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

GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH PORCINI SALAD

Pizza with Porcini Salad-35

What happens in our kitchen owes as much to happenstance as deliberate intention and sometimes the alignment of culinary planets all but makes a certain dish inevitable. Baby arugula arrived from Allendale Farms last week; Ben, the go-to guy for mushrooms for Rialto, came into a batch of fresh porcini. Jody and her staff paid a visit to Valley View Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts for a close look at how artisanal goat cheese is made (and came home with lots of chevre). And finally [cue trumpet flourish] my new Baking Steel arrived. Let’s see: great ingredients + Baking Steel (the industrial steel world’s answer to a pizza stone). Was there really any choice other than to make Pizza with a Porcini Salad?

Crespelle with Lemon-Rosemary Ricotta

See the crespelle.  See Ken photograph the crespelle.  See the crespelle run away from Ken.  Run, crespelle, run. See the crespelle run all the way to Brooklyn, where Jody cooks a Thanksgiving dinner for Ken and Jody’s son Oliver and 12 of his closest friends who had to work on the actual holiday.  See Ken stuck in Boston.  See Ken get his revenge.  Ken makes a batch of crespelle with Lemon-Rosemary Ricotta and he doesn’t share.

Revenge, says Ken, is sweet.

Dandelion and Mustard Green Gnocchi with Lucky Boy Onions and Pine Nuts

This week’s Dandelion and Mustard Green Gnocchi recipe features a sauce made with wild Texas onions.  My brother Bob and his wife Monika have have a small ranch, which they call Lucky Boy, in the Hill Country a couple of hours from San Antonio.*  In one of those weird six-degrees of separation confluences friends of ours were visiting family in Texas,  who were in turn friends with my brother and his wife.  Everyone ended up at Lucky Boy for the weekend.  Our friends flew back to Boston with a Texas goodie bag filled with long slender wild onions picked from the banks of the Llano River.  We used the bulb and the pointed flower head (what locals call “the garlic”), and a few inches of tender green stem attached to each.  Most of the stem is too woody for cooking, like the tough parts of lemongrass.  If you look closely at the plate of gnocchi photographed straight down there’s a closed flower head sitting atop the dumpling in the seven o’clock position.

Saucy, with a Chance of Meatballs

You could draw a culinary Venn Diagram with two overlapping circles. Label one circle Comfort Food. Label the other Goofy Food. Where the circles overlap would be the Meatball Zone. That’s where you’d find Lamb and Pork Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce. Good, but funny.