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How to Make the Perfect Stuffed Pasta

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:55 am    Post subject: How to Make the Perfect Stuffed Pasta Reply with quote

How to Make the Perfect Stuffed Pasta

Lessons for the best ravioli, tortellini, and everything else you fold out of pasta dough.

Saveur | Stacy Adimando

I'd always imagined learning to make tiny, perfect tortellini from an aging native of Bologna or mastering pillowy agnolotti through a long apprenticeship in an obscure Piedmontese village. But then I heard about Evan Funke and his pasta-centric restaurant Felix on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, with its pristine, glassed-in pasta laboratory, his arsenal of authentic tools, and his fiercely traditional, monklike dedication to the art and culture of handmade pasta. Here, I realized, was the burly, bearded, mattarello-wielding, sfoglia-rolling filled-pasta-making mentor I was looking for.

The mattarello is a massive, meter-long wooden pasta rolling pin typical of Emilia-Romagna. Funke got his in Bologna and within minutes of my arrival, he's deployed it to transform a springy ball of spinach dough into a sfoglia, or pasta sheet, as even, smooth, and soft as the felt on a pool table.

“Fuck your pasta machine” is the hashtag and life motto of obsessive chef Evan Funke, hand-rolling pasta in the laboratory of his L.A. restaurant, Felix.

Funke did not come about his pasta proficiency easily—his now nimble fingers, lightning-fast kneading speed, and masterful shaping skills were developed over 10 years of study under many of Italy's foremost traditional pasta makers (along with some of the best of America and Japan). He caught the pasta bug at Spago in Beverly Hills, where the head chef was from Bologna. After years of cooking there, he set out to apprentice in Emilia-Romagna. "Italy to me was like mother's love, instantly familiar and so comforting," he says. "As soon as I set foot in the country, all the French and Asian cooking techniques I had learned were out the window." Studying at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, a cooking school in Bologna, it took him over a thousand tries to roll out his first perfect sfoglia. "I still remember the day: February 14, 2008," he says with nostalgic pride. After three months of working 10 hours a day, six days a week, he was proficient in just a few of the filled pastas of the region. Since then, Funke has been traveling back and forth to Italy, studying old-school techniques from all over the country.

Funke says the pastas I’ve come here to learn are some of the most difficult to master. “I can teach a 6-year-old how to make cavatelli,” he says. “But stuffed pastas take attention and time.” How to tinker with dough hydration, meticulous shaping, maintaining even thickness, and keeping fillings contained—these come from patient practice and repetition. Our lessons happen in his pasta laboratory—the “labo,” as he calls it, a room that also serves as a live pasta-making theater during the restaurant’s dinner service. The chef has it set to a goose bump–raising 68 degrees and damp 67 percent humidity, constantly regulated by a small machine he imported from Japan. “Like making good bread, pasta is all math,” Funke says. But there is nothing mechanical about the way he treats his. His doughs have a living quality to them, forming tiny air bubbles like the early phases of a sourdough.

Funke demonstrates the way of the mattarello for the author.

Learning the art of filled pastas in the patient way of Funke pays off. After tasting his richly flavored doughs (sturdy and with bite, never soggy, gummy, or crunchy), and chomping through his stuffed pasta's impossibly symmetrical exteriors to release a warm gush of creamy filling, you'll never settle for just any random ravioli again.

5 Essential Filled-Pasta Lessons

Anybody can dollop some Cheese between sheets of dough and call it a raviolo. But the best stuffed pastas are made with care and pay tribute to tradition. Here are Evan Funke’s nonnegotiable tips to mastering smooth dough and flavorful fillings.

The perfect shape of these cazini? It’s all in the fingers.

1) Roll Your Own

Funke swears that hand-rolling sfoglie with a mattarello is the secret that differentiates dense, flat-tasting pastas from fluffy, tender ones. "Fuck your pasta machine" is his hashtag and life mantra, but he says it's not just braggadocio: "If you lovingly create a ball of light dough and smash it between a pasta machine's metal rollers, you're crushing everything in it and essentially degassing it. But if you take that ball and use the mattarello, you spread out the air pockets, creating a lighter waferlike dough." Roll the sheet of dough firmly at first, then more and more gently as you get a larger, thinner sfoglia. And remember to rotate it often, making sure it never sticks to your board.

2) Stay Hydrated

For a pasta that’s strong yet supple, hydration—the ratio of solids to liquids in a dough—is key. The flours you’re using, which vary by region in Italy, dictate how much water and additions like eggs and oil to add, but there’s no magic formula. “Pasta dough will behave differently every single day you make it, based on the age of your flour, your environment, and the weather,” says Funke. “Dough for filled pastas should feel supple and on the drier side, able to be pinched and stay sealed without water.”

It may take a while to incorporate the flour by kneading—15 minutes or more—but don’t skimp on time: You won’t know how hydrated your dough really is until kneading is through. Once you’re done, don’t mess with your hard-won hydration by dousing dough in large amounts of flour or covering it in a damp cloth. “When chefs throw semolina on top of a sticky or tacky dough, it ends up dry,” Funke says. Get it right the first time (using Funke’s recipes), then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest it—either at room temperature for flour and water doughs, or in the refrigerator for most others. One to two hours is good. A full day is best.

3) Don’t be Dense

To prevent textural irregularities like extra-thick or crunchy spots in the finished cooked pastas, Funke focuses on the “touch points”—the places where two pasta sheets must join together to seal in a filling. “When you make the folds on any stuffed pasta, you’re joining two single sheets together, which creates double thickness,” he explains. If you don’t pinch them back down to a single thickness, you’ll have crunchy or gummy bits when you cook.

4) Fine-Tune Your Fillings

Hidden underneath the wrappings of the dough lies a lot of the true finesse in filled pastas. “You want relatively dry, homogenous fillings,” Funke says, “and they should be highly seasoned so they taste good on their own.” Each should have a binder, be it bread crumbs, eggs, or cheese, and most ingredients should be cooked. “Raw ingredients tend to bleed out when they’re cooked—raw vegetables inside a filled pasta will probably turn into a sack of juice,” he says. A flimsy or wet filling isn’t just annoying to control and contain; it can also render a perfect dough soggy and unsealable.

5) Cook Consciously

“I always make at least one extra piece to test the timing of the cooking,” Funke says. Fill a pot with abundant water (preferably around 8 quarts), and season it, just until it tastes good on its own. Despite what you might have heard, Funke warns that “the water should never taste like the ocean,” since you’ll often want to use some of the starchy cooking water in a finished sauce. Have your sauce warmed and waiting in a large skillet or warm bowl: “Wait for the pasta to swim to the top, then use a spider tool or small handheld strainer to transfer it directly into the sauce.”

The Recipes

“The Italian mind-set and approach is really based in restraint,” Evan Funke says. “You’re looking for depth and richness through simplicity.” However, stuffed pastas are not the kind of thing you’re going to throw together between pouring cocktails and finishing the roast. Give yourself around four hours (including resting time for the dough) to tackle one of these traditional regional dishes.

The Maestro’s Tools

Evan Funke has built up a fearsome arsenal of pasta-making implements for shapes of all types. "You can find perfectly suitable pasta cutters in culinary stores here, but these are things I've gathered over 10 years in Parma, in Bologna, in small specialty shops and hardware stores," he says. "Hardware stores in Italy are very, very different." Funke walked us through the tools of the trade. —Sam Dean

Mattarello: “I use it to roll out sheets of pasta dough. It’s perfectly straight to 1/1000 of an inch. Before it’s milled the wood gets baked for 30 days at 90 degrees, so it gets almost petrified. I call this one the Mack Truck.”

Torchio: “I have a portrait of Thomas Jefferson hanging in my lab. He was a huge Italophile and traveled to Naples, where he was taken aback by the beauty and simplicity of this machine, which presses dough into pasta. I make pasta by hand, but Jefferson is kind of my excuse for using a machine like this sometimes.”

Taglia Ravioli: “These are spring-loaded on the inside so that when you press down, the ravioli is perfectly formed and sealed.”

Bench Brush: "The only Japanese piece here was a gift from my mentor Kosaku, who has a pasta laboratorio in Tokyo called Base."

Coltello di Mamma, “Mama’s Knife:” “A small knife for making orecchiette.”

Forchetta: “A fork, obviously—I use it for mixing dough.”

Raschietto: “Italian for bench scraper.”

Rotelle Tagliapasta: “Used for cutting pasta with different patterns.”

Taglia Tortellini: “These rotelle allow you to cut strips into a sheet of dough, then come across with a second pass to cut perfectly even squares for making tortellini.”

Gnocchi Boards: “These are used to roll and texture different kinds of gnocchi.”

Cavarola Board: “Typically from the Mezzo­giorno region, this one’s made out of walnut and used for a pasta called strascinati. The name means ‘to drag,’ and you drag pieces of dough across the board, leaving indentations that grip sauce.”

Chitarra: “It means guitar, but it’s actually strung with piano wire. It’s traditionally made entirely out of wood, but this one is made in America, with aluminum components. This one lasts five times as long—sometimes tradition is the practice of bad habits.”

Coltello per Pasta: “This pasta knife was handmade for me by the daughter of my maestro Alessandra Spisni.”

Piccolo Mattarello: “This small rolling pin goes to the cavarola board—it’s what you’d use to roll the strascinati.”

Corzetti Stamps: “These stamps were hand-etched in Liguria by a man named Cesare. They imprint a fennel bush into corzetti, a coin-shaped pasta.”

Troccolaturo: “This brass roller is for cutting a pasta called troccoli, which is a lot like tagliatelle.”

Ferretto: “A metal rod used to make fusilli. This one is brass, but you also see people use a broken umbrella rib or a bicycle spoke.”

Pettine per Garganelli: “Pettine means comb—it's a ridged surface on which to roll garganelli with the bacchetta, or little stick.”

This post originally appeared on Saveur and was published September 18, 2017.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 10 Healthiest Subway Sandwiches You Should Be Buying

Stay fresh, fit and have a feast!

Shimal Bharadwaj /New York University

The crunchiness of Subway's bread, the melty cheese, and the unlimited array of toppings makes it a sandwich lover's dream. Unlike most fast food joints, Subway also advertises itself as being healthy with fresh fit options. Healthy fast food? Yep, it's a thing. Here's a list of the healthiest Subway sandwiches that don't skimp on flavor.

1. Veggie Delight

The Veggie Delight is the healthiest Subway sandwich of them all. With no meat, you have no choice but to load it up with a ton of veggies. At only 230 calories (without cheese), this sandwich is a steal.

2. Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

The Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki is also on of the healthiest Subway sandwiches out there. Subway features teriyaki-glazed chicken in their fat-free sweet onion sauce. Altogether it's 269 calories with some veggies.

3. Oven Roast Chicken

Oven Chicken Roast is ideal for all the health nuts out there. It consists of only 320 calories on their 9 grain wheat bread but you could also try their honey and oat to mix it up a bit.

4. Rotisserie Style Chicken

The Rotisserie Chicken is one of the healthiest Subway sandwiches, with fresh chicken and crispy veggies on wheat bread. It's just 350 calories and 29 grams of protein.

5. Black Forest Ham

Go ham with the Black Forest Ham. It's fresh, full of flavor, and has 290 calories. I recommend adding a little honey mustard, which is low in calories and will give your salty sub a sweet twist.

6. Subway Club

For all those meat lovers out there, the Subway Club is a real treat. It is a combination of tender turkey breast, roast beef and black forest ham in one delectable sandwich for you to feast on. It's also just 310 calories.

7. Roast Beef

You can get buff with a Roast Beef sandwich by making it your go-to Subway order on the day you workout. This healthy six-inch sandwich has 290 calories and 6 grams of fat. Can it get any better?

8. Carved Turkey

If you cannot wait for Thanksgiving, go for a Carved Turkey Sandwich available for limited time. If you want to go even healthier, ditch the bread and have the salad version instead . You automatically reduce your carb intake by 40 grams.

9. Egg and cheese

What better way to start your morning than with a multigrain flatbread with egg-whites, cheese, spinach, and tomatoes? This 380-calorie sub will keep you going for the rest of your busy day.

10. Turkey Breast

The Turkey Breast sandwich is part of the Fresh Fit menu. With 280 calories and 18 grams of protein, this is a great choice if you're looking for a healthy lunch.

The next time you're at Subway and want to eat clean, order any of these healthy sandwiches for a flavorful, filling meal.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

20 Wild Subway Sandwiches From All Over The World

It's hard to understand why some of these sandwiches aren't available in the United States!

By Colin Leggett Nov 19, 2018

Fast food can get a little repetitive. Burgers, pizza, fried chicken, tacos, repeat. Then again, Subway has also become a staple of the fast food diet. It may not always be as hearty as a pizza or as desirable as a burger, but a Subway sandwich can be a pretty great meal, especially when it's loaded up with veggies and served with a bag of chips (or some of those amazing subway cookies, particularly the white chocolate macadamia nut). Just like McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and other fast food chains, Subway has locations all over the world, and just like those other fast food titans, it often includes dishes that are specific to the local culture on its menu.

Some of those international Subway sandwiches are really something else, too. It's actually hard to understand why some of them aren't available in the United States. Sure, there are some sandwiches that are so culturally specific that they might just not work, but there are others that are just fun sandwiches with no real connection to their market. They are just ideas that have been cooked up at these international Subway locations. And yet, somehow, these amazing sandwiches haven't made their way to the United States. It's a real shame, because some of these sandwiches look absolutely amazing, and like they would be a really satisfying meal. Hopefully one day we might get to try some of these sandwiches without taking an international flight. These are 20 wild Subway sandwiches from around the world.

20 Aloo Patty (India)

If you hit up a subway in India, you'll find more vegetarian options than you might see at an American location. This is most likely due to the fact that roughly 20% of the population in India eat a vegetarian diet. So what kind of different sandwiches can you find at Subway in India? For starters, there is the aloo patty sub. This sandwich is made with two seasoned potato patties, plus all the vegetables you want. This is basically like eating a hash brown sandwich, which a lot of us would consider a pretty great treat. After all, who doesn't want more carbs on their sandwich?

19 Barbecue Rib (Germany)

McDonald's may have the McRib, but Subway in Germany has the barbecue rib sub. Imagine being able to get the flavor of a McRib any time you want, only instead of being limited to pickles, onions, and a soggy hot dog bun, you could get it with any veggies you want on herb and cheese bread? That sounds like a winner in our books. It's a little bit strange that Subways in the United States haven't adopted this sandwich, considering that it would be a great way to capitalize on the periods when the McRib isn't available. After all, people go crazy for the McRib, so they'd probably like this sandwich even more.

18 Chicken Tikka (UK)

Chicken tikka is a popular dish in India, where it originated as small chunks of boneless chicken marinated in spices and yogurt and baked on skewers. Considering how popular food from India is in the UK, it only makes sense that Subway would adopt those flavors for a sandwich. The chicken tikka sub maintains the same tradition as the original dish, with chunks of chicken marinated in a spice blend and grilled. This would be a great sandwich to get if you wanted to explore the sort of cross-cultural culinary world of England, where recipes originating from India have had a large influence.

17 Corn and Peas (India)

Sometimes even for vegetarians, the veggie sub at Subway must get a little bit boring. After all, there are only so many times that you can have lettuce, tomato, and any variation of other vegetables on a loaf of bread before you start craving something different. Some people go for the falafel, but that can be a bit heavy. Too bad People in the United States can't pick up a corn and peas sub, a sandwich available at Subways in India. This sub is topped with a corn and pea salad, tossed with carrots in a mayo-like sauce. Top that with your favorite veggies, and this could be a real winner.

16 Raclette Cheese (France)

For people who aren't familiar with raclette, allow us to explain this absolutely heavenly cheese: it originates in France and is often melted right on the wheel then scraped onto your plate, where you can enjoy the cheesy, melty goodness. So, of course, Subway in France has utilized this delicious cheese in a sub, providing all the melty goodness of raclette on an inexpensive and delicious sandwich. That means if you ever find yourself in France, you don't have to head into a gourmet restaurant to try raclette for yourself. Just pop into Subway and order one of these bad boys.

15 Peri Peri Chicken (South Africa)

Everybody loves a spicy chicken sandwich, so why hasn't Subway come up with one yet? Actually, they have! The peri peri chicken sub, available at Subway locations in South Africa, uses spicy chicken prepared with traditional spices. Peri Peri chicken is known for its intense flavors and heat that slowly builds the more you eat. This kind of sandwich would do great in the United States, where people are always trying to test their mettle when it comes to spicy food. Also, you could nicely contrast that spice with blue cheese dressing or ranch, making a perfectly balanced sandwich with great flavor contrast.

14 Shrimp Avocado (Japan)

If there's one thing you have to expect at fast food places in Japan, it's the inclusion of shrimp on the menu. The same goes for Subway, where there are several sandwiches that incorporate shrimp. Chief among these is the avocado and shrimp sandwich. This tasty sub combines meaty shrimp and an avocado spread that is similar to guacamole. If you ask us, this sub sounds like it could be a real winner in the United States. After all, who doesn't like shrimp? Not only that, but the addition of avocado to anything these days is always an instant hit.

13 Skagenrora (Sweden)

While the tuna sub at Subway in the United States is not often the most popular choice (after all, that tuna salad never really looks all that appetizing sitting in a container on the counter), the skagenrora seems like it could be a much better choice. However, this sub is only available in Sweden, so you'd have to take a trip there to try this for yourself. The skagenrora sub is like the tuna salad, but instead of tuna, it uses a salad made with crab meat. This actually sounds like it could be a big hit in the states, particularly on the east coast. Especially if you threw some Old Bay seasoning on top.

12 Schnitzel and Slaw (Australia)

Now, this is a sandwich! Subways in Australia offer this sandwich during limited time promotions. That's a real shame because this sub would probably sell great year-round as a regular menu item. It combines the traditional flavor of schnitzel, a thin, breaded pork cutlet, with coleslaw, creating a contrast of flavors that work very well together. This sandwich would probably do really well in the United States, where everybody wants a hearty sandwich with breaded meat on it. This is the kind of thing that would be worth traveling halfway around the world. After a long plane trip, this sandwich would fill you up just right. Which is why Subway in Australia needs to seel it all the time!

11 Shrimp and Broccoli (Japan)

Once again, we return to Japan where Subways are serving all kinds of shrimp subs, including this one. Now, shrimp and broccoli may not sound as exciting or enticing as shrimp and avocado, but come on! This sub would be super healthy, and the combination of flavors would most likely provide a unique tasting experience. Although we have to admit, this would probably not be a huge hit in the United States. While people like to go to Subway . to get more vegetables in their diet (a questionable dietary tactic if ever there was one), they probably don't want broccoli shoehorned in there.

10 Smoked Chicken and Cream Cheese (Brazil)

This sandwich, available at subways in Brazil, does something very interesting: it takes a more traditional sandwich topping (in this case, chicken salad) and turns it on its head by using cream cheese instead of mayo. We have to admit, we're intrigued. While there are people out there that would never abandon mayo as their preferred chicken salad dressing, the thought of tangy cream cheese being used as the base is somewhat enticing. After all, combining the creamy, cheesy flavor with something as bold as smoked chicken would really make a nice contrast of flavors. Considering there isn't even a chicken salad sub in the United States, this could be a great sandwich to test out in the marketplace.

9 Fiesta Mexicana (Poland)

Why is it that you would have to travel to Poland to get something that looks as amazing as this fiesta Mexicana sandwich? Look at that thing! It combines guacamole with seasoned chicken and any veggies you want to create a delicious hybrid of burrito and sandwich. How this thing hasn't been tested in the United States is beyond us, as this sandwich could easily be a best seller. It has what everyone wants: guacamole, spicy chicken, and a fun name! You know that anything that has the word "fiesta" in it is probably going to be a good time, so this sandwich would probably be like a party in your mouth.

8 Sausage Sub (China)

Is a hot dog a sandwich? It's a question that's taken the internet by storm, and the debate is ongoing. However, the sausage sub available at Subways in China seems to split the difference. How does it do that? By literally splitting the sausage down the middle, making it flatter so it can be put on a subway bun. This would be a pretty great meal, considering how hearty and delicious that sausage looks, although it might provoke even stronger arguments from both sides of whether this kind of thing can even be considered a sandwich of if it's more just a "wrong hot dog." Either way, it's probably delicious.

7 Subway Taco (Japan)

Most people who want a taco are obviously going to head over to Taco Bell. Why wouldn't they? The word 'taco' is right in the name! But what if you could get a taco somewhere else? Maybe somewhere you wouldn't expect? That's exactly the case at Subway in Japan, where you can get the Subway taco. This taco style sandwich utilizes the Subway flatbread and spicy taco-style beef to create something that is a hybrid of sandwich and taco. You really get the best of both worlds with the Subway taco. The taste of spicy beef, plus the soft bready texture of a Subway flatbread. This would be a whole new flavor experience for people, and one that would definitely be worth trying.

6 Bacon, Potato, and Anchovy Sauce (Japan)

You may think you've seen some strange flavor combinations in your life, but brace yourself, because this one might just blow you away. This sub, sold in Japan combines the flavors of bacon, mashed potatoes (makes sense so far), and anchovy sauce? Well, that came out of nowhere. Forgive us for thinking that anchovy sauce might be just a little too much on a sandwich like this one. Then again, anchovies are often used to enhance other flavors. They can actually bring a lot of umami to a dish, making them a secret weapon in many different types of cuisine. You know what? This sandwich might be worth trying, just to see how all these flavors work together.

5 Shortcut Bacon, Poached Egg, and Cheese (Australia)

No, shortcut bacon isn't bacon that doesn't take as long to make. It's actually a very common breakfast meat in Australia, where you can get it on a breakfast sandwich from subway along with poached eggs and cheese. This sandwich is actually a refreshing change to all of the breakfast sandwiches people might be used to. After all, if you get a breakfast sandwich anywhere, you're most likely getting fried eggs, or maybe scrambled (although the scrambled eggs are typically powdered). So poached eggs are actually a nice change of pace. Add in shortcut bacon, which is a thinner sliced bacon, cut from the loin rather than the belly.

4 Chicken Fajita (Germany)

Why wouldn't a chicken fajita sub be available in America? People love chicken, they love fajitas, so why wouldn't this sandwich be a huge hit? We may never know, but the chicken fajita sub is a big hit at Subways in Germany. This sandwich is topped with chicken coated with classic fajita spices. It's a little bit strange that this sub would be available in Germany, and not the schnitzel and slaw sandwich mentioned above. However, maybe the people of Germany like to get things that are a little different at Subway, leaving the traditional foods for other restaurants. Either way, this sandwich seems like it would be delicious.

3 Paneer Tikka (India)

Everybody loves cheese, right? Well, imagine if you could get a Subway sandwich that was made almost entirely out of cheese? We're not even talking about those thin triangles of white cheddar, either. We're talking about the paneer tikka sub, available at Subways in India. This sandwich is topped with paneer, a traditional cheese in India that is often served in curries due to its high melting point. The paneer is seasoned with spices and piled high on a bun with veggies. This is the kind of sandwich that any cheese lover would want to try. Paneer is also very high in protein, so this would also be a great post-workout sub.

2 Chicken Parm (Mexico)

How is it fair that the chicken parm sub, a sandwich that by all means should be available in the USA, is only available in Mexico? This sandwich from Subway has everything you'd expect a chicken parm sandwich to have: breaded chicken, marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. This is the kind of thing that would sell like hotcakes in the United States, so it's a little bit strange that Subway hasn't made the decision to start carrying it in the US market. Well, that just means that you have one more culinary stop to make on your next trip south of the border.

1 Matambrito (Argentina)

One thing that Subway, like other fast food chains, likes to do is make sandwiches based off of local flavors and dishes. Subway in Argentina is no exception to the rule, as they have made the matambrito sub. This impressive sandwich is made with a deep-fried pork patty and barbecue sauce, which sound like it would be right at home in the United States. After all, who doesn't love the sound of fried pork on a bun? This sandwich is probably really hearty and filling, considering the great looking cut of meat that adorns it. Unfortunately, you'd have to travel to Argentina to try one.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2020 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Science Behind Your Cheap Wine

How advances in bottling, fermenting and taste-testing are democratizing a once-opaque liquid.

Smithsonian Magazine / Ben Panko

To develop the next big mass-market wine, winemakers first hone flavor using focus groups, then add approved flavoring and coloring additives to make the drink match up with what consumers want.

We live in a golden age of wine, thanks in part to thirsty millennials and Americans seemingly intent on out-drinking the French. Yet for all its popularity, the sommelier's world is largely a mysterious one. Bottles on grocery store shelves come adorned with whimsical images and proudly proclaim their region of origin, but rarely list ingredients other than grapes. Meanwhile, ordering wine at a restaurant can often mean pretending to understand terms like "mouthfeel," "legs" or "bouquet."

"I liked wine the same way I liked Tibetan hand puppetry or theoretical particle physics," writes journalist Bianca Bosker in the introduction to her 2017 book Cork Dork, "which is to say I had no idea what was going on but was content to smile and nod."

Curious about what exactly happened in this shrouded world, Bosker took off a year and a half from writing to train to become a sommelier, and talk her way into wine production facilities across the country. In the end, Bosker learned that most wine is nowhere near as “natural” as many people think—and that scientific advances have helped make cheap wine nearly as good as the expensive stuff.

"There's an incredible amount we don't understand about what makes wine—this thing that shakes some people to the core," Bosker says. In particular, most people don't realize how much chemistry goes into making a product that is supposedly just grapes and yeast, she says. Part of the reason is that, unlike food and medicines, alcoholic beverages in the U.S. aren't covered by the Food and Drug Administration. That means winemakers aren't required to disclose exactly what is in each bottle; all they have to reveal is the alcohol content and whether the wine has sulfites or certain food coloring additives.

In Cork Dork, published by Penguin Books, Bosker immerses herself in the world of wine and interviews winemakers and scientists to distill for the average drinking person what goes into your bottle of pinot. "One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year," Bosker says. "People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor."

For Treasury Wine Estates, the process of developing a mass-market wine starts in a kind of “sensory insights lab," Bosker found. There, focus groups of professional tasters blind-sample a variety of Treasury’s wine products. The best ones are then sampled by average consumers to help winemakers get a sense of which “sensory profiles” would do best in stores and restaurants, whether it be “purplish wines with blackberry aromas, or low-alcohol wines in a pink shade," she writes.

From these baseline preferences, the winemakers take on the role of the scientist, adding a dash of acidity or a hint of red to bring their wines in line with what consumers want. Winemakers can draw on a list of more than 60 government-approved additives that can be used to tweak everything from color to acidity to even thickness.

Then the wines can be mass-produced in huge steel vats, which hold hundreds of gallons and are often infused with oak chips to impart the flavor of real oaken barrels. Every step of this fermentation process is closely monitored, and can be altered by changing temperature or adding more nutrients for the yeast. Eventually, the wine is packaged on huge assembly lines, churning out thousands of bottles an hour that will make their way to your grocery store aisle and can sometimes sell for essentially the same price as bottled water.

"This idea of massaging grapes with the help of science is not new," Bosker points out. The Romans, for example, added lead to their wine to make it thicker. In the Middle Ages, winemakers began adding sulfur to make wines stay fresh for longer.

However, starting in the 1970s, enologists (wine scientists) at the University of California at Davis took the science of winemaking to new heights, Bosker says. These entrepreneurial wine wizards pioneered new forms of fermentation to help prevent wine from spoiling and produce it more efficiently. Along with the wide range of additives, winemakers today can custom order yeast that will produce wine with certain flavors or characteristics. Someday soon, scientists might even build yeast from scratch.

Consumers most commonly associate these kinds of additives with cheap, mass-produced wines like Charles Shaw (aka "Two Buck Chuck") or Barefoot. But even the most expensive red wines often have their color boosted with the use of "mega-red" or "mega-purple" juice from other grape varieties, says Davis enologist Andrew Waterhouse. Other common manipulations include adding acidity with tartaric acid to compensate for the less acidic grapes grown in warmer climates, or adding sugar to compensate for the more acidic grapes grown in cooler climates.

Tannins, a substance found in grape skins, can be added to make a wine taste "drier" (less sweet) and polysaccharides can even be used to give the wine a "thicker mouthfeel," meaning the taste will linger more on the tongue.

When asked if there was any truth to the oft-repeated legend that cheap wine is bound to give more headaches and worse hangovers, Waterhouse was skeptical. "There's no particular reason that I can think of that expensive wine is better than cheap wine," Waterhouse says. He adds, however, that there isn't good data on the topic. "As you might suspect, the [National Institutes of Health] can't make wine headaches a high priority," he says.

Instead, Waterhouse suggests, there may be a simpler explanation: "It's just possible that people tend to drink more wine when it's cheap.”

While this widespread use of additives may make some natural-foods consumers cringe, Bosker found no safety or health issues to worry about in her research. Instead, she credits advancements in wine science with improving the experience of wine for most people by "democratizing quality." "The technological revolution that has taken place in the winery has actually elevated the quality of really low-end wines," Bosker says.

The main issue she has with the modern wine industry is that winemakers aren’t usually transparent with all of their ingredients—because they don’t have to be. "I find it outrageous that most people don't realize that their fancy Cabernet Sauvignon has actually been treated with all kinds of chemicals," Bosker says.

Yet behind those fancy labels and bottles and newfangled chemical manipulation, the biggest factor influencing the price of wine is an old one: terroir, or the qualities a wine draws from the region where it was grown. Famous winemaking areas such as Bordeaux, France, or Napa Valley, California, can still land prices 10 times higher than just as productive grape-growing land in other areas, says Waterhouse. Many of these winemakers grow varieties of grapes that produce less quantity, but are considered by winemakers to be far higher quality.

"Combine the low yield and the high cost of the land, and there's a real structural difference in the pricing of those wines," Waterhouse says. Yet as winemakers continue to advance the science of making, cultivating and bottling this endlessly desirable product, that may soon change. After all, as Bosker says, "wine and science have always gone hand in hand."

Ben Panko is a staff writer for
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How To Make the Easiest Cinnamon Rolls

Fragrant iced cinnamon rolls that don‘t require a stand mixer, prolonged kneading, or rising time.

The Kitchn / Christine Gallary

Homemade cinnamon rolls never seem like a project you can undertake in the morning and have ready in time for breakfast, right? All those ingredients to measure out, kneading in a stand mixer, and of course, two rises for the yeast to do its thing. It’s no wonder we’re also picking them up from a bakery, IKEA, and even that chain in the mall.

What if I told you that you could put a big pan of cinnamon rolls together in about the same amount of time it takes for your oven to heat? With just seven ingredients (all staples you can keep in your pantry and fridge), you can make fragrant iced cinnamon rolls without a stand mixer, prolonged kneading, or rising time. Let’s make this magic happen!

Say Goodbye to Yeast

Traditional cinnamon rolls get their signature tender, doughy texture from a rich yeasted dough. They’re pillowy-soft, like a cinnamon-scented pillow, but all of this comes at a price: time. Yeast needs lots of time to rise properly, and cinnamon rolls usually need two rises: once when the dough is made, and once more after the rolls are formed.

Trade in Yeast for Self-Rising Flour (or a Substitute)

To make these easier cinnamon rolls a feasible breakfast option, we ditched the yeast in favor of self-rising flour. Self-rising flour is a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. There’s enough baking powder in there to give these cinnamon rolls a nice puff and lift. The finished cinnamon rolls won’t be as pillowy as their yeasted cousins, but they are still plenty soft and have a great texture.

This easy dough is a mixture of the self-rising flour, sugar, milk, and melted butter, and it’s just stirred together in a big bowl. The dough is kneaded by hand ever-so-briefly (and by briefly, I mean about a minute), but it has such a great texture that you can roll it out immediately too.

The Finishing Touches for Cinnamon Rolls Are Key

After the dough’s rolled out, the next steps are pretty much like most other cinnamon roll recipes: Brush the dough with butter, sprinkle with plenty of cinnamon-sugar, then roll it into a log and cut into rounds.

Homemade cinnamon rolls go fast, so we use our trusty 9×13-inch baking dish here to make 15 good-sized rolls. More is a good thing when it comes to cinnamon rolls.

While the rolls are baking, whisk together a simple icing of powdered sugar, milk, and salt to glaze the finished rolls with when they come out of the oven. For those who prefer a cream cheese glaze, give Faith’s version a try.

Fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon rolls are waiting for you — just grab a bag of self-rising flour and give these a whirl!

How To Make the Easiest Cinnamon Rolls

Yield: Makes 15


For the cinnamon rolls:

Cooking spray or butter, for coating the pan
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
5 cups self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups whole or 2% milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided

For the glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup whole milk or 2%, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon fine salt


Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
9x13-inch baking dish
Bench scraper
Rolling pin
Wire cooling rack


Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter; set aside. Make and fill the rolls while the oven is heating.

Mix the filling. Mix 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon together in a small bowl; set aside.

Make the dough. Place the flour and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the milk and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter together in a medium bowl. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a soft dough forms and no dry bits of flour remain.

Knead the dough. Transfer the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Sprinkle with more flour, then knead until the dough is fairly smooth, sprinkling with more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Do not overknead or the cinnamon rolls will be tough.

Roll the dough out. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 24- by 10-inch-long rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, with the longer side facing you.

Fill the dough. Brush 2 tablespoons of the melted butter onto the surface of the dough, using it all. Sprinkle it evenly with the cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Roll the dough up. Starting at the long end closest to you, roll the dough up tightly into a log, using a bench scraper as needed to help release the dough from the work surface. Pinch the seam together at the top.

Cut the dough. Position the log seam-side down. Cut the dough crosswise into 15 pieces.

Fill the baking dish. Place the cut rolls cut-side up in the baking dish, 5 across and 3 down the dish.

Butter the rolls. Brush the tops of the cinnamon rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter.

Bake the rolls. Bake until puffed, golden-brown, and a toothpick or skewer inserted in several spots comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze.

Make the glaze. Place the powdered sugar, milk, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth; set aside.

Glaze the rolls. When the cinnamon rolls are ready, place the baking dish on a wire cooling rack. Drizzle evenly with the glaze, then let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Storage: Leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Rewarm in a 300°F oven until warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Christine Gallary graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook's Illustrated and She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.
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Into the Vines: The Story of Sicily’s Top Winemakers

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton meets the independent winemakers who bottle the flavor of Sicily.

Afar / Gabrielle Hamilton

I was married for more than 10 years to an Italian. An Italian Italian, from Rome, and we traveled to Italy frequently. But somehow, we never went to Sicily. More confounding, for the 14 years I’ve had my Manhatttan restaurant, Prune, I’ve been selling, drinking, and championing certain Sicilian wines, never having met the people who make them. These excellent bottles from distant, faceless winemakers have arrived at my restaurant door stacked up on a hand truck and been lunked down the stairs to the basement by some indifferent, burly Brooklyn truck driver wearing a weight lifter’s belt, while I’ve signed the shipping receipt.

But I’ve always felt connected to these wines. When Prune opened in 1999, if you were eating in serious dining rooms throughout the United States, you found the same tuna tartare and goat cheese and beet salad being served by Nehru-jacketed waiters to a Gypsy Kings sound track. At that time, Sicilian wines were still generally thought of as cheap, mass-produced wines. Prune’s quirky dishes, such as monkfish liver on toast and roasted marrow bones, and the restaurant’s unapologetic East Village demeanor (graffitied-over front gate, tattooed waitresses) were as unfamiliar in the dining scene as Sicily’s peppery nero d’Avola, curiously chilled frappato, and nearly mentholated nerello mascalese were in the wine world.

Set 2,952 feet above sea level, Regaleali is one of five wine estates run by the Tasca d’Almerita family.

In the 15 years since, we underdogs have supported each other. The experimental and defiant wines, made from indigenous grapes, found a clientele only in small, unconventional restaurants, and reciprocally, these idiosyncratic restaurants became more exciting by introducing guests to something new. Perhaps that’s why I have a particular allegiance to these wines. But early on, the attraction was simple: They were the delicious and opinionated wines I wanted to drink with the deeply personal food I wanted to cook.

When I step off the plane in Palermo and take a deep lungful of the hot, early September air, thick with the smell of day-old brushfire and manure, I am jolted. Those first highly aromatic inhales are a vivid, uncannily familiar introduction to a land I’ve only ever sipped from a bottle. Within minutes I understand something more about these wines I’ve known, with their sometimes challenging personalities.

Like everyone, I’m intimidated when talking about wine. I’m about to spend a week touring the countryside, meeting the winemakers whose wines I have been serving all these years, and I am braced for the trip to be one long successive put-down by those wine types we have all met, the ones with the silk ties and the pursed lips. But if this is how Sicily introduces itself—as a terroir of brushfire and cow shit—how high and uptight can it be?

The two jovial guys at the car rental place relax me further. After putting me in a stick-shift tin-can Fiat, they settle into the more nuanced matter of my GPS system. Do I prefer a male or a female voice? I laugh out loud and start to describe the girl I’d like—perhaps a dark, Sicilian beauty? Hardworking but with a sense of humor? They are chuckling, too. Do I prefer Chiara? Or maybe Jessica? They both laugh and nod in fraternal agreement on Jessica’s merits. But would they be remiss not to highly recommend Benedetta?

Soon Chiara and I are on the highway. Along the coast at first, and then up into the mountains, off the main road, and then onto gravelly, cracked pavement. I come to giant windmills standing stark on the hilltop like colossal white-winged angels. I turn off the engine and listen to the profound, oxymoronic nothingness of wind, and the whispering rhythm of the spinning blades—a brief but singular moment in which I get hold of my insecurities before I meet the aristocratic Tasca family at their estate, Regaleali.

Arianna Occhipinti is nicknamed the “natural woman” for her approach to making wines.

The property is regal. The vineyards march on in endless neat, harmonic rows. Workers eat their paper-wrapped homemade lunches under a tree. A bright Tunisian-blue bench, a few cats, and an intoxicating arc of blooming jasmine welcome you into the courtyard. And the count himself, Lucio Tasca, stands on the balcony looking out on it all.

Alberto, Lucio’s gentle son, greets me, accompanied by his own boisterous young children, elegant wife, and slightly muddy dog, and instantly I am at ease. The thing that has brought me to this vineyard, in a way, is my own youngest son. When Leone was born, we carried a Regaleali catarratto at Prune, also called Leone, referencing the lion in the Tasca family crest so, of course, I had to come here first.

Before dinner, I tour the fields. It’s new to me, picking wine grapes straight from the vine and eating them. Somehow I had no idea the process was this straightforward. I had never apprehended the way that the vineyard and winemaking parallel the garden and cooking. The grapes: They’re just fruit.

There has been rain, so the vines have been clipped of any leaves that might block the grapes from the scarce sun and the breeze that keeps them dry and healthy. I detest sex words in food writing, but these grapes are noticeably “lusty.” They are swollen, tumescent, buxom. I mean, it’s thrilling and embarrassing. I actually giggle a little.

Sicilian winemakers are calling attention to the island’s indigenous grapes.

At the harvest, which is happening when I arrive in Sicily, people work all day, and in some cases all night. They sleep little, eat even less. The fruit must be collected on time, and “on time” can be down to the hour. Too ripe and you lose the grapes. Too green and you lose the wine in a different way. The grapes have to be crushed and the juice collected, and everything needs to be cleaned—the tanks and the barrels and the conveyors and the floors and the bottles, of course, but even the fields and the vines themselves. All those clipped leaves aren’t just left to rot on the muddy ground where they fall. I deliberately chose this frenetic and exciting time to finally meet these winemakers, and I’ve come prepared to be either very small or very useful, whichever seems most appropriate.

At Regaleali, they’ve got the harvest so expertly in hand it appears effortless, as if by now, in the family’s second century of continuous winemaking, the wine just appears in the cellars while we discuss dinner plans in the salon. Alberto says drily, “To make a small fortune in wine, you have to invest a large fortune.” At the dinner table with the family and a few guests, conversation runs briskly from politics to wine to art to family to food. At 70-plus years old, the count remains undiminished in virility. He regards you with sharp—I’m not kidding—penetrating focus. He smiles devilishly when mentioning that while he is divorced, he still, of course, “has friends.” He describes a fishing excursion from which he just returned, during which he landed and released a 30-pound tuna. Power and restraint. The very characteristics of his celebrated wine Regaleali Rosso del Conte. There is intellectual wine, technical wine, and earnest wine. Then there is the wine of Lucio Tasca.

First thing in the morning, I am up, refueling the car, having a coffee, and mapping my route to the Occhipinti vineyard, started by Arianna Occhipinti when she was only 21 years old. I already think I adore her—if for no other reason than her wines are not always easy to like. Her blend of nero d’Avola and frappato is as honest an expression of the grapes as there can be, and I find that unapologetic willingness to be opinionated and difficult very soothing. Even in a glass of wine.

Alberto Tasca, the son of Count Lucio Tasca, shares a bottle of Rosso di Conte with his cousin, Fabrizia Lanza, who runs a nearby cooking school.

I spend the whole afternoon eagerly driving around in the countryside of Vittoria—one of Sicily’s most visited wine regions—excited to meet her. I comb the famous wine route SP68, surrounded by dirty, dusty, hardworking vines laden with grapes, and yet I don’t find Occhipinti. Chiara accepted Occhipinti’s satellite coordinates without complaint, but she still can’t quite bring me to the vineyard.

With daylight fading, I finally retreat. I climb the zigzag road to the ancient city of Ragusa, about half an hour away. By the time I reach the top, the sun is gone. I’m defeated, disappointed. And hungry.

I find a large, beautiful piazza just below the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and sit at a café sipping a negroni. The locals, with their extravagant indifference to such spaces, stroll home from work. A few children are learning to ride their bikes on the gleaming limestone tile. The church bells ring 8:30. The gas lamps bathe us in their yellow-green glow. For a full 30 minutes I sit transfixed, looking out over the square, and do nothing but sip my drink, wrestle with my Occhipinti disappointment, and think of every overworked woman I know, wishing each of them the chance to luxuriate in this brief, idle half hour of glorious repose.

Finally, I phone a restaurant that has been repeatedly recommended to me, and in my best charming, slightly perforated Italian, I befriend the maître d’ and get myself a table. He suggests 9 p.m. “Don’t rush me,” I say. “I can’t get there before 9:30. I need to hear one more round of the bells of the cathedral before dinner!” He smiles over the phone. “Don’t worry, Signora—we are here for you.”

The restaurant turns out to have “ambitions.” It’s one of those places that tells you how to eat. The guy stands over you, stiffly gesturing: “Chef invites you to start with the foie gras ice cream...and to use your fingers.” I can never forgive this approach—as if the waiter were in charge.

The sommelier sets the wine list down on the table. It’s the size of a child’s coffin. I smile at the sommelier and say, “Un progetto”—a project for the diner to accomplish. It would take two days to look through it all. He nods, unsmiling.

I leaf through the pages of the Sicilian reds section and hoot out loud in the funereal dining room when I see it on the list: Arianna Occhipinti’s SP68—her blend of nero d’Avola and frappato. There you are, lady! With every acidic, earthy sip, I chuckle at how I drove every inch of SP68 and yet never found the place. I can’t wait to tell Chiara.

I resolve to not miss any of the other spots on my list. At each vineyard, the story repeats itself: soil, climate, fruit. But each voice brings it to life in a new way. At Di Giovanna, a little-known winery in the village of Sambuca di Sicilia, the Di Giovanna brothers are awash in juice when I arrive. I find them hand-raking the fruit out of the back gate of a truck, its hydraulic bed tilting back farther and farther as the guys hoe and rake the streaming, juicy grapes into steel receiving vats. This simple juice will eventually become cheerful, friendly nerello mascalese—a light red that I have enjoyed at Prune the past couple of summers. The juice gushes out of the truck like a spigot open wide enough for washing your face. Somehow, again, I never knew it was so literal. At this stage, it’s actual grape juice.

At Planeta, just down the mountain and across the plain, the land is unruly, thick with wild bay leaves, asparagus, mint, fennel, blackberries, chamomile, and at its heart, a 200-year-old fig tree whose purple-black fruits have burst open, their crimson innards now ruptured pinwheels among the branches. I am thrilled but utterly baffled. The famous Cometa wine, a deep yellow fianno, is the definition of refinement. But with that first precise handshake with Chiara Planeta, who welcomes me to a tasting room set with glasses in descending size, a sharpened pencil at each seat, the source of the cool-as-glass character of the wine becomes clear. Come to think of it, there was not even one overlooked fig laying at the base of that magnificent tree.

Arianna Occhipinti’s young crew harvest frappato and nero d’Avola grapes from her vineyards in Vittoria.

My plan to circle the entire island and visit all the vineyards on my list in just a week caused some friends to gently chide me for “toeing the bases” as a baseball player might. But this is not my first mountaintop, my first piazza, my first ancient church, my first shepherd, my first whispering windy silence, my first diesel truck on a zigzagging mountain precipice, my first crush of oregano, mint, and fennel underfoot. My chromosomes have been shaking with a bodily memory ever since I stepped onto the tarmac and smelled brushfire. I know the language, the gestures, the way the traffic flows or doesn’t, the stray dogs and the way they wander and sleep by the side of the road, how the fried food smells here, the dignified, elderly couples in their phlegmy Mercedes Benzes who pull up in the piazzas, alight, enter the restaurants, and exchange pleasantries with the owner before being led to their table. I know it intimately. Which frees me up for other experiences, like finally allowing myself to drive like a real Italian: fast. And that gets me the extra hour I need to toe one more base: Feudo Montoni Winery, whose nero d’Avola wines, including its flagship Vrucara, are rare in the United States.

I intend to just glance at the vineyard, but I realize within 20 seconds of stepping out of the car and kissing both scruffy cheeks of 44-year-old winemaker Fabio Sireci, who immediately holds me by both elbows, that I never want to leave. Fabio is standing in his yard surrounded by dirty tractors, dirty workers, dirty dogs, and a pile of ugly extracted grape skins dumped on the ground. He hasn’t shaved in days, is wearing work boots, jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap. He and his crew have been up until 2 a.m., picking by tractor light. They haven’t eaten, showered, or cleaned the yard. They are all surprised to realize I am here today, this Wednesday of this week, but within 10 minutes we are on the tractor, its tanklike treads caked in mud, making our way down the steep hillside to see the 85-year-old nero d’Avola grapevines.

The small town of Scicli, just outside Ragusa, retains a slow pace that offers a real glimpse of traditional Sicilian life.

The vines, hardly more than a tennis court’s worth, are deeply etched and as twisted as old hags from some Grimm’s fairy tale. We graft a vine with Pietro Scaccia, the vineyard master with profoundly calloused hands who can do more than 300 grafts a day. He clips a sturdy new shoot from one vine, cuts the gnarled root of another just so, to expose the fresh white flesh inside, secures the graft with a flat, wide elastic, and then clothes the naked scar in a couple of big, healthy green grape leaves, which allows the coupling to take hold in a single night. In this way the legendary vines are propagated and are able to bear fruit seemingly in perpetuity.

Again, we pick and taste the grapes. The nero d’Avola first, but also, at the top of the mountain, where it’s colder and clayier, the grillo and catarratto grapes. Blindfolded, I wouldn’t instantly know they weren’t table grapes. Fabio can’t stop speaking of his grapes passionately, appreciatively, as if they were beautiful women. But his gals are not the luscious, voluptuous Sofia Lorens from a few mountaintops away at Regaleali. They are more like plain village girls in head scarves, with not-so-faint moustaches on their upper lips. Fabio prefers them that way. Some are small and tight, and others are nicked here and there with tiny scabs, though plenty are a perfect frosted blue, like plums.

The grapes at Feudo Montoni, which is the highest vineyard site in Sicily for nero d’Avola, are all picked by hand.

We are followed by wildly happy mutts who run up the hills chasing the tractor. Fabio walks us around in the barn, where there are large sacks of fermenting, mildewed fava beans and dried peas. He warns me not to touch them; they are caustic. He works the molding legumes into the soil, their high levels of ammonia eliminating predatory weeds.

The caves have unlabeled bottles stacked to the ceilings, and a small desk where the labels for magnum-sized bottles of Vrucara will be written by hand. The barrels are lined up and stacked, doing their time. Fabio doesn’t put his name on the bottle, he says, because “the land makes the wine, not the man.” Therefore the estate name—Feudo Montoni—goes on the label, rather than his own. When we finally pause to sample the wines, we have to hunt down some glasses. Fabio knocks over a lamp looking for the switch, and we clear magazines and happy dogs off the couches to sit and have a taste. His frenzy reminds me exactly of how I feel when I am trying to pull together family meal for the staff at my restaurant.

As Fabio pours me a glass of wine, I vow that I will never again allow myself to be intimidated by wine people or wine talk or lists of what’s important and what’s not. Winemaking is farming. Winemaking is cooking. Winemaking is work. What we have all been doing these past 14 years—without ever knowing each other—is exactly the same.

Scicli sits in a gorge and was rebuilt in a Sicilian Baroque style after a major earthquake destroyed much of the town in 1693.

Can you imagine the wine made by a man who loves the local, plain Sicilian village girls with moustaches, who drives the tractor, who stays up until 2 o’clock in the morning harvesting? Can you imagine the wine made by the man a few mountaintops away who just hooked and released a 30-pound tuna, who has stunning ripe, pregnant fruit literally weighing down his vines and a staff that dates back generations to tend to them? Or the wine from two friendly brothers who rake everything into pristine stainless steel tanks, flanked by computers and powerful cleaning hoses and glass beakers, with a few slices of soppressata and fresh bread spread out on the table amid the notebooks? To finally meet these people is to finally understand that what is in the bottle is a direct expression of who puts it in the bottle.

It is like meeting the parents of children you have been friends with forever. Suddenly, you see the lineage, the genetics. You understand why those teeth, that slope to the eye, that habit of gait. You meet the makers, and suddenly the wines make perfect sense.

This post originally appeared on Afar and was published March 26, 2014.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Easy, Cheesy Instant Pot Lasagna

This recipe turns a hours-long project into a much shorter affair.

The Kitchn / Laura Arnold

When I think “comfort food,” my mind immediately goes to lasagna. There’s just so much to love about layers of creamy ricotta, meaty marinara, and perfectly al dente noodles. And while making a classic lasagna from scratch is best reserved for weekend cooking, it’s possible to get all that cheesy goodness on a weeknight, thanks to your Instant Pot.

Instant Pot lasagna turns the hours-long project into a much shorter affair. (It’s no wonder the Pinterest community has dubbed the method “lazy lasagna.”)A jar of store-bought marinara eliminates the need for a long-simmered sauce, and most of the cook time is hands off. This recipe makes enough lasagna to serve six to eight people, but if you’re serving less, leftovers keep well in the fridge for days. And leftover lasagna for lunch sounds pretty great right about now.

For Perfect Instant Pot Lasagna, Add the Water in Stages

For the absolute best results, add water at two different stages. You’ll add the first part when you add the marinara, which will prevent the meat sauce from burning on the bottom of the pot. You’ll add the remaining water just before lidding the pot, which ensures the noodles are covered with enough liquid to cook through.

Just like with an oven-baked lasagna, you’ll need to give your lasagna time to rest after its cooked. The rest allows the liquid from the cooking process to settle and absorb into the noodles, and the residual heat from the resting process is perfect for warming and melting the ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Instant Pot Lasagna

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes


1 small yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
10 ounces dried lasagna noodles (about 11)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 (24 to 25-ounce) jar marinara sauce
3 cups water, divided
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves


Select the Sauté function on a 6-quart or larger Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Meanwhile, dice 1 small yellow onion, mince 3 garlic cloves, and break 10 ounces lasagna noodles (about 11) into thirds and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Instant Pot and heat until shimmering. Add 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef and cook undisturbed until the bottom is browned, about 4 minutes. Break up the beef into pieces with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until browned all over and cooked through, about 6 minutes more.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cook until the tomato paste darkens in color, about 1 minute.

Add 1 jar marinara sauce, 2 cups of the water, the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Layer the broken noodles in different directions on top of the sauce. Press down on the noodles until they are just barely submerged in the meat mixture. Pour in the remaining 1 cup water and stir gently again to incorporate, making sure the noodles are covered with a little bit of liquid.

Lock on the lid and make sure the valve is set to seal. Cook under HIGH pressure for 5 minutes. It will take about 12 minutes to come up to pressure. Meanwhile, stir 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese together in a medium bowl. Shred 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese and coarsely chop 2 tablespoons parsley leaves.

When the cook time is up, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure.

Dollop the ricotta mixture over the lasagna and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Place the lid back on and let sit for 10 minutes for the cheese to melt. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

Laura Arnold is a freelance culinary producer, cookbook author and food stylist based in NYC. She was the Culinary Producer for ABC’s “The Chew” and the author of “Instant One-Pot Meals,” “Dinner Under Pressure,” “Best Simple Suppers for Two” and “Best Sweets & Treats for Two.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2020 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chili Recipe Ingredients:

Pancetta (or bacon): Whose flavor instantly kicks this beef chili up a delicious notch!
Ground beef: I used a leaner cut of organic ground beef, but any type of ground beef will do.
Veggies: A mix of bell pepper, onion and garlic.
Chile peppers: One jalapeño (or two, if you prefer) to give the chili some heat, and one can of diced green chiles to add some subtle mild undertones, and one chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to add that signature smokiness.
Beer + beef stock: Guys, a bottle of beer is my favorite trick for making an extra-delicious broth. I used an IPA, but any favorite bottle of beer that you happen to have on hand will do. (Or if you prefer not to cook with beer, you can just use 100% beef stock instead plus a splash of apple cider vinegar.)
Fire-roasted tomatoes: Or if you can’t find these at the store, regular diced tomatoes will also do.
Beans: Two cans of whichever type(s) of beans you prefer, rinsed and drained. I used one can each of pinto and kidney beans.
Seasonings: A blend of chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.
Toppings: As always with chili, I vote you pile on as many toppings as possible! My standards include diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, diced green or red onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and/or Fritos (or crumbled corn tortilla chips).

How To Make Chili:

Stovetop Chili Instructions: Here is a quick overview of how to make chili the classic way on the stovetop:

Brown the meat. First, we will brown the pancetta (or bacon) and beef in the stockpot, and transfer the cooked meat to a separate clean plate. There should be at least a tablespoon of grease left in the pan, which we will use to sauté the veggies.
Sauté veggies. Next, we will sauté the onion, red pepper and jalapeño until softened, followed by a quick sauté of the garlic.
Add remaining ingredients: Then add beer to the stockpot and use a wooden spoon to gently scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. (They are full of great flavor!) And finally, add the cooked beef and pancetta (or bacon), beef stock, tomatoes, beans, chicken, green chiles, chipotle chili in adobo, chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin to the stockpot and stir to combine. Let the chili continue to cook until it reaches a simmer.
Simmer: Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and continue to simmer the chili for about 20 minutes. (Or longer, if you would like.)
Season: Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. (Feel free to also add in extra chili powder or cumin, if you think it is needed.) And if the broth seems too thin to your liking, you can let the broth simmer uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until it has reduced and thickened a bit.
Serve: Then when you’re ready, ladle the chili up into serving bowls and pile them high with lots and lots of your favorite toppings. And enjoy!

Possible Chili Recipe Variations:

Use Italian sausage. I also often make my chili with half ground beef and half (hot) Italian sausage, which adds some amazing flavor to this recipe! A mix with beef and chorizo would also be delicious too.
Use steak. You can also substitute diced steak (I would recommend a 1/2-inch dice) in place of ground beef. Just sauté the steak until browned on all sides, and then cover and let the chili simmer until the steak is completely tender.
Use ground turkey. Or, to make this more of a turkey chili recipe, substitute ground turkey in place of ground beef for a leaner chili. You may need to add some extra oil to the pan to brown the turkey, since it naturally contains less fat.
Make it gluten-free. To make this a gluten-free chili recipe, just be sure to use gluten-free beer (or use beef stock in place of the beer).
Make it spicier/milder. If you like your chili to have more of a spicy kick, feel free to add in an extra jalapeño pepper. If you would like it to be milder, just omit the jalapeño altogether. (And as always, if serving this chili to a varied group of eaters, I recommend keeping it on the milder side. Then you can always offer hot sauce if people would like to spice up their individual bowls.)
Make it more/less smoky. Give the chili a taste and if you would like it to be a bit smokier, you can add in an extra chipotle in adobo sauce. Or if you don’t like smoky flavors, you can omit the chipotle in adobo sauce altogether. (And use regular paprika instead of smoked paprika, too.)
Make it thicker. If you would like this chili to be a bit thicker, whisk together 1/4 cup masa harina with 1/2 cup cold water. After the chili has simmered for 10 minutes, stir a few tablespoons of the masa mixture into the chili at a time until the chili reaches your desired consistency.
Add cocoa powder. For a subtle yet rich undertone, try adding a few teaspoons of cocoa powder to your chili. I promise it won’t make the whole batch taste like chocolate, but it definitely rounds out the flavors nicely.
Add in extra veggies. I kept this base recipe simple. But if you would like to add in some extra veggies, anything from sweet potatoes to carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant or kale would be delicious too. If you add in more veggies, just keep in mind that you may need to also add in some extra broth/seasonings to compensate.

Ultimate Chili

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6-8 servings


5 ounces diced pancetta (or 5 slices of diced thick-cut bacon)
1 3/4 pounds ground beef
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 jalapeño, cored and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bottle (1 1/2 cups) beer
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 (15-oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with their juices
2 (15-oz) can beans of your choice, rinsed and drained (I used pinto and dark red kidney beans)
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, diced (plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce)
1 tablespoon chili powder*
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
toppings: diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, diced green or red onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, and/or crumbled corn tortilla chips


Brown the meat. Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta (or bacon) and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef and sauté until browned and cooked through, stirring and crumbling with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked meat to a clean plate and set it aside, reserving 1 tablespoon of grease in the pot. (If there is more grease in the pot, discard it.)
Sauté veggies. Add the onion, red pepper and jalapeño to the stockpot and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add remaining ingredients: Add the beer to the stockpot, and use a wooden spoon to gently scrape up any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the cooked beef and pancetta (or bacon), beef stock, tomatoes, beans, green chiles, chipotle chili in adobo, chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the chili reaches a simmer.
Simmer: Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and continue to simmer the chili for 20 minutes.
Season: Taste and season with salt and pepper, as needed. (Feel free to also add in extra chili powder or cumin, if you think it is needed.)
Serve: Serve immediately, piled high with all of your favorite toppings.


Chili Powder: I used American-style chili powder in this recipe, which is different than cayenne. (If you live outside of the USA, please look for American-style chili powder which is essential in this recipe.)

Broth Consistency: If the broth seems too thin, you can either simmer the chili uncovered for an extra 10-15 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness. Or you can stir in a few tablespoons of masa harina slurry at a time (equal parts masa harina + cold water, whisked together) as the chili is simmering, until it reaches your desired consistency.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our 10 Most Popular Instant Pot Recipes of 2020
Kelli Foster
published Dec 22, 2020

We’ve long been fans of the Instant Pot, but in a year when we’ve all been cooking at home more than ever, it’s been the real MVP of the kitchen. It’s the one-pot solution that’s made easy work out of getting dinner on the table, reduced the amount of dirty dishes we need to wash, and sometimes even sped up cooking.

This year we were reminded that the Instant Pot cooks perfect, easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs, is a game-changer for spaghetti and meatballs, and can even be used for a totally decadent chocolate cheesecake. And perhaps best of all, it’s powerful enough to cook meat straight from the freezer — no thawing required. Of all the Instant Pot recipes we shared this year, these were the 10 you loved most.

Instant Pot Lasagna

Instant Pot lasagna, also known as "lazy lasagna," is ready in under an hour. A jar of store-bought marinara eliminates the need for a long-simmered sauce, and most of the cook time is hands off.

Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes

There are few things more convenient to make in your Instant Pot than sweet potatoes. They cook up with irresistibly tender, creamy centers, and pressure cooking them takes half as much time as baking them in the oven.

Easy, Creamy Instant Pot Potato Soup

A duo of milk and cream cheese give this Instant Pot potato soup an irresistible thick and creamy texture, while bacon adds a gentle smoky aroma.

Instant Pot Tuscan Chicken with White Beans and Mushrooms

This Instant Pot chicken dinner is light, fresh, and inspired by the flavors of Tuscany. The best part? You can prepare and freeze the ingredients in advance, then cook them straight from frozen in the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Greek-Style Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

Thanks to the Instant Pot, you can now whip up this restaurant-inspired meal in a fraction of the time, and it’s got all the rich herbal and citrus flavors of the original.

Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage

Our Instant Pot corned beef and cabbage, which is the absolute fastest way to cook this classic dish, gives you perfect corned beef and ultra-creamy vegetables in under two hours.

Instant Pot Quinoa

With a batch of cooked quinoa stashed in the fridge, a million easy meals are at your fingertips. The Instant Pot is our answer to making a big batch, fast.

Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs in the Instant Pot is an absolute game-changer when it comes to dinner.

Instant Pot Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Instant Pot Death by Chocolate Cheesecake

This over-the-top dessert features a buttery Oreo cookie crust, a double-chocolate filling made with both cocoa and melted chocolate, and a crown of the most luscious and silky chocolate ganache.

Kelli is the Food Editor for Plan & Prep content for Kitchn. She's a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and author of the cookbooks, The Probiotic Kitchen, Buddha Bowls, and Everyday Freekeh Meals. She lives in New York.
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