Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fantastic First: Tortelli Stuffed with Roasted Ham, Cream, and Lemongrass by Chef Mirko Balzano

This dish by Chef Balzano of Villa Assunta looked almost too good to eat...almost.

Ingredients for 6
300ml fresh cream, lemongrass, 500g   egg pasta

For the filling: 400g fresh  ham, 1 clove garlic, 100g cured bacon (pamcetta)

Prepare the filling for ravioli by sautéing  the fresh ham or pork on the grill or in pan without adding  oil. In this way, you are smoking the ham that must remain raw inside.  Let cool  . Grind with the help of a meat grinder or food processor the cooled ham, garlic, seasoned bacon and a few leaves of lemon grass. Once the filling is complete, place it inside the egg pasta,  giving it the desired tortelli shape. Prepare   the plate with cold cream and  cooked  tortelli (which has been glazed in warm butter, in order to get that perfect contrast between warm and cool) .Toss with salt flakes and garnish with lemongrass and your imagination.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Franco Pepe -Pizza Lesson Verace - Dolce & Salato Cooking School (Ce)

Franco Pepe

I’ve been writing a lot about pizza over the last few months.  Writing…and eating.  Eating … and learning.  Learning about how the quality of the products used in making my pizza are very important.  From the tomatoes used for the sauce, to the cheese placed on top.  The olive oil, the basil, and everything else that makes a good topping.  The materie prime

But I also heard about how important the dough is.  How it can make or break the perfect pizza.  I heard…but I wanted to see.  I wanted to see what a pizzaiolo goes through day after day to give his  customers, friends, amici the best product possible.  My opportunity arose (no pun intended) when the Dolce & Salato Cooking School headed by Chef GiuseppeDaddio decided to schedule a three day pizza making course.  Daddio called up his good friend Franco Pepe to demonstrate to a group of pizza lovers/pizza makers how he makes his pizza dough by hand.  I stopped by  for a look up close and personal and picked up a few of his (not so ) secrets.  

The right flour…right amount water…salt…touch of yeast.  And even more importantly…the right amount of leavening time.  And when the time was right…outside to the oven!  Daddio had placed a wood burning oven outside next to the cooking school’s parking lot.  Pepe  demonstrated how to place the toppings…how to place it in the oven…turn it…and 60-90 seconds later…take it out.  Pizza margherita…marinara…al bianco…calzone…

There was no  need to demonstrate how to eat and have a good time!  

Italian Version

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Food Show 2011 - Chef Pisaniello's Party in Ponteromito (Av)

Chef Pisaniello
It was about three weeks ago.  Three weeks ago ish.  I was enjoying a pizza and a beer in Ponteromito,  a seat at the bar of Trattovia, chatting with Chef Antonio Pisaniello.  Pisaniello had an idea.  He wanted to put on a show.  A show with that would tell his story through culture, music, wine, and of course amazing cuisine.  He wanted to ask a few chef friends to participate.  Hold this 'event' in the nearby ampitheater on a Friday evenening.  Which Friday?  "September 16th..." he replied...

In three weeks??!! Wow...not a lot of time.  But then I thought, if anyone could pull this off, it would definitely be the chef with his wife Jenny Auriemma.

Plans were set, the stage was set, and on Friday September 16th, Food Show...Pisaniello's party began.  Pisaniello and his collegues/ friends  Chefs Mauro Elli from Cantuccio di Albavilla (Co), Paolo Barrale from Marennà di Sorbo Serpico (Av), Raffaele Vitale with Giocchino Orlando of Casa del Nonno 13 in Mercato San Severino (Sa), Giovanni Mariconda of Taberna Vulgi di Santo Stefano al Sole (Av), Lorenzo Principe of  Luna Galante in  Nocera Superiore (Sa), Pompeo Limongiello of  L’Incanto di S. Andrea di Conza (Av). and Pasquale Torrente's team with  Domenico Lambiase from Il Convento in Cetara (Sa).

Each chef a dish.  Panino with lamb (Mariconda), a pizza fritta with corbarini tomatoes (Principe).  A pizza with scarola and anchovies (Limongiello), 'lo scammaro' (Il Convento), Marbre di carne alla lombarda (Elli), and acquaefarina al basilico pasta with a tomato salad (Vitale).  A risotto made with cocoa and onions (Barrale), then Pisaniello's roasted pork with annurca apples and vanilia oil.  Desert.  Chefs Silvia De AN
ngelis, Antonio Natale and Giuseppe Lo Iudice prepared a bianco torrone all'olio ravece. Each dish a song. Jovanotti, Indigo Sun, Battiato, Pino Daniele, and Jethro Tull to name a few... Each song a glass of wine.  Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo, Aglianico, Nuccilo...

It was show.  A party.  Fun, divertente.  Onstage...backstage...in the crowd.  It was as if this small ampitheater in the small town of Ponteromito became Pisaniello's backyard.  It in some ways, it was. 

He pulled it off...  

Fireworks included...

Slide Album: food show pisaniello

Villa Assunta - Mirabella Eclano (Av)

The perfect way to get to know each other.  That is what I believed as Chef Mirko Balzano, Laura Guarino   and I enjoyed a glass of Aglianico (frizzante, due to fermentation in the bottle) by Ciro Picariello.  The perfect way to begin an afternoon in Mirabella Eclano.. overlooking Aglianico and Fiano grape vines, olive orchards, in the garden of  Guarino's renovated farmhouse which her family has called Villa Assunta for nearly 4 years. A place deep in the heart of Irpinia.     A team who believe in the territory, believe in its people, and believe in its products. A young chef.  A young entrepreneur.  A young restaurant. Villa Assunta... Mesali Guide... page 64.  A place that maybe I had seen before.  Maybe I had imagined a place just like this.  In a dream of settling down in the country.   

I followed Chef Balzano into the kitchen for a look around and watch as the apperitivos were being prepared.     Right away I noticed how important attention to detail and presentation is important to Balzano.  Presentation that introduces you to Balzano's dishes.  Introduces you to Villa Assunta.  After a few photos, I quickly went to my table and just imagined, that each dish was little gift, designed and prepared especially just for me.

A glass of Fiano spumante from Montesole shared the table with small little packages.  A pizza fritta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  A single tube of pasta filled with a potato and celery cream, topped with a tomato. Bruschetta in a tazza of caffe'. Then there was fried polenta, eggplant with tomato, baccala' tartar with   a light fresh celery sauce. A shot glass with a fried green pepper.  Fried in a light batter that I imagined was designed especially for me.

Laura poured me a glass of Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2007 Ciro Picariello.  I skimmed through the menu, but then decided that it would be better to let the Chef decide my lunch for the day.  Let Balzano continue to present his little packages prepared 'just for me'...

We moved onto the appetizers; polpetta schiacciata di melanzane, crema di ricotta, lime e menta/a fried eggplant ball stuffed with pancetta, parmagiana cheese and basil.  On the side, cream of ricotta, lime and mint.  Then a dish that I was ready to try a dish which I tried back in July.  Hamburger di crudo di vitello Irpino con cuore di pomodoro e maionase all'oglicorola.  This hamburger, with its flavorful sauce was sided with tiny french fries.  Tiny thin slices of potatoes lightly fried in Guarino's olive oil.  Fried, I'd like to believe, especially for me.

Especially for me.  Just like I'm sure that Balzano's plate of ravioli decorated with my favorite colors stuffed with prosciutto and panna was designed for me.  How did he know?  And how did he know which were some of my favorite fruits such as kiwi, cantaloupe, and melon  plated around capocollo di maiale rosolato con salsa mou

Laura came with a little cup.  A little cup of tiramisu.  A little cup that was the beginning of my personal dessert parade.  A parade that included a colorful dish of ricotta and nutella.  Tiny little spoonfuls of Balzano's desserts.  All for me, I'd like to believe.

Just like I'd like to believe that their wine cellar and wine list full of wines from Irpinia were hand picked and selected especially for me. Aglianico, Fiano in the midst of wines from all over Italy and the world.

After lunch, a stroll around the garden.  A walk across the grounds.  A chance to chat with Guarino and Balzano.  It was the perfect way to end my afternoon at Villa Assunta. 

In a  place that  I was now  convinced had seen before. In a dream full of little packages...packages of Campania...

Via Capo di Guadio, Mirabella Eclano (Av) 
0825 476169

Monday, September 5, 2011

A (Not So) Typical Saturday with Gino Sorbillo and Chef Ernesto Iaccarino

Gino Sorbillo and Ernesto Iaccarino
My craving to discover more about my Campania through its food and prodotti tipici gave me a craving for…pizza.  And what better way to satisfy those cravings than a trip back to St Agata sui Due Golfi and back to Don Alfonso 1890.  A typical Saturday afternoon became not so typical when pizza maker Gino Sorbillo dropped by to make a few pizzas.  He brought a few friends. They brought some amazing products. But more importantly, Sorbillo took the time to explain what he was putting on his gourmet pizzas…the flavors, the textures, the origins.  Products such as   mozzarella di bufala, olive Nocellara, Fagioline Paesanelle, and dried San Marzano tomatoes.  I was more than curious to try the famous  cipolla ramata di Montoro...sweet onions grown in Montoro in the province of Avellino.  Then there were tomatoes from Sorrento, fiordilatte, tomaotoes from Corbara.  The Cilento region presented itself with a beautiful bread made from figs.  There were  chick peas..tan and black, and fresh figs as well.  Caserta stood proud with its  prosciutto di maiale nero casertano and mozzarella.

But what about the pizzas?  Sorbillo flew into action.  Hard to believe that he had  received 7 stitches in his left hand less than 36 hours earlier as he tossed disks of dough prepared with a touch of wheat germ into the air.  As he quickly prepared pizzas like; Pizza con fagioline paesanelle, mozzarella, nocellara, and dried San Marzano tomatoes, Pizza with cipolla ramata di Montoro Sorrento tomatoes, Pizza con corbarini and olive oil from  Le PeraccioleThere was a Pizza with a chick pea cream from Cicerale and fiordilatte from Agerola.  On this Pizza, Sorbillo delicately grated Truffles from Bagnoli Irpino (Av).  Pizza with provola and lemon peel.  Pizza with black chick peas and a grating of the tasty, piccante conciato romano cheese.  An interesting   pizza with caprino dei Lattari  cheese, Sorrento walnut, and grape shish kabob.    A taste here, a bite there.  Host Chef Ernest Iaccarino even got into the act by making a world premiere Pizza Don Alfonso with zucchini from his personal garden, pecorino cheese, olive oil, and fresh mint. 

A not so typical Saturday at Don Alfonso.

I could get used to this…

Italian version

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fantastic Firsts -Ravioli Parmagiana by Chef Paolo Barrale

I had the chance to see Chef Barrale of Marennà prepare this fantastic first course during our cooking lesson last month.

Ingredients for 4

For the filling:  2 Neapolitan eggplants, 300 g of San Marzano Tomatoes, 100 g fiordilatte, 20 gr of grated parmigiano, basil, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil
For the egg pasta: 150 g flour (00), 150 g ground semolina, 9 egg yolks

For the pasta:  Mix the flour, semolina and egg yolks in a bowl.  Let rest to the side.
For the filling:  Peel the eggplant and cut into cubes.  Sprinkle with a little salt in order to get rid of the excess water. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the eggplant.  Place the fried cubes on a paper towel to drain.
Peel and cut the tomatoes.  Eliminate the seeds.  Brown garlic clove in a pan with a little oil, then add the tomatoes and a few leaves of basil.  Let the sauce thicken, then place to the side.  Cut the fiordilatte into cubes, squeezing them in order to get rid of the excess milk that you need to conserve to complete the dish.  Combine the fiordilatte, eggplant, and sauce together in a container.  Add the grated Parmigiano cheese.
Heat the eggplant, sauce, and fiordilatte over low heat.  If necessary, add a little basil.  Let cool for about 2 hours.
Roll out the past dough, and with a pasta cutter/mold cut 8 disks.  Using the pasta cutter as a guide, place the eggplant mixture on top of the pasta.  Brush the edges of the pasta with egg and place another pasta disk on top.  Press the edges; indent the sides with a fork, and fold, so that the filling does not come out.
Cook the ravioli in salt water for 2/3 minutes. Drain carefully making sure that the ravioli does not break. 

Place the ravioli in the center of a pasta dish. Place two spoonfuls of mozzarella milk, a basil leaf, and eggplant chips.

This dish was paired with Campanaro Irpinia Bianco DOC 2010.