramekins.
- Pour batter in and bake at 300 degrees till done, about ten minutes. Reserve.
- Melt sugar and butter together. Cook to light caramel.
- Add spices, vanilla, pistachio and cherries. Cook till liquid again. Reserve.
Fire (when your guests are seated)
- Unmold a pistachio cake unto a ten inch plate. Top with cherries, drizzle sauce around and garnish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Get your heads out of the gutter! I just had the most incredible dinner ever. My first day off in a few weeks. Body feels like Mike Tyson just kicked my ass. Figue is doing great! All I wanted to do was spend time with my lovely wife and son and perhaps an incredible bottle of wine. We enjoyed a hangar steak, some great mustard from Dijon, France, a bottle of Guigal 1995 Cote Rotie and a fantastic head of cauliflower.
Cauliflower has to be the most underrated of all vegetables. Try taking a beautiful Farmer’s Market head and slow cooking in as large saute pan with olive oil. I usually cut the raw head in quarter inch slices and lay flat in a large pan. Cook on low heat till lightly brown. Add red pepper flakes, chopped anchovies, loads of garlic and basil. Cook till the garlic makes you salivate so bad you can’t handle it!
Living the good life, always!
I have always been attracted to whimsical menu titles. I don’t what captivates me so, other than I just love a good story and the history behind them. If I really had to explain it deeper, I would say it is good for business and chicken soup for a Chef’s soul. It provides a moment for servers to develop a rapport with customers and take them past just eating dinner and onto a rich and multifaceted dining experience. By bringing life to older recipes it allows me to do my part in the vast lexicon of culinary heritage to help older traditions to continue to exist in the future and keep them relevant. It also gives the press an opportunity to write something interesting and educate us. My current menu has a few gems like Brule Doights and Squazabarbuz.
Sguazabarbuz, beard splasher, is an Italian pasta and bean soup from Ferrara. The story starts that on May 29, 1503 Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, came to Ferrara to marry Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. A steward of the Palace, taking inspiration from her golden locks, created this special pasta and bean soup in her honor. The pasta is cut into irregular strips resembled her hair.
The story is actually much longer, more complicated and has more plot twists than a Hitchcock thriller. Lucrezia was sort of a femme fatale. Her father, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, had arranged several marriages into influential families to help build power for her own family. History has shown the family to be power hungry and willing to spill blood to grow the family name.
Her first marriage to Giovanni Sforza enabled her father to ascend from a mere cardinal to Pope. When the marriage no longer gave the family benefit, her father had it annulled on the grounds that the relationship had never been consummated. While the deal was being negotiated apparently she had gotten pregnant by someone. Her first marriage ended on December 27th, 1497. In March of 1498, she gave birth to an illegitimate son named Giovanni. Stories swirled about the child being a product of incest. Two papal decrees later Giovanni became son of Pope Alexander.
Her next marriage came in July of 1498 to Alfonso of Aragon, the 17-year-old Duke of Bisceglie and son of the late king of Naples. Lucrezia and Alfonso had a child, but unfortunately for Alfonso, by 1500, Pope Alexander and Lucrezia’s brother Cesare sought a new alliance with France, and Lucrezia’s marriage to Alfonso became a major obstacle. On July 15, 1500, Alfonso narrowly survived a brutal murder attempt only to be strangled to death by Cesare’s goon squad while recovering from his earlier stab wounds.
After Alfonso’s death, Lucrezia’s father arranged for her to be married to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. Her new husband was hesitant because of the Borgia family reputation. The couple moved away from the inlaws, thereby escaping the endless scheming of her power hungry father and brother. Lucrezia and Alfonso became the reigning duke and duchess of Ferrara and Lucrezia garnered a reputation as a patron of the arts.
- 1 c. Borlotti Beans, soak overnight
- 3 oz Pancetta, diced
- 1 Onions, finely chopped
- 1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
- 2 Carrots, finely chopped
- 4 c. Chicken Broth
- 1 t. Rosemary
- 1 t. Thyme
- 1 t. Oregano
- 4 Sage leaves
- to taste Salt and Pepper
- ¼ c. chopped Parsley
- ½ # Maltagliati Pasta
- Drain Borlotti beans, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Cover, and simmer till done.
- Sauté pancetta. Add onions, celery, carrots and cook in pork fat till tender.
- Add half the beans, mash and cook another 30 minutes.
- Add whole beans, chicken broth and herbs.
- When you are ready to eat, cook the fresh pasta and drop in soup.
- Serve with grated parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.