Oil and Vinegar, Onions and Garlic

Today’s post is about my most favorite summer side dish in the whole wide world. It’s a family tradition and it’s easy to make. In my family we call it tomato salad. In its most simple form in consists of tomatoes, onions, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a touch of salt and pepper for good measure. In a fancier form, we sometimes add fresh mozzarella and basil. Nothing more. And it is delicious.

It’s perfect for locallykatered because it uses readily available local ingredients that I usually have an abundance of it. You have to understand, my family originally hails from New Jersey and our last name ends in a vowel (though to be fair my siblings and I are not 100% Italian, we are a 50/50 mix of Italian and Irish).  But still I’m pretty sure that being from New Jersey and that 50% Italian requires us by law to reserve 75% of any backyard garden for growing at least three different varieties of tomatoes – beefsteak, plum, and whatever wildcard variety your particular family desires, in our family, cherry.

Also a law, there must be onions and garlic in the pantry at all times. It’s like a travesty if we don’t have onions and garlic. I don’t know how I’ve ever gotten anyone to kiss me as onions and garlic go into just about every meal I make. Every time we go grocery shopping Mike is like — really, more onions and garlic? Didn’t you make me stop on the way home for onions and garlic yesterday? Yes Mike I probably did – but I just want to make sure were covered. I think I have him trained well enough now that he just picks up garlic and onions even if they are not on the list I give him.

There are lots of laws regarding foodstuffs in the Ricigliano household, i.e. at least five different varieties of mustard must be on hand at all time, ketchup must be bought in bulk, etc. For the purpose of this post we are going to talk about the oil and vinegar standards that must be up held. I am pretty sure that if you were to look in the kitchens of my parents, my sister, at least one of my brothers, and my own you would find about ten different varieties/flavors of oil and vinegar. The most oft used ones being olive oil and balsamic vinegar. So you can imagine my dismay when I first tried to cook for Mike at his place and found he only had canola oil and distilled white vinegar. The vinegar was only around for cleaning purposes. It was total culture shock. How do you not have at least three types of vinegar?

Now that you have all that information about my family’s kitchen cabinet contents, let’s get to what this blog is really about-recipes with local ingredients. Thanks to my dad’s garden, my CSA from Bishop’s Orchard, my mom’s planted herb garden, and my upstairs neighbor’s (also Italian) garden I had quite the plethora of locally grown tomatoes, onions and basil. So tomato salad was on the menu at least four nights a week this summer.

As an added bonus, and also what this blog is really about, I stumbled upon a new specialty food store opening up in my current hometown of Branford while sampling their wares at the Bishops wine fest. About a week or so later Mike and I were returning from another winery visit and we drove by the store. Actually we wouldn’t have driven by the store if it weren’t for the fact that all summer long Burger King was offering 50 cent soft serve cones, and vanilla soft-serve in the summertime is my Achilles heel, so I took full advantage of that offer whenever possible. I’m not ashamed to admit I double fisted it once or twice.

But back to the specialty food store- What type of specialty food store was it you ask? Well it was an entire store dedicated to infused olive oils and balsamic vinegar! It’s called the Old Quarry Olive Oil Co., and let me tell you they have a huge selection.

So Mike and I wandered into the store, as I had a coupon from the wine fest, and I was overwhelmed by how many different flavors of oil and vinegar there were for me to taste. I turned to mike and said this is going to take a while. And it did. The owner was wonderful and full of information. He was also very accommodating and patient as I tasted just about all of each infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar they had to offer. I settled on two of each, black cherry and blackberry ginger for the balsamic, and garlic and lemon for the olive oil. 

Old Quarry Olive Oil Co.

Now here is the thing about infused oils and vinegars, in my opinion the extra expense is not worth it if you are going to be cooking with them. Mostly because the high heat causes the flavor extracts to evaporate. They are however, wonderful for marinades and dressings and for my most favorite, dipping wonderfully crusty fresh bread. So seeing as I had pretty much busted the budget on fancy condiments that we really didn’t need I had to find ways to put them to good use to justify the expense.

The first of which was the very simple tomato and onion salad. I dressed it with the black cherry balsamic vinegar and the garlic olive oil. I also added lots of fresh basil, minced garlic, a snip of fresh oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. The result was absolute Italian Garden deliciousness!

tomato saladI know that was a very lot of words for a very simple recipe, but come back tomorrow and I will give you a slightly more involved recipe including the blackberry ginger vinegar and lemon olive oil.

If you’re in the Branford area, I suggest stopping by the Old Quarry Olive Oil Co. and sampling until your heart’s content. Just be prepared ahead of time to spend some money.

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PanKates!

When I first started dating Mike and I was taking  inventory of his kitchen to see what he had and what I would have to bring to be able to cook there without getting frustrated I came across a heart shaped pancake mold. Now first I bet you are thinking, Kate you are a crazypants, what were you doing searching around in Mike’s kitchen like you owned the place in the early stages of the relationship. But that’s just how I roll. I woo my men with my culinary skills and I need to know what I have to work with. It might be slightly crazy, but Mike didn’t mind as he enjoyed being cooked for.

Also Mike’s kitchen was a mess of hand me down utensils and pots and pans and none of them were in that great a shape.  When we did move in together he had to go to some professory conference right after the move so I took that chance to donate a lot of stuff to good will.

Now it’s not like I don’t have a lot of kitchen stuff.  But in my defense I was a professional baker for awhile and also for awhile my mom worked for a mail order culinary supply store, so combine that with my love to cook and yes I have a lot of kitchen tools and what not, but I use them all, which is key.

Actually My Sissy and her husband, Jason came to see the new apartment last weekend and Amy commented on our use of IKEA products to maximize storage space — which we did get very creative with.  And Jason pointed out that it is necessary to maximize kitchen storage when you are living with a Ricigliano woman as we come with a lot of kitchen stuff.  So I guess it runs in the family.  You should see my mom’s kitchen!

Here is a picture of our creative IKEA storage.  The table is the best because it can fold down to be like six inches wide or fold out to be a full size table that can seat six.  Awesome buy.

Anyway back to the heart shaped pancake mold, which it turns out, was given to Mike by his mom.  Which obviously led to me requesting heart shaped pancakes. Mike complied because he is that kind of a guy, though they did come from a mix — baby steps — eventually I’ll have him making them from scratch.

When we moved into the new apartment and I came across the heart shaped mold again I decided to return the favor.   Mike got a breakfast in bed of heart shaped whole wheat pancakes topped with sautéed local apples, local cider (both from Bishop’s Orchard), and apple maple chicken sausage.  The syrup was local as well. I’d like to say that Mike is spoiled, but he probably ended up cleaning up after me because messy is also how I roll, so trade off.

Here is the recipe for the pancakes:

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour 2 eggs
½ cup cake flour 1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tsp baking powder 1 ½ cups apple cider
1 tsp baking soda 4 Tbs butter, melted
½ tsp salt ½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
small pinch nutmeg
3 Tbs brown sugar

First I sift the dry ingredients together in one bowl

Then I beat the eggs in another and whisk in the buttermilk, cider, melted butter and vanilla

Then I add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined.

Here is the recipe for the topping:

1 package apple maple chicken sausage sliced (I use alfresco: http://www.alfrescoallnatural.com)

2-3 apples diced

¼ cup apple cider

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 Tbs butter or olive oil for sautéing.

Pretty much I just throw the cut up apples skins and all in the pan with either a little butter or olive oil, let them sauté for a bit and then add the cider and syrup and spices so everything gets a nice glaze. I like it to be a little juicy because this way you don’t really need any more syrup on the pancakes, but it’s really personal preference.

I’ve learned to put the pancakes on a baking sheet and put them in a slightly warm oven to keep them hot while I baking them off.  Also I make the topping first and just let that simmer while I’m making the pancakes.

So there you go, a pretty good fall breakfast and a good use of unnecessary but enjoyably whimsical kitchen gadgets!

OK

OK, so I know it’s been a long hiatus, but life just got in the way. It was a little overwhelming trying to start a blog at the same time that I was moving into a new apartment, and also planning a wedding, and in a horrible fog of another Lyme flair up, and you know all the other fun life events that get thrown in there.

I sort of rushed things on the blog because it was summertime and I wanted to be sharing recipes and farm/winery visits in real time, but things just didn’t work out that way. It was hard enough to get the visits in and with all the other stuff that was going on. So the blog is going to be revamped a bit and mostly focus on recipes that use local ingredients, some that are currently available, some that were available at the time I made the recipes, and some that are available all year long.

I’m still going to do the winery and farm reviews; in fact, I have a couple of partial drafts from visits I made this summer. They may be a little out of season, but hopefully they will give us all something to look forward to when the weather starts to turn and we all start wondering if Spring is actually going to come again. I’m also hoping to do some reviews of restaurants and bakeries, and maybe even some food carts. There are more and more finding ways to incorporate a little bit of local into their businesses.

So really I am loosening up the definition of this blog to fit my life a little better. Plus, those winery visits were starting to get a little expensive as it is much easier to convince yourself that you can pay $13.00/lb for some fancy cheese after you’ve tasted about 12 different wines. Also- some things to look forward too, get excited for a feast of homegrown Thanksgiving recipes. It’s my family’s favorite holiday and I’m hoping to add a bunch of local touches!

So stay tuned and hopefully there will be lots of good stuff to come!