Eat This Word: Cavatelli

Cavatelli

 

WHAT? Few Americans understand either the regional diversity of food in Italy or the pride that Italians take in their cuisine. Take these little, handmade pasta curls, for example. Made from a stiff dough of semolina and water that is traditionally shaped on a wooden work surface by curling it with the tip of a butter knife, cavatelli are claimed by the Molize, Puglia, and Abruzzo regions of Italy. The dough and the shaping technique are similar to those used for orechiette, but the shape is closer to gnocchi. Cavatelli (or cavatieddi in Apulian dialect) are traditionally served with cooked bitter greens, such as arugula, and tomato sauce.

 

WHERE? Delmonico's Does Mardi Gras!

 

WHEN? February 17, 2015

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Eat This Word: Sunchokes

sunchoke

 

WHAT? A member of the sunflower family, this unusual vegetable, native to North America, can grow to be ten feet tall. Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes, although they've got nothing to do with the Holy Land and they certainly aren't artichokes. The origins of its etymology are as varied and gnarled as this tuber’s skin. Some suspect that the Italian word for sunflower, girasole, tumbled through a game of telephone to become Jerusalem. A marketing scheme took this confusing nomenclature, combined it with the bulbs’ light artichokey flavor, and the “Jerusalem artichoke” was born. But the eccentric titles don’t end there: the sunchoke has also been nicknamed the “fartichoke.” Julia Child once said, “I just love those Jersualem artichokes. But is there anything you can do about the flatulence?” The sunchoke’s high starch content is the culprit (and also a natural remedy for diabetics).
 
Thankfully, these monikers have been eclipsed by this vegetable’s versatility. Sunchokes can be eaten raw, cooked like potatoes, or... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Semifreddo

 

WHAT? A half-frozen idea. Italian for "half-cold," semifreddo is an Italian dessert made by freezing mousseline-like custards, which are often layered with ingredients like ground amaretti, nuts, or chocolate. Unlike ice cream, semifreddo is not churned. To make it edible while frozen, air is incorporated into the custard base, usually in the form of meringue or whipped cream. The air also has the effect of making the semifreddo seem less cold than it actually is, which accounts for its name.

 

WHERE? Rappahannock Oyster Celebration

 

WHEN? January 21, 2015

 

HOW? Tangerine Creamsicle with Buttermilk Semifreddo, Paige Tangerines, and Quince Cookie

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Eat This Word: Mochi

 

WHAT? In its homeland of Japan, this glutinous rice (mochi gome in Japanese) is used primarily to make confections, to make a special rice dish used for celebrations (sekihan), or to make mochi, a soft, gooey rice cake that is served around the New Year. Ordinarily, the Japanese cook rice by boiling; mochi rice, however, is steamed. To make mochi rice cakes, the hot rice is pounded over and over with a wooden palletsweaty workuntil it is pulverized. The resultant sticky dough is shaped into cakes, used both for shrine offerings and to eat. Mochi, which has an extensible texture like taffy but more so, is considered auspicious, for the word also means "to have," and thus connotes prosperity for the new year. Our favorite treat is mochi ice cream balls, in which a ball of ice cream is wrapped with mochi dough so you can hold it in your hands while you eat it.

 

WHERE? Pioneers and Legends... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Tourtières

WHAT? French pastry. As is so often the case with French words, tourtière means something slightly different in France than it does in French Canada. In Paris the word tourtière is obscure. It refers to a generic meat pie (sometimes also called a tourte) in a pastry crust that's baked in a mold called a tourtière. (Like tagine, terrine, and tian, the name of the dish comes from the name of the vessel in which it is cooked.) In Montréal, tourtière refers to a specific meat pie, usually ground pork, that's seasoned with cinnamon and clove and baked in a lard crust. It is traditional at Christmas, but it is eaten throughout the year. There are regional variations, such as the tourtières made along the Saguenay River that are filled with potatoes, onions, and cubed meat. Whereas in France it's unlikely to find someone who has ever had a tourtière, in French Canada, just about everyone has probably had one within the last year.

 

WHERE? Chuckwagon Raconteur

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Eat This Word: Pavolva

pavlova

 

WHAT? Named for the world-famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this fruit, whipped cream, and meringue dessert is claimed by rival nations. Aussies have long considered it their national dessert, but New Zealanders argue that they invented the pavlova, and they back up their claim with citations from cookbooks. The dancer toured both countries in the late 1920s. In Perth, Australia, she stayed at the Esplanade Hotel, whose chef, Herbert Sachse, is often credited with creating the dessert some six years later. Supposedly the pavlova acquired its name after someone proclaimed his dessert was "as light as pavlova." Others think the name stems from the fact that the ring-shaped meringue resembled pavlova's frilly, white costume in her most famous role, the Dying Swan. Pavlovas are traditionally filled with passion fruit.

 

WHERE? Finger Lakes Holiday Dinner

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Eat This Word: Geoduck

A geoduck, radish, and avocado canapé at the Beard House

 

WHAT? "These are the most bizarre-looking of all clams (and perhaps all foods)," James Peterson writes in Fish & Shellfish of the geoduck, which makes its home in the Pacific Northwest. Waverly Root wasn't much kinder, describing it as a "clam so fat that it cannot close its shell." The bigger specimens of the world's largest burrowing clam weigh as much as 20 pounds, live as long as 150 years, and their neck, or siphon, extends by as much as three feet. They resemble…er…something not polite to write here. But odd-looking as they are, the geoduck has many admirers, culinary and otherwise. "Geoduck meat is delicious," Alan Davidson writes in The Oxford Companion to Food. The siphon meat is stirred into chowders and used for sushi; the body is sautéed. Asians pay as much as $30 per pound to dine on them, according to William Dietrich in The Seattle Times, who... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Heritage Turkey

 

WHAT? If the Pilgrims did in fact feast on turkey at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, it's unlikely that the bird bore much resemblance to the turkeys on today's Thanksgiving tables. It may have looked more like a heritage turkey, the ancestor of the Broad-Breasted White turkey now sold in most supermarkets. Wild turkeys, which were native to the Americas and a primary source of meat for many Native American tribes, were domesticated in Europe and North America to create heritage breeds such as the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, and the White Holland. By the 1960s the industrialized Broad-Breasted White, bred for its breast meat and ability to reach maturity in just two months, began to dominate the market, and by 1990 heritage turkeys were almost extinct. Usually raised on pasture, heritage breeds develop stronger legs, thighs, and breasts than their industrialized brethren, but since they take up to 30 weeks to reach market weight they are more expensive to... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Conch

 

WHAT? Over the centuries, Caribbean islanders have played tunes on the conch, drunk from it, made tools from it, adorned homes with it, used it as a primitive form of money, and--best of all--eaten it. "There is no doubt that since time immemorial, man has been breaking open conch shells in order to get at the succulent flesh inside," according to Culinaria, A Culinary Discovery: The Caribbean. The meat of this sea snail is tough and needs tenderizing with lime or by pounding before cooking. Its taste has been compared to clams and scallops. Conch, which propels itself along the ocean floor with its foot-like muscle, is used to make stews, chowders, and fritters. In the 17th century, the beautiful spiraled pink shell of the Queen Conch was prized in Europe. Today, entire conch orchestras make beautiful music in Key West at the island's annual Conch Blowing Contest.

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Eat This Word: Jaggery

Jaggery

 

WHAT? A dark, unrefined sugar, jaggery is used in Southeast Asia and India, regions where-we're told-sugar is considered good for you! Jaggery, which accounts for 50 percent of the sugar eaten in India, is made from sugar cane and is processed by a method not unlike that used to make maple syrup. The sweet sap from the sugarcane is boiled down while several people help stir the steadily thickening syrup. The finished product has a distinctive taste and can have a consistency as soft as honey-butter or as solid as fudge. India's epic narrative Mahabharata describes how jaggery (and gur, a sugar made from date palms) was used in sophisticated sweets at the time of Lord Krishna's appearance 5,000 years ago. 

 

WHERE? Eating Stories: Montreal to New Delhi 

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