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Crazy news, everyone: John and I are going to be at an event!

Here’s the skinny:

67 Wine and Spirits is hosting a free Sicilian wine tasting at their shop. Robert Camuto, author of Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey will be discussing his book, and there will be a sampling of Sicilian wines from a four different producers. In addition, John and I will be there offering our homemade ricotta cheese as a complement to the wine. It’s going to be fun, and you should come check it out.

I will be making this ricotta cheese (and maybe another variety):

Also, one of the featured wine producers, Arianna Occhipinti, makes my current favorite wine. You will not be able to sample it because I will be hoarding all the available bottles. This is the one of which I speak:

Here are the full details and the link to the formal, engraved invitation is here.

Where: 67 Wine and Spirits
179 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023
(212) 724-6767

When: Saturday, March 19, 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm.

Join Award-winning author Robert V. Camuto for a discussion of his most recent book, Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey, as well as a tasting of Sicilian wines.

Palmento is the story of author Camuto’s year-long quest to explore Sicily’s emerging wine scene. Amid the wild landscapes, lavish markets, and astonishing natural warmth of its people, Camuto portrays Sicily at a shining moment in history. He takes readers into the anti-Mafia movement growing in the former mob vineyards around infamous Corleone; tells the stories of some of the island’s most prominent landowning families; and introduces us to film and music celebrities and other foreigners drawn to Sicily’s vineyards. Above all, he introduces readers to the wonderful culture and flavor of Sicilian wine.

Camuto will be at 67 Wine & Spirits Shop from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for a book discussion and tasting of Sicilian wines, including several from winemakers profiled in Palmento. Additionally, Sicilian treats including artisan focaccia and handmade ricotta will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

Wines producers featured in the book and the tasting:

COS
Ramí (50% Greciano 50% Insolia)
Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico (60% Nero d’Avola 40% Frappato)
Pithos (anfora 60% Nero d’Avola 40% Frappato)

Arianna Occhipinti
Il Frappato

Frank Cornelissen
Munjibel Rosso #6

Tasca d’Almerita
Regaleali Bianco (Inzolia, Catarratto and Grecanico)
Regaleali Nero d’Avola

We’ll also have Arianna Occhipinti’s two olive oils – Gheta and Pantarei – on hand to taste, as well as handmade ricotta from Elana Iaciofano of John and Elana Talk About Food. Ben Wood, one of our buyers and resident bread maker will offer for the noshing his fabled focaccia.

** We would like to note that we are not responsible for any disappointment you may feel upon meeting us in person. However, John would like to add this his hair is WAY more impressive in real life.

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A few months ago, I published an exposé on Marmo’s fridge. It detailed the questionable contents within, offered suggested methods for handling said items (HAZMAT suit), and cried out to the CDC for help.

I figured it was only fair to follow up with a detailed description of what’s in my fridge. My refrigerator is not as populated as Marmo’s (or as terrifying), but it is pretty random. Here’s a numerated explanation based on the pinpointed photo above:

1. Leftover French Toast Bread Pudding from two weeks ago: This item falls under “Stuff in the fridge you thought wasn’t good anymore but still is.” More on this later…

2. Mascarpone Cheese and Creme Freche: Shouldn’t everyone have a supply?

3. Pomi tomatoes (1/2 consumed): I cook for one so I don’t always use the whole box.

4. The Herb Garden: Currently growing basil, rosemary and sage – three of my four favorites. The fourth is cilantro. I had some cilantro in the bottom drawer, but on giving it a check up I discovered that it was not ready for it’s closeup. It was ready for the garbage.

5. Nutella and Mascarpone Mix: From this post.

6. Leftover Valentine Heart Cookies: Yup, still eating them.

7. Cheese Drawer: See photo #2.

8. My Cookie Alphabet: Made with the Chocolate Valentine Cookie recipe. I’m not going to ever eat these, but I might want to spell something with them, so I’m hanging on to them for now.

9. Ricotta Cheese: This is the honey and sea salt variety from this post. It’s awesome.

10. Leftover Red Velvet Pancakes: From my trip to the Original Pancake House in West Caldwell, NJ last week. I am working out a recipe for these.

11. Bud Light: I don’t drink this. I swear. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It was brought to my apartment by John for my holiday party. It’s still half full and just hanging out in there.

12. Ground Flax Seeds: I stir these in my morning oatmeal.

13. Milk: I use 2%.

14. Buttermilk: For the ricotta cheese.

15. Wayward Cranberry!

The above is a photo of the cheese drawer. As you can see, there are no hard-and-fast rules in my fridge.

16: Pecorino Romano: From Murray’s Cheese

17. Ronnybrook Cinnamon Toast Butter: Dang this stuff is good.

18. Cranberries: These guys have been in here for a while. I think they might be indestructible. We are going to find out…

19. Half a Lemon: Not indestructible.

20. Camembert Cheese: I dunno. I think I stole it from a gift basket that arrived at my office.

And on the door:

21. Bailey’s Irish Cream: I should probably throw this out, it’s pretty old.

22. McClure’s Spicy Pickles: In case I want to get into a pickle…

23. Espresso: Fancy stuff I got at Eataly for an upcoming post.

24. More Beer: Yuengling and Hoegaarden this time. I don’t drink these either.

25. Wellness Doggie Treats: I swear that even in my hungriest hour, I don’t eat these. They’re for Toby. He liked them very much, though.

And finally: the moment you’ve been waiting for: Stuff In the Fridge that You Thought Wasn’t Good Anymore But Still Is:

And the winner is the French Toast Bread Pudding! The leftovers of this dish have been hanging out on the top shelf of my fridge since I made it two weeks ago. Saturday morning I woke up and there was no breakfast to be had. OK, I’m lying. I had already eaten some oatmeal. But I was still hungry, as often happens these days with triathlon training I have been doing. So I broke into these leftovers.

I was skeptical. But I was more hungry than apprehensive.

I was also, for some reason, not really into the cranberries.

It stayed surprisingly moist (at the bottom), and was still good.

I ate the rest of it.

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Does anyone have a count of how many times I have mentioned how much I love ricotta cheese? I think the obsession started when I visited Anfora Wine Bar for the first time and spread some of their signature perfectly whipped, salty-sweet version on a piece of airy toast. It was a testament to the benefits of homemade: so much more flavor! And so much room for innovation.

So I decided to make my own. Because my cholesterol was getting dangerously low, and I needed to have a steady stream of cheese-related fats in order to counteract that. I looked around and found a bunch of very helpful instructions on making ricotta cheese. I was assured it would be easy.

The first time I tried it, I failed miserably. I looked away for a second and the whole mixture on the stove top boiled over and made quite a mess. Which I should be used to by now. Take away lesson: Don’t boil your ricotta milk.

Anyway, I had MUCH success the second, third and fourth times. I have created a few different variations with instructions below. There is also a helpful video that shows the EXACT MOMENT of cheese formation. Are you all a-tingle? I bet you are.

Recipe 1: Ricotta Cheese whipped with Olive Oil and Truffle Salt

What You Need:
makes about 1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk (reduced fat just doesn’t work as well) + 2 Tbsp
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Truffle salt to taste (you can use regular sea salt if you don’t have the fancy truffle variety)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Equipment:
Small pot
Candy thermometer (something that reads at least up to 180 degrees)
Cheesecloth
Colander
Slotted spoon

What To Do:
Cut enough cheesecloth to cover the bottom of your colander. 4-ply the cheesecloth to make sure no actual cheese escapes – just water!

Pour 2 cups of the whole milk, all of the buttermilk and all of the white vinegar into a small pot outfitted with a thermometer. Heat this over medium-low heat and babysit it. The babysitting involves you watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally so it doesn’t boil over.

The thermometer will start to creep toward 160 degrees. This is the action zone. Your milk/buttermilk will start to separate and curdle. This is one of those rare occasions when curdling is a good thing. Stop stirring and let the milk completely separate and curdle. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curdled portion (this is your ricotta!) and place it on the cheesecloth that is sitting in the colander. Let it drain for about 10 minutes.

After draining, I transfer it to a container (like a tupperware container, as you can keep your chemistry experiment in the fridge for up to a week). With a fork or a whisk, add in your 2 Tbsp of milk, the olive oil and the truffle salt. Give it a good whipping.

I add this last extra step as ricotta can get a little dry from the draining. Especially if you leave it in the colander and forget about and say…oh start vacuuming your apartment or something. This makes it moist and flavorful.

Recipe 2: Ricotta Cheese whipped with Milk, Honey and Sea Salt

What You Need:
makes about 2/3 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups whole milk (reduced fat just doesn’t work as well) + 2 Tbsp
Juice from 1/2 a lemon, squeezed directly into the milk
Honey – a tablespoon or two
Sea Salt
Note: For this version I didn’t use any buttermilk. Works just fine!

Equipment:
Small pot
Candy thermometer (something that reads at least up to 180 degrees)
Cheesecloth
Colander
Slotted spoon

What To Do:
Cut enough cheesecloth to cover the bottom of your colander. 4-ply the cheesecloth to make sure no actual cheese escapes – just water!

Pour 2 cups of the whole milk and lemon juice into a small pot outfitted with a thermometer. Heat this over medium-low heat and babysit it. The babysitting involves you watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally so it doesn’t boil over.

The thermometer will start to creep toward 160 degrees. This is the action zone. Your milk will start to separate and curdle. Stop stirring and let the milk completely separate and curdle. Remove from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curdled portion and place it on the cheesecloth that is sitting in the colander. Let it drain for about 10 minutes.

After draining, I transfer it to a container. With a fork or a whisk, add in your 2 Tbsp of milk, honey and sea salt. Give it a good whipping.

Here is a video that demonstrates the heating and curdling process:

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On our trip to Spasso, I became obsessed with their Ribollita soup. It was, in fact my favorite part of the meal (although John was a huge fan of the gnocchi). I don’t think I was ever more intrigued by a soup. A simple blend of white beans, kale, melty shreds of parmesan cheese and the lightest of tomato broths with….what was that flavor in there?….PANCETTA! Seriously, people, it makes everything betta. Yeah, I said it.

Naturally, I wanted to recreate this for myself in the Laboratorio Semi Moderno (my kitchen).

I dutifully embarked on a little recon mission – scouring the internets and reviewing Ribollita recipes. Which there are a lot of – woooo boy. Anyway, I found two favorites: one from 101 Cookbooks, and one from Epicurious. I did a little blend-a-roo between these two versions and created my own Frankenstein’s monster of a soup, which I now have a heck of a lot of and have been eating every day. Consider halving this recipe if you don’t want a bathtub-full of this stuff (but leave the pancetta amount as is):

Ribollita

What You Need:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 14-ounce / 400 ml can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound / 16 ounces Tuscan kale, stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
2 cans white beans (cannellini beans)
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
4 ounces pancetta or ham, chopped (optional if you want to keep it veggie)
3 cups chicken broth (you can use veggie broth) and 3-4 cups water
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Grated parmesan

Crusty, stale bread (like a baguette), cut into cubes and toasted. Kinda like croutons.

What To Do:
Get out your most huuuuuge-mongous pot and heat the olive oil in the pot over medium heat. Then, If you’re using the pancetta (pleeeeease use the pancetta. Unless you’re a vegetarian. And then it’s OK not to), throw the meat into the pot, and let it toast in there for about 4 minutes (stirring).

Add in the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook these veggies slowly for 10 -15 minutes, but don’t allow them to turn brown. Stir in the tomatoes and cayenne pepper, and simmer for another 10 minutes, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken slightly. Stir in the kale, the beans, the 3 cups of chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you are keeping it vegetarian) and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

Cook 20 – 30 minutes, then stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed.

Before serving, stir in a healthy amount of grated parmesan cheese and top with the toasted bread cubes (I like saying that better than “croutons”). You can even top with a dollop of ricotta cheese like they did at Spasso. I liked that very much, but if you read this blog you know how much I love ricotta.

Why don’t you make some this weekend?

Note: You can cool and refrigerate this soup, but if you do, please DON’T add the parm or the bread cubes until you’ve reheated it and are ready to serve.

Makes a large pot of soup – enough for 10 servings.

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On Tuesday of last week, I learned (via my compulsive Twitter checking habits) that Anfora Wine Bar was having one of its “Producer Nights”. On these nights, they choose a specific wine producer and feature that producer’s wines by the glass for a very good price.

On this particular Tuesday, the wines featured were from producer Thierry Puzelat and included the following: Cheverny Rouge Clos du Tue-Boeuf 09, Le Rouge Est Mis ’09 and Ko Rose ’09.

Before I comment on the wine (which I enjoyed perhaps too much…), I would like to say that I am not a wine expert of any kind. I do know what I like to drink, but I’m happy to learn more about different wines from someone who has more knowledge than I do.

Which is one of the reasons that I wanted to go to Anfora’s Producer Night.

The other reason is that, although I had never been to Anfora, I knew that there would be good food to sample along with the wine, as Anfora Wine Bar is owned by the same wonderful group that owns Dell’Anima and L’Artusi.

So, I twisted my friend Meg’s arm (I think John was golfing…) and we set off for the long journey (a few blocks) to the West Village.

We managed to get two seats at the bar, which was advantageous because our bartender had great suggestions for both food and drink.

As we seated ourselves, a wonderous smell wafted by (probably fanned over by one of the chefs as both Meg and I were looking a little hungry). I stared at the bartender, eyes wide (and probably feverish) and said, “Is that GRUYERE cheese I smell melting?” I think he was alarmed that my nose exhibited such precision, but he nodded politely, smiled knowingly and said that yes, in fact it was Gruyere cheese and it was melting in one of their grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sold! And so it began, first the Gruyere grilled cheese and then the lamb ragu slider (which was named as one of NYC’s best sandwiches), all the while sampling the Puzelat wines. We especially liked the red one (Le Rouge Est Mis ’09).

At this point, Meg and I were happy to take a recommendation from our bartender on the home made ricotta cheese plate. The little pillow of ricotta that arrived was accompanied by slices of crusty bread, and a sampling of honey, mustard and a raisin and caramelized onion jam. We were delighted. And that was before we tried the cheese. The cheese was creamy, flavorful and perfectly salted. The texture was light (not too grainy) and very spreadable.

After this, Meg and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Mostly because we just fought over the last bites of the ricotta. Our bartender suggested some glasses of sherry to smooth ruffled feathers. He poured us two glasses of the golden-reddish-brown liquid and brought us a bowl of olives to enjoy along with it. It was a perfect combination and exactly what we needed with the sherry. And the sing-along of Sherry Baby wasn’t too shabby either.

As at Dell’Anima (winner of our Bathroom of the Month award), the bathrooms at Anfora were in tip-top shape, as you can see from the photo below.

Meg and I left Anfora very happy with both the bar and Producer Night. The next morning, I received this text from Meg:

She made a very good point, as I was just staring in my fridge hoping against hope that some mini cakes and champagne would appear. And that I could somehow convince my small, fluffy dog to bring them to me in bed. Not a chance.

So, I would make you, oh very smart reader, two recommendations. Recommendation the first: Go check out Anfora Wine Bar, either on a Producer Night (Tuesdays) or any other night; and The Second: have your fridge stocked with champs and tiny cakes for the morning after. Trust me, it helps.

Small, fluffy dog optional.

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