Archive for August, 2016

Pastaio Via Corta – pasta is changing Glosta

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

 

Danielle at the Seafood Throwdown

Once a softball player, ever a purist, Danielle Glantz has opened a “pastaio,” a fresh pasta shop named “Pastaio via Corta” – “pasta maker on a short street,” transforming “a short Gloucester street” into a Florentine neighborhood.

Pastaio

Glantz will say her palate was actualized as a child at her Lebanese mother’s and grandmother’s sides in her home in western Massachusetts. (Her father is Italian.)  Bold, fragrant dishes created with love and joy in a family kitchen seems to be the Glantz culinary syllabus.

She received a degree and a Brillat-Savarin Medal of Merit from the Culinary Institute of America (after starting out at the University of Hartford on a softball scholarship). She cooked for four and a half years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, and returned to Massachusetts as sous chef at Nico and Amelia Monday’s restaurant The Market on Lobster Cove. After a year there Glantz became head chef at Short and Main, the Monday’s and partners’ second restaurant on Main St. in Gloucester. But Glantz still speaks with awe of her grandmother’s shish barak, a tiny lamb and pine nut tortellini served in a yogurt soup, as if that cooking had more power over Glantz’s professional style than the other way around.

Yet, under Chez Panisse chefs Jean-Pierre Moulle and David Tanis, Glantz saw that purchasing locally meant more than the promise of better tasting produce; it meant a commitment to the community.

With this personal canon, Glantz has opened Pastaio via Corta, a handmade pasta and cheese shop on Center St. in Gloucester.

Pastaio Counter

If you have noticed the small chalk sandwich board saying “fresh pasta” on the corner of Main St. across from Passports, follow the pointing arrow; just go. It’s your lucky day if Glantz has made burrata, a sphere of freshly pulled mozzarella so plump with cream that it bursts at the tenderest pressure, and they are not all spoken for.

While I was there last week, a 30-ish year old woman walked in and said, “I came here for your burrata; my mother says it’s the best she’s had in her life, even after living in Italy for years.” Glantz smiled back with her steady, brown-eyed soundness. This is the woman who, when talking about working with the wood-fired oven at Short and Main, said, again with that straight-shooting clarity, “the oven will own you unless you own it.”

Glantz makes burrata, mozzarella, and stracciatella every week, but it disappears as quickly as it goes in the case. If luck isn’t your thing, order ahead: 978-868-5005.

IMG_0795

making gnocchi

Pastaio gnocchi

The Case

Glantz makes all of the pasta by hand in her shop. On any day (Glantz is open 7 days a week, from 11:00 – 7:00.) you can walk into the sun-filled store, and she is standing behind the counter rolling dough into long snakes, breaking off thumb-size pieces for gnocchi, and then rolling each on the wooden board that imprints those signature gnocchi lines. Or she is pressing tiny disks of pasta into orrechiette. On Thursdays and Saturday’s she makes ravioli. Last week’s were filled with ricotta, mascarpone, Parmigiana Reggiano, cardoons, squash blossoms, olives and basil.

Glantz makes four basic kinds of pasta: short, stuffed, long, and “pastine” – or soup pastas. She always has a whole wheat pasta made from Alprilla Farm’s milled whole wheat. Flour is now the symbol of Glantz’s conviction.

“I believe that good food should be available to everyone. When I thought about opening my own business, I thought, if I’m entering the market as someone who is honestly concerned about farm-to-table living and sustainability, I’ll start with pasta,” – a product that can make local, healthy ingredients like wheat, eggs, milk and vegetables available to everyone.

Gloucester Italians have already discovered Pastaio via Corta. The day I was there a 40-ish year old man named Caesar, wearing bright orange running shoes to match his silver and orange motor cycle helmet, sat on the bench for a good 45 minutes. He just wanted to talk about homemade ricotta cheese, a certain sign for me that Pastaio via Corta has already improved our community in many ways.

Glantz competed with this dish in last week’s Cape Ann Farmers’ Market Seafood Throwdown.  For the record, Cape Ann Fresh Catch will be selling whiting, so delicious in this summery pasta recipe, this week (8/25).

 

Seafood Throwdown Radiatore

 

Pastaio via Corta Seafood Throwdown Radiatore

serves 4 for dinner

Ingredients

1 whole whiting or 2 small (about 1/2 pound of cooked meat)

3/4 cup olive oil, divided (for fish and cherry tomatoes)

salt and pepper

1 pound Pastaio via Corta radiatore

2 tablespoons minced garlic 1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped basil

1 cup squash blossoms, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.

Heat a clean grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Rub fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap fish securely in aluminum foil, and lay on grill. Grill for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes well when checked. Remove from the grill, and open the foil slightly to stop the cooking. After it is cool enough to handle, pull the flesh from the bones, discarding the skin. You should have about a cup of fish, or to taste. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat 1/2 cup olive oil to medium high. Add garlic, and toss in the pan very briefly, for about a minute Do not brown. Add cherry tomatoes. Toss a bit with the garlic, and let cook until the tomatoes just begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the pasta to the water and cook for 2 minutes, if using Pastaio via Corta, or until al dente. (Boxed radiatore will take 5-7 minutes.) Drain pasta but leave a small amount of water on the pasta, just dripping a bit, and toss the pasta into the pan with the cherry tomatoes. With 2 wooden spoons, start tossing the pasta in the pan with the tomatoes. Add the fish, and keep tossing, until the pasta begins to “drape” with the liquid in the pan. (Return the pan to warm heat if necessary.) Toss in the fresh herbs, squash blossoms, and toss well again. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Visiting Belgrade and Ayvar – Serbia’s roasted eggplant and pepper preserves

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Izzy & Milica at Kalemegdan

Anna Kareninna’s Vronsky died in Serbia. Tolstoy based Anna’s lover on a real Russian captain who had appeared on a Serbian battlefield to help the Serbs fight (once again) the Turks. But he also confessed had come to die, as he had nothing to live for, his lover gone. The Serbian General was not pleased.

The Balkan Peninsula is one of the world’s most important hallways; civilizations for thousands of years have trampled and marauded it for its value as the ultimate passageway, the parcel connecting Turkey and Austria, Europe and the Middle East, the East and West. The Balkan peninsula touches five seas – the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Ionian, the Aegean, and The Black. It is criss-crossed by rivers, natural highways that have made East-West trade possible, and men rich, for centuries, the stuff of empire envy. The region has basically been the ball in a game of Pickle between the Ottoman and Astro-Hungarian Empires for thousands of years.

The Balkan people could feel tired, martyred, victimized by all these years of not being left alone, being everyone’s breezeway, being neither East nor West, neither European nor Eastern. Instead, history seems to have honed their sense of irony. “Neither East nor West exist at all in a geographical sense, because the Earth is round,” is the way Balkan writer Tin Ujevic refuses this geographic fate.

Serbian writer Momo Kapor says all this east/west stuff has simply etched hard a Serbian philosophy: “Because we live between the East and the West we believe that truth and human measure are somewhere in the middle.”

I spent a week in Belgrade with my daughter, who is studying there. Belgrade is not always beautiful, but the beauty – that view across the Sava River from Fortress Kalemegdan. the feminine curve of the Danube – breaks hearts.

danube

When I landed at the Nikola Tesla Airport I took a photo of the “Welcome to Serbia” sign, and posted it on Instagram. Instantly, a friend from Gloucester commented back, “Are you in Belgrade?!” She had been here for the month, she wrote me, but was leaving the next day. “I ADORE BELGRADE!” she instagrammed me. That was how I arrived in this city. And now, without even realizing when and how it happened, I adore Belgrade, too.

Starting with history’s leading bad guy, Atila the Hun, Belgrade has been razed at least forty times; NATO bombs fell on it as recently as 1999. A 30-ish year old man my daughter met told her that he and his friends danced through the NATO bombings:

“Because of the curfew, we went to clubs during the day. We would be inside dancing, and occasionally looked outside to see where the bombs had fallen, to see what parts of our city were left, and then we’d just go back inside and keep dancing.”

wedding at Kalemegdan

The Kalamegden Fortress stands over the meeting of the Sava and Danube Rivers, marking the entire northwestern edge of Belgrade’s old city, a fortress the size of an American small town with a wall so high a fall from it would probably kill you. It dates to at least the 14th century. Today people get married within its grounds. There are cafes, and even a zoo, but those massive walls still remind how important was this seat. You see the strength and violence of the enemy in the impenetrability of those walls. Another reminder of the warfare this city has endured are the crumbling high-rise apartment shells on the occasional downtown Belgrade block, where those NATO bombs did fall. Like Kalemegden, these buildings, looking as if a wrecking ball only half-finished the job, insist that no one forgets what this city has endured. But the people DO seem to forget. They drink coffee – the streets are lined in cafes and the coffee is better than any I’ve had in France or Italy. They eat gelato. There is music everywhere – street music – mostly young people – and I mean children – casting Vivaldi and Mozart into the TRG Republic, the main city meeting place.

coffee #2

coffee

Uzitak

young violinist

I felt welcome in every cafe, on every corner, in all the shops and the one museum I found. When I asked to speak English, almost everyone looked kindly, and said, “of course,” and continued a fluid exchange with me about a coffee, or the menu, or the wifi password.

Traditional Serbian cuisine seems to reflect a culture always under attack, never enough peace time to create something beyond basic. It seems to be a mashup of 15th century “fast food,” meaning sausages and a pot of beans ready at all times to feed a warrior grabbing his bow, and a few remaining staples of a solid agrarian culture, like Kaymek and Ayvar, cultured “butter cheese” and preserved eggplant, peppers and garlic. Serbian traditional cuisine includes two – and only two – salads, and one salad is made of cheese.  Strangest to me, street vendors sell roasted, buttered corn-on-the-cob, which must be incredibly Serbian because it’s not European and it’s not Turkish. This simple Serbian fare is proudly served all over the city, particularly in Skardaljia, Belgrade’s Montmartre. My favorite Serbian table rule: only the sick eat chicken.

The city’s restaurants reflect a culture that smiles kindly but a little ironically at their traditions while lacing up their Adidas for new and urbane.  My daughter and I dined in a vegetarian restaurant called Radost, that served dinner in a back terrace with very modern planked illuminated walkways that navigated a garden of ferns, with broad library tables for communal seating, and the menus tucked into leather-bound books. We dined under a tent of red umbrellas at Manufaktura, an urbane interpretation of ultra-Serbian cuisine: cevapi, gibanica, and Kaymek – homemade meat patties, cheese pie, and butter cheese.

manufaktura umbrellas

gibanica - cheese pie

Serbian Salad at Manufaktura

cevapi - serbian sausages

Izzy and I

And we dined in two glamorous Italian and Japanese restaurants facing the Sava River. Each experience, chosen randomly with no yelping – from the food to the wines to the service – was refined, relaxed, professional and nothing less than delicious.

restaurants along the Sava

The Serbian wines I tasted – particularly the crisp whites and roses – rivaled Sancerres and Otts, (but Rakija, fruit brandies, best when homemade, is the Serbian signature beverage.)

rose at Kalemegdan

Author Momo Kapor says, “what sets Serbs apart from other western peoples is well-hidden from the sight of strangers: the winter store and household hoarding which originates from the primeval fear of going hungry in winter.”

The Belgrade Green Market, Kalenic, spilled with purple plums while I was there.  Leathery-skinned  women crouched by enormous buckets of freshly picked blackberries, selling them by the cupful.  It was early for the eggplant and peppers, but apparently Alvar, the Serbian eggplant and pepper preserve, is considered a season itself.  My daughter’s teacher, who kindly gave me the Momo Kapor book from which I got the quotes about east and west, told me that Ayvar is the best thing about September, “the whole Serbia smells like ayvar.”

The Making of Alvar means spreading spoonfuls of sunshine on Serbian cornbread or adding a bright spot to a grainy homemade sausage in December.  It is exactly what we should all be putting up in jars right now, with our own sunshine-filled eggplants and peppers beginning to emerge in farmers’ markets.

ayvar

Serbian Ayvar

makes about 2 cups – by the way, for some reason jars of Ayvar are always covered in plastic wrap; that’s part of the recipe!

Ingredients
2 large eggplants
6 red bell peppers
salt and pepper
finely chopped garlic to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice or mild vinegar
olive oil
coarsely chopped parsley

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the eggplant and pepper together on a baking sheet covered in parchment or aluminum foil. Roast until the skins are all charred and crinkly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place them under a very large bowl, or put them in a paper bag for a few minutes. This allows them to cool a bit, and steam a bit more, making it easier to remove the skins. Remove the skins either by dipping your fingers in cold water and pulling off the skin or by running the fruit under cold water if it is too difficult. Dry well afterward.
Remove the core and seeds from the peppers and finely chop the flesh. Coarsely chop the eggplant. Add these to a food processor and process lightly. Add salt, pepper and garlic to the mixture. Then add lemon juice or vinegar, and process again.
Very slowly, with the processor running, add the olive oil until the mixture thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency.
Serve immediately spread on a shallow bowl, drizzled with more olive oil and chopped parsley, and serve with chunks of fresh bread. Mixture will keep like this in the refrigerator for a week – covered in plastic wrap and then a lid!  Alternately, spoon into sterilized jars, and process as you would for preserves.

“Sea to Supper”

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

mile marker invite

August 25th, 2016 at 6:00 at the Waterfront Pavilion Tent at Mile Marker One Restaurant and Bar, Cape Ann Marina

– to benefit the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives

This dinner was originally scheduled to be on the Jodrey State Fish Pier, but due to changes in the state regulations, we’ve had to change the venue.

Thanks to the great generosity of the Mile Marker Restaurant and Bar, “Sea to Supper” will be a community dinner a mile down the road.  There will be a great menu of local fish, highlighting creative ways to prepare underloved Gloucester landed species.  We’ll talk about efforts to make these diverse species “local” again, perhaps giving fishermen more opportunities to sell their catches right in Gloucester.  Fishermen and their families will be there to answer questions:  – what’s it like to be ground fishing alone in the Gulf of Maine?  Do you ever see sharks?  Does it get lonely?  Do you love it still?

There will be short performances by Lisa Hahn, Gordon Baird, and Henry Cameron Allen.  And don’t forget the dancing! Code Blue, a rock cover band, will start up at 8:30.

$75 per person – to reserve tickets go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sea-to-supper-tickets-27004720847 or call 978-821-1590.

Here’s a peek at the working” menu:

  “Sea to Supper” All Gloucester Seafood Dinner 

to start:

Gloucester-landed Dab Ceviche served with Ryan & Woods Rum Cocktail

Pan Seared Redfish Baja Style Tacos served with Cape Ann Brewery’s freshest brew

Fried Glocuester Whiting “Fish and Chips” with Fennel Remoulade 

“Sasquatch” Smoked  Hake Pate served with Wood Wheat Whiskey  

second course:

Grilled Gloucester Whiting with Tomatoes and Arugula, Lemon and pinenuts  

third course:

“Cape Ann Bouillabaisse”

-Assorted Local Fish and Shellfish in Lobster-Tomato Broth

dessert

Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Tiramisu