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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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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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Handmade Pasta Recipe + Join me LIVE for a demo

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Ciao Guys! I wanted to post our basic pasta recipe for you all today. While we are all at home, our La Fortezza chef, Philip Meeker and I are doing LIVE La Fortezza Cooking Classes on Instagram. It’s a great way for you to try your hand at pasta making while also giving you something to do. Grab your family and make some pasta together!

Making your own pasta is so worth it. This is a recipe that will appear in my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook, (Rizzoli NY) Fall 2021. I hope you will join us for our first class TODAY on Instagram at 2 PM EST for a demonstration on how to make your own handmade pasta.

Let me know how you like making pasta by hand.

Stay well. x

Handmade Pasta: Basic Egg Pasta Dough
For 4 Servings

You will need:
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3 eggs

Directions for the pasta:
Mix the flour and salt in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Add the eggs to the bowl and mix them in to the flour to form a dough. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap, and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 4 hours before rolling out. Any longer and you risk the dough oxidizing and turning a dark color.

To prepare: 

*Use semolina flour for sprinkling or all-purpose flour for dusting*

To prepare your pasta via a machine:
Set the pasta machine rollers on their widest setting. Cut the pasta dough into quarters. Leave three of the pieces under plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Lightly dust the other piece with all-purpose flour and press it into a rectangle with almost the width of the rollers. You’ll want to maintain this width as you roll. Feed the dough through the machine, fold the dough in half crosswise. Repeat twice. Then without folding, feed the dough through the second widest setting. Repeat on the next thinnest, setting the rollers one notch thinner each time until you roll the dough through on the second to thinnest setting. Trim the two ends with a knife so that they are straight, and put on a lightly floured surface. Now your dough is ready to shape in to many types of pasta.

Note: You can also cut the pasta sheet into strips making Tagliatelle, by rolling the sheet loosely like a jelly roll into a 3 inch roll. Cut into ¼ inch strips, starting on the right side of the log, cut 6 cuts then toss the strips unfurling them into pasta nests, repeat until you have cut all rolls.

Hand cut: Dust a wooden board with 1 tbsp of flour.

Unwrap the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a thin pasta sheet, to less than 1/8 inch thickness. To cut the pasta sheets into tagliatelle, You can cut the pasta sheet into strips making Tagliatelle, by rolling the sheet loosely like a jelly roll into a 3 inch roll. Cut into ¼ inch strips, starting on the right side of the log, cut 6 cuts then toss the strips unfurling them into pasta nests.

To cook:
In salted water in a 5 quart pasta pot at a rolling boil add the pasta, cook until pasta rises to the top of the pot, pull one out to sample, it should have a bite or al dente. Serve with your favorite sauce or topping.

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Go Green with Arugula Ice Cream

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Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not! Today I am sharing a recipe by our workshop chef, Chef Philip Meeker. It’s one of his specialties, arugula ice cream. This dessert is the perfect way to get in some greens while giving in ever so slightly to your sweet tooth.

Arugula Ice Cream or in Italian, Gelato di Rucola

Chef Philip says, “This time of year there’s a lot of fresh arugula at the market. Buying it from the farmer is a totally different experience than getting it at the store. The nutty and peppery flavors that you get from farm-fresh arugula are as striking as any herb which to me is a great indication that it would go well in a gelato just like rosemary or basil would. But what to pair the gelato with depends on whether you use cane sugar or glucose to make it. If you use glucose, the sweetness will be so minimal that you can use it in salad, like a carpaccio di fragole (a.k.a thinly sliced strawberries) with balsamic, fresh arugula and olive oil. And don’t worry: while glucose may sound fancy and hard to get, the light corn syrup you use for pecan pie is mostly glucose.”

Arugula Ice Cream

You will need:
– 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
– ¾ cups whole milk
– 1 ½  cups sugar (or glucose or light corn syrup)
– ¼ cup cornstarch
– 3 cups puréed arugula (about 3-4 bunches of field arugula)
– pinch of salt plus salt for boiling arugula
Note: There is no acid in this recipe because it will destroy the green color

Blanching and Puréeing Arugula:

Prepare a bowl of heavily iced water. This will be used to immediately cool down the arugula after it cooks. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Salt the water lightly. Throw in the arugula and let it cook for three to five seconds. Remove it from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into the ice water. As soon as the arugula becomes ice cold, about 20 seconds, put it into a blender. Don’t worry too much about water that stays with the arugula as it goes into the blender. This will help the arugula blend into a smooth purée. Add a couple of ice cubes to the blender before starting to ensure the arugula won’t heat while blending which will allow the beautiful green colors to be , preserved. As you blend the arugula to a purée, add water and ice to the blender as needed to ensure the arugula has enough liquid to blend. Store the arugula purée in the fridge until you are ready to add it to the ice cream mix. Keeping it cool will ensure that its color will stay green and that the flavor won’t weaken.

Making Ice Cream Base:

To make the base of the ice cream, heat ½ cup of the whole milk plus the heavy cream in a small saucepan on high heat along with 1 cup of the sugar. Stir occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. In a bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and cornstarch with a whisk (mixing these two ingredients together ahead of time helps avoid lumps). Mix in the remaining milk.

When the dairy-sugar mix in the saucepan comes to a boil, mix a little of it in with the cornstarch mix. Then pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pot. Put it back over high heat. Mix it slowly while it comes to a boil. When the contents of the pot boil, mix it rapidly, carefully scraping the bottom to avoid scorching. The mixture needs to boil for 1-2 minutes until it lacks a starch taste.

Afterward, pour the mix into a sealed container, and store in the fridge to cool down.

Once cool, whisk the arugula into the dairy mix along with the salt. Spin in an ice cream maker to make ice cream.

*Tip: Make sure the arugula mix has enough salt in it to make it have maximum sweetness but not enough to make it taste salty instead of sweet. You do this by adding salt to the mix, little by little, tasting as you go. It will bring out the nutty, peppery flavor of the arugula.

*Suggestion: Create new flavor profiles by using other herb purées, such as parsley, mint, or tarragon. If a herb seems like it might lack flavor, steep the herb in the dairy mix after the dairy mix comes off the heat. Remove the steeped herb before it starts to turn color to something dead looking. I generally do a five-minute infusion.

Grazie mille, Chef Philip!

xx

Photo credit: Philip Meeker

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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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