Monday, February 21, 2011

Whole-Wheat Apple Butter Cake

*Adapted from Los Angeles Times

2 tablespoons butter
3 large apples peeled and cut into small chunks
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

In a large sauté pan melt the butter and add the apples cook for about one minute then add the sugar and salt, tossing it to coat the apples.  Cook for another 5 minutes until apples are sweet and tender.  Set aside to cool.

2 cups almond meal
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 ½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups of butter room temperature
2 ¼ cup sugar
8 eggs
2 tablespoos vanilla extract

Heat the over to 350° grease a bunt cake pan or a 10x3 inch round.

In a large bowl sift together the almond meal, whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Set aside

In a mixing bowl using a paddle mixer cut the room temperature butter into chunks and beat the butter until it is broken down add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs one at a time making sure each one is well incorporated.  Then add the vanilla.

Take the dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture one spoonful at a time, be careful not to over mix.

Mix the cooked apples into the mixture

Bake the cake in the center of the oven until the top is golden and springs back to the touch and when inserting a toothpick it comes out clean. 60 to 90 minutes.  If the top of the cake is browning to fast lightly place a piece of tinfoil on the top.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trentino-Alto Adige

Situated in the Eastern North corner of Italy, Alto Adige is located
directly on top of Trentino. The bordering regions are Veneto to the
south, Austria to the northeast, and Switzerland to the northwest.
This is one of the regions in Italy that is not touched by the sea.
Here the land is covered with Alpine Mountains and because of this
Alto Adige is a common destination for skiers.  Alto Adige’s capital
is Bolzano and Trentino’s capital town is Trento.
 After the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, this area became a
free for all.  The Goths and then the Lombard’s quickly ruled it.
Eventually the Franks took over, who combined this region with that of
Friuli and the Veneto, calling the area Tre Venize or Triveneto.

Literally translating to triple Veneto.  This area consisted of
Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and Trentino-Alto Adige.  In 953 AD the
areas were separated and Trentino-Alto Adige, along with the others,
became it’s own territory.  It wasn’t until after the First World War
that Alto Adige became a part of Italy.  Though it is technically a
part of Italy Alto Adige still remains a largely Germanic culture, the
locals call this land Südtirol (south Tyrol).  The local dialect is

German and you are taught Italian at a young age in school.  You will
notice a German translation on street signs and on many wine labels as

 The land here is primarily covered with apple trees and the vines
have to compete for space to grow.   The Germanic influence in Alto
Adige runs through their food as well and the areas cuisine differs
from much of Italy.  Speck (smoked prosciutto) is most commonly found
and depending on what is used to smoke it there is a vast difference

in flavors.  Apple strudel and rich hot chocolate with whipped cream
are common and perfect accompaniments to cold mountain evenings.

Knödel is a common dish made using stale bread soaked in eggs and
milk.  It can then be mixed with liver, bacon, salami, and greens

rolled into balls and placed in a broth, in the Trentino they call
this dish Canederli.  There are also many different styles of Polenta,
wild game, mushrooms, and all things sausage.  This is also good milk
producing region known for its butter and cheese (Alta pusteria,

asiago, bagoss, casolet, and spressa) to name a few.

On to the Wine!
In order to optimize grape quality and production the farmers in
Trentino-Alto Adige recently went from using Pergola to Guyot.  This
helps the vines make smaller bunches that are higher in quality and 
have a more potent flavor.


A few grapes you will find from this region.
Pinot Bianco 
Pinot Grigio

Thursday, February 10, 2011


A white grape varietel that was created in 1969 by August Herold.  He dedicated this grape in naming it after the local writer of drinking songs Justinus Kerner.  Kerner is a cross between Schiava and Riesling.  When combining these two grapes Kerner has taken on most of the good properties making it an easy to grow, vigorous, and also a varietal that buds late.

Kerner has a medium viscosity probably from the Schiava. It takes on some of the qualities of Riesling being very aromatic, with notes of flowers, stone fruits and, tropical fruits. You almost think that there is a hint of sweetness to it and more often than not, there is one gram of residual sugar.


Teroldego Rotaliano from the Rotalino plane in Trentino.  This grape makes very dark, rich wines that can be consumed early.  It was Elisabetta Foradori who saved Teroldego from extinction.


There are many different types of vinification for Lagrein and you might see them under some of these names; Lagrein Dunnkel, Lagrein Scuro, for longer vinifications and Lagrein Rossato, and Lagrein Kitezer for Rosé.  Lagrein is the direct offspring of Teroldego another dark skinned rich grape.
  Lagrein is a friendly grape that may be the regions easiest to enjoy.  It exhibits mild tannin, and has rich berry fruit flavors of blueberries and blackberries, backed by savory tobacco, chocolate, leather, tar, and game.  What’s not to love?

Schiava (Vernatsch)

Schiava is the Italian name for slave.  It consists of many vines with dark skinned berries that are undistinguished.  It is said that Schiava is a mutation of Gewürztraminer.  This varietal is a late maturing light red low in tannin, and acidity.  There are three common types of Schiava Grossa, Schiava Grigia, and Schiava Gentile.

Pinot Grigio

A copper colored grape, Pinot Grigio is Italy’s most popular varietal.  Being a mutation of Pinot Noir, you will see a spectrum of complexities if well produced.  This grape has a flinty minerality, with green pear, and citrus. 


Was created by Dr. Hermann Müller, he was born in Switzerland in a town called Thurgau.  His idea when creating this grape was to have the aromatics of Riesling and the dependability, early ripening, and easy to grow benefits of Silvaner.  Research shows that he combined Riesling and Madeleine not Silvaner.  Making this grape weak and frail.  Müller-Thurgau grows large berries with very thick skins that are prone to downy mildew and Black Rot. 
  This grape thrives in Trentino-Alto Adige and is most commonly planted on very steep slopes at high altitude to slow down the quick ripening process. When grown under these circumstances Müller-Thurgau becomes highly prized for it’s minerality, high acidity, and complexity. 


A highly productive, early-ripening grape and is also notable for it’s resistance to diseases.  Sylvaner has had a long history in central Europe.  DNA testing has established that Sylvaner is directly related to Traminer and Österreichisch-Weiss.


(which translates into spiced or perfumed traminer) is a pink skinned grape that is greatly aromatic.  A full-bodied white it shows loads of exotic aromas, lychee, white flowers, mandarin, and if it is from certain area you might find a taste of bacon fat. 
Studies have shown that there is a cross between Pinot and Traminer in relation to Gewürztraminer.  It is thought that Pinot is the parent of Traminer and that both these varietals mutate easily, thus eventually resulting in Gewürztraminer. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spanish Olive Oil Walnut Cake

Note: adapted from the Los Angeles Times 

2 cups flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon Rosemary
1 cup ground walnuts
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil

1.   Heat the oven to 350°
2.   In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary, and ground walnuts
3.   Mix eggs into dry ingredients one at a time, then add the milk, vinegar, and olive oil.  Beat until completely smooth and well blended.
4.   Transfer the batter to a bunt cake pan
5.   Bake the cake in the center rack of the oven until puffed and golden 30 to 45 minutes.  You will know this is done when you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Serve it with a Meyer lemon chutney if you like.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brussel Sprouts

         ~some people find it’s hard to cook Brussel sprouts and take away that bitter bite.  I say a little patience when cooking them and they come out perfect.

2lbs Brussel sprouts cut into quarters
2tbs Olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine
the juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

ok now your ready..
Heat the sauté pan you covered in olive oil
Add the Brussel sprouts.  You want to let the Brussel sprouts cook for about 5 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on another.  Then add the white wine and lemon juice stir it a bit.  Season with salt and pepper and wait for the liquid to reduce, and serve.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Props to amazing wine makers

Traveling through Campania we were on a mission to figure out the
differences between the two noble white grape varietals of Southern
Italy.  Greco and Fiano.  We wanted to know their stories and find
what grape was in favor.
I’ve always thought that the difference in these grapes is best and
most easily expressed by their contrast in color.  Greco is a green.
It shows lighter weight on the palate, green apple fruits, high crisp
acidity, and loads of minerals.  Ultimately every time I taste Greco I
see the color green.  Fiano is yellow.  It exhibits yellow pears,
golden delicious apples, a bit of a waxy feeling on the tongue, more

body, a softer minerality, and always a smoky finish.  I enjoy both of
these grapes equally and though I certainly prefer one or the other
with certain dishes, I would be hard pressed to choose one that I

Avellino Bandits

On day three of our trip we are traveling to a town out side of
Avellino.  Having spent hours navigating the small and winding, tree
lined streets we only find ourselves getting more lost.  Meanwhile the
GPS helpfully keeps us traveling in circles.  We bump into a little
town where there is a Pizza café and decide to take a breather.  We go
in to find local and very friendly Italians who, as it seems is the
case with all Italians, know everyone and where they live.  So we ask
in our broken Italian, scusi? Dove Valdiperti?  “Ah yes,” our gracious
host replies, “let me take you.”  Gallantly he hops on his Vespa and
off we go, arriving quickly at our destination, literally 3 blocks
from the Pizza joint.
 When we get there we meet Rafaele a full time high school chemistry teacher, who makes his wines like a mad scientist.  
 We get a tour of the vineyards that are double as his front yard. He digs his hands
into the soil as he explains to us that the soils are clay and you can pick out the chunks of terracotta.  He insures us there are no pesticides on any of his fruit.  “You can tell because there are so many lizards and butterflies and bees around.  I have a daughter and
when she plays in the fields I want her to know she can eat any of the grapes and be safe.”

  There are dogs running around everywhere in Southern Italy.
Everyone has multiple dogs but rather than caring for them as pets
they let them act like real animals, roaming the large countryside
more connected to the ancient wolves from which they spring then the
domesticated show pieces that is the American Dog.  To see them
American Dogs would whimper in jealousy, they run wherever and after
whatever they want, usually cars.
 Rafaele suggests that for proper consumption of his Fiano it should
be let rest for 3 plus years.  He shows us around his cellar and after
tasting through his tanks; he is increasingly excited by us, his new
wine enthusiast friends.  So much so he goes into his cellar and pulls
out two Riesling shaped bottles that are bagged.  He knew

we were on a mission to find out the differences between Greco and
Fiano and he pulls out a Valdiaperti 1995 Greco and a 1992 Fiano.

We were blown away for many different reasons!  First, these wines showed absolutely no oxidation.  Second, going on my previous assumptions about the grapes we guessed these wines backwards.  The Fiano took on more green notes and the minerality really started to
show.  For the Greco it became more relaxed showing fatter.   We all agreed with Rafaele’s opinion that Fiano needs three plus years, and Greco the same.  We compared the wines to food and this is what we got.

Fiano is like pancetta
Greco is like soprasada
Coda di Volpe is like Cavallo
 Rafaele knew Rossana from I Favati so he took us to her house where

we would be staying a few nights.  When we arrived she was getting
ready for her Sunday night bash.  While we were waiting for all of her
friends to arrive, Rafaele stayed and taught me how to play Briscola.
 We woke up the next morning with a headache from festivities and
were greeted by the stereotypical southern Italian or someone right
out of Jersey for that matter.  Black greased up hair, huge
sunglasses, and a polo with the collar pulled up.  We get into
his black mini SUV and as soon as he turns the ignition, Metal. Black
Metal. Blaring.
 Sabino takes us down familiar winding tree lined streets.  To our
surprise we end up right next to Valdiaperti’s house.  It turns out we
are adjacent to where Pietracupa and Valdiaperti are sharing the same vineyards.

 We are invited into his private wine cellar to pick out things to
drink with lunch.  This place had a very interesting organization to
it.  After much digging through German Riesling, Burgundy, Champagne,
and a bunch of other Italian wines we find our hands full.
  Dinner consists of homemade Avellino Gnocchi with a ragu, roasted
red peppers, and grilled zucchini from the garden plus plenty of fresh
Caciocavallo aging
This was the perfect time to talk about our mission.
“Sabino, what do you prefer to work with, Greco or Fiano?”  In Italy you have plenty of time to think and so he answered with no hesitation.  “I prefer to work with Greco, everyone like (sic) to work with Fiano.  Not me Fiano is to easy, you get large clusters and they ripen perfectly, you can plant them anywhere, and there really is
nothing you can do to Fiano to make even better.  Greco there is a challenge, it is a difficult to grow grape, it ripens unevenly, the
skins are thin, and it likes rot.  It needs your attention.”  After
tasting his Greco, it shows that he really enjoys the challenges of
this grape.  This wine was breathtaking.  It had great minerals,
vibrant green fruits, and piercing acidity.  It was absolutely perfect.

 After a few games of Briscola with Sabino’s dad we headed to Taurasi
to visit Contrade.  At Contrade’s house there are a bunch of children
playing in the yard and the rest of the family sits at a picnic table

enjoying an afternoon snack.  Sandro greeted us with a hug and a

100 year old Aglianico

As we walk to his winery he gives us a tour of his vineyards.
To our right there was a patch of land with over 100 year old vines
that were large and knotty. 
Suspicious Aglianico
 When we get to the winery we are surrounded by rows and rows of Agliancio so well taken care of you would have thought that there were some tricks going on.  We enter his winery, a small run down farmhouse.  He pulls out a few glasses and pours us a wine he makes for fun and his personal consumption Greco moscio.  A white varietal, not related to Greco.  One of Sandro’s friends grows this grape for him and all 200 vines worth of juice get
made into this delicious wine. 
 Contrade’s Taurasi are like no other
intriguing and complex but very friendly and approachable.

It was quite an adventure traveling through Southern Italy to say the
least.  We met many good friends and tasted some fantastic wine.
After all that research I still feel that Greco is green and Fiano is