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Posts Tagged ‘Cheese’

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.
Phyllo wrapped figs, 1-4

While my guests were happily munching on their scallops, I popped these suckers in the oven to cook, having assembled them earlier on that day. I have to admit — not only did these taste good, but they were a lot of fun to make. While it would be a bit of a stretch to refer to these as “unfussy,” there’s a certain amount of freedom in forming them…rolling blue cheese into balls with your (clean!) bare hands, halving the figs and affixing them as best you can around the cheese (gaps are expected), then enveloping the package with a blanket of delicate cured meat… It actually brought me back to being a kid and working with play-doh.

For a perfectionist like myself, it’s an absolutely freeing and playful process. The end result? Pure satisfaction.

Phyllo-Wrapped Figs with Prosciutto and Stilton
from Bon Appétit, December 2002, adapted from The Gatehouse Restaurant, Providence, RI

Figs

  • 16 teaspoons Stilton cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 32 dried black Mission figs
  • 4 6×4-inch thin prosciutto slices, cut lengthwise in half
  • 8 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Port Sauce

  • 2 cups Ruby Port
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Cream Sauce

  • 1½ cups whipping cream
  • 4½ tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Form 2 teaspoons cheese into 1-inch-long log. Place 4 dried figs around cheese and press gently to adhere. Wrap 1 prosciutto strip around fig bundle. Repeat with remaining cheese, figs, and prosciutto.

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Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp towel). Brush phyllo lightly with melted butter. Top with second phyllo sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets. Cut stacked phyllo sheets into four 6-inch squares (discard phyllo trimmings). Place 1 fig bundle in center of 1 phyllo square stack. Bring all edges of phyllo square up toward center and squeeze firmly at top, forming pouch and enclosing fig bundle completely. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets, melted butter, and fig bundles, forming a total of 8 pouches. Brush outside of phyllo pouches with remaining melted butter. Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

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Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake pouches until golden, about 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring Port, balsamic vinegar, and sugar to boil in medium saucepan. Boil until mixture is reduced to ¼ cup, about 15 minutes.

While Port mixture is being reduced, boil cream and pine nuts in another medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove cream sauce from heat; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon 2 tablespoons cream sauce onto each of 8 plates. Place 1 phyllo pouch atop sauce. Drizzle each lightly with Port sauce and serve.

Tips from The Hungry Crafter:

  • I admittedly went a little overboard with the butter on this one. It doesn’t need it. I still didn’t use the full amount called for in the ingredients list, so keep that in mind. I think the key part of the directions is where it says “Brush phyllo lightly with melted butter.” Certainly you need to use a light hand so as not to tear the dough. But it applies to the amount of butter as well.
  • If making the sea scallops as well, feel free to use the Port wine reduction from that recipe for both appetizers — no need to make two versions. Although I must say, the addition of balsamic vinegar in this version is a nice complement to the blue cheese.
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…bring July babies? Or June. We’ll see.

Last weekend brought me up to Haverhill for my friend Marcy’s baby shower, which was a lovely affair hosted by our friend Monica, replete with tasty food, apple blossoms and dahlias, gorgeous table linens, 50 or so charming guests, and a prolific amount of pink onesies. I’m embarrassed to say that, despite the beautiful decorations and lovely guests, I came home solely with pictures of food on my camera. I have issues. I should forewarn you that while I did finally find my camera (yay!), I’ve been a little obsessed with Hipstamatic, so the photos are all from my iPhone. I’ll get over it, I’m sure, but you’ll have to indulge me for a while.

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Marcy is my partner-in-crime for all things catering-related. Together over the years, we’ve manned several lobster bakes, bartended a celebrity wedding of sorts, thrown birthday bashes for crowds, put together dessert bars, Christmas parties, anniversary celebrations, humble dinner parties…large scale affairs and quiet picnics. The list goes on and on. As a pair, we’ve always just clicked in the kitchen, seamlessly moving back and forth without ever getting in the other’s way, speaking in half sentences that don’t need finishing, dividing labor intuitively and efficiently. It’s always mildly unsettling to me when I have to prepare for an event without her puttering alongside me in the kitchen. Over the years, we’ve picked up on each other’s trade secrets: she can now put together my grandmother’s Pepper Clam Dip more quickly than I, and I’ve become well-versed in pinwheel sandwiches, Kahlua dipping sauce, and the ever-present cheese board, which is put together just so.

For her shower, then, I insisted on taking cheese board duties, because there had to be a cheese board, and it had to be put together just so, and had to be displayed on the Italian tile serving tray with white handles (that I made her poor aunt dig out from the very bottom of a teetering pile of heavy serving platters, because clearly no other platter would do.) While I do love my local cheese shops (Bacco’s and Formaggio Kitchen), I found myself at Whole Foods this time, where I’ve always been happily pleased with the cheese selection.

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I’m afraid I didn’t stop and get a picture until after the cheese board had been picked at a bit. You get the gist, though. I had a bit of a curveball thrown at me for this particular platter, being for a baby shower and all: I needed to pick only pasteurized cheeses for our expectant guest of honor. In the end, I opted for the following:

  • Wensleydale with Blueberries (I’ll never, ever, be able to eat Wensleydale without thinking of Wallace and Gromit. Anyone else?)
  • Young Fontina Fontal
  • UnieKaas Reserve Gouda, aged 18+ mos.
  • Ford Farm Coastal British Cheddar with Sea Salt
  • Cordobes (a Manchego-like Whole Foods exclusive)

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Other highlights of the shower included Vichyssoise shooters, a pair of cool spring salads, chicken salad sandwiches, pinwheels, and a serve-yourself cocktail bar with champagne, black cherry juice and apricot juice. I may have had one too many glasses of the champagne/cherry juice combo — absolutely irresistible.

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The pièce de résistance, however, was the cookie bar. Marcy has never had much of a taste for things like chocolate, or cake, or any other sweets, really…except for cookies. In particular, Aunt Josie’s Cookies, which are traditionally made by Aunt Mary (Makes sense, right? I love family traditions. And aunts. And being an aunt. But I digress.) This culminated in the tempting array below, with Aunt Josie’s Cookies reigning supreme over the cookie kingdom from up high on their multi-tiered pedestal.

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The cookies, clockwise from top, are: Aunt Josie’s cookies, Marsha’s chocolate frosted cookies, chocolate pistachio brittle, molasses whoopie pies, peanut butter sandwich cookies, lemon-lime basil shortbread cookies, potato chip cookies, a second container of pistachio brittle, and blackberry jambles.

My contributions were the potato chip cookies and blackberry jambles. The potato chip cookie is a prized and guarded recipe in my files, handwritten by Marcy’s mom (I believe it came attached to a chicken-head cookie jar, but that’s another story). If I may be picky for a moment, I will say that I didn’t do them justice this time around, though — the texture wasn’t quite right. They really do need cheap-o store-brand grease-bomb chips as an ingredient — the Whole Foods sea-salted organic chips just didn’t work, probably because they didn’t have enough bad-for-you oils. I’ll bypass the full rant about how loving good, quality natural foods and loving Diet Coke and Lays are not mutually exclusive. My kingdom for a Whole Foods with a soda machine out front.

The blackberry jambles, on the other hand… oh. my. God. Marcy, take note: this is now officially part of our ongoing repertoire, and I already have plans to make an apricot version for the next shower we bake for.

Without further ado, a recipe for you all. As you might deduce from the obscene amount of butter involved, these are ridiculously and sinfully good.

Blackberry Jambles
from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth, by Jill O’Connor, Chronicle Books 2007

  • 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. salt
  • 3 3/4c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. almond flour
  • 1 1/2c. blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl at medium-low speed until creamy. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined. Add flours one cup at a time, beating on low speed, just until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, and press one-third of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Wrap the remaining dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 30 minutes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325 F.

Bake the bottom crust until it is firm and just beginning to turn pale brown around the edges, about 20 min. Remove the pan from the oven, and spread the preserves over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the jam to form a pebbly, crumbled topping. Sprinkle with almonds. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until topping is firm and crisp, about 30 mins. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Use a sharp knife to cut bars evenly (or not evenly, in my case), into 15 large squares, then cut in half on the diagonal to form 30 triangular bars. Remove bars from pan with metal spatula, dust with confectioners sugar (using a sifter or mini-strainer), and serve.

Bars will keep, covered tightly, for about a week at room temperature, or up to one month in the freezer.

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Chicken Galliano

Chicken Galliano

I must start with an apology. No, not for dropping off the face of the planet for the month of April — I reserve the right to do that occasionally as the wedding-planning gods see fit. However, I apparently did not take step-by-step photos of the preparation of this meal. So, you’re just going to have to take my word that this dish required painstaking preparation, carefully honed culinary skills, blood, sweat, tears, and a promise of my first-born.

OK, not really. It’s actually a relatively unfussy dish. The most difficult part was obtaining the Galliano. It’s not the type of ingredient they carry at my usual  townie liquor store attached to a Tedeschi’s. Nor is it the type of thing that you can find in nip-size bottles, so be prepared to spend a good $30+ on a specialty ingredient.

A bit of a forewarning for those of you who, like myself, have not experienced Galliano prior to this recipe: the stuff is odd. Galliano is an Italian liqueur that is made from a blend of no less than 30 herbs and spices, and is best known as one of the key ingredients in the classic mid-century cocktail, The Harvey Wallbanger. It’s BRIGHT yellow and comes in a nifty bottle (these things are important, you know).

According to Wikipedia, “Galliano is marketed as an ‘ideal marrying ingredient’, which adds no intrusive flavor, but serves to deepen and give character to other ingredients, both ordinary and exotic. ” I personally could not disagree more. It added an unusual, quite distinctive taste to the recipe — strong anise flavor, and floral vanilla overtones. You may like it, you may not. Caveat emptor.

Fortunately for me, Mr. Manly liked it. Phew. Remember the “Mikey likes it” Life cereal commercials from the 70s/80s? Yeah, Mr. Manly is kinda like that.

I did, however, make one concession to Mr. M’s palate. My big discovery this year is that oftentimes his dislikes have less to do with flavor as they do texture. Seriously, this was a huge discovery for me, because texture is much easier to manipulate than flavor, which can often only be changed by way of outright omission. My kingdom to be able to cook something with peas in it! So, to avoid the dreaded rubbery wormlike texture of (gasp!) mushrooms, I minced them. Crisis averted. Have I mentioned how much I love mushrooms? This is groundbreaking, indeed.

Finally, can I point out the similarity to Chicken Saltimbocca? Chicken, prosciutto, cheese, pan sauce with alcohol… I love the way minor variations on a theme can create a totally new dish while using familiar methods of preparation.  Needless to say, the difference in cheeses and sauce and the addition of mushrooms drastically changes the taste of the dish. Chicken Galliano has a very complex flavor due to the Galliano, an earthy depth brought on by the mushrooms, and an extra richness due to the creamy goat cheese. It tastes like nothing I’ve eaten before. So why don’t you try it and let me know what you think? I’ll be at the bar drinking a Harvey Wallbanger…

Chicken Galliano
from Saveur Magazine, issue 131

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded 1⁄8″ thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 tbsp. herbed goat cheese, softened
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled
  • 10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced (or minced)
  • Flour, for dredging
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
  • 1⁄4 cup Galliano liqueur
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 4 cups cooked rice, for serving

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working with one breast half at a time, spread one side with 2 tbsp. goat cheese and top with one slice prosciutto; roll into a tight cylinder. Using kitchen twine, tie chicken roll 1″ in from each end. Snip off excess twine.

Heat 3 tbsp. butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, without stirring, until browned, 4–5 minutes. Stir mushrooms and continue cooking until softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; wipe out skillet. Put flour on a plate; dredge each chicken roll in flour. Heat 2 tbsp. butter and the oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning, until browned and cooked through, 12–14 minutes. Transfer chicken rolls to a plate. Add broth and Galliano to skillet; boil, stirring, until sauce has reduced by a third, 4–5 minutes. Return mushrooms and chicken to skillet; cook, turning to coat in sauce, until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a platter. Remove skillet from heat; swirl in remaining butter to make a smooth sauce. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with rice.

SERVES 4 – 6

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This post is part of an ongoing series on Italian cookery, affectionately known as “The Spaghetti Capers.”

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You may remember that I previously professed my love for Barbara Lynch, with promises of more posts to come. I don’t remember when I first took a special interest in her career — I want to say it was after Sportello was featured in Saveur magazine, and I learned of her Italian venture? I was already an avid fan by the time she was featured on the cover of the Boston Globe magazine (great article — I encourage you to read it!); and was therefore thrilled when I stumbled across her segment on the Cooking Channel where she walks the viewer through the recipe for Ricotta Gnudi.

Ricotta Gnudi! What, you may ask, is ricotta gnudi, anyway? From what I’ve read, gnudi is, much like it sounds, the Italian word for nude. Can’t wait to see what kind of readers are going to stumble across my blog now that the words “nude Italian” are on here… Essentially, gnudi are akin to ravioli filling…with nothing enclosing them; instead, you roll them out like gnocchi. However, unlike gnocchi–or “little sinkers” as my grandfather always calls them–gnudi are absolutely pillow soft and light. It’s like eating happy little Italian clouds (channeling my inner Bob Ross).

The best way to make ricotta gnudi, of course, would be to make your own ricotta. My cheesemaking party plans have been stymied for the past year, however, so I was more than happy to use the fresh ricotta from Narragansett Creamery instead (see prior raves here and here).

Shall we kick off this gnudi party, then? Start by mixing together your ricotta with some flour, an egg, parmesan, salt and white pepper.
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Your dough will be super sticky and a little tricky to work with. This is a good thing — this is why the gnudi will be light and airy.
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Next, gently roll out your dough by hand into a log and cut into bite size pieces. Hard to work with = messy. This is OK. Embrace the mess. (That’s actually one of my mantras for the year…but that’s another story).
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Roll the pieces into balls and use a gnocchi board or back of a fork to make ridges on each piece. Note: I tried the fork method, and was highly unimpressed. I have since bought a gnocchi board and look forward to using that for future batches.

Once all your gnudi have been formed, place them on a tray and freeze them.
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In the meantime, start your sauce. I must say, like most Italians, I’m partial to my grandmother’s sauce. Disregard the fact that it’s actually my grandfather, not my grandmother, who is of Italian descent. Doesn’t matter. It’s my Noni’s sauce we’re talking about! That said, Barbara Lynch’s sauce is so easy and most excellent. And since the recipe is, well, a recipe and not a splish-splash of this, that, and the other, I expect I can make it with more consistent results. This may be my new go-to sauce.

Start by sautéing your veggies in olive oil. Note that it’s killing me a little inside not to add carrots, because I always add carrots to my sauce.
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Next, add your tomatoes and wine and simmer.
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Time to cook the gnudi! Carefully lower the gnudi into a pot of boiling water; I used a slotted spoon to avoid splashing. They don’t take long to cook at all, and the cool part is that they float to the surface when they’re done — it’s like nature’s turkey timer: POP! Done!

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I had to cook them in batches, so I just transferred the cooked gnudi to the pan of sauce to stay warm while I cooked the rest of the batches. Nothing left to do after that but spoon into bowls, top with some fresh basil and parmesan, and enjoy. It’s so good and well worth the mess. I’ve actually got a smile on my face just thinking about them.
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Ricotta Gnudi
from Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, by Barbara Lynch

  • 1 lb. fresh ricotta
  • 1 c. flour + additional
  • 1 lg. egg
  • 1/3 c. finely grated Parm-Reggiano
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 c. Odd Fellow Marinara Sauce

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 3/4 cup of the flour, the egg, cheese, salt, and pepper. Use a wooden spoon to mix ingredients together well. Lightly flour your work surface and a baking sheet for holding the shaped gnocchi. With floured hands knead the ricotta mixture briefly; it will be quite wet and sticky at this point. Dump the mixture out onto your work surface.

Cut off a piece of the gnocchi dough and try rolling it into a 3/4-inch thick log. If you can’t get it to roll, add a little more flour to the dough and try again. You want as little flour as possible to keep these together so the resulting gnocchi will be light and ethereal. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces and then into little balls. If you have a gnocchi board, hold it at a 45-degree angle over your floured baking sheet and roll each ball down the length of it to give the gnocchi grooves. As the gnocchi nears the end of the board, let it drop onto the baking sheet. If you don’t have a gnocchi board, hold a fork, tines facing down, and roll the ball down the length of the tines. Repeat until all of the dough is rolled and cut. Freeze the gnudi, about 1 hour. (Because they are so soft, they are much easier to handle so do this even if you plan to use them soon.)

To serve, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a gentle boil. In batches, drop the gnocchi into the water and cook until they float, about 1 to 2 minutes. As each batch cooks, remove them with a slotted spoon and keep them warm or transfer them directly to the sauce they are being served with.

Odd Fellow Marinara Sauce
also from Stir

  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ t. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 (28-oz.) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2-3 basil leaves

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just tender but not browned, about 8 minutes.

Add the wine, increase the heat to moderately high and cook for a few minutes longer, until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with their juice and ½ teaspoon salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, stir in the basil and season with pepper and additional salt, if needed. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

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One of the many discoveries I had during my 6 weeks at Cambridge Culinary was that I like fennel. I had wrongly assumed that I didn’t like fennel because I didn’t like licorice, and therefore didn’t like anise, WHICH I mistakenly thought was the seed from a fennel plant. Live and learn — turns out that, while similar, anise and fennel seeds are NOT the same thing. Given my love for spicy Italian sausage, this doesn’t surprise me too much.

The recipe that turned me around was one that I originally scoffed at…until I tasted it.  WOW. The Fennel Corn Chowder from the soups class at Cambridge Culinary is to die for. (I also thought that I didn’t like corn chowder up until this particular recipe made its way into my sweaty palms.) To start off, it’s got bacon in it. Score 1. Second, it has fresh roasted corn in it. By roasting the corn first, then adding the kernels to the soup at the tail end of cooking, the corn stays firm and maintains a nice snap when you bite it. Also, the process of roasting the corn and then simmering the cobs in with the broth infuses the entire soup with a smoky corn flavor reminiscent of something pulled out of a lobster bake pit. Score another point. The recipe is more or less the same as this one from Big Oven, minus the cayenne sauce (dash of cayenne pepper never hurt anyone, though). Next time I make it, I’ll post pictures, I promise.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets cookbook as much as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be overly helpful with the types of things I’ve been bringing home from my CSA. I’d like to try and find a cookbook that focuses on the specifics of New England crops and seasons instead (suggestions, anyone?)

Having warmed up to fennel, however, I did take it upon myself to try Deborah’s recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel, making the fresh ricotta variation.

Blend fresh ricotta, garlic, sea salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest

Brown chopped fennel in oil, then braise in water and lemon juice until soft

Mix it all together, toss with pasta, then garnish with minced fennel greens and shaved parmesan

It was good — you got the hearty satisfaction of warm comfort food with the summery zip of lemon and delicate flavors of fresh ricotta. Next time around, though, I think I’d steer it more solidly into comfort food territory and reduce the lemon flavor, add some grilled chicken and perhaps mushrooms. Or bacon. Because everything’s better with bacon.

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Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention as — abracadabra! — yesterday’s leftovers turn into today’s grilled slices of ciabatta, warm mushrooms, and shaved Ombra cheese right before your eyes!:

Fantastic! (My kingdom to not have killed my parsley plant five times over already, but that’s another story…) Even without the parsley, the leftovers were better than the first go round. The Ombra cheese was a much better pairing, although it probably doesn’t hurt that Ombra is just about my favorite cheese ever.

This past weekend, I found myself down at my favorite Boston specialty shop, Formaggio Kitchen. Last time I was there, they were out of Ombra, so I instead went home with a well-aged Gouda (with the delicious little crystallized bits — swoon!). As stunning as that was, I was nonetheless super excited to see the Ombra back in stock this visit, so I was sure to snatch up a wedge along with some other goodies:

Two of these are also old favorites of mine:  In the middle, there’s Formaggio’s homemade crostini made from day old Iggy’s bread. The cranberry walnut bread makes an amazing crostini when rubbed with olive oil and herbs! To the right are the “Chocolate Salty Oats” cookies from Kayak Cookies. Huge, thick chocolate cookies loaded with oats and the occasional chocolate chunk, topped off with sea salt. Outstanding.

I first discovered Kayak Cookies at the Food & Wine festival at Foxwoods in 2008. I mention this only as an excuse to write about the Pain D’Avignon booth that included the cookies in their display. For my Cape Cod relatives — please go visit Pain D’Avignon on my behalf!!! Let me see if I can scrounge up a photo so you can see exactly why I’m pretty much convinced that this bakery is the mecca of bread.

Getting back to my recent trip to Formaggio, however, let’s just admit that both the crostini and cookies are long gone, and move on. The last item in there is a French salted caramel. Haven’t quite figured out what I want to do with that yet, but I’m thinking that may warrant some homemade French vanilla ice cream.  Yes, yes…ideas are brewing now…  Hmmmmmm.

to be continued…

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First, the exciting news — my sister eloped last weekend!  Well, being a blood relative of mine and all, even elopements need to be properly catered — enter the explanation as to why I’ve gone missing for the past few weeks.

It’s been a lesson-learning sort of experience.  Lessons in limitations.  Lessons in remembering to breathe.  These are good lessons, truly.  But in the interest of getting back on the blog bandwagon, I’ll leave the details on that for another post.

Instead, let’s start with the food.  (It’s a very good place to start.)  My sister will be honeymooning in Italy, so we decided on an Italian theme for the food.  Owing in no small part to the Italian blood that likes to hijack all sensibility during menu planning, we had not one, not two, but three different eating times set up during the day.

First up was the pre-ceremony course (because even elopements require a certain amount of ceremony).  We agreed on an antipasto course for the pre-ceremony, including breads, cheeses, meats, condiments and miscellaneous other bite-sized mouth poppers.

Before I get into the details, take a look and commence salivating!  Oh so yummy.

Now for the breakdown.  First, the lovely meats & cheeses, which I got from Salumeria Italiana, an Italian food importer in Boston’s North End. (I should add that, conveniently enough for those of you not living in Boston, they do mail order business around the country as well).

The cheeses:

  • Pecorino Toscano Fresco (my favorite):  Young Tuscan Pecorino is made from the milk of pure-bred ewes. Mild, pliable and full of sweet grassy flavor, the cheese has a D.O.P. designation that guarantees it is produced within the region of Tuscany and meets special standards.
  • Umbriaco del Piave (my mom’s favorite): Cow’s milk cheese immersed in Cabernet, Merlot and other red wines, from the Veneto region. Ubriaco del Piave is very mild, but the wine must and grape leaves from its 40 hours soaking give it a special character, a fruity finish, and a lovely aroma.
  • Taleggio: Rich and creamy cow’s milk cheese from Lombardy, named for Val Taleggio near Bergamo in Italy’s Lombardy region. It is an uncooked, semi-soft cheese made from whole cow’s milk that is aged in cool cellars.
  • Bianco Sardo: Sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia. The flavor could be compared to Manchego, but with a freshness and sharpness from its six months of aging that make it unique. The texture is smooth, and there’s a little nuttiness in the aftertaste.

The meats:

  • Finocchiona Soppressata: Rich, moist, fennel-studded sliced soppressata with a robust flavor. As authentic as those made in Italy centuries ago, the rich and distinctive flavor of the meat is enhanced by a natural, two-month aging process.
  • Bresaola:  Air-dried, extremely lean beef; an exquisite delicacy originally from the mountainous Valtellina area of northern Lombardy.
  • Leoncini Prosciutto Cotto with Rosemary (this was TO DIE FOR good!!!!)Cooked Prosciutto accented with herbs and black pepper; made in Italy.  Baked with lots of black pepper, rosemary and other herbs, Prosciutto Cotto resembles American-style baked ham in appearance.

For condiments, I made the following:

  • Cipolle e arancia (Caramelized onion & orange conserve)
  • Castagne al miele aromatico (Chestnuts in spiced honey)
  • Composta di pere e zenzero (Pear & ginger compote)
  • Gelatina di mango al moscato (Moscato & mango gelatin)

Then to round things out, I served some artichoke hearts, mixed olives with caperberries and garlic, pepperoncini, grissini, crostini, and ciabatta.

ROUND TWO:  Post-ceremony cocktail hour

The cocktail itself was a unique creation called the Proserpina, a mix of Plymouth gin, ginger, club soda, and pomegranate seeds.  The drinks were accompanied by Scallops and Applewood Bacon with Port Reduction.  I really can’t recommend this recipe enough as it will make you a superstar for the evening.  Not to mention it tastes damn good.

For good measure I also added my ubiquitous Pepper Clam Dip — a family recipe that has a way of showing up at nearly every event I have a hand in planning.

PEPPER CLAM DIP

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1 t. parsley flakes
  • dash black pepper
  • 2 cans minced clams
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • dash tabasco
  • ½ c italian bread crumbs

 

Sauté first 6 ingredients until soft.  Add clams with liquid;  bring to boil.  Add lemon juice, tabasco, and Italian brad crumbs (use more or less bread crumbs as needed).  Turn into baking dish (may now be frozen).  Sprinkle with Italian grated cheese and bake 20-30 min at 325-350° until hot and bubbly.

Pepper Clam Dip, before going into the oven

The final phase of food took us to Waltham, MA, for a sit-down meal at La Campania, where I got to hang up my chef’s coat and revert to my preferred role of Skilled Eater.  The Salt Encrusted Branzino (sea bass) was delicate and finely seasoned, the chocolate soufflé delightful, and the red wine plentiful.  I would be remiss if I weren’t to add that the wedding itself was intimate and personal, the company highly enjoyable, and my sister stunningly beautiful.

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