Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

How to Make Traditional Italian Almond Biscotti

Print Email
by Susan Russo

biscottiWhat is the all-time best dunking cookie? Italian biscotti. Whether it's a glass of sweet wine or a mug of steaming coffee, biscotti's firm, crunchy texture stands up to dunking like no other cookie I know.

Biscotti, (pronounced bis-caught-tee), have been around since Roman antiquity. The name is from the Latin biscoctus, meaning "twice-baked," since they were baked twice in the oven. Originally, biscotti was a practical food; because they were dry and sturdy, they were easily transportable for long journeys.

It wasn't until the Renaissance in Tuscany, that biscotti became considered a treat. They were served and often dunked in wine, such as vin santo. Because of biscotti's hard, crunchy texture, people eventually people began dunking them in hot drinks such as coffee as well.

Though original Tuscan biscotti were made with almonds, today's biscotti come in an endless array of flavors. Some are made with anise, others with coffee. Many are studded with nuts and dried fruit while others are dipped in chocolate. There really is a biscotti to please everyone.

Casual Carbonara

Print Email
by Michael Tucker

ingredientsI had a cooking breakthrough this past week that I want to share with you. Because Jill is eating more and more veganly and handling a lot of her own shopping and preparation, I end up cooking a lot of dishes for myself. And I’m finding this has liberated me in a number of ways.

Instead of measuring or checking the recipe for amounts, I just say to myself, “How much of that do I feel like today?” And I throw in just that much.

Without having to worry about this person’s salt problem, that person’s meat problem, this person’s wheat allergy, that person’s fat phobia – my dishes are turning out just the way I like them.

A recent carbonara is a perfect example: Carbonara is an emotional dish – it’s bacon and eggs, on pasta, with cheese, with lots of black pepper.

One theory is that the name “carbonara,” which means, “in the style of the coal-workers” really comes from the fact that the black pepper scattered on top looks like coal dust. I’m going with that theory. I think a lot of pepper makes this dish.

Allora.

The Cake of Legends: Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake

Print Email
by Bumble Ward

img 3425The cake came in a box and alongside the box was a big bag of honeycomb bits (imagine Crunchie without the chocolate.)  This honeycomb has to be affixed to the cake at the last minute:

"The cake features two layers of sponge cake in a delicate coffee whipped cream frosting, covered in delicious bits of crunch"

"You're going to want to blog about this cake" said Wendy.
"Just you wait till you try it" said Andrea.
"No, it's not really my thing, you know, cake" I said.
But then I put one small piece in my mouth.

It's called a Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake and is now being made by Valerie's Confections in Los Angeles. But the cake has fans everywhere. Martha Stewart has a recipe here.  On the I Speak of Dreams blog, Sandy Weil tells the story of her father being the first baker of the cake at the original Blum's in San Francisico (first comment) and her father, Ernest Weil's cookbook is here.  If you look it up, hundreds of people tell swooning stories about the cake. It is, quite honestly, the cake of legends.

Castagnaccio or Tuscan Chestnut Flour Cake

Print Email
by Joseph Erdos

chestnutcakeTuscans have a very simple and rustic cuisine, characterized by hearty stews, soups, baked goods, and beans. Tuscan bread is the one that's famous for being made without salt. Outside of Tuscany, many people are unfamiliar with the traditional foods, namely sweets. But there's one dessert that's particularly popular around this time of year in Tuscany.

Castagnaccio is traditionally made in the fall and winter months, and is often served during the holidays. It's like a cake but it doesn't rise. It's made from chestnut flour since chestnuts (castagna) are abundant in Tuscany. The cake is not so much sweet as it is earthy. The only ingredients it needs are water and oil. The toppings are what make it special—wine-soaked raisins, pine nuts, orange zest, and rosemary. It's really a cake that's meant to be paired with a glass of Vin Santo and slowly savored at the end of an evening.

The texture of the cake is unique, maybe a little thick and even fudge like, but only in appearance. You'll need a large shallow pan, like a paella, to make it. The chestnut flour can easily be sourced in Italian markets. If you prefer, you could substitute the pine nuts with chopped walnuts and the raisins with other chopped dried fruit. The rosemary adds a nice aromatic touch, but if you don't like herbs on your dessert, you can omit it. You'll really like castagnaccio this Christmas!

Dr. Jill Biden's Parmesan Chicken Recipe

Print Email
by Eddie Gehman Kohan

joebidenWe're so glad we get to eat this for the next four years! -Amy Ephron

A family favorite for Sunday dinners, says the Second Lady...
Vice President Joe Biden loves his wife's Chicken Parmesan, says Dr. Jill Biden, who in a bit of election-year foodie wooing has shared the family recipe with Rachael Ray. It makes a big feast, calling for five pounds of boneless chicken breasts and four cups of Mozzarella cheese for twelve servings.

"Our family loves to get together for Sunday dinners. Our favorite chicken parm #recipe is in @rachael_ray mag  –Dr. B," the Second Lady tweeted on her husband's @VP account.

The recipe appears in Ray's Every Day magazine and online. The Second Lady joined Ray on her TV show in 2010, to demonstrate how to make holiday care packages for members of the troops. First Lady Michelle Obama and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass have also cooked onscreen with Ray. Mrs. Obama was last on Ray's show in September of this year.

Banoffee Pie Madness

Print Email
by Matt Armendariz

banoffee-cooking-channelOne of the best things of being a food photographer is the access to new tastes, flavors and recipes. Because 100% of what we do at our studio is actually edible, you’ll find me on set most days asking this series of questions to Adam, my food stylist partner:

a)     I’ve got the shot. Can you review it and tell me if there’s anything you’d like to change?

b)    Ok, fantastic. Looks great. We’re done. Can I eat this?

I can’t really remember a day where I haven’t dug into a casserole or broken off a piece of bread or stolen a cookie. I often tell myself that it’s part of my job and that I actually should know what things taste like. When I photograph a cookbook it’s inevitable that people will ask me what the process was like and if there was a favorite recipe. Why shouldn’t I be prepared?

Recently a rather unfamiliar dessert landed on my shooting surface. Ok, let me back up. Unusual for me. But then again I’m not a Sweets kinda guy, generally. But this item, Banoffee Pie, is an English favorite that we were shooting for Cooking Channel and it really caught my attention.

Quick Chicken Marengo

Print Email
by Cathy Pollak

chickenmarengoChicken Marengo is an amazing Italian savory dish named for being themeal Napoleon Bonaparte feasted on after the Battle of Marengo (a battle between the French and the Austrians in the 1800s).

Apparently Napoleon demanded a quick meal once the battle ended. His chef was forced to come up with something great with only meager supplies on hand; chicken (and some eggs), tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil and crayfish. The chicken was allegedly cut up with a sabre and fried in olive oil.

A sauce was made from tomatoes, garlic and onions (even some Cognac from Napoleon's flask) while the crayfish was cooked up on the side and all was served over eggs with some of the soldier's bread ration on the side. Napoleonraved overthe food and since he had won the battle, considered this dish lucky. On future occasions Napoleon refused to have the ingredients altered, even when his chef wanted to omit the crayfish.

Modern versions of this dish, such as this one, leave out the crayfish and add olives for flavor. Serving this over polenta also makes this comfort food to the max. The flavors are over the top and you will love how moist the chicken becomes.

You have to try this, you will love, love, love it!!

Beurre Blanc

Print Email
by James Farmer III

buerreblanc1.jpgButter and white wine…already you know this is good! Literally the French term for “white butter,” a buerre blanc is a traditional sauce with simple ingredients. Quite elegant and versatile for many dishes and full of garden flavors, this beurre blanc can become a backbone for your garden living lifestyle.

Brown an onion in some olive oil. Salt and pepper for flavor and then add garlic once the onion begins to caramelize. This is the background and foundation of your sauce, for the caramelized bits of onion and garlic are the keepers of amazing flavor. The wine will deglaze the pan, releasing the browned goodness of the onion cousins. Allow the wine to come to a simmer and reduce by a third. This step, reducing the wine, intensifies the flavor of the wine, concentrating the bouquet and natural essence of the wine. Tossing in a couple bay leaves awakens the sauce and steeps their flavor in the wine reduction.

Now for the namesake - butter. Add the cubed butter in shifts, whisking the butter into the sauce and allowing it to thoroughly melt it. Once the butter has thoroughly melted into the wine, the smooth sauce can now be livened up even more with some fresh lemon juice and zest. 

Halibut Poached in Acqua Pazza

Print Email
by Joseph Erdos

aquafishIn soups or stews, when grilled or braised, or when poached or seared, halibut is a wonderful fish no matter the cooking method. Its white sturdy flesh holds together very well in different preparations. It has a meaty texture much like chicken and a subtle fish flavor.

A preparation, like this Italian poached recipe, is the perfect way to show off halibut in all its glory. Poaching the fish in a flavorful broth makes it a very appealing dish for a chilly fall day. There's a story behind the name of this recipe: acqua pazza in Italian means crazy water. Neapolitan fisherman would poach their catch of the day in a spicy, briny broth flavored with wine and herbs. More often than not, they would use seawater as the stock base. A few years ago I tasted a wonderful rendition of monkfish in acqua pazza at the now-closed Lunetta. I've had the inclination to make it at home ever since.

My recipe takes traditional acqua pazza and gives it an Asian twist. Inspired by the cuisine of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who is well known for fusing classical French technique with Asian flavors, I create a recipe that builds flavor upon flavor.

How to Make Mostarda

Print Email
by Amy Sherman

mostardaI spent a year living in Europe, and six months of that was in Italy. Having eaten a lot of Italian food, I like to think I understand it, perhaps just a little. In fact, whenever I try to recreate an Italian dish I think back to earlier versions that I've eaten. What was it that I liked about it? What was the essence of the dish?

In all my time in Italy, I don't remember trying mostarda. It's not surprising really because the most well-known versions come from Veneto, Lombardia and Piemonte. Most of my time was spent in Tuscany. But I still think I understand mostarda, just a bit. It's like an Italian chutney I suppose. Don't make the mistake of translating it as "mustard". Mostarda does have a little bit of mustard in it, but it's really a combination of preserved fruit in syrup with a bit of a kick. The kick comes from mustard oil, mustard essence, dry mustard, mustard seeds or some combination thereof. Other ingredients include sugar or honey, wine, vinegar and sometimes citrus juice.

When I am developing a recipe, I often look for several variations then strike off on my own. The recipes I found for mostarda varied greatly--some used dry fruit, others fresh fruit. Some cooked slowly others cooked quickly. Some had lots of mustard, others barely a pinch. My own experiment lead me to this conclusion: Mostarda is very forgiving and can easily be made to your own taste. You can taste as you go and make changes.

 

restaurant news

Beef Back in Style at Covent Garden's Hawksmoor
London - British Isles
by Nancy Ellison

hawksmoormainSince (finally) it has been discovered that the fat in beef – oleic acid – is the same heart healthy fat that is found in olive oil, and since fat in beef actually decreases heart-disease risk...

Read more...
New Shanghai Seems Like Old Times
Boston
by Kitty Kaufman

playmepianoThings we like about Chinatown: it's close, you can park on the street and there's always adventure. This is one of those days: not only do we park but there's a piano on the sidewalk under the...

Read more...
O Rhode Island, How You Have Changed
New England
by David Latt

ri1.jpgIn the mid-1970s, when I lived in Providence the food wasn't very good. Sure there was great local seafood, especially clams and lobsters, but if you wanted to eat out, your choices were pretty...

Read more...
An Evening at Trois Mec
Los Angeles
by Lisa Dinsmore

ludoBefore Trois Mec opened, being able to claim you attended one of Chef Ludo Lefebvre's infamous LudoBites pop-ups was sort of a badge of honor amongst Angelenos. An elusive and super cool...

Read more...