Winter Harvest Comes Through (Again)
Saturday, December 14, 2013
In the early years of our eating local, when we wanted an antidote to rich, heavy holiday meals and even the local greens were dwindling, we’d have little choice but to buy a giant pack of French green beans from Whole Foods and call it dinner. No more.
Winter Harvest is full of opportunities to make a light, refreshing meal that even tastes a bit like summer. Shore Catch is one of those “never thought I’d see it” items to appear on the Winter Harvest product list - locally and sustainably caught seafood. It was hard to mess up the beautiful piece of sushi grade Ahi tuna that came in our order this week, but we took no chances and made a simple tartare - hardly a recipe with one pound tuna, three tablespoons each of olive oil and lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. We added scallions and parsley, also from our order, and ate it with a potato pancake made with Savoie Organic Farm’s wonderful Kennebecs.
Market Highlights: Headhouse Market December 8th
Sunday, December 08, 2013
The snowy day didn’t deter shoppers or vendors at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market. Plenty of seasonal produce was still available, with Weaver’s Way, Beechwood Orchards, Queens Farm and Three Springs Fruit Farm offering greens, root vegetables, cabbages, brussels sprouts, winter squash, mushrooms, garlic, apples, and of course cider. There was no lack of dairy, meat, fish, chocolate or prepared foods either, with Birchrun Hills, Hillacres Pride, Paradocx Vineyard, John and Kira’s, Market Day Canele, Talula’s Table, Ric’s Breads, Otolith Sustainable Seafood, Wildflour Bakery, Good Spoon Soups, and Green Aisle Grocery all present. The market is scheduled to run for two more Sundays, so it’s well worth a visit, despite the cold.
Posted by Donna on 12/08 at 11:12 AM
Our Dirty Little Secret
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
The guests at our annual holiday party regularly gobble up the dried figs and goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto, made with figs from our community garden a block away. Our dried pepper flakes, also from the garden, inspire those who received them as gifts to demand a fresh supply. How do we manage to preserve all that fresh, local produce in a form that people actually want to consume rather than store away as emergency rations? The dehydrator is our dirty little secret.
I’ll admit, I felt more than a bit defeated when we decided to buy a dehydrator. I had researched and tried every drying method available to us in a tiny city house and a patio with intermittent sunlight, and had failed in everything but the random herb. When my husband drew the line at drying tomatoes on the dashboard of the car (this method does exist and someday I will test it!) I decided to try a dehydrator. Unable to find any friend or family member who still had one lying around from their “As Seen On TV” heyday 20 years ago, we headed to Fantes. From what we had read in consumer reviews, we wanted a top mounted fan to prevent dripping into the mechanisms and digital controls to allow for precise temperature setting depending on what you are drying.
We took home a Nesco Gardenmaster Pro Digital dehydrator, and in a fit of guilt over the price I immediately set out to dry the remainder of two CSA boxes and a basket of produce from our garden plot before we left for a three week trip to Europe. Zucchini chips sprinkled with Old Bay were so delicious they barely made it onto the plane with us. Plum and cherry tomatoes came out a vibrant red and pleasantly chewy. Hot peppers were the easiest - popped in whole and ground in the food processor later. Skins from peeled ginger made a surprisingly strong tea. I estimated that we made up the difference in what we paid for the dehydrator that first summer, some of it using produce that might otherwise have gone to waste.
We haven’t had complete success. I was excited to try to replicate the sweet dried peppers my mother remembered my grandfather hanging from the garage rafters, but the results were tough and mostly skin. Large plum tomatoes are best left to oven roasting on a low temperature and preserving in olive oil.
Most herbs do as well or better hanging to dry, so long as you’ve got the time. And the celery was just… confusing. But anything else we’ve made has easily surpassed any store bought version in taste, not to mention of course the added bonus of being made with local produce. We’re going to try local cranberries next, if we can figure out a way to sweeten them slightly first, and haven’t even had a chance to try our hand at the many jerky and dried fish products that are possible as well.
All that and no tomatoes on the dashboard.
Posted by Donna on 12/04 at 01:57 PM
A Holiday Fruit Cake (not Fruitcake)
Saturday, November 30, 2013
As should be pretty clear by now, quinces are one of my favorite fall/winter fruits, and since they’re sadly a bit of a luxury to find, I generally mix them with apples to stretch them further, and because they get along so well together, as in this fragrant and holiday-appropriate cake. If you don’t care for or can’t find quinces, you can make the cake with just apples and apple butter, as the original recipe did, and it will also be great.
If you don’t make your own quince jam, you can often find it in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern markets. More likely, you’ll instead be able to find the dried and pressed Spanish version, dulce de membrillo, at your local cheese shop, which will work just fine once loosened back up with a bit of extra liquid.
Apple-Quince Bundt Cake
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours, 2006)
1 large quince, or 1/2 cup golden raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup quince jam, or quince paste gently heated with enough water to loosen to a jam-like consistency
2 tart-sweet apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons apple cider or milk
If using the quince, peel and core it, then chop it into four or so large pieces. Poach the quince in just enough water to cover until it has changed color (anywhere from buttery-yellow to salmon, depending on the variety) and is tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain off the liquid, chop the quince into small dice, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter and flour a large (12-cup) bundt pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream together until smooth and thick. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions, then beat in the quince jam at lower speed. Mix in the grated apple, followed by the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. Fold in the diced quince or raisins and the hazelnuts.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden and springy, and a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake and cool completely.
To glaze the cake, mix just enough cider or milk into the powdered sugar to make a thick but free-flowing icing. Drizzle the icing evenly over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Let the icing firm up before slicing the cake.
Leftovers keep well in an airtight container for 2-3 days, although it’s best to glaze it the same day you serve it.
Local Holiday Shopping
Friday, November 29, 2013
If you’re heading out to shop for holiday gifts this weekend, don’t forget to stop in and visit one of our local food purveyors. In addition to an incredible selection of local produce, meat and dairy, the choices below also offer gift worthy preserved foods, ingredients to stock a terrific food basket, even chocolates and candies beautifully packaged and ready to give. Try not to eat them on the way home.
Fair Food Farmstand
The Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market carries many preserves, dried fruit and vegetables and candies made from local products. Create a gift basket from Tait Farm Foods, offering jars of blackberry and cherry jams, fig and honey conserve, rhubarb chutney, tomato bruschetta and more. Or put together ready to make soup jars with dried beans from Cayuga Pure Organics or a selection of local flours from Daisy Organics for bakers. Fair Food also carries John & Kira’s Chocolates, flavored with ingredients from local and urban farms.
Green Aisle Grocery
Head to Green Aisle on East Passyunk Avenue for a huge array of their own brand of preserves, chutneys, pickles and nut butters made in small batches featuring produce from local farms. Current offerings include Apple Vanilla Ginger Chutney, Five Spice Beets and Sriracha Carrots. They can also put together an impressive gift box if you need help.
Obviously we think of Greensgrow for their produce and nursery, but they also carry gift items like cheese, hot sauce, and preserved food. Either they make the items themselves, or they come from farmers Greensgrow knows and trusts. In addition, over the next month Greensgrow is hosting a Holiday Bazaar featuring local artists. So even if it you can’t find the perfect local food gift, you may still be able find a perfect local gift.
Posted by Donna on 11/29 at 11:30 AM
Thursday, November 14, 2013
On Friday, October 18th the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society held Pheast, its second annual celebration of the growers who contribute to the City Harvest program. Held in the PHS warehouse at the Navy Yard, Pheast brought together farmers, chefs and purveyors to honor the diversity of our local food production.
Posted by Kevin on 11/14 at 10:04 PM
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Did you know that Seckel pears are native to Philadelphia? The story is either that they’re the only native American pear, or that farmers in this area bred them from European varieties, but either way they’re from Philly.
Even without the local connection, these little guys are one of my favorite varieties, since apart from being cute, they’re both firm and flavorful. That makes them ideal for poaching, although why stop there? Baked on top of a buttery pastry base and a rich almond cream, Seckel pears make a wonderful cookie or a party-ready tart, and their poaching syrup is a perfect contribution to fall-themed cocktails.
Seckel Pear Frangipane Bars
(Adapted from French Pear Tart in Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours, 2006)
Serves 18-24 as a cookie, 12 as a dessert
For the poached pears:
2 lbs Seckel pears (around a dozen or so)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups water
3 strips lemon rind
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
For the pastry base:
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
For the almond cream:
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ground blanched almonds
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat , then lower to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. In the meantime, peel, halve and core the pears. Add the pears to the pot, along with the lemon, vanilla, peppercorns and salt. Simmer until the pears are tender, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate the pears in their syrup until ready to bake.
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt for the base and pulse several times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the top, and pulse again until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Beat the yolks briefly with a teaspoon or so of water to lighten them, then add to the processor through the feed tube with the motor running. Stop as soon as the egg is incorporated and small clumps have started to form.
Line a quarter sheet pan with enough parchment to overhang the sides by a couple of inches, dump the pastry onto the lined sheet, and gently press it into the bottom and up the sides, just until it holds together. Cover the lined sheet with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F and butter one side of a piece of foil large enough to cover the surface of the dough. Remove the plastic wrap and replace it with the foil. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry has set but is not browned. Remove the foil and cool completely.
Combine the butter and sugar in a food processor and run until a smooth paste forms. Add the almonds and process again until blended, then repeat with the flour and cornstarch. Add the egg and yolk and process just until incorporated, then add the vanilla and almond extracts and pulse briefly again. Spread the almond cream evenly over the chilled pastry base.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Remove the pear halves from the syrup and gently pat dry with paper towels to prevent excess syrup from making the filling soggy. Slice a pear half thinly, keeping the slices together, then lift the sliced half with a spatula and carefully place onto the almond cream in the bottom left corner of the pan, pressing down just enough to fan out the slices a bit. Repeat the process with enough pears to mostly cover the cream in evenly spaced rows (around 18 pear halves total).
Bake 50-60 minutes, until the cream has set around the pears and turned deep golden brown. Cool to at least room temperature before lifting the entire sheet out of its pan by its parchment. Slice into cookie-sized bars or tart-sized squares according to your preference. Serve the same day if possible, although they keep well in the refrigerator for a day or so.
Turning Over a New Fig Leaf
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Like everything else this year, the figs in our garden arrived three weeks later than usual. At one point, I was anxious about any figs at all this year. Thankfully, summer is exiting warmer than it entered, and there are plenty of figs to be had. The fig harvest seemed so precarious this year, that I felt the need to commemorate it in some way.
I am not sure exactly where the idea came from. It was likely inspired by the memory of a fantastic dessert I had a couple of years ago at Supper. What I loved about Supper’s fig cake, in addition to the rich moist cake itself, was that the figs were whole or nearly so. But I also wanted a cake with crisp edge to it, something that crunched before yielding and giving way to a warm center. Eventually, these urges coalesced around the idea of an upside down cake.
As a starting point, I used this recipe from David Lebowitz, who is exceedingly consistent and reliable. However, I needed to make a few modifications. One, rather than one cake, I made two small cakes (by halving the recipe) in these awesome, tiny Lodge cast-iron pans. Two, I eschewed the caramel of the original, as I find figs need little additional sweetness. Instead, I browned butter in each pan, used some of it to grease the sides, and then sauteed the halved figs for a few minutes. Three, I cut the sugar in the cake itself by about a third and used locally sourced maple sugar. Four, I flavored the cake with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. Let me be clear: this fourth modification came with the second iteration of the cake, as I felt the cake itself needed a nice contrasting flavor for the sweet figs. I could see using anise, clove, or even cardamon in the cake, but until I am satisfied with the appropriate portion size (a quarter teaspoon was not enough), I don’t want to try something else.
Posted by Kevin on 10/01 at 03:48 PM
Market Highlights - Sept 4, 2013
Sunday, September 08, 2013
Much as we may want to deny it, summer is definitely heading out the door and fall is on its way in. You may be able to ignore the first few apples, but you really can’t argue with pears and hard squash. That said, there are still plenty of late tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, and even some peaches to be snapped up while you still can!
Better Traveling Through Food
Sunday, September 01, 2013
I’ve written in the past about my attempts to eat local food when I am traveling. This may seem obvious while vacationing on an organic farming Tuscany, but less so while in London. Still, the way I eat at home has fundamentally altered the way I eat elsewhere, whether I am working or traveling. While on my latest trip to Italy (a return to the beautiful Spannochia in central Tuscany), I saw three very distinct ways that eating local has actually improved my travel.
Vetting Restaurants. So much dining out when you travel can be a lot of fun, but the search for something worthwhile can also be exhausting. Whether the restaurant has ceased to exist since your guidebook was printed or the address of buildings seem to have no logic whatsoever, we’ve all found ourselves in that miserable state of hunger and fatigue from a fruitless search. You might think that in Italy it’s hard to have a bad meal. While that may be true (though I certainly don’t want to conduct that experiment and be proven wrong), it is also difficult to find a truly outstanding meal in the heavily-touristed places I have recently travelled to in Italy. (E.g., Most of the gelato I tasted was actually inferior to Philly’s own Capogiro.) The Slow Food organization has been indispensable guide to quality restaurants in Italy. Any meal I have eaten at a Slow-Food-endorsed restaurant has been outstanding and because its food is somehow indicative of its location, quite unique and unlike anything I might have here. Also, as much as I love the good folks at Lonely Planet, they are not restaurant critics by any stretch.
Getting off the Beaten Path. Though I am not a particularly intrepid traveller, looking for local food has made it a bit more interesting. Even when I purchase imported wine, I try purchase from small wineries that are organic or biodynamic. (Down to Earth Wines has been a consistently excellent source for them.) In fact, through a recent purchase from Down to Earth, I was very impressed with wines of Montenidoli - so much so that I arranged a tasting when we traveled to Italy. For nearly two hours, our host, Alberto, graciously showed us the estate and discussed their impressive wines. Montenidoli is, however, quite far off the beaten track, even in such a heavily touristed area.
Eating Less Formally. For whatever reason, I tend to think of sitting down to three proper meals when I travel. I have been drifting from that recently, and I suspect it has something to do with years of going to farmers markets and eating from food stalls. Now when I travel, I try to continue this “informal dining.” This was particularly true of our time in London, where we had fantastic - and fantastically cheap - meals at both Borough Market and the Sunday Upmarket. This both left more time for sightseeing and more money to spend on dinner at such fantastic places as Terroirs Wine Bar.
Back To School
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Summer winds down as the minds start thinking about the return of school. Sometimes a shift in schedules, throws your meals for a loop. Whether you are a parent sending your little ones on the bus, high schoolers driving, or college students in the dining hall, proper nutrition is essential to fuel your brain!
-Start your day with breakfast. Even if you are like me, waking up at the last second possible to be on time, grab a quick breakfast. Breakfast will help you focus and can negatively impact your test scores if skipped. Maintain a healthy weight with including lean protein and skip the processed meats. Suggestions: Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese with fruit, protein smoothie, hard-boiled egg with fruit, flaxseed muffin, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, oatmeal mixed with nuts or seeds
-Pack satisfying snacks to give you a boost in between meals. I remember the days watching the clock for the last lunch period. Keep snacks handy to help regulate your blood sugar, but resist grabbing for cookies or candy. Snack ideas: Peanut or almond butter with whole wheat crackers/toast/English muffins, mixed nuts & fruit/dried fruit, hummus with vegetables, 100% fruit or vegetable juice with unflavored protein powder
-Healthy lunch choices can also be leftover dinner. Skip the side of chips or fries. Fill up with fiber and lean proteins to energize the rest of your day.
Prepare meals on Sunday night or one night that you have a little extra time. Prepare a larger portion for dinner and separate a portion to freeze or place into individual containers to have left overs for lunch. Quick meals: Black bean soup, vegetarian chili with mixed beans, stuffed peppers with lentils and brown rice or quinoa, tofu stir fry, chicken fajitas, greens with beans/nuts/avocado, pita with hummus and fresh veggies.
Continue to be conscious of your choices during a busy schedule. I’ve heard it before: “It’s time consuming to cook healthy.” Running between school and sports, but nutrition is key to keep your body functioning. Take control of your health now to prevent illnesses. Being sick is costly as well as time consuming. Aim to pair a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack to help meet the recommended guidelines of at least 5 servings/day!
Posted by Renee on 08/29 at 09:49 PM
What to Eat Rather Than What to Wear
Since the very nature of Diner en Blanc answers the question of what one wears on such occasions, one is free to focus on the far more important question: what does one eat on such occasions?
At the inaugural Diner en Blanc, we opted for the catered dinner by Garces Catering, but now that we are more experienced at what to pack, sit on, eat on, etc., we thought we could risk bringing our own.
The baguette was made with Daisy Organic Flour, a mix of whole wheat and white, which comes from Mark Bittman. On which we smeared, quite inelegantly I have to admit, the lovely Puddle Duck from Hillacres Pride, which I first read about from Madame Fromage. The quiche is an old family recipe from my wife, cut into rounds for additional elegance. The potted trout is from Marc Vetri’s Rustic Italian Food, made with Pennsylvania trout. We purchased the cheese from the always-wonderful Green Aisle Grocery, where we also picked up Market Day canales for dessert and Green Aisle’s own line of tea.
Just as last year, Diner en Blanc 2013 was a very special evening. Once again, the organizers did a fantastic job of using, and celebrating, existing public spaces in the city, reminding us of the overlooked beauty right in front of us.
Posted by Kevin on 08/29 at 05:53 PM
Market Highlights - August 14 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Although all the great summer vegetables are still there, this week’s marketing was all about the fruit for me. The full rainbow of plums are available now, along with peaches, nectarines, berries, melons, and just peeking behind them to remind us that fall is right around the corner, the first of the apples. Just before Labor Day, I will load up on all those plum varieties to make jam, but for now I grabbed a few each of the Italian and Santa Rosa ones, which may end up as popsicles this weekend to test out my fancy new molds.
Speaking of popsicles, I also grabbed my still-favorite of all: Vietnamese iced coffee.
August Frozen Treats Challenge: Blackberry-Honey Ice Cream
Monday, August 05, 2013
Apart from potted herbs, there are exactly two crops growing in my garden this year: green zebra tomatoes, because I can’t get enough of them, and a blackberry bush I planted last summer because it was the lowest-effort fruit I could think of. I just let the bush establish itself last year, not expecting any berries, and as a result it’s now sturdy and has set enough blossoms that I think we’ll get at few small harvests of berries by the time fall rolls around.
While I knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on homegrown berries for this year’s frozen treat challenge, I still wanted to do something with blackberries, and to get my ice cream maker out of its cupboard. After some further brainstorming, I came up with this bright magenta, intensely berry-flavored ice cream, which also incorporates locally-produced honey, eggs, and dairy products. There were even just enough ripe berries on my bush to serve as a garnish!
One bit of advice: because the honey is definitely present after the initial burst of blackberry, the best choice for this recipe is a mild to barely medium honey—ideally a berry honey, but a light wildflower or blossom would be good too. Don’t use a dark one like buckwheat or one with a lot of herby notes, or the finish of the ice cream will be distractingly medicinal.
Blackberry-Honey Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
3 pints blackberries
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split
1/3 cup honey
6 large egg yolks
Place the blackberries, 1/2 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt in a non-reactive pan and mash gently with a potato masher to start releasing the juices. Let sit undisturbed for 45 minutes.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and suspend a slightly smaller bowl lined with a fine mesh strainer within it. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean, honey, and another good pinch of salt in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until the milk steams, but don’t bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until the yolks lighten just slightly and the sugar dissolves, then whisk in half the hot milk. Stir the egg mixture to the milk in the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-safe spatula, until the mixture thickens slightly. (Again, be careful not to bring to a boil or the eggs will curdle.) As soon as the custard thickens, pour it through the strainer into the bowl over the ice bath, discarding any egg solids that stick to the strainer but hanging on to the vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and mix into the custard. Let the custard come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, while preparing the berries.
Bring the berries to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes, mashing further as needed to completely break them up. Run the berries through a strainer, scraping the pulp with a spoon until all the fruit and juice has passed through. Discard the seeds and hulls.
Once both the custard and the berry mixture have cooled down, cover them both and chill them in the coolest part of the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, and up to 24.
When ready to freeze the ice cream, stir the custard and berry mixture together, and pour into your ice cream maker. Churn until a soft-serve consistency is reached, then transfer to tightly covered containers, pressing plastic wrap against the surface of the ice cream if there’s more than nominal headspace between the ice cream and the container lid. Let the ice cream firm up and ripen in the freezer for at least two hours before serving.
Eating Local in Italy
Sunday, August 04, 2013
Last week, we made a return visit - and we hope the first of many return visits - to Tenuta di Spannocchia in central Tuscany. A former estate farmed under the mezzadria system, guests can stay at the main house (the castello) or former farmhouses scattered throughout the property. The estate produces organic wine (red, white, and rose), olive oil, and cured pork products from the heritage breed Cinta Senese. The estate also has an extensive garden that produces almost all of the food for the main house and its guests.
The bucolic setting is perfect for hiking, reading, etc., but it’s absolutely inspiring when it comes to cooking. When we open the door to our farmhouse to find a loaf of tuscan bread, a bottle of vino tavolo rosso, and large crate of produce (onions, garlic, potatoes, zucchini, string beans, tomatoes), it’s difficult to refrain from cooking right then - even if we did just come from a multi-course feast at the main house.
Of course, this was Italy, so we gravitated to pasta dishes that took advantage of the produce, the cured meat, or both. This carbonara did just that.
Spannocchia cures a variety of meat products - coppa, salame toscana, prosciutto, lardo, and pancetta. Using farro pasta purchased at the the Consorizio Agrario (see below), I made this carbonara with the pancetta and the zucchini flowers that the gardeners had kindly left attached to the fruit. First, I rendered the fat from the pancetta over low heat. Then, I added the onions and gently sauteed them. (I have found both a long rendering and gentle saute of the onions over low heat to be crucial to good carbonara.) When the pasta was cooked, I added it to the pan with eggs and grated cheese (an organic pecorino from a nearby farm) and tossed in the zucchini flowers that I had cut in a chiffonade.
Before Spannocchia, we spent several days in Siena. In anticipation for all of the cooking, we did our grocery shopping at the Consorzio Agrario. Akin to a boutique grocery store, it sells many prepared foods (and, apparently, excellent pizza) that showcase the farmers and producers from around Siena. We were lucky to find locally-made ragu made with the local boars, or cinghiale. For pasta, we made the traditional pici by hand, using only flour (both semolina and white “00”), water, and a little oil. The thick, chewy pici demands the big, bold flavors of something like boar ragu, and I would hesitate to pair it with anything delicate.
Many traditional Italian recipes are deliberately unspecific when it comes to quantities for ingredients; the preferred phrase is quanto basta, just enough. In this spirit, and because the farmhouse was totally lacking in measuring cups or spoons, the pici was simply two coffee cups of flour (one literal cup of each type) and just enough water to make it cohere.
Of course, between the salame toscana, risorgimento, and bistecca fiorentina, we needed a break from all of the meat at some point. So, a light dinner of several garden-grown vegetables was perfect.
My only regret here was that I didn’t think to roast the beets in the cooling ashes of the wood-fired pizza oven the night before.
The last time we were here, I was amazed at how easy the “00” flour was to work with. Both my gnocchi and hand-rolled pasta was so easy to work with. As with the pici, I poured out the flour on the table, added two eggs and one egg yolk, and incorporated just enough flour to make a dough. Not having my Kitchen Aid attachment from home, I stretched and rolled the dough by hand, stopping when the large disk was transparent enough to see the grain of the marble table beneath. This was paired with dried porcini mushrooms I picked up on a day trip to Volterra.
One of the highlights of a stay at Spannocchia is the salumi tasting class. It occurred to me at that moment that my food was never going to be more local than this - eating pork raised several hundred yards away, cured in a room several hundred feet away, washing it down with wine grown and vinted several hundred yards away.
We are very fortunate that we have quality wine, salumi, and flour here. It won’t taste like Spannochia, but that is exactly the point.
Posted by Kevin on 08/04 at 09:49 PM