Tag Archives: Nudo

Springs bursts from the ground and branch

We didn’t get a winter on the West Coast. My snowboard gear remains packed and ignored. But even so, the first blooms of spring this year lost little of their luster. I noticed the explosions taking place on branch, vine from soil on recent runs through the wilderness I live near. I’m excited about planting the garden. I’ve already had to weed twice.

It’s exhilarating. No season bursts with the grandeur of spring. But this year I got a special spring surprise that made me feel like a kid again.

The story goes back a few months, longer than that really, back to when my daughter adopted for me an olive tree in Italy. A new webromance broke out. I love Nudo. I love their emails, I love their idea to adopt trees. And mostly I love their oil.

Next came the contest. The creative folks at Nudo experiment infusing oils with different flavors. To promote two new ideas — rosemary and coffee flavored olive oils — they held a contest for recipes using the oil. With my daughter’s help we submitted a recipe using both, Coffee Chicken Pizza with Rosemary Olive Oil Fried Apple Rings.

Well… yippee skippy, we were one of five winners chosen by the good folks at Nudo. They sent us samples of both oils and a letter that felt like a little gold medal…

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(I’m easily pleased as you can see).

Amanda became the Test Kitchen’s first visitor so we could put our recipes into action.

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We took our recipes and their oil and soon the kitchen was filled with goodness.

Like apples:

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And pizzas:

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And these ideas cooked up in our minds so cooked up deliciously in our kitchen.

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We ate like Romans!

OK, it’s easy to get distracted by great food, but I was writing about spring. Well, part of this tree adoption thing included an actual tree of my own… like a foreign exchange student. In the deep chill of our snowless winter I opened the can, followed the instructions and watered very, very little the little gravel base.

And I waited.

And waited.

And waited… and nothing happened.

And I felt sad. Like I had been a poor host home for a wayward Italian olive tree… until…

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Spring!

All is right in my world as my little tree awakens and stretches and makes her way upward, just like me this year, small and tentative and yet so filled with potential harvest.

What’s not to love about spring?

Menu takes the Oscar for Effin Artist

As the Oscar night parties wind down in L.A. and the sun comes up, I bask in my own Oscar, awarded by the Bride for best original menu for an Oscar Party. I pout in the knowledge that The Bride won the ballot 7-5. She only missed on the director. I leaned too heavily on David O.Russell, who frankly keeps getting screwed. If you put four actors in the top four categories two years in a row, you at least deserve a writing award or directing award or something… sigh… Sour grapes, I know.

Let’s revisit my award- winning (in my own mind) food:

Course 1:

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The roasted mushrooms are stuffed with avocado and pesto. The bread is my old school Italian bread with fresh pomegranate seeds in it, I topped it with roasted tomatoes, drizzled with Webbromance Nudo olive oil. Soooo good.

Course two:

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This course was toasted raviolis, Nonie’s sauce, and eggplant pizzas. Leave it to me to ruin a wonderful vegetarian pizza (topped with sauce, mozzarella and ricotta) by tossing on some sausage. I loved it though. Love that sausage hit on the top of it all.

Course 3:

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Steak skewers, roasted peppers, topped with a roasted garlic on the end. These flavors just merged and popped. Really, really worked… simple and beautiful. I grilled the steak with Italian rub. The sweet potato fries got the closest yet in my many, many attempts to crispy fries, but they sort of stuck to the pan too, so the effort continues.

Course 4:

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These sort of speak for themselves. All homemade. I even broke out the green coloring (cancer fear pushed aside for festive color) to make the mint ice-cream look the part. Soooooo goooood. I haven’t had much sugar in while so this was a blast… a bender… a … Effin delight.

Great night. Great acting, celebrating their art. Great writers getting their due. Great music. Ellen was four-part harmony for hosts.

Oh yeah, and my date was pretty awesome. She didn’t even gloat her victory, but secretly, I know her, she’s pretty damn proud of her Oscar win.

As Ellen said, we’re all winners tonight.

The wonders of an inefficient dinner

I decided to make pasta for dinner. It took me about three hours though I did get a break in the middle for a run.

Three hours for pasta. This would have once seemed normal. Now it’s just inefficient.

I’m well aware for a couple of bucks you can toss perfectly fine fettuccine into a pot of water and in about six minutes have dinner cooked.

For another four bucks you can have a pretty decent Alfredo that you can put in the microwave (if you don’t mind the cancer cells cooked into your food… OK, I shouldn’t have opened the can of worms just yet, but I will… I will…) and it will be ready before the noodles are.

I’m well aware you can drain the noodles, pour the sauce and serve this meal in about ten minutes for less than a ten spot in your pocket, which you can use the change to buy some bread to cut up.

So ten bucks and ten minutes compared to three hours. It’s a tough sell.

But this is one of the biggest changes in my eating patterns within the last few years that I have found is making all the difference. Slow food has so many more benefits than just filling your stomach.

For example:

  • I had to cut back on pasta and bread in my diet. For an Italian who loves making dough you might as well have tied one of those gastric bands around my stomach. But one easy way to accomplish this was to only eat pasta when I made it.
  • Now pasta is a treat, but its also a chance to work creatively and experience the ever-changing process of making it.
  • I can experience the now as as I knead the dough for long minutes until my forearms ache. I can see how slowly I am getting better at this unique, ancient art form.
  • It simply tastes so much better than the store bought I don’t care how much folks argue it’s the same. There is no comparison.
  • Instead of just putting dinner on the table, I nurtured myself hoof to head: I did something creative I enjoy, I took time out to pause and wonder, I went for a run, I shared time with The Bride: none of the things I would have done if I went the ten-buck-ten-minute-route.
  • Instead of ten bucks, it costs me about three.

So my inefficient dinner turns out to be an experience, that part of my day when The Bride asks, “how was your day?” I can say “Great, I made pasta” instead of saying, “It was OK. I sold a couple of stories. My neck is aching because I spent too much time at the computer. And I really haven’t figured out what’s for dinner tonight.”

Today I said the first answer. Then she sat with me playing solitaire on the computer while I finished it up and served it with eggplant fried in Nudo Olive Oil.

I even took the time mid-pasta making to break out the blender and bash up a delightful smoothie with protein powder, flaxseed meal, plain greek yogurt, mangos and cranberry! Super food to rebuild the muscles after all that kneading. This is hoof-to-head living right here:

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As we ate our simple meal the wonder of it caused me to pause and be grateful. To me in this day and age making pasta is an exception. To Nonie and her generation it was simply what you did. You made dinner. That’s a connection I’m glad I share now. It firms my feet upon this place in the Earth I call my own, rooted in my past and yet wonderfully present.

It was a good day. Inefficient, but good.

A match made in web heaven — Rosemary Apple Rings

When I enter my kitchen, I am happily surrounded by my roots. Every day I am reminded of who I am.

My grandparents worked from poverty to affluence by spending decades, six nights a week cooking in their restaurant. It started as little more than a pool hall in an out-of-the-way town on the Redwood coast of California.

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Then it grew. They moved it and built a place that would become a regional favorite.

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As a child, my grandmother babysat my brother and me in her kitchen. I am proud of the splatter-burn scars on my foot I picked up one day in her kitchen, though I’m sure Nonie and my parents were none to pleased to have a toddler howling like a devil with a burn on his foot. I’m glad it happened; it’s a momento to my heritage.

The Big 4 Inn was a Northern California landmark. When my grandmother finally sold out to make way for Interstate 5, the San Francisco Chronicle documented its passing into history. The menus and the napkins and photos of the Big 4 still decorate my kitchen. The recipes are the staple of my cooking, the heritage I pass along to my children and know they will pass along to theirs (if they’d ever buckle down and give me grandkids, damnit).

The Big 4 was beloved, Twenty years after it closed I met a guy in passing in another state. We swapped a few stories. We were both italian. We both had roots in Humboldt County. I mentioned the Big 4. His jaw dropped.

“My God, that was your nona?” he said.

I nodded proudly.

“I swear to God I still taste those raviolli’s in my mouth. I can still taste them, you know. Do you unnerstand?”

I did. I still do to. It was that kind of place.

As an appetizer my grandparents served apple rings with every dish. I grew up on these apple rings. Something about them, to me, goes perfect with the heavy meat sauce Nonie Mary was known for and I still do my best to replicate.

Anyway, I say all this becase I decided to bring back the apple rings the other day when I entered a contest to win some olive oil from my latest WeBromance. I mentioned there were two contests. Nudo’s rosemary olive oil and Nonie’s apple rings seemed like a match made in heaven.

For those keeping score at home, here is my entry in the second one. Try it. The apple rings are wonderfully simple and you’ll experience a small taste of what made The Big 4 Inn truly a magical place.

Rosemary infused apple rings.
Ingredients :
– Nudo Italia Rosemary olive oil
-Four granny smith apples, peeled and cored.
-1 cup 00 flour
– up to 1/4 cup 1/2 n 1/2 cream
-1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp salt, a dash of dried rosemary
– confectioner sugar for dusting

Directions
1) put flour in a bowl and create a well. Mix in a hint of dried rosemary.
2)crack egg into the well along with salt and vanilla.
3) use a fork to mix egg gradually incorporating some of the flour.
4) slowly add in cream until batter forms. Should be like pancake batter. Use a couple of tbls of milk if it’s too thick.
5) heat olive oil in a skillet on medium.
6 ) slice apples about 1/2 inch thick. Coat the apples in the batter holding aloft to allow excess to drain off.
7) put apples gently into heated oil. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel. Lightly dust with confectioner sugar. Repeat until all the rings are cooked.
8) arrange on a platter in a circle. Scoop ricotta cheese into the center for optional topping.
9) serve while still warm.

The perfect dough for the imperfect cause

I’ve been fiddle futzing with pizza dough for a long time. Friday night pizza night in our house has been homemade for a decade at least. My youngest has been smooshing dough since she was five. She’d toss it so hard it’d rattle the overhead light fixtures in the kitchen.

My bride keeps telling me how great it is. She doesn’t know I never ever make it the same way twice. I haven’t found the perfect dough yet, so I keep monkeying with the recipe.

Until, perhaps, now. This last Friday night I made the closest batch yet to the perfect dough. It was light and airy, yet still packed an aldente bite when I bit down. It didn’t get too hard. It was thin, but with a nice airy crust on the edge that tasted like a seasoned bread stick.

I could stop tinkering and have my dough. But as I said, perhaps. I’m not sure yet. It’s really, really great, but perfect? Hmmnn…

Perhaps, as today is another Pizza Night. We’ll see.

Nevertheless I thought enough about this dough to enter it in a contest hosted by my latest WeBromance, NudoAdopt.com.

The fine folks at Nudo artistically experiment with infused olive oils. I read about how they grind the rosemary with olives at the press, rather than soak the rosemary with oil, and I though, “Wow, they’re EFFin Artists, man!”

Then my oldest told me they were having a contest, casting about for recipes that use their rosemary olive oil and an experimental olive oil they made combining coffee beans with the olives. If you’ve followed me at all in the Test Kitchen, you know damn well I’m in awe here. Coffee olive oil, not infused to so to speak, but actually conceived in a blend before the birth of the oil. And a contest to boot?

I was speechless really. Then my daughter challenged me to submit my recipe ideas. I went from speechless to obsessed. I winnowed down several ideas. My daughter and I texted back and forth, all the while I smashed my perfect dough in my hands, pulling the zen artistry out of it.

I had to make a coffee pizza I decided. I seriously wanted to win this thing, just to connect with the artistry of my latest WeBromance. We’ll see. I’m saying a few decades of the rosary just to help the cause. (Note: the pizza pictured above is not this one. I forgot to take a picture of this and I didn’t have the actual coffee olive oil, which I hope to get when my Web crush folks at Nudo pick me, pick me! and send me some. I’ll post a real photo then, scouts honor).

My daughter helped create this. Here is the recipe we came up with, including, my nearly perfect dough.

Coffee Chicken Pizza

For the dough

  • 1 cup seminolla flour
  • 1 cup OO flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsps of active yeast.
  • 3 Tablespoonns Nudo Coffee infused olive oil

For the white sauce:

  • 3tbs butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp of nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesean
  • 3/4 cup mozzerella cheese
  • splash of fresh lemon
  • Fresh chopped italian parsley
  • pinch of salt

For the pizza

  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup or so of romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup esspresso
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 tbls of red chili flakes
  • 2 tbls of coffee-infused olive oil by Nudo

Make the dough at least two hours ahead by:

  1. Mix flours, salt and sugar in a glass bowl.
  2. Mix warm water and yeast and let stand for 6-8 minutes until disolved
  3. Pour olive oil and water/yeast into flour. Swirl into a ball.
  4. kneed until smooth, adding a little flour as needed.
  5. Oil up the bowl, put the ball in it and cover to rise.

To make the sauce:

  1. Melt the butter and sautee the garlic, chili powder and nutmeg, 2 minutes
  2. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. whisk often, for 2 minutes
  3. Add the parm cheese and whisk often. Simmer 5 or so minutes more until thickens.
  4. Add the mozz and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the splash of lemon, salt and fold in parsley. Keep warm. (you’ll have extra for alfreado in coming days)

To make the pizza

  1. Whip the coffee into the ricotta, using more ricotta or a bit of cream cheese if it gets too runny. Set in refrig until needed.
  2. Treat pizza stone with light dusting of cornmeal and warm up in oven, heated to 500 degrees.
  3. Hand toss pizza to make thin crust with thicker rounded edge. Spread out on a pizza board or the stone (careful not to burn yourself and work quickly if you do this option).
  4. coat with a thin layer of white sauce
  5. cover with a thin layer of thick- shredded romano cheese
  6. Drop dollops of coffee-flavored ricotta throughout
  7. Sprinkle shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, roasted garlic and chili flakes over the pizza.
  8. Drizzle coffee-infused olive oil over the top of everything.
  9. Slide onto pizza stone for 10-11 minutes.
  10. Let cool for five minutes before cutting and serving.

WINNER, Winner Chicken Dinner? Come on Nudo… don’t break my heart!

As it turns out… we won! Coffee and rosemary flavored olive oil on the way. I love it when a WeBromance works out like a rom-com starring Adam Sandler.

WeBromance — Olive tree adoption both global and local

I’m not a global citizen. I’m a local citizen. Always have been really. For years I’d get gifts where people would make donations to causes in my name and I’d be bummed because I don’t really do global causes. That’s for folks like Bono and Angelina Jolie, I reasoned. One year I got a donation for a cow or a goat, I can’t remember, to a farmer in West Virginia. I lived back East at the time. I liked this better because it felt closer. But still, I wanted it more local. I used to joke about going to West Virginia and getting my goat, damnit. It’s mine, after all, right?

When I worked in newsrooms this used to completely annoy my staff of writers because by definition, reporters are usually global thinkers. They dream about working for the New York Times or serving as a war correspondent. Nobody grows up thinking about breaking city council news. So the banter would always lean toward some global issue or story line. I’d shoot them down like an expert at a skeet shooting range.

“I don’t care about Bosnia unless Bosnia invades this town, right here,” I’d yell out.

“Iraq, Iran? I don’t give a damn. I care about this town, right here.”

It made me a great editor, if not necessarily a great person. But the trend stuck. Now, it turns out, I’m in fashion. Local is in. Localvore is a word. (really?!) I’ve always been local-centered and suddenly I’m fashionable. Cool, right?

Well, that’s why today’s WeBromance goes — once again — against the grain, because its all about giving back to farmers in Italy. It’s called NudoAdopt.com. Not exactly local, but I can at least claim that my people hail from there. It’s in my local roots at least, even if Lucca is local to this farm like Atlanta is local to the nation’s capital. Why quibble about details, right?

The site shows you how you can adopt an olive tree and get regular shipments of olive oil. It’s local farming at its best, even if the local is across the globe and involves shipping across the globe. Basically it’s the olive farmers’ answer to free trade coffee.

I use a lot of olive oil. I use a lot of Italian products, like OO flour, Buffalo Mozzerella, San Marzano Tomatoes, etc. I love local farming, even if its not exactly local to me. For all these reasons I love this web site. Besides, unlike my West Virginia goat that they kept protected from me, these gracious hosts will let me come hug my tree anytime I want!

I’m doing that. Count on it.

Sign up to adopt a tree. The italian locals will love you for it. Hey, if you say I referred you, I think I win a prize, too, so this WeBromance is truly a win/win, even if its not the most local thing on the globe.