All posts by Stephanie

Bellum Gnosticorum

I’d like to take a rare break from the food-related posts and mention one of my favorite recordings. It’s called Bellum Gnosticorum and was recorded by G.O.R., a project of Italian musician and composer Francesco Banchini. His website describes it as a “journey in the antique Mediterranean cultures in the late Medieval period”.

Similar to the title’s meaning (the war between good and bad), the music is both dark and pleasant, and seems at home in many different contexts – meditation, dinner, dancing, a walk through the forest. Complex instrumentation provides a lush accompaniment for multilingual vocals and chanting – or is it the other way around? What I think is amazing about this album is that it’s accessible to people with ‘normal’ musical tastes, but is especially appreciated by musicians, music historians, and more eccentric musical palates.

Available from several online stores like fossildungeon.com, Projekt: darkwave, and of course amazon.com (listed in price order). If you enjoy Bellum Gnosticorum, make sure to check out Banchini’s other projects.

Chouriço Mac and Cheese

Providence has a large Portuguese population, so Chouriço is easily found on the supermarket shelves. One way I like to use it is in macaroni and cheese.

Chouriço Mac and Cheese
Photo of chouriço mac and cheese by Jeremy May

Most recently I made this as a Thanksgiving side, and like turkey, it makes for fantastic leftovers. Bake it in ramekins and refrigerate or freeze the individual portions.

Cut one or two chouriço (or chorizo) sausages in quarter inch dice. Cook in a frying pan until it begins to crisp. Prepare your favorite mac and cheese (the recipe I usually use is adapted from this one on the “Heluva Good” cheese website). Stir in the sausage before it goes in the baking dish. Bake and enjoy!

Gifts for Food Lovers

The holidays are approaching. Are you looking for unique gifts? Here are some of my favorites, with an emphasis on Rhode Island.

1. Chocolates from Garrison Confections. I’ve bought these for birthdays, holidays, and hosts. If it’s hard to choose, pick up a seasonal collection. You might want to buy a piece or two for yourself because they’re so good, nobody will want to share.

http://www.garrisonconfections.com/

Chocolates from Garrison Confections
Chocolates from Garrison Confections

2. Ice Wine from Newport Vineyards. I once sent a bottle of this excellent dessert wine to my parents, and it was such a hit that they now pick up a few bottles for gifts throughout the year. This is a wine that can be appreciated by wine enthusiasts and novices alike.

http://www.newportvineyards.com
also available at local stores such as http://enofinewines.com

3. The Genesis Center cookbook. Support a good cause – the center’s culinary job training program – while cooking up recipes written by the culinary students and staff. Recipes from 25 cultures are featured alongside short bios of their authors.

Available online at http://foodforthoughtri.org (see bottom left).

4. A subscription to Edible Rhody. I just ordered one for my mother so she can read about Rhode Island food from far away. The quarterly publication covers local food, restaurants and recipes.

http://www.ediblerhody.com

5. Foodie Fight. This one’s not RI related, but I had to include it for the trivia and food freaks on your list. I gave this to my dad for his birthday and we found the questions quite challenging.

Foodie Fight on Amazon.com

50 Mile Meal

Tonight we went local to eat local. Downtown Providence’s Local 121 recently started a Sunday “50 Mile Meal” – three courses with ingredients from a 50 mile radius.

For a starter I had fried green tomatoes, for an entree, a seared tuna salad and for dessert, a pear poached in white wine with caramel and a delicious scoop of ice cream. This, with a glass of wine, was included in the meal’s $29.95 price tag. My boyfriend had beet salad, a delicious pork shank braised in Sakonnet Vineyard’s Vidal Blanc, and a brownie parfait.

50 Mile Meal at Local 121

The dinner runs from 3-9, and if you’re there between 5 and 8, you can also enjoy a live Irish session by the bar. The mood is mellow and cozy, and you’d feel equally comfortable dressed up or down.  Before dinner, I recommend sampling their creative cocktail menu at the beautifully restored bar.

NYC Chocolate Show

In my two posts about my trip to New York last weekend, I somehow neglected to mention why I was there – the 10th annual Chocolate Show!

Chocolate Fashion at the Chocolate Show
Chocolate Fashion at the Chocolate Show

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a 40,000 square foot exhibition hall full of chocolate. Visitors shuffle through in a daze, tasting samples from international chocolate makers, buying bars and truffles, watching cooking demos and more.

Our favorite this year was Comptoir du Cacao from France. They served up chocolate in several forms – solid pieces, pralines, and “croustines” – little clusters. I was also pleasantly surprised by the new “Crave” bar from NewTree. The pairing of apricots and milk chocolate almost didn’t interest me, but it was great (I should have known – I love their milk chocolate lavender bar).

Before my chocolate high wore off, I picked up some retro bars from Chocolate Bar and the new Chili Cherry bar from Chocolove. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention my favorite purchase (and undoubtedly the one which will last the longest) – a chocolate-scented Chocolate Show hoodie!

The entrance fee is $28: a bargain for chocolate enthusiasts, and for everyone else, a good excuse to go at least once. But if you missed it, why not pick up $28 worth of chocolate and have a tasting at home?

Nonna in New York

Do you think eating in New York has to be expensive? Not at a hole-in-the-wall takeout place, but what about at a romantic restaurant with good service and food?

I thought so, but I was proven wrong last Friday night at Nonna (520 Columbus Ave.) They offer a $25 5-course tasting menu: arancini (fried rice balls), an antipasto platter, a pasta dish, a meat dish and dessert. This menu is only available for two or more, since the appetizers and desserts are served on shared plates. To accompany your reasonable meal, the menu lists quite a few decent wines under $30.

The pasta choices were wild mushroom tagliatelle and wild boar strozzipretti – we each tried one, and my tagliatelle almost made me wish I had ordered a whole plate. For meat we both chose the pork, which was stuffed with sausage and served with polenta. Dessert was tiramisu and delicious zeppole with honey dipping sauce. The chef was very thoughtful and sent out extra tastes for our friend who’d only ordered an entree.

Nonna
http://www.nonnarestaurant.com
Map Marker 520 Columbus Ave., New York NY
(Nearby attractions: The American Museum of Natural History and Central Park.)

Kafe Lila

Something’s stirring among the abandoned storefronts on Pawtucket’s Main Street. The Grant Building is an old department store that’s been renovated to house several diverse businesses, including a weaving studio, a furniture store, a print shop, a gallery, designers and architects, a spiritual gift shop, and a cute cafe.

The first thing I noticed on Kafe Lila’s menu this morning was the unusual and delicious ice cream flavors – jasmine orange blossom, vanilla tea, earl grey, sweet basil, bleu cheese w/ almond praline, ginger, cinnamon, coconut (the last three vegan). Too bad it was 8 am and 45 degrees out!

Instead I went for a cappuccino and some vegan banana chocolate walnut bread and took a seat at a pink 50s table. The cafe is really welcoming, filled with comfy vintage sofas and chairs, with a bookshelf of art- and craft- related magazines to keep you occupied.

Cappuccino at Kafe Lila, Pawtucket

The cappuccino was the best I’ve had in a long time – the espresso was nutty and almost chocolaty, and beautifully poured as well. I noticed they also offer cold-pressed iced coffee. The enormous slice of banana bread was tasty too. I’ll definitely be back for ice cream.

Kafe Lila
http://www.kafelila.org
Map Marker 250 Main St., Pawtucket RI

Macarons

My introduction to macarons happened in college. I wasn’t on a trip to Paris – I was in suburban New Jersey at a Wegmans, where pastry chefs were trained by famous French pastry chef Pierre Hermé to replicate his famous macarons along with other dessert delights. (Macarons, for the uninitiated, are nothing like American macaroons. I’d describe them as melt-in-your-mouth almond meringue sandwiches).

Macarons from Madeleine Patisserie
Macarons from Madeleine Patisserie

Last summer I went back to Wegmans for a macaron and they were no longer on the shelves. I’ve been craving them ever since. So on last weekend’s trip to New York I had to pick up an assortment from Madeleine Patisserie (Map Marker128 West 23rd St.) on my way to the train. We enjoyed an assortment of flavors; my favorites were rose and caramel.

But now that I’m back in Rhode Island and the box is empty, I’ll just have to go back to making my own.

Fall Salad

What are the ingredients that make you think of fall, besides the obvious squash and apples? The produce that seduced me on my last shopping trip were golden beets and pomegranates. I bought both without a recipe in mind, but when I walked into my kitchen their fate was obvious – they would make the perfect fall salad.

I roasted the beets and paired the two with cubes of piquant blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. It was so delicious, it’s definitely going to become a fall tradition. The dressing was inspired by a recipe from Food & Wine. The amounts below will make salads for at least 4, if not twice that. I kept the ingredients in the fridge and mixed salads as needed.

Fall Salad with pomegranate seeds, cashel blue and roasted golden beets

For an unusual but delicious pairing, try the salad with Hitachino Nest “Real Ginger Brew“.

Here’s the recipe: (click link to view)

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Armenian Apricot Soup

I’d seen this recipe at 101 Cookbooks before, but didn’t bite – I’m not overly fond of fruit-flavored soups. Maybe this time the title caught my eye because I was planning to stop by an Armenian Festival later in the day.

Armenian Apricot Soup

It turned out to be a fortunate ‘impulse cook’. Armed with a bag of red lentils and amazing Turkish apricots (both from Whole Foods’ bulk aisle) I whipped up a batch. The flavor is complex and like nothing I’ve tasted before.

Some things I might do differently next time: halve the recipe (it made approximately 12 cups, a bit hefty for my apartment-sized fridge), use a tad less cumin, spice it up with a bit of hot sauce, maybe add more water for a thinner soup (though simply adding water while reheating does save fridge space). Oh, and maybe have people over for soup?

If you didn’t catch my link above, you can get the recipe here.