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Everything posted by Pontormo

  1. Torta della Donna Aprile: To prepare for your upcoming trip to Italy, I would recommend learning about the traditional cooking of each Italian region you visit in Italy and identifying dishes and foods that are local specialties with a special emphasis on the unfamiliar, that is, tastes you can't experience here. Fred Plotkin has written an excellent guide for Italian food lovers that he's just revised, so all the entries on individual restaurants should be up to date. The book is divided into regions (Tuscany, The Veneto, Lazio...) with one or two cities or towns featured in each overview. The latest edition of Slow Food's guide to Italy comes highly recommended by John Talbott (forum host, France) among others. There are plenty of other options online, of course, including Mario Batali's personal web site which has a section devoted to discrete Italian regions. While eGullet's members do not record trips to Italian tables in great volume, the Italian forum here does have a number of recent posts. I highly recommend a glance or two, especially since you might wish to consider Erba Luna, a new restaurant in Umbria. An Italian-trained American, our own Hathor, runs the kitchen together with a Roman partner. A rather exhaustive documentation of the nine weeks tupac17616 spent gaining 20 pounds in between college and grad school was put together this summer: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=103259. Browsing through the site, you will also run into discrete topics whose titles begin "The Cooking & Cuisine of" and finish with the name of a region. Most begin with overviews of the region's specialties. ETA: Hmmm. I see that this topic was begun in April, so the trip to Italy was in May. So, advice was too late. Instead, might I ask what other local restaurants you visited, where you went in Italy and what the relationship was between local and distant meals?
  2. Oh, but pork stock is big in Chinese cooking, has been for a long, long time. ← Cool. I'll look for advice/recipes there then. Wonder why western cookbooks don't mention it... ← Most general books stick to beef & chicken, true. However, cf. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I would imagine Mexican cookbooks would be another source, though pozole, for example, involves preparing a broth w pig parts that are also eaten in the finished dish vs. listing pork stock as an ingredient. Both. The rusty brown liquid that seeps out during the process is supposedly bitter. Ridding the eggplant of all that water is supposed to prevent the slices from soaking up excess oil during the frying process. From what I understand, it's just the large, bulbous eggplants that get treated this way.
  3. In part, yes. Takes much less time and I figure w beautiful, fresh eggplant from the market yesterday, it doesn't have to go through the whole pre-salting & rinsing stage that was developed to deal w old bitter fruits w lots of big seeds. Also uses much less oil, so fewer calories and a bit lighter. But mostly, since it's a favorite dish and I've made it at least once or twice a year, the idea of trying something new appealed to me.
  4. Help? Eggplant parmigiana. Made it for decades, very well, thank you. Tonight, after hearing people I trust recommend a method that omits the frying, I decided to be open-minded about it all, though I do recall some hippie-horrors involving slabs of raw eggplant baked in the oven. Followed Mario Batali's recipe which calls for unpeeled slices baked on oiled sheets, seasoned only. 450 F for 12-15 minutes. Take out when golden brown. Well, after that amount of time the slices, sure enough are still raw and browning to burn vs. cooking and becoming tender, seems to me. ETA: False alarm. Brushing on oil, flipping and baking one sheet at a time for longer duration seems to have resolved the problem.
  5. I'm a new convert to lard myself (though I had switched to all-butter pastry earlier), but to point out the obvious problem for professional baking, since lard is made from pig's fat, it also presents problems for Muslims, Kosher customers and even some Christians, since I know a woman from Ethiopia whose religion forbids the consumption of pork.
  6. Pille, I just might rely on someone else's sourdough starter, though James Beard has a recipe for a Finnish rye bread with pseudo-starter that you mix four days before baking: --From Beard on Bread.Recommended liquids include flat beer, buttermilk or potato water. The entire mixture is incorporated into a dough that requires yeast for leavening. The two alternatives you discovered sound interesting, too. Whatever I decide to do, I appreciate the inspiration. Thank you for a truly educational food blog--and a charming one at that!
  7. Doc, I am looking forward to your report, too. Much earlier in this thread, I mentioned Fabio Trabocchi and linked his menu at Maestro, the restaurant he is leaving when moving to New York. He's definitely relevant to this discussion. While the menus currently available online don't provide the more comprehensive picture offered by his cookbook, they raise another issue: cooking (versions of) regional dishes outside of their place of origin. Am I correct in believing Italian chefs feel more free to do this when they assume positions in kitchens outside of Italy? (I can think of at least one counter-example.) Back to the chef's cookbook: I recall a recipe that evokes the chef's regional origins without being "authentic". Trabocchi created a dish that is based on the smell of hay burning; it reminds me somewhat of the kinds of things José Andres is known for. Starchefs.com actually publishes it online here: Smoky Hay Turbot with Potatoes.
  8. It's wonderful to see this report, Foodman. Congratulations to your brother & I'm glad your children had such a good time. Since you had mentioned trends in Lebanese markets earlier, I hope the camera wasn't forgotten during at least one trip to the market...
  9. Pontormo

    Gold Leaf

    To elaborate: Gold leaf was especially useful in embellishing the wooden panels of altarpieces, icons and tabernacles. In stories designed to promote the power of sacred images--or to argue against idolatry--devotees are said to scrape at a painting with their fingernails and ingest the fragment. So, eating gold leaf has a long history! (As an attempt to "become one" with the holy subject represented on the panel, this act of vandalism was somewhat nutritious in that egg was used for the paint and glazes.)
  10. Pille: Thank you so much for answering my questions, and even keeping them in the back of your mind as you shopped. One of the reasons I asked about openness to other culinary traditions is that I thought the question might be something a sociologist considers, especially in light of the focus of your research. As an American, I am constantly reminded of how important emigration has been in shaping the meals I eat.* Travel, of course, also broadens our tastes. It's always interesting to see other factors at play, especially in an Eastern European country. Along those lines, one country's perceptions of another's food can be interesting, too. Or perhaps I misinterpret the English text on cases in the food department of the upscale store you just visited? Does Stockmann compare the high prices and quality of its fish to New York? * * * I also hope your rye starter is something we can replicate at home. * * * Yes, this really is a great food blog! Have a wonderful weekend! *Choosing the correct preposition isn't always easy for native speakers, either. I revised this sentence to avoid a difficult decision.
  11. Clearly, Madame, you do not fit the mold.
  12. Warning, though on topic solely in that lacking a good night's sleep affects the pleasure of one's meals and while dining in the evening, the roar of construction is not welcome. Find out from the hotel if the major repaving project on Connecticut Avenue & nearby Calvert Bridge will be completed by the time of reservations. (Work begins at around 8 PM and lasts until around 4 AM, though sometimes two hours earlier; the project is an off & on again thing for two weeks and is drawing to a close--perhaps. Lunch should not be a problem.)
  13. I wonder about the extent to which we're talking about gendered prose, too. I find it's hard to make sweeping generalizations about the subject. For example, TA, I know what you mean in the post you wrote shortly before this contribution, but think of MFK Fisher and gender distribution among authors of food memoirs. I've heard an unattributed observation from a linguist who claims that men tend to use language to promote themselves and compete while women, in general, to empathize and identify with others in the conversation ( what Busboy dismisses as bonding). To the extent that the journalist is complaining about cocky writing, okay there is an unappealing Three Stooges element to such writing that may be exaggerated to distinguish the writer in the regard of Real Men Don't Eat Quiche. For a journalist, there's also the matter of Real Men Write About Socioeconomics if they can't Write the Great American Novel. Or at least Sports. The bravado is to proclaim Food Journalism as a worthy venture. I have to question how many readers nowadays remember The Woman's Pages. But there is a homophobic element in the overcompensating, perhaps. What strikes me is the Casual Friday/SNLiveliness of such writing. I am okay with very stylized writing if it's done in earnest, well. It's hard to do it without being precious, so I admire anyone able to pull it off. (I'm thinking of the stark, bare-bones prose of a novel, Kitchen, rather than journalism at the moment.) However, there is too much jokiness that comes with sneers. Sincerity is an object of fear in an age of cynicism. Wit is good. Clever is fine. But it all gets old, yes, when everyone is doing it and you're apt to be snickered at when you get all serious. Cf. the essays The New Yorker publishes as "Shouts and Murmurs". Or the sentence before the last one, along with this one for that matter.
  14. Bread again. Ann Cashion is a major figure in the culinary world of Washington, D.C. The fact that she "discovered" José Andres and brought him to the city might prove of interest to members of this society. What is relevant to this discussion is an ongoing conversation at a regional food board where the chef responds to praise by referring to her training just outside of Florence: The comment resonated with me since I recall how salty meals seemed during the first long period I spent in Italy,* at a time when U.S. citizens were being warned about dangers of too much sodium. In light of our exchange here, Ann Cashion's remarks appear ironic, though fortedei explains how unsalted bread serves as a foil to salty toppings or ingredients in a dish. Since the chef also addresses differences between French and Italian seasoning, of course, it made sense to hear her impressions on pane toscana and perceptions of traditional Italian cooking: And: To read the comments in full: click. * (Hathor, thanks. However, I defer to anyone who's dined with Ken Albala.)
  15. Pille: This is really an interesting tour of Estonia. Thank you! Your wild mushrooms are exquisite and I am looking forward to learning how to use up the rest of a bag of rye flour I purchased fairly recently. The loaf photographed at the beginning of this food blog is lovely--as is your own blog. I have only one question. Where might you find a better pizza: Edinburgh or Tallinn? Okay, maybe two. How open is Estonia to the foods and dishes of other countries whose traditions are quite unlike its own?
  16. Covered in maggots, that sounds unlikely, but I have seen old Auvergnat shepherds (tall, Gipsy-looking grannies wearing purple blouses and a large straw hat) choosing Saint-Nectaire cheeses at the Pontgibaud market. They picked those that had maggots running on them. That was about 20 years ago. I am not sure things have changed a lot. Ptipois, did you miss the reference to Sardinian Casa Marzu in a response to Felice? It's not merely a rural legend. Cf. the initial post in this topic and its link to a first-hand report from Albiston here. There's also Mimolette up north with its mites.
  17. Disclaimer: I haven't read this entire thread, but have glanced at enough to see repeated complaints from members in the U.S. about not finding commercial bread without High Fructose Corn Syrup. Just in case you're still looking, here's a recommendation: Arnold Health Nut Bread. I admit that prior to finding this Web site I was one of those weirdos who sent postcards periodically to food companies (well, two) complaining about ingredients such as trans fats in products I otherwise liked. Arnold thrilled me by actually switching to real butter in some of its lines. Moreover, during the days when low-carb diets posed the greatest threat to the industry, Arnold proved the most generous with half-price discounts at supermarkets. While appearing generally more concerned about nutrition than Pillsbury (a company that has nonetheless begun copying several of its rival's breads), Arnold is no saint. It's interesting that the corporate web site will not provide all the information you'll find by reading labels. When I conducted a search for the words "high fructose" on its web site, the results listed only five breads and only the ones being marketed for their lack of HFCS. In other words, plenty of HFCS goes into the company's products. This is the information provided in the pop up window that opens when you click on the phrase "No High Fructose Corn Syrup" in the link I provide in this post:
  18. Spotted my first this morning just as I was leaving.... ← And who might that be??? ← No one I recognized--which isn't saying much. There were nonetheless other chefs, regulars, in their civies. Truly a glorious day. * * * Cf. the thread on Dorie Greenspan's latest book (Baking...) for a terrific, quick cake requiring Italian prune plums, best the day after it's made. Think the recipe is called Dimpled Plum Cake; there are photos in the thread, including a beautiful one by Chufi.
  19. I vote for a spin-off thread devoted to salt and bread. Ed: Thanks for the article that begins w the great quote from Dante. I was surprised though to read that schiacciata's made without salt; with grapes, okay, but not my experience in the past couple of decades at least. As for the explanations, I have to wonder. Seem to be searching for logic. Regarding expense in the past, when, I wonder? In Dante's age, Florence was still in profound competition with its nearby neighbor, Siena. I was taught that the slope of the Campo in front of the town hall accommodated a massive amount of salt, stored below.
  20. Ling: That is gorgeous!!!!! Yum. BTW, I came across an interesting post recently that you wrote less than three years ago: Now, it's got to be one of the funniest things here.
  21. Spotted my first this morning just as I was leaving....
  22. Do you like it? ← I like pane senza sale very much, depending on how it is made (well or poorly) and most importantly what it is used for. For instance, IMHO, you do not use salted bread for crostini al ginepro. The anchovies, the meat broth and the brine in the capers, provide more than enough salt for it to become noticeable, so you use senza sale. You would not use salted bread for pappa al pomodoro or panzanella because salt is added to the ingredients, so you use senza sale. You wouldn't use salted bread for fettunta because salt is added to the ingredients, so you use senza sale. Most foreigners think that all Tuscan bread is saltless. As I said in an earlier post, nothing could be further from the truth. Even great cooking luminaries, or I should say those who think they are, make the mistake about Tuscan bread. One who fancies himself as such, Jason Epstein, late of Random House, wrote an article in The New Yorker about Tuscany. Mr. Epstein disparaged Tuscan bread because it was saltless. Clearly, Mr. Epstein was under a mis- assumption about Tuscan bread and probably wasn't smart enough to buy anything but senza sale. If he came to Forte dei Marmi and went to "Mario's", he would see that most Tuscan bread is salted and delicious. ← Fortedei, thank you very much for this post! I've eaten a wide variety of breads in Florence (and to some degree elsewhere in Tuscany) since the late 70s. It took a while for me to appreciate small thin-crusted rolls that were served as breakfast in a program I worked for, but with dense, salted butter and preserves, they gradually became addictive. * * * This discussion seems to be veering away from Hathor's original query again. Fine by me, though the nattering's gotten a bit circular and seems to be about whether Italians know from cuisine or not. More relevant, perhaps, is the type of food Rick Bayless advocates in Mexican Everyday, a book that follows publications on traditional regional cooking. Designed for the busy, professional home cook, the recipes present a number of unorthodox combinations and preparations that nonetheless depend upon a formidable repertoire of traditional dishes and methods.
  23. Pontormo

    Chef Attire

    Just an aside, but I remember a lunch at Union Square Cafe once when a well-endowed friend commented on the oxford shirts wait staff wore. She complained that the masculine style just isn't flattering for bodies like hers.
  24. Kirsten, I have no experience, but if you move from page 1 to page 2 in this regional forum, you'll find a topic begun by StephenC (? not sure of name) earlier this summer on Venetian black. There have been other queries in the past of a similar nature, so it might be worthwhile to conduct a search.
  25. Lorna: Should be fine...I've made batches that I've kept in the fridge for well over a week. Only gets better in a few days. You can always reheat it and let it cool again if you want to play safe. Please post your cache when over should you have the energy...
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