Friday, November 30, 2018

Italian Bubbles + Lasagna Bianca #ItalianFWT


This month the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers are focusing on Italian sparkling wines with Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog at the head. You can read Martin's invitation: here. If you're reading this early enough, please join our chat on Twitter – whether you posted or not.  We love visitors and happily chat and answer questions. Simply follow the  #italianfwt hashtag on Twitter this Saturday, December 1st at 11am ET/8am PT.

The Rest of the Bubbly Group

Here’s what’s my fellow #ItalianFWT wine and food writers will be sharing!



Italian Bubbles
I have long been a fan of Italian bubbles and almost always have a bottle of Prosecco at the ready. It's vastly more affordable than (actual) Champagne and I prefer it to most other sparkling wines though that is changing as I discover some local-to-me Pét-Nat wines.


Despite my long love of Prosecco, I realized as I prepped for this post, that my knowledge was severely limited. I selected the Cavicchioli 1928 Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry for two reasons: first, it reads 'extra dry' and I didn't want anything sweet and, second, I liked the flowers on the bottle. Yes, I did just admit that I bought the wine for the label. It happens!


Made of 100% Glera grapes in the province of Treviso, the fruit is handpicked. This is bright and balanced with a snowy foam and a light golden hue. On the nose I got citrus and brioche while on the tongue I would venture more floral and a hint of mint.

This, to me, was a lovely, food-friendly sparkling wine. I poured it with one of my favorite lasagnas, a white, meatless lasagna that gets its bite from sweet potatoes and carrots. Che squisito!

Lasagna Bianca

Bianca Sauce

  • 1 C diced onions
  • 1 C diced celery
  • 1 C diced fennel
  • olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/3 C flour
  • 3 C milk
  • 1/2 C cream
  • 2 C shredded carrots
  • 1 C shredded sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 2 t fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Lasagna
  • no boil lasagna noodles
  • 3 C shredded cheese (I used a mixture of provolone, aged mozzarella, asiago, and pecorino)
  • 1 C shredded parmesan + more for sprinkling on top
  • 1 C small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 C ciliegie (small fresh mozzarella balls)
  • 1 C whole milk ricotta

Procedure
In a large, flat-bottom pan, saute the onions, celery, and fennel in a splash of olive oil until the onions are softened and translucent. Add butter and melt. Whisk in the flour and create a roux. Pour in the milk and cream. Stir until it thickens slightly.


Fold in the carrots, sweet potatoes, and herbs. Stir in the freshly grated nutmeg, then, season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed. Finally, stir in the shredded parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble the lasagna, layer white sauce, noodles, shredded cheese blend, cottage cheese, ricotta, ciliegie, parmesan, and more sauce. I probably put three or four ciliegie and a couple of tablespoons of shredded cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta for each layer.


Repeat till your pan is full though the last layer should be the sauce so that the noodles are completely covered.


Cover with foil. Bake in the 375 degree F oven for one hour. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan. Return pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese melted. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.

Beet and Aquavit-Cured Salmon


I have cured salmon before, but one day when we were at a robotics competition I saw someone curing salmon with beets. Sorry! No one was curing salmon at the robotics competition, but staying in a hotel is the only time I can watch the Food Network since we don't have any television stations at home! 

Now I can't remember who it was or what show it was on, but I loved the resulting color. So, I decided to give it a try myself. I simply adapted a previous salmon curing recipe that I love.


Ingredients

  • 1 C coarse sea salt
  • 1 C raw turbinado sugar
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 organic beet, finely grated
  • 3 springs fresh thyme
  • aquavit (a Scandinavian alcohol flavored with caraway seeds and star anise)
  • 2 pieces of wild-caught salmon, well matched in size and shape, if possible


Procedure
Mix the salt, sugar, pepper, and beets together. Divide into thirds. Spoon a third of the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and place one of the salmon pieces on top of it, skin-side down. Drizzle the salmon with aquavit and place fresh thyme on the fish. Mound another third of the salt-sugar-beet mixture onto the fish and place the other fillet on top. Finish by spooning the remaining salt-sugar-beet mixture over the top.

Wrap the salmon tightly with the plastic wrap. And place it in a glass container because it will weep through the duration of the curing process. Every twelve hours, flip the salmon. Do this for 2 to 3 days. The longer you let it cure, the more firm the fish will be.

Before serving, rinse the salt-sugar off with aquavit and cut as thinly as possible.


I served slices of the cured salmon on our salad for Thanksgiving: salad greens, thin slices of radish, raw corn kernels, pomegranate arils, blue cheese, and the salmon. It was colorfully festive and I can't wait to make another batch.

Braised Beef Brisket with Grapes and Herbs + Horseradish Gremolata #CooktheBooks


Simona from Briciole is our Cook the Books hostess for this round (October-November 2018); she chose The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty.* You can read Simona's invitation: here

Talk about waiting till the last minute...the posts are due today. Yikes. I have had this book since Febuary, but didn't pick it up till October. And to date, I still haven't finished it.

On the Page
Let me start with this: I thought I would love this book. I mean: food +  history + recipes = my kinda book. Usually. And I have long admired Twitty when I've heard interviews on NPR and read pieces about him. But I had a really tough time getting through this book. 


Actually, I already admitted that I didn't finish it. I tried though. I really, really tried. I carted that book with me to multiple robotics competitions, even leaving other books at home so that it was the only thing on the hotel nightstand. That didn't seem to help.

There are so many avenues that I thought Twitty would take this this book. I thought he would delve into the social aspects and dynamics of food in the African American community. I thought he would look at how food defines a regional identity. He didn't.

I thought that he might explore how slaves salvaged leftovers from their owners and created meals to sustain themselves. That resourcefulness has always intrigued me. But Twitty didn't go that route either.

And I think I could have gotten over my disappointments in what I expected to read had I enjoyed his writing style. But, sadly, I didn't. I found his writing disjointed and the threads of his narrative were inconsistent and abrupt. I wanted to love this book, but it wasn't a winner for me.

On the Plate
Still, I was inspired to create a Jewish-inspired dish as Twitty converted to Judaism in his early 20s. There's not much of a tie to Southern cuisine with this, but I had beef brisket on my to-do list. So, here we go...


Also, I wanted to make something with fresh horseradish. So, I made a gremolata with freshly grated horseradish. Have you ever bought horseradish? It looks like a stick. But, it was fresh, potent, and the perfect flavor foil to my braised brisket.

Ingredients

Brisket with Gravy
  • one 4-pound beef brisket
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 4  cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 C red wine
  • 1-1/2 C organic beef broth
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 C organic, seedless red grapes
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 to 3 stems fresh parsley
  • 1 stem fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 C olive oil or duck fat, if you have it
  • 1/4 C flour

Horseradish Gremolata
  • 1 C fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t grated fresh horseradish
  • zest from 1 organic lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • juice from 1 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt


Procedure

Brisket with Gravy
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a pan, cook 2 C of the onions and garlic in hot oil until onions are tender. Spoon the mixture into a roasting pan; I used a deep stoneware dish.

Season brisket with salt and pepper; place brisket on onion mixture. Add wine and broth. Cover and roast for 2 hours.

Remove cover and roast, uncovered, for another hour. Remove brisket from oven; stir in 1 C diced onions. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the dish from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Skim off the fat from pan juices and discard. Transfer juices to saucepan; boil gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes until reduced by half. While brisket is cold, slice off any excess fat. Slice meat against the grain. Return brisket and vegetables to roasting pan. Add grapes, herbs, and reduced juices on top.

Cover and reheat in oven for 45 minutes. Transfer brisket, grapes, and onions to your serving platter. Discard herb sprigs.

To make a gravy, combine oil - or duck fat - and flour; whisk in pan juices. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Serve gravy with brisket and homemade horseradish gremolata. 


Horseradish Gremolata
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to make sure the flavors are well-combined.


*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.

I am also linking this up to Foodie Reads.
Here's what everyone else read in November 2018: here.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dungeness Crab + Dry Rosé #Sponsored

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

I know it's cold and rainy, at least it is here on California's central coast this week. I know that Rosés are typically thought of as warm weather wines. But when I saw that locally caught Dungeness crab was our share this week from our CSF Real Good Fish, I put this bottle of Schäfer Organic Dry Rosé 2017 on the chill.


I had received it as a sample from Winesellers, Ltd. for our December #WinePW event*. For that post, I talked friends into hosting a German dinner and showing me how to make schweineschnitzel and spätzle; I made the sauerkraut and brought over five bottles of wine. Prost!


This Schäfer Organic Dry Rosé 2017 - from Rheinhessen, Germany - is made from estate-grown organic Pinot Noir grapes. While light-bodied and delicate, it boasted a silky mouthfeel and some invigorating citrus notes.


That crispness was refreshing and a great foil to the drawn butter I served with the cracked crab and drizzled all over my plate.


One thing I love about our CSF is finding out about the fisherman. This crab was trap-caught by Savior Papetti on the FV Bite Me in San Francisco. And a little bit about Dungeness crab in case you're unfamiliar. These are found only in the North Pacific, ranging from about here on the Monterey Peninsula to Alaska; they have been commercially caught since the late 19th century. And with about a quarter of its weight as edible meat, it's a good catch.


Now I just need to get my hands on more crab and another bottle of the Schäfer Organic Dry Rosé 2017. There was no cooking involved for this crab and Rosé pairing. I just melted the butter. But it was a great mid-week dinner.

Winesellers, Ltd. on the webFacebook, 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, November 28, 2018

Svenska Kottbullar (Swedish Meatballs) Soup #FoodNFlix


In September, Food'N'Flix returned after a brief hiatus. Oh, happy day. I've missed this food-loving, flick-watching group. And this month, my friend Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is hosting. You can read Wendy's invitation here, but she's invited us to watch A Man Called Ove.* 

I had never heard of the movie or the novel that inspired it, but Wendy's enthusiasm is contagious. I watched the movie three times before returning it to Netflix...and I ordered the novel. I'm looking forward to snuggling into a beanbag with a mug of Glögg, Swedish mulled wine, and the book. Soon!

On the Screen
We've seen this story countless times before: an old curmudgeon's gloomy life is brightened by an unforeseen person or string of events. That is the certainly the case of Ove. But our familiarity with that story line doesn't change the fact that A Man Called Ove is disarmingly charming with its understated, dark humor.

The movie opens with Ove trying to use a coupon at the store to purchase flowers to bring to his wife's grave. He is baffled that a coupon - 70 krona for 2 bunches of flowers - doesn't allow him to purchase one bunch for 35 krona. "If you only buy one bunch," says the cashier, "it's still 50 krona."

That begins your introduction to - and admiration of - this character who is so stubborn and steadfast in his desire to enforce neighborhood rules that he will interrupt his suicide attempts to scold anyone breaking those rules. And the paternal relationship that spring up between Ove and his pregnant neighbor of Iranian descent just solidifies your opinion that despite all his crabbiness, Ove is a good man.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and can't wait to read the book. Thanks, Wendy, for introducing me to it this month.

In the Bowl
There wasn't too much food in the movie, so I just decided to look at all my favorite Swedish foods...or Iranian foods. Rabarberpaj is a favorite, but rhubarb is out of season. And Morotskaka is always welcome on our table, but we've been indulging in lots of cookies recently, so I didn't want to do yet another cake.

So, coming in just under the wire, I made a soup inspired by Swedish meatballs for this month's Food'N'Flix. And I had ground venison, so I used that in my meatballs. Smaklig måltid!

Ingredients

Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely minced
  • 3/4 C breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
Potatoes
  • 2 pounds marble potatoes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
Soup
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 6 C beef broth, divided + more if needed
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 C chopped parsley


Procedure
Meatballs
In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together all of the ingredients until well-combined. Roll walnut-sized balls and place them on a silicone-lined baking sheet. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes until well-browned. They should be firm to the touch when they are done. If you aren’t sure, you can slice open one of the meatballs.


Potatoes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place potatoes in a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add 1 T olive oil. Toss to coat potatoes in oil and transfer to a roasting pan. Roast potatoes until tender on the inside and crisped on the outside, approximately 30 minutes.

Soup
Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until a smooth roux forms. Pour in 3 C beef broth and cream. Simmer, whisking constantly until thickened, approximately 5 minutes. Pour in remaining beef broth and water. Whisk until combined. If you think it's still too thick, add more stock.

Add in the meatballs and potatoes and warm through. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

*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.

The Elves' Eight-Cheese, Three-Meat Lasagna, By Request


For close friends and family, birthday celebrations are all about requests. For instance, R always asks for Birthday Crêpes for breakfast and a Baked Alaska for dessert. D get a Bûche de Noël for his birthday. So, when I asked two of our friends whose birthdays are only a few days apart if I could make them one dinner, they agreed. And it didn't take long for them to agree on lasagna.

Really? Okay.

I usually use five different cheeses. One of them asked, "You make it with seven cheeses, right?" Another upped it to twelve cheeses. Hmmmm...I was able to get it up to eight for this version. And, because the boys had promised to make Nonna lasagna (she paid them!), I had my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and my Precise Kitchen Elf make all four pans. I did nothing but the dishes. Quite a deal!


Ingredients makes 1 pan; we quadrudpled this to have enough for the dinner, leftovers, and Nonna's order
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 (chicken) sausage links, cooked and sliced into thick coins
  • 2 C fresh tomato sauce
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 C fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 T fresh oregano
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • no boil lasagna noodles
  • 3 C shredded cheese (I used a mixture of provolone, aged mozzarella, asiago, and pecorino)
  • 1 C shredded parmesan
  • 1 C small curd cottage cheese
  • 1 C ciliegie (small fresh mozzarella balls)
  • 1 C whole milk ricotta


Procedure
In a large, flat-bottom pan, saute the onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil until the onions are softened and translucent.


Add in the ground meats and cook till browned through completely. Add in the tomato sauce, wine, water, and cooked sausages. Bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat to a simmer, stir in herbs, then season to taste with salt and pepper.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To assemble the lasagna, layer meat sauce, noodles, shredded cheese blend, cottage cheese, ricotta, and more meat sauce.


Repeat till your pan is full though the last layer should be meat so that the noodles are completely covered.



Cover with foil. Bake in the 375 degree F oven for one hour. Remove the foil. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan. Return pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese melted. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot.


We served this with garlic bread and salad. Then we finished the meal with two birthday cakes. More on that soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Undine's Spätzle


As part of my German wine pairing dinner, Undine made her Spätzle and showed me how. 


These noodles are traditional in Germany, but especially in Baden-Württemberg which is in the southwestern part of the country and encompasses a cultural, historial, and linguistic region called Swabia. The origin of the word Spätzle comes from Swabian meaning 'little sparrows' from the pointed tip that resembles the beak of a bird. Grateful for generous friends who not only cook for me but share their recipes. Danke, Undine!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 C flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 C water (she uses a little less)
  • couple pinches of salt
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 to 4 T butter
  • parsley for serving
  • Also needed: microplane and, if you can, a Spätzle maker

Procedure

Place eggs in a bowl and beat until well-combined. Add in flour and grate fresh nutmeg over the top. I asked her how much; she responded, "You can never have enough nutmeg." Okay. Whisk to combine into a loose batter.

Bring a pot of water to boil and place the Spätzle maker directly over the top. Spoon the batter into the Spätzle maker and push the batter through to create the pasta.


Okay. So, I just have to say, if you don't own a Spätzle maker, don't despair. I can see using a large-holed colander and pushing the batter through that.


Boil in batches until the noodles are fluffy and float to the top. Spoon the cooked noodles into a colander to drain and repeat until finished.


Once all noodles are boiled, melt butter in a pan and fry the Spätzle. Stir in chopped parsley and sprinkle in more nutmeg and salt to taste. To serve, offer a brown gravy for diners to pour over the top. Enjoy!

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