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….
On July 29th, I am hosting a pop-up dinner promising an exciting evening of Spanish Tapas, Wines and old-world Conviviality. The genesis for the event came during a lunch with friends several weeks back; I was hungry for the tapas I used to make when I was Chef of the award winning Pili Pili in Chicago and wanted some people to share in the fun. I actually forgot how much I loved canalons; there is something incredibly satisfying about eating them. Not sure if it is the textural aspect of soft pasta baked in a creamy sauce that harkens back to the emotions of my childhood or maybe the utter simplicity of it. Canalons are truly an everyman’s dish that crosses several cultural lines. Try making canalons this weekend!
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….
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.
WARNING: This post is not for the faint of heart, nor any vegans who may not have fully understood the title of my blog page and it’s full implications. Good Ramen is serious porky business.
I start my blog with a confession. I have been a confirmed ramen addict for several decades now. The disease shows no signs of slowing even though, for the most part, I have stopped eating gluten and pork. The addiction began in earnest as a small child left to fend for himself and forage the near empty cupboards of 1970’s America. Instant ramen noodles seemed the perfect cost effective solution for parents of constantly hungry adolescents. Any child with half a brain could boil a cup of water, open the tin foil flavor packet, drop the waxed noodles in and eat. It progressed, or degressed depending on your point of view, to high school where I put the high in high school and had the munchies that needed constant tending. Ramen was the perfect solution….
I was reading Jose Pizarro’s beautifully photographed book ‘Spanish Flavors’ and started massively craving the robust flavors of a perfectly cooked Spanish meal heady with garlic, smoked paprika and finished with a drizzle of fruity Spanish olive oil. I drooled as I flipped through the pages of food porn imagining myself sitting at a tapas bar sipping on a glass of Cava or perhaps Txacoli with plates of charred octopus and crispy Flamenquin waiting in front of me. Or maybe digging into a real Paella with its socarrat, the crispy, crunchy, caramelized rice stuck to the bottom of a pan that anyone who truly understands the virtues of Paella fights for. Somehow I managed to maintain enough presence of mind to write a list of dishes I wanted to tackle later that night, hopped into our car and headed to the market. I do this all the time, I attempt to have a ‘menu’ prior to shopping and never manage to come home with any of it intact. Every single time I get completely waylaid by the richness and diversity of offerings. I guess I just love food too much to be constrained in that way or maybe it’s just not the way I think. The third more feasible explanation is that my dear mother thought of a wonderful creamy blanquette de veau at the exact moment of my childbirth, forgetting she wasn’t at the table, squeezed a bit too hard, and perhaps cut off air circulation to my brain at a critical moment resulting in a mild form of menu amnesia. Whatever you call it, I have the struggle every single day. …
I always feel like a small child at Christmas when I go to the Saturday PDX Farmer’s Market because every time I discover new and exciting products and producers. One of my recent finds has been a company called Tails and Trotters who I was originally was introduced to by Malia, my saleslady from Foods in Season, a specialty food purveyor in Washington State. What makes Tails and Trotters so unique and amazing is how they feed their pigs to create the best tasting pork you’ll ever try. Founder Aaron Silverman works in conjunction with a local family farm that GMO free and sustainably raises pigs, than finishes them on a diet largely composed of Oregon hazelnuts similar in concept to the black footed Spanish pigs who forage the Dehesa forest ecosystem feeding primarily on acorns. The result is a healthy, tasty pork with a higher percentage of unsaturated fats and scarce amino acids….
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….
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.
Fideuà , a rustic Catalan Pasta Paella I like to make with Monkfish, Clams and Shrimp. Is one of those dishes you simply cannot stop eating when you start. Here is a simple recipe best enjoyed with a great bottle of Rioja and a green salad!
Ingredients for four servings:
- ¼ c. Olive Oil
- 1 T. Garlic slivers
- pinch Saffron
- 16 pieces Shrimp, 16/20 size
- 12 ounces Monkfish, cut into four pieces
- 12 each Manila Clams
- 1 pound Fideo Noodles, toasted or Vermicelli broken into small pieces
- 1 c. freshTomatoes, diced
- 1 T. Spanish Paprika
- 2 c. Chicken Stock
- 1 c. Tomato Sauce
- ¼ c. chopped Parsley
- 1 T.Butter
- Chefs Notes:
- Heat olive oil, add garlic and cook till they start to turn brown.
- Add saffron, paprika, seafood, and toasted Fideo noodles.
- Add diced tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato sauce.
- Cook till pasta is done, about five to ten minutes.
- Finish with a little butter, chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Stir a big spoonful of Aioli into cooked pasta and garnish with yet another heaping spoonful!