Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dede's Table - Non solo caffé

If you're a subscriber to Ciao Chow Linda and have received this post twice (or more), please excuse the extra email. I prepared some posts prior to my departure for vacation, but there have been some snafus in publushing them. I hope to avoid that in the future.
Regular readers of Ciao Chow Linda know that I am part of a group of women who meet weekly to chit-chat in Italian. We always serve coffee and dessert, and sometimes a lot more. The food is one of the highlights of the gathering. But you never know if six or 16 will show up on a given week, so having enough to serve can be tricky. My friend Dede hosted the group recently and set forth an extravaganza of goodies on her table, including the bulgur salad, above. 

 Presentation is an art in itself and look how beautifully Dede arranged this platter of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado in a serpentine fashion. 

She served these savory treats with a bread containing sun-dried tomatoes and black olives. Another winner -- and it paired perfectly with the two offerings above. It's a wonder we had room for the two cakes that followed (sorry, no photos), but we did. 

Mediterranean Bulgur Salad

printable recipe here

This recipe is fluid - meaning you don't have to follow it to the letter. Add or subtract ingredients that suit your palate.

1 3/4 c. boiling water

2 t. salt

1 t. finely minced rosemary

1 1/2 c. bulgur

3/4 c. cooked farro

4-6 T. fresh lemon juice

1/4 t. pepper

1/4 c. olive oil

a few squirts of balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup cut up grape tomatoes

a handful of Kalamata olives

1/2 lb. diced mozzarella cheese

1/2 c. chopped parsley

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 c. coarsely chopped marinated artichoke hearts, drained well

1 (15 1/2 oz) can garbanzo beans, dained

1/4 c. small, diced white onion

Bring water, 1 t. salt and rosemary to boil; immediately stir in bulgur. Remove from heat; cover; let stand 1 hour or until water is absorbed. Uncover and let cool. Mix remaining 1 t. salt, lemon juice, pepper and oil. Add tomatoes, parsley, onions, artichokes, garbanzo beans, onion, scallions, olives, cheese, and cooled bulgur. Mix well until all ingredients are coated with dressing. Taste it and adjust seasonings. Makes 8 cups.

Sun-dried Tomato and Black Olive Bread

printable recipe here

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 t. baking powder

3/4 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

4 large eggs

1 1/2 c. sour cream

10 halves sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely copped

4 ounces oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved

2 T. basil leaves, coarsely chopped and loosely packed

2 t. reserved oil from sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 t. black pepper, freshly ground

olive oil for pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9 inch round pan with olive oil. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs to combine yolks and whites. Use a large spoon to stir in sour cream, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, basil, reserved oil and pepper. Stir in the flour mixture until it is blended completely and a sticky dough forms. Scrape dough into the prepared pan. Smooth the top slightly. Bake until the top is golden brown and feels firm, about 45 minutes.

Place on a wire rack about 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a sharp knife and turn out onto wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Zidarich Winery

Today we're taking a trip to Trieste, Italy, where I had the good fortune this week to visit Zidarich Vineyards, a family owned business that produces red and white wines, including a special one called vitovska, a dry white wine made only here in the area known as Carso, part of Italy's Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It's also produced in neighboring Slovenia, which has similar terrain. Vitovska is both the name of the grape and the wine, one that is little known by Americans, but worth seeking out for its complex flavors.
Zidarich Vineyards opens to visitors starting in July, but we were given special access down to its cellar, and later relaxed with good wine and food on its panoramic terrace overlooking the vineyards, thanks to owner Beniamino Zidarich and two local friends - Furio Baldassi and Chiara Giglio. Furio is a journalist with the local newspaper, "Il Piccolo" who seemingly knows everyone in Trieste, and Chiara is a blogger friend I met online several years ago through her excellent food blog, "La Voglia Matta." They all provided us with an unforgettable visit to Trieste, a cosmopolitan city that reflects its position as a crossroads of Italian, Austro- Hungarian and Slavic culture.
Beniamino (Benjamin) started the winery in 1988, although the house where he and his family live dates back to the 1700s. The property sits 1300 meters above sea level (4,265 feet) on red, rocky terrain that is swept by a strong, cold wind from the sea, called the bora. The ground is covered with only a few centimeters of fertile humus, and beneath that are layers of limestone, making it a challenge for grape growers.
But it is this same microclimate that allows Benjamin to grow his grapes using no pesticides. He said, "I nostri vini sono fatti con passione, usando metodi naturali, tramandatici dai nostri nonni." ("Our wines are made using only natural methods, handed down to us by our grandparents.") 
In the vineyard, the grapes are just starting to bud and flower, but will transform into large clusters by the fall, when harvest occurs for the start of wine production. The vines are heavily pruned to allow for a greater concentration of flavor in the grapes. Once the grapes are harvested, they are moved to the cantina, or wine cellar.
The process starts in these stone vats, carved by a local artist, where the grapes, with their skins, are macerated and fermented for two weeks.

These vessels, called "tino" in Italian, are carved from local stone, and are what the ancient Romans also used when fermenting grapes. They give the wine an even stronger imprint of the terrain, or "terroir."
Here you can see a larger tino in one of the cellars below ground. The impressive Zidarich cantina was excavated 22 meters (72 feet) and five floors deep into the rock and took eight years to build. Each of the stones in the cellar was carved by hand from local rock. 
The naturally cool environment provides a consistent temperature of 14 degrees centigrade (57.2 degrees fahrenheit) all year long, perfect for aging and maintaining the wines in the barrels and later bottling. The vitovsky wines are aged in the casks for two years before bottling.
But before bottling, the wine is moved to stainless steel tanks for a short time. The pillars are carved with designs representing the four seasons, like this one, with grape clusters depicting autumn.
Vitovska is only one of the five wines produced at Zidarich Winery. Aside from vitovska, Zibarich produces two other white wines - malvasia, and prulke, made from a blend of vitovska, malvasia and sauvignon grapes. The red wines made by Zidarich include terrano, a kind of refosco; and rujé, a mixture of the terrano and merlot grapes, that's aged four years in the barrel.

A quote from writer Mario Soldati sums up the sentiments of wine lovers everywhere:
 "Wine is the poetry of the earth."
Naturally, while down in the cantina,  Benjamin wanted us to try his wines, and we were more than happy to oblige.
Vitovska wines, at their best - like the ones produced by Zidarich - have mildly floral notes with a hint of minerals, offering a complex balance.
After a tour of the cellars, we were treated to more wine tastings and food to complement the wines, on an outdoor terrace overlooking the vineyards.
Benjamin's wife Nevenka served us a variey of foods, all made from ingredients grown or produced on the property, including these crostini with goat cheese and lardo made from their own animals. 
This platter of locally made mozzarella and grilled zucchini disappeared quickly.
At first, I thought this delicious green frittata was made of spinach. But it turned out to be prepared with herbs grown on the property, laden with a strong mint accent.

We continued with a variety of salumi, all homemade. From the top, clockwise, you're looking at homemade salami, pancetta, and ombolo, a gastronomic specialty made from the back of the pig. They were so delicious, it was hard to stop eating them.
But there were still cheeses to savor, both mild, fresh cheese and more piquant aged ones.

Throughout, Benjamin poured different wines to accompany each course, ending with a sweet, red dessert wine called passito.

Zidarich Winery produces only about 30,000 bottles a year, a small amount compared to larger, more industrial companies. But quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality, and in this case, the extra care taken every step of the way results in optimum wine for the consumer. 
Benjamin does export his wines, including the vitovska, to the U.S., and Japan. While not omnipresent in wine shops, Zidarich wines are worth requesting at your local wine merchant. In New York City, you can find them at Millesima wine store, ay 1355 Second Ave., and at 67 Wine & Spirits, at 179 Columbus Avenue. In Los Angeles, look for Zidarich wines at Wine House , 2311 Cotner Avenue. For availability in other cities, go to

Grazie mille Beniamino, Furio e Chiara, per una giornata indimenticabile.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rhubarb Almond Crumb Cake

I know it's crazy, but I go into a mad cooking and baking frenzy just before nearly every trip I take. I can't bear to throw out containers of half full sour cream, or two stalks of rhubarb or a bunch of broccoli. Invariably, I have too much produce in my refrigerator and I know it will spoil before I get back. So with that in mind, I made this cake recently, trying to use up the three stalks of rhubarb I bought at a farmer's market a while ago. The recipe comes from "Food 52" and it's a winner - even if you're not a rhubarb fan, or can't find it, make it with blueberries - or apples - or peaches - or whatever you like. It's a buttery cake with a crispy brown-sugar and almond flavored topping.

Mix the batter and fold the raw rhubarb into it. Spread it into a buttered 8-inch springform pan. (My pan was 9 inch, which meant a slightly squatter cake.)

Spread the crumb topping over the batter.

And you get this beauty after it's baked.

Rhubarb Almond Crumb Cake


  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour2 tablespoons slivered almonds2 tablespoons rolled oats1/4 cup brown sugar1/4 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  • Butter for greasing the pan2 large eggs1 1/4 cup granulated sugar1/2 t. salt1 t. almond extract6 T. unsalted butter, melted1 1/4 cup all purpose flour1 t. baking powder2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

    1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch, deep, fluted tart pan or an 8-inch round cake pan.

    2. For the crumb, combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork or your fingers, gently work in the butter until pea-sized lumps are formed.

    3. Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and almond extract in a large bowl. Beat on high until the mixture triples in volume, about five minutes. Fold in the melted butter, flour, and rhubarb. Evenly spread the thick batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top.

    4. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, until the topping is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the pan when it’s completely cool.

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