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Savor and Explore
Cultural Food Connections
At EXPO 2015 Milan, a large building stood out from all the others. Blazon across its side were the words “Slow Food.” I wondered, “Did that mean slow cooking, long roasting, and crockpot cookery?” As I stepped inside, I saw tables filled with various pictures and interactive exhibits. Images of farmers, food artisans, fishers, nomads, indigenous peoples, cooks, and students from all over the world decorated the room. These people dedicated their lives to protecting, cultivating, and distributing food products.
The Slow Food Movement wants to elevate protecting domestic biodiversity. Local varieties and animal breeds, adapt to their regional areas, producing stronger and higher quality products. They are priceless sources of new medicines, support local rural communities, and also promote sustainable agriculture, protecting small farming communities and their products.
It is from this idea that we have experienced the growth of an artisan movement and local culinary styles. We have expanding farmers’ markets, regional producers for local restaurants, reinvented craft fairs, cooks using products that they once discarded, and heritage seeds producing vegetables that burst with flavor. The idea is to produce high quality products that might not be able to travel across the nation but can enrich your favorite stew with abundant fresh flavor. If you recently tasted a fresh Zebra tomato, picked that day, you know that we need to save all of these treasures for the future generations to enjoy. They wanted ” to preserve traditional and regional cuisines and encourage farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.”
‘SLOW FOOD IN THE US
Chef Bruce Kalma designs some of the most interesting dishes and really shows the “Slow Food” trend in his style. He likes Northern Italian cuisine since is seems so soulful and handcrafted. He said, “I like working with my hands—I feel there’s a much deeper connection from you to the food and to the guest. It makes the experience very intimate.” He also added, “As a chef, one of my big beliefs is to use everything. We slow-roast the carrots, then blanch and chop the tops to make the pesto. You want it to be all about the carrots and the pasta. Everything else should be supporting ingredients.”
Visiting a Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese Maker
We decided to check out authentic artisan products and arranged to visit three of them in the Parma, Modena region. We wondered if you could actually tell the difference between a 12 or 24 month aged product and actually witness the eight century old process.
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese refers to the cheese, rich in protein and easy to digest, that was made around or in the Italian province of Parma. It was named after the area where it was produced to describe the food and the pride of its production. It was said that monks in the Parma area first started making this cheese during the Middle Ages.
Salute to Davide Oldani Chef/Ambassador EXPO 2015
‘Davide Oldani was selected to be the Chef/Ambassador EXPO 2015 for his outstanding recipe called Saffron Rice and Milanese D’O He is a star of “cucina pop,” the new Italian cuisine.
He decided to showcase saffron produced by a small farmer in the vicinity of Milan. This ingredient is used to prepare a classic local recipe, the famous Milanese saffron risotto. He uses a combination of two Carnaroli rice, one aged for 12 months and the other for 18, and the saffron is not cooked but infused in water at 60°C to reveal its full flavor.
This recipe is so delightfully light yet it has a rich addictive flavor. The saffron sauce drizzles through the rice adding an interesting flavor note. It is very easy to make and yes, it uses plain salted water in place of a rich broth. It is designed to serve 4 small side dish servings. If you use it for a main course, you will need to double this recipe.
Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts Plumcake
A rustic, sun dried tomato quick bread flavored with the rich flavor of aged Parmesan Reggiano cheese and fresh bits of basil. The plump roasted cherry tomatoes add a burst of juicy fresh flavor. It is easy enough to make for that company risotto dinner and special enough to captivate the taste buds of your guests.
Chef Igles Corelli – Ferrara
‘Another Famous Italian Chef Igles Corelli showcases the food excellence of all Italy. He has won many awards for his on-going research and passion for service. He loves to teach and is very popular to the public as he frequently appears on national television programs including “The taste of Igles” on Gambero Rosso Channel.
‘Linguine with Grilled Beef Sauce, Rocket Pesto and Parma Ham
The linguine is enrobed with a silky rich vegetable sauce, grilled steak slices, and strips of Parma Ham. The Italian flavor of rocket pesto blends with the pasta adding that perfect balance. Creamy burrata cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, and black olives provide perfect Tuscan complements.
”Tagliatelle Egg Noodles with Butternut Squash, Sweet Italian
Sausage and Red Wine
It’s a perfect dish to serve in the Fall when fresh squash starts appearing at Farmer’s Markets. The sauce was lightly thickened by the squash, coating the pasta with a light herb and sausage flavor. I topped it with fresh lemon kale and zesty Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Magnifico!
Discovering the World of Balsamic Vinegar
Entering the Balsamic vinegar storage room, I was surprised by all the barrels that lined the shelves. This was the vinegar that I heard was very expensive but what made it so special? It was here that I would finally answer that question.
Balsamic vinegar is a reduction made from white grapes but the juice used is unfermented. It’s cooked slowly in a copper cauldron, reduced about 35 to 50%, then placed with a bit of already aged vinegar and transferred into a small barrels made of a different woods,(i,e. like chestnut, cherry, juniper, mulberry, and ash). Each barrel infuses a different flavor into the vinegar and as it ages, it concentrates, becoming thicker, sweeter, and darker.
In Modena, Italy and Reggio-Emilia, the balsamic vinegar produced there passes rigorous taste tests to insure standards are followed.
Our guide offered us samples of three kinds of Balsamic vinegars and the differences in complexity were instantly apparent. Young 3-5 year balsamic vinegar is wonderful to use for salad dressings, dipping, or marinades.
One aged for 6 to 11 years is thicker and can be used in sauces, pasta dishes, or as a sandwich condiment. But well-aged Balsamic vinegar about 12 to 150 years is used to flavor meat, fruits, or cheese pairings. As we sampled a 25 year old bottle of vinegar, our guide told us that it was common to use only a few drops and make sure that the vinegar shines in the recipe. Don’t include it with highly spiced food.
For more information see: “Everything You Need to Know About Balsamic Vinegar,” by Andrew Wheeler
Balsamic Cherry Fudge Cookies
No one will ever guess that the secret ingredient that makes these cookies so unique is flavorful balsamic vinegar. It combines with the sweet cherries and adds a light mysterious flavor “pop”. This chocolate cookie is crisp around the edges and so soft and sensual in the center. A touch of chopped walnuts on the top adds a nice finish and welcome crunch.
Foccacia with Tropea Red Onions
This focaccia with a sweet onion topping is large enough for a party. It’s easy to mix up but it does require two rising times. It can be baked with a crisp or softer bread crust. The onion bread is a great accompaniment for soups, stews, or salads. Be wild and lightly spray it with Balsamic vinegar before serving.
A note about Tropea Red Onions: The red onion from Tropea, Italy, (Italian: “Cipolla Rossa di Tropea”) is a particular variety of red onion which grows in a small area of Calabria in southern Italy named “Capo Vaticano” near the city of Tropea. This onion has a stronger and sweeter aroma and the inner part is juicier and whiter than other red onions and it is possible to make a marmalade with it. In March 2008, the European Union registered the Protected Designation of Origin mark for the onions produced in this particular area.
Discover Baobab – A Powerhouse Antioxidant
‘While investigating EXPO2015 Milan recipes and products, I was introduced to an African product called Baobab. I started to do some investigation about its health benefits that were very impressive and decided to share my discovery with all of you.
• An organic super fruit powder for smoothies, baked goods, yogurt or plain water
• Contains more antioxidants than blueberries, pomegranate, goji berries and acai
• 1400 ORAC units of antioxidants and 50% fiber to help lower inflammation in the body
• An excellent source of electrolytes, more potassium and magnesium than bananas or coconut water
Baobab is the fruit of a tree often called “the tree of life” by locals in southern Africa because of its exceptional nutrition. The fruit pulp naturally dries in the pod and is simply ground and sieved into a tangy, easy-to-use powder. The natural properties of the southern African baobab are unique, delivering 6 times more antioxidants than baobab found in other parts of the world. Baobab supports a healthy immune system and helps lower inflammation throughout the body with its unique mix of 50% fiber and high antioxidants. It’s a raw, whole food, gluten-free, high in electrolytes and delivers uncompromised nutrient synergy.
Note: This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
‘Baobab Banana Chocolate Coconut Cakes
You might think that this recipe would never make real cakes, but guess what, it does. Not only that but they are gluten free, reduced refined sugar, and filled with fresh banana flavor. Also, they contain one of the most nutritious ingredients to reach our shores and are surprisingly easy to make and delicious.
Baobab Frozen Cream
Whip up the frosty cream in your ice cream maker, or make it African style. Whipped cream is folded into a chilled baobab flavored base and packed inside small plastic bags that you can shape to the size of your serving dishes. It’s so easy. Just bag it; throw it in the freezer, and enjoy a quick frozen cream in three hours. Serve it with sweet berries or your favorite sweet drizzle.