Comment

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.  

B2785DEC-BA28-4F4F-BB5C-C63F8B3FC26D.JPG

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.  

IMAGE.JPG

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

9019BB87-45D4-42E4-AA3F-FF9D955790FC.JPG

Comment

Comment

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 

IMAGE.JPG

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:

IMAGE.JPG

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

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

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

FullSizeRender.jpg

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

FullSizeRender.jpg

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

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal

Harvest Time for Herb Gardners:  Dry Them for Winter Use

FullSizeRender.jpg

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. 

IMAGE.JPG

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

IMAGE.JPG

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration Not Recipes

Truffle Oil Apothecary  — This is how the Tuscan farmer produces truffle oil for himself

FullSizeRender.jpg

At our Tuscan-vineyard home in Chianti last week I learned how the local farmers/apothecaries transfer olive oil by magic into truffle oil for their own use.  It was for me a most improbable lesson, notwithstanding my fearless cooking instincts.  I was given some recently unearthed black truffles to take home precisely to carry out the lesson. And here is the “work in progress”:  1. Fill a ceramic bowl with olive oil; 2. Place fresh truffles in an open container positioned in the oil; 3. Do not allow the truffles to come into contact with the oil; 4. Cover the bowl and allow the magical and mysterious process of transformation (yes, it’s alchemy) to occur.  In this process, the oil absorbs the powerful truffle flavor.  After about one week you can eat the truffle and the oil can be used.  Seal the oil in a glass bottle.  The flavor diminishes quickly  

Many years ago I bought truffles from a farmer in Umbria.  I asked him if I could preserve the truffles in olive oil and he told me this: “if you put the truffles in olive oil you will quickly ruin the oil and the truffles.”  He said no more.  you may know that most commercial truffle oil products are produced in a laboratory and contain no truffles at all. This (above) is the way truffle oil is made on the farm.  Easy enough, but you have to find the truffles.  Good luck. Let me know!  Jim 

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration not Recipes

Cook a Steak in a Skillet.  Here is a substantial porterhouse steak placed in a hot skillet with cut up potatoes and a splash of olive oil. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

I seasoned the steak with dried oregano, salt, and pepper; cooked it like this for 3 minutes, turned it over, added zucchini, and cooked it 3 more minutes.  Result: 

 Six minutes cooking time.  You can do this.  Let me know. Jim

Six minutes cooking time.  You can do this.  Let me know. Jim

Comment

1 Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspiration Not Recipes

Pesto Lesson from a Genoese Housewife

FullSizeRender.jpg

We enjoyed a delicious pasta with basil pesto on our recent Tuscan holiday. The pesto was made by a family member of our host who brought it to us from her home in Genoa: authentic “pesto alla Genovese.”  Last evening I created a spontaneous version of this classic sauce, just to show you how easy it is to prepare.  The ingredients above are: basil (just picked from our garden), garlic cloves, Pecorino cheese from Calabria (the cheese I hade in my frig, and just right for pesto), a chunk of butter, toasted almonds, and olive oil.  All ingredients went into a blender (Cuisinart) and in about 2 minutes, magic occurs with this result:

 

 Pesto perfect—you can do this. Let me know.  Jim

Pesto perfect—you can do this. Let me know.  Jim

1 Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal

Report from Tuscany: View from Fiesole, ancient Etruscan hill town near Florence

4F2F2A9E-7C6E-4F4D-BE40-D1582312B0FE.JPG

Just returned from a late-summer Tuscan holiday at our vineyard home in Chianti, Fattoria Lavacchio. This no fuss smart-phone photo captures the incredible beauty and tranquility in that part of the world.  Leonardo da Vinci knew Fiesole and tested his human flight idea there when he attached to himself wings he had made and jumped off a cliff.  Leonardo would still recognize this town 500 years later, especially this view (absent new construction) from the Monastery of San Francesco where construction began in 1399.  I hope you get there some time. You won’t forget it. Jim

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless Inspirations not Recipes

Sunday Dinner: Easy as Pie

FullSizeRender.jpg

Begin with a whole chicken on a plate, dressed with a crown of rosemary, and surrounded by fresh vegetables—cut up like this, above.  Then

 Cut up the chicken.  Season the bird with salt, pepper, rosemary and paprika.  Place the chicken in a large skillet with the vegetables surrounding it, like this photo above. Roast everything at about 350 degrees, uncovered, for 1 hour.  The results look like the photo below..   

Cut up the chicken.  Season the bird with salt, pepper, rosemary and paprika.  Place the chicken in a large skillet with the vegetables surrounding it, like this photo above. Roast everything at about 350 degrees, uncovered, for 1 hour.  The results look like the photo below..

 

 I turned it all on to a beautiful platter and, presto, Sunday dinner.  No recipe, just an idea.  You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

I turned it all on to a beautiful platter and, presto, Sunday dinner.  No recipe, just an idea.  You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless Inspirations not Recipes

Perfect Lunch: Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables—7 Minutes Cooking Time over a Hot Fire

IMAGE.JPG

For this simple extravaganza you need a hot fire, for example charcoal or your backyard char broiler.  Cut up your favorite vegetables (here are peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet onion, zucchini), then add uncooked shrimp.  Toss in a bowl with your favorite seasonings, olive oil, and lemon.  Turn it all into a porous grilling pan set above the fire.  Cover to intensify the heat.  Grill covered for 1 minute, stir quickly, cover and grill another minute.  Repeat the process until the vegetables are charred and the shrimp is cooked through. Less than 10 minutes cooking time depending on the intensity of your fire.  You can do this. Let me know. Jim

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless Inspirations not Recipes

Pasta Presto

IMAGE.JPG

Sardines preserved in olive oil are inexpensive, easily available, and they are delicious.  Here I opened a tin of Portuguese sardines and combined them with chopped tomatoes (just picked), garlic, and  olive oil sautéed briefly as shown below, and then tossed with freshly cooked spaghetti & copious just-picked parsley.  Easily accomplished in half and hour. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

 This is how it begins. Simple, fast, fresh, and delicious. A little gardening, savvy shopping, a little cooking.  Cook Fearless. 

This is how it begins. Simple, fast, fresh, and delicious. A little gardening, savvy shopping, a little cooking.  Cook Fearless. 

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspirations Not Recipes

Loin Lamb Chops with Greens and Beans

IMAGE.JPG

This is for the inspirational cook. Prepare greens and beans, here with Tuscan kale, cannellini beans from Progresso, one chopped tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Just the way you do it. Then, the inspiration: 3 loin lamb chops seasoned as you like, sautéed for 2 minutes on each side, finished in the skillet for 5 minutes with greens and beans.  Fantastic dinner for two in 25 minutes.  You can do this.  Let me know, Jim

 

 I went crazy at the end by adding tagliatelle to the beans and an an heirloom tomato on the side.   

I went crazy at the end by adding tagliatelle to the beans and an an heirloom tomato on the side.   

Comment

1 Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless

The Grandest Paella of all Time, and the Most Fearless Cooking Achievement in my 40 Years at the Stove

At the annual Wine and Dine for the Arts dinner in Albany a couple of years ago,  Yono and I were responsible for preparing a giant paella from which hundreds of entering guests would be offered a taste. This grand paella was prepared in an enormous paella pan (paellera) too large to fit into a normal commercial oven.  Yono, the most fearless of all my cooking friends, said we could prepare this glorious monster by placing the pan on a rack over about 20 stereo (canned heat) canisters.  Franco and Chris Schenker were the primary executioners of Yono’s fearless method, which was to cook the paella entirely uncovered in the reception room where it would be served.  None of our great Signature Chef colleagues (and friends) on that occasion believed Yono’s idea could be achieved.  The first photo below shows Franco (showing no trepidation) beginning the process by arranging the sterno  in the reception area just outside the Hilton Hotel dining room.  Next, our intrepid heros are stirring the emerging masterpice, about 3/4 through the process. And finally, the masterpiece complete, gilded by a small suckling pig that we had roasted separately and artfully positioned as if it were emerging from this “grandest of all paellas,” and surely one of the finest examples I know of fearless cooking.  Honestly, 300 guests were dazzled and delighted; we cooks were euphoric.  Let me know what you think, especially if you there to see and enjoy it. Cook fearless. Jim

0956A98F-CFA8-4CE9-9C7F-ED8F5704989F.JPG
B8C5E296-4F58-4923-895D-FA65B8960A4D.JPG
6D8E5251-0058-4F88-8E5A-39F6256A0A52.JPG

1 Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspirations not Recipes—Here’s How

No More Packaged Salads, Please: You can prepare a delicious garden salad in minutes with fresh ingredients now available to you every day and in all seasons. Pictured below in a bowl is a single ripe tomato from our garden together with one sweet red pepper, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli,  basil, and parsley. In three minutes I cut and shredded the vegetables, added salt and pepper, and finished with the best olive oil in the house zested with a splash of red wine vinegar. Look at the result!! Notice that I substituted herbs for lettuce on this occasion. You can do this.  Let me know.  Jim

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

Comment

Comment

Jim Rua’s Journal Cook Fearless with Inspirations not Recipes

Home Cooking Made Easy: Here is a fabulous steak with potatoes and vegetables that I prepared for myself.  Looks complex but it’s not.  Here’s what I did: cut up some potatoes, peppers, and cherry tomatoes.  Season a NY strip steak with salt and pepper.  Sear the steak in a skillet for 2.5 minutes on each side.  Let the steak rest and fry the potatoes and vegetables (not the tomatoes)  with olive oil in the same skillet—5 to 7 minutes.  Distribute the vegetables around the steak, finish with fresh tomatoes and a lemon wedge.  Presto, great meal—total time, maybe 20 minutes.  You can do this.  Try it and let me know.  Jim

F2AD0628-66D1-4798-934D-25B1C53E148E.JPG

Comment