Saturday, December 2, 2017

DIY Oven Dried Tomatoes


More a technique than a recipe, but really one that you should try yourself. Oven dried tomatoes or 'Pomodori secchi' as the Italians call them, are a real treat. Of course you can buy them in all kinds of variants and qualities in the supermarket these days. Some of them are really quite nice and taste good. But we want more than good - we want Great Taste! So let us take you through how to make DIY oven dried tomatoes.


Ingredients

~1 kg Roma tomatoes
~50 ml Extra virgin olive oil (more if needed)
1 head of fresh garlic
1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence (dried)
1/2 tsp Oregano (dried)
1 tsp granulated sugar
some sprigs of fresh thyme
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For this recipe Roma style tomatoes are preferred. Alternatively, you can use other firm, fleshy tomatoes but not the juicy variaties.

Begin by washing your tomatoes and then use a paring knife to carefully remove the stems.



Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds using a teaspoon.
After removing the seeds, cut into quarters.
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and spread the tomatoes evenly, skin side down.

Sprinkle with dry herbs, sugar, salt and pepper.
Drizzle with good quality olive oil and spread fresh thyme (no need to remove stems).
Crush garlic cloves gently with the palm of your hand and distribute over the tray.

Use some dried lavender if you have it. This will add incredible flavor. But be sure to use the culinary lavender, not the one that is intended to give a nice scent your drawer of socks.

Now bake -or rather dry- for 4 hours in your convection oven at 100°C (conventional oven at 120°C). When finished, leave in your oven to cool down.

Time to pour a good glass of wine, read a good book or watch more of our recipes!









Optional: remove the skin once the tomatoes are cooled to room temperature. The skin comes off very easy.



The end-result: a plate full of little tomato flavor bombs that are hard to describe. Packed with sweet, tangy, meaty umami flavors.

They will keep like this in an air tight container in your fridge for several days.





Use them with your salads, sauces, pizza's. pasta's. sandwiches, etc. etc... But use them with caution, they are very strong in flavor...


Or store them in a mason jar with some fresh herbs a clove of fresh garlic and topped with olive oil.










A wonderful home-made gift for the holiday saison:
Pomodori secchi sott'olio.

Enjoy!









Sunday, November 26, 2017

Custoza Superiore DOC Cà del Magro 2015 - Monte del Frà


Snug between lake Garda and Trentino-Alto-Adige in the west and Friuli-Venetia Giulia and the gulf of Venice to the east, lies the acclaimed Italian wine region of Veneto. It is famous throughout the world for its wines like Valpolicella, Pinot Grigio, Soave and Prosecco. But there is more to be found in Veneto. The hills south of lake Garda we find the DOC's of Lugana, Bardolino and Bianco di Custoza, whom by many is considered to be the somewhat lesser cousin of neighboring Soave, mainly known for it's friendly, fruity wines. But there are exceptions..

Custoza is a hilly moraine area of ​​lime, clay, gravel and sandy soils in the municipality of Sommacampagna, south-east of lake Garda. In the heart of the Custoza area lies the winery Monte del Frà. Viticulture has been practiced here since the Middle Ages, but it was not until the Bonomo family took over the estate in 1958 that it began its ongoing success story. Known as quality fanatics, Marcia Bonomo and her team live up to their reputation with their wines every year.

Today, 140 hectares of vineyards owned by the Bonomo family include such great crus as Cà del Magro, Colombara, Grottino, Staffalo, Monte Godi, Monte Fitti, Mascarpine, Bagolina, Pezzarara, Lena di Mezzo and Monte del Frà. The right choice of suitable vineyards and the optimal cultivation of the vines is the family's most important objective for the production of high quality grapes.


Part of the Monte del Fra vineyard is planted with old vines of noble indigenous varieties, using the Veronese pergola training and with very low yields of around 2 kg per vine. The remainder is planted with Guyot-trained Garganega vines, selected and propagated from historic clones. Such strict growing techniques form the basis for the extraordinary quality of the wine we have selected for you here.

One of the flag-ships of the winery is the Custoza Superiore DOC Ca' Del Magro. This wine was awarded with the highest rating of three glasses (tre biccheri) by Gambero Rosso 8 times in a row, for the vintages 2008 - 2015.

The wine is composed of 40% Garganega, combined with Trebbiano Toscano, Tocai Friulano, Cortese, Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia and Incrocio Manzoni. All harvested by hand under strict control of the Bonomo family. Vinification starts with temperature controlled soft pressing. For the must, around 4%-5% of the Garganega grapes are fermented and matured “sur lie” in oak barrels for a period of about 4 months. The rest of the grapes are left to ferment slowly, in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and in contact with their lees, until May. The wine is then kept to mature in the bottle for at least 6 months before sale.


Tasting Notes


The bright, pale yellow Ca del Magro captivates with its multi-faceted, fruity-spicy and floral aromas. Perfumes reminiscent of golden-delicious apple, peach, pineapple, grapefruit and mango combine with white flowers, fresh meadow herbs, white pepper, vanilla and almonds. With its full body and round aromas in combination with a nice freshness and a fine spicy bitterness, this Custoza Superiore shows why it has been rightly considered one of the top white wines for this region for years.

Enjoy!


This wine is available online at many resellers throughout Europe.

Friday, November 24, 2017

6 simple tricks to create Great Taste in your kitchen

Heaven for some, burden for most, nightmare for few.



The kitchen is not a place that makes everybody happy. Some have the feeling that whatever they do, it somehow will never come out great. Here's a few tips that can help you along.


1 Prepare

It doesn’t matter what you are cooking: Christmas dinner for the whole family or a some scrambled eggs for breakfast. If you prepare well, or as the French call it ‘do you mise-en-place’, cooking becomes much easier and the risk of nasty surprises is reduced to a minimum. As an added bonus, doing your mise-en-place will make you visualize all steps in the cooking process which helps tremendously in cooking a great dish easier and faster.


2 Use fresh herbs 

Most supermarkets today sell fresh herbs either cut and packaged or as whole plants in pots. The pre-packed stuff is fine but can be quite expensive. If you have some garden space, a balcony or even a window sill, you can grow some fresh herbs yourself. No need to go overboard – some rosemary, thyme and fresh parsley, maybe some basil... It will take your cooking a long way.



3 Use fresher spices

There is nothing wrong with dried herbs. They have a different flavor profile and we often use them in combination with fresh herbs. But spices are a different story. The can of ground spice that has been sitting in your cupboard since the 20th century? That needs to go! Only use freshly ground pepper, nutmeg and other spices and your cooking will improve instantly. They even sell them with their own built-in grinders these days - so no more excuses!


4 No more pre-packaged sauces and spice-mixes

We’ve all been there and done that: the quick jar of marinara sauce or packet of spice-mix. The result usually is a big disappointment. Most of them are loaded with salt and saturated fat (the kind that is bad for you) anyway.
Of course there are some exceptions that provide reasonably good food but they always come with a host of nasty additives that you simply should not put in your body. Read the ingredients and you’ll see the pre-packaged stuff is easy to prepare yourself and you can leave out the unwanted artificial stuff. Your children will thank you for it later.


5 Develop your repertoire

Ever wonder why your favorite dish at the local restaurant tastes so good? Or why your mom’s soup is the best in the world?
Because they prepared it hundreds of times, getting better every time. Make sure you have 5 or 10 dishes that you prepare regularly and hone your skills. Never make the mistake of cooking that great recipe you saw online for the first time when you’re having guests for dinner. You are bound for disaster. Cook the dish that you are very comfortable with and really apply yourself to making it the best rendition ever. Success will be guaranteed - just keep an eye on the waiters.



6 Have fun!

Many people see cooking as a burden or something that takes way too much time. What they are forgetting is that cooking is a perfect way to spend your free time. Researching recipes, shopping for food, experimenting and preparing a dish is the best meditation one can think of. Cooking a great meal for friends or family isn't about showing off your skills either. More than anything it is about caring and sharing. It is about communion and creates an instant bond, even with strangers. With the hustle and bustle we all face in our everyday lives, dinner time often is the only time when friends or family get together and share. Some don’t even have that, but they should. If all respect that, get together and enjoy what is being served, cooking a good meal becomes the most fun task of your entire day.

Marmorelle Rosso, IGT Salento, Tenute Rubino 2013


If it weren't for the occasional cool sea breeze coming from the Mediterranean, Italy's Salice Salento region in Puglia -the heel of the Italian boot- would be a blistering wasteland. Yet, the fertile soils and moderating influence of the nearby sea make it easy to grow anything here. Remarkably flat for Italian countryside but all the more sunny and dry. Almost half of Italy's olive oil is produced in Puglia and -of course- grapes. Ripe, sun baked, deep black-purple colored grapes. The phrase 'wine is bottled sunshine' fits Puglian wine exceptionally well.

Based on the work of his father Tommaso, Luigi Rubino, started the Tenuto Rubino brand in 1999, together with his wife Romina Leopardi. The company has its headquarter in Brindisi, where the launch of a brand new winery has been the first steps in the business. The rediscovery of native grapes from Puglia is the main theme in Tenute Rubino’s productive philosophy, that is grounded in both innovation and tradition.
Innovation is achieved by applying modern techniques in both vineyard and wine cellar. Tradition is embodied by the use of local grape varieties that historically are connected to the Salento region.


One of these grapes is the Negroamaro (literally translated as 'black bitter'). Mixed with a little black malvasia, it is the main grape used in the Marmorelle Rosso, IGT Salento.

The intense ruby red color is the harbinger of ripe plum and baked raspberries in the nose. Hints of spices such as anise and nutmeg can be detected along with more earthy flavors such as cocoa.

The wine is full bodied, but with pleasant tannines and fine acidity. Instead, it delivers red fruits in large quantities, reminding us of the ferocious sun in Puglia. Overall the palate is well-balanced with the nose.

It is definitely a modern wine: pleasant and smooth yet full-bodied and rich.
A wonderful companion to pasta with tomato based sauces, lamb, stews, grilled vegetables or moderately strong cheeses but also enjoyable on it's own complementing any occasion.




In The Netherlands, Marmorelle Rosso and many other great Italian wines can be purchased at www.vinissimo.nl


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Limburgian Pork Cheeks


A piece of meat that is almost forgotten but that is arguably one of the most flavorful pork cuts there is: cheeks. It stands to reason, for tender meat that only needs very short cooking, we use muscles that the animal rarely uses such as loins and filets. But these meats, though delicate and lean, are not very well suited for long cooking methods, e.g. when we want to cook them together with vegetables or make a nice sauce. For that we use tougher muscles that have more fat and connective tissues. These will break down during long and slow braising, resulting in succulent, tender and awesomely flavorful meat. As an added bonus, the collagen in the meat will melt and turn into gelatine that will not only keep the meat moist but that will also give us a wonderfully silky, sticky sauce. In conclusion: what muscles does a pig use most? Correct - the muscles used for eating: cheeks. If prepared the right way, pork cheeks will give other cuts like neck or shoulder a run for their money!

This recipe is a variation on many of the stews and braised dishes that include pork cheeks and other tougher cuts from the pig. The addition of Bock beer, a strong, dark type of lager from our region lends a sweet and slightly bitter note that makes this a truly stunning stew.




Ingredients (serves 4 persons)

2 kg pork cheeks
150 gr unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cloves of garlic, whole, peeled
1 bouquet garni (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf)
2 slices white bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 bottle (30cl) Bock beer
1/2 liter of beef stock or 1/4 ltr of beef glace
Pepper and salt



Carefully remove the silver skin from the cheeks using a thin, sharp knife.











In a large casserole over high heat, melt half of the butter in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.












Brown the meat in small batches until nicely caramelized and reserve.












Remove all the fat form the pan but make sure to leave the brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan (fond). Lower to medium high heat and add rest of the butter and the diced onions. Slowly sweat the onions with a big pinch of salt. This will cause the onions to release their moisture, which will help deglaze the pan.









Make sure all fond has released from the bottom.













Add the cheeks back to the pan, but keep the jus that has accumulated at the bottom aside.












Add the flour to the meat and stir, making sure everything is covered.


Add beer and deglaze the bottom of the pan again. Now add garlic, bouquet garni and reserved jus back into the pan.










Cover the slices of bread generously with a high quality, sharp mustard e.g. Dijon. We did not remove the crusts from the bread, but you should. It will help the bread to dissolve into the sauce quicker.

Add the beef fond and bring the stew to a gentle simmer. Do not bring to a boil! This will toughen the fibers in the meat and you'll need a much longer cooking time.

Simmer gently for 90 minutes or until the meat is fork tender. Remove bouquet garni and garlic cloves. Stir carefully to make sure the bread dissolves completely and perfectly binds the sauce.















Serve gourmet style, over mashed potatoes with some butter-braised spring onions and microgreens...




... or family style as shredded pork on a freshly toasted brioche bun. No ketchup needed!
Enjoy!


Wine suggestion: http://discovergreattaste.blogspot.nl/2017/11/marmorelle-rosso-igt-salento-tenute.html


In The Netherlands and Belgium, pork cheeks, other meats, fish, poultry and much more can be purchased online at www.meerdanvlees.nl 
www.meerdanvlees.nl





Thursday, November 16, 2017

Blond Chicken Stock

Another super easy and super fast recipe, or rather technique, using the pressure cooker to create a rich flavorful chicken stock that is remarkably clear and clean tasting. This is a result of the  fact that in the pressure cooker the stock will never actually boil.

Different from our Brown Chicken Stock, in which bones and carcasses are used, blond chicken stock is made using fresh chicken pieces or a whole chicken including the bones.

Again we are using very few ingredients compared to a classic chicken stock for two reasons.
First, we want to keep the taste of the stock clean so it is as versatile as possible and we can use it in all kinds of dishes.
Secondly, the pressure cooker method concentrates the flavors. As a result, if we would add e.g. leeks, parsley, celery, garlic, peppercorn and so on to the recipe, we would get more of a chicken/vegetable stock in stead of the desired clean chicken flavor.

For those reasons, we also do not add any salt to this stock.

Ingredients (yields approx. 2 liters of stock)

1,2 - 1,5 kg  whole free-range chicken or -legs
2 liters cold water
350 gram onion
150 gram carrot
2-3 sprigs thyme leaves (fresh)
2 bay leaves (fresh)






We used a mix of chicken wings and -legs for our example. As the wings have comparatively a lot of skin, we removed the skin from the legs to reduce overall fat content. If you are using a whole chicken, you can leave the skin on as the ratio skin/meat/bones is exactly right.
Cut the chicken into parts in order to save some room in your pan.

Peel and cut the vegetables in large dices. Add all ingredients and 2 liters of cold water to the pot. Make sure you do not fill your pressure cooker for more than 2/3 of its capacity.
Close and secure the lid and bring the pan slowly up to steam over med-high heat. The cooking time starts once full pressure (12-15 Psi) is reached. Check your pressure cooker manual for exact instructions.

Cooking time is 45 minutes.

After that, remove from the heat and let the cooker depressurize naturally. Do not use rapid release because that would cause the stock to boil and become cloudy.

Remove all solids using a skimmer. 


You can reserve the meat, It will have lost most of its taste, but it can be used in dishes with other flavorful ingredients such as a curry or chicken fried rice.

And of course in a soup, together with your stock. In that case add salt & pepper, fresh, finely diced vegetables and some fresh herbs. 






Collect into a colander and return the drippings to the pan.






Optional: pour the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Also optional: remove all fat floating to the surface. We actually reduce the stock a bit more by approx. 2/3 to save space in our freezer. Add water back again once you use the stock. Move to smaller containers and let cool to room temperature. This stock will keep for several days in you fridge and half a year in your freezer.

Use a zip-lock bag for maximum efficiency storage!




And here it is: just under two liters of hearty chicken stock in less than one hour. This golden chicken stock is very versatile and easy to make. Hearty, full of chicken flavor yet very clean tasting. Season to make broth, clarify to make consommé, or reduce to make sauce, jus, demi-glace or thousands of other dishes.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pressure cooker quick and easy Ragù Bolognese


From Wikipedia:
In 1982, the Italian Academy of Cuisine (Accademia Italiana della Cucina), an organization dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of Italy, recorded and deposited a recipe for "classic Bolognese ragù" with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce (La Camera di Commercio di Bologna). A version of the academy's recipe for American kitchens was also published. The academy's recipe confines the ingredients to beef cut from the plate section (cartella di manzo), fresh unsmoked pancetta (pancetta di maiale distesa), onions, carrot, celery, passata (or tomato purée), meat broth, dry white wine, milk, salt and pepper.
So the official recipe for Ragù Bolognese was only registered in 1982! Yet, Italians seem very particular when it comes to this dish. And they will go to war if you dare challenge them over it. Still, many varieties exist (even in Italy), including minced lamb, veal, chicken livers, Worcester sauce and even Thai fish sauce. Officially, the dish then becomes a 'Ragù d'auttore' - a recipe by the author, which makes it all ok, we guess. As long as you do not serve it with spaghetti...


Semantics aside, we all love a rich, hearty Bolognese sauce. And if you want to serve it with spaghetti, who cares? Kids love it anyway. But we also know that the secret to a good Bolognese sauce is simmering it for 2 hours or even more. That's all good on a Sunday when you have time, but who has time for that during the week? No panic: here is our quick and easy Ragù Bolognese from the pressure cooker to the rescue!

Ingredients (yields sauce for 3 x 4 persons)
1 kg minced beef
500 gr minced pork
250 gr onions, diced
125 gr carrots, diced
125 gr celery, diced
2 cans peeled tomatoes (400gr)
140 gr tomato puree (concentrate)
250 gr diced pancetta or smoked bacon
500 ml chicken stock
125 ml white wine
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 cloves of fresh garlic

Equipment
Pressure cooker min 6 liter capacity

Start by frying the pancetta in your pressure cooker with two tablespoons of oil. If you cannot get pancetta, use smoked lean bacon.












When the pancetta is nice and crisp, add the vegetables and a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium. Sweat until the onions become translucent.
Add the finely diced garlic and dried herbs. You can use fresh if you have it. Fry for 1 minute until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Make a small space in the middle of the pan and add the tomato puree. Fry it for 1 minute to reduce the tartness.





Add the peeled tomatoes and mash them with a potato masher. Rinse both cans with half a can of water and add. Add the bay leaves.





In a separate pan, fry the beef and pork mince in small batches over high heat. The reason to do this separate is the liquid coming from the meat. This way it can evaporate quickly. In your pressure cooker, it would turn into a big slushy pulp that will not fry but cook. And nobody likes Bolognese soup with cooked meats. We need some Maillard reaction going here.
Fry until the meat is nicely caramelized and all liquid has evaporated. We'll deal with the fat later. Add the meat to the pressure cooker.

Deglaze the pan with 125 ml white wine. Cook over high heat until the alcohol has completely evaporated. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all the delicious bits from the bottom of the pan. Add to the cooker.


Stir and slowly bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Do not add the lid to the cooker and go to high temperature because this might burn your sauce to the bottom of the pan. Don't add any thickening agents as this will also increase the risk of burning.

Once the sauce is gently cooking, add the lid and let the pressure build up to full capacity (12-15Psi - check your pressure cooker manual). Cook for 30 minutes and let the cooker depressurize. Remove the bay leaves and cook until you get the desired thickness. Depending on your cooker you might even need to add some additional stock or water. Remove any fat floating on top. Move the sauce to smaller containers and let cool to room temperature. This Ragù Bolognese will keep in your fridge for several days and half a year in your freezer. 


Let there be no doubt: the traditional way of making this sauce, 
simmering slowly for many hours over low heat, 
is much preferred to this quick and easy approach. 
But for a stew that is ready in less than an hour, it's pretty amazing.
For how to cook and sauce pasta properly, read here.

Enjoy!









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