Ragù Sunday dinner on Monday

February 19, 2008

With the long weekend, I decided to make Sunday dinner on Monday and invite our friend Lucio and his family to join us. I think you can imagine my brother’s reaction when I told him I was going to make ragù for Lucio. You are?, he replied with a mouthful of skepticism. I said, sure why not? I had nothing to lose. If I failed to impress Lucio, the son of Mama, with my meat sauce, nobody would be surprised. But if I succeeded, I would savor the victory. I was the underdog. Ragù is an Italian term for a meat-based sauce, which is traditionally served with pasta. Etymologically the word derives from the French ragoût, a noun derived from ragoûter (to revive the taste). A ragù is usually made by adding meat to a soffritto (a partially-fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, carrots, seasonings, etc.) and then simmering it for a long time with a bit of tomato sauce. (A soffritto is the Italian equivalent of the French mirepoix.) I substituted a little ground turkey for some of the ground beef. But to make sure there was plenty of flavor, I browned the meat with some pancetta. Before Lucio has his taste, I needed to make sure Isa, his young daughter, had her bowl of pasta with olive oil. I was careful not to over cook the rigatoni, I think a felony crime in Italy, and took it out of the water when it was still al dente. She ate it all. So far, so good. Now it was Lucio’s turn. And now it was Lucio’s second turn. I think he wanted a third bowl but held back. Victory! I proclaimed quietly. We finished the meal with a green salad and some delicious La Tur cheese, acquired by my wife, our resident cheesemonger. A creamy Italian cheese made of blended sheep, cow and goat’s milk. “Made in Italy’s Piemonte region, at a dairy near Alba, La Tur provides the kind of sensory experience that makes tasters roll their eyes skyward and lean back in their chairs.” We actually did lean back, and watched Isa’s puppet show about two sisters and their almost vacation. It was a great Sunday dinner, even if it was on Monday.


I usually write about EatingWells LivingWells and while no pun is intended here, this is about other wells…. water wells. I was standing in a Starbucks “café” (I know, I know but I really like coffee) the other day and noticed a basket of bottled water for sale ( I think the basket is intended to give you the feeling of standing in an outdoor market in some exotic place – note to the store manager, it doesn’t). There was a sign saying that if I bought a bottle, I could help end the world’s water crisis. I just found something wrong about promoting clean water, which of course I am all in favor of, by selling millions and millions of plastic water bottles. This is exactly what Starbucks does with their ethos water, a company the coffee chain acquired in 2005. Each time a bottle is sold, $0.05 goes to support “humanitarian water programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” But I would like to know what happens to all of the plastic bottles. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find a few million in our landfills leaching harmful chemicals into….. you guessed it, our water supply. The way I see it, it would be simply better to buy one less coffee a week or even a year and send the money directly to the programs that are cleaning up water supplies around the world. With the price of a large, at least that’s what we use to call the biggest cup on the house, approaching $5.00 for a special seasonal coffee drink (you know, summer porch, autumn leaves, holiday cheer), you would need to buy 100 bottles of Ethos to provide the same level of support. For more information about the water crisis, please go to the UN’s web site.

Veritas February 7, 2008

In vino veritas – there is truth in wine

Last night I went with a good friend to Veritas – the New York city restaurant created around a wine cellar of more than 200,000 bottles. With that many bottles, you better find some truth. We had the five course tasting menu. After consulting the wine menu – an encyclopaedia really- we selected a Chambolle Musigny 2005 from the legendary Burgundy producer Joseph Drouhin. I thought it was fantastic and my friend, who tends to drink California cabernet and Italian Barolo agreed. We started the meal with an amuse-bouche of tuna tartare with avocado. The five courses included
Duo of Escargot – croquette, mushroom fricasée, watercress”;
“Wild Game Bolognese – butternut squash, chestnuts, house-made cavatelli”;
“Crispy skatewing (sorry no details);
“Red Wine Braised Short-Ribs root vegetables, pommes aligot, sauce bordelaise”
and finally for desert we had
“Chocolate Caramel Torte- candied pecans, vanilla bourbon ice cream” and
“Coconut Lemon Meringue- almond sable, chocolate sorbet”.

Besides a very salty fish course, we both enjoyed the meal a lot. And that’s the truth.

Super Bowl Sunday February 3, 2008

Sunday I watched that game at my brother’s apartment with a few friends. He served crudités; salami; asparagus wrapped with prosciutto; and tomato, mozzarella and basil. For the main event he made lasagna. This dish was so big my son called it “30 pound lasagna.” I think there was some sort of physical reaction in the oven that caused the uncooked ingredients to quadruple in weight. We had leftovers the last few nights and it got better each time. For desert he made lemon bars, rocky road brownies and his famous 5th generation Rigelhaupt (Riegelhaupt) rugulah. (Other spellings: Rugelach ,Rugulach, Rugalach, Rogelach, Rugalah, Rugala.) Unfortunately you will never see this rugulah recipe posted on this blog as I have been sworn to secrecy and revealing it would strike a blow greater than the outcome of the game. In fact, I have decided not to even publish a photo of them as bakers at places such as Zabars might be tempted to try a photo analysis to duplicate the 100 year old recipe. But trust me, they’re very good.