Italian Meal 1: Emilia-Romagna

Hayfield in Parma

This was our first locavore meal in Italy. It was at the  Hotel Sole in the town of Busseto, in the province of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna in north-central Italy's agricultural heartland. Busseto was the hometown of my favorite composer, Giuseppe Verdi.

Culatello, a premium cut of Prosciutto di Parma

Emilia-Romagna is dominated by the rich agricultural flatlands around the Po river valley. The climate is mild and the growing season is long. This long-settled region is home to a lot of familiar foods that we see in supermarkets all the time: prosciutto and Balsamic vinegar, Reggiano-Parmigiano and Grana Padano cheeses, Lambrusco wine, and many pastas.

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

Strawberry Bavarian Cream with Chocolate SauceWhat a treat! This early summer dessert is easy to make and it looks and tastes like something special. 

There's not much to this, so the focus must be on the berries and cream. The flavor can really sparkle with fresh local berries, but more than that is the problem of watery berries. A pint of those enormous supermarket strawberries has less flavor than six or ten natural berries, the flavor is simpler, and the berries are full of water too. 

This simple dish responds well to a variety of garnishes, from chocolate sauce to mint leaves to sour cream and even balsamic vinegar. 

Yankee Fish Dinner for June

A Sunday June Dinner by the ShoreIt was a June Sunday and I had some nice produce from farmstands in Maine, so I made this nice old-fashioned Sunday dinner with all local and seasonal ingredients.

The haul included three pounds of fresh peas in the pod, a pound of new red potatoes, broccoli raab, strawberries, and a pint of super-fresh local heavy cream. That would surely inspire any cook!

We opened with the delightful Chilled Mint & Pea Soup. That recipe has French roots, but so did some of our colonist forebears and everything in it was local to New England and it's great for June when the peas are just ripe, so I included it.

We had:

Chilled Mint & Pea Soup

Chilled Mint & Pea Soup Here's another gem from Jasper White's Cooking from New England. I love to make this every June when the peas come available at the farm stands and farmers markets.

This can be made a few days ahead. Like many soups, it improves with a day of rest so the flavors come together.  

Mirepoix

a coarse mirepoix

The mirepoix is a fancy French name for the aromatic vegetables at the base of a great many sauces and braises. It's simply 2 parts by weight of onion to one part each of carrots and celery. 

You use a mirepoix when making any brown sauce (Escoffier's Sauce a l'Espagnole and its many fine children), many red sauces, and most white meat demiglazes. You also use it when braising meat, as in a Pot Roast, and in many stews. 

Coppers Gin

Type of Post: 
What's in my Glass?
Coppers Gin, neat over ice

Coppers Gin is made by Vermont Spirits in Quechee, Vermont. It is not yet in wide distribution; I found a bottle at their distillery/retail outlet in Quechee.

Vermont Spirits is best known for their excellent Vermont Gold and Vermont White vodkas,but they now boast a full line of artisanal spirits and an aged brandy is in the casks now!

I like it a lot. Coppers is on the soft, spicy side, closer to the Karner Blue Gin end of the spectrum than to the Gale Force Gin end. I thought I sensed a sort of fior de Sicilia vanilla-citrus angle, but it's more complex than that.

Coppers Gin made an excellent Martini 3:1 with the light, soft Dolin Dry Vermouth, and was not so good with Martini & Rossi. Try it also with Cinzano or Noilly Prat.

Coppers Gin is a very good sipping gin, of the sort that invites contemplation.

I'll keep the Coppers Gin in my cabinet for a summer gin.

Pot Roast

A German Sauerbraten dinner

This is really a class of braised beef, examples of which can be found in almost every non-vegetarian cuisine of the world.

The recipe below is full of generalities, because the details vary with the cuisine. For example, a Yankee pot roast is braised in a savory broth, an Italian Brasato in Barolo is braised in wine, and an Belgian Carbonnade is braised in beer.  A German Sauerbraten uses a savory broth, but adds vinegar to it. The herbs and spices also vary to reflect the cuisine. 

This recipe is really about technique, including one very important and counterintuitive one that is essential to the success of any pot roast, so be sure to read the Notes!

Naked Haddock

naked haddockWe love fresh haddock, simply baked with no crumbs or other distractions from its own exquisite flavor. Very fresh haddock is obviously essential to this dish!

I might have a bit of tartar sauce, and I like a Martini with Naked Haddock better than any wine.

Now that brings up something to think about. We are programmed by our culture to think about pairing wines and foods, and to think what's the right wine for a certain food. But sometimes the besst libation isn't a wine at all! So try a floral gin with haddock. You may find some old preconceptions crumbling.

Yankee Fish Cakes

Yankee Fish Cakes

This New England favorite is a classic accompaniment to Baked Beans. It's easy to make, and the uncooked mixture stores well for a few days, so you can easily make multiple meals from one recipe.

I searched through many recipes to find one that would have satisfied my mother-in-law, who was old Yankee on both sides back to the 17th century. This recipe is simple, so it relies on ingredients and technique. I used white boiling potatoes (not Russets), and frozen salt cod from my local fishmarket (not the kind that comes in a box).

Corn

Type of Post: 
What's on my Plate?

The Puzzle of Terminology

Flint Corn, of the variety Floriani Red

Our colonial forebears did the best they could to confuse their descendants about the role of corn in their foodways. In the first place, to the English settlers, corn was the word for any grain, including barley, wheat, oats, and rye. They did not know about maize, commonly known to us as corn. When reading old texts about food and farming, it's easier to think of "corn" as grain.

When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they soon learned that their "corn" did not fare well under New England growing conditions. They were lucky to be introduced to maize, which had long been cultivated by the Native Americans.

A Rhode Island Jonnycake with Honey

The colonists referred to the Native Americans as Indians, so they naturally referred to this strange Native American grain as Indian corn, or simply Indian. The colonial dessert called Indian pudding is called that not because it was made by Native Americans, but because it is made with Indian, their word for corn. A popular bread of the time made with both rye and corn was known as ryaninjun.

Types of Corn

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