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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Cooking Life: Remembering Tuscany ~ Deepening the Pot



June 21st is a flurry of activity as we stir Summer of 2012 into C'est si Bon

Summer is Very Stirring!


Mentally, emotionally, and bien sur, with pots of coffee at the ready we delight in the wonderful adventure of 9 weeks of Kid-Chef summer programs. 


Simple Crostada with Custard and Blueberries


We’re in Southern Italy this second week. And many of our weeks are devoted to plunging in with wooden spoons, cream, and fresh basil, to dishes from, yes, Italy. And so it is that I get to review our Italian recipe collection.

Festive Sicilian marzipan fruits
Wild boar Tuscan style
Tortellini en brodo with winter greens and broccoli pesto
Tomato and bread soup – pappa a pomodoro
Stracotta alla fiorentina – stewed beef or meat sauce Florentine
Sformata di zucchini flan
Lemon Ricotta Semolina Cake

During this recipe exploration I was reminded of the time I spent absorbing, carrying around, and alternately staining and turning the pages of The Tuscan Year, Life and Food in an Italian Valley. Now this wasn’t a popular book by any stretch of the imagination, but like it's author, Elizabeth Romer, I too was enamored of Silvana Cerotti, this older woman living in the rough hills of Tuscany and rejoiced her effort to take care and document the story of cold winter meals, summer bounty that required plentitude and fortitude, the holidays and the everyday meals Senora Cerotti made for her family and friends.



Life was being preserved, cherished, and celebrated.

This rustic everyday spirit was April of 1998 on my first time in Tuscany with Caterina Migno and her family; rich with the spooning of warm ricotta cheese from Senor Dei's staccato stirrer, white truffled and stuffed guinea hens at La Rosa del Trinoro, listening to the tale's at long table at the Rignano's Cinghale Festa (at these wild boar feasts we ate every part long before snout to tail dinners became all the rage) and grinding out first gear as my rental car trampled the Sangiovese grapes spilling out over the Val di Chianti sunset. 

Caterina Migno


We're doing our best to share the story of preserve cooking's life and tradition in our little C'est si Bon! kitchen in Chapel Hill. And to that end I want to tell you about the slew of talented people in the C'est si Bon! family kitchen who enrich the summer with adventures! 

Next time....

But, what are your favorite Italian dishes? I learned this one from Caterina's Momma, Leda.

Tomato and bread soup – pappa al pomodoro

Tomato season begins again, and the so the summer kitchen is fresh and new. I first had this dish in April of 1998 when I stayed with Paolo Migno and his family, including his daughter, Caterina Migno, in Rignano sul Arno. The dish was created to use up stale bread it can be made with very ripe fresh or if in winter perhaps some lovely “put up” ones from your or someone else’s garden.

Serves 4

6 tablespoons olive oil
small piece of dried chili, crumbled (optional)
1 1/2 cups stale coarse white bread, cut into 1 in cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 28 ounces “put up” peeled plum tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
6 1/4 cups homemade stock or water, or a combination of both
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve (optional)

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chili, if using, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the bread cubes and cook until golden. Remove to a plate and drain on paper towels.

Add the remaining oil, the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion softens. Stir in the tomatoes, bread and basil. Season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the stock or water to simmering. Add it to the saucepan; with the tomato mixture, and mix well. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat slightly and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. Use a fork to mash the tomatoes and the bread together. Season with pepper, and more salt if necessary. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Just before serving swirl in a little extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Cooking Life: An Unquiet Egg


If you ever wondered about the goings on of a couple of eggs in the patisserie department of a large hotel kitchen? Here's a short little parody I did on on another book called An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. 

AN UNQUIET EGG: A MEMOIR OF MOUSSE, MERINGUE, AND MAYO

It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon and when you're feeling firm yet somewhat fried, even the kitchen of the once great Savoy Hotel in London has a certain appeal.
        The patisserie, normally a cool unclotted collection of chocolate, coconut, and custards of all sorts became for me, that hot summer afternoon, a focus for my fortutitiously whipped and puffy inner being.
        With my yolk yellowing, and my white billowing I was fast and furiously on the run. Darting back and forth between the beaters of the huge Hobart, I was but a manic mess of mixed up eggergy slowly turning into nothing short of meringue.
        The grade A jumbo friend I was with, a colleague from cooking school, knew me and the difference between my upswings with POACHED EGGS, WHITE TRUFFLES AND HOLLANDAISE  and my low ebb of simple DEVILED EGGS WITH PICKLE RELISH AND PAPRIKA.
        He had reached the limit of his own madcap moussings and was now at ovenrest on a parchment lined pan dusted with a crystal kaleidescope of sugar. Farewell fellow food.
        To a more mellifluous mind this was not surprising, the usual distinction between poachings and puddings had long since dissappeared and separated the two of us.  We should have been oeufs not omelettes, souffles not soft-boiled, bernaise not blinis; spinning into high falutin' desserts no one could walk away from or tempered into rich cream sauces that would leave the wildest of mushrooms in a state of unrest.

Rich Creme Caramel

        Suddenly the pastry chef pulled out the largest angel food cake pan I'd ever seen.  Even in my less than controlled state I could see her hand was on the wire wisk ready to incorporate me into a huge bowl of sifted flour, bittersweet cocoa, and orange shavings, when suddenly she shouted out, "Don't you let me down, not when I have a hundred more cakes to make!" A not unreasonable request. Another seemingly average egg white, who was obviously more together than I, spoke up and managed to explain in simple cooking terms.  "Please Mademoiselle, we're both in need of a pinch of salt and a little cream of tartar."
        Being a really good egg explained almost everything.

Pizza Royale with Ham, Egg, and Creme Sauce

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Writing Life: Vultures, Video, the Saxapahaw-Haw and a Plea to All Writers Near and Far


My dear and devoted readers,

This is going to be a fast blog - would that be a fl-og? or a bl-ast. Yes, a bl-ast.  That's what this is.

And that's what my writer and friend and cohort, Kitty Lynn, and I had last week. We may be starting a new series of bl-asting around the Chapel Hill/Saxapahaw environs. People often ask, what do writers do?

We're always in search of...new sights, sounds, and inspirations. And possibly other writers.

If you're a writer in the Triangle area, we'd love to find you! Please leave a comment!

Here's what we found.

First thing we had to deal with was a dead vulture. But there was a blue dragonfly we just could not get a good photo of. Drat! And Kitty told the fable of the Lion. Yes, since first posted, I have fixed this video. You no longer have to view it by turning your head.


video


Then we met a toad or two down by the Haw River.

We enjoyed lunch at the very infamous Saxapahaw General Store.

Kitty Lynn Horsing Around


Along the Haw River

There Are Many Wondrous Sights

(No I Am Not One of Them)


And Roots

There was, well it IS still there, an immense tree hanging over the Haw and when you look into the intricate web of roots you can see a secret little enclave. That's right. It appears we had stumbled upon the shucking place for many a raccoon who enjoyed fresh water clams on many and any a moonlight night. 

So that's what we found. 

If you're a writer in the Triangle area, we'd love to find you! Please leave a comment!

(And if you're not in the Triangle we'd still love to connect with you. Please leave a comment!)


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