Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)

Sunday, July 6th, 2014
cheese — by Johanna

Both Tenaya Darlington and I have separately experienced Italy earlier this summer. As you know I visit Case Vecchie in Sicily while Tenaya was leading a story telling workshop in Puglia. Now she is back in Philadelphia and has set up a decadent cheese picnic for us to crave for this summer.

Late Summer Cheese Picnic (part 2)
by Madame Fromage

Summer is the season to eat cheese in the wild. What’s lovelier than eating Pecorino in a pasture strewn with wildflowers? As you eat, you can taste the grassiness of the milk, and the experience becomes doubly sensual. If you can’t picnic near actual ewes, stare up at the clouds and picture a pastoral life. In the summer, shepherds throughout Europe still lead animals into the hills to feast on wild grasses and herbs (mint, fennel, dill). Animals that gobble gorgeous feed produce beautiful milk. And thus, the best cheeses come to be.

For a summer picnic, I love to buy cheeses made from grass-fed milk. Farmers’ markets are a great source for these beauties, and so is a cheese counter that specializes in artisan cheese. You can also learn to discern grass-fed cow’s milk cheese just by sight; cows cannot digest beta carotene, so they produce golden summer milk. If you see a butter-yellow cow’s milk cheese, chances are it was made from a grass-fed gal.

Picnic cheeses should be easy to pack and easy to pair. Here are a few suggestions for mid-summer cheese combinations that you can toss into a hamper and assemble quickly. If you have your wits about you, grab some toothpicks and a Swiss Army knife. Otherwise, just grab a baguette and a blanket for the grass.

1. Mozzarella balls in brine are a lovely first bite. You can skewer them with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil – or try strawberries and basil – then drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. This is lovely with Prosecco.

2. Fresh ricotta comes alive with fresh herbs and sea salt. Pack some thyme from your windowsill, or forage in the wild. Bring a bottle of extra virgin olive oil for drizzling. Also, you can stuff fresh ricotta into peach halves or apricot halves, or use the fruit as scoops. Try topping these with toasted almonds and honey.

3. Soft cheeses that come in balsa wood boxes (Camembert) or little crocks (Saint-Marcellin) or leaves (Banon, Robiola) are excellent picnic mates. They are gooey enough to spread with a stick, if need be, and they all pair wonderfully with dried fruit, nuts, and honey. Try this: Camembert, green apples, honey, walnuts, amber honey, and a jug of dry hard cider.

4. Swiss Army Knife cheeses include Provolone, Caciocavallo, Pecorino and other sturdy birdies. Choose one or two hunks and load up on olives, cured meat, celery sticks, pickled mushrooms, and olive oil crackers. A bottle of red? Enough said.

5. Gooey blue (like rich Gorgonzola Dolce) makes for a lovely dessert, especially with graham crackers and honey or cherry jam. A goat’s milk blue, like Cremificato Verde Capra, is also a good choice because it’s light. Try packing some dark chocolate and candied nuts, or bring a box of dates and stuff them with blue cheese and almonds.

Storing cheeses for picnics: If you have a hot day or a long bike ride ahead of you, pack your cheeses on frozen water bottles or a chilled bottle of wine. Sheep’s milk cheeses tend to sweat in the sun, so keep them covered with a cloth nappy.

Please also read Your Spring Goat Cheese Primer, which is part one in our collaborative series about seasonal cheeses and pairings.

More by Madame Fromage on kokblog
Guest Post: How to Turn Your Desk Into a Cheese Board

Arm to Table – Workshop at Case Vecchie, Sicily

Friday, June 27th, 2014
bread,travel — by Johanna

After driving on serpentine bumpy roads lined with wild fennel, through a beautiful hilly landscape of vines and wheat, we arrived at Case Vecchie and Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School. Fabrizia Lanza, our host and director of the school welcomed us with sparkling wine and appetizers in the courtyard. We were all (me and 3 other food writers) invited to participate in the Arm to Table workshop and to be part of the cooking school’s 25th anniversary. The school was started by Anna Tasca Lanza, Fabrizia’s mother  in 1989 to teach authentic Sicilian cooking.
In the moonlight we all went down to the garden to have gazpacho followed by anchovy cake  and salad.

The next day our workshop started with a visit to Fattoria Di Gèsu, a farm that grows ancient wheat such as Tumminia, Perciasacchi and Realforte,as well as green chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, tomatoes and almonds. Their produce and products (flour, pasta, almond paste, dried legumes etc) are sold and used by locals and local businesses such as bakeries and restaurants.

We also visited  and watched the shepherd and cheese maker Filippo Privitera, who milks 400 sheep by hand every day (twice a day in the winter) to make ricotta and Pecorino. The fresh ricotta (that was made in front of our eyes) was mind blowing. I couldn’t stop thinking of a plan to persuade my neighbor (who has a few sheep) what a great idea it is to make cheese.

In the afternoon we all had a wonderful lunch with fresh ricotta, varieties of pecorino, several types of dried sausages, potato salad with a Cataratto wine from the Regaleali Estate (the winery of the family). Now we were all ready for our afternoon task: to create a four course dinner with ingredients from the land around us and product of Natura in Tasca. The result was excellent and was served in the courtyard later that evening.

At this point, I knew I was  in paradise! (although I still regret, that I didn’t fill my pockets with pistachio cookies before I went to bed that night).

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Arm to Table Menu

The Saint
Bloody Mary alla Case Vecchie
by Marek

Panelle
(chickpea fritters)
by Fabrizia

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd
by me (recipe below)

Fava Bean Pesto with Busiate Pasta
by Fabrizia & Lauren

Rabbit in Red Wine & in-House Tomato Paste
with couscous (see illustration above)
by Fabrizia and Linda

Green Cauliflower with eggs
by Rachel

Torta della Nonna
(with fresh sheep ricotta and pine nuts)
by Pille

Pistachio Cookies
Ricotta & Caramelized Pine Nut Ice Cream
by David
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The Birthday Party started with mingling in the courtyard where we were treated to bubbly rose and chickpea panelle. An hour later we all took a walk up to the school’s vegetable plot where we all (about 160 guests) sat down at an endlessly long table surrounded by broccoli,  green chickpeas and vine.

As the school is all about farm to table, the lunch consisted of exclusively in-house or locally farmed produce. There were pickled artichokes, capers, anchovies, chickpeas, lentils, flavorful aborio rice, aged pecorino, amazing olive oil, different kinds of salt, fresh basil & mint, cold cut meats and at least three types of bread. My absolute favorite were the tomatoes that was served fresh, pickled and dried. The lunch also included different kinds of wines and endless amount of  desserts. To save energy and water, all the dishes (including the sweet treats) were served on the same ceramic plates which we all  could bring with us home.

I never wanted this to end.

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd at Case Vecchie

I usually bake my knäckebröd with wheat and rye but even before I entered the Case Vecchie kitchen I was eager to try to bake it with other kinds of flours. In this version I used durum wheat flour together with the very aromatic flour, perciasacchi semola. It worked really well. And Lauren Mikus (the school’s intern) did a wonderful job cranking them out thinly through the kitchen’s motorized pasta machine.

60 gram (lively) sourdough starter
2 tablespoons wild flower honey
240 ml (1 cup) water @ room temperature
250 gram durum wheat flour
120 gram perciasacchi semola (ancient wheat flour from Sicily)

1 tablespoon toasted wild fennel
2 teaspoons salt crystals, slightly crushed

In a large bowl, mix together the sourdough starter with the water and honey. Add all the flour and work the dough well together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about two minutes. The dough should feel a little sticky to your hands when kneading.
Place the dough in a bowl and let it rise in room temperature overnight or for at least 6 hours. In a warm kitchen like Fabrizia’s it was ready to bake within two hours. However with a longer rise the dough will develop a richer flavor.

When the dough has finished rising add caraway seeds and sea salt. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes on a floured counter top. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should feel smooth and should not be sticky to the surface or your hands. Let the dough rest for about half an hour while your oven heats up to about 200°C (400°F).

Cut approximately 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch sized portions of the dough and flatten every each slightly between your hands with some flour. On a generously floured counter top, roll out long (1 ½ – 2 inch wide) stripes until very very thin. To avoid the dough sticking to the table, continuously flip the dough over and roll again. Add more flour as needed. The length of the stripes depends on the size of your baking pan. I normally roll them out in my hand cranked pasta machine (until level 5) to about 12- 15 inches.

Place the long stripes on olive oiled baking sheets. Bake for about 4-6 minutes. Adjust the temperature and time if necessary. The knäckebröd is done when they have got nice color and look crisp. The sides tend to bend upwards which gives them an interesting shape.

Let the crackers cool completely on a rack. Don’t stack them until they are completely cool as that will just make them soft. Keep the crackers in sealed containers.

Serve the knäckebröd plain or together with aged Pecorino, anchovies or dried sausages. Linda came up with the idea of topping the bread with fava bean pesto. It was excellent. The bent shape seem to be made for this kind of topping.

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Thank you Fabrizia, Lauren, Costanza, Linda and everyone in the kitchen, winery and garden. You are all amazing! And it was great and inspiring to meet you Rachel, Pille and David!

 

Other posts about the workshop, 25th birthday party and more…

my photos on flickr
on red and white in Sicily
by Rachel Roddy
Sicily, Again by David Lebovitz
Case Vecchie and the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School by David Lebovitz
Making Cassata alla Siciliana, in Sicily by David Lebovitz
Recipe for Torta della Nonna by Pille Petersoo
anna tasca lanza cooking school {25 years} by Elizabeth Minchilli
cavatelli + sage pesto {cooking in sicily} by Elizabeth Minchilli

 

 

 

Ceviche with Mango and Avocado

Saturday, June 7th, 2014
fish,sides — by Johanna

Ceviche has been one of those dishes I have wanted to make for a very long time. And now I can’t stop. I like it as the illustrated recipe above, which has a great balance of spice and fruitiness. I have tried other versions as well but this one is so far my favorite.

My recipe is based on a ceviche I was treated to on my last day of 2013. The host made it with cod, which was excellent and he also included freshly cooked shrimps, which I haven’t. The lime ratio I got from Michael Ruhlman’s gorgeous looking Red Snapper Ceviche recipe as it sounded like a good measure. My recipe suggests monkfish but it works with any other white firm sea fish such as cod, tilapia, halibut etc.

1 lb (about 1/2 kg) fresh monkfish*, whole or fillets
1/2 cup (120 ml) lime juice (4-6 limes, dep. on the fruit’s juiciness you might need more or less)
1/2 shallot
one jalapeño
one mango
one avocado
cilantro
salt

If not using fillets, bone and remove skin from the fish. Rinse. Cut the fillets into small pieces (approximately 1/2″ cubes). Chop the shallot very fine.  Place fish and shallots in a bowl and cover with lime juice. Make sure everything is evenly coated. The process can go quite quickly and some say it may be done in 10 minutes. All depends on how thin or thick your pieces are. I often let it marinate for 2-3 hours before I serve it. During this time, keep it cool in the refrigerator. You may check on it and stir it around a little every so often. When ready, the fish should be white and not translucent.

Just before serving: remove the seeds and chop the jalapeño finely. Cut the mango and avocado into small cubes. Place everything including the fish in a large serving bowl. Season with salt. Decorate with plenty of fresh cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or as I sometimes do, thin knäckebröd.

* To be on the safe side it’s a good thing to get frozen fish or even freeze the fish for 2 – 3 days before making ceviche. The freezing will kill any possible parasites in the fish. I have had good results both ways. Please note that the fish, frozen or not still has to be of good quality. Here is an old article at New York Times about it.

Before buying any fish check with Seafood Watch for the most sustainable options.

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Other ceviche recipes
Swordfish Ceviche with an Asian Flair by Winnie Abramson at Food52
Sea Urchin Ceviche by norecipes

Guest Post: Mushroom Confit by Andrew Janjigian

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
diagrams,green,sides — by Johanna

I think the first time I talked with Andrew Janjigian (on twitter) was when he suggested an excellent trade: homemade sujuc (spicy sausage from the Middle East) for an illustrated Pide t-shirt!

Andrew is an associate editor at Cooks Illustrated Magazine, a passionate baker and a mycologist! It’s no wonder we connected on twitter, as you know, baking and mushrooms (especially foraging) are two of my favorite things (besides drawing of course). However, compared to me, Andrew is a master, in fact he teaches classes in both subjects in Cambridge, MA where he lives. He is also an organic chemist, professional cook and as a pizza enthusiast (he used to be a regular contributor at Slice & Serious Eats), he recently he built his own pizza oven. Impressive!

As if the above weren’t enough I just recently discovered he is, on top of everything, an excellent photographer. He has a great eye for detail, but most of all he can really capture the characters of people, women and men. His photos can be staged or captured in the moment, they can be funny or very serious and intimate. At the moment, a selection of his photos are showing at Gallery 263, in Cambridge.

Its a great pleasure to have Andrew as a guest here on koblog and I can reveal that there will be more by us soon.

Mushroom Confit
by Andrew Janjigian

This confit is one of my favorite ways to preserve mushrooms of nearly any kind. Delicately flavored mushrooms such as chanterelles or morels are best used by themselves, or paired with milder ones such as oysters or—as seen in Johanna’s lovely illustration—beech mushrooms. Other varieties may be combined however you like. As for the confit’s uses, they are nearly endless. As a sublime topping for pizza, of course. Added to sautéed greens. Mixed into an omelet or scrambled eggs. Spooned over crusty bread or crackers, perhaps along with a funky cheese. Or just eaten with a spoon, right from the jar. Once you taste it, I’m sure you’ll think of plenty more.

Mushroom Confit Recipe
makes about 4 cups

2 pounds fresh mushrooms of any kind, cleaned, woody stems removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1. Adjust rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 275°F (135°C). Slice or tear mushrooms into bite-sized pieces (smaller ones may be left whole). Place in colander set into large bowl, toss with kosher salt, and let stand for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard any water collected in bowl. (Mushrooms can be further dried of excess moisture in a salad spinner, if available.)

2. Transfer mushrooms to Dutch oven, along with garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, and toss to combine. Add oil, stir to combine, and transfer to oven.

3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Allow to cool. Discard herb stems and bay leaves. Pack mushrooms in jars, along with enough oil to cover. (Excess oil may be reused or repurposed.) Seal and refrigerate for up to 10 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. (For long-term shelf stability, jars can be pressure canned for 2 hours at 15 psi.)


More with and about Andrew

Cooks Illustrated’s Thin-Crust Pizza: Works Like a Charm
post by Adam Kuban at Serious Eats
How editor Andrew Janjigian took the fear factor out of souffle, Cooks Illustrated
Follow Andrew on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

 

Toscakaka med Apelsin (Swedish Almond Cake with Orange)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
diagrams,sweet — by Johanna

Toscakaka med Apelsin (Swedish Almond Cake with Orange)
by Anna Brones

When spring rolls in, I always think of my mother giving me a package of pink, yellow and blue feathers. They had thin metal wire at the tips, to be wrapped around branches. From the kitchen window I could see my mother cutting thin branches from the birch tree. She would bring them inside, set them in a large glass vase, and I would get to work attaching the feathers.

In Sweden, just like at Christmas you decorate a tree, at Easter time you get out the påskfjädrar and decorate a collection of branches, a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s. And my mother was sure that we always had a few bags of påskfjädrar on hand so as to make our house a colorful celebration of the season.

Many people in Sweden celebrate Easter, whether or not they have religious leanings. In fact, today it’s mostly celebrated as a secular holiday, one where everyone gets time off to celebrate the long weekend. Easter weekend is a time to gather with friends and family and eat good food together. There are the traditional Swedish holiday dishes like pickled herring, but whatever is served on the table is always an indicator of the season, with spring-friendly foods. And there are eggs of course. After a winter of heavy foods, the Easter celebration can be refreshing.

If you’re lucky, you may be gifted a cardboard egg, full of sweets, and if that isn’t enough for you, there’s sure to be an assortment of cakes to go with coffee. Because in Sweden, there is always cake and coffee.

Which brings us to the question: what kind of cake to serve?

Toscakaka is a classic Swedish recipe; you’ll find it in many an old cookbook, and it’s often an option at pastry shops. Its almond and caramel top makes it a step above ordinary cakes, which makes it a good option for a festive and celebratory meal. But the magic of this recipe is when the caramel seeps into the cake during baking, making for a moist and flavorful cake.

As we come out of the winter and citrus season, we thought it only fitting to celebrate the arrival of spring with an infusion of orange. The orange zest and juice in the cake pair well with the rich caramel on top, and giving it the perfect balance of flavors. You’ll often find this type of cake made with baking powder, but we opted to make it rise by separating the eggs and whisking the egg whites, similar to making a meringue.

Glad påsk!

Anna & Johanna’s Toscakaka with Orange

one 9” cake

cake
3 ½ oz (100 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (3 ¾ ounces, 106 grams) blanched almonds
3 egg yolks, room temperature
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup (3 ¾ oz, 106 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 ½ oz, 100 grams) natural cane sugar
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces, 71 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon orange zest + 3 tablespoons orange juice

almond & caramel topping
3 ½ oz (100 grams) butter
1/3 cup (2 ½ ounces, 71 g grams) brown sugar
3/4 cup (3 ¾ ounces, 106 grams) blanched almonds

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Grease a 9” spring form pan and sprinkle some breadcrumbs evenly.

Grind the blanched almonds for the cake in a food processor until almost finely ground; there could still be a little chunks of almonds left.

Cream together butter and brown sugar until well blended and creamy. Add one egg yolk at the time and mix it well together. Sift in the flour and carefully fold it into the batter together with the ground almonds. Add in the milk and orange zest. Stir as little as possible until you get an even and sticky batter.

In a grease-free bowl, whisk the egg white with an electric whisk (or by hand). When soft peaks forms add in the cane sugar little by little. Whisk until stiff peaks forms. Carefully fold the sugar and egg white mixture into the batter and keep folding until the batter is evenly blended. Be careful not to over stir.

Pour the batter into the greased and breaded spring form pan.

Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 25 minutes at the lower part of the oven. While cake is baking prepare quickly the almond & caramel topping.

Melt the butter together with the brown sugar. In the mean time chop the rest of the blanched almonds roughly. When the butter and sugar is melted add the almonds and stir together until it thickens.

Take out the cake from the oven (if the cake feels too wobbly let it bake a little longer). Poor the almond & caramel over, carefully spread it evenly. Bake the cake for another 10 – 15 minutes or until cake had got a nice color and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted to the thickest part of the cake.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool. Once cool, remove the cake from the pan.

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This post was also published at Foodie Underground.

 

Other articles by Anna & Johanna

Mazainer – Swedish Pastry Classic
Lussebullar – Swedish Saffron Buns
Kanelbullar & kardemummabullar
and
Anna is also my partner for my 1st book (Ten Speed Press, Spring 2015)