Grilled Vegetables with Salsa Rossa Estiva

When I first saw the recipe for Salsa Rossa Estiva (Summer Red Sauce) in Cucina Piemontese: Cooking from Italy’s Piedmont, I told myself that I would resist making this sauce until it was summer. With Memorial Day as the official start of summer and grilling season, it was the perfect time to try out this recipe. I paired it with some grilled vegetables and it turned a sometimes bland summer BBQ side dish into something flavorful and uniquely Piemontese.

Salsa Rossa Estiva (Summer Red Sauce)
From Cucina Piemontese: Cooking from Italy’s Piedmont
Makes 2 Cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh sage
6 leaves fresh basil
1 cup canned peeled, crushed tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until tender. Tie the rosemary, bay leaf, sage and basil together with string and add the bundle to the pan; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Add the tomato and peppers, and cook for 20 minutes more.

Pass the mixture through a food mill or puree briefly in a food processor. Return the sauce to the pan, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes more.

Serve warm.

I paired this sauce with grilled eggplant, zucchini, and green and yellow peppers. This sauce also goes well with sformato, anchovies, or grilled meats.

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Springtime Risotto

It was a warm and sunny weekend in New York and summer was in the air. Why does spring come and go so quickly? I was determined to cook a spring themed meal even though my grill was calling my name from our terrace. The asparagus was fresh at our local produce store, so I decided a springtime risotto was in order.

Risotto seems like a cold weather dish, perfect for fall and winter, but I enjoy it year round. It is hands down my favorite thing to make. A good risotto is not as difficult to make as most people think. No constant stirring required. Just don’t ignore the pot for too long.

Springtime Risotto – serves 4
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the broth or stock to a boil over medium high heat. Add the asparagus, and let boil for 1 minute. You don’t want it to over cook. Remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat this process with the peas. Reduce heat, cover and keep the liquid warm.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large metal pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, but not browned. Add the rice and stir until the grains gain a shiny complexion, much like a pearl. Do not brown the rice. Pour in the wine and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Now you’re ready to add the broth. Ladle in enough broth to just cover the rice, approximately 3 ladlefuls. Season with some salt and stir. Let the rice rest until the liquid is mostly absorbed and small pockets appear on the top. Add some more broth, season, and stir. Repeat this process until your risotto has reached the desired consistency, checking for seasoning along the way.

Once the risotto is nice and creamy, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated parmesan cheese, and the asparagus and peas. Season with salt and pepper if needed, and serve immediately.

An Eating Tour of Paris

The final stop on our trip was Paris. Again, the weather was dreary, but I think Paris is more romantic in the rain. There is nothing like walking down an old cobblestone street damp with rain, and ducking into a bistro for an espresso or glass of wine. Oh, and of course having something to eat. You can easily eat your way through Paris. Paris is a food lover’s city.

I’m so happy we decided to do Paris by Mouth’s Best of Montmarte food tour. It was an ideal way to see one of Paris’ most unique and tasty neighborhoods. From learning how to choose the perfect baguette to eating pate and cheese on the street, this tour taught us how to shop and eat like a Parisian. Paris by Mouth is the go to website for people interested in discovering the best eats and drinks in Paris. Our tour definitely was the highlight of our trip. Here are some photos of our favorite stops and eats.

A lesson on a quality baguette

Street eating

Chocolates at A l’Etoile d’Or

Denise Acabo of A l’Etoile d’Or

After a busy couple of weeks (visiting parents followed by a week-long work trip to L.A.), I will be refocusing my posts on Piedmont. Stay tuned!

Falling in Love with Loire

After an incredible weekend in London, we arrived in Tours on a dreary and rainy afternoon. Even though the sun was not shining, we immediately fell in love with the landscape of the Loire Valley. Although much flatter than the hills of the Piemontese wine country, the Loire Valley was just as green and lush. Who needs sun when you’re surrounded by nature and wine?

I think we may have found the best bed and breakfast in the Loire Valley. We desperately needed a spot to decompress for a few days. When you live in New York City, “vacationing” in London isn’t exactly relaxing. La Grande Maison, located on a 17th century wine estate near Saumur, was the perfect spot to reboot.

La Grande Maison

The main room of La Grande Maison

La Grande Maison’s pigeonnier at night

La Grande Maison is run by Micaela and Sue, two warm and charming Brits with a passion for wine. We knew immediately that we would get along just fine. We took advantage of their wine tour services, and that decision was a smart one. They have extensive knowledge of wine, the growing process, and the local appellations. More importantly, as non-French speaking tourists, we would have been lost without their guidance.

Exploring the caves of Domaine de la Paleine

Yes, we tried them all!

Wine dinner at La Grande Maison

Wine pairings

We left the Loire Valley with memories that will last for a lifetime. We explored many caves, drank loads of Cabernet Franc, enjoyed delicious meals, and had wonderful conversations with our hosts. Thank you Micaela and Sue. I hope that our paths cross again someday!

New friends

Ciao Londra!

Two weeks ago today, we were boarding a flight headed to London. Vacations really go by too quickly. But wow, what a trip! Unfortunately, most of it is just a memory. The rest was brought back in wine bottles, but stay tuned, for that’s another post.

London was our first stop, and it didn’t disappoint. Plenty of pints, the perfect hotel on Charlotte Street, dinner with friends from London, and numerous meat pies. I want to go back.

Not to be missed is Borough Market. This open air market just over the London Bridge is a food lover’s paradise. So many interesting bites to be had. I immediately wanted to lease an apartment in East London just to throw a dinner party with items bought from Borough Market. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible, so I took plenty of photos. It’s only open a few days a week, so check the schedule. It is a must do if you’re in London on the right day.

Mmmm….pasty (a Cornish meat pie)