For a period of more than a decade, I was nearly completely vegetarian; when I did partake of flesh, it was seafood exclusively. I ate no chicken, pork, or beef during that entire time. The chink in the armor came during my first trip to Italy.
Unlike most lapsed vegetarians, the temptation that pulled me to the dark side was not bacon. It was salame.
We were standing there, on the cotta floor of a wine cantina in Montepulciano. On the counter was a wooden board with a chub of salame, a few thin slices lay flat next to a rustic blade. "You should try it," said my Roman cousin, "they make it on premises." I eyed the glossy cubes of fat embedded in brick red meat and thought to myself that I had not flown 6,000 miles not to eat it. I gingerly picked up a slice and slid it into my mouth, resting it on my tongue like a eucharist wafer.
My mouth filled with a complex blend of salt, black pepper, and a deeply savory meat. Fat slicked my palate and lips. There was no turning back.
Salumi and charcuterie have seen a renaissance in the US in the past few years. It's not uncommon for even small restaurants to have house charcuterie programs; some have even sprung up as their own product lines, like Chris Cosentino's Boccalone. Long-established brands like Columbus are still going strong, and producing high-quality, classic salame.
Back in 2010, Cathy Barrow of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen and Kim Foster of The Yummy Mummy unveiled Charcutepalooza, a year-long blogging event wherein people made recipes from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie. The response was bigger than anyone expected. And then I brought a group to Italy to work with a local norcino to break down a 200 kg pig and turn it into salumi.
Three San Francisco Bay Area chefs rolled out meat-themed books in the last year: Taylor Boetticher's In the Charcuterie, Ryan Farr's Sausage Making and Jeffrey Weiss' Charcuterìa, the Soul of Spain. All are great resources, but all dig deep on the classics.
And yet, lest you think there's nothing new under the sun, there's still room for innovation. Chef Jamie Bissonnette enters with something a bit different. (Disclosure: The publishers sent me a copy of the book gratis for review.)
Bissonnette is a firebrand, a relatively young chef who has risen the ranks swiftly, winner of the James Beard Best Chef Award, and now at the helm of two restaurants in New York (Toro, Coppa) and one outpost of Toro in Boston. He's a bearded, bespectacled, heavily inked former vegan turned nose-to-tail cook who listens to punk. In other words, he's my kinda guy.
Sweet and crunchy corn is best eaten within minutes of harvest, but if you want to keep the last lingering taste of summer through the shortening days, there's a few ways you can put some by.
Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me.
As the days shorten, those last tomatoes on the vine may stubbornly stay green. But that doesn't mean they're not good eating. Here's seven ways to preserve those green tomatoes.
Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me. This week, I'm going all prickly, sour and boozy.
Raspberries! These ripe red berries are fleeting, so grab a flat while you can and whip up some DIY deliciousness.
Figs are summer's last hurrah, and the harbinger of fall. These honey-sweet fruits are both delicious and versatile, eaten out of hand or packed in a jar.
There's a lot of exciting things happening in fermentation right now. Since launching Punk Domestics in 2010, I've seen DIYfermented foods trend up year over year. Lately there's been an uptick in innovation around tools that aid in fermenting. Recently my friend Nicole from FarmCurious launched her FarmCurious Ferments tool, using the ReCAP; it's a tool I myself use very regularly. Another friend, Ernie Miller of Rancho La Merced Provisions, is producing truly gorgeous lactofermentation kits with fermentation locks built right into the lids of swing-top jars. Yet another friend, Karen Diggs from here in the Bay Area, has designed, engineered and is bringing to market a new tool that is truly interesting and exciting.
Dubbed Kraut Source, it's modeled after the classic Japanese pickle presses, but with a few nuances that set it apart. Kraut Source is a five-part kit that screws on top of any standard wide-mouth mason jar, allowing you to control how much or little product you want to ferment. Made entirely of stainless steel, it features a spring-loaded press that keeps foods submerged under the brine, and a moat and cap on the top that allows gas to escape without letting any unpleasant bugaboos in.
Karen's Kickstarter is already going gangbusters (go check it out!), but she is graciously offering up a gift to one lucky winner to help spread the word. You can win the Double Gourmet & Pounder Kit, which comprises 2 Kraut Source with Mason jars, 2 deluxe wooden pounders, 2 (4 oz.) packets of hand-harvested Celtic Sea Salt®, 4 packets of gourmet organic spice blends for making sauerkraut and pickles, and 2 printed how-to booklets with 30+ recipes. Domestic shipping is included when the product is ready in November. That's a $100 value, people!
So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:
All entries must be logged in the Rafflecopter widget below to qualify for entry. One lucky winner will be selected at random. You've got until midnight PDT on Friday, August 22, so get subscribing, liking, pinning and tweeting!