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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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LIVE Cooking Class:: Let’s Make Tortellini

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Ciao everyone! While we are all at home, our La Fortezza chef, Philip Meeker and I are doing LIVE La Fortezza Cooking Classes on Instagram. In fact, so many of you joined us for our last cooking class, Philip and I decided to host another!

We’ll be sharing two recipes using tortellini which are both fantastic for a weeknight meal. The first is topped with walnut pesto. The second is Chef Philip’s bolognese. It’s delightful on any pasta, but we especially love it on woodfired pizza.  I’m posting both of them today, so you have some time to shop for anything you might need. I hope you will join us on Thursday on Instagram at 2 PM EST!

Stay well. x

Greens and Ricotta Stuffed Tortellini with Walnut Pesto
Serves 4

Pasta: For Tortelli Pasta, use the Basic Pasta recipe. Find it here.

For the filling, you will need:

– 3 cups baby kale
– 2 cups  baby arugula
– 1 cup baby spinach
– 1 1/2 cups ricotta
– 8 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 eggs

To prepare the filling:

Fill a 4-quart pot 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water to a boil. Fill a bowl 3/4 full with ice water. Add the kale, arugula, and spinach to the boiling water blanch them quickly about  30 seconds to 1 minute. Pull the greens from the pot and plunge into the ice water.

Drain the greens in a sieve and then squeeze the liquid out of them by pressing into the sieve over the sink to remove excess liquid. In a food processor place chilled greens, ricotta, parmesan, pepper, one teaspoon salt, and nutmeg. Blend until a smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 1 egg, and blend. Place the mixture into the fridge until ready to fill the Tortellini.

 

For the walnut pesto, you will need:
– 1 cup shelled walnuts, reserve 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for garnish
– 1 clove of garlic
– 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan, + ¼ cup for topping
– 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt

To prepare the walnut sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F. Put the whole walnuts on a sheet tray, and put on the middle rack in the oven to lightly roast them to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes watch them so they don’t burn. When the walnuts cool, chop the walnuts *set aside 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Combine walnuts and garlic in a food processor, and pulse about 30 seconds. Add  parmesan, olive oil, and salt, and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until combined, it should be a loose consistency.

To prepare tortellini: 

Use the directions of the pasta recipe, you should have 4 sheets. Using a  2  “ round cutter to cut the pasta cut our rounds.

Place the filling into a pastry bag. Using the pastry bag place a 1 inch dollop of filling into each circle of dough. When all the rounds are filled. With a finger dip into a bowl of water and then brush water around the filling fold in half press gently to seal, then take the 2 points and pull them to connect press together to form the shape of a tortellini.

Cooking tortellini:

Fill a 7 to 8-quart pot 3/4 full with water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Bring to a low boil over high heat, and then reduce to medium-low retaining the gentle boil. Drop tortellini in the water to cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the tortellini using a slotted. Place them in a 4 quart mixing bowl, toss with the Walnut Sauce. Serve immediately.

To serve:

Spoon the Tortelli onto four bowls, top with grated parmesan.

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Chef Philip’s Bolognese 
Serves 4-6

You will need:
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1 lb ground beef (at least 15 % fat)
– 1 carrot, chopped
– 4 ribs of celery chopped
– 1 yellow onion, chopped
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 14 oz can Mutti polpo tomatoes

To prepare:
Place the olive oil in a Dutch over. Add the ground beef to one side of the pan, it should be in
one piece. Chef’s Tip: This allows the ground beef brown evenly and it is less likely to dry out.
Add the carrot, celery, onion, and sprinkle the salt over the top. On medium heat sauté the meat
until it is deep brown and then flip it, making sure to keep it whole, let it brown on the other side.
Meanwhile, stir your veggies to ensure that they don’t burn they will be cooking on the other half
of the pot, sauté them until caramelized. They will be a nice brown color.
When the veggies are cooked, stir in the garlic, and then begin to break up the ground beef with
a heat proof spatula mixing it into the veggies. Once the ground beef is completely broken up,
add the tomatoes with their juice. Break up the tomatoes with your spoon and let them gently
cook down until they’re reduced by half. At this point, you’re Bolognese should be finished
cooking and it’s ready to use on pasta or pizza.

Chef’s Tip: Grass fed ground beef is much better than choice or prime when it comes to flavor.

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Comfort Food:: Meatless Lasagna

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I am sure you are, like me, relying heavily on meals that make you feel good from the inside out. Food is comforting, especially in these uncertain times. One of those meals for me is my meatless lasagna. It’s the quintessential comfort food.

This recipe makes a large portion of lasagna, so plan to serve it again for lunches and dinners, or divide it into two baking dishes and leave one for a neighbor on their porch. We could all use a little surprise these days. Enjoy!

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Meatless Lasagna
Serves 12-14

You will need:
– 1 package lasagna noodles (you will need 12 noodles)
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 cloves of garlic finely minced
– 2 cups mushrooms cut into thin slices
– 6 cups Spinach
– 1 16.oz ricotta ( low fat is fine)
– 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese (reserve 1 cup for the topping)
– 1 egg
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (reserve ½ cup for the topping)
– 1 16 oz jar prepared marinara sauce (or your own sauce recipe)

To prepare noodles:

Preheat Oven 400 degrees F

Prepare noodles according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: once the noodles are cooked, I like to rinse them in cool water and then leave them in the water until I am ready to layer the pan, this makes them not stick together.

To prepare filling:

Combine the ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, and the 1 cup Parmesan cheese, oregano and egg in a bowl and combine until smooth. Set aside.

In a saute pan, add oil, garlic and mushrooms. Saute until browned, then toss in the spinach and saute the spinach and mushrooms until all the moisture in the pan has evaporated. You want the mixture as dry as possible.

To layer:

Separate the noodles in the water some of them may have stuck together, then drain in a colander. I like to line up my fillings and the noodles.

In a lasagna pan (9”x13)” lay in the layer of noodles, 3 to 4 is perfect. Then add the sauce about (1/2 cup), the spinach mushroom filling, and then dollops of the ricotta filling (about 3 tablespoon dollops), finishing off the layer with a sprinkle of shredded Mozzarella ( about 1/2 cup). Repeat this process 3 times, each time starting with the noodle layer. The top layer should be the noodles, sauce and the 1 cup of Mozzarella and ½ cup of Parmesan make sure to cover the entire top layer.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. Let it set up for 15-20 minutes before serving.

xx Annette

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