Posted in Food Facts

Avocado = Testicle?

I'm just nuts about these!
I’m just nuts about these!

Yes, that’s right. The uber-trendy avocado gets its name from the Aztec word “ahuacatl” which means testicle.  Appropriately named as avocados often “grow in pairs and hang heavy on the tree.”  Think about that next time you slice open a ripe one.

Thank you Adam Sternbergh & New York Magazine for that delightful nugget.

Posted in Food Facts, Nerd Adventures

Colatura: Liquid Umami and a Glorious Adventure

A few years ago when I was living and working on an agriturismo in Tuscany, I took a weekend trip to Parma for its big food show Cibus. Thousands of food producers display at Cibus, including the largest Italian companies, but also the small guys who are new to the market. These artisanal producers are what make the show so exciting, well them and getting to see the largest mortadella in the world (it was really big!)

The World's Largest Mortadella
Me & The World’s Largest Mortadella

Among the newcomers, I was impressed by a beautiful glass blown bottle filled with mysterious liquid.

It was colatura, fermented anchovy liquid.  I had heard of colatura before, but had never tried it.  My new buddy Gennaro, the colatura’s producer, invited my friend and me for a quick lunch in his booth.  After serving us each a glass of Prosecco, we were first presented with the most delicious anchovies I had ever tasted.

Gennaro's Colatura
Gennaro’s Colatura

Let me preface this experience by saying, I used to dislike anchovies. This dislike I soon realized was because I had never had great anchovies before. That day changed everything. After the anchovies came a plate of pasta.  While it looked like plain spaghetti, it was anything but. With my first bite came a wave of salt, fish and crazy mouth feel. It was addicting. Gennaro explained, it was simply tossed with a little crushed garlic, olive oil and colatura.

Spaghetti with Colatura
Spaghetti with Colatura

I knew I had to buy a bottle, but at Cibus vendors weren’t allowed to sell their goods. Gennaro apologized and suggested I come to his restaurant in Cetara, on the Amalfi coast and buy a bottle there. So I did.

Two months later, my friend Kathleen and I found ourselves in what we discovered to be the most perfect little coastal town. Cetara, unlike its neighboring towns of Amalfi and Positano, is untouched. We stayed at the one B&B in town- it was 50 euros a night and even had air conditioning, which basically made it a luxury hotel.

The morning after we arrived, Kathleen and I walked down the curvy mountain path to the town. The town itself is really just a street. It has about 3 restaurants, a drug store, a few convenience shops and not much else. We rented a small paddle boat and spent the morning paddling, swimming and napping in the Southern Italian sun.

Then it was time for lunch. We walked into town and sure enough there was Gennaro, standing in front of his restaurant. Much to my surprise, he recognized me and invited us in. (We had only met that one time, several months before.) “Mangiamo qualche acciughe,” he said, meaning, “Let’s have a few anchovies.” Before we knew it, we were sitting down in the private dining room of his restaurant, drinking Prosecco and wine, in tank tops and bathing suits, eating a six course meal. Anchovies upon anchovies. Colatura bruschetta. Delicately fried zucchini flowers. Seafood pastas. Seared local fish.  And gorgeous pistachio gelato. You know, lunch.

Gennaro, wearing a pajama-esque get-up, then insisted on taking us around town and showing us how his colatura is made. Being the trusting girls we are, we said “Sure!” and hopped into his yellow VW Beetle.  Gennaro first took us to see the colatura production. Each day over the summer fresh anchovies come in from the local fishermen and are salted and packed into wooden barrels and then pressed. After months pass, usually in December, the make a whole in the barrel and the beautiful amber liquid that is colatura slowly drips out.  One of the local producers Delfino made a video showing how its done.  It’s a bit slow but shows you Cetara and the overall process.

The rest of our stay was a series of more elaborate meals and trips to the town of Amalfi and into the mountains (see pictures above). The whole experience was so whimsical and magical.  It also confirmed that if you are two young girls in Italy, anything can happen.

I have since brought colatura back to the States and cook with it at home, mainly in that same simple spaghetti dish but also in certain salad dressings, fish and meat seasonings or mixed with mayonnaise as a dip.  We also use it quite regularly at Marea, in our cucumber mignonette and in a vinaigrette for one of our fish appetizers.  The two main brands you can find in the States from Cetara are Delfino and Nettuno (of the two I prefer Nettuno, but it’s harder to find.) Sadly, while Gennaro’s colatura has made it to certain parts of Europe, it has yet to make it to the US.  I think getting a bottle for your pantry is enough of an excuse to pop over to Cetara. I guarantee the journey will be worthwhile.

Posted in Food Facts, Local Finds, Nerd Adventures

Sweet Summer Produce Baby!

Fresh produce lovers rejoice! Summer is in full swing and with it arrives its glorious bounty. Now is the time to truly ditch your supermarket produce section and hit the green markets and roadside farm stands.  And let me tell you- the local farm stands in Upstate New York and Long Island are overflowing with wonderful colors and smells. I went to one today that was pure food porn.  The tomatoes were so sweet and perfect and the blueberries, my dear, they tasted like a blueberry pie.  I can only assume that the farmers serenaded them every morning until they were picked. Often you pay a premium for these elevated earthy delights, but you will certainly  taste the difference.

You can also get involved with a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it’s one of the best ways to support your local farmers.  CSAs work by offering memberships before the growing season, which help ensure the farmer’s income for the year.  Green markets are great for business, but they can also be a gamble for sales.  Typically you either pick up or receive a box of whatever is being harvested that week.  You can opt for fruit and eggs too.  There are are even different meat and fish CSAs that have popped up. Usually sign ups are in April/May so you would normally be too late to participate in a regular CSA now. (Do sign up next season- check your local community boards or the Local Harvest site to find a convenient one near you.)

But…. Guess what FreshDirect just started offering? Non-membership CSAs! While signing up for a season membership is best for the farmers, the new FreshDirect option is a great alternative. One of the most exciting aspects of a CSA is that you can’t pick what you get, so you are forced to be creative and try new vegetables. Of course you will occasionally get that one vegetable that you dislike or are just confuzzled by (for me that’s kohlrabi) but that’s when you conveniently start gifting your neighbors or coworkers fresh produce…

So hit the markets or try out the new FreshDirect option and enjoy!

Posted in Food Facts

FOOD FACT

kiwi bird

The Kiwi fruit, native to China and later grown in New Zealand, was originally called Chinese Gooseberry.  However, it was rebranded as the Kiwi to better appeal to the American market and because it somewhat resembled New Zealand’s national fuzzy small bird the Kiwi.