Category Archives: Vegetables

Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti and Nona’s Fresh Tomato Sugo

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mortadella

Artisan Meat Share Mortadella

Ever since I saw Craig Deihl’s post on Facebook, showing his house made mortadella at Artisian Meat Share, I have been looking forward to trying it. I am inspired by Chef Ken Vedrinski’s (Tratoria Lucca) Ricotta Gnudi with Mortadella Polpetti (little meatballs). Tratoria Lucca is one of my favorite Charleston restaurants and the reason is Ken Vedrinkski. He is a hands on chef owner who absorbs himself in his cuisine in a way that most chefs simply do not hold a candle to. He sources many Italian delicacies on his frequent trips across the Atlantic, finding the most special olive oils, wines and cheeses to bring  back to Charleston. He also has special relationships with fishermen, ranchers and farmers who bring their goods to the back door of his restaurant.

Ken-Vedrinski

Gnudi are gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese instead of potato, with very little or no flour. The result is often a lighter, “pillowy” dish, unlike the often denser, more chewy gnocchi.

There are three elements to this meal, they come together in a perfect symphony of flavor and texture.

Tomato Sugo Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 generous pinch crushed red pepper
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • Salt to taste

Method: 

  • Place olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and chili flakes
  • Saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add tomatoes and butter, blend well and add salt to taste
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Butter in the sauce

Mortadella Polpetti Ingredients: 

  • 4 slices of day-old ciabatta, crust removed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 ounces ground pork
  • 5 ounces ground mortadella (if you cannot find it, then use good quality bologna and finely chopped pistachios along with some black pepper)
  • 1/4 cup porcini powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup ground Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Method:

  • Soak cubes in milk for 5 minutes,then squeeze dry.
  • In a large bowl add remaining ingredients until well combined. Cover bowl, then refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Form Polpeti into 1 inch balls.
  • 45 minutes before serving time, add the polpetti to the sauce and put on a simmer burner at very low temp.

Meatballs cooking

Gnudi Ingredients: 

  • 16 ounces good quality fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces microplaned Locatelli Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup 00 flour (available at Italian specialty stores or online), plus more for dusting.

Gnudi Method: 

Gnudi before boiling

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till a dough forms. Be gentle when mixing. cover bowl and chill for 1 hour
  • Dust the bottom of a sheet pan with flour.
  • Place dough on a floured work surface and roll into a 1 1/4 inch diameter log. cut on the bias into one inch pieces.Place on the floured surface
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
  • Shake extra flour from gnudi. gently place in the pot cooked till cooked through. Put in a bowl and toss with the sauce.
  • Serve with freshly grated parm.

gnudi in sauce

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A Chef With the Heart of a Servant at Swig & Swine

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AnthonyLast week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a remarkable man, Chef Anthony DiBernardo of the relatively new smoked meat (A.K.A. BBQ)  restaurant … Swig and Swine. His restaurant is new to the Low Country, but he is not. He has been cooking all over the Charleston area for many years. I was so impressed when I heard his story that I just had to meet him and do a profile to share it with y’all. If you are a frequent follower of this blog, you know I do not do restaurant reviews any more, that was relegated to my Chicago days. But I have been writing about food, where it comes from and who is cooking it for the last 14 years, sometimes in publications, sometimes on my blogs and Facebook. Here is the story of a Chef who has the heart of a servant. 

Click on any of these pics for a close up…

In the Beginning:

Anthony comes from rural southern New Jersey, technically in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Born to a Scotch Irish mother and Italian father he was the youngest of four children, the other three sisters, who were 16, 14 and 7 when he came into this world. His maternal grandmother died when she was young, so Anthony’s Italian grandmother taught his mother to cook. All she knew was Italian food. There were many big family gatherings full of wonderful food.

At the age of 14, Tony started a dish washing job at a local country club owned by Ron Jaworski. He took to the back of the house like a fish to water, quickly climbing to the hot line. By the time he was a Junior in high school he was working on the line at the Tellford Inn. That is the time he decided to enter the US Navy because his parents were about to retire and he did not want them to have to put him through college. He signed on with a delayed enlistment the summer of his Junior year. As soon as he graduated from High School in 1990 he was off to San Diego for 60 days of cooking school. He went to Submarine School in Connecticut and his first deployment was to Charleston where he stood stunned to find he was to submarine Batfish “687,” the same number as his parents’ address and his grandfather’s winning lottery number. It was no accident. He teared up telling me the story.

Cooking Underwater:
Imagine being one of three chefs cooking day in and out for 130 people on a nuclear submarine, never knowing exactly where you will be going or how long you will be there. They would put fresh provisions inside the torpedo tubes and switch the refrigerators to freezers for long hauls. They did all baking in the galley because that much bread would take up valuable storage space. He kept busy taking video courses, including one on Poetry by Maya Angelou.

A Charleston Chef is Born:
In May of 1994, Anthony climbed out of the submarine and started cooking all over Charleston. Starting at Blossom, then venturing on to the old resort at Kiawah where he was executive chef for four years. He assisted in opening the new hotel and all of their kitchens. It was a tough time, working long hotel hours, weekends, holidays and special events. In 2001, his son was born and he knew that he had to make a lifestyle change. He took some time off and at a church retreat he met Sal Parco, the owner of the Dine with Sal Restaurant Group. Anthony took the helm of the culinary team and opened The Long Point Grill, Uno Mas and Mustard Seed. After seven years, he moved on to Kickn’ Chicken Restaurant Group’s Rita’s on Folly Island. It was sold to Hall’s Hospitality Group in July of 2013 and that is when Anthony started to think about what he was going to do.

Dreaming:
He took 30 days to develop a game plan and drove around West Ashley scoping out locations. He fell in love with the old OK Tire Store and its retro look. It was next door to The Glass Onion, a popular spot for dining. He got the keys and walked the old store using graph paper to design his kitchen, dining room, smoker areas and bar. Suddenly there was a call from Steve Kish, chef and co-owner of 82 Queen, along with Johnathan and Patrick Kish, they wanted to talk to Anthony about opening a restaurant on the peninsula. He sold them another idea. A deal was struck and they became 50/50 partners in the new concept, Swig and Swine. It took every penny Anthony had and some of his family members’ funds to come up with his half of the opening investment.

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The Dream Comes to Life:
Permits were applied for in October 2013. The process was a long one and they did not all come through until March 2014. So what does a hard working chef do for five months while waiting for those permits? He builds the tables, the bars, the benches and the work spaces of the restaurant. He designed the smokers with the guys at Gorilla Fabrication. After the fancier one in front of the store, they tweaked the second one, adding more insulation to the smoke box. Each one is running several nights a week, fired by oak and hickory and finished off with pecan. At midnight at least three nights a week, Anthony starts the fires in both smokers. He has an assistant tending the smokers when he is not there. He spends all night minding the smokers, adjusting the flues and taking short cat naps on the wooden benches in the dining room. He works around the restaurant and leaves about 4 pm when he can spend some time with his wife, 12 year old son and 8 year old daughter, sometimes returning back to the smokers again at midnight.

Brisket

The Food:
DiBernadino emphasizes that his place is a smoked meat restaurant, not just another BBQ joint. He broke from tradition by approaching the restaurant from a Chef’s perspective. Nothing is pre-processed. Everything depends on the food in those smokers every night. One bad move and they lose business for an entire day. 40 pound batches of meat are smoked and cooked 3 to 4 times in a 24 hour shift. When he is not spending the night next to the wood boxes, he keeps an eye on the smokers using remote cameras.

Brisket, chicken, turkey, pork belly, wings, ribs, house-made sausage and pork butt all have their place on the smokers. Freshly prepared smoked meats are placed in the case in the dining room just before lunch service and more continue smoking through the day so that the dinner service has fresh smoked meat. The wings and ribs have a dry rub with spices, everything else just gets old fashioned salt and pepper. Leftovers are usually made into a special sandwich. I had one with leftover ribs from the day before… incredible. It was on jalapeno corn bread loaf with BBQ onions and house made pimento cheese.

The sauces are all made in house, as are the sides which vary from day to day. The day I was there there was a fantastic dish with brussels sprouts, smoked mushrooms and béchamel sauce. The usual suspects are mac & cheese, collard greens (very well done), hash and rice, beans with brisket, baked potato salad, coleslaw, Brunswick stew and pickled vegetables. There are also house-made cucumber pickles on every plate with a slice of white bread and slices of onion.

Taps

Drink Up! The bar :
There are 52 Bourbons including 2 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle that reside under lock and key at night. He has recently started smoking bourbon, to make some of the best Manhattans on the planet. A terrific list of craft beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. Wines are also available. And of course there is plenty of sweet tea.

 

Anthony and Pappy

A Servant’s Heart:
Anthony confessed to me that it is all about giving his heart, talent and compassion to those who sit at his tables. He would not have it any other way. He also gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. He cooks and donates food to a variety of causes, and at this moment is collecting money to support the Ronald McDonald House’s Red Shoes Campaign. Thanksgiving he is not taking the day off. He is generously serving up a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those who do not have family here in Charleston. We are two of the lucky people that will be a part of that dinner. I will report on that soon.

Red Shoes

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes, Olives and Meyer Lemon

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best shot

This dish is simple and yet one of the best dishes I have ever made. The flavors come bold and subtly, rich and satisfying and engagingly interesting at the same time. The inspiration came from Jerusalem by Yytam Ottolenghi and Sami Tammi. I added Meyer lemon, olives (black oil cured and green pitted) and used half of the chicken of their recipe. I also used more olive oil and less water than their recipe. So you can just add more chicken if you want to serve four people. You can Also use a whole chicken cut up instead of thighs.

Before oven

Ingredients:

  • 1 # Jerusalem artichokes (sun chokes) peeled and cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (I used Meyer, but any lemon juice is fine)
  • 4 bone in chicken thighs
  • 6 large shallots cut in half
  • 12 cloves garlic peeled
  • 2 medium Meyer Lemons, cut in half and then sliced thinly (you can use other kinds of lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons pink pepper berries crushed
  • A hand full of olives (I used black oil cured and green)
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)
  • 1 cup (yes that is a lot) fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I used Murray River)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper corns

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Method:

  • Put the chokes in a sauce pan, cover with water and add half of the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, the chokes should be just barely cooked. Strain and allow to cool.
  • Mix together all of the remaining ingredients reserving 1/2 of the tarragon.
  • Put the chicken in a bowl and pour everything over the chicken and chokes.
  • Chill for 1-24 hours. I only marinated for 1 hour and it was extremely flavorful.
  • Preheat the oven to 475 degrees
  • Place the chicken skin side up in a roasting pan or clay pot
  • Spread the remaining ingredients all around the chicken
  • Roast for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and roast another 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the reserved tarragon sprinkled on top.

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Crusty bread is good with this as there are fantastic brothy juices.

Saffron, Blood Orange, Chicken and Herb Salad

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Fennel chicken salad blood orange

You are going to LOVE this. It is so good, full of herbs, honey, saffron and grilled chicken… flavor, flavor and more flavor! the original inspiration came from the fabulous cook book, Jerusalem. I added more herbs and changed the oranges to blood oranges.

This is easy. You can do it with blood oranges, regular oranges or tangerines. The honey, saffron and reduced orange pieces make for a fabulous sauce/dressing. This serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of your favorite honey
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron threads
  • 2 TBS champagne vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more to cover oranges) water
  • 2 chicken breast halves (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 TBS Sumac
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2 small fennel bulbs sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves torn
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves chiffonade
  • 1 red chile thinly sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees If using a grill, start it.
  • Trim and top the oranges. Cut one into wedges of 8ths with the skin on, remove the peel and make supremes on the other. Reserve the supremes for the salad.
  • Place the 8ths of orange into a saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and water to cover the orange pieces.
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour, till a thick syrup forms.

Blood orange and honey

  • Allow to cool slightly then put into a food processor and process till a thick syrup results. You may need to add a tiny bit more water.

Blood orange and honey food processor

  • Put the chicken on a grill pan or grill and sear till golden and char marks form (2-3 minutes per side, then put in the oven to finish, till interior measures 150 degrees and then remove and allow to cool.

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  • When cool enough, tear apart chicken into bite size pieces, add to a large bowl and then add the herbs, oranges, fennel, chiles, lemon juice and the orange syrup. Toss, add remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Easy Tabbouleh (Tabouli)

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Tabouli

This is such a nutritious and delicious thing to have on hand. It can be served with grilled pita bread, rustic breads, slices of radishes, carrots or cucumbers or eaten as a salad on its own. There are a lot of recipes out there, this one is based on a Palestinian version, basically a parsley salad. Chop and stir! This keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I used fresh and dried parsley to get different levels of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat, soaked for 2-4 hours in boiling water, then strained
  • 1 pound of grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
  • 4 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large bunches fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley 
  • 2 large bunches mint (not peppermint) finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Baharat seasoning (see below)
  • 1 Tbsp Sumac (more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper (I use a four peppercorn blend)
  • Sea salt to taste

Baharat Spice Mix

To make spice mix: Toast all but the nutmeg in a dry pan, being careful not to burn. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind to a fine powder).  Add the nutmeg and stir. Keeps for 8-10 weeks

To make Tabbouleh:

Add all ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Taste before adding salt and pepper. Serve with additional lemon quarters.

The Best Lobster Bisque

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Bisque 2

I make this every time we get live lobsters, which is only a few times a year. Over the years I have tweaked this. I always have to buy an extra lobster or two tails to add some meat to the soup. It is the best soup I have ever tasted. While it is rich, a single bowl and some bread make a fine supper with champagne.

Lobster

Lobster Bisque 
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 1- 2 pound live lobsters

For the stock:

  • Lobster shells
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cups of lobster cooking water
  • Water to cover shells

For the Bisque

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, large dice (I use a sweet onion like Vidalia)
  • 1 large celery stalk, rough chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 grape tomatoes (or one large tomato rough chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8-10 whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup dry Sherry (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Lobster Stock (about 4 cups)
  • Chives and fresh black pepper for serving

Method:

To make stock:

  • Bring large pot of water to boil.
  • Add 1/4 sea salt.
  • Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl.
  • Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters
  • Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.Or you can serve the lobsters and save the shells, reserving extra meat for the bisque.
  • In a clean pot add shells, onion, carrot and reserved cooking liquid. Add enough water to cover the shells with an additional 2″ of water.
  • Cook low and slow for several hours (I have a simmer burner and let it simmer over night), until the stock has reduced to the level of the shells. Strain over a large pot.
  • You can cool and save this in the freezer or refrigerator or use straight away.
  • Discard solids

Bisque:

Bisque beginning

  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
  • Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. *Note, if you are using tails for the meat, put them in with veggies and cook till meat is white, about 4 minutes Use one tail per serving. 
  • Add lobster stock
  • Simmer 1 hour.
  • Remove bay leaves
  • Use a stick blender to puree
  • Strain soup through sieve set over a pot, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Add sherry and cognac.
  • Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate at this point)
  • Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.
  • Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with a pile of lobster meat, some fresh chives, freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of sherry. 

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade