The nut does not reveal the tree it contains.
~Egyptian Proverb

Tapenade, that luscious Provençal olive spread, takes on a nutty tinge by adding roasted pistachios.

Even though the base ingredient is olives, the word, tapenade, actually derives from the Occitan word for capers, tapèno. Hark back. Those delectable caper buds were once preserved in amphoras, graceful, long-necked and two-handled ceramic vases, brimming with olive oil. Over time, the tapèno would meld together to form a paste which became the precusor of modern tapenade.

Tapenade can be prepared using a mortar and pestle or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. It is exquisitely versatile: breads, pizzas, paninis, pastas, potatoes, eggs, poultry, meats, fish, and so on. Tightly sealed, it keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

GRILLED VEAL CHOPS WITH PISTACHIO & GREEN OLIVE TAPENADE

4 – 1 3/4″ thick bone-in veal loin chops
Herbes de Provence
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs

1 C pistachios, shelled, roasted and coarsely chopped
1 C pitted green Lucques or Picholines olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 T capers, rinsed and dried
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and chopped
1 high quality anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
2 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Tapenade
If the anchovy is salt packed, let it stand in a bowl of milk for 15 minutes to exude the salt. Then, drain and pat dry thoroughly.

Combine the pistachios, olives, capers, garlic, anchovy, mustard, and herbs in a food processor and purée by pulsing. With the processor running, add enough olive oil in a slow, steady stream until thoroughly incorporated and a thick, spreadable paste forms. Add the lemon zest, season with pepper, stir well and then let the tapenade to stand for an hour or so to allow the flavors to wed.

Lightly season the veal chops with pepper and herbes de Provence. Then, spread half the tapenade over the veal chops, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Reserve the remaining tapenade.

Veal Chops
Remove veal chops from the refrigerator. Prepare the grill for direct medium high heat. The grill is ready when pain demands you retract an open hand held about three inches above the hot grate with spread coals within 3 seconds. Before grilling, veal chops should be nearing room temperature.

Drop rosemary sprigs into the hot coals to impart aroma to the meat. Grill the veal chops for 5-7 minutes or so on each side for medium rare. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the veal chops and the heat of the grill. The meat should be firm and only gently yielding to a finger. Remove the chops from grill and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes. Then plate the chops, topping each with a generous spoonful of the reserved tapenade.

Something so statuesque as a veal chop should be served atop a frog prince, puréed celeriac.

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The lion and the calf will lay down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.
~Woody Allen

Veal is the meat of a young calf. A calf is defined as a young bovine of either sex that has not reached puberty (circa 9 months), and has a maximum weight of 750 pounds. Before slaughter, a veal calf–usually a male–is raised until about 16-18 weeks old and weighing up to 450 pounds.

Now, should I really weigh in on this blood feud between veal supporters and foes? Makes you just exhale, much like when trying to calmly suggest to a clueless, raving Sarah Palin that the combined effects of a decade of unfunded tax cuts ($2.5 trillion), two prolonged regional wars ($1.3 trillion) and the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (up to $1 trillion in bailout funds) explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years. And God forbid that you remind her that almost all of this inglorious work took place on princeling W’s watch or dare divulge dark Dick’s dictum that “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

Today’s Word for the Day struck Sarah’s speaking and ghost written skills right between her bespectacled eyes: anacoluthia (n.) the lack of grammatical sequence or coherence, esp. in a sentence. A syntactic construction in which an element is followed by another that does not agree properly. That wolf shootin’ moose eatin’ basketball playin’ governor quittin’ mama, Sarah Anacoluthia. Atta girl! Whew.

I could go on, but back to food. Not a meat without controversy, veal consumption was resoundingly boycotted in markets nationwide decades ago. And this, no less, was in the pre-internet world. Gruesome photographs of formula-fed veal calves tethered in crates where they could not turn or rotate appeared across the country. Sales plummeted and really never fully recovered. This fiscal slump did sometimes correlate with changes in the way veal was raised, pastured, housed and slaughtered. More humane and less objectionable methods were adopted. Some farmers allowed calves to roam pastures with their mothers while chemical, antibiotic and steroid free. Other producers disposed of those bad pub crates, raising them in barn pens where they mingle with other calves, feeding them a mix of milk replacement and grain.

Doubtfully and naturally, these changes will not placate vegans or vegetarians who find the eating of meat simply abhorrent. To some, human carnivores are unrepentant sinners, pure and simple. To those, I might humbly suggest you skip the veal and drizzle the vinaigrette(s) over vegetables. To me, hell awaits.

“Veal” is a word derived from the Middle English veel, from Old French, from Latin vitellus, the diminutive of vitulus, or “calf.”

It should go without saying that either or both of the tomato and olive vinaigrettes can lissomely grace other meats, poultry, fish or greens. As always, please let your kitchen mind wander.

GRILLED VEAL & TWO VINAIGRETTES (OLIVE & TOMATO)

4 – 1 3/4″ thick bone-in veal loin chops
Extra virgin olive oil
1 T fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive Vinaigrette

1 1/2 C Kalamata and Cerignola olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 T medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
1/2 T garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 t anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 C sherry vinegar

1 C extra virgin olive oil

Stir together the olives, shallot, garlic, anchovies, mustard, and sherry vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking until smooth and emulsed.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1 1/2 C heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 C sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 C extra virgin olive oil

2-3 T basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Stir together the tomatoes, shallot, capers and sherry vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while vigorously whisking until smooth and emulsed. Stir in the basil.

While stoking the grill, prepare the vinaigrettes and allow the veal to reach room temperature. Also, mix the olive oil with the rosemary. Season the veal chops with salt and black pepper and drizzle generously with the rosemary olive oil.

Once the vinaigrettes are prepared, assess the grill which should reach medium high. Hold your open hand about three inches above the hot grate with the coals already spread and count how long you can keep it there before the pain demands you retract it in around 3 seconds.

Grill the veal chops for 5-6 minutes or so on each side for medium rare. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the veal chops and the heat of the grill. Let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes, then spoon a base of the olive vinaigrette on each plate. Rest the veal chops on the olive vinaigrette and spoon the tomato vinaigrette atop of the meat.

Celerity is never more admired than by the negligent.
~Cleopatra

The iconic Egyptian pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, committed suicide in 30 BC. She had had her day in the sun, but then faced those dogged Sartrean existential questions of suicide and those damned ideations. According to legend, she died from a self-inflicted venomous bite from an asp—a snake now known as the Egyptian cobra.

German historian and professor at the University of Trier, Christoph Schäfer, has recently uncovered evidence to dispute the age old tale. Professor Schäfer alleges that the nacissine queen was unlikely to have subjected herself to that long, miserable and disfiguring death from an asp’s venomous fangs.

He travelled to Alexandria, consulting ancient medical texts and conferring with herpetologists, who advised that cobra bites cause a brutal death that covers the body in unsightly welts and takes several days. Eww! she thought. Wanting to remain prim and beautiful to the finish—a pretty stiff—Cleopatra opted for the kinder and gentler effects of drugs, several of which were available in her time. So instead of succumbing to a poisonous serpent, Schäfer posits that she likely took a cocktail of opium, hemlock and aconitum, a common concoction that led to a painless death within just a few hours and thus preserved her vanity.

Despite the Egyptian backdrop there is enough of a teutonic tinge to this to still make a wiener schnitzel recipe à propos. And more fare from your local egg slut.

SCHNITZEL A LA HOLSTEIN

4 veal cutlets, about 1/2″ thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 C all purpose flour
4 farm fresh large eggs, beaten
3 C bread crumbs
1 C canola oil

4 farm fresh large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 high quality anchovies, rinsed and dried

4 T unsalted butter
2 fresh lemons, juiced

Fresh parsley leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
Capers, rinsed and dried
Peel from 1 fresh lemon, finely grated

Lay the veal slices out on a heavy cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound the meat until thin but not torn. Season with salt and pepper.

Place flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes. Dredge the veal in the flour, shaking off excess. Then, dip into the beaten eggs, allowing excess to drip off. Finally, loosely coat in the bread crumbs. In a heavy, large skillet, heat canola oil to medium high heat. Carefully place the veal pieces into the oil, but do not crowd. There should be enough fat in the saucepan so that the schnitzel float in the saucepan and do not touch the bottom. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, turning once. Remove and keep warm tented on a platter, discarding some of the excess oil from the pan yet leaving enough to fry the eggs. You may also consider frying the eggs in a separate skillet with new canola oil.

Crack the eggs into the same skillet, season with salt and pepper and cook until easy and sunny side up, occasionally basting. The yolks should ooze on the plate. Carefully remove and set aside eggs on paper towels. In the same pan, add the butter and squeeze in the lemon juice, while whisking. Cook some until reduced to a glaze.

Place a cooked egg on top of each veal schnitzel on plates. Top the eggs with 2 anchovies each in a criss cross fashion. Drizzle sauce over the veal, then top with eggs, parsley, capers and grated lemon peel.

Bocage country could be a nightmare, you could only see as far as the next field and in the lanes, only as far as the next bend.
Harvey Smith, of the Royal Engineers

Maybe part upbringing, pinches of observing, or just a zeal for history…but, I am still “studying” that abhorrent human endeavor called war. Although ever coveting peace and diplomacy, always innately inquisitive about conflict, strategy and the human suffering inflicted by wars. Probably a little incongruous. So, please bear with me, as this chapter came to mind when posting about Calvados.

Intimate documentary footage has recently emerged on the home screen depicting the battle for Normandie. Beginning with an amphibious invasion in early June, 1944, the campaign did not end on the heavily fortified beachheads, but raged into late August. Several days after the sand was secured, the Allies moved inland in several directions, including toward St Lo and the lethal bocage—where German 7th Army garrisons and SS Panzer divisions lay in mortal wait.

On peaceful days, the Norman bocage was a pastoral checkerboard of lush meadows dotted with apple orchards from which the local brandy, Calvados, was crafted. Each rectangular meadow was surrounded by thick hedgerows to block the winds from verdant pastures and plump cattle.

During war though, the bocage formed a lethal labyrinth of defensive barriers. Some hedges were eye level bushes while others were densely matted walls of earth and briery hedge, some 10 feet high and stippled with trees. Many were impassable for tanks, and communication between troops in the fields was limited. Slender lanes, crisscrossing and bending throughout, created ambush points and access to fields far away from regular routes.

The bocage concealed pockets of elite German infantry, including the vaunted 3rd Parachute Division. The hedgerows nested snipers, shielded point blank machine gun ambushes and concealed small arms fire…with only the entrenched defenders intimately acquainted with the lay of the land. Oncoming troops often found themselves exposed, naked in the open field. Close combat raged in thickly vegetated mazes bordering open space and replete with deadly incoming from concealed Tigers, the feared 88mm and mortars.

Typical tactics were ineffectual in the bocage. Hemmed in by hedgerows, platoons lost their sense of direction during skirmishes. Confusion and disorientation reigned. Agonizing missions rampant with carnage. Some of the fiercest fighting in the war took place in the bocage whose hedgerows and lanes formed killing zones not unlike those devised by trenches in World War I. As with the Great War, left behind were battlefields rife with dead and ruin. Shattered farmhouses and villages slumped as memorials to abolition. Tangled wire littered the fields and hedges, all barren of life but teeming with the stench and waste of war. Broken guns, downed tanks, bits of clothing, empty helmets, spent shells, and the sad remains of life.

And that was the abridged digression. Sorry, but seems such short shrift to me.

Calvados, a French apple brandy which is labeled for the terroir of the same name. Calvados, a notable apple and cider producing region, is located in Basse-Normandie in north France which borders the English Channel. The brandy is made from carefully culled apples, and it is not unusual for a producer to use over 100 different varieties in crafting this velvety hooch.

Like other chosen French food and drink, Calvados is governed by appellation contrôlée regulations. Calvados Pays d’Auge (AOC) is made through a two-step process called double distillation. Using a traditional alembic pot still, apple cider is heated causing the alcohol vapor to rise and collect and then ultimately course down through a coil and drip into a cold tank. On coming into contact with the coolant, the vapors condense into a liquid. The vapors at the beginning and end of first distillation process (heads and tails) which are and will be redistilled with the next cider, are eliminated to obtain the petite eau (small water). The heads, too high in alcohol, and the tails, lacking harmony, are carefully removed and distilled over again to perfection. Then a second heating occurs to further distill this petit eau. As before, the heads and tails are again separated off to preserve only the heart of distillation called the bonne chauffe. This staged process imparts complexity and concentrates the most delicate aromas and bouquet of the spirit, retaining only the finest components and eliminating the mediocre.

After distillation, the end product is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years. As with many things in life, the longer it is aged, the smoother the end product.

VEAL SCALLOPS WITH CALVADOS & APPLES

3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2″ slices
5 T lemon juice

10-12 veal scallops (1/2″ thick)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried sage
2 C flour

2 T butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C tablespoons calvados
1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 170 F

Place apples in a bowl, add lemon juice, mix thoroughly so apples are thoroughly coated. Set aside.

Season veal scalloops with salt, pepper and a few pinches of sage. Then dip in the flour on a deep plate or dish, shaking off any excess. Heat butter and olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. When hot and shimmering, add veal, spaced well, and saute until lightly brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. You should cook the veal in batches so it is not crowded and do not overcook or they will become shoe leather. Err on the low side of doneness. When the veal is cooked, arrange on a platter, loosely tent and place in the warm oven.

Add apples with lemon juice and Calvados to the pan. Scrape up all pan encrustations & cook over medium heat to deglaze for about 3-4 minutes. Add cream and continue cooking until the sauce has reduced by half and coats a spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to your liking with salt and pepper. Plate the scallops with apples artfully adjoining, spoon sauce over and serve immediately.

Marsala is a fortified wine produced in the region surrounding the its namesake city on the coast of Sicily. The wine is made using a process called in perpetuum, which is similar to the solera system used to produce Spanish sherry. In this continual technique, wine is drawn for bottling from sets of barrels which have been topped off with wine from the next set in the rack. Each barrel is subsequently fininshed with wine from the next set of barrels along the solera. When the last set of barrels is reached, new wine that is just entering the solera is added. So, years into the life of a solera, a complex and mature sherry results which combines the best of both worlds—the mature depth and strata from the older wines with the fresh crispness from the youthful ones. Not unlike most generational processes.

There are a number of varieties of Marsala wines which are classified in accordance with their age. This ranges from Fine, which is aged for less than one year, to varieties like Vergine e/o Soleras Stravecchio e Vergine e/o Soleras Riserva that are aged for at least 10 years.

Marsala is a seaport located in the Trapani province which features a low coastline, and is situated is the westernmost point of the island. Formerly called Lilybaeum, Marsala was the principal stronghold of the Carthaginians in Sicily, and was founded in 396 BC by the survivors of the nearby Phonecian island of Motya, whose city had been destroyed by the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse.

The Saracens, who ruled Sicily during the tenth century, gave Marsala its current moniker which is derived from the Arab Marsa Allah “port of Allah” or perhaps Marsa Ali “port of Ali” as the ancient harbor of Lylibaeum was immense.

The English trader John Woodhouse is often attributed with introducing local Marsala wine to an even wider audience. In 1773, Woodhouse landed at the port of Marsala and sampled this regional fortified wine, which was aged in wooden casks and tasted similar to Spanish and Portuguese fortified wines which were then the rage in England. He risked dispatching a considerable consignment of wine to England to sound out the market. Given the positive response, the merchant set up his own company in Marsala.

A more cost conscious but equally delectable version of this recipe can be made by substituting boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

SCALOPINI AL MARSALA (VEAL MARSALA)

2 C chicken broth
3 T finely chopped shallot
6 T unsalted butter
12 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 t fresh sage, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 C all purpose flour
6 veal cutlets
1/2 T dried sage
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 C dry Marsala wine

1 C heavy cream
2 T fresh lemon juice

Fresh sage, chopped
1/4 C capers, drained (optional)

Bring broth to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan over high heat, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 1 cup, about 20 minutes.

Cook shallots in 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, 2 teaspoon sage, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown. Set aside, tented.

Pound veal until thin but not torn, season with dried sage, salt and pepper; then dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Sauté veal in 3 tablespoons butter and olive oil until browned but not entirely done, then set aside. Do not overcook as you will return the veal to the pan later.

To deglaze, add Marsala to skillet and boil over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add reduced broth, mushrooms, and cream, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened. Return veal to pan and complete the thickening process. Add lemon juice and a couple more tablespoons Marsala. Serve with chopped fresh sage sprinkled over the veal. The capers are just a reflection of my addiction to these pungent little berries.

Serve with linguine or toasted orzo (see Toasted Orzo post).

Veal—An Utter Delicacy

April 23, 2009

Roquefort is one of the most distinctly regal of all cheeses.

It has a cylindrical shape with a sticky, pale ivory, natural rind. Once ripened, roquefort is creamy, thick and white on the inside with characteristic blue veins. The ripening process occurs in natural, damp aired limestone caves found under the village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in southern France. The precious milk from specially bred sheep, the processing of the curd, the addition of Penicillium roqueforti and finally the aging in natural caves together coalesce to create this magnificent cheese.

Roquefort has a robust bouquet with a with a creamy yet sharp and tangy, almost metallic, pungent finish. Absolutely divine with bread and a glass of good red or port, it also cooks well…producing tiers of earthy flavors.

VEAL LOIN CHOPS WITH LEEKS, TARRAGON & ROQUEFORT

3 T butter
6 C leeks, tops cut retaining white and pale green parts only, then halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2″ pieces (about 6 cups)
1/2 T organic honey
1 C fresh tarragon leaves, stripped from the stem
2-3 tarragon sprigs, intact
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 C chicken stock , boiled until reduced to 3/4 C

4 – 1 3/4″ thick veal loin chops
Pinches of dried tarragon
4 fresh tarragon sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil

1/2 C brandy
3/4 C heavy whipping cream
4 T unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, room temperature
1/2 C roquefort or other similar blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Several fresh sprigs of tarragon

Preheat oven to 400 F

Reduce chicken stock as directed.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and tarragon, drizzle with honey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid evaporates and leeks begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes; do not brown. Stir leeks, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook until leeks are very soft and lightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Remove full tarragon sprigs and discard. Puree caramelized leeks, remaining tarragon leaves, and stock in processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.

Season veal with dried tarragon, salt and pepper. Melt 3 tablespoons butter and 1 T olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add fresh tarragon sprigs, then veal and cook over medium high until just pink inside, about 4-5 minutes per side. As with pork, take care not to overcook, as they will be dry. Transfer to plate and tent. Remove tarragon sprigs and discard.

Add brandy to skillet and deglaze until liquid is almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits. Add pureed leek mixture and cream and bring to simmer until reduced. Whisk in 4 tablespoons butter, 1 piece at a time. Add roquefort and any accumulated meat juices and whisk until smooth and thickened to sauce consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

(If necessary, place veal chops on baking dish in oven and roast a few minutes until done, depending on their thickness.)

Plate veal chops, spoon sauce over and garnish with fresh tarragon sprigs.