THANKSGIVING!

Thanksgiving at the Ricig homestead this year was quite a success. Everyone pitched in and we enjoyed quite a lot of local fair. I’ll try and give you some of the highlights.

Mike and I arrived around 12:30 and we were just about the last ones to the party. Sissy and Jason had arrived the night before from Boston. My mom’s side of the family, the Meehan’s, my uncle John, Aunt Ida, and cousins Lauren and Kelsey, drove up from New Jersey as did my Uncle Vito on my Dad’s side. Mike, my brother, and his wife, Kari, live just a few miles away in the same town as my parents. They arrived with their dog bungee after all three finished running the local Turkey Trot. My other brother Jeff came from Clinton, though he had been by earlier in the week to help my dad bring up all extra needed chairs and tables from the basement. And my honorary third brother Sheil trickled in just after Mike and I. Fifteen in all!

Now that you know all the players, let’s get on to the local food and drink. I wasted no time recruiting Jason to help me start a wine tasting of a few local red wines from Priam Vineyards. The idea was to pick which red and which white to feature at my upcoming wedding. Spoiler alert: we never made it to the whites (but there’s always Christmas). We did, however, sample Priam’s St. Croix, Westchester Red, and Salmon River Red. The Salmon River Red turned out to be everyone’s favorite. Though Mike and I were leaning towards the Westchester, it was just a little too much on the sweet side and we had already settled on Priam Blackledge Rose for those who like a sweeter wine.

Jason setting up the wine tasting.

Jason setting up the wine tasting.

 

After that we moved on to tasting the homebrew Mike had prepared as a potential beer for our wedding. It was a variation on one of our favorite Dogfish Head beers, brewed with cherry concentrate, saffron, Irish moss and a hefty amount of Swords into Plowshares local honey. It was a hit all around and Mike will probably have to brew another batch because I’m not so sure it’s going to last until May!

In between tastings my brother Jeff was outside frying the local turkey from Gozzi’s Turkey farm. We feature two turkeys at the Ricig family thanksgiving, a large one that is deep fried and a small one that is cooked in a clay top pot, which produces delicious moist fall off the bone meat.

Jeff preparing the deep fried turkey.

Dad getting ready to carve the deliciously moist clay pot turkey.

My dad got to work carving the turkeys around 3 while the rest of us got to work preparing all the trimmings to be ready for the table. We spend a lot of the Holiday standing around the big center island in my parent’s house sneaking crisp delicious golden pieces of turkey from the carving board and fresh from the bird stuffing before it makes it to the table.

When we do finally make to long dining table that’s expanded along with our family we start off with a curried butternut squash soup. Mike and I had headed over to the parents’ house the weekend before to prepare it with some local squash from a friend’s garden. Once we finish the soup we get down to business. Not all the ingredients are local, but pretty much everyone pitches in and brings something so it’s quite a feast.

The table is set.

Besides the soup, at the main meal the local highlights were the Turkey from Gozzi’s. Apple sauce we canned ahead of time with a medley of local apples from Bishops Orchard, and fresh baked from scratch rolls accompanied with (local) honey butter provided by Kari.

After the meal we usually retire for some napping/football watching/dog walking before we bring out the pies.

This year Sissy provided a deliciously spiced pumpkin pie made with local Massachusetts pumpkins and various other local ingredients that she will hopefully tell you all about in a guest post. While not local, Kari made a mean peanut butter chocolate pie that I’m pretty sure was the only dessert to be completely killed that night. And I made my traditional huge deep dish apple pie made from a trio of local Bishops apples and some mini lemon tartlets, that while not local do involve the best lemon curd ever and provide endless amusement centered around the word tartlet. Seriously, we find the strangest things hilarious.

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Recipes to follow next week, hopefully in time for Christmas. For now enjoy the pics!

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.

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!

A Confession

This post is more of a confession than anything else really. Because I’ve been feeling so damn anxious about not having time to post every day with some lovely new recipe from my CSA , or a review of the incredible vineyards I’ve been visiting over the weekends. And I have gone to some truly amazing farms and vineyards and met some really spectacular passionate people who love what they do and the products they are making. And I have a lot of stories to tell, that will eventually come out, just not as fast as I would like probably because life gets in the way. But I do want to thank all the people that have made my summer such an exploratory and flavorful experience.

I kind of got overwhelmed with things and started to feel sad for myself that the tens of people who are reading my blog are not really giving the wonderful people and products I’ve been writing about the exposure they deserve.

This week I am going to be doing a few posts about Bishop’s Orchard winery. And while I was thinking about how to describe the Bishop’s experience, it got me thinking about why I really like the Connecticut wine trail. The truth is, I don’t know much about wine. I’m really just starting to learn. To be perfectly honest, I don’t go on the tastings because I am really all that interested in the wine per say. It’s more about the experience for me. Visiting vineyards in Connecticut is a fun way to get the agro-tourism experience. You get to be outside, you get to see things growing, you get to try a little of this and a little of that. Usually the wineries will have a few other local products for sale from other farms, vineyards, dairies, etc., around the state. So you learn about this cheese from this dairy and this jam made with fruit from this other farm that spreads nicely on this fresh bread from this local bakery. And maybe you go and visit the sugar house that made the maple syrup that was next to the honey from a local apiary. All of a sudden there are a million places to visit a million local products to try and all this fresh produce to take home and experiment with. And you go nuts and decide to try and catalogue it all in blog. And then you go nuts again about not being able to keep up with it all!

Cranberry Bean Smush

Time for another recipe with ingredients from my CSA offerings: CSA Cranberry Bean Smush

Last week some cranberry beans, also known as shelling beans or, gorlotti beans, or some other names depending on who you ask, showed up in our Bishop’s Orchard CSA share.

Whatever name you give them both the beans and the pods are light beige color that is mottled with a cranberry red streak. I thought they were very pretty to look at, but had no idea what to do with them.

I looked up some recipes that suggested sautéing them with some other ve

getables and serving them as a light summer side dish. Sounded good, but I wanted to make something I could store for later use and I wasn’t so sure how receptive Mike would be to eating what looks like speckled red lima beans. Actually, since I share the CSA with my parents there resemblance to lima beans, which my mom hates, led to her giving me too big bunches of them for just me and Mike.

Being a lover of hummus and other squished bean dips I quickly found a few recipes for cranberry bean “hummus” (side note my sister likes to point out to me all the time that it is not technically hummus if chick peas are not involved, hence the quotations) and took elements from a couple of them to create my own cranberry bean dip. I was intrigued by one recipe that listed a spice called sumuc as one of the ingredients, but sadly several calls and visits to specialty markets left me empty handed and I was in too much of a rush to wait for it to come in by mail order. Though I did order some and plan on experimenting with it at some point. If anyone out there has ever used sumuc, I’d love to know what you did with it. My research made it seem like a very versatile spice that paired well with a number of things.

But back to the cranberry beans. I used the idea from one recipe of incorporating zucchini, which I also happened to have on hand from a neighbors garden and substituted cumin in place of the sumac.

cranberry bean smush

Here is the recipe I came up with:

8 oz. shelled cranberry beans

1/2 of a white onion (I had left over from a previous CSA share)

2 medium sized zucchinis

1/4 cup tahini

2 Tbs. olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 lemon zested and juiced

salt and pepper to taste

 

First, I put the shelled beans and roughly chopped onion in a pan and covered it with water. I brought that to a boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While that was going on, I sliced the zucchini in rounds, brushed them with olive oil on both sides, and sautéed them for a few minutes on each side until they were slightly browned.

I strained the beans and onions and removed the zucchini from the pan and put it in the fridge to cool down while I zested my lemon and peeled my garlic.

Then I put the cooked but now cooled beans, onions, and zucchini in my food processer; added the lemon zest and juice, tahini, olive oil and cumin, and processed it until it was smooth and creamy. I added salt and pepper to taste and pulsed it all a few more times.

The Cranberry beans had a nutty richness which was nicely offset by the lighter zucchini flavor. I would say it was a huge success as it introduced me to a new legume and is a recipe I will definitely make again. I probably never would have sought out cranberry beans had they not happened to show up in my CSA. Which is one of the things I like best about the whole CSA experience in general; being introduced to new locally available produce and being pleasantly surprised with what you find. Next time I see  cranberry beans at my local farmers’ market, I will likely pick some up and try new ways to enjoy them

I served the CSA Smush with pita chips as an appetizer before a shrimp dish, which was a suggested wine paring during a recent visit to McLaughlin Vineyards. Check back tomorrow for the recipe and my review of the vineyard.

Berries, Berries…and MORE Berries!

Berries, berries, and more berries! I hope you liked my first installment enough to come back for the different variations. I tried macerating them a few more ways. Not all of them are pictured for two reasons, one I am new to the whole photography thing and a lot of my early on shots were just not appetizing. I had to do a lot of research to figure out lighting and all that jazz, and I still don’t have the best hold on it. Reason two, though the flavors combinations were all very unique and interesting, the shots of berries sitting in a bowl with some herbs and spices were not. Reason three is my favorite and also explains why getting this blog up has been slow going and why posts may be choppy at first, but it needs its own paragraph so hopefully you won’t mind a little insight into my life before I get to the berries.

In the span of about four weeks I’ve had more going on than I usually do in a whole year. I got engaged to my awesome and very patient and supportive boyfriend Mike, met his parents for the very first time, and we are currently in the process of moving into our first apartment together. So my weekends have been take up with trying to move all of our stuff, lot’s of trips to Ikea, and the oh so fun task of beginning to plan a wedding. I’m including a pic from the day we got engaged just because I can.

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So now that you know what has been going on with me, hopefully you will understand why I still have a lot of kinks to work out in this blog. Fingers crossed that you’ll stay with me during the adjustment period. But now, back to those berries…

First up is a rosemary, vanilla, and brown sugar version. This turned out to be one of my favorites when paired with the shortcake. I used a bourbon based vanilla that worked out really well flavor wise. Once again I tossed a pint of Bishops strawberries with about 1/3 cup brown sugar, a tablespoon of the vanilla, and some fresh rosemary from my mom’s herb garden. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the rosemary and vanilla combination. The scents of both together were delightful.

On to the next combination which turned out to be my future husband’s favorite. He was hesitant at first and thought I had too many flavors going on but quickly came around after sampling a spoonful.  I tossed a pint of berries with a healthy tablespoon of maple syrup from Lamothe’s Sugar House, about teaspoon each of orange zest and fresh ginger and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. It was ok with the shortcake, but we both felt it would be delicious over some pancakes. Side note- his mom bought him a heart shaped pancake mold and I make him make me heart shaped pancakes with it when it’s his turn to cook breakfast. Hopefully we will get a picture of that the next time he does. He looks very cute in an apron!

I did a third combination with another pint of berries, some fresh sage, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a tablespoon of both lemon juice and honey. Very refreshing and would be great over some vanilla ice cream.

And last but not least another pint of berries macerated with about 1/4 cup sugar, zest and juice of one lime, about two tablespoons of fresh mint and about a tablespoon of fresh thyme. The herbs came from Bishop’s Orchard. After tasting this one I decided it definitely needed to be turned into a cocktail so I added the pint of macerated berries to Sunset Meadow Vineyard rose, Sunset Blush vineyard, added an ounce of grand marnier for good measure and had myself a delightful Sangria reminiscent of a mojito and oh so refreshing in the summer heat.

I promise the vineyard visit posts will start soon. Got to get that passport stamped!

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Balsamic Basil Berries

Strawberry season would have been the perfect time to start my blog, however as is my usual style this first post is fashionably late. None the less, strawberries are a great local ingredient to start with because not only can I use one of my most simple tried and true recipes for the base of this week’s installment, but I can also give it a cute name! Get ready for some Strawberry ShortKate! My boyfriend Mike and I are splitting a CSA from Bishop’s Orchard in Guilford, CT with my parents this summer.  The experience is a new one as it will be my first CSA with Bishop’s and Mike and my Parent’s first CSA ever. I was very excited to see a quart of their strawberries in our very first share.  However since I like to be liberal with my berries, Mike and I headed down to bishops to pick a few more of our own.

Bishop’s is near and dear to my heart because I grew up in Madison and their Guilford farm Market is only a few minutes drive from my parent’s house. Probably some of my first experiences with locally grown ingredients came from Bishops. I could go on and on about the abundance of produce Bishop’s produces, but in the interest of keeping it simple will stick to their strawberries for now. You can pick your own or purchase pre-picked pints and quarts at the market.

I want the theme of this blog to be not only about local ingredients, but also about getting to try a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I love putting new twists on some of my more traditional recipes. So with that in mind I decided to try macerating my strawberries a few different ways incorporating some locally produced honey and maple syrup as the sweeteners, locally grown herbs, and few different accompanying flavors.

After much hemming and hawing and internal debating I limited myself to five combinations of sweeteners, herbs and spices in which to macerate the lovely red berries. I picked flavors that I enjoy together, but substitutions should be easy and I would love to hear what some of you come up with. So after you check out my offerings, email me at locallykatered@gmail.com.

Seriously you guys, my head was spinning and I started to get a little punch-drunk with the possible concoctions and derivations and we haven’t even gotten to the wine trail. With all the fresh ripe local fruit I should get from the Bishop’s Orchard CSA, I foresee more than one sunny Sunday afternoon spent sipping summer-fruit and herb- infused sangria.

But let’s get to it! I used a honey balsamic basil combination to macerate the first batch of berries.

I made a reduction with 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar and 2 tbs. local honey from Jones Apiaries in Farmington, CT. While that was simmering for about 15 minutes I hulled and sliced a pint of Bishop’s  berries and tossed them with some freshly torn straight off the plant basil also from my first CSA installment. When it cooled down a bit I added about 2 heavy tbs. of the reduction, drizzled a little extra honey on top for good measure, gave it all a stir and let those bad boys macerate.

For the shortkate:

2 2/3 c. AP flour 5 oz. butter
1/3 c. sugar 1 egg
1 tbs. baking powder 1/3 c. heavy cream
1 ½ tsp. salt 1/3 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together dry ingredients out dry ingredients.

Using the food processor, pulse until the butter until it forms pea sized pieces that are more on the smallish side. I like to go a little finer than I would for a pie dough.

Transfer flour/butter mix to a bowl for the electric stand mixer.

Add the eggs, vanilla, cream, and buttermilk and mix until just combined.

Or just use your hands.

I like to just drop dollops of batter in whatever individual size biscuits seem appropriate. Probably a lightly scooped 1/3 cup would make decent vessel for transferring to a lined baking sheet. I prefer the more rustic look, but you can also flatten out the dough a bit on a lightly floured surface and use a biscuit cutter for more consistency. Just make to sure not to handle it too much

Before baking them in a pre-heated oven at 350 for xx  minutes, I like to brush them with either butter or some leftover cream and lightly sprinkle with some coarse sugar.

I like to serve the berries over warm biscuits with a healthy amount of fresh whipped cream.

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