Tag Archives: Food

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

My Best Shrimp and Grits Recipe

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grits close up

Living in the Low Country where the best shrimp in the world is harvested, one is soon drawn to a variety of shrimp recipes and there is one dish that is so classically Charleston which always comes to the forefront. This was and still is a great breakfast recipe, but I love it for dinner. There are as many Shrimp and Grits recipes here as there are Charleston kitchens. I play around with the elements, sometimes adding cheese to the grits and sometimes adding chiles or okra to the shrimp element. I always use tomatoes, small shrimp and really good grits.

Grits

Let’s talk about grits for a moment. This dish would be seriously compromised by anything other than the very best stone ground grits you can find. I prefer mixed grits, a combination of yellow and white grits. If you live in Europe, you can use coarse polenta. Polenta is always made with yellow corn. Whereas southern grits are available in yellow and while as well as mixed (my favorite). Speckled grits mean that they leave the hull of the corn on (also my favorite).  I do like polenta for some things, it is not the same as good southern stone ground grits. At the bottom of this post I am adding a few links to what I consider the best online sources for the best grits. I am lucky that I can buy mine from Celeste Albers at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. But you can buy really great grits online now.

shrimp boat

Now, let’s talk shrimp. Buy wild caught when you can. For this recipe I really like small shrimp. Not the tiny ones for salads, but about an inch or two long. Buy them with the shells on and peel just before cooking. If you freeze shrimp, put them in a zip lock bag and fill with water, making an ice block.  There will be no freezer burn. I am lucky to be able to go to the docks and get shrimp caught that day here. You may not be so lucky. Our shrimp season is from June-December give a week or two. This is to promote sustainable fisheries. Our shrimp are born early in the year and grow in our incredible estuaries (a series of creeks, marshes and rivers) and then swim to the sea in late May.

On to the recipe! This is one of my favorites, but I play around with it all of the time.

Shrimp and Grits Sassy Spoon Style

My grits recipe is done in a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, follow instructions on the bag. Here is a link to my recipe: https://sassy-spoon.com/2012/07/19/grits-in-a-rice-cooker-perfection/

Mise en place

Ingredients:

  • One recipe of grits for four, cooked
  • 3/4 pound small shell on shrimp, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of butter &/or olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves finely chopp
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sliced okra (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 cups tomatoes chopped
  • Pork in one way or another. In this recipe I used a Chinese sausage. You can also add cooked bacon or andouille sausage.
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Sea salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  • If using sausage or bacon, brown slightly in a skillet, remove and reserve
  • Put the butter/oil in the skillet
  • Add onion and saute till the onion just starts to turn golden.
  • Add garlic and saute another minute
  • Add tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes on simmer
  • Add shrimp and stir. It will be ready when the shrimp starts to turn pink.
  • Scoop out the grits and top with the shrimp mixture
  • Garnish with chives or parsley

Here are some sources for great stone ground grits.

Re-Creating Husk’s Kentuckyakai Chicken Wings, Something different for Superbowl

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Many people have heard of Husk. It is a terrific restaurant here in Charleston. Chef Sean Brock is at the helm. Last year they also opened a Husk Nashville location. Sean has a passion for all things southern and everything at Husk is made from southern ingredients. At a lunch there I tasted their signature Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings. They utilize a sauce made by Bourbon Barrell Foods called Kentuckyaki Sauce.  The sauce is basically a kicked up teriyaki sauce made with southern ingredients (except for maybe the ginger). Since I did not have the sauce on hand and I wanted to try these wings for Superbowl… I checked the ingredients for the sauce on the Bourbon Barrell website and deduced that I have access to all of the ingredients to the sauce … so I did a dump and taste version of the sauce and here are the ending results:

Sauce Ingredients:
2 Cups Soy Sauce
1/2 cup Sorghum
1/2 cup local honey
1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
8 cloves Fresh Garlic very finely grated
a 2″ piece of Fresh Ginger very finely grated
1 cup of Kentucky Bourbon divided in 1/2 cup portions

Add all ingredients except the final 1/2 cup of bourbon and simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. Add the second 1/2 cup of  bourbon and simmer for five minutes. Allow to cool completely. This the basic sauce, which is quite thin and can be used if you want to make more of a glaze, you can add a cornstarch slurry of 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Add to the sauce and simmer further till thickened.

Prepping the wings:

Brine:

Make a gallon of sweet tea using mint just as you would for drinking (1 cup of sugar to 4 qts. water and 2 ounces of loose leaf tea). I add several sprigs of mint in mine too. I also added some juniper berries and about 1/3 cup of sea salt. Put the wings in a heavy duty ziplock bag or plastic container and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.

Smoke:image

 

Remove the wings from the brine and dry off with paper towels. Put them in a smoker for 3 hours on very low heat. You only want a small amount of smoke and you want the wings to retain moisture.

Fry:

Fry the wings in peanut oil (350 degrees) and drain. It is best to do this in small batches so that the oil maintains temperature. It should not go below 225 degrees. Drain the wings on a rack and then keep warm in the oven as you are frying.

Presentation:

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Toss the wings in the sauce and place on a platter. Scatter sesame seeds and chopped chives on the wings. Enjoy!

These also go great with my North Carolina style coleslaw!

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

Pomegranate and Blueberry Pancakes

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Pomegranate pancakes 4

These are one of my favorite fall/winter breakfast dishes…. each bite bursts with flavor and they are full of antioxidants too. As soon as my pomegranates are ripe I start making things from them and this is just one of many things I like to do with them. I sometimes make them with sourdough starter, but you can also use buttermilk and flour as I give instructions for here. I use good Vermont Maple Syrup on the side. You can change out the fruit, but I really think this is an amazing combination. Bacon on the side is a perfect compliment. Bring on the Mimosas!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups self rising flour (White Lily preferred)
  • 2/3 to 1 cup of buttermilk
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 cup of pomegranate

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Method:

  • Using a stand mixer blend together all but the fruit. You want a fairly thin consistency, but not as thin as crepe batter. Add more buttermilk or flour as needed. Make a plain test pancake first, it should be about 1/3 of an inch thick.
  • Preheat a griddle and wipe a used butter wrapper on the griddle
  • Test heat by dropping a drop of water on it, it should immediately bounce.
  • Pour two pancakes at a time unless you have a double size griddle.
  • As soon as you have poured them on to the griddle, generously drop berries and pomegranate all over the top of the pancakes.
  • When the pancakes start to have air bubbles, it is time to flip.
  • Continue cooking till the bottom of the pancake is golden. You can lift the edge to check. This should take 1-2 minutes.

Pomegranate pancakes

 

 

 

 

Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

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Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

Banh Mi prep

There is nothing like a Banh Mi Sandwich! There are so many flavors and textures going on between the baguette. There are many ways to make this sandwich, in fact, my friend Andrea Nguyen has written an entire book on the subject! 

For each sandwich:

  • 1 petite baguette roll or part of a longer baguette
  • Mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
  • Maggi Sauce (available at Hispanic and Asian groceries)
  • Char Su (this is Asian style pork belly) or BBQ chicken, pate’ or slices of rare steak
  • 3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred
  • 2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
  • 3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices
  • Bean sprouts
  • Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua)

Banh Mi 1

  1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use a fork to pull out some of the bread, making a trough in both halves. Place the bread halves under the broiler on LOW, but watch carefully!
  2. Generously spread the inside with mayonnaise. Drizzle in some Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. layer the remaining ingredients. I like to start and end with some herbs.

DSC_0220Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Cha)

Makes about 3 cups

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 pound daikons, peeled
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons and 1/2 cup sugar in the raw or grated jaggery
  • 1  1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

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Method:

Either cut the carrot and daikon into julienne or use a spiral cutter to cut them. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl.

Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently. Return the carrot and daikon to the bowl.

To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the carrot and daikon. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. It is not traditional, but I like to add some dried red chile flakes too.

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The Ultimate Beef Stroganoff From Scratch

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Plated Stroganoff with roasted veggies

As Fall starts bringing us cooler weather, I start thinking of these hearty dishes from my youth (a very long time ago). My mother made Beef Stroganoff with Cream of Mushroom soup, dried reconstituted onions and anything else processed she could get her hands on. It was the age of processed foods, I really don’t blame her. My great grandmother (who was my true inspiration for cooking and gardening) on the other hand was a “scratch cook,” nothing processed and everything full fat and delicious. She was raised on an Indiana farm and spent her first 60 years there. Then they sold the farm and moved to Glendora, California where I spent almost every weekend with her till I was 14. I never saw her use a recipe and Beef Stroganoff was probably her most exotic meal. I added a few of my personal touches to this, she never used smoked paprika and  I don’t think she ever used buffalo or sherry. She made her noodles from scratch and we would roll them out with the same old rolling pin I use today. This is an easy recipe and you can take out some of the fat by using milk where I used cream and if you really want to you can use low fat sour cream or yogurt…. but I suggest that you try it this way first. It is a “splurge meal.”

Ingredients:

  • About 1 pound of beef, you can use sliced sirloin, ground beef or ground buffalo like I did.
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 # of crimini mushrooms (baby bella) sliced. Wild mushrooms would be great in this!
  • 3 shallots or 1 sweet onion diced
  • 1/4 cup glace (reduced beef stock (you can make this or buy it. Make it by reducing down 4 cups of beef stock to 1/4 cup)
  • 5 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 cups cream or milk (I used cream)
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 of a nutmeg grated (about a teaspoon)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Egg noodles cooked and buttered with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 TBS fresh minced parsley

Method:

  • In a large saute pan or wok add beef and olive oil and start to brown
  • When the meat starts to brown add the onions & mushrooms till slightly golden
  • Clear a hot spot in the pan and add garlic, stir in
  • Add the glace and paprika then put on a very low simmer.

Strog 1

 

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Make the cream sauce:

  • In a 4 qt sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a whisk
  • Add the cream/milk and heat as it thickens
  • Add the Sherry & Nutmeg and stir again.

cream sauce

 

We are ready for STROGANOFF! Pour the cream sauce into the pan with the beef and mushrooms. Heat till almost bubbling, then add the sour cream and stir till the sauce is all one color. Remove from heat. Serve over the noodles with chopped fresh herbs. Parsley, chervil or thyme all go well with this. I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts and Vidalia onions. This serves 4 we had leftovers for two nights.

Strog stirring in