Dinner

Bill’s Whole Snapper with Garlic and Ginger

This Asian recipe may seem out of place in an Italian recipe blog, but it shares a lot with Italian preparations.  First, the fish should be fresh, which in our case was beyond doubt, having purchased it from Robert, our local fishmonger at the daily harbor fish market in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.  Robert cleans and filets all manner of fresh catch with an uber sharp machete right in front of your eyes.  Second, the accompanying flavors are understated and elevate rather than overwhelm the fresh fish.

This is a favorite of Suzy and mine when we, like we are now, spend time at our vacation home in the Caymans (no money laundering jokes, please).  After a grueling day under the sun, there’s nothing quite like this flavorful fish dish and a little (or a lot of) white wine to wash it down.

[recipe courtesy of taste.com.au] 

Whole Snapper with Garlic and Ginger
INGREDIENTS

1 whole snapper, gutted and scaled

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Ginger, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp rice wine

2 tsp sesame oil

2 scallions, sliced

2 or 3 dried chili peppers crushed

 1 bunch coriander

     DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 deg.

Rinse and pat dry 1 whole red snapper.  Line baking dish with aluminum foil (you may have lay 2 sheets side by side) and place wax or parchment paper on top.  Lay snapper on paper and liberally salt and pepper.  Sprinkle garlic and ginger over entire surface.

In a small bowl, mix well soy, fish sauce, rice wine and sesame oil.  Pour over snapper allowing it to penetrate the skin.  Baste several times.

Close aluminum/parchment paper to form an airtight pouch with snapper inside.  Place in oven (in baking dish) and bake for 30-45 minutes.  The snapper is cooked when the flesh flakes and displays no opacity.

Unwrap fish and transfer to a serving plate or bowl being sure to pour the liquid over the fish.  Garnish with a liberal amount of sliced scallions and some sprigs of coriander.

Serve with lots of white wine, preferrably a crisp, acidic wine such as Falanghina, Greco di Tufo or anything from Campania.

Buon appetito!

red snapper 1

This Asian recipe may seem out of place in an Italian recipe blog, but it shares a lot with Italian preparations.  First, ...

Quick Summer Salads

ASPARAGUS AND RHUBARB SALAD
INGREDIENTS

10 stalks asparagus – ends broken off

3 stalks rhubarb – slightly shaved

2 cups pea shoots

¼ cup lemon juice

¼  cup extra virgin olive oil

1T honey

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Lightly brush asparagus with olive oil and roast until tender.  Slice into 1” pieces. Slice the rhubarb into matchsticks. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and honey.  Toss asparagus and rhubarb with dressing in a serving bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with pea shoots and lemon zest.

STRAWBERRY AND ASPARAGUS SALAD
INGREDIENTS

1 pint strawberries sliced

4 cups baby arugula

10 stalks asparagus – ends broken off

Goat Lady Chevre

Marcona Almonds

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Lightly brush asparagus with olive oil and roast until tender.  Slice into 1” pieces. Put arugula in a serving bowl and add strawberries.  Whisk together vinegar and olive oil – season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss the arugula and strawberries. Top with dollops of goat cheese and almonds.

FAVA BEANS AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
INGREDIENTS

1 pound fava beans shelled

3 Portobello Mushrooms cleaned

¼ pound aged pecorino shaved

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

⅓ cup white wine vinegar

1 T dijon mustard

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Steam fava beans for 1-2 minutes (should still be bright green) remove from heat and put on ice to quick chill.  Slice portobellos. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss together mushrooms and cooled favas.  Top with pecorino and serve.

ASPARAGUS AND RHUBARB SALAD INGREDIENTS 10 stalks asparagus - ends broken off 3 stalks rhubarb - slightly shaved 2 cups pea shoots ¼ cup lemon juice ¼  cup ...

Whole-Baked Fish with Olives Recipe

This recipe for whole-baked fish with olives comes to us from Elizabeth Minchilli, who enlisted a team of Italian mammas and nonnas to perfect it. After tinkering with her method and recipe for 25 years, she says she’s finally nailed it. The result is a tender roasted fish, flavored with briny green olives and bright, bursting cherry tomatoes. Spoiler alert: this  might be our favorite recipe from her new book.

WHOLE-BAKED FISH WITH OLIVES
INGREDIENTS

2 whole fish with the head on, cleaned and scaled (you can ask the fishmonger to do this for you)

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 cup briny green olives, unpitted

Olive oil (about ¼ cup)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

 

     DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Oil one fish generously, seasoning the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff parsley and a few olives into the cavity and scatter half of the olives and tomatoes around the fish. Place fish on parchment or aluminum foil and repeat with the other fish.

Wrap each fish, creating a seal so steam won’t escape. Bake for about 25 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes

To serve, place on platter, open the packet, and debone the fish. Pour the juices from the parchment paper along with the olives and tomatoes on top of the fish.

 

This recipe for whole-baked fish with olives comes to us from Elizabeth Minchilli, who enlisted a team of Italian mammas and nonnas to perfect it. ...

Asparagus Spears with Guanciale Recipe

In this deceptively simple side, tender asparagus stalks are wrapped in thin, crispy slices of guanciale, a bacon-like cut of cured pork cheek. The clean flavor of roasted young asparagus contrasts beautifully with the salty-savory flavor of our traditional Umbrian guanciale. A note on the ingredients: it can be tricky to find guanciale here in the states, but many specialty grocery stores offer it in their butchery sections—stop by Via Umbria and we’ll be glad to get you squared away.

Asparagus Spears with Guanciale
INGREDIENTS

Asparagus

Guanciale, thinly sliced

     DIRECTIONS

-Clean and peel asparagus

-Parboil for 2-4 minutes until just softened

-Wrap spears with a thin slice of guanciale

-Roast a 425 degrees for 10 minutes, until pork is slightly crisp

In this deceptively simple side, tender asparagus stalks are wrapped in thin, crispy slices of guanciale, a bacon-like cut of cured pork ...

Pasta all’Arrabiata Recipe

Be warned: arrabiata means “angry” in Italian, hinting at this sauce’s surprisingly fiery kick. While it may look like your classic pomodoro, pasta all’arrabiata is made by infusing peperoncini into a garlicky olive oil, imbuing a subtle heat that punctuates each bite.  Served over your favorite pasta, it’s a welcome change that’s quick to make and faster to eat.

ARRABIATA SAUCE
INGREDIENTS

1 small yellow onion (small diced)

2 t peperoncini or crushed red pepper flakes

2 cloves of garlic

2 quarts of Tomato puree (San Marzano tomatoes, whole, pureed)

2 bunches of basil

2 T chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

EVOO

Salt

Pepper

     DIRECTIONS

-In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add olive oil, add the diced onion and slowly saute till clear and soft on Med-High heat

-Add the garlic, gently sauté, add the peperoncini, and 1 T of parsley and sauté quickly

-Meanwhile cook your pasta of choice

 -Add pasta water from the pasta cooking liquid to the arrabiata sauce

-Drain pasta, and toss into the arrabiata sauce, add basil, and the remaining parsley

-If necessary add a cup of pasta water and adjust seasoning

-Serve with Pecorino Romano, Fiore Sardo or Ricotta salata

Be warned: arrabiata means "angry" in Italian, hinting at this sauce's surprisingly fiery kick. While it may look like your classic pomodoro, pasta all'arrabiata is ...

Pizza Pizza

For our family, food has always been at the heart of our celebrations. From creating the perfect menu, to shopping for the right ingredients, to cooking the meal everyone joins in, and everyone has inspiration for what we should be preparing. Oddly enough, most of our big ideas and inspirations seem to revolve around fire. Whether we’re roasting a whole lamb over the pit in the backyard, a suckling pig in the magic pig box, or flames shooting out of the grill creating the perfect charr for our steaks, we just can’t seem to get enough of cooking over an open flame.

IMG_1219And pizza is no exception. When we renovated our house twenty years ago, we thought long and hard about what to do about the fireplace in the room that we were converting into our dream kitchen. After many rejected thoughts and ideas, a light hearted suggestion from our architect turned into his nightmare as we all quickly agreed that converting the fireplace into a wood burning pizza oven was the perfect solution.

And thus, a whole new flavor of family activities was born. Without any practice at being a pizzaolo, Bill quickly learned the trade and lead the family to pizza perfection. The perfect blend of feast and fun, pizza night at the Menard house soon became a regular event for friends and family alike. The world is your pizza- with an array of choices in front of you- trays of cured meats, fresh vegetables, caramelized onions,  sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and of course olive oil, fresh pesto and tomato sauce as a base – everyone rolls up their sleeves and tosses a pie or two.

Our American tradition of Pizza night has become a fan favorite at la Fattoria del Gelso where fire also reigns supreme. In Umbria – Marco is the pizzaolo.  He has perfected the dough recipe and is a master of the perfect bake- creating light IMG_1212and airy pizzas that cook up nice and crisp on the bottom. The tomato sauce is rich without being overwhelming.  And of course here we have an amazing selection of toppings –prosciutto, guanciale, salami picante, capocollo,  porchetta – and that’s just the meats!

A quick word to the wise- the perfect pizza requires a balance of tastes and textures.  Too much sauce makes it impossible to cook and too many toppings often leads to an accidental calzone.

This past Sunday after a beautiful morning hunting successfully for truffles and wild asparagus – it was a great treat to sit back and enjoy a bite of dozens of Marco’s creations.  Pizza with sea salt and rosemary, with roasteIMG_1221d vegetables, with crispy guanciale, with Cannara onions and sausage,  and of course pizzas with wild asparagus and with fresh truffles. The grand finale?  Nutella pizza.

But why should we have all the fun? Take a pizza our family traditions and start your own! Come enjoy a slice with us at Via Umbria, bring your friends and family for a make your own pizza party, or visit us in Umbria and let Marco take care of you. No matter which way you slice it, you can’t go wrong when you’re eating good food with good friends.

From Truffles to Nutella Read more

For our family, food has always been at the heart of our celebrations. From creating the perfect menu, to shopping for the ...

Frenching Meats

Not too long ago, I had my first experience with frenching a rack of lamb. For those of you who don’t know what that means- frenching is a technique in which you “beautify” the meat by exposing the rib bones, thereby making the chops more attractive. Nearly every rack of lamb in the grocery store, as well as beef ribeye, and pork loin goes through this process.  While it does indeed make the chops more attractive for plating, and removes quite a bit of fat from the dish, as I was removing the “extraneous” meat from the lamb bones, I felt a pang of sadness. How much goodness we were wasting! Succulent layers of meat and flavorful soft fat was all going to end up in the trash can just for the sake of appearance.

lambchetta_cookedFlash forward a few months and I found myself eating in a small restaurant (the where and when of this meal isn’t important) and noticed a framed article from the Washington Post Food section on the wall. The article was an interview with the restaurant’s chef and included a recipe for a lamb roast, the photo of which looked more like a porchetta than any lamb roast I’ve ever seen. But something seemed familiar about it and I couldn’t shake that feeling. When I got home I opened up a few of my meatiest cookbooks and butchery books and found that same recipe in a pop up in few different places- one of which went so far as to call it a lambchetta. This particular roast was a rack of lamb, but rather than remove the meat from the bones and waste pieces of perfectly good lamb, this roast was based on the premise that only the inedible part of the lamb should be discarded: basically, cut out the bones rather than the meat. What this leaves you with is a “flap” of meat, which is essentially the lamb’s belly, which you then season and roll around the lean loin (the part you are used to seeing as the lamb chop). The first time I made it for myself I kept the seasoning simple, using only salt, pepper, red wine, garlic, and rosemary, but you can really go wild with flavors here. The simple seasoning created flavors that were out of this world, but next time I have visions of testing out a yogurt and feta marinade on the inside.

Lambchetta love story aside, this isn’t the end of frenching meats for my case but I am intrigued by and committed to trying out new ways to avoid waste. With this track record, I think that I may be able to stumble into some pretty incredible flavors this way. So why not join me? Stop by the counter and let me know what unique recipes and preparations you’ve tried and love, let’s brainstorm new ways to create amazing dishes, or just give me a call and I’ll make you a lambchetta that will change the way you eat lamb forever. Either way, I have a feeling that the next few months are going to be pretty tasty.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

Making chops more attractive Read more

Not too long ago, I had my first experience with frenching a rack of lamb. For those of you who don’t know ...

Braising the Steaks

Well, folks, it’s getting to be that time of year again–that time of year when it’s almost too cold to go outside and grill and we start craving foods that combat those cold temperatures. While this doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to our nice steaks (there are many ways to cook them inside in the kitchen) it does mean that the season of soups and stews, of braising and roasting is coming. As a butcher, this is an exciting shift. We’re moving from the cuts of meat that are well-known and easy to recognize, to the cuts that are not as familiar, often overlooked, but are packed with more flavor. The problem with many of these cuts is that they are typically tougher pieces of meat and require special methods of cooking to prepare. One of these methods is one of my all-time favorite ways to cook: braising.

Braising is, in simplest form, is slow-cooking in liquid. It is a method that is nearly universal in practice; ranging from a variety traditional dishes in northern China, to a Jewish brisket, certain preparations of Mexican carnitas, and ossobuco–Italy’s famous preparation of a crosscut veal shank. The common denominator between all of these different recipes is that they are all pieces of meat that have substantial amounts of fat and connective tissue. It takes time to break that stuff down, rendering the meat edible. But by the end of the process the meat is tender enough to be eaten without a knife, and having both absorbed and contributed to the flavor of the gravy that remains of the cooking liquid.

As with any cooking method that results in such “simple” foods, there are some very important steps to braising that, when left out or minimized can prevent your cooking from reaching its full potential. The most important, in my opinion, are:

  1. Sear the meat. This is definitely one of the most misunderstood steps of the braising process. Most recipes will all on you to brown your meat before you begin to cook it but nearly always the neglect to specify why. Contrary to popular belief this step isn’t done to to capture moisture, but rather to deepen the flavor of the dish as a whole. By altering the chemical nature of the outer layer of meat (a process referred to as the Maillard reaction) you are adding a carmel/roast-y flavor to the meat that goes miles in improving your dish.
  2. After searing the meat, recipes often call for the sautéing of vegetables and spices. It is very important that you do this in the order that the recipe calls for. For example, if you were to add onions and garlic at once, in the time it takes to sauté an onion to desired softness, any flavor that the garlic would have added has been lost. Make sure to add your aromatics and spices later in the process.
  3. Choose your liquid wisely! Any liquid can be used, but the most common are wine, beer and stock. Any will work, just make sure you use something that will complement your spices and the meat that you’re using.
  4. Skim the fat! While not the most crucial, this prevents your dish from being overly greasy when finished. This especially matters for fattier meats, such as the short rib.
  5. Patience! Braising is a method of low and slow cooking and it takes time. Don’t rush it.
  6. Don’t worry about it! Braising can, and probably should, be made a day in advance. That extra time, with all the ingredients sitting together let flavors to continue to blend. That’s also what makes it great for entertaining. Make it the day before and all you have to do when your guests arrive is warm it up.

When done properly, braising yields some of the most succulent, delicious meat possible without an overwhelming amount of effort. Don’t just take my word for it though- stop by the counter to pick up your favorite cut and see for yourself.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

A guideline to braising and roasting your meat Read more

Well, folks, it’s getting to be that time of year again–that time of year when it’s almost too cold to go outside ...

Finger Lickin’ Chicken

Growing up, I always hated chicken. It was almost invariably dry and tasteless, unless of course it came battered and fried with a side of biscuits. I rarely ordered it in a restaurant, and rued the days when my parents would make some for dinner. As I grew older I developed an appreciation for the dark meat, which lead to the realization that the thing I was most opposed to was the dryness and blandness of the chickens of my youth. Now, having had access to and experience with great chicken I have realized that there are many other factors that go into cooking the perfect chicken, but for the sake of brevity let’s focus on the two major issues and breakthroughs that led me out of this dark, chicken hating place and into a brand new food world where we would want a chicken in every pot.

Chicken Dish

Well, not in a pot, necessarily. In fact, that’s probably my least favorite way to cook it but that’s neither here nor there. There are a myriad of things you can do to a chicken to help it along, beginning with a good brine, but again, that’s an issue for another time. For now, let’s talk cooking. You may have heard of spatchcocking, where the spine of the the bird is removed and the whole chicken can be laid out flat on the grill for cooking. Most food blogs bring up this method in the months of October and November as a quicker way of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. This also has the added benefit of keeping the moisture in the meat, preventing your Aunt’s usual dried out turkey. Before I had even heard this word, however, I had come across a very similar method in a cookbook by celebrity chef Sean Brock. What he refers to as “Chicken Roasted Simply In a Skillet” comes there alongside garlic confit and pan sauce, is easily modifiable and made even simpler than the recipe says. All it requires is a cast iron skillet where halves of chicken are seared skin-side down for several minutes, flipped skin-side up and finished in a preheated oven. While his recipe is delicious, I’ve come to find that you can modify the seasoning to whatever you like, skip the step of weighing down the chicken, forgo the pan sauce–and as long as you stick to the technique of searing the skin you’ll have a hit on your hands. Cooking chicken like this traps the juices in the meat and, keeps it so moist and flavorful that it rivals the dark meat in tenderness. This is of course, not to defame your traditional roast or your barbecue grilled chicken, but why not try something new? It takes less time than a roast and is harder to mess up!

I close with the second thing that makes a big difference–the quality of your chicken. As with everything, you get out of a dish what you put into it, and if you start with a high quality product you’ve already won half the battle. In terms of quality of meat, there are a lot of buzzwords that get thrown around and associated with chicken. Organic, free range, hormone free, local, are incredibly common descriptors, but comprise only the tip of the classification iceberg. While I will say that no chicken is ever grass feed (so don’t count on that one) most of the words are actually relatively meaningless. Local can come from hundred of miles away, organic is a certification many producers can’t afford, hormone free chickens may have eaten feed that is laced with hormones or pesticides. That being said, in the grocery store it is relatively easy to see the difference between the factory chicken and the farm chicken. The factory chicken will undoubtedly be huge. The farm chicken will likely not be broken down–it will be available only whole until the butcher breaks it down for you. Our chickens are relatively local, coming from a cooperative of farms in Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and labeled as “naturally raised.” Almost intentionally meaningless, this phrase is in this case meant to communicate a commitment to letting the chickens live good lives. This means that while they don’t have the organic certification they eat mostly organic food, they may get some antibiotics when they are sick, but not as a part of regular life. And all this pays off, they are some of the best chickens I’ve ever been able to eat.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

Cooking with quality meat will change your dish Read more

Growing up, I always hated chicken. It was almost invariably dry and tasteless, unless of course it came battered and fried with ...

Recipe: Umbrian Lentil Salad

It’s the middle of summer and the last thing anyone wants to do in the [sometimes unbearable] heat is spend a long time hovering around the stove to make dinner. Enter Umbrian Lentil Salad–one bite of this vibrant dish and you’ll instantly be transported to the refreshing Mediterranean seaside. This healthy and delicious salad is filled with fresh vegetables–making it fantastic as a snack, side, or light meal. And best of all, it’s simple to prepare!

Umbrian Lentil Salad

Ingredients

2 cups lentils
1 bay leaf
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
8 ounces Feta, crumbled or cubed
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Directions

1. Place lentils and bay leaf in a large pot and cover with 3 inches of water.Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the lentils well and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with vinegar and olive oil and let cool.
3. While the lentils cool, sauté the onion, carrot, and celery together in a pan with a little olive oil until they are slightly soft. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Remove from heat and add herbs. Combine cooled lentils with sautéed vegetables and Feta and stir gently.
5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour–this is what makes it perfect for a hot day!
6. Serve with a bit of Feta on top.

Download a printable version of the recipe here!

A quick and healthy dish for summer Read more

It's the middle of summer and the last thing anyone wants to do in the [sometimes unbearable] heat is spend a long ...