Italian Country Cooking

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A few photos from a recent trip to the Farmer's market and then a stop at Europane for macarons for Anne. this one is lavender, but the best is the caramel with sea salt.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Silver Lake Farm

Today I had the great fortune to attend an Urban Farming class with Tara from Silver Lake Farms. The class was at the urban farm of David Kahn, permaculture designer also in Silver Lake. David has a large chicken coop and he harvest about 12 eggs a day from his two clans of chicken. He claims the chickens don't get along so he keeps them in separate coops. He also has lots of beautiful white pigeons and one parakeet which buzzes around like a hummingbird.

Tara showed the class how to plant seeds and how to prepare soil beds for planting seedlings. We did a little of both along with telling stories and learning about farming in the city. A few people talked of their plans to get a goat for their urban farms which seems a bit wild for Los Angeles, but one of the girls said she had a goat in Albany New York. When the authorities asked her about the goat she said it was a pet and so they left her alone.

If anyone does get a goat I would love to make some goat cheese with their goat milk. I have never done it before, but I think it would be a blast.

Being in the farm, talk naturally turned to food and when I heard one of the girls talk about boiling beets I thought Iwould post this poem I found tonight on the internet. I hope it's ok with the author, but it just seems right.

For me though I never boil beets. I roast them in the oven after I drizzle them with olive oil and then dust them with some Kosher salt. I cook them for about an hour at 400 degrees and when they are done I let them sit for a moment and then peel off the skins. I then dice them or slice them thick and make a simple dressing with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil to pour over. On top I put just a bit of cheese. Maybe goat cheese.

Boiling Beets

for Cindy and Emily
You choose them for their solidity and shape,their ability to stain the heart from under the produce light.Their edible greens, too, the red-veined and cooled trailsthe morning sun once stalked in the furrowed fields.
You carry them home with other necessities wrappedin plastic and brown butcher
paper, flowersfor yourself in an extravagant fuchsia funnel,reach for them first out of all the other chores,
charm them to settle togetherlike sleeping children into one bed,sandy cheeks ruddy with dreams,ignite the fumarole to flame and will
those roots to tremor and roil, your facethe moon rising above earth-steamfilling the kitchen, governing the boiling hour.and when they finally give up their skins and slip
between your fingers, glassy and calm,you follow their growth rings, a striated map,with a whetted knife, releasing cross-sections to the jarand pour vinegar like a salve to preserve their luster.
The rubied water swirls down the drain.Wipe your hands over and over against your apronbut the beet stain will outlast the rage cookedout of the pot, vented to the afternoon shafting
through the leaded window. The sun turnstowards a new field of seedlings.The next crop surfaces, leaves sluicing lightto our buried, molten hearts.
Thanks Tara and David for a great afternoon at the farm. Next month, Tara we will cook something right from the garden.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pizza on the BBQ recipe

Last week I made pizza on the BBQ. It was about the fourth time I made it that way and each time it gets better and better. The key is to leave it on the grill long enough for the crust to become golden brown and charred a bit. Once the bottom crust is done take it off and flip it over onto a cooling rack. Brush with olive oil and then spread some tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add any ingredients you like. Return it to the grill and close the lid for about 4 minutes until the cheese has melted and is golden brown. Remove and let rest for a minute on a cooling rack. Then slice and enjoy.

5 tips to making great pizza:
1. Always preheat the oven or the grill for about an hour before you make your pizzas.
2. Make the dough at least 24 hour in advance. Store in the refrigerator over night and take it out at least 8 hours before you make your pizzas. This helps the dough develop more flavor.
3. Brush olive oil on the crust before spreading on the tomato sauce. This makes the crust crispy.
4. As you layer on ingredients remember to season with salt and pepper.
5. Allow the pizza to rest for about 30 seconds on a cooling rack before you cut it. Otherwise the crust will become soggy from the steam created by setting in on the counter.

Simple Pizza Dough:
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/4 cup warm water

Put yeast and sugar in a bowl. Top with 1/2 cup of warm water, 85-90 degrees. Let rise for 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl add flour and salt and combine. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/water. Using a spoon slowly stir in the flour from the sides of the well. If you do this properly you can keep your hands from getting all doughy. Add more water as you go and begin to knead once all the ingredients are combined. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. Put in a plastic storage bag, seal and let rise.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

French Macarons

My wife has been a little under the weather for the last couple of days which is extremely uncomfortable when it's over 100 degrees and smoky from fires burning in the hills a few miles away. She's been her usual, cheerful self despite everything and when I went out this afternoon she yelled at me "macarons". Which I knew meant to stop at Euro Pane on my way home for their Carmel and Sea Salt macarons.

I drove down the 110 freeway to visit a bike shop in Highland park called LA Flying Pigeon. They sell Chinese and Dutch bicycles, the kind of bikes you're intended to ride to work not to race in the Tour de France. These bicycles have fenders and chain protectors and some have big baskets on the front. They're unusual looking, but cool. The kind of bike I would love to ride in downtown LA late at night when the streets were quite.

I took one for a spin and at first was very uncomfortable. I own an expensive Cannondale mountain bike that weighs only 22 pounds and have been riding it for over 14 years. It's the only bike I have ridden for that many years and it feels like an old coat that my body has molded to fit just right.

I test rode a Flying Pigeon bike from China. It cost only $295.00 and it felt like it only cost $295.00. It was rough and awkward and the front wheel seemed unusually large. I rode it around the block and jumped off. Not the bike for me.

I then tried a Dutch bicycle called the Batavus. It was black and sleek and had fenders and rode really well. It was smooth as silk and fit like the old coat. I wanted to buy it right away and I even asked the owner of the shop if he would take my Cannondale for it. He said no of course. He claimed he couldn't sell a used bike in that shop.

I hope to return if I find $900 lying around. It seems a bit expensive, but the bike was so cool.

Before going home I stopped at Euro Pane and peered through the showcase window at all the pastries. I was there for macarons, but was tempted by chocolate tarts, and a big berry pie . I saw a girl sitting at one of the tables eating that pie. People from across the room eyed enviously and an older woman made mention that she would love to have one if it wasn't for the fact that she was having dessert for dinner and two desserts in one day was too much.

I bought 3 macarons, a lemon one, an espresso one and the caramel, sea salt one and I also picked up a double chocolate brownie for my son James. He loves chocolate and I can't go to Euro Pane without getting him something.

When I got home my wife Anne was waiting. She cut the cookies into fours and asked for an iced espresso coffee to accompany her sweet. She was starting to feel much better after all this. I'm sure.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

BBQ Pizza Yea Yea Yea

I am sitting here with a belly full of BBQ pizza listening to REM on Austin City Limits. "If you believe they put a man on the moon"

I was thinking to myself just an hour ago pizza on the BBQ? My youngest son said it was unheard of. He tried a piece and quickly resorted to the cereal bowl. Cereal over my pizza. That hurt.

Would you believe he didn't like my BBQ pizza? I believe it now, but I loved it. It was great. I sauteed squash blossoms with little red peppers. It added great flavor to the pie.

REM is over and my son finished his bowl of cereal and now I am going to eat some nectarines that I poached in some agave water.
Ciao Tutti

Un Bell Caffe

When I fell in love with Italy I fell in love with many things such as the beautiful countryside, the warm people the truly rustic food and of course the caffe. I was a heavy coffee drinker since the age of 14, but it was always very strong drip coffee with a bit of heavy cream or milk if I didn't have the cream. This is what I thought good coffee was. How little did I know.
It wasn't until I had caffe con leche in Spain did I realize what real espresso was meant to taste like. The caffe was strong, but really tasty and I couldn't get enough of that flavor.

Now when I get off the plane in Rome the first thing I do is stop by the bar and have an espresso. I stand with all the Italians and take in the language and the general camaraderie. It's a blast and the coffee is so damn good.

I quit smoking cigarettes 23 years ago. I quit drinking alcohol 14 years ago and now I only drink espresso. No more drip coffee for me. I can't stand the taste. I would rather not drink anything if I can't have un bell caffe.
This picture is from Ground Works in Los Angeles. A great place for un bell caffe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A pile of table grapes and bottles of olive oil

Yesterday at the farmer's market in Hollywood I took some pictures. Mainly close ups of peaches and tomatoes and other fresh produce. I took a shot of a man singing in a barely audible voice who played the harmonica like Bob Dylan. He jammed really well and seemed as free as they come. Nothing bothering that man. He had his music and his people hanging around him as though he was some prophet.

I happened upon this table of grapes. They were piled high and looked very colorful. I also liked the symmetry of the bottles of olive oil. They were lined up perfectly and somehow went well with the grapes. A combination of two wonderful things. Two things that Italians have lived on for years and years. Can't be bad I thought to myself.