1/21/16

food + travel writing retreat on French Riviera w/ terrESa's vegan fare

you're Invited: writing retreat on the French Riviera!
w/ vegan nourishment from lacucina di terrESa

 

Does your food blog taste bland and need a bit of zhuzhing-up to give it flavor? Have you fantasized about launching a sexy travel-writing career, but didn't know where to start? Do you yearn to become the next Isa Chandra Moskowitz, but don't know how or where to pitch your sizzling cookbook idea?

Writing is something many of us wish we could do well, but don't yet have the confidence or technical skills to get started and ultimately reach our potential. If you've ever dreamed of learning the craft of writing from the pros--and fueling your creativity with fab vegan food + wine--this is your chance to bring your dreams to life on the magical French Riviera.

At this 5-day getaway, you'll attend daily workshops dedicated to food + travel writing, plus the art of the edit, how to pitch, developing narrative style, and so much more. Gourmet vegan meals are prepared by a talented guest chef, freeing your time to focus on learning. putting your new skills into practice, relaxing poolside, and relishing the colorful Cote d'Azur.

7/17/15

UNDRESSING VEGETABLES : an unfolding book of recipes—summer PEPERONATA

Oh those lusty peppers... the ones C. Columbus, way back when, brought back from the New World. Seems he announced their discovery to Old Europe with words along the lines of: You could call them a food if it weren't for their strange, intense taste.

They were first regarded with much distrust on this side of the pond. But being a most generous vegetable that adapts well to different climates, Indian peppers, as they were first named for their peppery hotness, rapidly invaded the gardens of even the poorest.

In Italy, while the aristocracy was indulging on fatty meat stuffed with truffles and seasoned with generous amounts of cloves, saffron and cinnamon, the simple-the rural-the peasant folk—masters at making a virtue out of necessity—went about inventing a more "democratic" gastronomia, which still today forms a heritage of flavors.

As for peppers, the evidence is large. From Piedmont to Sicily, there's a plethora of—what else to say—sensual dishes created around peppers, from sottaceto up North to skinned alive in the South. In Piedmonte peppers with anchovies; peperonata and the hot-sauce peverade in Lombardia-Veneta; further south along the Tirreno served with salt cod; pan-fried with olives, capers and pine nuts in Naples; and further down the boot in Puglia—such a refined simplicity in its culinary culture!—its famed frigitelli [in France corne de boeufperhaps similarly called in the States those long thin green—and red—peppers] simply fried in olive oil. Not to mention i caponati of Sicily. My, my! And well... pizza with peppers, what's there to say?

All that said... finding a pepper that "carries the Earth—that the Earth carries" ain't so easy. I walk by many a stand, many a mound of peppers at marketplace and natural food store combined, searching for the deformed, the thin-skinned -fleshed -stemmed pepper, the unweighted, the field grown, the supple, the...... Inevitable that the peppers coming from Italy—still—carry all those traits. As do the Corne de boeuf, still mainly small-producer grown inn  France... till they become industry darlings—the death knell of any humble vegetable, of any true earth-filled, dirt-filled satiation.

Alright, enough of my lamenting and fulminating. Onward and forward... here's my favorite pepper dish: peperonata. Simple as can be, sumptuous as you could ever want. Enjoy!

By the way, much of the inspiration for the words above come also from a small book entitled : Si Fa Presto a Dire Cotto by Marino Niola.


7/1/15

UNDRESSING VEGETABLES : an unfolding book of recipes—SUMMER tomato tarte

I love to make "naked" seasonal vegetable tartes, that is nothin' but the vegetable, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, a sprinkling of fresh herbs and perhaps a few seeds. Thinly sliced and arranged slightly overlapping, the vegetables simply melt into the pastry dough. Inevitable that I'd set aside butter and make the dough with olive oil as well, adding to the naked earthiness of the dish.

Summer brings with it tomatoes, and I so celebrate their arrival—it's a long traveling of months and seasons without their plump, sweet, juicy presence. When they fill the vine they fill my kitchen. When they vanish from vine they vanish from my kitchen.

Now there are tomatoes and then there are tomatoes: this tarte being naked, it is a robust and ripely sweet red flesh that is called for. I can think of a few that fit the bill in France [Campari, Noire de Crimée] and Italy [Camone, Marinda], and most everywhere truly open-field-grown vine tomato from small producers. Unfortunately even the pettiest looking plump tomato might have zero sweetness... so know thy tomatoes and thy producers!

As for the pastry dough, I like to give it some crunch so I add a bit of cornmeal or polenta and a handful of poppy seeds. In France I have the choice of a variety of wheat flours and use one somewhere between white and whole. France has a tradition—as does Italy—of producing different "types" of flour depending on the amount of bran or mineral content therein—the more bran you take away the whiter it gets. The "types" are numbered from 45 to 150, the numbers relating to the weight in grams of ash left behind after burning the flour—ash is the mineral content. So there's T45, fine fine pastry flour—with around 0,45 gr of ash per 100 gr of flour; T55, all purpose; T65, a bit off-white and used in baguette tradition; T80, half whole wheat "semi-complet—and the flour I most often use; T110, considered as whole wheat, and T150, wholemeal flour and used to make "pain au son" bran bread.

I buy my flour from a very small producer, Rochefort. A family affair that grows their grains organically and stone grind them themselves. There's no way of getting around the fact that an artisan flour will be tastier and void of all those "improving and treatment agents"—not what 'm looking for in my flour—and thus more naked. Right up my alley!

In the States, you could play with making your own "type" blends from varying mixtures of whole wheat and unbleached white pastry flours. One thing to remember is: the more bran in the flour the more liquid it will absorb, so you'll again need to play with your recipe.

For a wheat-less pie dough, scroll down to the bottom.




TOMATO TARTE w/ OLIVE-OIL PASTRY DOUGH - serves 6

pastry dough :
200 gr T80 flour [try something akin to 75 gr whole wheat pastry + 125 gr unbleached pastry]
25 gr cornmeal or polenta [not precooked]
Handful poppy seeds
75 ml extra virgin olive oil
Couple three generous pinches unrefined sea salt

filling :
800 - 900 gr tomatoes
Generous handful sunflower seeds
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leafed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Unrefined sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper

||| Combine the flour, cornmeal, sea salt and poppy seeds in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil. With your hands rub the flour and oil together until the mixture turns crumbly. Wet a finger, dip it in and taste for saltiness... add more if desired. Make a new well, add 60 ml of cold water and gently mix with a fork, starting from the edge of the bowl, digging down and lifting up in the center as you turn the bowl, until the flour mixture begins to hold together [add more water, up to the 80 or 90 ml, if needed and gently mix again]—the dough should be slightly clingy. Gather up into a compact ball, place in a glass container or wrap in waxed paper and set aside in a cool place for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Feel free to put it in the refrigerator, just be sure to remove it at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

||| Preheat the oven to 220 ˚C || 425 ˚ F. On a generously floured surface, lightly knead the dough with the heel of your hand for a couple three turns. Shape again into a tight ball, flatten out slightly in the form of a rectangle then roll out to a thickness of 0.3 cm || 1/8th inch. Transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cut the edges straight with a pizza cutter then roll and pinch the edges of the dough inward slightly to form ramparts 3 mm || ¼-inch high. Crimp the edges. [For a more rustic look, just fold the extra dough over the top, leaving the edges uneven.]

||| Cut the tomatoes crosswise into ¼-inch slices [if you prefer into bite-sized dice]. Set in a colander over a bowl to drain a bit. [No need to discard the juice that remains in the bowl… drink it.] Arrange the tomato slices, generously overlapping them, on the pastry dough, or spread the dice out evenly and well into the corners. Give a generous drizzle of olive oil over the tomatoes. Toss the sunflower seeds with olive oil to lightly coat then sprinkle on top of the tomatoes. Give a very light sprinkling of sea salt then bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 - 45 minutes, until the edges of the tarte and tomatoes are beginning to brown and the juice is happily bubbling. For a bit more browned-ness, cook on the middle-high rack for the last 10 minutes. Upon removing from the oven, immediately season generously with sea salt to taste. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

||| Serve with a generous twist of freshly ground white pepper. Pour a glass of natural "living" rosé wine and enjoy.


WHEAT-LESS OLIVE OIL PASTRY DOUGH

100 gr buckwheat flour
100 gr brown rice flour
25 gr cornmeal or polenta [not pre-cooked]
75 ml extra virgin olive oil
60 - 100 ml cold water
Generous pinch unrefined sea salt

||| Sift flour with salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil. With your hands rub the flour and oil together until the mixture turns crumbly. Add 60 ml of water and stir lightly with a fork, dragging in from the edges and up through the middle and turning the bowl with each stir, until the dough beings to clump together [add more water as needed, the dough should definitely be slightly wet]. Gather up into a tight ball, place in a glass container or wrap in waxed paper and and set in a cool place for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Feel free to put it in the refrigerator, just be sure to remove it at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

||| Place on top of a large sheet of parchment paper and flatten out slightly in the form of a rectangle. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll out to a thickness of 0.3 cm || 1/8th inch. Along with the bottom parchment paper, transfer to a baking sheet. then roll and pinch the edges of the dough inward slightly to form ramparts 3 mm || ¼-inch high. Nicely crimp the edges. Return to the refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes before baking.

6/10/15

UNDRESSING VEGETABLES : an unfolding book of recipes—kitchen CREDOS 'n MANNERS con't

Continuing this week with a few more of my kitchen "credos 'n manners." And a risotto recipe below.


THOSE STRAINED BROTH VEGETABLES :

After straining your vegetables from the broth you’ve just simmered up, those same “spent” vegetables can be transferred to a food mill and turned into a purée for a wonderful quick soup. In fact I use the food mill as my colander to strain the broth then the vegetables are already where they need to be. You just have to start turning the handle and making sure the vegetables find their way under the blade. And don’t forget to turn the food mill over once you’ve finished your cranking and scrape off any purée from the bottom of the sieve. Then simply heat up [adding a bit of broth or water to the purée if needed], pour into a bowl, top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a grind or two of freshly ground pepper, a pinch of sea salt, and perhaps a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Sardo (both found in any well-furnished cheese store) et voila, lunch is served.

And speaking of vegetable broths, all those outer leaves of cabbage, fennel, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, all those red onion peels, garlic peels, those deep dark leek tops, all those more fibrous kale and collard ribs, arugula, cilantro and parsley stems, asparagus peelings, outer artichoke leaves that get rejected ‘cuz their texture won’t make the grade in your dish can all go into a pot with water to generously cover and simmered gently till soft, 30 to 40 minutes. The resulting “medley” broth can be used to wet other vegetables you’re about to cook or added to the water you’re going to be cooking your pasta, beans, grains, pulses in, or added to your smoothie liquid. You can also simply put it in a jar in the refrigerator and next time your thirsty for some water, drink a glass of it—there are surely nutrients that your body will smile at. The strained vegetables can again be passed through a food mill, added to the broth for a more ”textured” drink, It might not be total nirvana to your mouth, but it just might be to your belly—although you’d be surprised how good the taste can be.

If not in the mood for making the broth right then and there, plop them all into a bag and freeze 'em until you need some flavored water.

SWEET PEA PODS :

It was Toni Vianello, great Venetian chef of l’Osteria—his hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Marais, unfortunately sold some time ago—who taught me the rich purée that can be coaxed out of sweet pea pods. The dear chef was/is known for his risotto wizardry and it was watching him make a Risi e Bisi [recipe down below] that I learned this lovely bit of kitchen kraft. You shuck the peas then wash and drain the pods. Transfer to a pan or pot ample enough to comfortably hold them and add cold water to just just cover—I always throw in a fresh bay leaf or two. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and cook at a very slight simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Transfer to a food mill placed over a pot or bowl to catch the cooking water, which you can set aside to use elsewhere as you see fit. Place the food mill over the pan you cooked them in and purée the pods. You end up with something akin to pea caviar. Don’t forget to turn the food mill over and scrape the bottom of the sieve—that's where all the beauty is.

FAVA PODS :

No need to throw away the pods of fava beans. They can be sautéed—though they must be very fresh [recipe to come].  You simply cut off the tips of both ends then the seam running the length of one side. Cut in two lengthwise then into 2 - 3 pieces crosswise. Here you can blanch them in boiling water, enough just to cover, for 2 – 3 minutes and drain—I'm not much for blanching myself so I skip this step. Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet. Add a garlic clove or two, coarsely chopped, and sautée for 1 minute. Add the fava pods—I add a smidgen of water to the bottom of the pan, as well, since I don't blanche them—and sautée for 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of flour on top, sifting it through a sieve. Cook for another few minutes. Season with sea salt to taste.

ROASTED PEPPERS, BLANCHED 'n SEEDED TOMATOES :

When I roast peppers in the oven under the broiler, charring their skin so as to easily remove it, I always throw the skins and seeds and juices that remain, once I’ve undressed the peppers, into a food mill and turn them into a concentrated purée, or jus, that can top many a summer vegetable dish.

The same goes for tomatoes when I blanch them in order to remove the skins. [You can also loosen the skins by holding the tomatoes over a gas flame.] Those skins and all the seeds and any white core also get dropped into the food mill, using the finer sieve, and again turned into a bit of extra concentrated purée-jus. Actually quite great when mixed with the pepper jus; makes for a flavorful garnish [coming soon, my summer quinoa cake recipe].

WILTING GREENS :

The bit of water that clings to greens just washed is normally all the water that’s needed to wilt them. Once again, this way you end up with very little if any water left in the skillet and thus all the goodness has remained in the leaves. And if your recipe calls for your greens to then be vigorously squeezed to extract any excess water, the green water that often comes flowing out during the process also ends up as a thirst-quenching shot of a drink. If there's a large quantity such as spinach always surrenders, I add it to a broth for my spinach risotto—recipe coming soon—to pasta water or, if all other ideas fail, I water the plants on my windowsill with it, diluting it greatly with water.­

I don’t cook a lot of vegetables in water or by steaming. I truly prefer to roast the majority of them; some I will sautée. But when I do cook vegetables in water [for example, potatoes, green beans] rather than having them bob up and down in a lot of H2O, I just cover the bottom of the pan with a slight ½-inch or so then keep an eye and add a bit more water as needed until cooked. I do this because I can’t bear having all that goodness end up in large amounts of cooking water poured down the drain; it’s full of nutrients and flavor that have been drawn from the vegetable. When using small amounts of water to do the cooking there’s just a bit remaining in the bottom of the pan—most of the flavor, vitamins, minerals and such have remained in the vegetable. And water as is left over I pour into a little glass and drink down, a bit like a shot of earthy jus.

And here again I'll say that I very rarely blanche vegetables and even more so never ever ever shock them with cold water, supposedly to keep them "neon green"—there goes all the more flavor and goodness down the drain. I simply cook them for a lesser time [more al dente] then spread them out to cool. Salting them immediately out of the cooking pan.

NUT 'n SEED MEALafter milking :

What to do with all that meal when the nut or seed milk is made and the milk bag is full of les restes. It seemed such a shame, the first time I made almond milk, to toss all of that leftover meal, so I emptied it into a bowl, added a bit of this, a bit of that and ended up with these quite rustic and very tasty tea biscuits [recipe coming soon].

Since then I've also dried the meal and whirred it up into a fine flour that can be used as a portion of the regular flour in your pastry dough, cookie dough, cake batter, crêpe batter, sundry bread doughs, and the like—a fifth, a sixth of the flour in weight.

The flour is easy enough to make and should be done forthwith—the meal quickly goes rancid. Just spread it thinly out on a cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan and either set it out in the sun on a hot summer day or in an oven preheated to 100 °C | 225 °F, the oven door slightly ajar. Stir it up from time to time until completely dry, 3 - 4 hours. When cool, grind into a fine flour in a chopper or wide-based blender. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple three weeks. One further thing I do with my nut or seed meal flour, is turn it into a sort of faux Parmesan [recipe soon coming]. When I give a vegan cooking class and pasta, ravioli, gnocchi has been requested for the menu, this is a delightful, homemade substitute for grated Parmesan or Pecorino. Of course it's not quite one or the other, but  does add a bit of earthy joy to those Italian dishes.


And now for my variation of Risi e Bisi :: serves 4 - 6





= best in late spring, early summer

Risi e bisi is a celebrated dish from the Republic of Venice [la Serenissima—back centuries ago] traditionally served to the Doge on April 25, the fête of St Marc, protector of Venice [also the day Venice was founded]. Its texture should be somewhere between a “wavy” risotto and a soup, perhaps more like a minestrone.

 for the broth :
150 gr carrot
150 gr leeks
w/ fine inner green tops
75 gr celery, w/ any young green tops
75 gr [smallish red onion], peeled 'n cut in half
 1 FRESH bay leaf
1 - 2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 - 3 sprigs flat parsley
Unrefined coarse sea salt f

or the risotto:
300 gr Vialone Nano riso [if not available use a Carnaroli riso]
300 gr shelled fresh peas
1 on-the-small-side red onion, finely chopped
1 good handful flat parsley, coarsely chopped
1 FRESH bay leaf
60 gr Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
50 gr unsalted butter, room temperature 'n cut into small pieces [you can substitue a good olive oil—use 35 - 40 ml]
Zest of 1 lemon for garnish
20 fresh mint leaves for mint oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  ||| To make the mint oil : best to have a mortar and pestle in which to crush the mint leaves along with a slight pinch of salt. Then add a few good drizzles of olive oil and stir with the pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and add a bit more salt if needed. Set aside. {if you have no mortar and pestle, gently but quite finely chop the mint leaves and add cover with olive oil and add a bit of salt].

||| Zest the lemon over a plate. Spread it out evenly and place in a warm spot for a good hour or so to dry.

||| Prepare a light vegetable broth : put the carrots, leeks, celery—whole or cut in half crosswise—red onion, and herbs in a large saucepan. Cover with water by an inch or two and bring to a boil covered. Remove the lid, add a tiny handful of salt and cook uncovered at a slight simmer for 30 - 40 minutes, until the carrots are easily pierced with a knife. Strain over a bowl. Strain again through a fine-sieve strainer, if desired, to remove any floating particles. Rinse out the pot and return the broth to it. Please don not throw away the cooked vegetables, pass them through a food mill. Later in the day or the next turn it into a quick soup. Add a bit of water and warm up in a saucepan. Garnish with a pinch of unrefined sea salt, a couple grinds of the black pepper mill, a drizzle or two of extra-virgin olive oil, and if in your refrigerator, a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Sardo rendered into shavings and showered over the top.

||| For the risotto : shuck the peas and wash the pods. Put the shucked peas and 1 bay leaf in a small pan—if the peas aren't super fresh and super sweet,—(( add a couple sprinkles of sugar. Add enough water to barely cover the peas. Set aside. Place the pods in a good-sized pan. Cover just just with cold water. Place the lid, bring to a boil. Remove the lid and cook at a very mild simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Drain through a food mill placed over the pan with the broth. Over another bowl crank the food mill full of the cooked pods and turn them into a sumptuous purée. Set aside in a small saucepan.

||| Heat the broth and keep at a very light simmer while making the risotto.

||| Heat a couple generous drizzles of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the red onion and cook until soft and translucent, approx 3 minutes, stirring occasionally and paying attention to not let it burn. Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally and gathering the kernels in from the sides and edges of the pan each time, until the kernels turn bright white inside and transparent around the edges. Add 1 large ladle of simmering broth and cook until almost absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add more broth one ladle at a time, stirring with each addition and allowing it to be mostly absorbed before adding the next ladle. In all the cooking time for the rice will be approx. 18 minutes. The rice should remain well al dente and not dry.

||| 7 - 8 minutes before the rice is cooked, bring the peas, covered, to a boil then lower the heat and cook for 3 - 4 minutes–they should still have a good crunch to them. Pour the peas and cooking water into the risotto. Cook for another minute. While the peas are cooking, gently heat the pea purée [half or more of it depending on how green you want your risotto to be]. Add it to the risotto along with the peas and the chopped parsley.

||| At this point the rice should still be al dente and the risotto quite soupy – if not add a bit more broth. Turn off the heat. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter—don't stir yet. Cover the pan and let stand for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and rapidly stir, or “mantecare,” with a risotto [that crazy looking wooden spoon with a hole in the middle] to create a creamy consistency. Season with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately in wide soup bowls. Garnish with a generous teaspoon of mint oil, a sprinkling of lemon zest, and a couple three turns of the pepper grinder.

As for wine : In Italy you might look for a Oltrepò Pavese Cortese from Pavia or a Soave from Veneto. In France, I'd look for a Jurançon Sec from Jurançon. A lovely Pinot gris or Reisling from Alsace. A incisive Sauvignon from la Touraine. All natural, living and wildly naked...of course ,—))

A la prossima settimana!