Lemons

Published by Tuesday, December 4, 2018 Permalink 0

by Marlena Spieler

I come from a land — California — where lemons grow on trees. To buy them in a store would be ridiculous since they grow outside your window. And if you don’t have a lemon tree, your neighbor does and will share them with you. In season, there really are lemons everywhere.

Once, I wrote a humorous-ish front-page column for the San Francisco Chronicle about how there are lemons everywhere in the Bay Area, and that every time I pass a tree, I stash one or two in my handbag. They ran a cartoon of me dressed up as a burglar, reaching into lemon trees.

 

Lemon Stand Naples by Jonell Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emails flooded in saying: we have a tree! Come pick our lemons anytime! I became a huge fan of Lemon Ladies Orchard, visiting them when I am in the area (they mail order the most beautiful, fragrant lemons you can imagine). But — there is always at least one “but” — I also got a nasty, legal-sounding email from a local sheriff stating the code for the law I was breaking, and that if I tried to do that in his county, I would be swiftly arrested.

There is more to my love of lemons than theft, however. I take, but I also give. One of my joys is planting lemon trees. If you have a birthday or a wedding or give me any reason to give you a gift, for instance, if I stay with you, I might purchase one as a thank you. Throughout northern California, I have left a trail of lemon trees, a legacy that warms my heart. Since I can’t grow citrus in northern Europe — and believe me, I’ve tried — I do the next best thing and plant them any and everywhere else. 

Lemons in Midair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loving lemons might be inherited; my grandmother held the belief that they were a miracle cure for most things, often mixed with honey. Add water and drink for a sore throat. And for coughing? Add cognac. Skin breakouts? Mix lemon, honey, and oatmeal for a facial mask. In summer, she would rinse my hair with lemon for sun-streaks. And of course, one didn’t drink tea without a nice, fresh lemon to squeeze in.

Besides medicinally, lemon was our favorite flavor for sweets: cakes layered with lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, and tender pound cake drizzled with lemon glaze, holes poked on top of the cake so it could soak right down to the bottom, becoming almost crisp on top, and moist, oh so moist, within.

Lemon Curd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how can I forget lemon pudding cake? A soupy, tangy lemon sauce topped with a lemony cake; like magic, it baked from one batter into this all-encompassing symphony of textures, in the key of lemon. We called it simply “lemon fluff.” My grown-up version was a cold lemon mousse that I made and made and made and made when I was first learning to cook. I thought I would make it forever, then one day I stopped. Often I think I will make it again, and then I can’t remember anything about the recipe. #regret

It wasn’t until I left home that I got an idea of how many ways lemons could be eaten — sometimes, even in chicken or vegetable soup — and I couldn’t wait to tell my grandmother. Sometimes you might think something is a lime, but it’s really a green lemon.

Lemon Pudding Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I traveled the Mediterranean and lemon was always there for me. In Greece, a plate of lemon wedges was always on the table. Squeeze it onto . . . whatever you like. Mixed with raw egg and stirred into sauces and soups, it is perhaps Greece’s most iconic dish: avgolemono. Fresh lemon is there for salads, either leaves or chopped vegetables, and it is there for cooked vegetables, hot or cold. And of course, lemon is there for fish. Always for fish.

Avgolemono, creamy Greek lemon and chicken soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Sicily, the olive oil-lemon sauce (with oregano) transformed my fish-eating life for the rest of my days, though the lemon salad of Procida was a strong contender in that category. I also discovered that as much as I love buttery or olive oily pasta, I love it even more with lemon (shameless plug: I wrote about creamy lemon spaghetti for The New York Times). Most rich and buttery dishes are better with lemon, including Hollandaise sauce, or any creamy pan sauce. So too things already lemony are usually better with more lemon; just a whisper always makes me want more. 

Spaghetti al Limone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was, therefore, a surprise to discover that the whole world didn’t love lemons quite as much as I (and Mediterraneans) did. Moving to the U.K., my new eaters weren’t used to the sharp, sour flavor, and also, lemons were simply expensive. I looked and looked and looked, but in East London, they were not growing on trees; nor are they in Hampshire, where I live now. 

I had for so long taken them for granted . . . their new (to me) rarity gave a sharp sense of loss, and made me long for them; it dawned on me that I wouldn’t automatically, always, just be surrounded by lemons. Life felt very different.

But one day I came home from a trip to Naples and unloaded my backpack: lemons. Lemons, lemons, and more lemons. They were fresh and fragrant, and now, they were sitting in a bowl on a table in my London kitchen. 

 

Bowl of Lemons on Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There, they glowed, golden, in the grey London winter light (because citrus has the good manners to be in season smack dab in the middle of winter). Just to gaze at that bowl of lemons lifted my spirits.

Reaching out, I held one in my hands. Its skin felt smooth, and I touched it to my face and inhaled its sweet aroma, then scraped its skin a little with my fingernail and the whole room filled with the scent of lemon. It was like a reunion with an old friend. From now on, I decided, I would always have a bowl of lemons in my kitchen to reassure myself (of so many things, mostly of where lemons grow). Having fresh lemons means the Mediterranean is in my kitchen, and my grandmother is there, too.

 

Matisse Still Life Oranges Lemons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although lemons last well on a table, so that you can admire them and sniff their aroma as you walk by, to keep them longer and prevent them from molding, they should be stashed in the refrigerator.

Then there is preserving: as with many fruits and vegetables, it not only prolongs their lives but adds another dimension — often pickle-like, such as the traditional Moroccan way of salt-curing. This lemony-salty-sour juicy pickle is so refreshing to have on hand, a bit olive-like, with an intense lemon flavor. I use them in traditional Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes, but also in western dishes, especially tuna salad.

There are so many different types of lemons. In California, we grew up eating mostly Meyer lemons, sweeter and less acidic than Eureka, which is the one most cultivated commercially in the U.S. A childhood treat was to pierce the skin of a lemon just big enough for a straw, and insert a candy stick of any flavor, the kind that has a hole in the middle, then suck up the sour juice through the candy straw. It was kind of thrilling.

Still Life with Lemons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy has probably more types of lemons than anywhere else: Sorrento, Amalfi, Procida, and the juicy Sicilian lemon. But Sicily is not the only Mediterranean island that grows abundant lemons. A few years ago I spent several weeks on the Greek island of Zakynthos with friends; it was lemon season, everything we cooked and ate was lemon. Throughout the village, I was given the name Limonia (which is a popular name on nearby Cephalonia). We squeezed the juice, stuffed the lemon shells, candied the skins, and one day sliced the lemons thinly and froze them in a layer of sugar for a crisp frozen cookie-like treat.

Lemon Meringue Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lemon rind itself was so mild and tender that I began to use it to wipe up sauces on the plate, instead of using bread. Tasty, and oh so much less calorific. When I occasionally return to the village, I am still known as “Little Limonia.”

But enough about me, this is about the lemon, right? For maximum juice, try rolling a lemon on a hard surface before you squeeze it. And though I once saw this “trick” claimed by a famous celebrity chef as his own invention, I’ve known it forever: my grandmother taught me, as we were gathering lemons from her garden.

—————

Marlena Spieler was born in Sacramento, California, and has written more than 70 cookbooks. She has contributed to Bon Appétit and Saveur, and wrote the award-winning food  San Francisco Chronicle column, “The Roving Feast.” Her life and career have been focused on cooking, tasting, and sharing stories about food. She lives in the U.K. Her book A Taste of Naples: Neapolitan Culture, Cuisine, and Cooking was published in October 2018 by Rowman & Littlefield.

 

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Venice: The Alternative to Italy’s Pasta

Published by Tuesday, October 16, 2018 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

No, I’m sorry. The staple of Venice is not pasta.

Yes, in Italy, they eat pasta, but Venice and the neighboring Veneto region are relative newcomers to both pasta and Italy. Venice and the Veneto, which the Venetian Republic dominated for centuries, only became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866 to escape the rule of the Austrian Empire, imposed after the Napoleonic Wars. Before that, the people of the Veneto didn’t speak much Italian; they primarily spoke Venetian. The Italian language and customs? They’ve adopted those, including pasta, relatively recently.

Abandoned agricultural storage building in a rice field in northern Italy

 

In contrast to most of Italy, the Veneto’s main starches are polenta and rice; pasta appears, but only on the odd day. Dine out with a Venetian and you can be sure he’ll order risotto or eat a dish served with polenta as a side. And sometimes, potato gnocchi.

In the Roman Empire — and even now in Italy — “polenta” consisted of what we call “mush” or gruel, but it can be made from almost any grain, corn polenta being the most widely marketed.
riso
Millet, also eaten as porridge, grew wild in Europe as far back as 4000 B.C., so the first Venetian polenta was certainly millet mush. Thanks to millet’s short time to harvest, it was most likely the crop of the earliest, post-nomadic farmers inhabiting the Veneto.

A kind of emmer wheat had grown wild and was domesticated early on. It was mainly eaten as gruel or flat bread, and sometimes made into beer.
Corn arrived late on the scene, brought back from the New World, and eventually replaced millet. Until the end of World War II, residents of the Veneto ate mainly white-corn polenta, a variety called biancoperla. This corn is hardy, although its yields are lower than the yellow most commonly found these days. If you see white polenta in a restaurant, it is often a sign of quality, since it is not only rare, to the point of being given Presidium status by Slow Food, but more expensive.

Three varieties of rice from the Veneto

Rice was introduced to the Veneto by Benedictine nuns in the sixteenth century and the oldest variety carries the name of the village where the abbey was located, Grumolo delle Abbadesse. Rice caught on to the point that in the same century, Marc’Antonio Sarego, a wealthy man from Verona, sold a large estate to buy up marshy lands to grow rice. More investors, many from the city of Venice, followed his example, and thanks to their profits, many of the Palladian villas were built.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes arrived from South America later in the sixteenth century. Several varieties of potato, including those from Cologna and around Vicenza, Padua and Verona, are highly valued and referred to as patata veneta. Sweet potatoes are grown near the riverbeds in the region around Brenta. Those of Anguillara are most prized.

With the introduction of other grains, millet became the staple of the poor or fodder for livestock, while wheat, a wild grass that had long been cultivated, became the rich man’s grain of choice. Nowadays, the Veneto is full of Triticum of many kinds: hard wheat, soft wheat, winter wheat, summer wheat, and spelt, as well as buckwheat. There is bread on every table, usually made from bleached white flour, although more sophisticated bakers use buckwheat, spelt, corn, rye, barley, corn, and several other types of wheat and grains from the region.

Multiple grains from the North of Italy

The plains of the Veneto are a treasure-house of grain and the Venetians make full use of the diversity in their cuisine. Many varieties and colors of each exist, including the IGP-protected black rice known as Vialone Nano Veronese. Belluno in the north is known for its ancient variety of barley, dating back to the time of the original Veneti inhabitants, and Verona for stone-ground Bramata corn polenta, coarser and not precooked.

So in plain talk and culinary terms, what does this mean? It means a style of cuisine based on these grains, mixed with a panoply of other products from the sea and land.

Corn polenta is eaten as a side dish or a main dish mixed with meat, and sometimes with fish or seafood. It’s either eaten soupy, or sometimes left to cool, then fried until crispy. It can be coarsely ground, as in the case of Bramata, or finely ground into white cornmeal. Polenta is eaten as a porridge made with milk, called polentina; as polenta pastizzada, layered with meat similar to lasagne; or as polenta con osei  or połenta e oxeli, served alongside small game birds.

Grilled polenta, served as a side dish in the Veneto

Baccalà alla vicentina, made with the stockfish (dried cod) common throughout the Veneto, is served with a semi-runny white polenta, and fegato alla veneziana, calf’s liver with onions, with either grilled or creamy white polenta. Baccalà mantecato, a mousse made with stockfish, oil, milk, and garlic then laid on a cake of fried polenta or bread, is served in the wine bars of Venice as a cicchetto, the Venetian version of tapas.

In the Polesine, the area just south of Padua and Venice, white corn has historically been preferred over the yellow. Polenta alla carbonara, made also further south in Le Marche, contains Bramata cornmeal and guancialePolenta con i ciccioli, often served as an hors-d’oeuvre with drinks, is rendered pork fat cooked with polenta. For a seasonal appetizer, schie, tiny grey lagoon shrimp, are nestled atop a bed of white polenta.

Cornmeal is not limited to savory dishes. In Padua and Rovigo, smejassa, a sweet focaccia made with cornmeal, aniseed, and fruit, appears on the feast of St. Martin and Christmas Eve. In bakeries and at home, zaletti, also known as zaeti in the Venetian language, are prepared with finely ground cornmeal, butter, and raisins. The Veronese make Tressian, a cornmeal cake known as Amor Polenta in other places in the Veneto. Pinza Dolce Veneto, a cake eaten at Epiphany, combines cornmeal and wheat flour with dried fruit such as raisins, figs, and dates, and is flavored with grappa, fennel seeds, and orange zest. In the countryside around Verona and Vicenza, during Carnival, they eat polenta fritelle, sugar-coated fritters, called fritole in Venetian.

Polenta, dried corn and corn on the cob

Rice (riso) and risotto are eaten all over the Po Valley and north of Italy. Long-grain rice is used for soups and desserts, and shorter-grain, high-starch rices that stick together when cooked for risotto. These include Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano, among others. Risotto is cooked differently from plain rice or pilaf and from boiled rice in that it is never boiled. A soffrito is made from fat and shallot or onions. Rice is added to this and stirred until it toasts. White wine is then poured in and cooked to absorption, and finally, broth is added ladle by ladle until the rice is cooked. Butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano are usually tossed in at the end.

In the Veneto, risotto is almost like rice soup, a consistency referred to as all’onda, and quite different from the version popular in the rest of Italy. The rice must be firm (al dente), not soft or over-cooked, while the risotto itself should have a creamy consistency. It is eaten with a spoon, normally as a starter or primo, sometimes as a main dish. Venetian risotto might be seasoned with seafood, meat, or seasonal vegetables, but care is taken not to mix too many flavors at once.

By far the most celebrated risotto in Venice is risi e bisi, made with fresh spring peas using a special method. It is said there should be as many peas as there are grains of rice, but because peas are expensive and labor-intensive, that rarely happens. In the Veneto, unlike in the rest of Italy, the peas are mixed into the risotto instead of served on top. Asparagus, strawberries and grape risotto are savory, made with garlic, oil, and parsley, and finished with Parmigiano, depending on the area. Porcini mushroom risotto is a classic, and radicchio, the king of Veneto vegetables and available all year long, is another favorite, although it’s not often found in restaurants.

Risi e bisi, a spring specialty

In risotto al nero di seppie, squid ink dyes the white rice black. The Burano specialty risotto de — the best I’ve had was on this lagoon island of fishermen, where it’s made to order — is prepared using goby fish, and is rare enough in Venice proper. Traditionally made with lobster, shrimp and squill, risotto ai frutti di mare is the star of most tourist restaurants, and you’ll often fall upon risotto ai gamberi, i.e., with shrimp. Due to the length of cooking time, it is more often than not microwaved and therefore served overcooked, so take care to order it in a top-notch restaurant.

Vegetarians will love pumpkin risottorisotto alla zucca or de suca, served as a savory starter.

Risotto is sometimes made with meat. Chicken liver risotto is seasoned with sage. I’ve even had risotto made with expensive Amarone wine instead of the classic white wine.

Every respectable cook in the Veneto makes homemade potato gnocchi. You can always recognize when they’re homemade because they’re hand-shaped and irregular. Gnocchi with tomato sauce will please even the most finicky eater, and if you see granseola (spider crab) sauce, go for it because it’s rare and entails much labor.

Making homemade gnocchi

Potato polenta is mixed with chestnut flour and seasoned with salami, meat, cheese, and a variety of other ingredients in neighboring German-speaking Trentino. Riso e patate, a common poor man’s food, especially in winter, is cooked in meat broth. It dates from the Austrian occupation.

Sweet potatoes bear many names in the Veneto: patata americana (Italian) or mericana (Venetian language) or patata dolce or batata. It’s rare to see them in restaurants, but around Padua, they may pop up in homes as gnocchi, pies, and even risotto, much in the same way as pumpkin. In Padua, sweet potatoes also appear in the form of a cake with pine nuts. Even the famous gastronome, Pelligrino Artusi, included a recipe for sweet potato pie with almonds in his nineteenth-century survey of Italian cuisine, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

And finally, pasta. Venetian cuisine does not entirely omit pasta from its starch pantheon.

Pasta e faxioi, or in Italian pasta e fagioli, a hearty soup traditionally eaten in the countryside, now found in simpler city restaurants as a starter, combines fresh or dried Lamon beans from Belluno — a kind of borlotti — with pancetta, potatoes, and other vegetables, and a small pasta such as macaroni or ditalini, seasoned with rosemary.

Legend has it that bigoli, the most prevalent pasta in the Veneto, saw the light of day in Padua in 1604 when a machine called a bigolaro was patented for making vermicelli and “long pasta,” made with soft wheat, water, and salt. Durum wheat and buckwheat versions came later.

Bigoli, the Veneto’s “fat” spaghetti

Bigoli in salsa or en sarde, considered a dish of “atonement” according to Catholic tradition in Venice, is consumed on Christmas Eve, Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, and is now found in practically any true Venetian restaurant any day of the week. It is made from fileted sardines or anchovies, depending on the catch, and marinated for at least 24 hours in white wine vinegar, slow-cooked onions, pine nuts, and raisins, with many variations on this theme. Sarde sauce can be eaten as cicchetti, the traditional small plates eaten in Venetian bars, served on bread or a bed of polenta, or as a sauce with bigoli or other pasta.

The lagoons of the Veneto are full of ducks and other wildfowl so bigoli con anatra or bigołi co’ l’arna in Venetian, originally from Padua and Treviso, is a ragù of duck, including the duck liver and innards, traditionally cooked in its own fat and served over bigoli. It’s slow-cooked, so not common in restaurants, but pure delight. Seeing it on a menu is generally a sign of the authenticity of the restaurant.

Ask someone from Vicenza what pasta their grandmother made and they’re likely to say gargati, a macaroni-like egg pasta made from a mixture of hard and soft wheat. Gargati con il consiero is made with strips of pork fat, white wine, onions, parsley, nettles or other herbs, and tomatoes. Today, mixed ground meat might also be added, and the same sauce might be found on bigoli or in lasagne.

Gargati macaroni

Tortellini di Valeggio, found in the region of Verona, are stuffed with Grana Padano cheese and ground pork and chicken, and are cooked in meat broth.

Many of the dishes listed here are only found in people’s homes or in select restaurants in the region or cities I mentioned. The list of dishes can serve as reference as you travel around the Veneto.

In Venice proper — a destination for unaware tourists in search of pasta and pizza, thinking it’s like the rest of Italy — you won’t find many traditional Veneto recipes, but if you do, go for it. It means that the cooking was probably inspired by a nonna from the region.

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The History of Roquefort French Dressing

Published by Friday, September 14, 2018 Permalink 1

by Gary Allen

Roquefort cheese has been made in the caves of Combalou, Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, at least since Gaul was occupied by the Romans — Pliny the Elder spoke highly of it, and he was not the sort who normally gushed gourmet superlatives. By 1411, Les Causses had been granted the exclusive right to the name “Roquefort,” and all other blue-veined cheeses had to make their own reputations. Salads, of course, go back much further — they were known to the ancient Greeks — but didn’t have an entire book devoted to them until 1699, when Robert Evelyn published his Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets.

When salad and Roquefort cheese first got together is somewhat more mysterious. Usually, recipes just “happen,” they evolve — often in several places at the same time — in response to new tastes, the availability of new ingredients, etc. Recipes, or “receipts,” have only found their way into print after a sufficient number of people found them useful. Only rarely can we provide, with any certainty, the “who, what, where, when and how” of a recipe’s creation.

Handwritten recipe for blue cheese/Roquefort dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can look for clues to “who, what, where, when and how” it might have been invented though. We know that Roquefort Dressing did not first appear in France — the French preferred simple vinaigrettes on their salads and thought too highly of the great cheese to reduce it to the status of a mere ingredient in something else.

We also know that Roquefort cheese was fairly well-known in the U.S, at least as early as the 1850s. Thomas Jefferson would surely have known about it over fifty years earlier, and he was very fond of salads, but they tended to be dressed with egg-yolk-thickened dressings.

Homans Isaac Smith wrote, in 1859: “In France, the Roquefort cheese is the most esteemed, and next, that of Neufchatel. The former somewhat resembles Stilton, but is much inferior; and the latter is a cream cheese, seldom exceeding a quarter of a pound.”

Elliot G. Storke, also writing in 1859, agreed with Smith: “In France, the Roquefort cheese is compared to our Stilton, but is much inferior, although a good cheese. The little cheeses made from cream and folded in paper, called Neufchatel cheeses, are imported from France as a delicacy.”

Apparently, Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Storke’s tastes were still primarily British, long after America had gained independence. One traveler, writing in Appletons’ Journal: A Magazine of General Literature, in 1875, had a somewhat different opinion of the cheese: “If America ever produced cheese equal to that delicious green-streaked cream, which is known as the Roquefort, its manufacture may surely be ranked among the forgotten arts.”

 

recipe card roquefort dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wirt Sikes, traveling to Brussels, complained about his accommodations in a hotel there:

There was no gas, and the dim light of the solitary candles did not produce a cheerful effect. There was no fireplace in either room, and we could not get warm. Weary and worn, chilled and hungry, we dejectedly ordered a cold chicken and a bit of Roquefort cheese to be served in my room, for the dining-room was closed and the kitchen-fires were out, although it was not yet midnight. The chicken came, but no Roquefort; they had only Stilton and Cheshire, the waiter said, in English. In fact, we had chanced upon the particular hotel in Brussels where they give you the English language in lieu of comfort, and English dishes in lieu of good living.

By the 1870s American palates had clearly become more sophisticated!

Salads with “French dressings” (vinaigrettes with various additions) became fashionable in America in the 1880s, but in the cookbook assembled by the Board of Lady Managers of the World’s Columbian Exposition, no mention of Roquefort Dressing appeared.

fannie farmer original 1896 boston cooking-school cook book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fannie Farmer’s original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book used “French dressing” in the vinaigrette sense, and included some 13 recipes for salad dressings, but none of them resembles Roquefort Dressing. Several had creamy textures, but they were cooked and contained cream and/or egg yolks. This is hardly surprising, as she doesn’t even list Roquefort among the cheeses she included in her book. Curiously, she does mention three mold-veined cheeses: Cheshire, Gorgonzola, and Stilton.

In 1915, Hellmann’s mayonnaise first appeared in jars, and salad dressings began to multiply — Ranch, Green Goddess and a new sweet-sour orange concoction called “French Dressing” (that had nothing whatsoever in common with the traditional vinaigrettes) — soon appeared on grocers’ shelves.

hellmann's mayonnaise history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the 1920s, green salads became popular — first in California, and then across the country (especially in the new tearooms that catered to a female clientele). According to Jan Whitaker, “Salads, called ‘the thinking woman’s luncheon, and the university girl’s dessert,’ were also popular attractions in tearooms.”

Finally, in the salad dressing recipes in 1928’s Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book, we find:

…classified under the headings of French Dressings, Mayonnaises, Boiled Dressings, Sour Cream Dressings, Vinegars, and Miscellaneous Dressings . . . the final section [was] devoted to . . . the four universally used dressings, French, Mayonnaise, Roquefort, and Thousand Island.

So, somewhere before 1928, Roquefort Salad Dressing “just happened” and became popular enough that it became standard almost immediately. What were its immediate precursors; what sorts of things were people eating that might have planted the idea of the dressing in the public mind? One recipe, by Rufus Estes, chef for two presidents (Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison), and and one of the first African-Americans to write and publish a cookbook, in 1911, is suggestive:

Trianon Salad — Cut one grapefruit and two oranges in sections and free from seeds and membrane. Skin and seed one cup white grapes and one-third cup pecan nut meats in small pieces. Mix ingredients, arrange on a bed of romaine and pour over the following dressing: Mix four tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon grape juice, one tablespoon grape vinegar, one-fourth teaspoon paprika, one-eighth teaspoon pepper and one tablespoon finely chopped Roquefort cheese. This dressing should stand in the ice-box four or five hours to become seasoned.

Fannie Farmer, in 1918, wrote a recipe that was a little more like what we think of when we hear the term “Roquefort Dressing”:

Tomato and Cheese Salad

Peel six medium-sized tomatoes, chill, and scoop out a small quantity of pulp from the centre of each. Fill cavities, using equal parts of Roquefort and Neufchâtel cheese worked together and moistened with French Dressing. Arrange on lettuce leaves and serve with French Dressing.”

By 1947, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book had two versions of a dressing we would immediately recognize. Both were based on “French Dressing” (that basic vinaigrette) with crumbled Roquefort added; one also contained mayonnaise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roquefort French Dressing

Add 1 to 4 Tablespoons dry Roquefort cheese crumbs and a few drops of onion juice.

and:

Roquefort Cheese Dressing

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
French Dressing
2 Tablespoons Roquefort Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix mayonnaise and cheese and add French dressing very slowly; then add Worcestershire sauce. Cream cheese or Roquefort-flavored cream cheese may be used in place of Roquefort.

The first Fannie Farmer recipe is almost identical to the one in Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking (first published 1931), which means the dressing had become a standard by that time.

Joy of Cooking, Erma S. Rombauer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roquefort or Blue Cheese French Dressing

Prepare: 1/2 Cup French Dressing

Beat into it 2 Tablespoons or more crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese.

We do know the particulars on some Roquefort recipes, however. Cobb salad (which contained Roquefort, but crumbled on top of the vinaigrette, not blended in, rather like Este’s Trianon Salad) was invented at the Original Hollywood Brown Derby, in 1937 by owner Bob Cobb. The best-known dish making use of Roquefort Dressing is Buffalo Chicken Wings, a dish invented by Frank and Teressa Bellissimo, at the Anchor Bar, 1047 Main Street, Buffalo, New York. The hot-sauce-drenched wings, accompanied by celery sticks and Roquefort Dressing, were first served in 1964.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, even the details of the history of recent inventions such as Buffalo Chicken Wings, are hotly argued (there wouldn’t be a need for food historians if all the answers were easy), but you can sort through the accounts for yourself at On the Wings of a Buffalo or ‘Mother Teressa’s Wings.’

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Relaunching of The Rambling Epicure Website

Published by Tuesday, August 28, 2018 Permalink 0

I launched The Rambling Epicure e-zine, this website, nearly ten years ago as a literary culinary electronic magazine with a host of well-known food writers and photographers, all of whom are still active members of the related Facebook groups Culinary Travel and Mastering the Art of Food Writing. Editing and publishing this on my own required an incredible amount of gratifying work and because I was busy with my personal projects, I have left it semi-dormant for the last year or two. Today, I would like to relaunch it in a different form as part of an effort to encourage conversation about food, cooking, and writing.

My primary goal is for The Rambling Epicure to become a wellspring of enlightening epicurean essays and culinary fiction. We all have captivating personal and family tales about what we cooked and what we ate through many generations, during good times and bad. These memories are part of our food culture—and our food heritage—and should be an effective way to transmit our experiences and values beyond our front doors.

But my ambitions are greater than just memoir: I’m also interested in publishing articles and essays related to historical research in the field of gastronomy and in reviews of food books.

I would like to make this a cooperative effort that opens the door for us to share our potential as cooks, diners, and writers. Together, we will create a literary culinary site unlike any other, with information and stories that can be passed down to future generations.

To begin, there are two tasks:

  1. We need to create a team of vetters and active partners who are familiar with the TRE philosophy and approach. If you have experience in editing, food, or writing and have a few hours a month to help us read submissions on a volunteer basis (we have no budget, only enthusiasm and goodwill) and would like to be part of our team, please PM me.
  2. We are calling for submissions of expository essays and fiction and other food-related topics. If you’re interested, please PM me for guidelines.

I am looking forward to this new project and hope we can work together to harness our community’s knowledge and talents as well as to contribute to an intelligent conversation about a central part of our lives.

Issue No. 1, Women Who Cook, September-November 2018

Issue No. 2, Women Who Cooked, November 2018-January 2019

Issue No. 3, Food in Wartime, especially France and Italy’s Relationship through Time, Wine & Food

To take part in the relaunching of this e-zine, click here.

To see other events organized by The Rambling Epicure, click here.

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Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

Published by Tuesday, June 26, 2018 Permalink 1

Taste Unlocked: Food & Thought

France and Italy’s relationship through time, wine & food

PROGRAM FOR 4-DAY MASTERCLASS TASTING WEEKEND IN CHARTRES

with Jonell Galloway and James Flewellen

4th to 7th October 2018
——-
Course Overview

FRANCE AND ITALY ARE TITANS OF EUROPEAN culinary culture. The nations of today are inheritors of rich culinary traditions that are the result of millennia of interweaving relationships between the peoples who inhabit these lands. This is a process that predates even the Romans and continues very much into the 21st century.

Over this four-day weekend, we explore the culinary and vinous relationships between France and Italy from Roman times through to today. We will look at what each nation has gifted the other through various lenses, including food, drink and culinary culture.

The masterclass involves sumptuous feasting, tutored wine tastings, and intellectual discussion. Bring your taste buds, something to say and a willingness to learn!

 

——

DR JAMES FLEWELLEN is a biophysicist, wine writer and educator based in London. He learned his trade in taste during his doctoral studies at Oxford University, leading the university’s blind tasting team to victories in numerous international competitions. Since then he has completed his WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wine and Spirits and written a Gourmand award-winning guide to blind tasting. He is a judge for the International Wine Challenge and gives regular wine education tastings in London, bringing his scientific expertise to bear on questions of high taste.

JONELL GALLOWAY grew up on Wendell Berry and food straight from a backyard Kentucky garden. She attended Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris as well as the Academie du Vin. She ran a cooking school in France, and owned a farm-to-table restaurant, The Three Sisters’ Café, with her two sisters in the U.S. Jonell is a freelance writer who has worked for the GaultMillau guides The Best of France and The Best of Paris and CityGuides, amongst others. She has collaborated on many projects including Le tour du monde en 80 pains with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac in France, At the Table: Food and Family around the World with Ken Albala, Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne with Christophe Certain, and André Raboud: Sculptures 2002-2008.


Contact Details

The course takes place in the Rue Saint-Pierre, Chartres, France, in a beautiful converted 11th-century chapel.

This map shows the masterclass venue in relation to central Chartres. Note the cathedral in the top of the map. The train station is just off the map, to the top left. The venue is located at a curve in the road, has a small courtyard in the front and a turret.

Chartres is easily accessible from Paris by train. There is also plenty of car parking in the city center. For further details on how to travel, please get in touch.

Our email address is: info@tasteunlocked.com.
Feel free to contact us for any reason.

——

Course Schedule

DAY 1 – Thursday
ARRIVAL afternoon / evening

Arrival into Chartres
Please let us know if you would like to be met at the station and shown to your accommodation.

6:30 PM COCKTAIL
We meet at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre over a local Loire sparkling wine for an informal introduction to the weekend ahead.

7:30 PM DINNER
A home-cooked meal prepared using local ingredients and heritage Beauce recipes. Each course is paired with wine sourced from the Loire Valley. After dinner, the evening is free for a walk to see the medieval city center and the light displays of the cathedral.

________________________________________

DAY 2 – Friday

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM CULINARY INSIGHTS 1: La Cucina Povera
Meet at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre for our first culinary insights discussion of the weekend. In this session, Jonell will lead an exploration into the culinary links between France and Italy, focusing in particular on how frugality has inspired innovation in food production and cooking. All guests are invited to contribute to the discussion if they wish.

12:30 PM INTRODUCTION TO WINE TASTING
James presents an informal introduction to wine tasting, paving the way for the skills we’ll need to taste and discuss wines over lunch. We’ll discuss aromas, flavors and structural elements such as acidity, alcohol, sugar, and tannin as well as covering what makes a “good” wine and how wines interact with food.

1:15 PM LUNCH
We continue our discussions over a meal paired with wines from around France.

2:30 PM FREE TIME

7:45 PM DINNER AT 1 RUE SAINT-PIERRE
Meet at 7.45 pm for dinner at 8:00 pm. Jonell will prepare a home-cooked meal bringing to mouth-watering fullness our theoretical discussions from throughout the day. James will select wines to match with each course, further illustrating the interplay between wine and food.

________________________________________

DAY 3 – Saturday
Morning FREE TIME / GUIDED MARKET VISIT
The morning is free for you to enjoy Chartres. You are very welcome to join Jonell for a guided tour of the market as she sources ingredients for the weekend’s meals.

12:00 PM GUIDED TOUR OF CHARTRES CATHEDRAL
We meet at La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres – one of the medieval wonders of the world – for a guided tour conducted by Malcolm Miller. Malcolm has been leading tours at Chartres Cathedral since 1958; there really can be no better guide to this astonishing building.

1:30 PM – 2:30 PM LUNCH
We return to 1 Rue Saint-Pierre for a light lunch

2:30 PM FREE TIME

5:45 – 7:45 PM WINE TASTING & CULINARY INSIGHTS 2: Franco-Italian links via wine

Convene at 1 Rue Saint-Pierre by 5.30 pm. James leads a discussion on the relationships between France and Italy through wine. We’ll look at historical influences of different French and Italian peoples on winemaking technology and traditions as well as how France and Italy influence each other in the 21st century. All accompanied by a tutored wine tasting!

8:00 PM DINNER AT RESTAURANT SAINT-HILAIRE
At 7.45 pm we walk down to noted local foodie establishment Restaurant Saint-Hilaire. There we will be treated to a three-course set menu of classic, innovative French cuisine using only local products, with each course paired with Loire Valley wines – the perfect setting to continue our wine tasting discussions.

________________________________________

DAY 4 – Sunday
Morning FREE TIME

12:00 PM LUNCH AT 1 RUE SAINT-PIERRE

1:30 – 2:30 PM CULINARY INSIGHTS 3: La Cucina Moderna
Following lunch, Jonell leads our final session of the masterclass, focusing on how the cuisines of both France and Italy have evolved and influenced each other in the 20th and 21st centuries – particularly as technology and the politics of a post-WW2 Europe have led to greater affluence and global influence of these two great nations.

The afternoon is available fortravelingg onwards, or for exploring Chartres in more detail.

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Relaunching of The Rambling Epicure E-zine

Published by Wednesday, April 25, 2018 Permalink 0

I launched The Rambling Epicure e-zine, this website, nearly ten years ago as a literary culinary electronic magazine with a host of well-known food writers and photographers, all of whom are still active members of the related Facebook groups Culinary Travel and Mastering the Art of Food Writing. Editing and publishing this on my own required an incredible amount of gratifying work and because I was busy with my personal projects, I have left it semi-dormant for the last year or two. Today, I would like to relaunch it in a different form as part of an effort to encourage conversation about food, cooking, and writing.

My primary goal is for The Rambling Epicure to become a wellspring of enlightening epicurean essays and culinary fiction. We all have captivating personal and family tales about what we cooked and what we ate through many generations, during good times and bad. These memories are part of our food culture—and our food heritage—and should be an effective way to transmit our experiences and values beyond our front doors.

But my ambitions are greater than just memoir: I’m also interested in publishing articles and essays related to historical research in the field of gastronomy and in reviews of food books.

I would like to make this a cooperative effort that opens the door for us to share our potential as cooks, diners, and writers. Together, we will create a literary culinary site unlike any other, with information and stories that can be passed down to future generations.

To begin, there are two tasks:

1) We need to create a team of vetters and active partners who are familiar with the TRE philosophy and approach. If you have experience in editing, food, or writing and have a few hours a month to help us read submissions on a volunteer basis (we have no budget, only enthusiasm and goodwill) and would like to be part of our team, please PM me.

2) We are calling for submissions of expository essays and fiction and other food-related topics. If you’re interested, please PM me for guidelines.

I am looking forward to this new project and hope we can work together to harness our community’s knowledge and talents as well as to contribute to an intelligent conversation about a central part of our lives.

The first three “editions” or series will be:

Issue No. 1, Food and Wine in Wartime, August-September 2018

Issue No. 2, Women Who Cook, October-November 2018

Issue No. 3, Women Who Cooked, December 2018-January 2019

To take part in the relaunching of this e-zine, click here.

To see other events organized by The Rambling Epicure, click here.

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Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

Published by Friday, April 20, 2018 Permalink 0

TRE Book-a-Month: Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life

NOTA: For technical reasons (I am not sure to have WiFi for the next week or so), I have moved the dates to May 10 through May 31. Do you have any particular topics you would like to bring up in the discussions?

Join us in our Facebook group The Rambling Epicure, Mastering the Art of Food Writing, from May 3 to May 17 for the TRE Book-a-Month reading, discussion and, if you like, cookalong, of a biographical cookbook about legendary food authority Paula Wolfert, which includes 50+ recipes, by Emily Keiser Thelin.

“All recipes are, in some way, an exploration of the link between food and memory. We cook the food we remember loving and, in so doing, make new connections and bonds. The amount of love, through food, Paula has given so many over the years makes this biography-cum-cookbook a truly wonderful project. — Yotam Ottolenghi

“Every serious food person knows that Paula Wolfert changed our world, but in this book we learn what a fascinating time she had while she was doing it. Part biography, part cookbook, part history, Unforgettable introduces our greatest cookbook writer to the wider audience she deserves. There has never been a book quite like this one. — Ruth Reichl

“Unforgettable is a brilliant summation of the resilience, exuberance, and expertise that we know and love of Paula Wolfert. — Mario Batali

“We’re all truly indebted to Emily Kaiser Thelin, Eric Wolfinger, Andrea Nguyen, and Toni Tajima for capturing these beautiful, inspiring, and very important memories of Paula’s life and travels. — April Bloomfield

 

“Unforgettable is the story of the exacting, passionate, genuine, driven and indefatigable Paula Wolfert, the ultimate expert on the cooking of the Mediterranean. Emily Kaiser Thelin’s well-written and poignant narrative recounts the tale of this true pioneer of American culinary history. — Jacques Pépin”
 
Excerpts from Goodreads
 

 

 
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Cookalong: Istanbul and Beyond, by Robyn Eckhardt

Published by Saturday, March 17, 2018 Permalink 0

Join us from February 15 through April 15, 2018, in our Culinary Travel Facebook group as we explore the cuisine of one of the oldest regions of the world — the very name evokes visions of the Silk Road, never-ending caravans wending their way along deserts, stopping at oases to feast on large communal platters and the colorful, bright bazaars selling everything from precious gems to vegetables and sweetmeats; a vision of swirling dervishes and kohl-lined eyes watching you from behind ornate latticed screens.

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A Brief History of Coffee

Published by Tuesday, March 13, 2018 Permalink 0

by Brian Yarvin

“Collectively, Europe’s coffeehouses functioned as the Internet of the Age of Reason.”–Tom Standage

I once asked a friend how much coffee he drank and he boasted “500 billion cups a year.” I knew instantly that this was wrong because the entire world drinks only about 400 billion. No matter where we are — in the car-crazed west, the subway riding city of New York, a town square cafe in Kansas, or a science lab in Antarctica — coffee is our fuel.

Coffee is so powerful that it has its own creation myth. We are told that it was discovered by a guy named “Kaldi.” He was an Ethiopian goat herder who noticed that when his animals ate certain red berries, they got so excited, they began to dance. So he chewed on a few berries and felt that now universal coffee buzz. Afterward, he picked some more, and then told an Islamic holy man about his discovery. The holy man declared them evil and threw them on the fire. When they smelled the roasting beans, they gathered them up, threw water on them, and enjoyed the world’s first cup of coffee.

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Happy New Year 2018

Published by Tuesday, January 2, 2018 Permalink 0

May the angels be with you all the year long.

 
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