Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Norwegian Codfather—Chambersburg, PA

Okay, I feel like a jerk as I write this post...

You see, I thought I had written this post over a year ago because I'd been dreaming about this little shop for a year.  AND I told some very important people that I'd written it!  They probably think I am a total liar... Oh, geez.

So, my aim is to make it up to them.  (Tom and Pauline, this one's for you.)

Tom and Pauline, for those of you who have not had the delight of meeting them, own a small European grocery in my old hometown of Chambersburg, PA.  No offense meant to my heritage, but when I heard that they existed, I really did not know what to expect.  A European grocery? In Chambersburg?

But Luke, the fabulous chef from Cafe d'Italia just around the corner from them, recommended them to me for some fantastic prosciutto he had used on a white pizza.  The name of their establishment? The Norwegian Codfather.  I had to check them out...

OH, dear Lord, was I glad I did! The treatment! The finds! A deli case stocked with sausages, meats, and cheeses you can't find anywhere else: a sharp provolone that will take your lasagna from good to glorious.  Smoked bacon that I put on ice and drove for 13 hours so I could have some at home for breakfast. Caramelized goat cheese that you can shave into divine little curls and serve for dessert with fruit.  And then there's the licorice.  Licorice like you've never had before.  REAL licorice.  There's even one that is salted.  (My dad finds excuses to go into town just for that!)  And all of this Tom and Pauline offer you to try before you buy. You will even find yourself tasting items that you would never have asked (or thought you wanted) to try--because Tom and Pauline know: the foods they sell are superb, and all it takes is one taste...

On top of all this foodie wonder, The Norwegian Codfather sells random European baking and cooking ingredients that I've read about and wanted to try but have never been able to find without ordering it online.  Like pearled sugar for sprinkling on a braided lemon bread.  And rosewater for cocktails.  Juniper berries for a braised meat dish.

It really, truly is a shop you must explore, at least once.  And here's the ultimate reason why: after last year's visit, I absolutely HAD to go back this past Christmas break, and--can you believe it? They remembered me.

THAT, my dear foodie friend, is what Life is about.  Amazing food made even more amazing by the relationships we build with the people we share it with.  Even if it's just for an hour once a year.

**UPDATE as of Jan. 2016**

I am so sorry to see that the Norwegian Codfather has closed.  I made the discovery a little over a week ago when I tried to visit while back in PA.  Tom and Pauline, you will be greatly missed.  I hope that your closed doors have opened up a new adventure for you elsewhere! Best wishes to you both!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Primal Eggplant: Tweaking Eggplant Rollatini

If you are a vegetable lover like me, you probably are pretty open to trying mostly any vegetable out there.

If you continue to be like me in such matters, you are still--no matter your openness--wary of the eggplant.

In defense of myself, I am (mostly) a believer in the food adage: "In-order-to-know-if-you-really-like-something-you-have-to-try-it-10-times." So, eggplant and I keep trying.  Yes, I discovered the amazing coal-roasted eggplant this summer, which I truly did love.  But, if you've been watching the news as of late, it's not necessarily grilling season up here in Wisconsin.

In perusing my David Rocco cookbook, Made in Italy, the other day, I came across this winner of a recipe (approved by two teenage boys--and I didn't even lie about what it was!): Involtini di Melanzane e Provola.  I adapted it for my primal husband, which is the version I've posted below, but you can use flour instead of the almond meal if you wish.  I do encourage you to give it a try the primal way, though.  I think you'll be happy you did.  The slightly nutty flavor was one of the things the boys liked about it.

1 medium eggplant
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe's) in a pie plate
1 egg, beaten in a pie plate
Extra virgin olive oil for frying (amount will depend on the size of your skillet; you want it a good 1/4 inch deep)
12 slices of smoked provolone

As thinly as you can, slice the eggplant lengthwise.  I got about 12 slices, and that includes discarding some that were just wonky (I'm not very good at slicing thinly and evenly).  Salt the slices heavily and let rest for half an hour to draw out the water.  Pat dry.

Get a plate and a pile of paper towels ready.  Heat the oil in a skillet until it is almost smoking.

Dip a slice of eggplant in the almond meal, coating both sides, then dip it in the egg, coating both sides.  Let the excess egg drip off, then lay the eggplant in the hot oil and fry for about a minute until golden brown.  Flip and get the other side golden.  Remove to a paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Repeat for the rest of the eggplant slices.

When you are done frying, lay a slice of smoked provolone on each slice of eggplant and roll up, lining the rolls up on a warm platter.  Season with fresh cracked pepper.  If you wish, spoon some of Beppe's tomato sauce over the top.

Eggplant Rolls with Marinara by David Rocco

Delizioso! I promise!

Reflections on Teaching Strangers How to Cook

I've been having these experiences lately where I can't keep my mouth shut.

It happens almost every weekend at the grocery store.  I'm minding my own business, doing my shopping, when someone standing near me picks up a vegetable that I just learned to prepare a new way.  Or they will stand staring at an item with a giant question mark floating above their head.  And I just....can' it.  The teacher in me wants to help.

And so I open my mouth and:

"Have you ever tried roasting that?" (speaking of cauliflower)

"Do you know what's really good with that?" (dates) (and the answer is "bacon")

"My mom used to make those for us all the time..." (a girl wanted to know if I knew how to cook artichokes)

And this week, it was regarding steak.  An adorable old man was hunched over the bargain meat case with me, staring with a critical eye at the New York strips.

"That's a high price," he commented and pointed to the "$12.99/lb" on the package I had in my hand.

"Oh, but it's on sale!" I joyfully corrected, and pointed to the "$8.99/lb" at the bottom of the sticker.

"You're gonna go for it?" he asked.

"I can't help it," I said.  "Sometimes you've just gotta have steak!"

He laughed.  "I never seem to cook it right," he said and watched as I picked up a thick marbled steak.

I could tell he wasn't sure about the choosing process, so I hunkered down next to him.  "Get a nice thick one," I said and pointed.  "That one's good.  It's got some good fat streaked through the meat.  Do you have a cast iron skillet?" I asked.

He nodded as he picked up the steak I had pointed to.  "Okay," I said.  "Salt your steak really well."

Another laugh.  I could tell he was thinking of what his doctor would say.  "No, really," I said.  "Lots of salt.  Then get your pan really hot.  Do you like your steak rare?"

His blue eyes looked into mine.  I realized that we were now huddled shoulder-to-shoulder over the meat case.  "Mmm, more medium-rare," he said.

"Okay.  Five minutes a side, then let it rest for a few minutes.  Best steak you will have ever had,"  I promised.

He laughed again and then smacked me in the arm with his steak.  "You sound like you know what you are talking about," he smiled, and then wandered off to his cart.

Do I? I thought as I watched him go.  I guess I do, to a degree.  To some I'm a culinary moron.  But to others—the ones I want to reach? I guess it feels good to hear them say that.  And it feels even better to know that I've helped one more person take those first foodie steps like I took.

And still take.

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