We all like chicken.
~Malcolm X

Shortly after my fetching daughter’s glorious wedding in a mountain field, I felt compelled to write about rabbit cacciatore (July 24, 2013).

Today’s cacciatore recipe goes to show (as with coq au vin) just how many myriad versions exist of this rustic braise, so many of which are luscious. Really, what are “authentic” kitchens and “classic” recipes anyways — especially when your lands or regions have been invaded, conquered, occupied or colonized by other culture(s) over time?

For instance, tomatoes (pommodori) are often traced from origins in Peru, where they were domesticated by the Mayans and later cultivated by the Incas. These divine fruits likely entered Europe by way of Spain, after conquistador Hernán Cortés‘ early 16th century conquest of the flourishing Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlán, on a swampy island on the coast of Lake Texcoco in the valley of Mexico. When these globular red (often yellow) berries arrived on Italian shores, they were strictly a curiosity for those who merely studied or ruminated about plants, but not anything anyone would ever consider eating. Tomatls (an Aztec term) were considered “strange and horrible things” — aberrant mutants, even feared as poisonous. It was not until later that tomatoes finally were embraced in Italy as pomi d’oro, or “golden apples.” Imported tomatoes assimilated easily to the Mediterranean rim climate and finally became a vital part of Italian cuisine in the 17th & 18th centuries and beyond — over two millennia after they were first domesticated in South and Mesoamerica. The sometimes tortured path of food.

The notion of pollo alla cacciatore seems a rather amusing take on hunters who utterly fail to nab anything while pocketing hearty fare from home. Gentle souls, they must be.

And yes, Malcolm, chicken is unforgettably irresistible.

CHICKEN CACCIATORE (POLLO ALLA CACCIATORE)

4-5 leg thigh quarters
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped
2 C all purpose flour

1 1/2 lbs heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil

3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t rosemary leaves, chopped
1 t oregano leaves, chopped
1 T fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
Sea salt

1/2 C dry red wine
1 C chicken broth
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 14 1/2 oz canned tomatoes in juice, diced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 C crimini and/or shittake mushrooms, trimmed and thickly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rosemary sprigs, for serving
1/2 C basil, ribboned, for serving
2-3 T capers, drained, for serving

Penne, rice, risotto or other pastas, cooked according to instructions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high in a large, heavy skillet until shimmering. Meanwhile, season the chicken with rosemary, salt and pepper and then dredge in flour, shaking off excess, so the leg-thighs are just slightly coated. Brown, in batches if necessary, for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl as they are done and loosely tent. Discard the olive oil and chicken fat from the pan.

Next, turn to a Dutch oven, place on medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and the onion, heirloom tomatoes, and carrot, as well as a pinch of sea salt. Cook and stir, until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, oregano, parsley and sea salt to taste. Cover, turn the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is barely soft and the garlic not brown.

Turn the heat back up to medium, stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook while stirring, until the mushrooms are just tender.

Stir in the wine, vinegar and stock and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes, until the wine-vinegar-stock mix has reduced by about a third. Add the canned tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, so they are well submerged in the tomato mixture. Cover and braise over medium heat for about 30 minutes, until the juices run pale yellow from the chicken.

Place pasta, rice or a simple risotto in large shallow bowls and place over a chicken quarter and ladle with sauce. Strew the rosemary sprigs, chiffonaded basil, and capers over the top and serve with a Sangiovese.

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Chard & Serrano Tartines

October 7, 2014

Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly and love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything. That makes you smile.
~Mark Twain

Thanks for the break — it was sorely needed.

The time away did bring to mind when my then wife suffered a dreadful case of jet lag upon arrival in Paris. After leaving the airport, we taxied directly to the hotel to register and check our luggage. Since it was a little after lunch, we promptly headed to a cozy bar à vin (wine bar) for a brief bite. After one glass and ordering some morsels, I noted one of her eyes began drooping and the other was half shut. As much effort as she mustered, and even with donning her glasses, she simply could not correct those big brown peepers. So, we had to eat and drink hastily in order to get her back to our room for a nap. It was truly comical, especially in retrospect. For whatever reason, I have yet to endure the same malady. Then again, time will tell.

Although not requested, I did note that this rather small, yet stylish, wine bar with undoubtedly a tiny kitchen had a savory tartine on the menu. Donc, voilà un petit quelque

SWISS CHARD AND SERRANO TARTINES

2 T extra virgin olive oil (divided in two)
1 C swiss chard, washed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3/4 to 1 C serrano ham, sliced a tad thicker than the usual paper thin

4 thick slices artisanal, rustic bread, such as ciabatta or pain au levain
Aioli or homemade mayonnaise
Dijon mustard

Gruyère or Taleggio cheese slices, to cover

Drizzle olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat until just simmering. Add chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just wilted, about a minute or so. Drain and cool somewhat on paper towels and then rinse and wipe out the pan.

Now, in the same lightly oiled skillet cook the serrano over medium high heat until barely crisped, again for a minute or so. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Lay the bread slices on a sheet pan and toast lightly on both sides under broiler. Then, brush lightly with aioli or mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Divide greens among the four toasts and lay out the serrano on each slice.

Neatly top each toast with slices of gruyère or taleggio and broil for a few more minutes, until just nicely browned.

Pourboire: Tartines can be topped with other grubbery, such as spinach, baby bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, kale as well as other types of ham or bacon such as proscuitto or fine bacon lardons and a variety of melting cheeses such as fontina, brie harvarti or some cheddars and perhaps some sliced and sautéed mushrooms, or smoked salmon, or even a poached egg. Space does not permit, so just use the best judgment rule and take a peek at the fridge.

I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully.
~George W. Bush

About time to return to the laptop.

Too often undervalued, even maligned and disparaged in American kitchens, anchovies are another super food, brimming with protein, calcium, vitamins E and D, and a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. For shame to the naysayers, as given their ambrosial and versatile traits (from oh, so subtle to slightly audacious) as well as their nutritional potency, anchovies should approach an obsession. Think Caesar salad, puttanesca, tapenades, piedmont eggs, nước mắm Phú Quốc (fish sauce), salade niçoise, to name just a few.

Omega-3 fatty acids refer to a group of three polyunsturated fatty acids termed α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is rooted in walnuts and some vegetable oils, such as soybean, grapeseed, canola, and flaxseed, as well as in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish. They are essential nutrients for human health, and research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, control blood clotting, help build neural cell membranes, combat depression, and reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

From the fish family Engraulidae, small and delectable anchovies are commoners who reside in salt water — oily skinned, foraging creatures with some 144 species scattered throughout the world’s temperate oceans and seas.

They are greenish fish with blue reflections due to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin, ranging from a tad less than 1″ to about 16″ in adult length. The body shapes vary with more slender fish found in northern climes. The snout is blunt with tiny, sharp teeth in both jaws and contains a unique, bioelectric rostral organ, believed to be sensory in nature, but whose precise function is unknown. This organ does however allow the anchovy to flourish in murky, troubled waters. The mouth is larger than that of herrings and silversides, though anchovies closely resemble them in other respects. Anchovies dine on plankton and recently hatched fish, known as fry.

When shopping, choose anchovies packed in glass where their now reddish-brown bodies are visible, rather than those packed in tins. They should also be packed in olive oil rather than lesser quality cottonseed or soy oil but should be patted dry before use.

The salt packed versions are whole little fish preserved in layers of sea salt which need to be boned before using — a simple finger pull on the skeleton. Then, they should be soaked in water, whole milk or buttermilk for 10 minutes or so to remove some of the salt and afterwards patted dry. They take an extra step or so, but most chefs and avid home cooks prefer sardines of this ilk.

In either event, these deified dainties are a far cry from the low quality, off flavored, unbalanced, pungent anchovies that reek on carry out pizzas in the states.

ANCHOVIES ON TOAST

Thick slices of artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, toasted and cooled
Unsalted butter, room temperature
Anchovy filets (superior quality), prepared as above

Toast sliced bread and allow to cool, so the butter does not melt. Rather thickly slather the room temperature unsalted butter on one side of each slice of toast. Arrange anchovy fillets in a diagonal on the toast with amounts to your tasting. Then, savor.

CHILE AIOLI

2 t chile powder
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 C mayonnaise, homemade (see below)
2 anchovy filets
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

Combine the spices, mayonnaise, anchovy and garlic in the bowl of a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Blend in bursts on high speed until smooth.

Mayonnaise

4 large organic egg yolks, room temperature
2 T Dijon mustard
2 t white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 t sea salt
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

1 1/3 C canola or grapeseed oil

Separate egg whites from yolks. Egg yolks contain a natural emulsifier, lecithin, which helps thicken sauces and bind ingredients.

With a balloon whisk, whip together the egg yolks, mustard, wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt, cayenne pepper in a medium glass or metal bowl. Do not use a plastic vessel.

Add a few drops of oil while whisking; then pour in the oil slowly, in a very thin stream, while whisking vigorously with the bowl tilted at an angle on a folded towel. The emulsion should become thick enough to hold its shape and appear voluptuously creamy. Be patient because if you add the oil too rapidly the mayonnaise will break and turn soupy.

Sandwiches, Anew

April 2, 2010

Too few people understand a really good sandwich.
~James Beard

Stated otherwise, Mom always reminded us that “a sandwich is always much better if someone else makes it for you.” Something about inspired, yet minimal, textural play, fine bread, and a good schmear with no shortcuts. A gift of sorts — a labor of love, knowledge, devotion and that pampered touch, I suppose. Mom always seemed to choose her aphorisms judiciously so they tended to ring true. They have born repetition more than I could count.

These may not be the precise lobster rolls she so coveted during trips to coastal Maine, but hopefully they assimilate distant cousins. Probably just some no frills freshly trapped boiled or grilled lobster, mayonnaise, simple seasonings and a toasted bun would even suffice.

Mom was an almost unparalleled tomato zealot and egg sandwiches were a house staple, so the BELT (bacon, eggs, lettuce & tomato) is simply a natural. The basics to create an incandescent BELT are: fresh eggs, ripe heirloom tomatoes, slab artisanal bacon preferably from heritage pork (The Berkshire, The Tamworth, The Duroc, et al.).

As for the last sandwich, tins of sardines and kipper snacks commonly adorned our pantry. Maybe they were period pieces—food stashed for that ominous Cold War nuclear armaggedon we ever awaited, cowering under our school desks. Now, beyond their gentle sea flavors, canned sardines are known for their nutritional omnipotence. One nutritionist dubbed sardines “health food in a can.” Health food advocates assert that they do nothing less than:

• Prevent heart attacks and strokes
• Build healthy cell walls
• Improve cholesterol levels and help to lower triglycerides
• Lower blood pressure
• Protect brain development and improve cognition and mood
• Improve memory problems associated with aging
• Alleviate inflammatory conditions such as asthma and arthritis
• Provide essential support for joint and skin health
• Slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease
• Maintain blood sugar balance, thus reducing risk of diabetes

Both impressive yet sadly ironic given that the Stinson plant in Maine, the last sardine cannery in the United States, is shutting down this month. For those who may wish to extend life expectancy or slightly slow the aging process, buy a case of these wunderkind. That even goes for those who think enhanced health care coverage is “armaggedon” too. More sardines and less orange skin dye may help you in the long run, Rep. Boehner. A nearly comical faux terror alert carrot facial hue. Is that cream applied head to toe or just above the collar? ~Sincerely, I am Curious Yellow

For the aioli recipes, chose from any of those in the Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli (and Rouille), 01.25.09 post.

LOBSTER ROLLS WITH TARRAGON MAYONNAISE

2-1 1/2 lb whole live lobsters
Sea salt

2 T finely chopped red onion
3/4 C tarragon mayonnaise
1 T dijon mustard
2 T coarsely chopped tarragon leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Hot dog buns (preferably top loading) or petit pain (french roll), sliced open
Extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter, softened

Prepare a large ice water bath. Immerse lobster in a large pot of boiling salted water, until they turn bright red, about 10 minutes. Using tongs, plunge the lobsters into the ice water for a few minutes, then drain.

Twist off the lobster tails and claws and remove the meat. Cut the lobster meat into 1/2″ pieces and pat dry, then transfer to a strainer set over a bowl and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour.

Gently combine lobster and next seven ingredients in a large bowl.

Split the rolls and brush with olive oil or butter. Grill, open side down, until golden, around 40 seconds. Fill each roll with some of the lobster salad and serve immediately.

Tarragon mayonnaise:
2 large fresh egg yolks, room temperature
1 T dijon mustard
1 T fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1/2 t sea salt
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper

2/3 C canola or grapeseed oil
1 t white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Separate egg whites from yolks. With a balloon whisk, whip together the egg yolks, mustard, tarragon, salt, cayenne pepper in a medium glass or metal bowl.

Add a few drops of oil while whisking; then pour in the oil slowly, in a very thin stream, while whisking vigorously with the bowl tilted at an angle on a folded towel. The emulsion should become thick and creamy enough to hold its shape.

Pourboire:  consider using marscapone and heavy whipping cream in lieu of tarragon mayonnaise…a difficult choice, but such is the kitchen.

BELT (BACON, EGG, LETTUCE & TOMATO)

4 thick slices good quality slab bacon, sliced

2 thick slices of ciabatta or other rustic white bread, toasted
1-2 T aioli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 fresh heirloom tomato slices
2 butter lettuce leaves

1 T unsalted butter
2 large eggs

In a heavy skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Spread aioli on both slices of bread. Season with salt and pepper on the top piece.

In a heavy, nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the eggs and fry over moderate heat, turning once, until slightly crisp around the edges, about 4 minutes. The yolk should still be runny. Assemble the sandwich with lettuce, tomato, bacon, then eggs, and close with second bread slice. Serve promptly.

SARDINE ‘WICH

2 tins boneless, skinless sardines packed in olive oil
3 T aioli
1/4 C cornichons, drained and finely chopped
2 T capers, rinsed and drained

Ciabatta, sliced and toasted or grilled
Aioli
1 avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced
2 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 C fresh arugula
4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remove sardines from tin, draining oil. Transfer to a small bowl, and combine with aioli, cornichons, and capers.

Lay out ciabatta slices and lightly paint each with aioli. Then top with sardine mixture, avocado, tomato, arugula, and egg. Salt and pepper to taste, and then finish each with an aioli painted slice of bread.

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
it’s always our self we find in the sea.

~e.e. cummings

Escapist fare on a bleak winter day—in the cozy confines of the kitchen, transport yourself to the sun, sand and azure sea of the French West Indies without airfare or hotel.

My young wandering gnome of a son is going to St. Barths for spring break, so I could not help but reminisce about my torrid affaire there with dainty, yet spicy, accras. Now, this is not meant to slight you or cause jealousy, Mme. boudin noir, as our liaisons there were equally ardent. And both of you cavorting on my plate while sharing a viognier or Côtes de Provence rosé overlooking that seductive blue, was resplendent, almost sacrosanct. Spicy, white hot indulgence with curled toes in the sand.

St. Barthélemy (a/k/a St. Barts, St. Barth, St. Barths), an exquisite volcanic speck of some 8 square idyllic miles (ironically contrasted with the 8 square epically demonic miles of Iwo Jima in early 1945), was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and was named after his brother Bartolomeo. The native Caribs, who called the island Ouanalao, ferociously resisted European attempts to settle on the island. In 1648, a colonization foray was made by French settlers sailing from nearby St. Kitts. Several years later, a raid by angry Caribs destroyed the settlement, killing all the invaders. The victims’ heads were mounted on poles lining Lorient beach to discourage others with similar notions.

Around 1660, a second attempt was made to invade and settle the island, this time by French mariners from Normandy and Brittany. Unlike its predecessor, this colony survived and prospered.

The island became a part of the France realm and an archipelago of another French leeward island, Guadeloupe. But, in 1784, the French King Louis XVI ceded St. Barths to the Swedish King Gustaf III in exchange for warehouse and trading rights in Gôteburg. The king dubbed the capital Gustavia, laid out and paved streets, built three forts, and turned the community into a thriving free port. There are still reminders of Swedish rule—such as the capital city (Gustavia), the duty free status, several buildings, a cemetery, assorted street names, and the remains of forts.

In the 19th century, numerous misfortunes including hurricanes, droughts, yellow fever epidemics, and a ravaging fire befell the island. Sweden sold the now burdensome island back to France in 1878 for 320,000 francs. Provisions of this treaty required the island remain duty free and that the population never pay taxes.

After World War II, France reorganized its former colonies and St. Barths became a sous-préfecture (district) of Guadeloupe that is now a Département d’Outre Mer (Overseas Territory). It was not until 2003 that the population voted in favor of “independence.” Since 2007, the islands of St. Barthélemy and St. Martin have been governed under Collectivités d’Outre Mer status.

The first air service came to St. Barthélemy in the 1940s, when former mayor Remy DeHaenen discovered that he could land a small plane on the flat savanna which leads up to St. Jean beach. On one trip years ago, I had the distinct, disquieting honor of being piloted by M. DeHaenen in his later years—no seat belts and one of us seated on a wooden crate on an unnerving, almost harrowing, flight.

St. Barts remained relatively unfettered, almost undeveloped, until the last few decades of the 20th century when celebs began to escape there. But, thanks to building restrictions—no rambling high rise resorts, no casinos, no all inclusives and no golf courses—the island still maintains its quiet grace. A slice of paradise.

ACCRAS DE MORUE (COD FRITTERS)

3/4 lb salt cod
Water, for desalting
Court bouillon

4 green onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
2 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped

1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C whole milk
2 eggs
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

Rinse the salt cod under cold running water. Place in a large bowl and cover with cold water and then plastic wrap the bowl. Refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water 3 times in the process until the cod is sufficiently desalted for you. Bear in mind that you can always add salt, but you cannot remove it once the dish is finished. Drain well and set aside.

In a medium heavy pan, poach the cod in gently simmering court bouillon until it flakes easily with a fork, about 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool. Remove any skin, and bones from the cooled cod, then shred it.

In a large bowl, combine the cod, onions, garlic, lime zest and juice, parsley, thyme and habanero pepper.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Then add the eggs one at a time, and finally the milk, mixing well. It should be the consistency of thick oatmeal. Add these dry ingredients to the cod mixture. Stir well to combine.

Heat 3″ of canola oil in a heavy, deep sided pan to 375 F. Spoon out a rounded tablespoon of the batter, scrape it into the oil using another spoon and fry until golden brown and cooked, 2-3 minutes. Keep the fritters well spaced, cooking in batches. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels or a paper bag.

Serve with aioli, harissa or sauce chien (see below).

Court Bouillon

2 quarts water
1/4 C white wine vinegar
1 T sea salt
10 peppercorns
1 carrots sliced
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs chopped
Celery leaves, chopped
3 parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a heavy stock pot, bring to a boil covered. Lower heat and gently simmer 20 minutes. Strain through a colander or chinois, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauce Chien

1/4 C fresh chives, finely minced
2 T flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, seeded and finely minced
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
Grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 t sea salt

1/4 C boiling water

1/4 C fresh lime juice
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl, combine the chives, parsley, garlic, Scotch bonnet chiles (deseeded), ginger,shallot, lime zest and salt. Add the boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in the lime juice and oil. Whisk well.

Sauce chien comes from the French West Indies knife with a small dog engraved on the side which is used for dicing the ingredients.

Tonic-clonic Sicilian croquettes.

A way to embrace those lonely risotto leftovers from the previous day—before you take the fateful, even shameful, step of simply discarding them. The name arancini derives from the shape and color of this street and café food, which is reminiscent of the small oranges found on Sicily. These deservedly glorified fried stuffed rice croquettes are an almost cult-like, centuries old Sicilian delight with distinctly North African roots, as oranges were brought to the island during Arab tenure there.

Once again, the struggles of conquest and occupation and the interlacing of disparate cultures leads to blissful cuisine. Food is so often the last haven for besieged peoples. Fusion is far from a recent culinary phenonmenon.

Dip these little comforts in aïoli once they cool some. (See Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli, January 25, 2009). Or tidy them over a nest of baby mixed greens and drizzle a simple balsamic vinaigrette over them (See In Praise of Balsamic, March 19, 2009). Do not feel limited to this recipe, as arancini can be made with most any risotto.

ARANCINI (RISOTTO BALLS)

3-4 C wild mushroom risotto, cooled (See Risotto, January 27, 2009)
1-2 C Taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 large eggs
2 C all purpose flour
2 T fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 T fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 T parmigiano-reggiano
2 C fine fresh bread crumbs

Equal parts extra virgin olive and grapeseed oils, for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Aioli, for dipping or
Balsamic vinaigrette, for drizzling

Pour combined olive and grapeseed oils to a 3 1/2″ depth. Bring the temperature of the oil to 350 degrees F, using a frying thermometer. Line a jellyroll pan or cookie sheet with paper towels to later drain and season the fried arancini.

To make an arancino, take about two tablespoons of risotto in one hand, make a hole with a finger and stuff it with 1-2 Taleggio cubes. Close the hole and then form and roll the risotto into almost 2″ diameter balls. Set aside on a pan covered in parchment paper.

Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well. Place the flour in a separate mixing bowl and combine with the parmigiano-reggiano, rosemary, sage and salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Place the bread crumbs in a third mixing bowl.

Roll the arancini first in the flour mixture, then dip into the eggs until well coated and then finally roll lightly into the bread crumbs.

Working in batches cook in the heated oil until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and season to taste.

To review:  1) roll arancini into 2″ balls 2) make a hole and stuff with 1 or so 1/2″taleggio cubes 3) whisk local, fresh eggs 4) roll in seasoned flour 5) dip into whisked eggs 6) coat lightly with bread crumbs 7) cook in heated, mixed oils — 350 F — for 3-4 minutes 8) drain cooked arancini on paper towels and 9) once cooled enough, relish with eyes rolled back.

Pourboire:  serve arancini on a plate which has copious dollops of basil pesto for dipping.

Aïoli epitomizes the heat, the power, and the joy of the Provençal sun, but it has another virtue—it drives away flies.
~Frédéric Mistral

ARTICHOKES WITH AIOLI & CHIPOTLE AIOLI

Globe artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) are perennial thistles with origins in the Mediterranean, probably North Africa or Sicily. After the plant travelled throughout Europe, Spanish settlers brought artichokes to what is now California in the 1600’s—but they were not widely grown there until the first quarter of the 20th century. Castroville, California, became artichoke famous on a national scale when Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948.

The edible portions of the plant are fleshy lower portions of the leaves (bracts) and the base or receptacle, known as the heart. The mass of florets in the center of the bud is called the choke.

Artichokes contain a compound called cynarin, which stimulates taste bud receptors enhancing even the simplest of flavors. They are deceptively healthy—a fertile source of silymarin, an antioxidant traditionally used in many cultures to treat liver, gallbladder and digestive disorders. They also provide other nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, folic acid as well as carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Artichokes are virtually fat free.

Choose globes that are dark green, heavy, and have tightly knit leaves. Dry looking globes that appear to be turning brown and are too open are past their prime.

ARTICHOKES

1 artichoke
1 fresh lemon, quartered and seeded
12 black peppercorns
2 t salt
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Lay the artichoke on its side on a cutting board; using a large chef’s knife, cut away the entire top quarter in one slice. Cut off the stem at the bottom, so the artichoke will stand upright in the serving dish. Cut off the very bottom of the stem, peel it and and retain. Pull off the tough bottom leaves. Then, using scissors, cut away the thorny end of each remaining leaf. I actually prefer leaving the leaf ends intact as it seems more visually pleasing. You just need to care to avoid being pricked throughout your dining experience.

Fill pasta pot halfway with water, and and add lemon, peppercorns, salt, bay leaves, thyme and garlic. Bring to a boil and then place the artichoke directly in water. Reduce the heat to a lively simmer and cook until a large leaf easily pulls away, about 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a colander.

(You may also steam the artichoke in a basket with 2 inches or so of water in the pot.)

Serve hot, at room temperature or cold with drawn peppered butter, aïolis, or mayonnaise. Use your teeth to scrape the flesh from the bottom of each leaf. Either use a specially desiged artichoke plate or have a bowl on the side for the discarded leaves. Do not forget that the leaves closest to the heart of the choke are very tender. Once you reach the last flimsy leaves that cover the choke and heart in the middle, cut them away with a circular motion with a spoon or knife. Discard both the leaves and the fuzzy choke underneath, then slice up that succulent heart and stem.

AIOLI

Prepare aïoli (see Aïoli, Aïoli, Aïoli post)

CHIPOTLE AIOLI

Basic aïoli recipe
1 small can of chipotle chilies in adobo, partially drained and finely minced
1/2 fresh lime
Pinch of dried cumin
Handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

To the basic aïoli recipe, add finely minced chipotles and some of the adobe to taste; add the cumin, a squeeze of fresh lime and cilantro. Mix well.