Pork is a staple food of the mountain regions of northern Italy, where it's often said that a well butchered pig should leave 'nothing but the oink' behind. As a pig is typically around 30% fat, thrifty locals had to come up with a way to use and preserve this valuable source of protein, and the result is Lardo.Lardo di Colonnata, to give it its full name, is a delicacy produced from pork fat in and around the Tuscan mountain town of Colonnata. Happily for fans of cured meat, it's not only a frugal way of preserving "pork fat" over winter - it's delicious too!It's made in large vats known as conche, fashioned from marble quarried at the nearby 'white mountain' of Cararra, which are first liberally rubbed with garlic. Next, layers of pork fat, salt, and a special mix of herbs and spices are added until the vats are full. The conche are then sealed with a wooden lid and left in cool mountain caves for 6 months or longer to mature in the clean air.After the maturation time is over, the conche are opened to reveal a silky-smooth, meltingly tender 'meat' which can be eaten in much the same way as Parma Ham or other prosciutto.While Lardo is often used to keep roasted meats moist by placing a thin layer over the skin, it is also delicious simply sliced thinly and eaten with bread, olives, and a good extra virgin olive oil as part of an antipasto course. It is not at all tough or greasy, and is well worth trying even if the idea of eating pure fat leaves you a little apprehensive!Despite the long years of making Lardo in the traditional way, most of the examples that you may find in your local deli or store will have been made in a much more industrial setting, mainly as a result of modern hygiene laws taking precedence over customs and heritage. Gone are the marble conche and the mountain air, replaced by stainless steel and air conditioning.However, visitors to the area around Colonnata may still be lucky and get hold of Lardo made in the old way that has been proven over the centuries - just don't tell the authorities if you do!
Are you tired of your regular Joe life and your regular Joe cup of coffee that you start your day with? Then its time to reward yourself with something different. Why not jazz up your morning ritual with cup of rich gourmet coffee.The dictionary defines gourmet food like this, Gourmet food is that which is of the highest quality, perfectly prepared and artfully presented. If you want the highest quality food you go to a top notch restaurant but if you want the highest quality coffee, you can do that at home yourself. That gourmet meal is probably going to stay at the restaurant unless you invite a chef over but gourmet coffee can be made in the comfort of your own home with just a little practice.Gourmet coffee is more expensive than say, supermarket brands but the taste is also much richer. Unless money is no object, why not save the gourmet cup of coffee for the weekends. Make it an end of the week tradition. Stick with the supermarket coffee for when youre rushing off to work.To make your own gourmet coffee start with the beans. Gourmet Coffee beans can be bought by the pound and there are many varieties to choose from. Some of the most popular gourmet beans include Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain, and Sumatra types.Coffee beans are similar to wine in that they name the beans after the region. In the world of wine you have the popular Sonoma wines which come from Sonoma Valley in California. In the world of coffee the equivalent would be Kona beans which come from Kona, Hawaii.Kona coffee beans are grown in rich volcanic soil and the mild tropical climate of the Kona coffee belt on the western side of the Big Island of Hawaii. It has a wonderfully full, rich and smooth flavor with little or no bitter after taste. Be sure that you buy Kona beans and not a Kona blend. A Kona blend can legally be labeled as Kona with as little as 10% of actual Kona beans in it.Next youll need to grind your beans. Ground coffee begins losing its flavor once its exposed to air. So youll want to grind just enough to make your desired amount. Store any leftover grinds in an air tight container. Youll want to grind you coffee beans very fine but dont pulverize them into dust. If you over grind them the heat and friction will vaporize the oils that give the coffee its distinct flavor.When was the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? A clean coffee maker makes a significant difference in how your coffee tastes. At least once a month pour a mixture of half vinegar and half water into your coffee maker. Let the mix run through the full brew process. Repeat the process again using only water this time to rinse it out. Do this one more time if a vinegar smell is still present.Now youre work is done and its time for the coffee maker to pulls its weight. Use clean filtered water and fill the coffee maker to the desired level. Use about 6 ounces of water for every 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee. Turn it on and hang around while it brews. Youll want to be there to enjoy the delightful aroma.Everyday coffee is perfect for everyday life. But every once in a while you should treat yourself to something special. And what better way to start a special than that with a special cup of coffee. Gourmet coffees can really jazz up your day.
If you are just starting to cook, or are moving in on your own, chances are, you don't have much in terms of cooking equipment. Here is what we recommend for you to get, as you are starting out. As times goes by, you will, of course, get more kitchen gadgets. But here are five that we recommend starting out with:- Chopping board. This is something very basic, as you can't chop anything without having a chopping board. It is very versatile, as you can chop pretty much anything on it - onions, potatoes, tomatoes, meat, herbs, etc. Some people prefer to get separate chopping boards to meat, dairy items, vegetables, etc. Others get differently sized chopping boards, and use them depending on the volume of things they need to chop. Start out with one, and see what else you need.- A knife. Again, this is very basic, but you will not be able to chop or cook anything without a knife. A good, sharp knife goes a long way to help you prepare food. You can go to some stores, and hold the knives in your hand, so that you know which one you are comfortable with.- A big pot. You need a pot for pretty much anything - from boiling pastas to making soups to stewing to pretty much anything else. Some pots come with colander inserts, which makes it easier to cook pasta. Or, you may get a colander separately, and use that.- A saute pan. We love saute pans, and use them all the time. Again, they are very versatile, and we recommend getting ones without wooden handles, so that you can put the saute in the oven as well. Use the saute pan for preparing stir fries, sauteing meat and fish, cooking vegetables and much, much more.- Roasting Pan. These are perfect for preparing things in the oven. From roast to roasted chicken to roasted vegetables, a roasted pan can help you cook your favorite dishes in the oven.Don't be scared - cooking is fun. Start getting a few things that we recommended, and add to your collection of kitchen equipment as time goes.
French cuisine is the amazingly high standard to which all other native cuisines must live up to. The country of France is home of some of the finest cuisine in the world, and it is created by some of the finest master chefs in the world. The French people take excessive pride in cooking and knowing how to prepare a good meal. Cooking is an essential part of their culture, and it adds to one's usefulness if they are capable of preparing a good meal.Each of the four regions of France has a characteristic of its food all its own. French food in general requires the use of lots of different types of sauces and gravies, but recipes for cuisine that originated in the northwestern region of France tend to require the use a lot of apple ingredients, milk and cream, and they tend to be heavily buttered making for an extremely rich (and sometimes rather heavy) meal. Southeastern French cuisine is reminiscent of German food, heavy in lard and meat products such as pork sausage and sauerkraut.On the other hand, southern French cuisine tends to be a lot more widely accepted; this is generally the type of French food that is served in traditional French restaurants. In the southeastern area of France, the cooking is a lot lighter in fat and substance. Cooks from the southeast of France tend to lean more toward the side of a light olive oil more than any other type of oil, and they rely heavily on herbs and tomatoes, as well as tomato-based products, in their culinary creations.Cuisine Nouvelle is a more contemporary form of French cuisine that developed in the late 1970s, the offspring of traditional French cuisine. This is the most common type of French food, served in French restaurants. Cuisine Nouvelle can generally be characterized by shorter cooking times, smaller food portions, and more festive, decorative plate presentations. Many French restaurant cuisines can be classified as Cuisine Nouvelle, but the more traditional French restaurant cuisine would be classified as Cuisine du Terroir, a more general form of French cooking than Cuisine Nouvelle. Cuisine du Terroir is an attempt to return to the more indigenous forms of French cooking, especially with reference to regional differences between the north and south, or different areas such as the Loire Valley, Catalonia, and Rousillon. These are all areas famous for their specific specialty of French cuisine. As time has progressed, the difference between a white wine from the Loire Valley and a wine from another area has slowly diminished, and the Cuisine du Terroir approach to French cooking focuses on establishing special characteristics between regions such as this.As part of their culture, the French incorporate wine into nearly every meal, whether it is simply as a refreshment or part of the recipe for the meal itself. Even today, it is a part of traditional French culture to have at least one glass of wine on a daily basis.
With so many different tastes how does one go about selecting the most choice gourmet gift baskets for a loved one? It's simple, make a list of classic gourmet food gift baskets, go over the list carefully, and choose the one that you think will make your loved one's mouth water the most. Almost any basket chosen with love will be a well-received gift.You could start with a gourmet delight gift basket that includes cranberry walnut tarts, raspberry cookies, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, raspberry-honey-mustard pretzels, spicy trail mix, almond cookies, cheese shortbread, cheese straws, potato chip cookies and other delicious treats for the person who craves sweets. It's a classy collection of unique food gift basket delicacies.At times of bereavement a heartfelt sympathy food gift basket can be visually uplifting and convey respect. A sympathy basket will be packed full of fine gourmet foods, comforting gifts and caring words of encouragement for the broken hearted. Possible inclusions can be scented candles, Biscotti, cracked pepper water crackers, delectable cookies, chocolate crisp wafers, fine chocolates, and other delicious treats.It's often a great idea to add non-food items to a food gift basket. And this is an especially true when it comes to a bridal shower party. Not only should your basket contain gourmet food and delicious snacks, but an assortment of bridal shower games and keepsakes. How about a party game book, cookies, crackers, cheeses, wines, herbal teas, along with a few essentials: disposable camera, photo book, and even a keepsake registry book.Some of the most popular and unique food gift baskets combine a generous assortment of fine gourmet treats with a look that conveys your good taste and sincerity. Whether small or large they can be crammed full of fine chocolates, nuts, gourmet cookies, cheeses, crackers and other mouth-watering treats. These baskets can be enjoyed on any occasion including holidays, bridal showers, birthdays, times of bereavement, as a get-well gift or for a housewarming. Maybe you are not into those tasty savory snacks, but are more inclined to eat from a fresh and healthy basket of fruit. If health is a concern, and junk food is out, you will be able to sink your teeth into some luscious seasonal fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi, nectarines, peaches and pears. Or add a tropical flavor with mangos, papayas and other savory tropical fruits.Everyone loves pasta, so why not surprise your loved ones with a three-course Italian dinner? Your food basket can contain pasta, champagne hand-poured into a wine glass, along with flavors such as extra virgin olive oil, tomato basil cheese, Nicosia coquilles olives, wine crackers and sausage. Or how about an Italian salad that combines celery, bell pepper, mushroom, black olives, onion, garlic and oregano. And it wouldn't be a true Italian basket without lots of tomato and sweet basil sauce mixed with savory vegetablesThere are many types of gift baskets and it's hard to go wrong with any of them. Whether you are drooling for Italian, Scottish, Irish or Mexican food there are wonderful assortments available. Food and gift baskets are the ultimate. And as for holidays, a holiday food gift basket can make any day special. Ordering gourmet gift baskets is always easy, but creating your own custom-made basket is special and lots of fun. A creative and unique idea, easily customized to suit any individual, the gourmet food gift basket can be a delightful expression of sentiment.