Great Taste wants to spread the word about Sopra Sotto's northern Italian olio nuovo and southern Italian olio novello.
From Sopra Sotto:
These young oils are vibrant green in color with a viscous silken texture and the aroma of freshly cut grass, pepper, green apple, artichoke and olive leaf on the pallet. The very first press of the oil is designated as extra virgin. The qualities in this very exceptional oil are creamy, piquant, zesty, and unfiltered. Olio Nouvo or Olio Novello is the oil in its most intense state, immediately bottled after pressing and not allowed to settle.
Geographic location and olive varietals play a role in the nouvo or novello oil’s flavor profile. Many of the olive groves in Italy are filled with ancient trees. Although these ancient trees do not produce as much fruit as younger trees, the fruit is more intense and complex in flavor. The diversity in climate, varietals and topography gives the nouvo or novello oils of each region their own unique aroma and flavor.
Following are the Olio Nouvos / Olio Novellos now available at Sopra Sotto:
Tenuta di Capezzana Olio Nuovo: Pressed the week of October 25, 2010, this beautiful lime green olive oil is from the Tuscan Region. Aromatic of lemon with a buttery texture. Notes of artichoke, green tea and apple, this olive oil finishes with hints of wintergreen and pine. Drizzle on seafood, sautéed greens, or roasted Brussels sprouts. Olive varietals: Frantoio, Moraiolo, Pendolino, Leccino, Santa Caterina.
The groundhog saw his shadow; winter will be long.* But you can make the most of indoor time by creating authentic Italian pizza for family, friends--or just you.
Ingredients are key to great results. Fine milled 00 is excellent for pizza dough, and 00 is reportedly coming in this week at Zzest Culinary Market, Rochester:
Also: pizza-making-in-Minnesota discussion on Chowhound:
Hava sum fun, amici.
*Of course, in Minnesota, just six more weeks of winter is terrific news. But the implication is that spring is a long way off.
The best honey Great Taste has had from any producer in the West, North or East* is Hillview Honey from C. Richard Anderson, Northfield.
The honey was purchased from Fireside Orchard & Gardens, Northfield, which is now officially closed for the season.
Like many locally grown foods and food products in Minnesota, supplies can be limited. Whatever it is, if you like it , buy it if and when you can. In this case Great Taste bought the last jar of Hillview Honey on the shelf. When Great Taste researched Hillview Honey on the internet, nothing turned up. (For GT, this is "buying local" at its most interesting and mysterious.)
So what is this blog post about, anyway?
Well, Great Taste wants to share with others this honey discovery, but also, meanwhile, GT received a comment about the Simple Good and Tasty (aka SGT) blog from Minneapolis. Yes, GT loves it too and highlighted it in a post last month. Currently there is a recipe for baklava on the site's main page, along with information on Minnesota honey production and names of some good honey producers whose liquid gold may actually be in stock in a grocery store.
More on baklava: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baklava
*Tupelo honey, a southern specialty, is in a class by itself.
Perhaps you missed "Fruits of the Italian Harvest" Saturday night or "Italian Fall Classic Dishes" on October 10. Maybe you didn't make it a few days ago to "Buon Pranzo! Italian Sunday Lunch," featuring sauteed artichokes with sizzling lamb chops and timballo pasta tower.
No worries. Cookbook author and culinary consultant Antonio Cecconi offers four more Italian cooking classes at Sopra Sotto, Rochester, through November 22.
Cecconi, a Twin Cities-based caterer and consultant to food companies, is former restaurant owner and author of eight cookbooks, including Betty Crocker's Italian Cooking. In classes the native Sardinian presents insightful, witty instruction as he creates Italian staples and specialties in a colorful corner of the Sopra Sotto store. Then it's "buon appetito" for course participants as they feast on preparations, usually washed down with paired wines.
Upcoming classes are: "Heartwarming Fall Meal, " featuring suppli al telefono (filled rice fritters), fettucine agli asparagi e Gorgonzola, veal saltimbocca alla Romana with spinazi alla Milanese, insalata, and espresso and fresh strawberries with zabaione sauce; "Buon Pranzo: Italian Sunday Lunch," with spinach polenta soup, tranci di pollo all'agro (chicken in savory sauce), eggplant Parmesan side, and dessert of alpine almond torte; "Italian Holiday Specialties," demonstrating how to make fresh basil-wrapped and assorted cheese truffles, tortellini, round ravioli, chicken piccata, fresh basil and spinach salad with green beans, and suppa inglese made with panettone; and "Buon Pranzo! Italian Sunday Lunch," showcasing how to make roasted garlic and onion soup, polenta with sauteed spinach and pine nuts, roasted loin of marlin with fresh insalata, and hazelnut biscotti.
Mama mia, Great Taste is feeling hunger pains while writing this.
Class size is limited, so it is suggested to sign up earlier rather than later; however, in case of sellouts Sopra Sotto organizes additional classes for a minimum of 8 participants.
More information: http://www.sopra-sotto.com/news.php
Note about Cecconi's Betty Crocker cookbook: This 336-page little work of art functions as both introduction to Italian cuisine for beginners (with step-by-step, numbered directions; 10 pages featuring "A Culinary Tour of the Twenty Regions;" and numerous glossaries) as well as an addition to the veteran cook's library, presenting straightforward, authentic recipes usually accompanied by full-page photographs. Great Taste has this cookbook in the personal collection.
The Minnesota to Marin Road Trip has come full circle: Was at Rochester's Culinary Market--again!--and owner LeeAnn Zubay pointed to products she carries from Marin County....
Highlights included "Tart Cherry, Cacao Nib & Almond Pan Forte" crostini by Rustic Bakery (in Larkspur and Novato/www.rusticbakery.com)--which was to-die-for great snacking with Vermont Butter & Cheese Company Cultured Butter--and San Rafael-based Robert Lambert Salt-Preserved Meyer Lemons. (www.robertlambert.com)
We tried Lambert's preserved lemons in salad dressing, the recipe for which is on his web site. It was perfect for baby leaf greens with avocado slices and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Last week's trip to Marin County, California, made us feisty for fresh olive oil, good avocados, young arugula and ocean seafood. We savored hot and cold sliced fennel and scolded ourselves for never thinking to top salads at home with pistachios.
We didn't get to Chez Panisse across the bay or the French Laundry up in Yountville. We left our hearts in Marin locavore land. (Maybe we went loco-loca; we didn't even cross the Golden Gate bridge.)
Regional highlights included vegetarian couscous lunch at rustic, handsome Insalata's in San Anselmo and California-grown olive oil pressed on site at Frantoio Ristorante in Mill Valley. There were Cowgirl Creamery cheese moments.
But the K.O. experience between San Francisco and the Wine Country was cocina criolla at Sol Food in San Rafael. I ordered take-out from the tiny Puerto Rican eatery so I could satisfy my curiosity and then move on.....What a fool, what a fool. A visit to Sol Food's nearby bigger space happened soon after. With more time, third and fourth visits would have followed.
Plantains--platanos--are napkin weights at Sol Food. When cooked, they anchor a meal like russet potatoes do in the Midwest or polenta in parts of Italy. I learned that vegan mofongo--fried green plantains mashed with olive oil and garlic--was my fave, but I also loved pancake-shaped tostones, and sweet, delicate maduros. (Are you still with me? This can be a lot of exotic terminology if you haven't had exposure to it.....Novice that I am, I came home and researched on Google for...it must have been...hours.)
A special using platanos was pastelon de carne--sweet plantain and beef "lasagna" with jack cheese and roasted red peppers. But on my maiden expedition I had three types of plantain sides (described above) with pollo--chicken thighs that had been deboned and skinned, then marinated in oregano and garlic and baked. Delicioso. There was house-made pique, a bright orange hot sauce that took the pollo up another notch.
For dessert I skipped classic flan in order to try tembleque--coconut pudding with mango sauce--and did not regret it.
Aside from its culinary appeal, Sol Food features piped-in authentic music and hip, tropic-inspired decor, both of which dazzle and delight.
Sol Food, 732 Fourth Street and 901 Lincoln Avenue, San Rafael, California
Closer to home
What, you don't want to travel thousands of miles to try authentic Puerto Rican dishes? Puerta Azul in St. Paul closed a while back so it looks like Chicago is the next stop, with about a half-dozen spots to choose from. Let me know if you find anything closer that's worth passing on to readers.