May 132015
 
Buon viaggio!

Buon viaggio!

A few weeks ago a message arrived in my inbox announcing that The Italian Trade Commissioner, Pier Paolo Celeste, is off to a new post in Moscow, and of course, there would be a little send-off. I don’t deny I was feeling sad about his leaving, as we’ll miss the creativity and vigor he brought while in New York City. Here’s to your mission in Moscow, Pier Paolo. Stay warm and in bocca al lupo! — You sure know how to give a party!

Two cheese legends, Lou Santomauro (Di Palo) of Di Paolo's FIne Foods and Margaret Cicogna, wows with their selections for the night.

Two cheese legends, Lou Santomauro (Di Palo) of Di Paolo’s FIne Foods and Margaret Cicogna, wow us all with their selections for the night.

The best young and aged pecorinos from Tuscany.

The best young and aged pecorinos from Tuscany.

Gorgonzola dolce, the cheese in its sweet, runny stage, is indescribably umami, incomparable, and very hard to find outside of its place of origin. I snap it up from DiPalo's whenever I can.

Gorgonzola dolce (Gorgonzola, Milano province, Lombardy), the cheese in its sweet, runny stage, is indescribably umami, incomparable, and very hard to find outside of its place of origin. I snap it up from DiPalo’s whenever I can. My favorite way to eat it is slathered over a mound of freshly cooked, steamy polenta.

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Another sublime scoopable blue cheese, from Piemonte, this one aged with artisanal beer.

Occelli Castagna from Piemonte, a combination cow's- and goat's milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, which imparts their sweetness and flavor.

Occelli in Fogle di Castagno from Cuneo, Piemonte is a combination cow’s- and goat’s- or cheeps’ milk cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves, which imparts their sweetness and flavor.

Cow's milk cheese aged in grappa from Trentino, a terrific match with fruit.

Cow’s milk cheese aged in grappa from Trentino, a terrific match with fruit.

Montasio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, young, sweet — and underexposed in the U.S. It's the cheese originally used for frico, the crisply fried cheese dish that Lidia Bastianich popularized in NYC at the now defunct Frico Bar.

Montasio from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is a young, sweet — and underutilized cheese in the U.S. It’s the cheese originally used for frico, the crisply fried cheese dish that Lidia Bastianich popularized in NYC at the now defunct Frico Bar.

RIsotteria Melotti made a spectacular risotto with the vialone nano rice they produce themselves in Verona.

RIsotteria Melotti made a spectacular risotto with the vialone nano rice they produce themselves in Verona.

Eating Risotteria Melotti's risotto with truffles and porcini and having my photo taken at the same time.

Eating Risotteria Melotti’s risotto with truffles and porcini and having my photo taken at the same time.

A recap of accomplishments bringing Italian businesses and American markets together, and a farewell to staff.

A recap of accomplishments bringing Italian businesses and American markets together…

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…and a farewell to staff.

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How to say it in Russian.

Photos: ©Nathan Hoyt/Forktales 2015

 


May 042015
 
Meating with the Stars at the Food Network Kitchen

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually hesitate before answering. Writer? Journalist? Chef? Cook? Teacher? Story teller? Food advocate? Environmentalist? All of those descriptives are true for me, as they are for so many of us. Food can’t be separated from its source and what happens to it on its way to our plates. Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit that educates about a better food system and celebrates the best in American cooking, is made up of hundreds of chefs, cooks, growers, farmers, fisher people, ranchers, cheese makers, artisans, writers, reporters, publishers, educators, activists — and it’s a mighty brain trust. Its […more…]

Apr 042015
 
Celebrating Easter Sicilian Style

Special dolci are an essential part of Easter celebrations in Italy and Sicily in particular, where the Arab sweet tooth pervades. At this time several years ago, I was in Agrigento sampling the island’s quiddities with the legendary restaurateur Tony May (Palio, Gemelli, San Domenico, SD26) and a group of Italian chefs. We had lunch al fresco one afternoon at the estate of olive oil producers, where this traditional Easter sweet dominated the dessert table. Called pecorelle, “little lambs,” these artful confections are fashioned of almond paste and decorated with chocolate and tinted sugar. The lambs represent eternal life, the Easter theme, with the red flower symbolizing the Resurrection, Jesus Christ rising from the tomb. Despite […more…]

Mar 302015
 
"A Little Bit of Italian Will Improve Any Dish. Even Any Life." — Victor Hazan

A continuation of the conversation with Victor Hazan on the matter of my Irish beef & Guinness stew (see previous post): A deft rebuttal, my dear. Italians may sometimes mention nutrition, but they don’t believe in it, really. They go for taste. The interesting thing is that the taste of good Italian cooking turns out to be so salubrious. At least the people look so much better. I have a very catholic appreciation of  the tastes of other cuisines, save when they seem to be an aberration. I find no grounding in principles of taste in boiled potato skins. That parsnips are […more…]

Mar 302015
 
Victor Hazan Italianizes My Irish Stew

My readers will now and then offer comments on my recipes, but no one is more exacting than Victor Hazan, husband of and collaborator with the late Marcella Hazan and indeed himself a very fine cook. Here is a message he sent me about my Beef and Guinness Stew recipe, which I offered in my Zester Daily column for St. Patrick’s Day:  I followed it more or less scrupulously, save for some things an Italian cook wouldn’t go for, e.g. boiled potatoes served with their skins on. Che barbarità! I peeled and quartered them and threw them in with the meat after it had […more…]

Mar 192015
 
The Italian Answer to St. Patrick's Day is St. Joseph's, the Gorging Holiday

Just two days after the American Irish whoop it up on St. Patrick’s day, Lenten eating restrictions are lifted once again for the Italians to celebrate Father’s Day, the Feast of Saint Joseph (Festa di San Giuseppe). The foster father of Jesus, symbolic breadwinner, protector of Mary, patron saint of families, orphans, unwed mothers, and the indigent is reverenced with an orgy of eating, drinking—and most importantly, sweet gorging.  Joseph is by happenstance also the patron saint of pastry cooks. My grandfather was named Giuseppe, so this day held special meaning for us. Like other Italians, we celebrated with treats made only for this day, typically bigné (fried eclair with filled with […more…]

Mar 152015
 
The Art of the Stew, Irish Style — with Beef and Guinness

Hurry, go make yourself some “roasty” beef and Guinness stew. It might, just might, top its Italian counterpart. And if you don’t get around to it for St. Patrick’s Day, no need to suffer — make it any old time! My story, with recipe, in Zester Daily here .  

Feb 072015
 
Is Traditional Italian Food an Endangered Species?

A couple of weeks ago, Linda Pelaccio, a producer and host at Heritage Radio Network, asked if I would talk to her about that very question. It’s the subject of my last book, Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul, and something that’s on my mind more than ever as I travel around Italy these days. Seems it’s going the way of America with its fast food habits and global food tastes, while we’re going the way of Italy, yearning to farm, recapture heritage seeds, and make artisan foods. So the other day, I made my way to the radio station launched by Patrick Martins, founder of […more…]