Strawberry Pie

Strawberry PieThis is a delightfully light celebration of late spring.

It's easy, and it's a good choice when strawberries go on sale at the supermarket because you have to use them fast before they spoil.

This one was made by my friends Debbie and Sonali at work. We used a frozen pie crust because rolling out a homemade pie crust is not very difficult, but it is a good way to get your work clothes dusted with flour! 

Italian Meal 2: Lake Garda

Sirmione, in Lake Garda

The second discovery meal of the trip was in Sirmione, a beautiful resort town on a skinny peninsula that juts northward in gorgeous Lake Garda somewhat like Nantasket juts into Massachusetts Bay. 

We had not planned to visit Sirmione, although a drive to Lake Garda was one of the optional drives we had hoped for.  But we slept late after the opera and the preceding night's late dinner, so a long drive in the mountains and lake would have taken too much time from Venice. 

The castle

Sirmione is a resort town, with basically one road in and out, little parking, fine hotels, beautiful beaches and a castle at the end of the peninsula. The northern half of the lake is surrounded by great mountains, and the eastern shore is covered with vineyards growing grapes for Valpolicella, Bardolino, and Amarone wines. It reminded us of a cross between Provincetown and Santa Cruz, with the wine country and a castle thrown in for good measure.  

In Cod We Trust

Image of In Cod We Trust: From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts

In Cod We Trust: From Sea to Shore, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts , by Cape Ann food columnist Heather Atwood, is both a comprehensive practical record of Massachusetts coastal cuisine and an affectionate, humorous, thoroughly enjoyable coastwise journey from the Rhode Island border to the border of New Hampshire.

Atwood maintains the Food for Thought foodie blog, and does much more than that online, in print, and on video. Here's a bit that I stole from her website; I'll add more about the book below the quote:

 


Heather Atwood is author of the blog "Food for Thought" and the weekly column by the same name syndicated in a number of Massachusetts newspapers. For the online cooking site Cook123 Ms. Atwood hosts cooking videos featuring regional Massachusetts chefs and cooks. This combined work has created a web of connections in the New England food community, allowing Atwood a prized familiarity with Finns in W. Barnstable who still make fruit soup, the Gloucester Sicilians who bake their own zeppole, and day boat fishermen who sell pearly scallops from coolers out of the back of their cars. She reveres the people who preserve and energize the New England food landscape.

 

Her cookbook, "In Cod We Trust, the Celebrated Cuisine of Coastal Massachusetts," explores the cultures that have made this ragged coastline home, and the meals they prepare.


 

Back to my review:

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!

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