Gustiamo

They say Brooklyn is New York City’s new Manhattan, the next generation place to savor what’s hot in urban kitchens. Today even Queens has a world-class reputation for cool ethnic eats. But the Big Apple's genuine gourmet secret may quietly stirring in the Bronx, this section of New York percolating its own epicurean brilliance.

What has me paying homage to this borough? Well, exploring the world of Sicilian flours, luck led me to Beatrice Ughi, owner of Gustiamo, a Bronx-based Italian food import company. On a recent sun soaked Saturday, I biked over from my home in Sunnyside to visit Gustiamo’s Bronx warehouse. The peddling was worth it. Beatrice sells stunning products and is a wonderful host. Besides a mobile wood burning pizza Napoletana truck, she treated me to fabulous local beer from Gun Hill Brewing Company, trays of delicious pandoro and panettone, as well as an olive oil tasting.

Here's some photos of my picnic with Beatrice in the Bronx.

 

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Biscotti Piccanti (Spicy)

Savory biscotti were the next project I made with  Grano duro flour from Molini del Ponte. Not quite a biscotti but more like a rusk in fact. These are flavorful  biscotti packed with sesame seeds,olive oil, fennel, anise (usually finochietto salvatico) and black pepper.  A perfect bite for an apero, careful they're addictive. I found a "Nonna" recipe and decided to transform it with sourdough, it looked like it could use some  tinkering.The trick making them with sourdough and would it be possible to substitute for the usual quicker yeast. It was a learning curve, but worth the lesson and wait!

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Pane Nero #2

After baking my first Pane Nero with wheat sourdough, I wanted to bake a loaf with one hundred percent Grano duro from Castelvetrano, the Sicilian region from which this bread was born. With warmer temperatures, it didn't take long for either the first or final fermentation. The crumb was denser than with wheat sourdough, but the flavor and texture were just right.

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Whole Grain Biscotti

Falling in love with Tumminia flour, a whole grain Sicilian variety from the bio-diverse miller Molini del Ponte, I was eager to try using it for something other than bread. I found a biscotti recipe that specified mixing Tumminia with "OO" flour, along with orange zest and lard.  These biscotti aren't the typical twice cooked variety which are crisper.  They're more like a sable cookie in texture and thankfully not sickenly sweet!

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Pane Nero #1

Since I first tried Pane Nero di Castelvetrano, a traditional Sicilian bread, I wanted to substitute sour dough for the commercially yeasted biga (pre-ferment), as it seemed to me it would enhance the characteristics of this wonderful heritage bread. In the version below, I used a local Farmer Ground wheat flour in the levain, which gave it a more open, softer crumb.  

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Quinoa Porridge Bread

For some time I have tried to grasp how to make a good loaf from the Tartine bread books. They just never never end up looking like they do in the book. It may be due to issues around hydration or lack of fermentation. Recently I had more success after adapting a Tartine formula for their oat porridge-and-almond bread, substituting quinoa flakes for oatmeal, and using 30% Quinoa in the final dough. The finish bake is still fairly hydrated but still full of flavor and color and sports a crisp crust!

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Lobster Roll

The heat is upon us and it's just barely July! Why not some lobster rolls, that New England classic to remind us of the ocean while we're at work sweating. 

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Pani Cunzatu

Bread is almost always an after thought, or just a lonely roll at the dinner table for butter or oil. But with Pani Cunzatu, a Sicilian cousin to bruschetta, bread becomes the entire meal. Traditionally, Pani Cunzatu is made from a loaf of fresh baked Pane Nero di Castelvetrano, a bread whose essence is a a stone ground heritage flour. 

If you're as lucky as I've been to learn to bake this kind of bread, and you have one straight from your hearth oven, just follow these steps to make Pani Cunzatu.  While the loaf is just hot from the oven, it's split horizontally and doused with nocerella olive oil, then covered with anchovies, garlic and tomato and the two split pieces pressed together and sliced. Enjoy with a rosatto wine or even a white wine. It's bonta, (goodness).

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Support Your Local Farmer

A few weeks ago I was shopping for lettuces and dinner at a farmer's market. Found a nice-looking rack of  lamb from New York's Catskill Merino Sheep farm. Compared to the wholesale prices we pay at work for Colorado lamb, the local cut was pricier. That said, after a spectacular meal of  Merino lamb and local vegetables, I went back two weeks later and told the farmer they had the best lamb going!  They thanked me, encouraging us to "support your "local" farmer." Do. It tastes good. 

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