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Everything posted by Pontormo

  1. While I posted after rendering the lard and have been using it for savory Mexican dishes, I made a pastry for the first time this week. Half butter, half lard (total 114 g) and 1 t cider vinegar replacing a little of the ice water. Yes, indeed, the results were wonderfully flaky. Really one of the best textures I can ever recall short of following the long fold & rest techniques of puff pastry. Also responds very well to re-heating (quiche in this case). The edges browned perfectly, caramelizing less than an all-butter crust, so I didn't have to cover them with foil to prevent burning. One draw-back: I missed the flavor of an all-butter crust. I could not detect anything porky, though, so I am sure it would be fine w any kind of sweet pie.
  2. Thanks for bringing us back to earth. Sounds tragic and I think you've pinpointed the inspiration for Gerber's baby food. On the other hand, "al dente" vegetables arouse controversy even in the States where they're popular; it might be James Peterson who writes a polemic against the trend. ...but, forgive me, Hathor, this situation is shades of the Whole Foods feast in Omnivore's Dilemma: asparagus in September? Your concluding remark sounds as if you will find a solution. I guess the chef who buys the produce w specific preparations in mind has first dibs until you settle into enough a routine to define standards. If there are days Erba Luna closes and you do mre than sleep, I think you need to invite the Roman over and ply him with wine and vegetables cooked to your liking.
  3. Pontormo

    Fig ideas?

    Curlz, I'm surprised you haven't received any responses from someone who has a tree in his/her backyard. Alas, that's not me and I can only speak as someone who's been buying them for a few years.Figs strike me as extremely fragile when fully ripe and soft; small dots of mold will collect on the skin after days in the refrigerator when they're in this state due to built-up moisture. The best way to avoid that happening is to put a paper towel in the bottom of a shallow bowl that is wide enough to accommodate the figs without crowding. Loosely cover w a produce bag. Same as berries. It's the crowding that can lead to bruises, mold and rot. Seasonal store-bought figs can last as little as 2-3 days to a little longer than a week. You just never know how long they've been stored, etc. * * * Recently discovered In the Sweet Kitchen and a great, quick preparation for figs. Slice as if in quarters from the stem end without cutting all the way through, then place figs close to one another in a ceramic baking dish, pressing the four lobes of the figs slightly open like a flower in bloom. Dot each w a little butter, then sprinkle w cinnamon and a tiny bit of cardamom if desired. (RG recommends freshly grated or ground spices--but fine from powder.) Then drizzle w a mixture of orange zest, orange juice and honey [not too dark--I used orange blossom]--not too much--just enough to make a sauce. Bake at around 350 F, I think, basting after 15 minutes and continue until fruit looks roasted and juices reduce and become a little syrupy. In book, they top marscapone on a sweet polenta pastry. I find they're wonderful cold for breakfast folded into thickened yogurt.
  4. P.S. Anyone have tips for cleaning the enamel--or links to relevant tips? What was once a nice bright yellow is becoming quite autumnal.
  5. Just made batch number 3, maybe, months after first attempt. Used Abra's formula for larger loaves (24 oz. total, though I used KA bread flour for protein content & a little less than 4 oz. WW for flavor). 20 minutes lidded, though I'd go for 30 minutes next time. Final minutes on rack. Might also take loaf out sooner since bottom crust blackened a bit on one side. The results were mixed on a humid rainy day, the interior somewhat damp perhaps because I speeded up the cooling process by sticking the loaf in front of the AC. Don't. Toast excellent, nonetheless. Here's where I remain disappointed: little spring and shape. I use a 5 or 6-quart enamel Dutch oven [bottom says "26" and "FRANCE"; Staub's inexpensive line] and was unhappy w the spread of what seemed like an inadequate amount of dough the first two times. Thus, the increase of flour and water. When I plopped the raw loaf into the heated pot, I was hopeful since the volume seemed perfect. Results measure just a little more than 3 inches in the center. Form? Not so much a dome with sloping sides as a cake with tall sides rising straight upward with just a little more height in the center. Even though I jiggled the dough a bit before covering it w a lid and closing the oven door, some of the dough remained pressed against the sides of the pot for a long time before contracting. I didn't have to labor to get the loaf out; it's not that the loaf stuck to the pot's surface.
  6. For those of us who cling to the other side of the ward as tenaciously as Eva St. Marie NNW, this is valuable as well as entertaining. I look forward to more reports, especially if you charm your way into the kitchen and get to document more of what goes on there. I'd like to learn more about that phyllo-like dough, especially after reading this report of a Kurdish meal.
  7. Working title: Eats Sh*t and Leaves
  8. This must have been mentioned already and it's more of a problem in older stores whose aisles accommodate no more than one cart passing another as shoppers head in the opposite direction. In the U.S. supermarkets promote items by placing them strategically in front of cases and shelves so that only a single cart can squeeze by. Often, they're precariously stacked and look as if someone never finished stocking the shelves and just left the boxes out. This trend is right up there with draping garments over racks to prevent you from glancing quickly at whatever's on sale. Safeway is especially annoying. The company blocks passage with heavy three-tiered cast-iron stands that look like end tables for gardens in a Spanish Mission. Bump into one and you're bruised.
  9. How would you all feel were I to add lard to the butter while putting together pastry for a quiche?
  10. ...as served in Venetian bars. Because we rarely can single out one authority to establish the authenticity of a dish, what a recipe codifies has to be questioned, too. Ask Plato to replace his chair with a gatto di patate and he's not going to be able to compare all the GdPs on earth to the Ideal, Perfect Dish. Recipes are historical documents and informed cooks can respect history even as they're changing it. They also might interpret that history differently. Or cull from different sources to arrive at different results. I tried adding this to my name tag but it is so full already that I can't get more on there! Well said anyway! ← Cf. your signature line. Priests subscribe to tradition when facing their altars. Edited to revise redundant text and to mention one other thing that returns us to the reasons Hathor started this thread, I think: Fabio Trabocchi. Since the Italian chef is moving from Washington, D.C. to New York, the link to Maestro and the menu page may break in the near future. However, look not only at the dishes, but the classification system used to distinguish menus from one another here. Cf. especially the items that the chef presents as being in the spirit of Le Marche where he grew up and began his career. Italian chefs should not feel compelled to transfer their careers to other countries to experiment, nor should an American feel compelled to prove she's "Italian enough" while standing in front of an Umbrian stove.
  11. Used to think irony was at play. However, the folk who shop at outdoor markets favor WFM as their supermarket, anyway. I had a long conversation once with a 66-year old woman who looks like a former Olympic medalist more than a decade younger and usually shows up at the market in spandex shorts in the summer to better reveal the tautness of every muscle in half her limbs. Her justification for buying organic apples from New Zealand at Whole Foods in the fall is worthy of a new book by Deborah Tanner.WFM may be exploting the situation as a marketing ploy, but in a city like D.C. promotional campaigns sometimes have a spark of sincere ideological principle behind them. FreshFarm Markets have long depended on corporate as well as individual patrons and partners. While the restitution of the supermarket chain's old backdoor policy has yet to happen thanks to the mediating role FFM plays in bringing farmers, shoppers and WFM together, there are more and more overt signs of mutual back-scratching these days. You must have missed the times WFM filled in at Chef Demos. Given my opinion of most prepared foods at WFM and the growth of that product line at the expense of a wide variety of raw ingredients, I find this phenomenon even more deserving of commentary.* As far as yesterday's market is concerned, the information tables were packed w Whole Food's literature since the company will donate a set percentage of the dollars spent at their store in Georgetown to the FreshFarm Market today (Sept. 10). I want to know more about the eye candy. Nora's one of the founders of the market. Ris sometimes works for Toiga (and shops at Whole Foods); she used to show up at the market w her truck back in the days of 1789. Etc. As for pubic appearances and PR, that's basically why there are Chef at the Market demos. Kolumbia's Jamie S. signed up practically every month when I began volunteering at Dupont. Brought a stack of business cards and menus when he'd tear in after a grueling Saturday night and talk up his restaurant at the same time that he'd demonstrate how the public might use the fresh produce available at the market. *Somewhat related: When Jaleo's team decided to show shoppers just how easy it is to whip up gazpacho, that no cooking is involved, and how wonderful tomatoes are during the height of the growing season, the public snatched up copies of recipes and nodded vigorously when the merits of certain sherries and olive oils were discussed. As I was passing out samples, more than one shopper said, "So where can I buy this?" "I mean ready-made."
  12. 1. Around the same time I first saw the fruit, if in California: the 1970s. You might be interested in reading some of the regional cooking threads we collaborated on here in the Italian forum, especially the introductory remarks. I think I mentioned Emilia-Romagna's kiwi fruit ("actinidia") for the first time in a list of regional specialties compiled at the beginning of the thread on Liguria back in May 2006. Perhaps Judith can tell you more, but I'm guessing kiwi fruit are as influential in Italian cuisine as they are in American. 2. The era after World War II brought tremendous change. I've delved very little into the subject, but you'll find the phrase "cucina povera" thrown around quite a bit in the cooking threads mentioned above. While generalizations are dangerous--especially mine--it can be said that a very large portion of the Italian population ate the food of poverty until the second half of the 20th century. The book's rather dry at times, but I recommend skimming Carole Counihan's Around the Tuscan Table which results from interviewing three generations of former in-laws. The eldest say that they ate "poco ma buono"--little, but well, expressing an attitude that while there is plenty now, quality suffers. This kind of nostalgia is behind the elevation of certain humble foods such as dried salted cod which can be quite expensive in good restaurants. I won't say much about carbonara, but most of us enjoyed and recommend David Downie's excellent book on the food of Rome. He begins w the popular theory that American GI's and a love of bacon and eggs brought about a dish whose origins, as far as he is concerned, remain obscure. Nonetheless, there is a fine discussion of attempts to pinpoint the dish's "invention" and the role that etymology plays in the book. Not much about dissemination, though, it's acknowledged. I have not seen Maureen Fant's contribution to the literature, but she's a member of this Society, so you might wish to send her a PM. * * * Busboy periodically plants tongue in check when referring to lit crit types. You need patience for academic discourse in attacking it, but the preface to Italian Cuisine is illuminating. The authors argue that even though we tend to think of Italian cuisine as being local and diverse, and therefore by its very nature, not really unified and definable, the concept of a local, regional cuisine is largely determined by its difference to other cuisines. Definitions of one Italian region's [traditional] cuisine come about via exchange, that is, the moment when "a product or recipe is brought into contact with different systems and cultures." (xiv) Example: no one in Bologna calls mortadella Bologna, but outsiders do. "Cuisine is then revealed for what it actually is and has always been: an unparalleled site of exchange and contamination, beyond its origin. If a product can be the expression of a particular territory, its use in a recipe or on a menu is almost always the result of hybridization." Italy is also rather distinctive as a conglomerate of cities with formidable legacies often reaching all the way back to Ancient Rome. Each city (whether court or republic during the Middle Ages) "is at once local and national. An unparalleled site of commercial exchange...administrative center..." and ultimately "the strategic setting for the creation and transmission of a culinary heritage." This is a nod to the food and dishes of ruling classes as opposed to "cucina povera".
  13. Pontormo

    Cheese substitutes

    P.S., While producing a small batch of queso blanco, I came across this recipe for Jack, i.e. the Monterey Jack called for in your recipe: Click.
  14. I'm not going to attempt to answer the question regarding Italian gelato since the little research I've done involved writers who repeat the same sources uncritically, tracing origins to flavored ices and snow in Ancient Rome or the Arabs in Sicily in the early medieval period. Regarding the United States, I wonder when this century-old establishment first began calling itself a gelateria. I'm a little skeptical and think you need to distinguish between the sliced ice cream (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, no?) and what they now call gelato. I imagine there is an intersection of different factors that include increased popularity of American tourism to Italy (i.e., when did every wedding you attended end up with a postcard from Positano or Tuscany?) among the classes Henry James rarely addresses, study programs abroad in Italy, the path that Bergman forged in making foreign films fashionable among intellectuals, the rise of Haagen-Dasz and the coffee house. It was after the democratization of the croissant and baguette by Vie de France. The first gelato I recall ever eating in the US was at Dolce Vita (see paragraph above) in Venice, California and I spent formative years in an Italian-American neighborhood where lemon ices were popular. It was well after my first trip to Vivoli, so I want to say around 1983. On Madison Avenue, I am pretty sure I lined up at the one Italian bar I knew about before that date, but I don't recall if they had gelato up front at the same time they began offering espresso drinks and panini in egg-glazed football-shaped rolls w a slice of prosciutto for around $4. Anyone recall that place? Or when the Roman gelateria (Palm?) opened (briefly?) in Manhattan?
  15. Thinking about the issue in terms of context, I am going to define the context as Erba Luna and the practical concerns the original poster has in feeding Montone, Italian tourists and tourists from abroad. Second, how does a chef balance a desire to be distinctive--or to transform palates by introducing new pleasures--with a need to fill tables? Simplistically put, and there are exceptions to the rule, traditional regional Italian cooking is home cooking and "contemporary" stems from the more self-conscious, stylized artfulness (Maniera) of the culture of restaurants. The former tends to be insular and site-specific and is tied to issues of identity, family, comfort and nostalgia. It's retrospective. The latter is more open to foreign influence, defining "foreign" in terms of countries as opposed to in-laws, generations, towns, regions or North vs. South. It looks forward, glancing over its shoulder with anxiety and desperation at times since it can be defensive. Chauvanism gets wrapped up with the long-held opinion of outsiders that French cuisine is more accomplished and refined; nowadays, the creativity of Spain matters just as much. What allies tradition and contemporary cooking are beliefs in the importance of impeccable ingredients and the role of the cook in enhancing their integral qualities. How do the restaurant's patrons fit into the picture? The diversity of the group presents challenges. Americans may not be familiar w regional Italian cooking let alone Umbrian specialties. Do you want to teach them that tradition or fulfill expectations if this is their sixth annual trip to the country? Do Romans want to eat Umbrian food as part of the foreign experience? Does your neighbor go out to eat just to socialize or take a break from the kitchen, but expect to eat exactly what he has at home? Does she actually prefer French pastry to the local crostate, but balk at foam after noon and not made from milk?
  16. Pairing tomatoes with anything was an esoteric food pairing when it first happened. It's the same as bringing some esoteric fruit from Asia to Italy today and putting it on pizza. What today's traditionalists are saying is that we should no longer try to do what got us to where we are in the first place. ← I am guilty, too, for bringing up the subject of tomatoes in an earlier post. However, I am getting tired of this example being entered into the discussion of contemporary vs. traditional or authentic Italian cooking since the reference is to a phenomenon that took place centuries ago. Was the word "pomodoro" in what some call the first Italian dictionary of 1612? I don't know, but tomatoes are firmly rooted in Italian culinary history by now. In terms of living memory, most Northern Italians have probably eaten them, too, even in lasagna. I'd also call pistachios traditional even though the Arabs brought them to Sicily. Russ Parsons may have been the first to inform me here that zucchini are a 19th-century Italian transformation of squash imported from the Americas, but I wouldn't bring them into this discussion either. Otherwise, many of us are simply using different words to say that it is wrong to essentialize tradition or to view it either as unvaried or unwavering.
  17. Pontormo

    Erba Luna

    I love the signature dish--both as an idea and as something to eat. You could even shape them as circles whenever there's a full moon! * * * Out of safety zone? One of my favorite things in the world is this: Winter Squash Galette which could easily be transformed into a torta or little impanate. Then there is mostarda or the possibility of modifying another country's traditions further. Wolfert's braise of lamb and winter squash as Umbrian grill? Mexican beans and chili-slathered sweet potato wedges as...
  18. 1. Tapas 2. Eggplant 3. Garlic 4. Chocolate 5. Rice 6. Tea 7. Wine 8. Legs 9. Blue 10. Circles 11. Slippery 12. A specific cookbook—with host handing out recipes 13. The September 2007 issue of Gourmet on Latino America 14. Move beyond generic ethnic to delve more seriously into a specific Mexican, French, Chinese or Italian region 15. Sandwiches 16. Sexual fantasies & fetishes 17. Favorite childhood food 18. What your spouse/beloved/ex won't eat 19. Something you love that you hated as a child 20. Molecular Gastronomy 21. What you'd serve during a presidential/candidate's visit 22. Were Chopin's Sonata No 2 in B flat minor edible, what would it taste like? 23. "Oops, I did it again…" 24. Jazz 25. Purity 26. Processed foods Prize to the most delicious concoction (seriously) 27. Dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients Exclusively? Permit oils, flours & spices? 28. Manifest Destiny 29. Satire 30. Architecture 31. Cafeteria 32. Purgatory 33. The 1980s (cf. a previous thread on the subject; for a book club meeting) 34. Earth Air Fire Water (One month—or substitute Wood & Metal for Air ) 35. Cake vs. Pie 36. Gender 37. Multiculturalism 38. Senior Prom 39. Husks & Leaves 40. Hot Enough For You?
  19. Pontormo

    Cheese substitutes

    FWIW, you can respect the spirit of the recipe by featuring one dominant cheese and adding at least two others to enrich the taste with contrasting, complementary flavors. The recipe sounds a bit boring since it requires mild Cheddar (a young cheese, usually dyed orange) rather than sharp aged white Cheddar. It caters to bland tastes, though a mild Cheddar would be absolutely perfect for children. Adding a generous amount of an aged Gouda--what is sold here as Gold Reserve--would supply both the orange color and more flavor were you to stick to a mild Gouda as the principal cheese. As for the Monterey Jack or Emmental, the two having completely different qualities! Therefore, the restaurant offers some flexibility, based on personal preference. M.J. is buttery as Eden said above, and semi-soft. It's melted for the goo factor on a lot of pseudo-Mexican dishes. (The aged version is quite lovely.) I'd think Edam. However, a Gouda made with goat's milk might be more interesting, though I'd never make this casserole without a little blue cheese. * * * I know eG members lament the lack of Cheddar in France, too. While I understand why European countries with incredible cheeses highlight their own, I am not sure why British cheeses are under-represented on the continent. Cheddar may not be Stilton, but there are good reasons why the colonies make it, too.
  20. Please forgive tone. On a more gracious note, I'd like to develop the comparison between Italian cuisine and the visual arts and make a distinction that is relevant to the ongoing discussion. The great Russian artist Malevich said that if you want to see a cow, go out to the fields and look. His point was that art ought to provide something different from the everyday and what you can see elsewhere. It was also in defense of current trends in the visual arts, particularly the painters of his country who rejected the tired same-old academic practices of the establishment and refused to create unimaginative landscapes with traditional subject matter. In this respect, this is what Hathor and other chefs (or cooks) can do in the face of tradition. Malevich may have abandoned imagery altogether, but he used the traditional tools, paint, colors, lines and geometic shapes previous artists used. He painted on the same rectangular surfaces that landscape artists filled with pastures and cows. The gist of a number of comments here is that one ought to know the history and traditions of one's chosen profession in order to draw from them selectively or reject them utterly. (Ignorance sometimes is a blessing, but that's another point.) Like artists, chefs can turn to books to learn that tradition, following recipes, instructions or simply using the pictures. However, the analogy falls short in that chefs also resemble performing artists when they create classic or traditional dishes such as those in the repertoires of Italian regions. Like a musician, actor or director, chefs perpetuate tradition to make of the past a living present. Nonetheless, we tend to honor those who add something to the familiar that is unfamiliar, new, and distinctly their own. Over time, such contributions alter tradition. Should you add tomatoes to a dish that dates back to a fifteenth-century Italian court?
  21. Thank you all for your contributions. Etalanian, sound advice! If I'm using leaf lard, I ought to combine it with a superior butter, too. And David, glorious picture!!! Since I've never baked with lard before, I think I'm just going to leave it out for now, but try it at a later date.* After all, I'm interested in how it compares to my early years with a Crisco-butter combination and more recent habit of using butter alone, sometimes with vinegar. I'm curious to discover if flavor will be an issue. Eventually, I'll add the egg to see if it enhances the tenderness of the pastry. Mylady, interesting point! *Nina, I appreciate the feedback. Haven't tried the new shortenings yet. There may be a separate topic on the matter, but here's what Kim Severson wrote before her move to The New York Times: "...New Crisco..." (SFG, May 26, 2004)
  22. Some. Informed and relevant regarding points concerning Picasso and the general comment applies to most contributions to fields, society or culture. Remark about Frank Stella may reflect personal taste, but is either not informed or misinformed. (Quibble, but his work tends to be non-objective as opposed to abstract.) To keep this brief comment on topic, I will mention that Frank Stella's wife fed their baby by nursing in the back of the auditorium during a panel that inaugurated an exhibition of the artist's works. At that time, he had moved from the stark minimalist paintings that remind one of contemporary trends in dinnerware (square, linear, often executed without color) to exuberant hybrids of painting and relief filled with dynamic color, texture and curvilnear forms evocative of tangled spaghetti even if none of the forms was abstracted from nature/culture.
  23. Judith Klinger, known here as Hathor, has opened what looks like a wonderful restaurant in her hometown in Umbria (Italy). A recent predicament should be linked here because of its relevance: Erba Luna. Cf. Post 49 which I excerpt: Please read responses in that topic, too, especially what Divina contributed this morning (Post #55)
  24. Having polished off a crumbly, moist serving of Dorie Greenspan's plum cake for breakfast, it's time to think about pie.* I picked up In the Sweet Kitchen recently and was surprised by the recipe for pie crust. Regan Daley recommends using lard which delights me since I just rendered a batch. However, she also calls for an egg! to ensure tender, flaky results. I bake desserts seldomly, so perhaps this is not news to seasoned pie people. I know pate sablée requires an egg, though I had to look up the name of this particular dough for tarts. Does anyone else here incorporate eggs into pie crust for North American pies? If so, how would you compare the results to pastries made without them? * * * Edited to accommodate a narrower focus and to thank Rob for the helpful post that follows. Please feel free to add any comments regarding pie crust that you judge useful. *Cf. topic devoted to Baking: From My Home to Yours.
  25. REALLY elementary question, but: If I bought pork to make a brothy stew (pozole) and stuck it in the freezer, is it okay to simply dump the frozen ribs in water without thawing them first? The dish does not require browning. I've read recipes for chicken soup that say you don't need to thaw the meat. I figure it should be okay but want to ask you all first since I am not sure if flavor or texture will be affected. Sheepish thanks in advance....
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