Sunday, November 23, 2014

Snapshot of the Day - Palamita Cotto and Crudo - Chef Alfonso Caputo, Taverna del Capitano, (Na)

 What makes a dish memorable?
The colors, the presentation?  
The aromas, the flavors?  
All of the above?
Let's take  this dish I tasted recently at Taverna del Capitano in Marina del Cantone (Na).  A super sunny November weekend with an amazing view of the mare was the background for this snapshot. Palamita fish - cotto and crudo (cooked and raw) is a classic here,  but this time Chef Alfonso Caputo added a special touch.  A special pizzazz to the palate which held it's own next to this tasty steamy  fish served on a hot rock and olive tree wood.  An orange marmalade prepared with sultanas and cinnamon tossed with black rice made this dish, well, memorable.
The colors, the presentation, the aromas, the flavors...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pasta is a Girl's Best Friend - Fantastic Firsts by Chef Peppe Guida

During a recent dinner at Pastificio Dei Campi's intimate insane kitchen I had the opportunity to try several pasta dishes prepared by Michelin star chef Peppe Guida of Antica Osteria Nonna Rosa. There were three in particular that caught my eye and captured my palate.  Three dishes with a few simple ingredients prepared with passion and experience.

Pasta e Ceci/ Mixed Pasta with Chick Peas

Chef Guida added super al dente pasta to to a saucepan containing  chick peas, and burnt garlic extra virgin olive oil.  After a few minutes of stirring, he plated the dish and added fried chick peas on the top.

Finta Genovese/ Penne Pasta, Onions, and Pecorino Cheese

Slow cooked onions are the secret ingredient to this dish.  The chef used onions from Montoro, Avellino famous for their delicate flavor.  After nearly two hours of cooking under very very low heat, he added al dente pasta tossed for a couple of minutes with grated pecorino cheese, a little extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of black pepper.

Paccheri Pasta Gricia con Lime/Pasta with Guanciale (cured pork jowl or cheeks) and Lime 

Probably the jaw dropping dish of the evening.  Un assaggino, taste of guanciale that was not crispy, but comfortable was tossed with paccheri pasta and pecorino cheese.

Grazie, chef...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Mattina in Vigna - Fattoria Alois, Pontelatone (Ce)

I couldn't think of a better way to spend a fall morning than a passeggiata in a Campania vineyard.  A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do just that thanks to an invitation from Marco Ricciardi, delgate of AIS Caserta and my new friends at Fattoria Alois.

The invitation included a visit to the winery's vineyards where the vines were bursting with beautiful mature aglianico, pallagrello nero, and casavecchia grapes.

The invitation included a chance to help out with the harvest that morning. The invitation included a tour of the winery and  a lesson on vinification led by agronomist Nicola Trabucco.

Of course, the invitation included a wine tasting of Alois's wines paired with some amazing cheese awesome pane, and an amazing lunch.

I can't wait to go back next week.  You see, the invitation also included a return visit where we will learn about pruning the vines...touring the tasting...and an amazing lunch.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Amazing Appetizers - Foglia di "Grano" - Chef Roy Caceres - Metamorfosi Ristorante, Rome

I have many   memories of a cooking class I attended a couple of weeks ago with Michelin star Chef Roy Caceres.  One tasty one includes this amazing appetizer with simple but flavorful ingredients, detailed step by step instructions, and time.  It's called Foglia di "Grano" ( leaf of wheat) with red tuna and herbs.
Here's the recipe:

Ingredients for 5 people:  10 leaves of chard (previously blanched in boiling water), 400 grams of Mediterranean red tuna, 5 grams of coriander, 1 spring onion, 10 grams of lemon peel which have been marinated fin  its juice for at least 1 month (peel the lemon peel without the white portion of the  peel and cut into strips,   vacuum  seal with filtered lemon juice and sugar  -50% of the  weight of the juice), salt, soy sauce, 1 lime

For the herb mixture: Make a salad with herbs and aromatic seasonal salads varying the flavor and mixing them according to their intensity

For the Foglia di grano pasta dough: 5 gr Manitoba flour, 85 grams of flour 00, 25 g of egg yolk, 25 g of water, 20 grams of milk, 1 g of yeast, 3 grams of salt, powdered anise and fennel.

For the chickpea purée: 100 grams of cooked chickpeas, 80 grams of cooking water from the chickpeas, salt, extra virgin olive oil, Calabrese red chili pepper powder, aromatic extra virgin olive oil with garlic

For the lemon gel: 100 grams of lemon juice, 50 g water, 15 g sugar, 25 g  marinade juice, lemon peel with its juice, 2.6 g agar agar


For the Foglia di grano pasta dough: Mix the ingredients and create a smooth and homogeneous mixture, let stand in refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Roll out the dough thinly and attach the chard leaves with the help of a very watery batter of flour and water.  Cut the leaves keeping their characteristic shape.

For chickpea purée: Use a Thermomix to blend the chickpeas with their cooking water.  Add  a little extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil flavored with garlic, pepper and salt. settaccio move everything to the end and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the lemon gel: Hydrate the agar agar with water, mix with the other ingredients bring to a boil, allow to cool until it becomes gel.   Then  blend it  with an immersion mixer  until it is creamy, smooth and homogeneous.

Plating and serving:
Cut the red tuna in large cubes and season with strips of spring onion, chopped coriander, candied lemon peel, salt, black pepper, and a little soy sauce.

Cook the leaves of wheat on a hotplate (dough side down).

Put the salad mixture and seasoned tuna on a plate.

On top of the tuna add the  chickpea purée.   Finally, gently  lay  the cooked leaf of wheat on top with  a drop of lemon gel.

Chef Caceres advised us to go at style!
We did!

Monday, October 20, 2014

#kitchentalk - Cooking Gourmet with Chef Roy Caceres, Metamorfosi Ristorante, Rome

 I was an hour ish late for Michelin star Chef Roy Caceres's (Rome's Metamorfosi Ristorante) two day cooking class at Dolce e Salato Scuola di Cucina e Pasticceria in Caserta.
I tried to enter without being noticed, but as I opened the door the room was silent, except for the whirr of the mixer that the chef was using to mix  pasta dough.

Buongiorno...scusa Chef...was all I could whisper as I headed to the back of the class.  Caceres nodded, watched me sit down and then picked up with his lesson.

I sat down in the back, but it wasn't long as I made my way to the front row so as not to miss a beat of the chef's lesson.  I was assai curious as to what made this Colombian born chef tick.

The  small recipe book in front of was like a scorecard.  Caceres skipped from one page to the next and then back again, checking off  recipe items as he went along. The chef was preparing six dishes at once.

Many required a Thermomix, like his anchovy mayonnaise, black olive oil, and turnip green sauce to name a few.

Many ingredients needed to be vacuum packed such as his beef fillets and  bananas.
All dishes required his  his attention, expertise, and patience.

Minutes turned to respect for Caceres turned to admiration, especially when he put aside the Thermomix for awhile and started rolling out the pasta he had prepared earlier.

This is gourmet cooking.  And gourmet cooking takes not only know how..but time.

And It was time to put these pieces together. Like his Foglia di 'grano', leaves of 'wheat' with red tuna and herbs and creamy chick peas....

Or his "Pomodori vestiti" 'dressed' tomatoes with anchovies, burrata and turnip greens...

Mozzarella and Spinach with olives and bread...

I looked at my watch.  Caceres hadn't finished, but it was time for me to leave.  I tried to leave without being noticed.
I tried...but as I got to the door, I caught the chef's attention , waved and  mouthed a ciao...
ciao and grazie...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fantastic Firsts - Risotto with Quail, Chef Vincenzo Guarino, Ristorante L'Accanto (Na)

One of the first dishes that I ever had at Ristorante L'Accanto was a mean risotto with baby eggplant, a mozzarella di bufala mousse, and red shrimp.  That was over a year ago, but I still remember the presentation, the flavors, and the rice - cooked to a perfect al dente by Chef Vincenzo Guarino.

Chef Vincenzo Guarino
That's probably why there was a silent excitement when this particular dish was placed down in front of me.  Another risotto creation by the Michelin star chef.  One that I was sure would not disappoint.  Risotto with quail.

Simple colors...the white of the rice.  Creamy white with a tint of brown.  Brown from a beef reduction drizzled carefully around the plate.  In the middle, quail topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese which let out an incredible aroma.  An aroma that blended with with the grated apples that not only decorated the dish, but served to give, what I believe a tarty flavor to the dish.

I'll have to ask Chef Guarino next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Indian Summer - Seafood by the Sea- Chef Vincenzo Guarino, L'Accanto Ristoranto (Na)

It's this time of year that one is ready for the fall season.  But sometimes in Campania, the thermometer does not jive with the calendar.  Here we are experiencing an Indian summer which has extended the tourist season in many beach towns.  Especially last weekend in Seiano di Vico Equense (Na), a small town on the doorstep of the Sorrento Peninsula.   There, at L'Accanto Ristorante located in the spectacular albergo Grand Hotel Angiolieri, I sat down at a small table on the terrace overlooking the sea and almost forgot that it was least for a few hours.
One of the first dishes I was served by Michelin Chef Vincenzo Guarino was a super size seafood appetizer.
 No one leaves my restaurant hungry, Guarino told me later.
So what was on this dish that was not only a joy to look at, fun to photograph, but packed with flavor?

Bite sized pieces of slightly sauteed red mullet, fresh fennel, shrimp, mandarin oranges...

Beet wafers...

Homemade Greek yogurt...

Bite sized pieces to enjoy slowly, one at a time...
while looking out over the terrace...
out to the sea with a perfect view of Mt. Vesuvius...
and a glass of wine...

Indian Summer...