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Jim Rua’s Journal—Dinner at the Chef’s Table

Autumn Fare Served Last Evening:  Stuffed quail with sausage; Semolina gnocchi; Fried quail egg; Broccoli sauté with tomato.  Let me cook for you some time at the Chef’s Table.  Make a reservation. Dinner for 10.  Jim

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The ripest tomatoes with burrata and basil, still from our garden. Looks like summer.   

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Jim Rua’s Journal — Sempre Famiglia

Sunday Family Dinner, October 7, 2018

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Grandpa toasting cool-John Rua at the family table last Sunday while Maia, Chiara, Valentina, and James settle in together for a bountiful gathering of the clan. Sunday dinner with the family gathered is the week’s highlight occasion for this grandfather.  

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Jim Rua’s Journal Report from Tuscany

His Elegance

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Personal elegance is a priority and high art among Florentines.  I have for many years enjoyed this man’s aristocratic bearing, and the elegant manner with which he serves pastry and beverages at Rivoire, the most refined cafe in Florence located at one corner of the Piazza Signoria.  Note the Medici palace (Palazzo Vecchio) in the background.  And the waiter: with the effortless grace of Fred Astaire he serves this bottle of Pellegrino.  Classic beauty.  I hope you get there some time. Let me know.  Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Report from Tuscany

The Elegant Simplicity of Lunch in Florence

 

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Salad with octopus & orange slices; Fennel salami, Pecorino, & chicken liver on toast (crostini, fegato di pollo); Burrata with sliced tomatoes and basil; Chianti.  You can do this at home.  Cook fearless.  Let me know. Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Birthday Turkey Roast: I observed my birthday this week by roasting a turkey for a family dinner. And here it is after 4 hours in the oven, headed for the table. 

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Anatomy of the Stuffing: I sautéed pheasant sausage and pork sausage together with green onions, garlic and herbs, 5 to 7 minutes.

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When the meat is just cooked, I combined it with breadcrumbs, mixed everything together, and

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Stuffed the turkey like this, seasoned it with salt,  pepper, and paprika, then  roasted it for 4 hours, until it was 160 degrees at the leg joint.

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Here’s how it looked on the plate.  

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You can do this. Let me know. Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal. Report from Tuscany

Just Like at Home:  Franco and I did some cooking while at the vineyard in Tuscany this summer. Here is Franco tending the wood fired barbecue. 

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This is me juggling pots and pans on 4 burners inside.

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And this is our Tuscan Table, 8 for dinner. Just like at home. 

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Below  is the remarkable setting, you can see the back of the barbecue on the left. You may bring your family to Fattoria Lavacchio and stay at the villa named for the Miller’s wife. Tell the Lottero family we say hello and thanks for these extraordinary memories. Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Bucatini with Oven Roasted Roma Tomatoes. Bucatini are long, thin, tubular noodles with a hole in the middle, like a straw.  Cut the tomatoes in half, season with herbs and olive oil, then roast them at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, until they lose about 50% of their volume. Their taste will be intensified.

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Below are tomatoes that I prepared for roasting in a muffin pan, seasoned with herbs, garlic, and drizzled with truffle oil. Usually I drizzle olive oil, but for this occasion I used truffle oil procured on our recent visit to Fattoria Lavacchio in Tuscany. 

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The muffin pan provides structure and nicely contains the tomatoes. Slow cooking is essential. The tomatoes can be blistered at the end, but not burned.  

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The ingredients for the finished  pasta dish shown above are on this small plate. Chop and sauté the garlic in olive oil, cook the pasta, then toss the pasta in the skillet adding the tomatoes, basil, and Parmigiana.  

 This is what it looks like in the skillet. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

This is what it looks like in the skillet. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Antipasto Siciliano:  Oranges with Anchovies and Mint

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Brilliant color, scintillating tastes.  When your antipasto menu calls for some variety add this burst of color and surprising combination of tastes.  Slice the oranges, add anchovies, and finely chopped mint.  Nothing else—You can do this.  Let me know. Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal. Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Crimini Mushrooms with Mango

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You can find ripe mango in supermarkets throughout the year, and crimini mushrooms are always available.  Let’s put them together for an interesting appetizer.  Here I sautéed the mushrooms in butter and olive oil (salt and pepper), a little garlic, and  a sprig of rosemary.  The chilled mango I cut into wedges and surrounded the hot, just sautéed, mushrooms on a beautiful platter. Nothing complex, just a bright idea manifest. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Exotic Simplicity: Garden Salad with Scungilli.  Scungilli are sea snails, aka conch.  The term Scungilli is Italian, associated with South Italian cuisine, particularly Napoli. For this simple exotica I made a fresh garden salad, then I added a small can of LaMonica sliced “snails.”  Tossed with fruity olive oil from Sicily, this was a princely lunch for me. 

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Below, the salad mostly complete.  Epicures who think this is too easy (or cheating) are wrong. Throughout the Mediterranean fish and shellfish preserved in jars and cans are used extensively in exquisite, and exquisitely simple, preparations—Think tuna under olive oil, for example. If you find the Scungilli you can do this, enjoy and be proud of it. You can see how good it is.  Let me know.  Jim

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JimRua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Watermelon Salad. This refreshing salad will remind you of Summer throughout the year. How simple is this, and so pretty:

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Baby arugula, watermelon nuggets discretely placed, shaved Parmesan. Dress with olive oil, salt and pepper if you like. Juices from the watermelon nicely complement the olive oil.  Summer in January. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Report from Tuscany

The Communal Oven.  In times past, rural communities in Italy often maintained communal ovens where neighbors could bake bread, chickens, and other foods, particularly large roasts like boar and pigs.  This lovely small building on the Fattoria Lavacchio estate is  such an oven.  Two weeks ago, on our visit to the vineyard, we were treated to a Tuscan pizza fest, with the pies made right here.  

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Below is a photo I shot 10 days ago from the back of this building—it’s the oven itself being tended by the pizzaiolo.  This photo seems to be taken in a different location, in a different period in history, and it looks more like Napoli than Toscana.  Nevertheless, these photos show the front and back of a brick, wood fired oven still used at Fattoria Lavacchio in the Tuscan hills.  I have actually enjoyed many feasts, including 4 wedding feasts, prepared from this oven during two decades of regular visits.  

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And here is the crispy wood fired pizza we enjoyed, early September, 2018.   Delizioso.  Jim 

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Jim Rua’s Journal. Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Here’s How I Cooked Those Great Steaks Served Last Night At The Chef’s Table 

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First, locally raised beef steaks generously salted and allowed to rest at room temperature for several hours. This will tenderize the meat and enhance flavor. The salt does not drain juices from the meat prepared this way. Next, very hot grill shown above. These steaks were grilled on one side for about 3 minutes, turned a couple of times. Then, I flipped them and grilled for another 3 minutes, turning to ensure even cooking.  I Let them rest off the grill, carved them thus, with this result:

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Six minutes cooking time on a hot grill—must be hot. You can do this. Let me know.  Jim

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Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Late Summer Garden Salad: So Beautiful, So Good, So Simple

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Mid September medley of tomatoes: yellow, green “zebra” variety, and red, together with radicchio and basil leaves.  Just cut the vegetables, dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Done!  You can do this.  Let me know. JimRua

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The “bloom” is off these later season crops, but with a little trimming and mixing your salad will look and taste great, as above.  JR

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Jim Rua’s Journal

Harvest Time for Herb Gardners:  Dry Them for Winter Use

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Some dried herbs can be more pungent than fresh herbs and are especially good in sauces, soups, stews, and other cooked foods.    I especially love the taste of dried oregano in tomato sauce, a favorite taste I recall from childhood.  In recent years I have been drying and preserving  herbs from our garden in combination.   For example this dried combo pictured above includes basil, purple basil, Greek basil, oregano, and mint—herbs that are related and compliment each other.  

I picked this bunch about 3 weeks ago, tied a string around the lower stems, and hung to dry in the kitchen—no special place or special requirements, just let the herbs hang until they dry.  Then I removed the leaves, shown below, and ground them together in the small blender also shown in the photo. 

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Final step is to put the ground herbs in a glass jar, seal the jar, label it, and place it in your spice cabinet.  Believe me, home grown herbs preserved this way are an order of magnitude more flavorful then the commercial products, and no chemicals.  Below is my new spice treasure ready to elevate a  good Sunday sauce to GREAT!!!  You can do this.  Let me know, Jim

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