Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seduction by Lemons

"I don't have blood in my veins, I have lemon juice" - says Luigi, 77 years old.

The owner of 5 % of the town of Amalfi, he says. And when you look up at Amalfi from your sailboat in the ocean, you glance up at a "green eye" in the middle of architecture clustures which grow up the mountain side. That lush-lemony patch is Luigis, along with thousands of other trees beyond the city center. Just a 15 minute walk up the one road of Amalfi.

"When I am in the Lemon grove, I feel like someone" he says with his crooked smile. His large, dirt-crusted hands graze over the lemon trees and tenderly clean the dead leaves away. Luigi is number 8 from a family of 13. He tells us stories of growing up in the lemon grove. His family lived in one room together, and when his parents wanted some time alone they would get lost in the lemon trees. "Sono stato concepito nel limoneto!" - I was conceived in the lemon grove! Followed by an infectious laugh and crooked smile.

He tells us of the unique Amalfi micro-climate and it's perfection for the life of lemons....
"When the winds come from the north and meet with the winds from the south, with the protection of the neighboring mountains in the valley, the winds make sweet love and create the perfect climate for lemons"
...Wind sex and lemon babies- Now If THAT isn't passionate then I don't know what is!

-Spaghetti a Limone-
1 1/2 packs of Spaghetti
1 Large Shallot- finely chopped
3T butter
3/4 c cream
4 L lemons- juiced
The zest of 1 lemon cut off in thick strips
The zest of one lemon grated fine
1/4 c grated parmigiano

Place the thick strips of lemon zest in the boiling salted pasta water. Like a strong tea, let the pasta water become infused with lemon essence. Cook pasta till just al dente, no longer. Reserving pasta water.
Saute shallot in butter, in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add cream and lemon juice and reduce. Add hot al dente pasta, fine lemon zest, and grated cheese. Thin the pasta and sauce out with pasta water, until it is your desired consistency. Finish with chopped parsley and fresh cracked pepper

Note: This recipe serves 8 as a main course, and is best made with lemon offspring from wind relations off the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Just sayin'...

In my first experience of Amalfi, I can honestly say that the citrus there is unlike any I have had before. As a California native, I have never experienced a shortage of tasty lemons in my life. The sight alone of a meyer lemon can easily take my breathe away. From my first Amalfi gelato limone, tangy and sweet (and best enjoyed with your eyes closed.) To the lovable, sip-able, marry-able (!) limoncello and everything with essence, zest, slices, and juice in between. I found myself trying to find balance in my being with the sway of sea legs bellow me, and at the same time allowing myself to dizzily float away in an Italian cloud of lemony love.

Currently hibernating in a Florentine nest above Santa Croce. Writing menus, drinking black tea with rose petals in a silk robe, and practicing yoga on a Moroccan rug.... the love and light of life in Italy. x -A

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Strudel

Don't bother me. I'm strudeling...

My first full day off in awhile. My friend Vince in Vienna hooked me up with his chef sister Barbara, who on her day off set up the perfect "how to" strudel day. It was epic. I have never strudled that hard and for that many hours before....

-Strudel Recipe-
Recipe written and taught by Chef Barbara Weissbacher

250 g flour
3 T oil
dash of vinegar
150 ml warm water
pinch of salt

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil, the vinegar and gradually the lukewarm water. Knead the dough until it's silky-smooth and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Divide the pastry in two and form into balls. Coat each ball lightly with oil (just brush on with your hands) cover and let rest for at least an hour- you can just put an upside down bowl over the top of the dough which rests on a plate-
Spread a cloth out over a table and dust well with flour. Lay a pastry ball in the center of the strudel cloth and dust with flour. Flatten the edges of the pastry ball (a "pastry hill" is left in the center of the strudel dough) then stretch the flattened edges by pulling lightly, so that "frills" are formed. Coat the backs of your hands with flour, place the pastry on the tem and carefully stretch it out by gentile stretching and pulling. Work from the center outwards. Gently stretch the dough until it has acquired more or less of a square shape and evenly translucent appearance. Cut off the thick edges and coat the pastry with melted butter. Spread desired filling over one third of the thin pastry. With help from the cloth, fold the sides of the pastry inward. Then from the filling side of the pastry, roll the pastry over itself. Place strudel with seam-side down on a covered sheet pan (use only the cloth to fold and pick up, not your hands.) Brush with melted butter and bake at 200 C (375 F) for 30 minutes.

Fillings such as classic apple, with cinnamon and toasted bread crumbs. Caramelized cabbage and ham, fresh strawberries on top of velvety curds, scented with vanilla and lemon zest. Sour cherries from her uncles farm. And anything in between...

Traditional strudel dough is stretched, by hand, on a strudel cloth. Your chosen "strudel cloth" is one that should be at least 3x the size of your desired strudel, and should be of a flexible/fairly thin fabric. Also, your strudel cloth should not be washed during strudel season. This seasons the cloth, if you will, keeping it floured and ready for any and all strudelling needs...... how many times could I possible say the word, strudel, in one paragraph!?

Pulling the dough delicately with soft tips of your fingers or knuckles from the middle out, making it thin and velvety. There is just something so sultry about pulling soft dough with floured hands. This is a kitchen meditation to me, and I can do it for hours and hours.
It is said that you should be able to read a newspaper, or preferably a love letter, through the dough. Seems I am fresh out of love letters at the moment.... but will surely get right on it for next time!
Reading through a stain glass strudel dough sounds awfully romantic though.

France has the Pastis. Morocco and Spain have the Pastilla. Borek in Turkey...... and Austria has the strudel.

Best eaten the day you make it. Warm out of the oven, crisp and flacky pastry dough. At that moment in time, there was no where else on the planet I would rather be than at that table, with those people, and a plate of incredible fresh strudel. A highlight to my short life in Vienna, and the strudel cloth that was given to me by Barbara at the end of our day together, will be caring on the essence of Austria that my day of Studeling created.

Till we meet again, Vienna.....
Off to the Amalfi coast to eat lemons, swim in grottos off Capri, and test out my sea legs for cooking in a galley of a sailboat. xo -A

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memories of Sand

One of my favorite memories to date.
I am neck-deep in cooking meals here in Vienna. The 5 minute-sneak-attack-thunder storms that crawl their way through Austria at the moment are making my food shopping excursions very interesting....
Needless to say, I have had almost no time to write... or practice... or sleep... But the amazing woman that I work for in Morocco has had some sweet time. And she took me down memory lane with THIS great post (via Elephant Journal)
Enjoy! x -A