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charcuterie

Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

Smoked salmon and ricotta wraps

New Year’s Eve is my favorite food holiday, full stop. We don’t have to follow any specific food traditions, and instead we can make a number of small bites that follow whatever whims we may have in mind that particular year. In reality, the only rules that we do have around the holiday are simple:

  • No leaving the apartment, even to do this same thing at someone else’s house, because that never ends well.
  • Loungey clothes are necessary, if not required.
  • Games will be played
  • Wine, especially bubbly wines, will be consumed.

When our friend W asked what our plans were, I explained that we were pretty rigid on the not-leaving-the-apartment thing (seriously, the last time we tried to do this on New Year’s Eve, I ended up with a stomach virus) but that they were welcome to join us. As soon as she said that they would love to come, out came the cookbooks to brainstorm some ideas on what to make. I may have also put the El Bulli episode of No Reservations on while I browsed, and ultimately came up with more ideas for this dinner than I did for the dinners I was supposed to be planning for…because that’s how things tend to go.

Besides: a meal of this scale requires several days of brainstorming, and I ended up finding some fine meals to have on Sunday and Monday shortly thereafter. So there, husband. Read More

Our plate at Bar Pastoral:  Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Our plate at Bar Pastoral: Casatica with roasted garlic, Manchego with horseradish (I think), Caveman Blue with honey, and some prosciutto di San Daniele and chorizo.

Not long after our friend T moved out to Chicago, he sent me a link to a wine bar/cheese shop that wasn’t far from his apartment that he thought I’d like, all but promising to go there when I eventually paid him a visit. I hadn’t forgotten about the place in the intervening months that followed, so when I was finally able to head out to the Windy City a few weeks ago to finally see him, going to Pastoral (the wine/cheese shop) and its sister bistro next door Bar Pastoral was one of the few definitive plans I had for the trip, and perhaps the only disappointment I had was that I only was able to eat there once.

But oh, was that one time a memorable one!

T was completely wiped from a particularly grueling work week, so by the time we sat down at the bar he was more than happy to let me run the show. Since this was my first time there, I decided to cede control to our very helpful bartender, who recommended a nice selection of cheeses: a soft cheese made with water buffalo milk, a lovely blue cheese, and a firm cheese that I’m pretty sure was Manchego. (This bad food blogger forgot to write them all down. Boo.) Some slices of chorizo and prosciutto di San Daniele finished the plate, along with a little loaf of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine. Even better was that each cheese came with its own specific garnish, ensuring that when you loaded up a piece of bread with your cheese of choice, you were going to get a complex, complete bite.

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Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

Do you have those foods that you never, ever purchase (usually due to some combination of expense, availability, and no idea what to do with it) but long for anyway? Or foods that you have reserved in your mind to only indulge in for a very specific, very celebratory reason, regardless of whether you’ve ever tasted it or not? The image of sitting down at a fine steakhouse and ordering the Wagyu ribeye along with a glass of 80-dollar scotch comes to mind, if just a tad on the extreme side. To get to my point: it’s the treat that you know you can only indulge in as a treat maybe once a  year at most, or something you’d only buy for very, very special reasons.

I have a few things on that list like mozzarella di bufala and a really good bottle of champagne, but my biggest obsession that I never indulged in was getting some jamón ibérico de bellota either from Fairway or Despaña. While no cured ham could be considered a bargain, ibérico is the platinum standard, widely considered the apex of cured ham deliciousness and usually it can only be had for, at minimum, 100 bucks a pound. When you live in a place like New York, ephemeral luxuries like this feel far too outrageous to indulge in without knowing exactly what you’re getting, so I  told myself that I would figure out a really good reason to get some eventually. I’d see the hock of it at Fairway when it would be my turn to wait in line at the deli, but I always managed to resist an impulse to purchase it. Read More

Duck ham!

Have you heard about Charcutepalooza yet? Two particularly intrepid food bloggers have deemed 2011 the Year of Meat, and so they (along with about 300 other bloggers) are working their way through Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie with a new challenge each month. January was duck prosciutto, February was pancetta and bacon, and for March corned beef (or brined pork chops or chicken) is the challenge of the month, and it’s so inspiring to see the posts and the recipes and the dedication that real charcuterie requires. You really should follow their exploits because it’s yielding some fascinating results. Because we live in an apartment that is not only dry as a bone but also at least 85 degrees during the winter and summer thanks to intense radiators and no air conditioning it’s unrealistic/unsafe to commit to the rigors of the year-long challenge, but it hasn’t dimmed my craving for some of the meats that have  been featured or to follow along in our own way.

Fortunately, we can make duck ham thanks to a recipe from Tom Colicchios’s Think Like a Chef that is short (at least in meat-curing terms), delicious and easy. If it’s good enough for the head judge of Top Chef, well, it’s good enough for us. Read More

First off–to those who are joining us from The Kitchn:  benvenuto, tutti!  We were thrilled to be among those chosen to guest-post, and we welcome you to explore our little piece of the food blogging universe.

Poached Eggs, Spinach Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, and Ciabatta Garlic Toasts with Homemade Ricotta and Speck

Poached Eggs, Spinach Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette, and Ciabatta Garlic Toasts with Homemade Ricotta and Speck

This was a weekend of experimentation:  Michael took a small risk by doing a pan-Mediterranean take on tapas (apparently he was worried I wouldn’t like it, which seemed odd, but his concern was moot anyway as I happily dug into my plate) and I did the same by making ricotta cheese, as I had never done so before and it’s one of his least favorite cheeses to eat.  The recipe on Epicurious seemed so simple, though, so I at least wanted to try my hand at it; after all, we’ve done duck ham and will probably cure some pork in the next few weeks–why not add cheese into the mix?

The cheese came out well, if a little too lemony (I think I used just a little too much–shame on me for  not measuring!), and paired nicely with the salty speck, crusty bread and runny eggs.  I always liked the idea of having a salad with brunch to cut some of the grease inherent in so many of the classic dishes, and this one–a mustard vinaigrette–is perfect for spinach:

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together mustard and desired amount of vinegar (some like a 1:1 ratio, others a 2:1 of oil to vinegar), add salt and pepper to taste, then slowly add oil and whisk to combine.  Drizzle over greens of choice.

It’s a light alternative to traditional brunch, to be sure, and perfect for a summertime morning/afternoon after a backyard cookout.  Buon apetito!

Lamb Meatballs with Speck and Roasted Eggplant

Saturday I was in the mood for something simple and dare I say inauspicious.  There were some lovely tomatoes at Romeo’s and I felt comfortably deep enough into the summer to enjoy some nice bruschetta.  I got the notion to proceed in this fashion- there’d be a giant loaf of bread in play, so why not just make a giant plate of summery food and just pick off of it until we were full?  While acquiring the tomatoes, Elizabeth also found some Speck Ham (more on this later, I’m sure) she’d been wanting to try and that sealed the deal.

I had some ground lamb in my freezer, some shallots in the pantry and some leftover mint in the fridge for the week… I think you know where I’m heading with this one.  I used panko instead of traditional breadcrumbs for the subsequent meatballs, but honestly I didn’t see a huge difference.  I purged the pretty graffiti eggplant and rubbed with  a mixture of soy sauce, honey and vinegar.  I broiled them for a few minutes until soft.

Lamb meatballs

  • 1 package ground lamb
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2-3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper

The amount of breadcrumbs is up in the air due to moisture from the shallots and the meat.  Add enough to make the mixture sticky but not too dry to work with.  Mix everything by hand until homogeneous and then roll into spheres.  Skewer and grill until 165 F inside.

Add some finely chopped garlic, lemon juice and salt to plain nonfat Greek yogurt for a quick yogurt sauce.  Truly, slight and satisfying meal, perfect for a warm Saturday evening.  Ciao!

Saucisson pork tenderloin (via)

Saucisson pork tenderloin (click for source)

While we were at the Baur B&B, another couple was also staying there–an American expat and her Italian husband, Paula and Angelo.  They live in Cinque Terre, an ancient group of towns in Liguria that is now a protected area and a big tourist draw.  They conduct boat tours on their old anchovy fishing boat (one of the last of its kind) where Paula makes lunch, and from what I’ve heard, it’s an utterly fabulous time.   They came brandishing many lovely food gifts for Diana, ranging from fresh farm eggs (from their own chickens) to lemons from their tree, to locally produced limoncello (Liguria is known for its lemons, and therefore its limoncello), but perhaps their most fascinating foodstuff was the home-cured pork tenderloin that they brought with them and shared during their first evening on the patio.

Angelo kindly shaved off a few pieces for us (espeically after we starting raving over how good it was), and since then I’ve been wanting to figure out how to do this in our home.  With our few forays into duck ham yielding delicious results, I feel confident that we can make this.  Michael said he would be happy to use one of the two tenderloins we picked up at BJ’s as long as I found a recipe for this, and thanks to a Jacques Pepin recipe (via The Paupered Chef), I think we’ll be eating saucisson-style tenderloin in 5-6 weeks.  Stay tuned.

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