Considered a traditional Indian cooking fat, Ghee is nothing more than butter heated until it melts and the clear fat separates from the milky solids which are caramelized as is traditional. Ancient Organics is a new company founded in Bolinas, Marin County, north of San Francisco by Peter Malakoff and Matteo Maxon, using organic unsalted butter churned by Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma. Spring is the best time to buy ghee, since cows are pasturing on new growing green grass which produces the most flavorful milk. As with most things, the better the ingredients, the better the results.
There is a delicious “buttery” scent to Ancient Organics Ghee–that scent produced by almost browning butter that is given off when baking with butter, for example. Ghee is very handy in cooking with butter because in this form it has a very high burn point–takes very high heat. It produces a most wonderful butter flavor without burning and becoming acrid. Ghee is a revelation in making popcorn If you like popcorn as much as I, this is what you should use. Another thing about ghee is that it is stable at room temperature. No refrigeration needed. Just avoid light and moisture.
Sautéeing breaded meat–veal, pork, chicken, or turkey cutlets–is very easy with Ancient Organics Ghee: Just scoop some out of the jar and melt in a sauté pan and cook away. I do not believe ghee to be a fresh butter substitute–it can be–but a really good cooking fat. For enriching with butter, I still prefer to use fresh butter. But for everything you need clarified butter for, here is possibly the best on the market.
With this imposing name, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, a little known red variety produces a singular wine in the Marche on Italy’s Adriatic coast. Morro d’Alba is the name of the village which grows the approximately 150 acres of this variety and bottles the wine under its name. I first tasted this wine on a visit to the Marche and was fascinated by the wine’s perfume and flavor. It seems that there are several Lacrima varieties, but the Morro d’Alba one is probably the one also known as Lacrima “garofolata” which has a distinctive berry size and a rose-like scent.
One of the very seldom seen red varieties of Italy, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba wines merit a bit of attention. They are unique and special. You deserve to experience them.
The Alpi Giulie, the Julian Alps in northeastern Italy produce some spectacular scenery and pastures. These pasturages, known in Italian as “alpeggi” produce the forage for cows which pasture there during the late spring, summer and early fall. This forage produces milk which is transformed into cheeses, the most famous of which is Montasio, whose history dates back to the 1200s. Even the cattle breed is special, the Pezzata Rossa.
Montasio is a 3 inch by 20 inch round form DOP cheese, having a compact, small eyed paste, with a nutty, rich flavor that resembles aged Gouda. This lot I’ve selected has been aged for more than a year. We can ship this medal winning production in cut, cryovac packed wedges of about one pound each, or to order. It should be refrigerated for storage and used shortly after you receive it. It is terrific with Veneto red wines.
Vignalta, an estate in the Colli Euganei, west of Venice, has been featured on these pages previously. Now I would like to point out to you a particularly charming red wine made from Merlot, that ubiquitous red variety in the Veneto. Venda is the name of a mountain in the Colli and this wine is made from Merlot, the most popular variety planted there. Venda, merlot blended with cabernet sauvignon, is a very high quality wine at a very lovely price.
Merlot perhaps is a bit over exposed these days, but in Italy’s Veneto–it has been there for about 200 years–it is considered a “local” variety. It ripens well without becoming pruney. It produces a smooth wine when ripe that has perfume and flavor but is not tiring due to its acidity. Not overly oaked, Venda has that composed flavor of a wine with just enough wood to keep the fruit interesting. This is a wonderful drinking wine for this spring, summer, and fall.
HazelnutOil is a very special oil. It is Piemontese, since hazelnuts grow in Piemonte where grapes won’t. Traditionally, nut oil, both hazelnut and walnut, is produced in Piemonte since olive oil must be imported from neighboring Liguria. For the first time Corti Brothers is offering a superb hazelnut oil produced in Cuneo from the noted Tonda Gentile hazelnut variety grown to the east in the Monferrato.
Casa Brina is the name given to this oil made for the Bava Family of Cocconato d’Asti, producers of Bava Piemontese wines and the products from Giulio Cocchi, Barolo Chinato and Americano Cocchi.
Sold in a pretty flask shaped bottle, packaged in a carton, Casa Brina Olio di Nocciola must be kept in a cool, dark place or in its carton. Hazelnut oil, like other nut oils, is highly susceptible to going off if not kept properly and used rapidly. Light damages it very quickly as does air. When you open the bottle, use it up. This is not for keeping around and using from time to time. It does not improve with time
It is a delicious change of pace from olive oil. It is made like really good olive oil, by mechanical means. The delicate scent and deep hazelnut flavor make this a wonderful experience with hard paste cheeses, as the oil for “carne cruda,” Piemontese steak tartare, on risotto as a finishing oil, in salads just to be different, and with firm fleshed white fish and shellfish. We have a limited supply.
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