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Ari's Top 5

“Ultimately, it is not the growing technique which is the most important factor,
but rather the state of mind of the farmer.”

—Masanobu Fukuoka

Check out previous issues here.

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Multiple images of Deli's Paella Party

Paella Parties at the Deli Sunday, September 16th, 23rd, and 30th!

Our 33rd annual celebration of Spanish cooking

Nearly 20 years ago now that I wrote this:

My fascination with paella began back when I first read about the dish 15 years or so ago. The more I read, the more I realized just how far the average American version of the dish had strayed from the intent and integrity of the Spanish original. I hate when this happens. The dish starts out as something special, and it ends up far from the original. Granted, most of what I’ll call Paella Americana has kept enough of the Spanish look to be able to get away with using the name, but in the course of its Trans-Atlantic crossing, the true greatness of the dish has been lost. 

The problem is that in the process we’ve been missing out on one of the world’s great eating experiences. Done well, paella’s pretty easy to make, and also marvelously delicious to eat. I know it’s not something you’re going cook for your kids at a moment’s notice, but still, it’s easily a dish you could whip up on a weekend, for a football crowd, or at a family get-together. 

How do I know you can do it?

Well, I certainly didn’t grow up with paella, yet I’ve learned how to cook it. We’ve been teaching proper preparation techniques to interested paella pupils since the mid-80s. We’ve had hundreds of people who started out knowing nothing about it, come back to tell me that they’ve produced a perfectly marvelous paella. 

In the intervening years, my passion hasn’t waned at all! Paella remains one of the most delicious, underappreciated dishes in the U.S. Every September for over three decades now, we’ve done this paella-cooking demonstration on the patio at the Deli. For those who love paella, it’s a small sign that things are still right in the world, and that the leaves will soon be falling here in Tree Town.

A few years ago we expanded our paella party to three straight Sundays in order to accommodate more people—September 16th, 23rd and 30th this year. The event is both a chance to learn how to make paella and to order up a plateful. Co-managing partner and chef of the Deli, Rodger Bowser, and crew will cook up three varieties outside over a traditional wood fire—chicken and chorizo, seafood, and vegetarian. Zingerman’s Bakehouse is also baking a pair of very special and super delicious desserts for the occasion: Torta de Santiago and chocolate miguelitos! And, for those in the know, there’s also authentic Spanish horchata, made from tiger nuts. Mark your calendars and come early—the paella always sells out!

Can’t make it? Order ahead and we’ll hold your paella ‘til you can pick it up!

 

‘Paella’ it forward!
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Photo of Sonoko Sakai making soba noodles

Writer, Chef, Teacher, and Noodle Maker visits Miss Kim

Sonoko Sakai does a special dinner Monday, September 17!

If you have an interest in Japanese cooking, food writing, culture, or buckwheat soba noodles, please don’t miss this exceptional, one time only event.

I’m incredibly honored to have Sonoko Sakai at Zingerman’s for an evening. Born in New York, she grew up in Japan, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Mexico City. She’s been writing, cooking, teaching, learning, and sharing actively for nearly 40 years. On top of all that, she’s an internationally known film producer. I’m wowed! Ms. Sakai’s first book, The Poetical Pursuit of Food: Japanese Recipes for American Cooks, came out in 1982 and her second book, Rice Craft, came out just a few years ago. In the years in between, her writing and recipes have appeared in The New York Times, Saveur, and the leading Japanese monthly, Bungei Shunju, as well as various national radio programs. She’s also doing extensive work on the preservation of ancient grains, some of it in collaboration with our friend and long-time supplier Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills—she has nearly 60 acres of heritage grains growing from Anson seed near L.A. right now! 

Next Monday evening’s event will begin with Sonoko teaching a short course in soba noodle making. From there, enjoy what promises to be an amazing, five-course meal of Sonoko’s Japanese recipes. A few of the things I’m looking forward to are:

  • Chawanmushi, a delicate, savory egg custard, with clams or mushrooms
  • Fresh, hand cut Soba Noodles
  • Duck and Leek or batter-less, crispy fried Roots (Burdock, Carrots, Satsuma Potato, Lotus) served with a hot dipping sauce
  • And for dessert—a chilled tofu custard with Kuromame beans and Okinawa brown sugar syrup

This is the sort of event for which one might typically have to travel to Tokyo, New York or Los Angeles to experience. Come down and meet the woman that Eater called, “a whole-grain activist and Japanese culinary expert.” Learn, laugh, and taste some terrific food! 

Quit noodlin’ around!
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Lametia Olive Oil from the Constantino Family of Calabria

Olive Oil from the Costantino Family in Calabria

Olive Oil from the Costantino Family in Calabria

My love affair with olive oil goes back about as far as my passion for paella. In our house—two people, four puppies—we go through a three-liter tin of olive oil almost every week.

At the Deli, we import single estate oils from nearly every producing region in the world, and we ship it all over the country. And yet, I keep looking for more! I explore olive oil the same way I do music. I’m still always searching for more! Moriah Woods, Kathryn Joseph and Jim Rioux are a few of the latest folks I’ve recently found myself listening to. Maybe it’s an addiction, or a bit of compulsive behavior. But I guess there are worse problems than supporting makers of independent music and artisan olive oil.

My most recent oil “discovery” is Lametia, the oil of Mariangela Costantino from the region of Calabria in southern Italy. Although Calabria is the second biggest olive oil producing part of Italy (Puglia, to the east, the heel of the boot, has long been the largest producer), its oils have rarely been seen in the U.S. In the region itself though, it’s old news—olives arrived in Calabria around 7-8000 BCE. Calabria produces about 140,000 tons a year, nearly a quarter of Italian production. Most of the oil, historically, went into big, mass market blends—while there were thousands of growers in the region, the recognition went to the big companies who stuck their brand names on the labels.

Calabria is the toe of the Italian “boot.” Historically one of the country’s poorest regions, although it’s long been culinarily rich. Mariangela Costantino is a small producer by Calabrian standards—only 60 hectares of olives. While 33 varieties grow there in the region, the most typical of Calabria, its special offering to the olive world, is the Carolea from which this superb oil is made. It’s all produced organically as well. It’s delicious, almost-but-not-quite delicate, daring but gentle, with only a small hint of pepperiness to power it up. White pepper, and a pinch of cassia comes up quietly from the corner when you’re not looking, as well as hints of walnut, fennel seed, thyme, green tomato, and the smell of tomato leaves. 

The oil is easy to enjoy! It’s modest, delicious, and delightful. I keep going back for more! It’s totally terrific on tomatoes, great on toast (the Bakehouse’s Paesano bread is typical of the neighboring region of Puglia), and lovely on a light salad of local lettuces. Try toasting a slice of Paesano bread, spread with some of the Georgia almond butter we sell at the Deli, and pour on some of this killer Calabrian oil. Sprinkle on a bit of red chile flakes if you like a bit of spice. Delicious!

The Italian boot was made for olive oil!
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A plated biscuit with honey drizzled over it.

Biscuits, Biscuits, Biscuits

The Year of the Biscuit begins at the Roadhouse

The buttermilk biscuits at the Roadhouse have always been good, but in the last year they’ve been getting better and better. Barely a day goes by that I don’t hear a compliment about them. Even biscuit connoisseurs have started to swear by them. Southerners, transplanted Southerners, and biscuit lovers are all going bonkers for these.

While nearly every buttermilk biscuit recipe will have similar ingredients, the quality of the final product is in the hands and skill of the person making them. Head chef at the Roadhouse, Bob Bennett, and crew have been working at them for well over a decade. As Bob told me, “I’ve made biscuits at almost every job I have held. Over time, I have definitely gained an appreciation for our biscuits.” The results just seem to keep getting better. Karl Worley, the man behind the nationally acclaimed Biscuit Love in Nashville, holds the Roadhouse biscuits in high regard: “The biscuits at the Roadhouse are the definition of hospitality. Bob sources the best ingredients, carefully mixes them together, and bakes them to perfection. They are everything that takes me back to my grandmother’s table when I eat one. Buttery, flaky, and filled with love!”

My favorite thing of late is to buy a dozen and bring ‘em to meetings. While donuts delight and Bakehouse pastries are a surefire way to please, folks just don’t see boxes of freshly baked biscuits around these parts all that often! 

A few years back Southern Living magazine wrote that, “Biscuits were so revered and celebrated in the pre-Civil War South that they were usually reserved for Sundays. Early Southerners actually considered the biscuit a delicacy.” I still do! 

P.S.: The first biscuit cutter was created by Alexander P. Ashbourne. He got his patent for it on November 30th, 1875. Ashbourne was born in 1820 and lived to be 95 years old in Oakland, California. For more on the work of Mr. Ashbourne, see “Biscuits and Black History” from Southern Foodways Alliance.

Get yer biscuits!
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Image of Zingerman's Creamery fresh goat cheese in packaging

Goat “Cream Cheese” from the Creamery

Lovely, local goat cheese

The fresh goat “cream cheese” from the Creamery is not new. We’ve been making it for years. Lately, I can’t get enough of it. When we opened the Deli in the ‘80s, goat cheese was almost impossible to get in the U.S. We had it shipped from France. At the time, we were thrilled to get it. I dreamed of—and then made—trips to France where every town had locally made, fresh goat cheese and a great bakery. The pairing of fresh handmade goat cheese with dark-crusted, country bread was inspiring. If you’d told me back in the early ‘80s that one day we’d be making our own fresh artisan goat cheese and baking our own bread, I don’t think I’d have believed you. 

The quality of our goat cheese comes from local goat milk and the care and skill of the crew at the Creamery. In under 24 hours we go from milk to cheese that’s mild and clean with a hint of goat. Spreadable, soft, and easy to work with.

Although it’s not technically “cream cheese” because it has no cream added back to it, I use it regularly in the same ways I use cream cheese. The Bakehouse’s new Country Miche is a perfect pairing with it and I love it with the caraway rye, too! Cinnamon Raisin, Sicilian Sesame Semolina… you name it. I like to drizzle the bread with a bit of olive oil before I spread on the cheese. Toasted bagels are terrific, too. It’s also excellent in sandwiches. You can also use it to stuff pasta, or make it the basis of a creamy goat cheese-based pasta sauce (I like it tossed with Martelli maccheroni—the pasta we use at the Roadhouse for the mac and cheese!). It’s great on a burger, in scrambled eggs, or in omelets. You can spice it up with a good, freshly cracked black pepper or really with any of the wonderful Épices de Cru spices.

You can buy the fresh goat cheese at the Cream Top Shop at Zingerman’s Southside (and watch the cheesemakers at work through the window while you wait). It’s also in the cheese case (right by the front door) at the Deli. And, of course, if you’re not local we can ship it to you. While I still, now and again, dream about trips to southern France and visiting the village markets, now I just drive over to the Southside of town to have my culinary dreams fulfilled.

'Goat' BLUE!
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Ari

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