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Articles by: Francine Segan

  • Wine Tarallucci
    Dining in & out

    Italian Cookies for the Holidays

    Tarallucci

    Tarallucci not only are made with red wine, but pair prfectly with it too. Italians pull them out after dinner to nibble on with the meal’s left-over red wine wine. Made with olive oil and not too sweet, these cookies are a guiltless pleasure. 

     

    Tarallucci are ring-shaped cookies that symbolize a hug and signify friendship and affection in Italy.  In the past, when legal contracts were made--such as for the sale of land—villagers didn’t employ lawyers.  Instead they’d simply shake hands and embrace.  To celebrate the deal they’d offer a toast of red wine and tarallucci.

     

    Tarallucci al vino

    Makes about 7 dozen

     

    Seven dozen cookies may sound like a lot, and you can halve the recipe if you like.  But you won’t regret making them all.  For one thing, they are a snap to make and will stay fresh for months.  For another, when you serve them to guests, they’ll beg to take some home.

    Tarallucci al vino are a wonderful holiday or hostess gift for the wine lovers in your life.

     

    35 ounces, about 8 cups, all-purpose flour

    1 cup red wine

    1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dipping

    3/4 cup olive oil

    2 eggs

    1/2 teaspoon salt

     

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

     

    In a bowl, combine 7 cups  of the flour, wine, sugar, olive oil, eggs, and salt with your fingers or a wooden spoon until combined. Add more flour, a little at a time, until firm dough forms.

     

    Spread a sheet of parchment paper onto a work surface and roll a large handful of dough into a long strip, about 1/2 inch wide. Cut off a 3-inch section and form a ring, pinching the ends to seal it. Put a few tablespoons of sugar onto a small flat plate. Dip one side of each cookie into the sugar and put it, sugar side up, onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until dry to the touch.

     

    Once cool, you can store tarallucci, in a cool dry place in an air-tight container, for up to 3 months.

     

    -2-

    Mustazzoli

     

    These honey cookies from Sicily that are made with just honey and flour. That’s it---just two ingredients. These absurdly addictive and amazingly chewy cookies epitomize the most fundamental Italian culinary rule that less is more! Italians believe that food should be prepared with just a few top-quality ingredients allowing each to be tasted and appreciated.

    Honey is the star here, so be sure to pick a high quality Italian honey. I particularly like carob honey, which is medium dark with a wine-like richness and aroma. Other good choices include buckwheat or prickly pear cactus honey.  

     

    Mustazzoli

    Makes about 2 dozen

     

    3 1/2 ounces, about 7/8 cup, all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

    8 ounces, about 3/4 cup, Italian honey

    Orange zest, optional

     

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Put the flour, honey and a pinch of zest, if using, into a bowl, and with your fingers, mix until dough forms. The dough will be dense and sticky.

     

    Lay out a piece of parchment paper onto a work surface. Divide the dough in half and put one section on the paper. Gently, using your palms, roll out the dough into a snake shape, about 13 inches long and 1 inch wide. Carefully transfer the snake onto the prepared pan. (Note: if the dough comes about, just roll it into a ball and reconnect the parts. Then, lay it out and slowly, working from the center start to roll it out. The heat of your hands helps to warm the honey, which acts like glue for the flour)     

     

    The cookies can be made in almost any shape: round, long or as pictured here in an S-shape.

     

    Bake the cookies for 10 minutes until lightly golden and no longer sticky. Put the cookies on a rack to cool and dry. Then they can be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place, for several months.

     

     

    -3-

    Zaleti

     

    These moist cormeal cookies are a favorite in Venice, made with with raisins and pine nuts and a hint of grappa. They have a wonderfully rustic texture and amazing flavor.

     

    Zaleti

    Makes about 2 dozen cookies

     

     

    4 ounces, 1 stick, butter, softened

    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    3 large egg yolks

    1/4 cup whole milk, blood warm

    1 teaspoon baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Zest of 1 lemon

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 vanilla bean grated on microplane

    2 tablespoons grappa

    3 ounces, generous 1/2 cup, golden raisins

    3 tablespoons, 1 ounce, pine nuts

    1 cup, fine ground cornmeal

    1 1/2 cups, OO flour or cake flour

     

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

     

    In a standing mixer with whisk attachment, or in a bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light yellow and fluffy.

    Beat in the yolks until well combined, then beat in the milk, baking powder, salt, zest, vanilla and grappa, if using.

     

    If you are using a standing mixer, remove the bowl and stir in the raisins and pine nuts with a wooden spoon.  Slowly sift in the cornmeal and OO flour, incorporating with each addition, until batter forms. It will be very dense.

     

    Put heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake, 12 to 14 minutes, until just lightly golden around the edges. Do not over bake. 

  • Dining in & out

    Panettone, Pandoro & Traditional Christmas Treats!

    Panettone, tall and dome shaped, this soft, not-too-sweet yeast cake with a fruity tang of raisins and candied oranges is the quintessential Italian Christmas dessert. 

    Panettone making follows an extraordinarily elaborate and time-consuming process—taking over 40 hours.  It’s kneaded and left to rise several times before baking, with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and candied fruit added in stages.  At last, once each cake has been allowed to rise in its own little panettone paper container, it’s baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic, packed up by hand, and sent on its way.  There are even variations covered in chocolate and pistachios.

     

    Delicious served plain, accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine like Ca’ del Bosco’s Franciacorta . Or you can dress it up by serving it with mascarpone cheese whipped with your favorite Italian liqueur.

    One easy variation, a sort of instand rum baba, is to soak panettone in spiked syrup, made by dissolving 3 cups of sugar in 1 1/2 cups boiling water until dissolved, then adding ¼ to ½ cup rum to taste.

     

    Panettone has spawned many legends. The most popular concerns a young Milanese nobleman, a member of the Atellini family, who fell in love with the daughter of a baker named Toni. To impress the girl's father, the young man disguised himself as a baker's assistant and invented a new, fruitcake-like bread. People came to the bakery in droves to purchase the magnificent new creation dubbed Pan de Toni --"Tony's bread." A variation of the legend has Toni saving the day by inventing the bread as a quick replacement for a dessert that had burned while being prepared for a Christmas feast held by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.

     

    Pandoro, a tall star-shaped cake, has a delicious eggy brioche-like soft center, with a lovely vanilla-butter aroma.  In Italy, pandoro is often served cut in horizontal slices that are restacked to look like a Christmas tree. It even comes boxed with a packet of confectioners sugar to sprinkle on top.

    Pandoro, in its present day version, first appeared in late 19th-century Verona. There are two different legends about its origin.  The first dates pandoro's birth to the Renaissance and to the custom of Venetian bakers dusting gold leaf ontp cone-shaped cakes called pan de oro, “bread of gold” for their wealthy customers. 

    The second legend attributes a humbler origin to pandoro, suggesting that it might have descended from a star-shaped homemade cake, nadalin, enjoyed by Verona’s farmers during Christmas.

           You can spread the pandoro with anything creamy like ice cream, whipped cream, icing, pastry cream, or even zabaglione. And just like a gingerbread house, you can decorate it with anything festive including tiny candies, sprinkles or crushed candy canes.

           Or try this recipe, where each layer is spread with mascarpone custard, and decorated with mint leaves and candied cherries. 

    Pandoro Christmas Tree

    Serves 8 to 10

          

    1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar

    1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons rum or sweet liqueur, such as lemoncello

    2 large egg yolks

    14 ounces mascarpone cheese

    1 cup heavy cream

    1 Pandoro

    Decorations such as: candied cherries, fresh mint leaves, silver confetti

    Confectioners’ sugar

     

           In a saucepan combine 1/4 cup water with 1/4 cup of the sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the rum. Reserve.

           In a standing mixer combine the yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat for 5 minutes until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons Cointreau or rum, and fold in the mascarpone.

           In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until peaks form. Fold the mascarpone cream into the whipped cream.

           Carefully, so as not to break the points, slice the pandoro horizontally into 6 slices.  Brush the outsides of the slices, the golden colored baked section, with the reserved Cointreau syrup.

           Place the largest pandoro slice onto a serving platter and spread with some of the mascarpone mixture.

           Cover with the next largest slice, angling it so that the points of the star tips don’t line up. Spread with some of the mascarpone mixture and repeat with the remaining layers, finishing with a dollop of mascarpone on top.

             Decorate the points with candied cherries and mint leaves or candies. Sprinkle the entire cake with confectioners’ sugar.

  • Baci di dama
    Dining in & out

    Italian Cookie Glossary

    Amaretti

    Amaretti, “little bitters,” are small, round almond cookies.  A speciality of northern Italy, amaretti are made of sugar, almonds, and egg white. Their invention is attributed to Francesco Moriondo, pastry chef at the court of Savoy in the mid-17th century.

    Amaretti can be either hard, classici, or soft, morbidi, and can vary in size too. Hard amaretti are used in many traditional Italian recipes, from savory dishes to desserts. In desserts they are often a base for custard, semifreddo, and cake decorations. In savory dishes, they are famously the filling for pumpkin ravioli and tortellini.

    Baci di Dama

    Baci di dama, "lady’s kisses," are a specialty of Piedmont in northern Italy. Two little round hazelnut-almond shortbread cookies are sandwiched together with a dark chocolate filling.

    RECIPE BELOW

     

    Canestrelli      

    Canestrelli, “little baskets,” are ring-shaped, frilly edged shortbread or almond biscuits topped with confectioner's sugar after baking. Canestrelli originated in the Monferrato area, between the regions of Piedmont and Liguria.

    Cantucci 

    Cantucci, also called biscotti, are crunchy almond cookies created in the Tuscan town of Prato centuries ago.  They are traditionally served dipped in vin santo.

     

    Cavallucci

    Cavallucci, “little horses” are soft cookies made with honey, nuts and anise and are eaten all year round in Siena, but in the rest of Italy, mostly at Christmastime.

    They are a typical Tuscan sweet created in Siena in the Middle Ages. The name probably comes from the fact that they were offered to stopping travelers at the stables of area inns.

     

    Croccante

    Croccante, “crunchy,” are crisp nutty sweets that are a cross between a cookie and a candy. They can be made with all sorts of nuts. Pistacchio croccante are a specialty of Sicily, which is renowned for its Bronte pistachios. They are often eaten accompanied by a glass of grappa or dessert wine.

    Fave dei morti

    “Dead man’s beans” are bean-shaped cookies made with almonds, pine nuts and egg whites. They are traditionally eaten on All Soul’s Day and originate in the Umbria and Lombardy regions of Italy.

     

    Krumiri 

    Cookies created in Casale Monferrato, a small town in Piedmont, as tribute to Vittorio Emanuele II (1820 - 1878), the first king of Italy. Made of flour, butter, and honey, their shape is thought to be based on the king's handlebar mustache. They are often eaten dipped in zabalione.

     

    Ricciarelli

    Originating in Siena in the Middle Ages, ricciarelli, “curly,” are soft oval-shaped cookies. They are made with ground almonds, sugar, honey and egg whites and topped with confectioners’ sugar or chocolate.  Ricciarelli are associated with the feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, but are eaten all year long.

    The recipe for ricciarelli is one of Italy’s oldest.  The cookie is documented as having been served on numerous important historical occasions, including the wedding banquet of Catherine Sforza when she married Jerome Riario in 1447, and during Venice’s famed falconry contest in 1573.

     

     

    Baci di Dama

    Hazelnut-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

    Makes about 3 dozen

     

     

    A dab of rich dark chocolate sandwiched between two buttery hazelnut domes. This little kiss of a cookie, aptly named baci di dama --‘a lady’s kisses’-- melt in your mouth.

    The simple four-ingredient dough comes together right in the food processor.  

     

    3 1/2 ounces whole blanched hazelnuts

    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    3 1/2 ounces, about 3/4 cups, all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

    7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, diced

    3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

     

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and reserve.

    Combine the hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar into a food processor and grind until fine. Add the remaining sugar, sift in the flour, and process until well combined.  Add the cold butter and pulse until combined. The batter will be a dense mass. Form the batter into two discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour until very hard and cold.

    Work with one disc of dough at a time; leaving the other in the refrigerator so it stays cold.  Pinch off a teaspoonful of the batter and roll into a small ball, about the size of a hazelnut, a little less than 1/2 inch in diameter. Put the balls onto the prepared baking sheet, with at least 2 inches of space around each ball. Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator while you prepare the second batch. Note: Make an even number of balls, as you’ll need 2 to make one baci.

    Put the dough into the oven and bake for about 13 minutes until just lightly golden. Slide the parchment paper, with the cookies still attached, off the baking sheets and onto a cool surface to stop them from cooking further. Allow them to cool completely before filling. 

    Meanwhile, put the chocolate into a small bowl and melt it, either in the microwave or over a pot of gently simmering water. Put a dollop of melted chocolate on the flat side, the side that had been touching the baking sheet, of one cookie and then sandwich it by pressing another cookie onto the chocolate. Repeat with the rest of the cookies.

    Refrigerate for a few minutes so that the chocolate hardens and the cookies stick, and then serve.

    They can be stored in a sealed container, in a dry cool place, for several weeks.

     

    Variation:

    Chocolate-Chocolate Baci di Dama

             Substitute 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder for 2 tablespoons of the flour when you make the dough.

     

  • Panettone with whipped cream
    Dining in & out

    Panettone & Pandoro--Italy’s Classic Holiday Cakes

    Panettone, tall and dome shaped, this soft, not-too-sweet yeast cake with a fruity tang of raisins and candied oranges is the quintessential Italian Christmas dessert. 

    Panettone making follows an extraordinarily elaborate and time-consuming process—taking over 40 hours.  It’s kneaded and left to rise several times before baking, with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and candied fruit added in stages.  At last, once each cake has been allowed to rise in its own little panettone paper container, it’s baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic, packed up by hand, and sent on its way.  There are even variations covered in chocolate and pistachios.

     

    Delicious served plain, accompanied by a glass of sparkling wine like Ca’ del Bosco’s Franciacorta . Or you can dress it up by serving it with mascarpone cheese whipped with your favorite Italian liqueur.

    One easy variation, a sort of instand rum baba, is to soak panettone in spiked syrup, made by dissolving 3 cups of sugar in 1 1/2 cups boiling water until dissolved, then adding ¼ to ½ cup rum to taste.

     

    Panettone has spawned many legends. The most popular concerns a young Milanese nobleman, a member of the Atellini family, who fell in love with the daughter of a baker named Toni. To impress the girl's father, the young man disguised himself as a baker's assistant and invented a new, fruitcake-like bread. People came to the bakery in droves to purchase the magnificent new creation dubbed Pan de Toni --"Tony's bread." A variation of the legend has Toni saving the day by inventing the bread as a quick replacement for a dessert that had burned while being prepared for a Christmas feast held by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.

     

    Pandoro, a tall star-shaped cake, has a delicious eggy brioche-like soft center, with a lovely vanilla-butter aroma.  In Italy, pandoro is often served cut in horizontal slices that are restacked to look like a Christmas tree. It even comes boxed with a packet of confectioners sugar to sprinkle on top.

    Pandoro, in its present day version, first appeared in late 19th-century Verona. There are two different legends about its origin.  The first dates pandoro's birth to the Renaissance and to the custom of Venetian bakers dusting gold leaf ontp cone-shaped cakes called pan de oro, “bread of gold” for their wealthy customers. 

    The second legend attributes a humbler origin to pandoro, suggesting that it might have descended from a star-shaped homemade cake, nadalin, enjoyed by Verona’s farmers during Christmas.

           You can spread the pandoro with anything creamy like ice cream, whipped cream, icing, pastry cream, or even zabaglione. And just like a gingerbread house, you can decorate it with anything festive including tiny candies, sprinkles or crushed candy canes.

           Or try this recipe, where each layer is spread with mascarpone custard, and decorated with mint leaves and candied cherries. 

    Pandoro Christmas Tree

    Serves 8 to 10

          

    1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar

    1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons rum or sweet liqueur, such as lemoncello

    2 large egg yolks

    14 ounces mascarpone cheese

    1 cup heavy cream

    1 Pandoro

    Decorations such as: candied cherries, fresh mint leaves, silver confetti

    Confectioners’ sugar

     

           In a saucepan combine 1/4 cup water with 1/4 cup of the sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the rum. Reserve.

           In a standing mixer combine the yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat for 5 minutes until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons Cointreau or rum, and fold in the mascarpone.

           In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until peaks form. Fold the mascarpone cream into the whipped cream.

           Carefully, so as not to break the points, slice the pandoro horizontally into 6 slices.  Brush the outsides of the slices, the golden colored baked section, with the reserved Cointreau syrup.

           Place the largest pandoro slice onto a serving platter and spread with some of the mascarpone mixture.

           Cover with the next largest slice, angling it so that the points of the star tips don’t line up. Spread with some of the mascarpone mixture and repeat with the remaining layers, finishing with a dollop of mascarpone on top.

             Decorate the points with candied cherries and mint leaves or candies. Sprinkle the entire cake with confectioners’ sugar.

  • Barone Rosso cocktail
    Dining in & out

    NYC Bars and Restaurants Feature Unique Italian Soda

    Take an ancient Roman spring, discovered 2,000 years old ago, gently bubbling forth its mineral-rich waters after a 30-month purifying journey through the Apennine Mountains; mix in the best Italian fruit you can find from the regions where it thrives best, like citrus from Sicily; and finally, add an uncompromising commitment to quality.

    That’s the recipe for refreshing, vibrantly flavored sodas that taste like you’re drinking sun-ripened fruit straight from the tree. They also come in super stylish embossed vintage glass bottles.

    The sodas are products of Galvanina, established in 1901 in Italy as a mineral water company and are the only USDA organic-certified Italian ones on the American market, with no artificial colorings, flavors, or preservatives. Just last year, it won a Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation Award for its blood orange, black carrot, and blueberry sparkling beverage.

     

    Hitting the Cocktail Scene

     

    It’s no wonder mixologists in town are finding that these sodas make great mixers in cocktails.

    Stephan Sardi, of Serafina in the Meatpacking District makes a Dark and Stormy with Kraken Black Spiced Rum, lemon juice, and Galvanina’s organic ginger beer.

    “Galvanina ginger beer tastes like freshly juiced ginger,” says Serafina barender Stephan Sardi—and for him too, the organic certification is a big plus.

    At Sociale in Brooklyn Heights, where the cocktail list consists of Italian classics like Negroni and the Spritz side by side with inventive libations, bartender Rodrigo Varillas particularly loves Galvanina’s blood orange soda, using it for a spin on the classic French 75, called Galvanina 75, with champagne and St. Germain.

    “I love to use Galvanina blood orange in a mix. Plus it’s organic, and our guests love it,” Varillas said.

    Galvanina’s tonic water is also the only organic tonic water in the world.  At San Carlo Osteria Piemonte in SoHo, the gin and tonic is crafted with No. 3 London dry gin—with its juniper, sweet Spanish orange peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, Moroccan coriander seed, and cardamom—mixed with Galvanina’s organic tonic water.

    “Galvanina tonic water has a fine, delicate carbonation, which makes a perfect and refreshing gin and tonic,” the bartender at San Carlo Osteria Piemonte said.  They also use Galvanina’s organic ginger beer to make their signature Moscow Mule.

    At SoHo’s Mamo, too, Galvanina is the go-to tonic water for gin and tonic, made with Hendrick’s gin, lime juice, and hibiscus bitters.

     

    Low-ABV Cocktails and Mocktails at Home

     

    If you would like to try your hand at mixing up some low-ABV cocktails at home using Galvanina sodas, the company has created many recipes. Here are a couple:

    Barone Rosso (4% ABV)

    7 ounces Galvanina Century Organic Blood Orange Black Carrot & Blueberry Soda

    3/4 ounce Gin

    7 ice cubes

    Garnish:

    Organic orange slice and organic fresh blueberry

     

    Pour gin and Galvanina Organic Blood Orange, Black Carrot, and Blueberry Soda. Stir slowly with a bar spoon. Garnish with a slice of orange and some fresh blueberries.

     

    Moscow Light (3.6% ABV)

    7 ounces Galvanina Century Organic Ginger Beer

    1 ounce Vodka

    3/4 ounce fresh organic lime juice

    6 ice cubes

     

    Pour lime juice, vodka, and stir slowly with a spoon. Finally add Galvanina Organic Ginger Beer Sparkling Beverage. Garnish with cucumber and lime slices and with fresh mint leaves.

     

    And for a mocktail, try:

     

    Wednesday

    8 ounces Galvanina Century Organic Red Grapefruit Soda

    1/2 fresh lime

    3 teaspoons organic turbinado brown sugar

    1/2 ounce crushed ice

     

    Crush or muddle the half cut lime pieces together with sugar and with some basil leaves. Add crushed ice and then Galvanina Century Organic Red Grapefruit soda. Garnish with a slice of organic pink grapefruit and with some organic basil leaves.

     

    Cheers!

     

    Some of the wonderful restaurants where you’ll find Galvanina in New York City include:

    Il Buco Alimentari, NoHo

    Sapori d’Italia, Little Italy

    Gemma, at the Bowery Hotel, East Village

    Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, Chelsea Market, Chelsea

    San Carlo Osteria Piedmonte, SoHo

    Ciccio Alimentari, SoHo

    Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto, Upper West Side

    Serafina, Meatpacking District

  • The Winning Dish: Seafood Carbonara by Chef Lotà
    Dining in & out

    Pasta World Championship 2017: One Judge’s Perspective

    I was invited to be a judge for the finals of the 2017 Pasta World Championship, facing the daunting task of selecting one winner from three finalists.  I was immensely honored….and  more than a little intimidated to be joining the panel of Michelin star chefs: Matteo Baronetto of Del Cambio Restaurant in Turin, Caterina Ceraudo of Ristorante Dattilo in Calabria, Lorenzo Cogo of El Coq in Vicenza, Alfio Ghezzi of Locanda Margon in Trentino and Roberto Rossi of Il Silene in Tuscany

    Before I describe the finals, and the extraordinary dishes these finalists prepared, let’s start with what hurdles these contestants overcame on Day 1 and 2.

    I was excited to see firsthand how twenty chefs from around the world would interpret this most revered Italian food.  The competition was held over three days. I was to be a judge for Day 3, the finals, but was in the audience for the first two days.

    Day 1 started in Milan with twenty chefs coming from all parts of the globe including China, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, Turkey and the USA. Challengers had 1 hour to prepare their signature dish. It was quite a feat of organization to watch. The clock started every 10 minutes to stagger the contestants cooking a few at a time. Within minutes the theater was filled with intoxicating aromas. The clock ticked down for the final minute exciting to see who would finish on time.

    Day 2: Semi-Finals

    The next day’s challenge was pasta al pomodoro, and only 10 chefs made it through to this point. 

    That was almost more exciting, to see what the contestants could do with pasta and tomato.  There were so many creative treatments, from a white clear tomato extract, to tomato sauce that incorporated Japanese herbs.

     That evening, there was a gala dinner hosted at a Barilla facility, featuring 3D printed pasta. I had seen it before, but this was my first time to taste it. At the table where I was seated, my dinner companions and I were simply blown away, and we had so many questions—how many minutes did you need to print one piece of pasta, for example? How soon until our favorite restaurants would be using these printers? The machines printed out of fresh pasta dough in the shape of tiny amphoras, tiny baskets and spheres, each masterfully filled with delectable ingredients.

    It got me thinking how pasta is the most taken for granted food in the world. It’s everywhere on our supermarket shelves, and yet it is so amazing how many ways it can be treated, and how it now has limitless potential with different shapes. Gone are the restrictions that come with dry pasta.

    I had a realization: I’m having the future of pasta—even as I was having the 3D-printed amphora-shaped pasta, with its 2,000 year-old Roman roots.

    Day 3: The Finals

    By now, only three contestants were left as finalists.

    The finals were held at Academia Barilla, in Parma—a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy—where the chefs got just half an hour to prepare the same dish they had made the first day, but this time, in half the time, while being closely scrutinized by judges, by Paolo Barilla himself and with cameramen literally in their faces.

    I was very impressed by all three contestants, who were poised and seemed eager to begin the challenge.

    The first up, chef Accursio Lotá, from the restaurant Solare in San Diego, made Seafood Carbonara.

     He masterfully handled the many ingredients: Mazara red shrimp, Osetra caviar, squilla mantis, clams, mussels, tuna bottarga, sea urchin eggs, cured salmon eggs, ice, guanciale, amberjack, cuttlefish and scallops. Later, when I asked how he managed such great balance of so many salty ingredients he said, “I carefully tested how much salt to put into the pasta’s boiling water. It wasn’t easy.” The dish had an amazing citrus component: the zest of Sicilian green mandarin, which Lotá’s dad, who are from a small rural town in Sicily, loved to use. The red Mazara shrimp too was classic Sicilian. In the end, the fish was exquisitely cooked, the pasta perfect, and the combinations of flavors just perfect.

    Next up was Keita Yuge, the chef from Japan made his signature dish: Pasta with Lentils, Variation of Scampi.

    He was so perfect in his timing, that you cannot help but think that he must have practiced 1,000 times. He added the last garnish just as the clock sounded the end, and then he calmly folded his hands. I expected a lot from him, because of his precision, of his creativity—as I’d had his dish on the first day. His dish had lentils and fish—which are very traditional Italian ingredients—but he also added a Japanese touch, with anchovy stock, yuzu, miso and Japanese basil. He’d made a lace out of butter and cornstarch, and a crisp sheet of thin leek for crunch, and they complemented the fusili, scampi, pancetta, almond slices, and garlic oil.

    The last chef was Omri Cohen, who was from Israel by way of Morocco.

    For his dish: Pasta with Steamed Grouper and Romanesco, he brought out the live fire—smoking sage, fire roasting eggplant, bringing out those intensely Mediterranean aroma until  the room was filled with those scents, and people were oohing and aahing. It was audacious that he did this in just half an hour. Chef Cohen dazzled the judges with his showmanship and expert knife skills. As he handed us his finished dishes, he touchingly noted, “I put my heart on the plate.” There were a lot of Israeli flavors—the grouper fillets in kale leaves, I have no idea how he got them so soft—with romesco sauce with toasted white almonds, pine nuts, ground Shatta peppers, eggplant, bottarga, butter, sage, paired with linguini. Not only that, but the dish was topped off with zests from different citrus, making it exceptionally aromatic.

    The Deliberation

    We judges left the room, and brought along our notes. The criterion consisted of dish aesthetics, pasta texture, taste, cooking techniques, and how it fit in with the competition’s concept, the future of pasta. It was a very close, with all three dishes achieving high marks in all five criterion.

    It was interesting: once I was in that room, that’s when all my initial nervousness left me. We were now all partners in a bigger concept. There was no ego, and no one was being critical. The love of food came out.  After much debate on all five criterion, we tallied our score sheets and a winner was unanimously voted.

    Lotà, the first place winner, was awarded a trophy in the shape of a pasta dye; the runners-up, Yuge and Cohen, received similar, smaller trophies.

    What did I take from my experience judging these pasta championships? One, it’s amazing how a dish can change in a matter of just two days, just due to execution. And two, how pasta is an infinitely versatile canvas, open to interpretation in different ways around the world.

     

  • "Add sliced fruit, veggies or herbs for do-it-yourself natural thirst quencher"
    Art & Culture

    A Sip of Ancient Rome

    The water flowing from this famed spring started miles away as snow and rain falling on the Apennine Mountains collecting in pools underground. The water then slowly passes through sandstone and clay, becoming naturally carbonated and enriched with a delicate balance of minerals. It travels more than two years, an amazing 30 months, through this natural ecological filter composed of tightly packed quartz sand protected by gigantic banks of clay dating back to the Pliocene Era in its trip from the Apennine to Rimini where it bubbles out of the spring ready to be bottled. To discover for myself about these springs that have been written about for centuries I recently visited Galvanina, the company that first began bottling this sparkling water in 1901.

    A long underground tunnel, with glass lined observation windows, was built so visitors could view part of the spectacular natural filtrations system the spring water travels. During excavations to create the viewing tunnel and repair the ancient Roman fountain, they discovered a remarkable number of archeological finds including a marble bust dating to the time of Caesar Augustus (1st century BC), ancient Roman amphora and terracotta water pies. 

    “In the past bottled mineral water was only for the very wealthy, costing more than even wine,” notes Galvanina CEO Rino Mini. Even today, when sparkling mineral water is much more affordable, not all waters are the same. Some (including Galvanina itself) are naturally effervescent, while others use carbon dioxide to create bubbles.

    There are many ways to enjoy natural spring water:  Add sliced fruit, veggies or herbs for do-it-yourself natural thirst quencher. Use it to brew espresso or coffee. Not only will you get a tastier hot beverage, but it will keep your coffee maker cleaner and prevent it from building unpleasant residue. Steam vegetables in sparkling water to keep their bright color. Mineral water also softens the vegetables so they need less time to cook and retain more of their natural nutrients. Add sparkling mineral water instead of water or other liquids in cake recipes or cake mixes. The sparkling water makes it rise nicely and results in a fluffier texture. It’s perfect for batter too, making anything you fry crunchier and lighter. 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Lolly: Sorbetto- on-a-Stick. With Fruit from Only One Region of Italy

    Fruit ices date back centuries, to the times of ancient Sicily when the wealthy would have snow brought down from Mt. Etna to combine with local fresh juices. Usually served in cups, these classic ices changed dramatically in the 1950s when an Italian artisan got the idea to press lemon sorbet into a lemon-shaped mold and attach it to a stick.

    He sold them along the chic beaches near the town of Rimini, birthplace to famed film director Federico Fellini. Their inventor made them by hand each morning and sold them each afternoon at the beach from a cooler slung over his shoulder. He named his creation “La Bomba” -The Bomb.

    Popular at Italian beach resorts, La Bomba was never available in the USA…until now.  

     
    Galvanina, Italy’s renowned spring water company, created Lolly to introduce La Bomba to the States. Made with 100% organic fruit, grown only in Italy combined with Galvanina’s own natural mineral spring water and organic cane sugar, there are no artificial flavors or ingredients. The only coloring is from organic black carrots.
     
    Even though it is totally vegan, Lolly has the velvety texture of gelato because of a special double “creaming” process in making the sorbet and thanks to the fact that still today each and every mold is filled by hand. La Bomba’s name may have changed, but the unique, unmistakable made-in-Italy taste remains as remarkable today as it was in 1950.
     
    All other ice pops are rectangular or square, but Lolly is the only sorbet on a stick in the shape of a lemon. It’s wonderful to eat as is, but is also perfect to dress-up all sorts of drinks and even fruit salad.

     
    Lemon-shaped sorbetto-on-a-stick, each of the Lolly flavors contains a base of organic “Limone di Sicilia” Italy’s prized Sicilian lemons. Each Lolly is made with fruit from only one region of Italy:
    Lemons and blood oranges of Sicily
    Strawberries of Veneto
    Wild berries of Trentino-Alto Adige

    Lolly: Sorbetto- on-a-Stick

    Famed frozen treat from Italy finally available in the USA in special exclusive with Fresh Direct

    $5.99 for a box of 4 at Fresh Direct >>

  • Facts & Stories

    The Italian Wine Connection


    What are your general impressions of Italian wine? 

    The great thing for me is the variety of it. You have to go back hundreds of years, when every region had its own wine. You made one vine in one valley, over the hill, and in the next valley, they made a completely different kind of wine. Twenty-five years ago, Americans were familiar with a handful of these wines, but there are dozens, if not hundreds, and now we are discovering them and experiencing how wonderful they are. They are showing up everywhere; they’re great. 
     
    I’m an avid reader of your Wine School…
    This is a school in fundamentals. In some ways, a number of Italian wines are advanced courses, so we are moving on. We will be doing Nebbiolo wines from Barolo, Barbaresco and Piemonte. We will be doing wines from Mount Etna. We will be looking at some Italian whites. We’ll have an outdated view of Italian whites but they can be so wonderful. We might even do something like Lambrusco, which is just a joy. 
     
    How does the column work?
    The column appears once a month. I pick a particular wine and suggest a few bottles readers can look for. Over the course of the month, we drink these wines, virtually together. Readers can comment on them; we can have a conversation through comments on the Times website. The idea here isn’t just to taste wines, such as a laboratory experiment, but to actually drink them in a natural setting: drink them with food, with friends or family, and pay attention to the wine. It’s not about reading books or memorizing anything – it’s about paying attention to your own experience and taking your own experience seriously, rather than feeling like you don’t know enough to enjoy wine. 
     
    Do you remember any particularly great pairings of Italian wine and food?
    There are many classic combinations, but I personally think the notion of wine pairing is a little overrated. We tend to make it too complicated – balancing nuances here, hints of flavor there. Maybe that is for sommeliers and chefs to do, so they can offer you a very specific experience. I think at home there are a dozen different wines you could drink with carbonara, for example. Who is to say whether a white wine or a red wine is better? 
     
    What about with a good pizza?
    In Italy, people tend to drink beer with pizza. I believe in the bubble theory: I love Lambrusco. 
     
    In How to Love Wine, there is a description of a friend of yours, Jim, and his dad enjoying wine. Can you describe that story?
    Jim’s father was an immigrant from Sicily. He was not a connoisseur of wine but he always had a gallon jug of red in his refrigerator. When he came home from work every day, he would pour himself a glass or two with dinner. To me, that is the most basic and wonderful way to enjoy wine: as a drink with your family over a meal. You don’t really care where it came from or what kind of wine it is. In a lot of ways, we are beyond that now. We can’t help but be conscious of these things, especially when we live in a place like New York with so many varieties of wine to choose from. For centuries, though, we drank what was available locally – we didn’t have a lot of choice. That was fine. That was the wine that people drank. 

     
    I love how you talk about the Italian way of celebrating sparkling wine.
    I have been to a lot of dinners in Italy. Maybe they are a little ceremonial because they are with winemakers, people in the business, but I have never seen a meal start off without Spumante of some sort, whether it’s Prosecco or Franciacorta or sparkling wine from Mount Etna. It always begins the meal. It’s not that everybody drinks a bottle of it; they touch it to their lips before moving on to (in their minds) the more important wines being served.
     
    Well, thank you and cin cin! Here’s to Italian wine! 
     
    My pleasure. 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    “It’s all about Family and Italian Food”

    Now an internationally acclaimed chef, bestselling author, award-winning television host, and successful restaurateur and food-business entrepreneur, Lidia Bastianich came to the United States with her family when she was twelve years old. Family was extremely important to her back then and still is today, both inside and outside of the kitchen. 

    Just as she learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, Lidia’s own children—Joe and
    Tanya—grew up around food and are now themselves established figures in the food industry.

    Like most parents however, Lidia initially urged them to do something else with their lives, to study, find “real American jobs.” And for a while they did, going to college, getting graduate degrees, and starting their own careers and families.

    When both Joe and Tanya Bastianich turned back to the food industry, they did so “on their own terms,” as Lidia says, and because of that she is happy to be undertaking this “viaggio insieme”, this adventure together with her family.

    Her son Joe opened his own restaurant, and, using his business skills, began the successful partnership with Mario Batali, while Tanya collaborated with her mother on the realization of her last five cookbooks.
     

    Lidia’s latest book

    The latest of these best-selling cookbooks is Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, released in October 2015, and Lidia has been on tour through early 2016 presenting it to audiences around the country. As Lidia tells me, this book features over 400 hundred recipes and it took her and her daughter three years to complete. This “Bible” of Italian food— a guide to cooking Italian dishes the Italian way—discusses the importance of ingredients in Italian cuisine.

    “Use traditional products”, insists Lidia, “because they will bring the flavor of Italy right on your plate.” The book goes beyond just prescribing delicious recipes, it gives its readers guidelines, describes products, explains where to find them and how to prepare them, in order to better understand the nuances of a particular Italian dish. Lidia’s goal is to increase the reader’s knowledge and skills so they can eventually create their dishes without even needing a recipe.
     

    Lidia’s innovative way of engaging with her readers and her public, giving them the opportunity to make any dish their own all while providing clear and thorough explanations of how to use each ingredient, is certainly part of what made, and continues to make her a huge success worldwide. Not only has she published thirteen bestselling cookbooks and runs successful restaurants, but her cooking television show Lidia’s Italy has earned her a prestigious Emmy award. 

    A TV chef feeding the Pope

    Interestingly, Lidia explains that she did not initially plan on becoming a TV chef. It happened by chance when she appeared on set with none other than the famous Julia Child. Noticing her ability and strong TV presence, the producers asked her if she was interested in hosting her own show.

    Far from being one to shy away from new opportunities, Lidia promptly agreed.

    The show, along with her numerous restaurants around the world, became so successful that Lidia has been called to cook for not one but two Popes, making her a “papal chef” of sorts, she jokes. These instances were of course an immense honor for her and she particularly remembers her experience preparing food for Pope Francis during his visit to New York the past September with great fondness and admiration.

    “He was so easy-going, he even came in the kitchen” she says “he talked to each individual, asked about our lives”. Once again, the whole Bastianich family participated and even Lidia’s grandchildren got to meet the Pope. Lidia mentions the great responsibility of having to feed the man who nourishes the souls of so many people all over the world. She recalls every detail of the meal she prepared, taking into account His Eminence’s Piedmont roots and his love for sweets (yes, apparently, the Pope “has a sweet tooth”). 

    The Eataly experience

    One of the best things about Italian food is certainly its versatility. Italians engage with food in many different ways and within various contexts ranging from a meal (literally) fit for a Pope, to a simple (but still delicious) panino. And Lidia covers the entire range of Italian food experiences, particularly thanks to the Eataly enterprise, founded in Turin by Oscar Farinetti, and expanded to the rest of the world through her partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.
     

    Now present in six different countries including Italy, the US, Japan, Brazil, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, this innovative Italian food “marketplace” brings the entire Italian culinary experience worldwide. It does so by providing everything from artisan grocery products to fine dining, and everything in between, including coffee-shops, birrerie (beer hall), gelaterie and paninerie (gelato and panino shops) and so much more. 
     

    It’s no wonder that its New York Flatiron location is one of the most beloved food venues, and most visited tourist spot, in the entire city. It’s a great place for any occasion, especially for a family outing, because food, and Italian food in particular has always been, as exemplified by Lidia Bastianich, first and foremost about family.

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