Tag Archives: olive oil

Chinato

5 Aug

“Zack Bruell be my boyfriend, are you married?”

“I want to be best friends with lardo.”

These were the one-liners rolling off my tongue as I ate bite after bite of excruating beauty at Chinato, on E. 4th Street.  I’ve lived in Milan, my mother has lived in Bologna and Florence but an evening at Chinato brought us almost to tears.  Here was Italian food, dare I say, better than or on par with the pinnacle of Italian gastronomy in Italy.  The price point is well, on point!  I ate here again just tonight with a friend and with a crudo, an antipasto, an entree, a dessert, a cocktail and a glass of wine WITH tip and tax was $52.  Not to mention the service was outstanding (our waiter from a few weeks ago was our waiter again and remembered us), the wine choices impeccable, we were visited by the chef himself and treated to Damilano Chinato (a digestif) following our meal.

We started with a crudo, tuna with lardo and our hearts melted a little.  My mind was racing to figure out how I could make and eat lardo every day, even if that meant my body would take the name and shape of the delicious slivers that were melting in my mouth.

Next we shared the fresh sauteed sardines with parsley, olive oil and lemon — the nostalgia of eating fresh fried sardines in Genoa when I was 20 washed over me and pulled me, like the strong oceanic undertow, back to that fleeting moment.  After, an exquisite salad of julienned pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, arugula, goat cheese, roasted turnips and balsamic dressing.  I don’t even want to describe the dish because then it’ll just give away the ending.

Our entrees: for me, the fritto misto of sweetbreads with fried caper berries (our country is at least a trillion light years behind every country when it comes to our definition of bar food — because this would blow those pee covered pretzels and peanuts at the bar out of the water), for my mother the veal breast with polenta unlike any kind of polenta you’ve ever had and salsa verde (parsley, olive oil, anchovies).

Dessert was the best almond panna cotta I’ve tasted and also a lemon polenta cake with a scoop of cherry gelato.  This is Italian comfort food, the peasant food, the cheap cuts of meat or fish and making the most out of them by perfecting the cooking technique, letting ingredients speak for themselves and coaxing flavor out of tough cuts.  The result is something like magic.

I’ve taken to listening to TED podcasts in my car on the way to work, and they have a great catch phrase: “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  Recently I came across one that just spoke to me so clearly.  This time it was Chip Conley, who spoke about how we should re-evaluate what we value: GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or GNH … Gross National Happiness.  Surely, a restaurant such as Chinato is a focused human lesson in what we should appreciate and what counts.  What is the logical outcome of people loving what they do and creating what they love for others’ enjoyment?  An intangible measurement, with a very tangible result.  I don’t think it folley to say the lessons in Chinato are ideas worth spreading.

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Hot Chip Din

13 Mar

To be a whizz kid at creating homemade pasta is a blessing, one I sadly lack so far.  To compensate, I used Bertagni porcini mushroom tortellini — only my favorite style/shape of pasta ever.  The sauce was on a whim and happily turned out AWESOME.  The usual shallots and garlic with olive oil and butter browned in a pan but with the added bonus of a tablespoon of red curry paste, about the same amount of balsamic vinegar, quick squeeze of a lemon and heavy whipping cream.  Once the tortellini  were ready they joined the sauce in the pan for a quick coating and then topped with a pinch of shredded gruyere.  The curry isn’t overwhelming but mellow, interesting and gives the dish nice color.  I paired this with a Southern Tier Gemini — kind of a sweeter, less hoppy version of most IPAs, what they call a “blended unfiltered ale”, which played nicely off the bite of the shallots and sweet spice of the red curry.  I think it took 15 minutes max, to the beats of Hot Chip and La Roux (hipster version of Tilda Swinton?).

Posh Shepherd’s Pie

11 Mar

Thought this very simple dish up last night before bed because I was hungry and feeling like a child.  As a kid, and to this day, I like to make a mash-up of the food on my plate — not like a nasty soup but almost alla Violet Beauregard in Willy Wonka and the amazing 3 course dinner gum.  Oh also there was no bread to go along with it and given that the bleu cheese semi-fondue mashed potatoes made me snoozy 10 minutes after ingesting them, a biscuit topping would have been suicide.

So I grilled a strip steak, sliced it like flank steak and layered the pieces with bleu cheese mashed potatoes topped with the steak juices and snow peas.  The mashed potatoes require browning a small shallot and one garlic clove (diced) in a sauté pan with butter and olive oil, then adding some heavy whipping cream and as much bleu cheese as you like.  That becomes the cream that will make the potatoes heavenly.

Caradosso

8 Jan

I don’t actually remember making this but lucky my friend remembered for me and there’s some horrendous picture of me during the cooking process.  It was a deadly combination of Inauguration Night and our friend’s birthday in Milan.  We stumbled home to Via Caradosso 7 and needed some food.  Spaghetti, olive oil, sauteed brussels sprouts, cayenne and black pepper all tossed together.  It’s spicy, simple, has some veggie in it and enough carbs to make you sober up.  And it’s pretty!

I revisited the Caradosso concoction last night for dinner and discovered how pretty brussels sprout stems are and their insides look kind of like brains.

Tuscan Breakfast

21 Jul

My mother raised my brother and me in a household that was ethnocentric — we grew up knowing all the names of different spices, we knew what a wok was, we were accustomed to curries, etc. — but the one that stood out the most was Italian.  My mother and father spent some quality time in Italy and it stuck with them for a very long time.  The simplest recipe my mother loves to prepare to this day, and I love to wow friends with, is the tuscan farmer’s breakfast of fettunta and red wine.  If you’re doing a breakfast of champions a different way, I would go for a nice bitter or even a sour ale if you’re game to compliment the salty/garlic beauty of this simple fare.

garlic to fettunta

FETTUNTA:

Grab a loaf of some good thick rustic french bread (I love Italian food but the bread I will leave to the French, they are the masters): the kind with a dusting of flour and a basic ingredients list, we are NOT looking for a sourdough.

Cut a few thick 1/2 inch slices then cut in half and pop into the toaster.  If you don’t have a toaster improvise and toss it into a hot skillet or even hold over a gas stove flame (try not to burn down the house).

Once out of the toaster golden brown, you’ll want a big garlic clove or two, with the skins off.  Take the clove and start rubbing down that piece of bread, it’ll start to shred with the vigor of the rub but that is ok, this is the desired effect.

Next drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, do not soak it with the stuff.

Then just take some sea salt and sprinkle over top. This is the basic recipe but you can get creative with pepper and other spices if you so choose.

This is not the shitty creamy garlic soaked bread you get at the grocery store, so be prepared to fall in love and wish you were a Tuscan farmer.

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