“The Carrot has a somewhat obscure history, surrounded by doubt and enigma and it is difficult to pin down when domestication took place. The wide distribution of Wild Carrot, the absence of carrot root remains in archaeological excavations and lack of documentary evidence do not enable us to determine precisely where and when carrot domestication was initiated.” – History of Carrots – A Brief Summary & Timeline, World Carrot Museum
Come on, admit it, you had no idea there was a World Carrot Museum. Me three.
The last two weeks we basically put on the same menu as the first week it was all private parties, so on the public front it was an opportunity to introduce the same series of courses the following one. One really nice thing, a year ago we had a family from Brazil who’ve been living here book us out for the graduation of their older son, they returned this year for the younger’s, and I think this year’s menu was even better. Only one real change between the weeks on the dishes…
Artichoke season has started (while I’m not aware of any artichoke museum, there is the giant artichoke of Castroville and an artichoke festival there) and I couldn’t not put up one of my favorite starters, artichokes “en escabeche” – basically sauteed in bay leaf infused olive oil and then dressed in a vinaigrette made with the hot cooking oil, lots of garlic, sherry vinegar, parsley, salt and pepper. I’m getting really fast after these two weeks at prepping artichokes.
For the private events we had started off with our five bean soup, but we both agreed that overall delicious as it is on its own, it made the whole dinner feel a bit heavy, so we lightened it up with an Olla Gitana, one we haven’t made in awhile – even better!
You likely won’t remember our brief flirtation with fagottini di radicchio, a traditional dish of the Veneto, for which I detailed the recipe in one of my old BA Herald columns. I wanted to take the same flavors and lighten the whole thing up a bit, and decided to make it into a pasta. The filling is a radicchio mousse – a blend of radicchio, ricotta, splashes of cream and grappa, salt, pepper and coriander seed. I tried a couple of different forms, agnolotti and ravioli, and both baked and boiled. The biggest problem is the filling is very wet and requires a slightly thicker than normal pasta to contain it without falling apart – something to be worked on as I’d like the pasta more delicate. The ravioli are dressed with a saute of crushed hazelnuts, finely diced pears, milk-poached garlic, minced rosemary, salt, pepper and smoked chili, all sauteed in brown butter. Okay, maybe it wasn’t all that much lighter.
Bringing back our adobo de chancho, which I’ve, I think, refined quite a bit since the original recipe – one of these days we’ll do a step-by-step here, or maybe I’ll save it for the cookbook. This time served over a butter bean and roasted garlic puree, accompanied by wilted arugula, shoestring sweet potato fries and chive “chlorophyll”.
I had this idea for an all carrot dessert, similar to our textures of tomato or mushroom or zucchini that we’ve done various times in the past year. But, thinking about it I wanted some contrast and a slightly different approach. In the end, I went with a base of our carrotcake, topped with a layer of an orange and fresh ginger cheesecake, and garnished with candied strips of carrot and chopped pistachios. It needs some refinement, but it turned out really well and we were quite happy with it.
On to the next couple of weeks – if you follow our schedule on the CS website, you’ll note we’re taking an extended vacation coming up. Last year we didn’t go away because I was having some problems with Migraciones here that had to be resolved and left me in the position of not really being able to leave the country for most of the year. So, early in July we’re headed to Peru – Lima, Iquitos, Trujillo, and Calamarca, and then Henry’s going to stay on back in Trujillo with his family for a couple of weeks while I head to Bolivia and La Paz and Cochabamba, where I’ve tentatively been invited to give a couple of classes on Italian food at one of the gastronomy schools – even if that doesn’t come to pass it should be a fascinating vacation.