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Tuesday
Oct022012

Grow It, Grill It

Sometimes to go forward in life we just need to look where we came from, our ancestors. The sustainable way of life has lit a fire, (no pun intended) under many people today in the US. A trend I hope sticks around. The funny thing is if we just travel 8 hours by plane to many places in Europe; like Ireland, Italy and Sweden, we can see first hand how simple it is, because this kind of lifestyle hasn't changed much for many there. They still grow it, raise it, cook it, grill it and in this case - just keep the recipes simple. 

homemade manicotti I was so fortunate to have been embraced by the beautiful Barba family, who own Trattoria La Tagliata, perched high in the hills above Positano. You know, that Amalfi coastal village made extra famous in the movie, 'Under The Tuscan Sun'. This trattoria is hidden from the tour buses and shops. And you'll find centuries old-style cooking. Sustainable is an understatement there; the wines, olives, olive oil, cheeses and meats are all raised by the family.

very fresh mozzarella and vine ripened tomatoes
A combination of fresh ingredients and traditional family recipes, made from their hillside farm crops create simple tasty, original dishes. The Barba family uses every inch of their steep hillside property. The olive trees are artistically grown among lemon trees, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, basil and chickens on the loose.
The part that really struck me was the way the family works together. Everyone has an important role. Bartolo Barba (nicknamed O'Baron) helped La Tagliata blossom and grow through his brotherly love. He's the king of the grill and knows all the secrets of cooking meat to perfection. To describe the precise taste of his meats are, well, you just have to taste it. It's not just one thing- the magic of meat, meets fire and smoke.
Luigi Barba, (bellow, nicknamed O'Cheffon) had a vision. His passion for good and wholesome food took him to a piece of land high up on a hill and with his dedication he realized a dream come true, at La Tagliata.
Dora his wife, has always worked with her husbend, O'Cheffone. She enriches each recipe with her experience. Her dedication contributed to Tagliata becoming a family business. Her smile always warming, awaits you and encourages you to mangi or eat up. 
Enzo and Peppino are the sons of O'Cheffone and Dora. They were raised with good work ethics from their parents. Thanks to strong family values and love of their land, they have continued improving the family business created by their father.
So the story is- grow it, cook it, or grill it and do anything for that matter with love and it will be good!
Sunday
Sep302012

Georgie Porgie Pudding

Oh, how I hated that rhyme growing up, it meant it was time to put up your dukes. It doesn't quite have the same affect anymore. Nowadays the idea of pudding stirs up nostalgic memories of my Nana making batches of her rice pudding. Nana would serve it warm on a cold night or chilled on a sticky summer's night. She might even top it with a little glazed meringue, because just a simple blob of whipped cream just wouldn’t do. I was also led to believe that comforting rice pudding had curative properties. If not feeling well, a healthy scoop was the remedy in my house. I guess that’s why the Romans ate rice pudding as a cure for upset stomachs?

Having really no economic barrier and universal appeal- I’ve seen rice pudding on restaurant menus from diners and joints (my favorite place to find RP) to high-end linen napkin on-your-lap digs. Personally I‘ve made more batches than I can even remember. Here are a few variations that come to mind; Rum Raisin, Berry, Pomegranate, Coconut Mango and Banana. Keep in mind, I made mega batches. I prepared rice pudding batches to feed a daily buffet for about 10,000 people with list of ingredients like; 18 gallons milk, 12 pounds of rice, 12 pounds sugar. Email me if you need the full recipe.  

Making a batch for 10 thousand or 10 hungry people at home is pretty easy, as most ingredients are probably already in the pantry and can even be made by using leftover plain cooked rice. 

TIPS: Knowing your grains is important, as each type of rice will provide different results. Here are your options; long or short grain white rice, brown, basmati, or jasmine. Cooking times and consistencies will vary wildly, ok maybe widely. Long grain rice makes a pudding that is slightly drier and chewier than one made with short grain rice. While brown rice will be nuttier. Arborio rice is starchier and therefore can set up without addition of eggs. Cooking times will also depend on the type of rice, along with the amount of milk used. 

Other important tips: Do not combine any sugar to rice until the rice kernels are completely tender or the starch will begin to set and harden and will not become additionally tender. Do not use converted rice as it contains pre-gelatinized starch, which will not thicken rice properly. To keep a skin from forming over rice pudding, sprinkle a small amount of granulated sugar over the top as soon as you pour the pudding out of the pot.

Experiment with your own favorite flavorings and styles, and serve it up on your next tailgate, more formal occasion or just when you need a Nana pick-me-up! Enjoy!

My Basic, But Good Rice Pudding Recipe

Wednesday
Sep262012

Magnoodles

Good things happen, when great people step up™. 

I've been involved for many years on hunger and nutitional related causes especially geared to benefiting childern. Today I am delighted to support Maganoodles relief effort in DC at the Capital Area Food Bank. 

Concerned with her family’s diet after battling breast cancer followed by her husband’s fight with cancer and heart issues, 55 year old Aileen Magnotto created an all natural multi-grain vegetable based pasta (MAGNOODLES Pasta) now sold in markets and online.

Today, I'll be teaching kids how to cook a healthy pasta dinner with food bank ingredients. The new Capital Area Food Bank will receive more than 23,000 much needed servings of multi-grain pasta to feed local families thanks to the generosity of Magnoodles Pasta.

Way to go Aileen!