Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Art of Simmering Memories #FoodieReads


These three books are on D's summer reading list for Honors English. And since I had never read any of them, I decided to dig in while he was reading one of his other assigned books.

I already posted about Licorice Laces, Orange Soda, and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time; but this post is about The Diving Bell and The Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby*.

Quick synopsis: Bauby, editor-in-chief of French fashion bible Elle magazine, suffers a devastating stroke at age 43. The damage to his brain stem leaves him with locked-in syndrome - almost completely paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. Bauby painstakingly dictates his memoir via the only means of movement and expression left to him. I read that the book took approximately 200,000 blinks to write with the average word taking approximately two minutes to convey and transcribe. And on March 9, 1997, just two days after the book was published, Bauby died of pneumonia.

Before I picked this up, I had never heard of Jean-Dominque Bauby, never heard of the book, and never knew that it was adapted into a movie. And, after reading it, I'm not sure I want to watch the movie. I was tearing up as I read. I fear that the movie, if well done, would have me bawling in my living room. We'll see...

Tears welled up in my eyes as I finished this book, not because of the tragedy of Bauby's illness, but because I was overcome with gratitude for life. This is very quick read. It's inspiring, engrossing, and considering Bauby’s condition, there is a surprising amount of humor in it. Though you can't help but feel incredible empathy towards him, this is not a woe-is-me memoir. It is an appreciation of being alive.

Though Bauby is no longer able to enjoy food, he describes his memories of food: even as "a tube threaded into my stomach, two or three bags of brownish fluid provide my daily caloric needs. For pleasure, I have to turn to the vivid memory of tastes and smells, an inexhaustible reservoir of sensations. Once I was a master of recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories. You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it's a restaurant, no need to call ahead. If I do the cooking, it is always a success. The boeuf bourguignon is tender, the boeuf en gelée translucent, the apricot pie possesses just the requisite tartness. Depending on my moon, I treat myself to a dozen snails, a plate of Alsatian sausage with sauerkraut, and a bottle of late-vintage golden Gewürztraminer; or else I savor a simple soft-boiled egg with fingers of toast and lightly salted butter. What a banquet!" (pg. 36).

Also, he remembers seasonally, he says, "...I scrupulously observe the rhythm of the seasons. Just now I am cooling my taste buds with melon and red fruit. I leave oysters and game for autumn - should I feel like eating them, for I am becoming careful, even ascetic, in matters of diet. ...But today I could almost be content with a good old proletarian hard sausage trussed in netting and suspended permanently from the ceiling in some corner of my head" (pg. 37).

Do you have food memories that bring back vivid sensations of taste and smell? What are they?

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Click to see what everyone else read in June 2019: here.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Licorice Laces, Orange Soda, and the curious incident of the dog in the night-time #FoodieReads


This book - the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon* - has been on my radar for years. A friend recently placed it in his top seven most influential reads of his life. But I never found the occasion to read it till it appeared as an option on D's summer reading list. In fact, there were multiple books on his list that I had never picked up. So, we bought them, and I breezed through three of them this week.

On the Page
Christopher John Francis Boone knows every prime number up to 7,057. He loves animals, especially his pet rat Toby. Being on the autistic spectrum, he lacks understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand being touched. And he despises the colors yellow and brown.

This book has at its core Christopher's quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog named Wellington. But it's really a jaunt through the mind of an autistic boy just navigating his life.

He narrates: "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them. Here's a joke, as an example. It is one of Father's, His face was drawn but the curtains were real" (pg. 8).

Haddon gives an eloquent peek into how Christopher's brain works. "My memory is like film. That is why I am really good at remember things, like conversations I have written down in this book, and what people are wearing, and what they smell like, because my memory has a smelltrack which is like a soundtrack. And when people ask me to remember something I can simply press Rewind and Fast Forward and Pause like on a video recorder, but more like a DVD player because I don't have to Rewind through everything in between to get to a memory of something a long time ago. And there are no buttons, either, because it is happening in my head" (pg. 76).

I will be interested to hear the discussion about this and the other books when D goes back to school in August.

On the Plate
While this isn't a foodie book, there is plenty of food mentioned. And food, really preparing meals for Christopher's sustenance, is one of the only ways that Christopher and his father actually seem to interact.

When his mother dies, Mrs. Shears comes over to cook dinner for Christopher and his father. "And then she made us spaghetti and tomato sauce. And after dinner she played Scrabble with me and I beat her 247 points to 134" (pg. 28).

Since his mother is gone, Christopher's dad must prepare his meals. "'What do you fancy for chow tonight?' Chow is food. I said I wanted baked beans and broccoli. ...Then I went into the kitchen and had my baked beans and broccoli while Father had sausages and eggs and fried bread and a mug of tea" (pg. 96).

His foods can't be certain colors and the foods certainly can't touch. One evening, his father suggests, "'I'll stick one of those Gobi Aloo Sag things in the oven for you, OK?' This is because I like Indian food because it has a strong taste. But Gobi Aloo Sag is yellow, so I put red food coloring into it before I eat it. And I keep a little plastic bottle of this in my special food box" (pg. 67).

I will be trying to make a Battenburg cake. But that will be for another post. This time, I just decided to pick up some licorice and orange soda. The boys were thrilled to have what they called a 'junk food' adventure. All things in moderation, boys! Here was my inspiration...

When he visits Mrs. Alexander to question if she saw anything related to Wellington's murder. She invites him in for tea, but he declines because he doesn't go into other people's houses. "'Well, maybe I could bring some out here. Do you like lemon squash?' I replied, 'I only like orange squash'" (pg. 41). I actually have no idea what orange squash is, but the picture that popped into my head was Fanta!

When Christopher runs away from home, he writes, "I opened up my special food box. Inside was the Milkybar and two licorice laces and three clementines and a pink wafer biscuit and my red food coloring. I didn't feel hungry but I knew that I should eat something because if you don't eat something you can get cold,so I ate two clementines and the Milkybar. Then I wondered what I would do next" (pg. 124).

Now I wonder what I'll read next.... Suggestions?

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Click to see what everyone else read in June 2019: here.

The Martinotti Method, Summer Solstice, and Roasted Lobster #Sponsored #ItalianFWT

This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with and in preparation for the July #ItalianFWT event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links

Next month - July 2019 - I am hosting the #ItalianFWT group as we delve into tasting and pairing Prosecco DOCG. You can read my invitation to the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers here - You're Invited: Tanti Auguri (Many Wishes), Prosecco DOCG!! And you can read about my first exploration here, where I looked at the difference between Frizzante and Spumante.

The Martinotti Method

I decided to open up my second bottle from the Corsorzio*, the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry from Prosecco Toffoli. And, in doing research, I came across a new-to-me term: the Martinotti Method.

The characteristic sparkle of today’s Prosecco is the result of advances in science. The original design of the autoclave - a pressurized chamber to raise temperature and pressure to higher than ambient - was developed by French chemist Edme-Jules Maumené in 1852. He used wooden tanks to draw off wine and bottle it in a pressurized state. The system was unreliable and inefficient. 

Decades later, in 1895, an Italian named Federico Martinotti refined Maumené’s design, still using wooden tanks but making it more adapted to commercial use. But, then, in 1907, Martinotti’s design was perfected and patented by another Frenchman, Eugène Charmat, utilizing newly available stainless steel. It's Charman's iteration that provides the basic blueprint for production tanks today. However, the process is still referred to as the Martinotti method in Prosecco; but outside of Italy it is known as the Charmat method.

Since this is about Prosecco Superiore, I'll use the term 'Martinotti Method' for this wine!


The grapes for this 100% Glera Prosecco Superiore hail from a town in the heart of the DOCG Conegliano – Valdobbiadene area: Refrontolo.


To the eye, this poured a pale golden color with milky white bubbles and a fine, persistent perlage. On the nose, there were stong notes of fruit, flowers, and citrus. Just sticking my nose in the glass brought a smile to my face. And, on the palate, this was dry and refreshing. It was the perfect pour for an al fresco Summer Solstice dinner.

Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice, at least in the Northern hemisphere occurs in June and marks the longest day of the year. Typically we celebrate with a lovely picnic. And this year was no exception.


And I was inspired to serve roasted lobster because that bowl of clarified butter always reminds me of the sun!

Roasted Lobster

Lobster may feel decadent and complicated to make. In reality, it's a dinner that I can have on the table in about 30 minutes, so it's a perfect meal after a long workday.


Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 lobster tails (mine were approximately 8 ounces each)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t crushed oregano
  • 1 t crushed garlic
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • clarified butter for serving


Procedure
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Using kitchen shears, cut each lobster tail down the back, stopping at the last segment before the tail piece.

Bend back the tail until you hear a loud crack. Slip a knife between the meat and the bottom membrane, freeing tail meat from the shell.


Pull the meat up and over the shell, closing the shell shut beneath it.


The tail meat, then, piggybacks on top of the shell. 


Place all four tails on a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Melt 2 T butter and whisk in oregano and garlic. Coat the lobster meat with a generous coating of butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with clarified butter.

 

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry from Prosecco Toffoli was a lovely bottle with which to continue my Prosecco DOCG adventures. And I was excited to toast the start of summer with a glass or two. I served this with Burrata and Anchovies, Panzanella, and a green salad.


At the end of the longest day of the year, we were left with lobster shells, popped corks, sated bellies, and smiling faces. Stay tuned for more pourings and pairings. I can't wait to share what I'm learning about Prosecco DOCG with you all. Cin cin. 


Find the Consorzio
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, on Instagram
Find Prosecco Toffoli
on the web, on Facebook, on Instagram

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Burrata with Anchovies


To celebrate the end of a successful school year, we took the boys to our favorite restaurant, La Balena. We've long been friends with the owners, Emanuele and Anna. And I love that I always come away inspired.


One of the first dishes we tried was Burrata with Anchovies. So simple and yet so amazing. I think that's the way food should be. Well, most food. It lets the ingredients speak for themselves. And on the summer solstice, I recreated the dish for us. It's not a really a recipe. But I'll share it, in the hopes that it will inspire you to try it for yourself.


Ingredients serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 4 balls of burrata
  • 4 anchovies, cured and packed in oil
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • toasted bread, optional (I served it without at home)


Procedure
Place burrata on a serving plate or platter. Top each burrata with an anchovy. Sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Grilled Stuffed Squid + Bodegas Muga Flor de Muga Rosé 2017 #FishFridayFoodies


It's time for Fish Friday Foodies' June event. We are a group of seafood-loving bloggers, rallied by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, to share fish and seafood recipes on the third Friday of the month. 

And this month, Sid of Sid's Sea Palm Cooking is also hosting as we share appetizers that includes seafood. Before I get to my recipe. Here's the rest of the #FishFridayFoodies' offerings...



  • Deviled Crab by Palatable Pastime
  • Grilled Stuffed Squid by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
  • Oysters on the Half Shell by A Day in the Life on the Farm
  • Shrimp Bites by Sid's Sea Palm Cooking
  • Shrimp Rémoulade by Karen's Kitchen Stories 
  • Sunshine Sauce Prawns On Cucumber Salad by Sneha's Recipe 


  • An Appetizer and A Wine Pairing

    Next month one of my wine pairing groups - #WinePW - is focusing on Rioja wines and grilled foods. I received one bottle as an industry sample, for the event, but decided to pick up a few other bottles as well, including this gorgeous Rosé - Bodegas Muga Flor de Muga Rosé 2017. 


    Then, I invited myself to our friends' house and asked Mike to grill for me. He graciously agreed and we had a Rioja party. Since I had a Rosé to share, I wanted to prepare some seafood for the grill. I decided to stuff some squid as our appetizer course.

    On My Plate

    You can grill these and slice them to reveal the stuffing or eat them straight off the skewer. I prefer the latter; everyone else in the group preferred the former. Go figure.

    Ingredients
    • 1 pound cleaned squids (How to Clean Squid)
    • olive oil
    • paprika
    • sea salt
    • Italian sausage, without the casing
    Procedure

    After you have cleaned, the squid, carefully stuff the sausage into the cleaned squids. 



    Be gentle and don't overstuff them.  The stuffing will expand when cooking and squeeze out. It's not pretty!

    Stitch the open ends together with a toothpick or two.


    Bring a large, flat bottom pot full of water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Gently lower the stuffed squid into the water and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes to precook the meat filling. 

    After the squid simmers, drain, and remove toothpicks. Place the par-boiled squid into a flat pan and sprinkle with whatever seasonings you like; I used sweet paprika and sea salt.



    If you are grilling immediately, skewer the squid and heat your grill or grill pan. If you're cooking at a later time, refrigerate once cooled.

    Cook the squid on the grill to finish cooking the meat and to get nice grill marks on the squid, approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

    I'm going to share a bit about this wine with which I paired, too...


    In My Glass

    If I hadn't bought the bottle for the Rioja posting, I almost certainly would have bought the bottle for its label. Yes, I do that. Not being a Spanish speaker, I was wondering if 'muga' means 'quince blossom'* because that's what the illustration appears to be. No matter. I love the color of those flowers.

    *Just in, from a friend: "'Muga' means 'border' in the Basque Country. But the Muga Winery is named after founder the estate was created in 1932 by Isaac Muga Martínez and his wife, Auro Cano." Thanks, Otis!

    This is a single varietal creation, being made with 100% Grenache grapes. From a quick reading, these grapes are selected from old, head-trained vines plated in the Rioja Alta. The winemakers sought out these high-altitude grapes for their aroma. 

    To the eye, this Rosé displays a very pale salmon color with steely glints. On the nose, I got summer stone fruits and sweet honeysuckle. The palate is remarkably complex given the lightness of the hue. At least I wasn't expecting such a lush, fleshy wine.

    This was a great match with my grilled squid! Next month the Fish Friday Foodies will be sharing grilled seafood recipes with Stacy of Food Lust People Love at the lead. Now I need to come up with a different seafood to grill. Stay tuned...

    Frizzante vs. Spumante + A Cheeseboard to Kick Off My Prosecco DOCG Exploration #Sponsored #Ad

     This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with and in preparation for the July #ItalianFWT event.
    Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links

    Next month - July 2019 - I am hosting the #ItalianFWT group as we delve into tasting and pairing Prosecco DOCG. You can read my invitation to the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers here - You're Invited: Tanti Auguri (Many Wishes), Prosecco DOCG!!


    For years Prosecco has been my go-to bubbly. It's so much more affordable than French Champagne. And, as we all know, I'm more than a little enamored with all things Italian.

    But I didn't even know there was a difference between Prosecco and Prosecco DOCG or Prosecco Superiore until this month. So, I am grateful for this opportunity to focus, dig in, and learn as much as I can about the latter.

    So, what is difference between Prosecco and Prosecco Superiore DOCG? Often - and yes, I was guilty of this - 'Prosecco' often gets pigeonholed as a single category: fruity, and inexpensive sparkling wine made throughout the Veneto region of Italy. But, if you’re willing to delve deeper, there’s so much more to Prosecco than meets the eye. Prosecco Superiore comes specifically from the hilly area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, which includes 15 townlets in the heart of the Veneto region. 


    I'm grateful for the event's sponsor, the Consorzio*, for sending some industry samples to the blogging group. I saw nearly three dozen informational sheets come through; I received three and wanted to kick off my Prosecco DOCG exploration with a simple cheeseboard. I opened Perlage Winery's 'Riva Moretta' Prosecco Valdobbiadene Frizzante*.

    Read this post for my Cheese Board Basics where you can find my tips on choosing cheeses, picking pairings, and filling the holes. 


    For this board, I used: Gorgonzola Dolce, Pecorino Sardo, Mozzarella di Bufala, Caprino Fresco, Castelvetrano olives, raspberries, and assorted charcuterie with bread and crackers. And, because we were coming out of a late evening meeting for robotics, this was dinner...along with a salad and the Prosecco DOCG.


    I was excited to try Perlage's 'Riva Moretta' Prosecco Valdobbiadene Frizzante for my first DOCG pairing. That launched me into reading more about frizzante vs. spumante. Both terms describe the level of effervescence in a bottle of sparkling wine. Wines labeled frizzante are gently sparkling, while wines labeled spumante are more effervescent and fully sparkling.

    This bottle also had the EU Organic symbol on its label, meaning that the wine was made with organically grown grapes, all additives (fining agents, yeast, etc.) are organic, and no GMOs (or other prohibited ingredients) are allowed. Additionally, sulfur additions are also limited.


    Sourced from a single vineyard - the Riva Moretta vineyard - this wine is made from organically grown grapes and in the frizzante style. I found it a deliciously layered wine. I noted citrus and apple aromas with a hint of minerality piercing the light fruitiness to lend the wine a lovely complexity.


    What a fantastic specimen with which to kick off my Prosecco DOCG adventures. Stay tuned for more pourings and pairings. I can't wait to share what I'm learning about Prosecco DOCG with you all. Cin cin.

    Find the Consorzio
    on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pinterest, on Instagram

    Find Perlage Winery
    on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram

    *Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

    Wednesday, June 19, 2019

    Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Tea Cake and Cupcakes #TheCakeSliceBakers


    Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk*. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes! 


    Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the links below to take you to each of our cakes. If you have a blog and are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. 

    The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.


    Here were the selections for June 2019: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Tea Cake, Raspberry Cremeschnitte, White Chocolate Raspberry Pistachio Mousse Cake, and Tiramisu Cake. Check out the posts...no one made the third option. I might have to try that; it was one of the boys' requests.

    Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Tea Cake

    Raspberry Cremeschnitte

    Tiramisu Cake

    Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Tea Cake and Cupcakes

    I opted for the first recipe because I had all of the ingredients and I ran out of time to be more adventurous. Interestingly this was the only one not selected by my trio when I first asked them to pick a cake. I also made this recipe into a tea cake and cupcakes.

    Ingredients


    • 3 C organic blueberries
    • 1 C butter, softened
    • 1 C organic granulated sugar
    • 1 t pure vanilla extract
    • zest from 2 organic lemons
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 C whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 2 C flour
    • 1/2 C almond flour
    • 3 t baking powder
    • powdered sugar for dusting
    • borage flowers for garnish, optional
    • Also needed: cupcake liners, if making cupcakes


    Procedure

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a baking dish or line cupcake follows with paper cups. Set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until lightened and fluffy, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Add in the ricotta and mix until the batter is creamy.

    In another mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, and baking powder. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter, then fold until just moistened. Fold 2-1/2 C blueberries into the batter. Pour into your baking dish or cupcake liners.

    Scatter remaining blueberries over the top.

    Bake until the cake is firm or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. My cupcakes took about 25 minutes; my cake took about an hour.


    Remove cake and cupcakes from the oven and let cool on wire rack.


    Serve the cake warm with a dusting of powdered sugar. And, if you're using, scatter fresh borage flowers over the top before slicing.


    I'm very excited about the July cakes. Stay tuned...

    *This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

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