Selinunte is a Greek archaeological site in Sicily. Visiting it with my friend, Castelvetrano miller and baker Filippo Drago, he proudly pointed out that it is the largest ruins of Greek temples anywhere. Like the ruins I had seen while visiting Troy in Turkey, it really gave me a sense of awe. The place is not so much haunted as animated by the ghosts of history. For my buddy Filippo, it seemed a spiritual place, bringing him back to the ancient grains that landed here with the Greeks which he still uses today.
Here are some shots of a trip to Firenze, more commonly known as Florence. My friend Judy Witts Francini offered a great tour. Amid the melting heat of summer, the highlight was the Mercato Centrale. And we also had the chance to meet David Bedu, a baker of extraordinary charm. He was the highlight.
First effort for lunch (pranza) at Rome's Roscioli Salumeria. It was a definitive meal, both exceptionally simple and exceptionally tasty. Centered around salumi and cheese, the menu was basic and fit my philosophy that "less is more." Following this dish, three ingredients were just enough to make my carbonara a classic Roman dish - all to say captured genuine food epiphany.
Just outside of Sicily's city of Castelvetrano, you'll find Tenuta Pignatelli, a beautiful, family-run working farm and resort. Run by the Becchina family, the farm produces olive oil while the grounds produce a stunning sense of relaxation. I spent my days there wandering a landscape of fruit trees and vegetable gardens, enjoying a lovely swimming pool, and basically discovering that - yes - time can disappear. Between the Becchina family and the farm, the place offered plenty to do and the freedom to do nothing. Dipping in the pool day or night, enjoying the quiet but steady Mediterranean breeze that blows through the dry heat of the sun, eating green Belice olives, or just hanging with the farm cats, including one who became my best friend and constant companion, it was gloriously peaceful. And then there were the wonderful meals produced on request by Enza, one of the sweetest women in the world. This wonderful assortment of people and farm creatures were so welcoming, it was hard to leave them all. Including my cat pal, who hung with me till the day I left. I will miss you all.
An American friend (thanks Judy!) told me about Roscioli Il Forno, describing it as "among Rome's many food temples to visit" while... well, visiting. It's actually two different places a quarter block apart in Rome's neighborhood known as Campo de' Fiori. It consists of a wine salumeria restaurant and then a bakery (or "forno" ).
Judy's suggestion paid off with eye candy and tasty splendor. Despite typical Roman service - that can come off as rude or indifferent - if you're in Rome, try it. More precisely, try a pizza bianca with mortadella. Or order a savory porchetta sandwich. Then get a caffé across the way, and maybe even a cornetto. Here's a peek!
A stone throw from the Vatican, Romeo chef and baker is a sleek dining room serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, is well worth a visit. It features modern bread-oriented food pairings and a deli counter salumi from Roscioli and a a'la carte menu from Chef Christina Bowerman, a Bari native who worked American kitchens in Austin and San Francisco.
Here's what stood out for me; breads from Roscioli in Campo di Fiore, and chef Bowerman's pastas, salumi and pickled vegetables. How to capture it all? Sublime! The waiter serving us was also excellent, providing wonderful recommendations, explanations and service around both food and wine - all this while controlling a very busy lunch crowd. And still smiling!
At one point, even economy-class airline travel promised a cold sandwich. And even if they ususally were way too cold (not to mention, minus the mustard, tasteless), today's menu translates to "order out." Or in - if you're in one of those nicer airports with celebrity chef airport ports; say Shake Shack, Marcus Samuelssons, or the now-ubiquitous Wolfgang Puck. This is my long segue to some photos of my very passable lunch at Orange County's John Wayne Airport where I enjoyed a chi-chi tasting of three wines, charcuterie and a cheese plate. Poor big John Wayne would have been horrified. Ah, bon voyage, my friend, merci!
Anthony Bourdain first made me aware of Le Comptoir and its chef owner Yve's Camborde on his Paris "No Reservations" episode. Visiting France, I decided to get into this extremely popular twenty seater, having failed to make it for dinner one earlier evening, getting seats the next day with a friend.
Great simple, classic French fare similar to the terroir cooking I had been helping produce with my former boss Jean Michel Bergounoux back in the 90's, only with a lighter touch and without foam or meat glue. This is the kind of comfort French food I like and recognized.
For starters, we enjoyed a salad of foie gras with haricot vert, artichoke hearts and vinaigrette. Sublime, and just deliciously tickling the tongue and senses. Next a beouf braise aux carrotte (beef braised with carrots and macaroni!), and a wonderful Hachis parmentier of lamb,(shepards pie). Dessert, well it was hot, and I didn't fancy coffee after a nice demi-carafe of Bandol rosé, so a granité of coffee with a layer of coffee custard to guild the lilly.
Just right with the Paris sun blaring overhead and easily digested after a filling lunch.
It's likely when visiting my sister in Switzerland she will whip up some extraordinary traditional desserts, a quark kuchen, Baseler leckerli,Quarkkuchen mit shokolade striesel. One of my top favorites is wähe which is made with seasonal fruits,like apples or plums. It can be a quick breakfast bite, or coffee time dessert, or all day if there is any left...with my nephew and three nieces, oh and my brother in-law around,well you get the picture.
Wähe can be a fruit or savory egg and cream custard filled tarte, it's related to the quiche as well the onion tarte's and other favorites along the Rhine river by the Swiss, German and French borders. Most often I like them with mirabelle that come off the trees at my sisters orchard.
Feeling the last breaths of summer, I decided to make a Wähe, and my sister reminded me about them when she called me the other day.
So I had only a few Italian plums and decided to add in some local concord grapes as well some muscat,and apples sort of an hommage to the vendage or wine harvest...actually I'm just really craving a wähe!
Racheli's wähe teig
Makes 1 8" inch square or round tarte. Enough wäehe for a hungry family!
pinch of salt
3-4 Tbsp. water, (American flour probably needs more water, higher protein and it likes to drink!)
Mix dry ingredients, then rub butter and flour mixture between your hands until you get a sandy mixture.Gradually add in water, gently incorporating to form a ball of dough.(Don't knead, it's not bread!)
Chill in fridge for a half hour to an hour. Roll out to about a 1/4 inch thick and place it into a quiche or tart mold. If you don't have a mold, feel free to place the circle on a flat sheet pan and make a free form tarte, but with caution to fold the edges up so you can place fruit and custard filling to bake.
My filling was a bit unorthodox, I didn't have cream and probably shouldn't either! So here I went for a healthy substitute of yogurt.
2 full Tbsp. Greek yogurt
pinch of salt
11/2 Tbsp of Dr. Oeteker pudding powder, or corn starch. (I just happened to be out of starch and found the pudding mix!)
4 Tbsp of almond meal, for the bottom of the dough
Fruits, apples sliced, grapes, plums halved and whole.
Whisk eggs and pudding or starch, sugar in a bowl, add yogurt and milk, set aside. Poke the bottom of the rolled dough with tines of a fork, cover with almond meal. Fill tarte with fruit in prepared shell in free form or in concentric circles. Cover with custard and bake.Bake for about 45 minutes at 400 for 25minutes lower to 375 F for about 10 minutes till custard is set and tarte shell is golden. Serve at room temperature.