RICOTTA, CINNAMON, HONEY, ORANGE

Ricotta Cinnamon Honey Orange-1163-2

After a week of biking through Sardinia with Ciclismo Classico, I have to say the island resists being pinned down.  Rural Sardinia puts on a deceptively simple face – sleepy villages, delicious basic cuisine, agriculture based around sheep, friendly people.  But once you start to look closely things don’t appear quite Italian.  The ghost of one culture appears and lingers just long enough for a sense of certainty to develop – oh, Sardinia is really Spanish – when it disappears, replaced by a different revenant – oh, no, it really is Italian… or Phoenician, or Roman or Greek.  Signage often appears in multiple languages–Italian, variants of Sardu, the Sardinian language, and sometimes another local language, like the Catalan dialect spoken in one part of the island. Welcome signs outside of villages typically greet visitors in French, German and English, as well as Italian and Sardu. Sometimes all you can do is take experience in, ask questions, and hope you get back.  It’s unusual for Jody and me to encounter so many new culinary treats in one place. Local ingredients we thought we knew were often combined in unexpected ways. Like this dessert of Ricotta, Cinnamon, Honey and Orange, a dish we enjoyed at Trattoria da Riccardo, a Magomadas restaurant owned by the cyclist/chef Riccardo Cadoni and his family.  It’s so good, so simple, that unless you roll with a much more travelled cabal of culinary sophisticates than I do, it will be a delightful surprise to whomever you serve it.  You can pretty much do everything at table.  Simple, delicious, and a bit surprising, a description that might sum up Sardinia itself.  Enjoy.  Ken

Easy Antipasto – Peaches and Prosciutto with Fresh Mozzarella and Mint Pesto

 

Peach prosciuto antipasto-9637

 

Local Massachusetts peaches seem increasingly old-fashioned to me, meaning that you make a mess when you eat one (unless a nearby vendor gives you slices) and while they taste sweet they also have a faint counterpoint of tartness.  This makes them the ideal companion for salty prosciutto.  I suppose we could have left it at that, but we also had a raft of mint and some pistachios, so Jody upped the ante with a pistachio-mint pesto that doesn’t require much more than a quick buzz in the food processor.  Fresh mozzarella makes it a sumptuous enough to stand in for lunch, if that’s where’s you want to go.  You’ll also be relieved to know that local cherry tomatoes, now at their spectacular peak, don’t require peeling. This is the easiest antipasto you’ll even encounter, especially on a hot day when instead of cooking all you want to do is savor the last days of summer.

Summer Berries and Sabayon

Summer Berries and Sabayon-1

Making Summer Berries with Sabayon is about as easy as dessert gets.  The only thing easier would be to eat the berries with nothing, or just whipped cream.  But then you wouldn’t get the texture of sabayon, one of the cooking world’s great miracles–cooked eggs that have been prevented from forming curds.  Sabayon is foamy, yet substantive.   It can stand on its own as a dessert and offers a great medium for sweet or fortified wine, which is why it’s often made with Marsala.  Plus, if you’re feeling Italian, rather than French, you can say you just whipped up a batch of zabaglione (s/zaa-bal-YOH-nee), which to my ear sounds like something Willy Wonka eats for breakfast on holidays.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Green Romesco

 

Skirt Steak with Green Romesco-7421

As you read this, we’re feverishly running around dropping off the animals, picking up last-minute compact flash cards, camera batteries and a new swimsuit.  This afternoon we fly off on vacation, to spend a couple of weeks connecting with old friends, exploring prehistoric cave painting, cycling, drinking, eating and playing Bananagrams on the terrace.  I’m still uncertain about whether we’re going to go dark–EVERYBODY needs some time off the grid–or if I’ll try figuring out some sort of wifi connection for the occasional splash of photos.  In the meantime we’re going out with something that anyone can use to make themselves look like a back yard fire god, Grilled Skit Steak with Spicy Green Romesco.  You need a food processor and a bit of patience.  Look at the photos: No complicated technique.  Believe me, you’ll be killer.

Po’s Easy Pots de Crème

Pot de creme-0480

 

For your consideration: Po’s Easy Pots de Crème.  Po is my mother-in-law and she is a master of complicated dinner party timing.  None of the slatternly boozing it up with the help in the kitchen that characterizes entertaining chez nous.  She’s all guests-in-one-place, cooks-in-another, and the brevity of a host’s absence from her guests only redounds to her reputation for efficient culinary management.  Ninety-percent of this recipe is “Place all of the ingredients… in a blender.”  Not that you’d know it from the taste and texture.  Remember how the genie in Disney’s ALADDIN describes his life?  “ALL THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE… in a teeny little space.”  That’s this dessert.

Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

Scallops, peas and chervil-5962

If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.

Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

Tomato and Burrata Salad-2

We’re obsessing over peeled tomatoes.  Jody has even made a convert of me, Mr. No-Fuss-No-Muss.  Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers might well have begun Peeled Tomato…  By the end of the summer you’ll either be slipping tomatoes out of their skins quicker than a fast-change artist in a costume shop. . . or you’ll be reading another food blog that doesn’t ask so much of you.  But if you do, you’ll miss the supple sensation that is a tomato without its skin, as well as a remarkable esthetic experience.  I, for one, had no idea how ordinary tomatoes metamorphosed into the Betty Grables of the garden without their skins.   They’re gorgeous.

And nothing makes it worth the effort – trifling as it is – of removing a few tomato skins than pairing the tomatoes with burrata, the really hot cousin of bufala mozzarella.  

Pressure Cooker Risotto with Kale Pesto

Risotto with Kale Pesto-TGF-20

Something discordant this way comes.  It happens in every kitchen, if you cook together long enough.  Jody and I did a Dagwood and Blondie over today’s post, Risotto with Kale Pesto, made in a pressure cooker.  My willingness to fudge things a bit for a weeknight dinner versus the cruel exactitude of a restaurant chef.   As Jody not so delicately summed up our contretemps: “You’re the photographer. [Ouch!]  I’m the chef, and my reputation is on the line.”  Guess who got the broom in the back of the head? 

Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger

Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger-1

After the complexities of the Blue Zone, we thought some simple pressure-cooker* recipes would make a welcome change of pace.  Fennel-Carrot Soup with Ginger is the first of 4 or 5 PC posts (vote with your comments!).   If you don’t own a pressure cooker, no worries, all of the recipes work the old-fashioned way; they just take a little longer.