My Zingerman's Food Tours trip to Italy had an extra layer of fun to it because I'd announced a Taste of Tuscany TT Supper Club dinner before I left. So I spent the whole trip thinking about how I could bring what I was experiencing home to share. I paid even more attention to our cooking classes, and at meals was constantly peppering Peggy Markel (our local guide) with questions about how different dishes we were eating had been made. And, of course, I was buying ingredients! Here's what I enjoyed making and serving to my guests on Saturday night:
Crostini Assortito - Fagioli Zolfini, Cavolo Nero, e Fegatini
We started off with a selection of three different crostini. The white bean one is made with Zolfini beans, a lovely heirloom bean varietal from the Tuscan region. The green are cavolo nero, a variety of Tuscan kale that's become more available in the US in recent years. And lastly "fegatini" - the chicken liver pate that seems to be a Tuscan signature dish. We had it four different times as part of meals at restaurants and wineries. Each was a little different from the others - sweeter or saltier, more capers, fewer anchovies - but all were delicious.
Penne con Sugo D'Anatra
This duck ragu with gremolata bread crumbs was not a recipe I learned on my trip, but it was a lovely foil for the amazing pasta from Giovanni Fabri. The pasta has a really amazing texture - dense and chewy, this is serious pasta!
Maiale e Frittatini
At one of our cooking classes we made a fantastic dish of tied rabbit filled with a thin frittata (frittatinI). I took the opportunity to learn and practice how to debone the rabbit to prepare it for stuffing, and looking forward for a chance to try it at home. But the little Michigan rabbit I found just didn't measure up to its more robust Italian counterparts, so ended up shifting the preparation to pork loin. Before rolling and tying the roast, I sprinkled it with a fresh herb & salt mixture along with some amazing Flowers of Fennel that I got when Pierre Cusseau came to tell us all about his amazing dried herbs.
Bistecca Tagliata Sale Grosse e Aceto Balsamico con Patate Al Forno e Zucchini Trifolati
Without a wood burning grill at home I couldn't make a traditional Florentine steak, so I adapted this dish from a restaurant we visited on our trip. The steak is served with coarse salt on the side and drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Sides are roasted potatoes and zucchini trifolati - zucchini sauteed until very soft with lots of garlic and olive oil and a sprinkle of parsley. The roasted potatoes and zucchini were very common side dishes from our trip.
Plating the meat course.
Rucola con Parmigiano-Reggiano e Fico
On our first morning in Italy we went fora walk through the countryside and ended up picking and eating some figs that were warm and caramelized from the hot sun. I brought that experience home with these broiled figs on top of an arugula salad and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pecorino con Miele de Ciliegio
Pecorino is a sheep's milk cheese made throughout Italy, including the Tuscany region. I served it with a cherry blossom honey that I bought from a vendor at the Sant'Ambrogia farmer's market.
Panna Cotta con Saba e Fior de Mondorla
My favorite Italian dessert, panna cotta is an eggless custard. It's always rich and creamy, but this time I added some mascarpone cheese and that made it even more decadent. The saba on the plate (purchased from Vecchia Dispenza, a producer of traditional balsamic vinegar, and made from cooked apple must) was a perfect counterpoint - tart, sweet, and a little bitter all at the same time. Then a crunchy almond cookie for textural contrast.
Deer Tracks Farm is run by my neighbor (and friend) Kate Long. After the deer ate her entire fall crop of spinach last year, she knew she'd need a deer fence for this year! But the profit margins on farming are slim, so I jumped at a chance to hold a TT Supper Club dinner that would directly invest in one of the farms that make it possible for us to eat seasonally and locally.
This menu reflects the transitional season we're in right now, with both bright summery dishes like raspberry gazpacho and heartier fall dishes like butternut squash risotto and a decadent chocolate-pear cake.
Raspberry gazpacho - bright and refreshing.
Zucchini carpaccio with Greystone Creamery feta, toasted walnuts, and baby arugula from Deer Tracks.
Butternut squash and fontina risotto, garnished with crispy sage leaves.
Seared scallop with beet beurre rouge, crispy potato cake, golden beet slice and microgreens. The beets and microgreens came from Deer Tracks.
My assistants insisted that I needed a picture of all the scallops.
Duck breast with apple marmalade, kale, and red pepper foam.
Camembert with plum, leaf lettuce, and a little clove oil.
Chocolate-Pear Cake. I wish I'd thought to take a cut away shot of this! The bottom layer is a spiced chocolate sponge cake, topped with a ring of chocolate mousse. There's caramelized pears in the center of the cake, and then pear mousse filling in and going up to the top. Plus pear gelee and chocolate sauce on the side.
Mini ice cream sandwich. It looks big in the picture, but was actually only 2 inches across. The ice cream is sweet potato and the cookie is a pecan macaron.
Guests at last night's dinner asked me about sourcing. I've noted above items that Deer Tracks contributed. I try to get as much of my produce from local sources as possible, but I haven't been good at recording where I get specific items from. I just wander the market looking to see who has the best looking kale, or perfect size zucchini, and also try to spend my money on a variety of different farmers.
For this menu, the summer squash, butternut squash, and some veggies for the risotto stock were donated from gardens of my generous neighbors. Herbs came from the community herb garden in my neighborhood. I did most of my market shopping for this week at the Thursday night Westside Farmer's Market - please check out their great list of vendors! The 17 beautiful eggs I used were from Dragonwood. The Greystone Creamery feta was sourced through Lunasa (an online farmer's market), and the other cheeses were purchased at Morgan and York (along with pear eau-de-vie and some of the chocolate). The duck was from Sparrow Meat Market. And a special shout out to the amazing staff at Monahan's Seafood Market, who cheerfully cut me very small pieces of a couple different types of fish so I could accommodate a non-scallop, non-duck eating diner. I did my grocery store shopping at Arbor Farms, which is also my source for fantastic Calder Dairy cream and milk. Phew - I think that covers it.
This was a tremendously fun dinner. As you'll see in the pictures, I really had fun playing with form and appearance in this meal. There are two "caprese" salads - neither of which tastes like your mind expects. And a couple of versions of melon and prosciutto that play with the textures we usually associate with that combination, while keeping the flavors intact. Thanks to my diners for enthusiastically embracing my sense of whimsy! And thanks to Jennifer and Sharon from Food System Economic Partnership for helping out in the kitchen!
Melon and Prosciutto, two ways. On the left, a piece of prosciutto topped with melon caviar. On the right, a cube of melon topped with prosciutto powder.
Corn soup with sweet potato greens, torn croutons and beet chips. (I'd never heard of sweet potato greens before I got to the market yesterday, so I needed to figure out something to do with them.)
"Caprese" Salad - from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, this looks a lot like a traditional caprese style salad with mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette and basil. But in this case, the tomatoes are paired with silken, tofu, sesame-soy-sherry vinaigrette, and topped with a chiffonade of shiso leaf.
Fish and Fennel - pollock baked on top of a bed of fennel-onion compote, with roasted golden beets and Sicilian dried caper powder.
Lamb chops with tomato basil marmalade and duck-fat roasted purple and white potatoes.
Another "caprese" salad. For the cheese course, I served up a combination of fresh mozzarella with rounds of watermelon instead of tomato, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and mint chiffonade.
Honey-roasted tomatoes with swirled tomato and lemon-basil sorbets, with almonds streusel and blackberries.
Molten chocolate cake with peach-ginger compote and whipped cream. (It turned out rather more "molten" than "cake," but no one seemed to mind!)
Bounty from the Farmer's Market!
Zucchini soup with garlic scape pesto and oregano
New potato with sour cream, chives, and flaky sea
Roasted carrot and beet with feta cheese,
microgreen salad, and aged balsamic
Seared tuna with fennel salad, roasted tomatoes,
and roasted tomato vinaigrette East meets South -
5-spice pork belly, ginger-garlic collard greens, creamed corn with sesame oil,
pickled watermelon rind slaw, and fried okra with shichimi tōgarashi
Cheeses and Garnishes:
Monte Enebro, Cana de Oveja, Ascutney Mountain, with
sweet pepper-jalepeno jelly, pickled raisins, and brandied cherries
Trio of Corn
sweet corn and black raspberry ice cream
blueberry-basil cornbread cobbler
"Cherry Soda" (carbonated cherries)
Special thanks to Kitchen Chick
who was not only my tireless assistant who rolled over a dozen spring rolls and
made hundreds of egg yolk drops, but also took some fantastic pictures of the
plates we put out!
Potato kale soup with chorizo oil (ancho chile oil
for the vegetarians)
Roasted golden beet and blood orange salad with
From the Alinea Cookbook: egg yolk drops,
asparagus, meyer lemon, black pepper
Citrus-marinated and oil poached salmon with
watercress coulis and orange confit
For our three non-fish eaters, a spicy orange tofu
in place of the salmon. This is one of the most delicious tofu preps I've ever
tried! Highly recommended!
Duck Duo - marinated and seared breast, duck
confit spring rolls, cherry sauce, and roasted baby bok choy.
For our vegetarians, seitan nuggets in the same
marinade as the duck, and shiitake mushroom spring rolls.
Assorted cheeses with garnishes, including Kitchen
Chick's cherry preserves.
Cream of walnut soup.
Meyer lemon custard tarts with chocolate creme
chiboust and earl grey gel - exterior view.
Interior cutaway shot of the tart.