Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Truffle Hunters




I got to meet people in the truffle business a few years ago when I was the blogger for the Napa Truffle Festival. I even blogged about truffle dogs. I am not a big fan of dogs but fell head over heels in love with the adorable Lagotto Romangnolos. Affectionate, smart and energetic, they were irresistible. The award winning documentary The Truffle Hunters features not just truffle dogs, but the dog’s owners, and some truffle brokers. 


This delightful and quiet documentary transports you to Piemonte in Italy and takes you into the hidden world of the truffle hunters, both the men and their dogs. But it also shares the dark side of the business. The truffle business is notoriously shady. In some sections of the film you literally get a dog’s eye view of truffle hunting. But the real charm are the men themselves and their relationships with friends, clients and their undying love for their dogs. Like the film itself, they are quirky, eccentric, funny and intense. 


Truffles are all about scent, and this film not only conjures up the smell of precious white truffles, but is a banquet for all the senses—the sounds of nature, the damp chill of the forest, and the beauty of lives led in a way that is perhaps as precious and rare as truffles themselves. The film is now playing in select cities. Check Truffle Hunters website for more information. 

Friday, November 06, 2020

The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook Review & Roasted Grapes and Yogurt Recipe




The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook by Toby Amidor is a book a lot of people could use right now. If you are feeling like you can’t face cooking anymore, don’t know how to cook, have very little in your fridge or pantry or are cooking for fussy eaters, it solves the question: What should I eat? Eat, not cook, because some of the recipes don’t even require using the oven or stove. 

 I don’t remember exactly when I met Toby but we have been on several press trips together. She’s a dietician, but also a home cook and I can attest she thoroughly enjoys eating. Her recipes are good reminders of what you can do with very little but also include some really ingenious things you probably haven’t seen before. She has a 3 ingredient oatmeal raisin cookie and two-grain free pancake recipes, one for pumpkin oat pancakes and another for peanut butter banana pancakes. 

 The book has recipes that are for every meal including snacks and treats, and have codes to indicate things like whether they are freezer friendly, food for meal prep, one pot, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free and gluten-free. They also include scaled-down versions for fewer servings. The book includes tips for new cooks, cooking for two and cooking for students. The recipe I made from the book was Roasted Grapes and Yogurt made with vanilla Greek yogurt, grapes and honey, it was a hit.



Roasted Grapes and Yogurt 
Slightly adapted from The Best 3-Ingredient Cookbook
2 servings 

Ingredients 

1 cups seedless red and green grapes 
3 cups vanilla non-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons liquid honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Instructions 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. 

Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and when shimmering add the grapes. Heat for 2 minutes then transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove skillet from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. 

Divide yogurt into two bowls. Drizzle each bowl with a teaspoon of honey and then add top each bowl with the grapes and any liquid. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the cookbook and this post includes an affiliate link.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Pasta with Eggplant, Olives and Capers Recipe


Pasta with eggplant, olives and capers

October is both National Italian Heritage Month and National Pasta Month. In honor of both, I’m sharing a recipe for pasta with tomato-based sauce, and hosting a giveaway and post sponsored by TheGreatestTomatoesofEurope.                                                                                                         

While nothing can beat a fresh ripe juicy tomato, for sauce, canned tomatoes might be even better because they are peeled and cook so quickly. When it comes to Italian style tomato sauces you’ll see many recipes specify San Marzano tomatoes. The official name is actually Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP, in English DOP means Protected Designation of Origin. 

A lot of tomatoes are labeled San Marzano, but are not grown and harvested according to the strict requirements of the DOP. If you try to find information about them it can be a little confusing and frankly, many food publications seem to miss the point of why you should seek them out. From a cook’s perspective, it’s all about consistency. Open a can labeled Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP and you will get a texture and flavor that ensures an excellent sauce. What you won’t get are tomatoes that were picked by machine before they were ripe, that are yellow and tough on top with remnants of skin and seeds, packed in very watery liquid, and that taste either bland or acidic when cooked. 


Left: conventional tomato and Right: San Marzano DOP tomato

The DOP designation means they meet Protected Designation of Origin certification, with strict geographical and production standards. They are a specific type of tomato with a distinctive bittersweet flavor and low acidity, they have few seeds and a long shape, and meaty texture because they have only two seed pockets. They are grown in the volcanic soil of the Sarno Valley that is high in potassium and phosphorus. San Marzano tomatoes are harvested 7-8 times or more only by hand from July to September, to ensure they are perfectly ripe and only after sunset. After harvest, the tomatoes are peeled, placed in cans, and are processed for 13 minutes.


Canned tomatoes imported from Europe are more expensive than other canned tomatoes you may find, but you are getting a product that is consistently high quality and will ensure a great sauce for your pasta, especially if you’re making a Southern Italian style recipe, like mine for pasta with eggplant, olives, and capers. Head to @cookingwithamy for details on how to win a gift pack of European products, including the tomatoes Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pasta, etc. Additionally, the winner gets to choose a family, frontline worker, charity, hospital, or person to also receive a gift pack!


Pasta with Eggplant, Olives, and Capers 

8 servings


Ingredients


1 pound casarecce or similar pasta

2 garlic cloves, smashed 

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup green or black olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup capers

1 medium eggplant (or 1/2 large eggplant) about 12 ounces or 4 cups, diced

1 28 oz can Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino

Pecorino, grated


Instructions


Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle or spray with olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through but still holding its shape.


Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions and drain. Add the olive oil to a large skillet, sauté the garlic for one minute, add olives and capers and cook for another minute or until fragrant. Add tomatoes, mashing them with a wooden spoon, and simmer for 10 minutes or until thick and saucy. Add the eggplant and stir until well coated. 


Toss the drained pasta with the sauce, serve with cheese.


Enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Lay's Supports Iconic Restaurants & You Should Too

I don’t have to tell you that restaurants are suffering. In the beginning of the pandemic many launched GoFundMe style campaigns to try and stay afloat. Restaurants also keep pivoting from offering pantry staples to meal kits, cooking classes, take out, delivery and more to make up for the loss of their normal business. 

Independent restaurants numbered 500,000 before the pandemic and employed over 11 million people according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition and some industry analysts believe 2/3 of restaurants will not survive the crisis in the US. Yelp data shows 26,160 restaurants have closed as of the end of July.  Restaurants are pushing for a $120B Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund. You can ask your representatives to support this initiative.  


Since 2104 Lay’s has offered limited edition “flavor icon” potato chips that honor classic dishes. In past years there’s been Everything Bagel and Cream Cheese, Fried Green Tomato, and even Crispy Taco. This year they honor four restaurants and dishes, and in light of the pandemic, they are giving a $25,000 Gratitude Fund to each of the Flavor Icons restaurants to put towards the various relief efforts that will help them recover from the impact of the pandemic. The potato chips contain no artificial flavors. 


I got a chance to try four flavors: 

Wavy Carnitas Street Taco flavored inspired by El Torito

Notes of bacon, onion and corn, which is interesting in a potato chip. Good for dipping. 

My favorite of all the flavors.  


Kettle Cooked New York Style Pizza flavored inspired by Grimaldi's

I get a combination of tomato sauce and cheese. 

They would go great with a grilled cheese sandwich. 


Philly Cheesesteak flavored inspired by Geno's Steaks

Very beefy, umami notes not as much cheese flavor as I expected. 

I would actually like to try these with or in a roast beef sandwich. 


Nashville Hot Chicken flavored inspired by Partry Fowl

Spicy! Not very chicken-y though. 

These will be popular with barbecue potato chip lovers. 


So what’s iconic where you live? If you can, support the restaurants you love, for many of them, it’s now or never. 


Disclaimer: My thanks to Lay's for providing samples for me to try.