~Jo's Weekly Dish~
May 7, 2014
George's Tomato Paste Trick
Cans of tomato paste are tiny but often all you need for a recipe is a tablespoon or two. You can buy tomato paste in a tube and suffer no waste but it’s an expensive alternative. George makes balls of tomato paste with an ice cream scoop and lays them out on wax paper. He freezes them for a few hours then transfers the frozen balls to “snack size” Ziplock bags ready to pop into a sauce or gravy.
My husband is a genius!
Scenic Fall River
Yes, there are very beautiful areas of Fall River, MA. We tend to speed through on our way to Newport or Cape Cod without giving it a thought. There are at least 2 fine reasons to stop: Food and Music
My friend Mary told me about Portugalia. We've linked to their website below.
It is a gem of a market specializing in Portuguese food and wine. The store is a beautifully converted warehouse with lots of brick and high ceilings. You will find fresh produce, bins of nuts and dried beans, dazzling displays of virgin olive oils and canned tuna, huge crocks of pickled veggies, a whole rack of native son, Emeril Lagasse’s pastas and spices, entire butcher cases filled with different types of sausage, an impressive cheese selection, an aisle of beautiful hand-painted ceramic cooking vessels, and an entire refrigerated room dedicated to salt cod! You can also buy buffalo milk butter from Italy and a few hard-to-find cheeses from France.
The wine section of Portugalia is terrific, too. If Michael is around trust his advice. He knows his stuff! We very much enjoyed the selection of wine he made for us.
Then, there’s the café! After all that shopping you may need a well-made espresso and a sweet for a pick-me-up. You can order sandwiches, too. We have not yet tried the sandwiches or prepared foods available near the butcher counters. That will be our next purchase.
Do you know about The Narrows Center for the Arts? How did I miss it for so many years?? Our friend Jim introduced us to the place a few seasons ago and we love it. Check out the link below for tickets and more information about The Narrows.
The Narrows is in a classic mill building with a lovely view of the river. There is an art exhibition area and a music venue. It is the antithesis of the huge, gazillion seat arena—and I mean that in a very good way. Listening to live music here—either at the small tables surrounding the stage or theater-type seating-- is almost intimate. Musicians are approachable. You feel a communication with them and the people around you. It is also BYO. You can bring a picnic and beverages (yes, wine or beer if you like) to enjoy before the show. Pretty civilized! Check out their website and order tickets to one of the upcoming shows.
April 30, 2014
Pink Gin with a New Twist!
I eat grapefruit almost every morning during Spring, Fall, and Winter. We keep the fruit on the windowsill where the golden orbs bring a little sunshine into our kitchen on cold, gray days.
An additional benefit of having grapefruit around is the zest or skin of the fruit. At Al Forno we make candied grapefruit peel for the Grand Cookie Finale. At home, I’ve been adding it to cocktails that usually call for a lemon or an orange twist.
Here is the latest. It is a combination of George’s favorite drink, Pink Gin, with a generous swath of grapefruit peel. Let’s call it Twisted Pink Gin.
For 1 cocktail, pour 2 to 3 ounces of gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add 6 drops of Angostura bitters (or your favorite--Peychaud bitters are delicious and work well in this drink, too). Stir until very cold. Strain into a martini glass and add a few cubes of ice from the shaker. With a sharp vegetable peeler, cut a long, fat piece of peel from a grapefruit. Squeeze the peel over the Pink Gin to spritz it with citrus oil and drop the peel into the drink. Mmmmmm.
That’s where George found the recipe. It’s from the days of British rule in India. George tweaked the formula to 6 drops of bitters rather than Jennifer’s suggestion of 6 dashes.
You may enjoy reading this article in the Economic Times with Jennifer’s recipe from “the Expert” with more info on bitters:
March 12, 2014
Try Our Mini Trops with Hot Chocolate for Dessert!
We have paired custard cream-filled mini Tartes Tropeziennes with a pot of our delicious, rich hot chocolate. It has become one of our most popular desserts at Al Forno.
Tartes Tropeziennes, much like the iconic Boston Cream Pie, are not tarts or pies at all. Rather, they are tender brioches filled with vanilla custard lightened with whipped cream. Tarte Tropeziennes are a specialty of Saint-Tropez on the Cote d'Azur in France near the Italian border. They are rarely found outside the region. We fell in love with them and thought our guests would, too.
Cold weather is perfect for this combo. While the temps remain arctic give it a try. We also have a warm weather version up our sleeve if Spring and Summer ever arrive!
March 5, 2014
Music to cook by:
We’ve been listening to the just-released Lo-Fang album, Blue Film, in our kitchen at home. It’s great music to hear while prepping and cooking. Lo-Fang is the name under which Matthew Hemerlein records and this guy is on a roll. He appeared on David Letterman last week. You can see his performance on Youtube.
You can also check out the New York Times article about Matthew online.
Pretty impressive! I love both his original music and also his cover of You’re the One that I Love from Grease. He puts a whole new spin on that song!
October 1, 2013
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Janes!
October is breast cancer awareness month. If you are due for a mammogram there is no better time than now to schedule it.
And, there is an alternative to the asexual, tissue paper-thin hospital johnnies that you change into for the procedure. Those johnnies never seem to keep you warm enough or discreet enough while you wait. Plus, no matter how you tie it, something is always hanging out!
Go right to getjanes.com and order your “Jane” to bring to your next appointment. It is a warm, cozy and comfy wrap-style robe. Wearing a Jane makes a positive difference during any stressful medical procedure. It’s perfect for mammograms.
Janes are light and fold up nicely into a small string bag. They are affordable, washable and pretty enough to wear at home. The robe even has a pocket.
Go to the website, getjanes.com, order your robe and read about Jane’s creator, Rhode Island’s own Sharon Linder. Sharon has turned a brilliant idea into a reality. Feel good about your investment—a percentage of the proceeds goes to fund mammograms for underserved women.
September 18, 2013
A Great Event!
We're so excited to attend "From Seed to Spoon" on Saturday, September 28th. It's an event that combines some of our favorites things: a fantastic location (The Steel Yard), delicious, impeccably prepared food (from TV host Dave Lieberman) and supporting a great cause (Amos House).
Click here for more details and to purchase tickets.
Hope to see you there!
September 5, 2013
Time for a Road Trip...
We are so honored and excited to be on Eater.com's list of The 38 Essential Pizzas Across the Country. How many of these spots have you been to? Our mouth is watering just clicking though this list. Pack up the car and your appetite, stop at Al Forno first, and then hit these other great spots!
Pizza, here we come!
August 28, 2013
Blithewold in Bristol is one of the treasures of Rhode Island. Randy Harelson--a treasure of a friend-- will be there on September 11 to talk about his new book, New Roads and Old Rivers. Randy is an artist, writer, horticulturist and educator. He is also one of the most delightful people on our planet.
Randy worked at Blithewold for several years and is returning as guest lecturer to share his story of the Pointe Coupee Parish in Louisiana, the subject of his book, and the place he now calls home. Having lived in Rhode Island Randy is very familiar with the similarities and differences between our coastal location and the Pointe Coupee Parish. Randy's presentation of words and slides is sure to be a great way to visit Louisiana for an evening.
The "slide talk" begins at 6PM and is free. Visit the Blithewold website or call to reserve your seat. Books will be available for purchase that evening.
101 Ferry Rd.
Bristol, RI 02809
June 4, 2013
Buy Local #4
It is no longer necessary to travel to Dehillerin in Paris to purchase high quality copper pots and pans. Jim Hamann fabricates these beauties right here in Little Rhody. And if you have copper pots that need to be retinned, he's your man. Bravo Jim!
Read more about Jim and his wonderful business in tomorrow's ProJo. He'll be on the front page of the food section.
May 18, 2013
We usually roast beets just like baked potatoes at Al Forno. They develop a sweet, soft flesh that’s perfect for salads.
This week I tried sautéing beets instead and loved them.
Here’s how I prepared them:
Peel and thinly slice 4 to 5 medium sized beets (about 3 1/2-inch diameter).
Toss them in a pan and drizzle liberally with extra-virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt (I used Malden flaky salt). Sauté, uncovered, over low heat, stirring frequently until the beets are soft and tender--about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
To serve, divide the beets onto 6 small serving plates, sprinkle with chopped parsley and scallions sliced thinly on a severe diagonal.
Drizzle with a few drops of aged Aceto Balsamico Traditionale di Modena--or the best possible balsamic vinegar you can find.
Also wonderful served with a dollop of thick yogurt.
February 13, 2013
Buy Local #3
The Latest Cookbook from Linda Beaulieu
We are all proud of the great food we can find in Rhode Island—in the markets, home kitchens and restaurants. Linda’s new book is a celebration of the best Providence and Rhode Island has to offer. Use it in your kitchen here or send it to out-of-state friends. It is available at all local bookstores.
The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook:
Big Recipes from the Smallest State
February 12, 2013
Buy Local #2
Our Favorite Kitchen Tool
Do you know about stretch-tite? It is hands-down the best plastic food wrap in the world. It clings. It stretches. It keeps food fresh. And, the company is local and conscientious.
We have spotted stretch-tite at Ocean State Job Lot. You can also order it online:
Get the snazzy dispenser, too (you can see it in the banana ice cream post photos from last month). It’s a dream.
February 5, 2013
We recently met Rhode Island resident Teresa Bert who self-published a charming cookbook, The Italian Way. It is filled with simple to prepare recipes influenced by Teresa’s Italian family who believed “food is love.”
You can find Teresa’s book at The Green Door in East Greenwich or at Barrington Books in Barrington.
January 25, 2013
Irresistible Banana Ice Cream
I have delicious childhood memories of banana ice cream and this one has the pure flavor I remember. Hope you like it.
2 firm, very ripe bananas
4 to 5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
big pinch sea salt
¾ cup very cold heavy cream
1. Peel the bananas and cut them into 1/8- to ¼-inch thick rounds. Lay them out in a single layer on plastic wrap. Wrap well and freeze for several hours or overnight.
2. Chill 4 small ice cream dishes in the freezer an hour or so before you plan to serve the ice cream.
3. Set up a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Have the sugar, salt and cream at hand before you remove the bananas from the freezer.
4. Working quickly, combine the banana slices, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in the food processor and pulse until the bananas are broken into tiny bits. Add the cream and process until fairly smooth (there may be a few lumps—that’s ok). Taste and add the last tablespoon of sugar if you like.
5. Transfer the ice cream to the chilled dishes and serve immediately like soft-serve ice cream. Or, You may freeze the ice cream in a covered container for an hour or more if you like your ice cream very firm.
Makes about 2 cups for 4 small servings or 2 generous servings.
January 4, 2013
Pizza on the Braai!
George's Famous Grilled Pizza makes it to the Bush on Safari in South Africa!!
Read all about it on page 86 in the new book Evita's Bossie Sikelela by Evita Bezuidenhout (Pieter-Dirk Uys) and our dear friend Linda Vicquery.
The forward is by Charlize Theron and it's available on Amazon.com
January 2, 2013
Happy Birthday Al Forno!
Al Forno turned 33 today--thanks to all of you.
Happy New Year. Best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013.
December 12, 2012
The Best Holiday Gift!
A Conversation with the Barefoot Contessa
Our dear friend, Ina Garten, is coming to Providence for a very special evening. She will be onstage at PPAC to give us a charming insider’s view of the world of the Barefoot Contessa. Ina will share her natural approach to food and cooking plus a Q&A and book signing. You can expect great tips, stories, and some of the recipes that have made Ina’s books the best companion you can have in the kitchen. And, I get to moderate! I’m so excited!
Providence Performing Arts Center
March 26th at 7:30pm
Tickets are on sale now: PPAC Box Office
Treat yourself to your favorite culinary diva.
December 4, 2012
A New Look for the Dining Rooms
George’s recent renovation in the downstairs dining room has been a smashing success! The new lighting makes everyone’s complexion glow and Suzette’s revamped menu easy to read. Chairs and banquettes are more comfortable and we’ve added a second booth for intimate entertaining.
Taking advantage of the momentum he’s created, George is busy in the upstairs dining room now. Don’t worry we’re open during the cosmetic changes! He’s being mum about the work but is hinting at new colors and more of the complementary illumination. Stay tuned.
November 28, 2012
Postcard from Piemonte
Augusto Cappellano is a tall man with delicate features, a spectacular smile and an impressive crop of curly hair. His eyes twinkle in red-rimmed glasses. He is the fifth generation of the family to produce wine from the vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, part of Piemonte in northwest Italy. His office, where he greets visitors like us who have come from far and wide, is filled with old black and white photographs of his father and grandfather, posters of Cappellano bottlings from years ago, and empty bottles of vintage wines we wish we had shared with him.
Augusto produces expressive, elegant Barolo. As his surroundings suggest, he has respect for tradition--evident in the land farmed according to organic principles plus the long fermentation and extended aging of the Cappellano wines. His father, Teobaldo, became one of the most respected figures in the Barolo district and Augusto seems firmly committed to carry on and protect that image. We are delighted to have the 2007 Cappellano Barolo “Otin Fiorin Rupestris” on our wine list.
We're Thankful for...
November 20 2012
When we taught cooking classes at Wendely Harvey’s La Combe in Perigord last June, one of our “cultural stops” was at the local supermarket. Wendely pointed out a fairly new Lindt chocolate made with fleur de sel, one of the best sea salts in the world. Salt added to sweets—especially caramel--has gained popularity in recent years. With good reason! It’s delicious. We tasted the Lindt salty chocolate then purchased several bars to bring back to Rhode Island as gifts. We needn’t have lugged the chocolate home. It’s available right here. We spotted the bars at Stop & Shop. Might be a nice, easy addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving. We give thanks to all of you!
Postcard from Paris
November 16 2012
The Bastille Flea Market had more than antiques and bric-a-brac this year. There were a few pop-up food stands, too. At one, we were offered a steaming cup of mint tea. Not unusual for Paris. But this particular vendor added a rounded teaspoon of toasted almonds to each cup. It was the perfect tonic for a cold, damp day. Exotic, refreshing and restorative. Try our version:
Stuff your teapot with fresh mint leaves (use dried mint if fresh is unavailable). Pour boiling water over the mint. Let steep for 10 minutes. While the tea is brewing, toast slivered almonds in a dry sauté pan over moderate heat. Stir or toss constantly until the almonds are deep beige with a few dark spots here and there. Transfer the almonds from the hot pan to a bowl--or they will continue to brown in the pan. To serve, pour tea into cups or pyrex-type glasses and add a rounded teaspoon of almonds. Sweeten (or not) to your taste.
November 8 2012
Black Cats and Pumpkin Pizza
October 26 2012
Halloween is George’s favorite day of the year. He’s celebrating the season at Al Forno with Spooky, the enormous black cat in the entry, and giant pumpkins from Little Compton on the patio. In the kitchen, David and the crew are turning out Grilled Pizzas with Pumpkin Puree and Caramelized Pumpkin Crostatas. The black and orange theme continues with Pumpkin Lasagnette with Calamata Olive Puree. We may even try the Tuscan Autumn appetizer from Cammillo’s, our favorite trattoria in Florence—Sauteed Pumpkin Slices braised in Tomato. Delicious!