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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Philip Meeker

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Hello! I’m Philip Meeker, the chef at La Fortezza. Some of you might know me from the cooking classes Annette and I do on her Instagram or from pictures of all the cool things we explore in Italy.

I hope you all are doing well as possible during this time of social distancing. For me, it’s been a mixed experience. Nothing really bad has happened, and I’m thankful for that, but the world has changed in a way that’s left me feeling more uncertain about how to move through it. Being forced to pause also forced me to pay attention to many things I was ignoring. It added to the discomfort of distancing, but it’s given me more self-awareness and has strengthened some of my relationships.

As part of that awareness, I’ve made sure to try to do a few things each week to keep things playful and my spirits up.

Wake up & Dance.
This may sound goofy, but I love to dance. It also gets me to pay more attention to my body and to be comfortable being aware of my feelings there. I’ve been tuning into DJ DNice’s quarantine mixes and have also had Beyonce’s Homecoming on repeat. She’s the Queen B.

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Date nights.
Sarita, who is my partner, and I love to have a night out. Since that’s off the table, I’ve been surprising her with coursed meals, from pasta to octopus salad to pistachio cakes. Sometimes, I feel like I’m unconsciously or deliberately trying to recreate our experience at La Fortezza. If you have a yard, and it’s still cool where you are, I highly recommend an evening picnic next to the fire pit. As the sun goes down, we will lounge about on our blanket in the grass, looking up into the stars, sharing our hopes and dreams. May sound a little saccharine but it’s relaxing. (I made sure to get her permission to share this.)

Nature.
I’ve mentioned this a little in my date night rec, but the outdoors have been bringing me much needed serenity. Whether it’s a jog through the nature-preserve trails near our house or a walk with Louis Harris, our Bichon, I find I start to breathe a lot deeper when I get some exercise while listening to the birds and feeling the sun on my face.

Yoga.
It’s been my centering practice for the last 8 years, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to get myself on my mat much during this quarantine. But as my yoga teacher advises, I’m not going to focus on what I’m not doing with my practice, and I’m going to accept where I am.

Cooking Classes with Annette.
Planning, prepping, and co-teaching these classes has been a welcomed project these months. Cooking with Annette, though virtually, brings back a lot of memories of cooking, dining, and exploring Italy with her. I’m planning to be back there this September with her.

Thanks, Philip! Find Chef Philip’s bolognese recipe here!

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Focaccia La Fortezza Instagram Live Cooking Lesson

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Ciao Everyone!  We had a big demand to do a La Fortezza Virtual cooking lesson on focaccia, so we are answering your wishes! Join Chef Philip and me on my IG Live Wednesday at 5 pm EST. Below is the recipe we will be preparing.

We will be making the authentic Liguria-style focaccia. We will tell you all about the focaccia that you will find all up and down the Italian Riviera, and we’ll show you how to make it yourself. I hope to see you on the ‘gram!

Focaccia
Serves 4

You will need:
– 4 cups double zero flour (super fine flour) flour for kneading if needed.
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1/3 cup warm water
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for the cookie sheet + 3 tablespoons for finishing before baking, 1 tablespoon to finish after baking
– 1 tablespoon coarse salt + 1 teaspoon for finishing

To prepare:

Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1/3 cups water and let proof in a large bowl allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Place flour and oil and salt and water, combine until it forms a sticky dough, it should be very sticky. Flour your surface and turn the dough onto floured surface. knead gently for a minute until dough forms a soft dough.

On an oiled cookie sheet with a lip, spread the dough out to fit the cookie sheet. With your index fingers poke dimples into the top of the dough you may need to oil your fingers a bit to do this.

Let rest for 1 hour, then repeat by poking dimples into the risen dough, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Before placing in the oven, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil immediately and cool and eat warm or at room temperature. The key is to let the oil soak in as the focaccia cools.

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Fresh Pasta Recipe:: Pasta Puttanesca

La_Fortezza_Kate_Blohm_2019-363 Over the past few weeks, our workshop chef, Philip Meeker and I have been hosting cooking demonstrations on Instagram LIVE. In fact, we had another one last week!

Each lesson utilizes our quick and easy handmade pasta recipe found here. It serves as a great base for any pasta recipe, including pasta puttanesca.

Famously named for Italy’s “ladies of the night” who quickly made it between clients, this fast, easy and delicious pasta puttanesca recipe is an ideal weeknight meal and is perfect for the warmer spring weather that is upon us. It’s from the archives, and trust me, you’ll love it. It calls for lots of jars, including jarred marinara. What’s not to love about that?!

You will need:
– 1 pound fresh spaghetti or linguini
– 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (don’t skip this!)
– 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
– 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
– 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 jar Marinara sauce
– 1 cup jarred olive tempande
– 2 tablespoons drained capers
– 2 tablespoons dried basil
– Optional 2 tablespoons lemon oil

To prepare:

Cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling water until barely al dente.

While pasta boils, cook garlic, anchovy paste, red-pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes.

Add jar of marinara to garlic oil along with olive tempande and capers and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is ready.

Drain pasta and add to sauce. Simmer, turning pasta with tongs, until pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and lemon oil.

*Note: for a touch of protein you can stir in canned tuna to the pasta.

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Sour Cherry Liqueur

Things have settled down around here. After a hectic month, we finally have a little quiet time which is welcome.

Before our workshop chef departed, literally 10 minutes before he had to catch a train, Chef Philip decided he needed to ferment a ginormous batch of cherries from our sour cherry tree. He had originally put up a small batch by picking a tiny batch of cherries a few weeks earlier and putting them in sugar to break them down. Then he placed the tiny jar in the window sill to ferment.

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here’s his instagram post about the first batch

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Then about 2 weeks later, he and our intern Adri decided to climb the old cherry tree and harvest basket loads of sour cherries. I’ve never seen a happier Philip. We grabbed a giant glass jar and loaded it with the alreadly fermenting cherries from the window sill and the new cherries they had collected. Adding more sugar and a few liters of pure alcohol, Philip covered the batch and left it to ferment.

Much to my surprise, literally, as we were heading to the train station, Philip decided to harvest more cherries, and quickly added them to the fermenting batch and then added much more sugar and more bottles of alcohol. The giant batch now sits proudly in the middle of the commercial kitchen. I can only surmise that this was a subliminal way of letting us all know that Chef Philip will be back.

For this recipe and so many more, join us in September not only to taste Philip’s Sour Cherry Liqueur but to explore this incredibly rich region on our Preserving Italy : Slow Food of the Lunigiana Experience. Head to the link to preserve, explore, harvest and cook with us. Learn to make local dishes and handmade pasta with Chef Philip and other local experts. Harvest our grapes and visit the winery where we make our wine. It’s going to be a dream.

I cannot wait to taste our Sour Cherry Liqueur; our first batch of many in years to come.

Grazie and Cin cin! Philip, you’re crazy, and we love that.

xx

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