Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.

When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

Smoked Trout Salad

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When my husband went on an Alaskan fishing trip in 2019, he brought home trout as well as the expected salmon. I really had to think about what to do with the trout.

I’ve fished for trout often over the years in Utah and Colorado mostly, and my favorite way to prepare it is… at a cabin! I don’t care if I cook it inside on a rickety stove, or outside over a campfire. To me, it’s more of the ambiance of being in the mountains by a creek that makes just-caught trout so good.

My mother taught me how to fish. Sometimes, we didn’t plan on fishing, but we’d walk along a river and Mom would invariably find leftover line and a hook, then make disparaging remarks about the fishermen who left the mess. Then she’d dig up some kind of worm covered in pebbles, and voila. Trout dinner.

This is a picture from the last time my mother and I fished together in Utah, back when she was 70.

I contemplated what to do with this Alaskan trout, called Dolly Varden, and decided to smoke it. My immediate thought for a resourse was Hank Shaw, whose blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Mr. Shaw is also the author of Buck Buck Moose, Duck Duck Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail, and Hunt, Gather, Cook, all of which have won awards.

This trout weighed 1 pound and 3 ounces and measured 12″ without its head.

Hank Shaw recommends drying the fish in a cool place overnight, which creates a sticky surface on the fish called a pellicle. This helps the smoke adhere to the fish. So I dried the trout overnight on a rack in the refrigerator, using a couple of toothpicks to hold the fish open. The next day I brought the fish close to room temperature before smoking.

I used alder wood chips, placed the trout on the rack, started the smoker over fairly high heat to get the wood smoking, then turned down the heat and let the smoke happen.

Thirty minutes worked perfectly. According to Mr. Shaw, the trout’s internal temperature should read between 175 and 200 degrees F, and mine was exactly at 175.

Let the trout cool slightly then remove the skin gently, and pull out the backbone.

The smoked trout is cooked, smokey, and tender. Perfection.

Break up the pieces of trout, removing any stray bones. Cover lightly with foil to keep the fish warm and proceed with the salad recipe.

Warm Smoked Trout Salad
2 hefty servings or 4 first course servings

6 fingerling potatoes, halved
1 can great northern white beans
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Smoked trout, about 1 pound
Fresh parsley
French vinaigrette consisting of equal parts olive oil and a mild vinegar, chopped fresh garlic, Dijon mustard, and salt.
Grilled bread, for serving

Cook the potatoes until tender, then place them in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss gently.

Drain the beans well then add to the potatoes and toss gently. Allow the hot potatoes to warm the beans, then place them in a serving dish.

Add the hard-boiled eggs, and then top the salad with the warm trout.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and add the vinaigrette to taste.

Serve grilled bread on the side.

There are so many variations possible with this salad.

You could cover the platter in butter lettuce leaves first, and include fresh tomatoes or steamed green beans or even beets.

This salad is very mild in flavor, created to let the smoked trout shine. If you want a flavor pop, add chives or parsley to the vinaigrette.

Although not quite the same, high-quality smoked trout can be purchased on Amazon. I’ve used the one shown below left for smoked trout and shrimp paté.

I highly recommend the Cameron stove-top smoker. It works especially well with fish.

Here is the smoked trout recipe from Hank Shaw’s website; he uses a Traeger grill.

Provoleta with Chimichurri

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In the old days when I wanted recipes, I read food magazines and cookbooks. It was wonderful.

But I have to say, having millions of recipes at my fingertips by simply being “online” makes me thrilled that the internet was discovered during my lifetime.

I discovered provoleta after receiving an email from Good Food, which is an Australian publication.

Provoleta is Argentina’s version of raclette, and to make it even more fabulous, this molten cheese is served with chimichurri. And good bread, of course.

So this was certainly a cheese dish I could not ignore, being a huge raclette fan. And cheese fan.

Provoleta with Chimichurri

Chimichurri:
½ cup finely chopped parsley
3 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
large pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tsp red wine vinegar

Cheese:
Round of provolone cheese, sliced about 3/4″ thick
3 tsp roughly chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
½ tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1 baguette, sliced, toasted, if desired

In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, and vinegar. Thin with a little water, if necessary, to make a pourable sauce.

Set aside to let flavors meld. Sauce may be prepared the day ahead.

Before you begin, have your bread sliced (I grilled mine), and the oregano chopped.

Set a small cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. I used my crêpe pan. When pan is hot, put in the cheese.

Sprinkle with half the oregano and crushed red pepper.

Cook for about two minutes, until the bottom begins to brown.

Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and cook for two to three minutes more, until the second side is browned and the cheese is beginning to ooze.

Transfer cheese to a plate and sprinkle with remaining oregano and crushed red pepper. I added a few tablespoons of chimichurri.

Serve from the hot skillet on a heat-proof surface, along with the bread and the chimichurri.

Alternatively, finish the cheese by putting it under the grill or in a hot oven.

Argentinians grill the provolone slices directly on the fire, but I was not willing to lose good cheese and deal with the resulting mess on my stove!

As soon as the provolone cools a bit, it gets a bit rubbery, but the cheese can be reheated.

Which is exactly what I did that evening when my girlfriend came over. I reheated it on the stove, and we kept eating it, and eating it. Until there wasn’t much left.

She really loved the addition of the chimichurri. I just loved the cheese with the oregano and cayenne pepper flakes.

Will I be making this again? Oh yes indeedy.

note: If you’d like more direction for making chimichurri, check out my recipe here.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

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In 2012, my husband and I were visiting my daughter in London and we went out for breakfast. This is what my daughter ordered.

I took a photo of it because that’s always what I’ve done, even before blogging. It was just so pretty: mashed avocado spread on grilled bread, topped with oven-roasted tomatoes and feta cheese. My introduction to avocado toast.

So although slow to embrace food trends, like zoodles and cauliflower rice, I decided to (FINALLY) make avocado toast. It’s not like I knew it wouldn’t be wonderful! Avocados are one of my favorite foods.

Too bad I’m not super artistic, or I could jump on another trend and create art from avocados…

Here’s how I made mine.

Avocado on Grilled Bread

4 tablespoons oil, I used walnut oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Few sprigs of thyme
6 slices good bread, like Ciabatta
2 ripe but not over-ripe avocados
Fresh tomato slices
Salt
Pepper
Goat cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Warm the olive oil in a butter warmer with the garlic and thyme. Do not let the garlic brown or burn.

Heat a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brush the slices of bread with the garlic oil, and grill the bread face-down until browned. Place them on a serving plate and set aside.

Peel and de-pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh and place in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Only prepare the avocado right before serving.

To prepare the “toasts,” spread some of the mashed avocado on the grilled breads and smooth the tops.

Add sliced tomatoes, followed by a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese.

Drizzle the remaining garlic and thyme oil over the avocado toasts and serve immediately.

These are not only for breakfast or a snack or lunch. I can see these served as an hors d’oeuvres with some champagne or rosé!

Alternatively, oven roast small tomatoes in a gratin pan.

Or, use sun-dried tomatoes. It’s all wonderful!

If more protein is desired, one can always add an egg, or some smoked salmon. But I like the simplicity of this preparation.

Do not use inferior bread for these toasts. Use a ciabatta, sourdough, or a hearty multigrain.

These avocado toasts were honestly outstanding. If you love avocado, tomatoes, and feta, then you’ll love these too. Of course, you’ve probably made them already because you’re not stubborn! But I have to say that the garlic and thyme-infused walnut oil was a fantastic addition.

Pâté

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Pâté is one of my favorite delicacies. Of course, it helps that I like liver – a lot. This pâté has a subtle liver flavor because it’s made with mild chicken livers. It’s silky smooth and spreadable.

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Pâté is not to be confused with foie gras, which are actual lobes of fattened liver, usually goose, typically served in slices with a fruit compote of some sort.

There are also terrines, sometimes called Terrines de Campagne, which are dense loaves made from coarsely ground meats, that typically don’t include liver. Terrine slices are fabulous as part of an aprés-ski spread, especially for non-liver lovers.

Quite often in the fall or winter, I’ll make this simple and inexpensive pâté, even though I’m usually the only one who enjoys it. I like it served the traditional way – on toast points or bread, as part of an hors d’oeuvres platter.

This recipe is my mother’s. I’ve seen similar recipes, but I just stick to this one because it always comes out perfectly. Here it is:

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Pâté

2 pounds chicken livers, at room temperature
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Few bay leaves
2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
A few grindings black pepper
4 tablespoons cognac

The first thing that needs to be done is clean the livers. There are membranes and sometimes little blobs of fat that need to be removed. You’ll feel the membranes – just do your best to pull on them while holding the livers in the other hand, until you can pull them out. Then discard. Continue with all the livers, rinsing them as you go, and placing them in a colander.

Place all of the livers on paper towels to dry; set aside.

Meanwhile, have all of your aromatics ready to go. Then heat both sticks of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I like to brown the butter slightly.

When the butter is bubbling, add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes.

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Add the livers to the skillet, plus the thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper. After about 5 minutes of cooking and occasional stirring, add the cognac. Stir the mixture and let it cook for another minute or so. Turn off the heat and let everything cool down.

When it’s all cooled, cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight. Before making the pâté, bring the liver mixture to room temperature or even warm gently.

Remove the bay leaves. Place about half of the livers in a blender, not including all of the liquid. Have a rubber spatula handy.

Blend on low; it will look like it won’t blend, but it really will. Be patient with the mixture. Move it around with the spatula, and blend again.

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Once it’s smooth, pour into a terrine, or loaf-shaped mold, then repeat with the remaining liver mixture. The terrine I used measures 4 1/2″ x 11 3/4″, and is 3 3/4″ deep, but you can use multiple dishes as well.

Chill the pâté, covered, for about 2 hours. Then, cover it with about 1/4″ of duck fat or slightly warm butter. Then cover again and keep in the refrigerator for two days before using.

Serve at room temperature, with bread or toasts alongside a jam, chutney, or my favorite – Dijon mustard.

note: Except for foie gras, the terms pâté and terrine can be used interchangeably. I took a picture of this curried chicken and raisin “pâté” when I was wandering through Le District in NYC recently, (France’s version of Eataly,) and I bet it’s more of a meat terrine, and mostly likely doesn’t contain liver. To me, a pâté is smooth, and a terrine coarse in texture, sometimes even containing sausages or eggs. But never make assumptions. Do keep in mind that if you dislike liver, you could still enjoy terrines.

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Roast Chicken with Olives

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There’s nothing more comforting to me than nibbling on a just-out-of-the-oven roasted chicken. Maybe it’s the aroma, but then, once it’s cut open, it’s the chicken’s juiciness that pleases me.

When I was in France recently, visiting Stéphane from the blog My French Heaven, he made my girlfriend and I a roasted chicken dish that I’m still dreaming about. It’s officially called Tangy Green Olive Chicken, and the recipe is on his blog here. It’s one of those simple peasant dishes that just screams with flavor. Because he’s already posted on this dish, but I wanted to make it myself.

Following are photos I took from when Stéphane made this chicken masterpiece.


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Because I don’t have the exact ingredients to create Stephane’s dish, I’m using it as inspiration to create my own version. I had no idea, for example, how challenging it would be to find green olives not stuffed with something!

I used a whole free-range chicken I purchased from D’Artagnon. Typically I purchase six at a time and they arrive frozen. They’re smaller than Stephane’s chicken and less fatty, but it’s the best I can get my hands on.

Before roasting, I preheated my oven to 375 degrees Farenheit on convection, and let the bird come to room temperature.

For something a little different, and for additional fat, I wrapped a piece of onion with bacon and stuffed that in the chicken’s cavity. All I could fine were pimiento-stuffed olives, so I drained them and added them to the chicken cavity along with the bacon-wrapped onion. I then created an herb bundle and stuffed it in as well.

I did my best to sew the cavity together (it’s good I’m not a surgeon!), placed it in a baking dish, and poured a generous amount of olive oil over the top. I included the neck from the bag of innards, but I could tell my husband kept visiting the kitchen to make sure nothing offal went into the dish. It was tempting, but needless to say, the dogs enjoyed the innards later for dinner.

I then added more olives to the baking dish, as well as some peeled garlic cloves.

The bird got roasted for 30 minutes, and then I turned it over and roasted it for 15 more minutes. Then I removed the bird to rest, after first emptying the cavity into the baking dish. Then I returned the baking dish to the oven and roasted the olive mixture for 10 minutes.

I removed the bacon, onion, and herbs from the olive mixture, and using a slotted spoon, placed the olives and garlic in a bowl. I cut up the chicken into pieces and coated them with the remaining goodness in the baking dish, and roasted the chicken for about 10 minutes, just for a little browning.

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The chicken pieces were placed in a bowl, followed by the olives, and then I turned the baking sheet over and poured all of the remaining oil and chicken juice over the chicken and olives.
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I served the chicken and olives with a simple salad of greens and parsley.

But that’s not the best part. Stéphane put some of the juicy, oily olives on bread, and I had to do the same. It was my favorite part of the whole meal!

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You can even smash them to make them more spreadable, if you wish. But I didn’t!

olive

verdict: Of course, food that someone else cooks is always better. Stéphane’s chicken and olives dish was superb, and I wish I could find a similar chicken and similar green olives. And honestly, I’m not sure the onion and bacon did much more than take up room in the chicken’s cavity. If I were to do it over, I’d omit those, and place a bunch of garlic cloves along with the olives and herbs in the cavity. The olives and garlic that roasted in the pan just became overly roasted. They were good, too, but would have been better inside the chicken. Overall, though, the dish is divine. Don’t forget to serve bread with it!

Bruschetta di Ricotta

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Many different cuisines do “simple” well. I think it’s because of how regional “cuisines” began in the first place. It was about feeding your family – from milking a cow, killing a chicken, to picking ripe tomatoes and lemons. It’s about what grew and what you raised.

But today in the wide world of all things culinary, it’s become a little more fancy. We’re responsible for this, really. I mean, from my computer at home, I can now order just about any ingredient that 20 years ago I’m not sure I’d ever see in person.

And our demands for more upscale and modern meals at restaurants these days are relentless! There is more and more pressure on chefs to outperform even themselves. Maybe it’s good to keep the chefs on their toes, but as a result, I feel food has gotten a little complicated.

An appetizer, for example, that is built up like a tower 6″ tall, with no way of eating it politely. Or a beautiful piece of fish that has 8 different kinds of sauces drizzled artistically around it. Fun, but a little too much for me. In fact, I think of this example, because when my husband and I would go to Hawaii, I would ask for the fish to simply be grilled or pan fried, and for all of the accessory items to be omitted. This seemed to always take a lot of instruction, like they really didn’t believe my request. But I just wanted to taste the fish. I don’t get just-out-of-the-ocean fish where I live.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with trends, like how foam is so popular now. But for me, I just want the best quality food, made from the freshest of ingredients, simply prepared. I don’t care if it’s a meal in my home, at a fine dining establishment, or in a little hole-in-the-wall pub.

Simplicity. And I honestly think the Italians do it best. Something divine, yet made with only a few ingredients, like the hors d’oeuvres I’m offering in this post. Simple grilled breads topped with ricotta and baked. Sure, there’s a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, but that’s it. Simple perfection.

This recipe is quite common, and there are many ways to make it, but I’m inspired by this book by Lorenza de Medici, called Antipasti. It’s an old book, but I just checked and it still can be purchased on Amazon.

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This recipe is adapted from the book above, to serve only two people.

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Bruschetta di Ricotta

1 small loaf French or Italian bread
Olive oil
5 ounces ricotta cheese, well drained, whole-milk only
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Asiago or Romano
Salt
Pepper
Fresh thyme leaves, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the bread approximately 1/4″ thick, and place the slices on a baking sheet. Brush some olive oil over one side of the slices. Toast the bread slices in the oven until they are lightly golden.

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Meanwhile, place the ricotta cheese in a small bowl Add the egg.

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Stir the ricotta and egg well, using a whisk if necessary. Ms. de Medici also includes the olive oil with the ricotta-egg mixture, but I left it out to drizzle over the crostini later. Then stir in the grated cheese.

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When the bread has toasted, place a teaspoon or two of the ricotta-egg mixture on top of each crostini, then return the cookie sheet to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes more.

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The ricotta should be slightly yellowed and firm. Let them cool a little.

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Sprinkle the crostini with a little salt and lots of freshly cracked pepper.

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Drizzle the olive oil on the top, and then sprinkle with thyme leaves, if you’re using them.

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The bruschetta are also good at room temperature.

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I’m also offering a sweet twist of these crostini on Monday, so stay tuned!

note: Just think of all of the variations possible with these bruschetta! You could add fresh or roasted garlic, lots of herbs or a little pesto, bits of things like sun-dried tomato… So simple.