Monday, November 13, 2017

Rigatoni with White Bolognese from Amanda Hesser

Found below is a delightful recipe for “Rigatoni for White Bolognese,” by Amanda Hesser featuring Gourmet Living’s premium cut dried porcini mushrooms.  Ms. Hesser’s recipe was recently published in the New York Times.

Gourmet Living porcini mushrooms

I have long been a great fan of Ms. Hesser after tasting her delicious Shar-Pei Almond Cake that was first published in Cooking for Mr. Latte.  An excerpt of my old blog post (with the recipe) is reprinted below:

“Hands-down, my favorite almond cake is from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte.  Actually, Ms. Hesser lifted the recipe from Elizabeth, the mother of “Mr. Latte,” (who must be all right) for shortly after marrying him she left writing a food column for the New York Times.  In any event, the following recipe for Almond Cake is “adapted from Elizabeth” and was published many moons ago in the New York Times magazine.   A word of warning:  This cake caves in on itself while cooking and often resembles the face of the delightful Shar-Pei dog.”

While I would like to tell you that I am cutting back on the carbs, the fact that I am eating rigatoni with “heavy cream” suggests otherwise.  In any event, this is a delicious recipe where a call for second helping is almost a certainty.

Rigatoni for White Bolognese

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 generously)

  • Extra virgin olive oil (from Gourmet Living, of course!)
  • ½ sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mild Italian pork sausage meat, removed from casings
  • 1 pound ground beef (not lean)
  • 1 ½ cups dry Italian white wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water
  • 1 ½ ounces of Gourmet Living’s dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated in 3 cups lukewarm water
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Add enough oil to a large, deep sauté pan to coat the base and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onion, carrots and celery and sauté until glassy and just tender, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the sausage and beef to the pan, breaking it into walnut-size pieces, and brown well.
  2. Pour in the wine and keep at a rapid simmer until the pan is almost dry. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups beef bouillon and lower the heat to medium. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the bouillon is nearly gone, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, chop the rehydrated porcini into small pieces, reserving the liquid.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mushroom liquid to the sauce to cover the meat halfway (about 1 cup) along with the porcini and continue simmering until the sauce is loose but not soupy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper; it should be highly seasoned. When the consistency is right, fold the cream in. Remove from the heat and cover.
  4. When the pasta water is at a full boil, add the rigatoni and cook until still firm, but not hard, in the center. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the pasta and then return it to the pot. Pour the pasta sauce on top and fold in with a wooden spoon. The pasta should not be dry. Add a little pasta water or mushroom liquid to loosen it. (It will continue to soak up sauce on the way to the table.) Serve in one large bowl or in individual bowls, passing the cheese at the table.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  This recipe is delicious, particularly for those who need a “carb fix!”


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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Choosing the Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gourmet Living sells extra virgin olive oil under its own label.   Our products are sourced and bottled in Spain, Italy and California.

Sadly, most “extra virgin olive oil” sold in the United States and many other countries does not meet the standards adopted by the International Olive Council (“IOC”).

While olive oil “blends” are perfectly acceptable under IOC standards, unscrupulous companies misuse the “standards” and lax controls to misrepresent their product to the consumer.

While there is no right answer in choosing the “best” olive oil for you, the video below helps explain some of the key elements in choosing one where the quality and price point suit your palette.

Remember that olive oil is a juice. Like wine, the taste of olive oil is dependent on the olive variety, when it was harvested, soil and climatic conditions and how (and when) the olive was pressed, filtered and bottled.

I like olive oil with a little personality and prefer oils with a fruitiness and peppery aftertaste. Nevertheless, a reviewer of one of our products suggested that the olive oil had a “green” taste.  Personally, I prefer to experience the “taste” and “aroma” of the olive in the oil, but others may be looking for something less fruity.

There are no “right” answers in choosing an olive oil, which is why we suggest choosing several varieties and make up your own mind. Found below are three distinct olive oils that we regularly use in our cooking.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany, California and Spain

We tend to use the California Picual for quickly sauteing pork and chicken, the Tuscan blend for vegetables and pasta and the Spanish Arbequina for salads. Of the three, the Arbequina tends to have a slightly more elevated flavor profile generally preferred by Europeans.

Like wine, each olive oil has its own distinct flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

To learn more, consult Gourmet Living’s FAQ on olive oil.


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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Is Olive Oil Better Than Butter for Scrambled Eggs?

In a provocative article entitled “Why the French Can’t Scramble Eggs!”, Christopher Kimballs Milk Street cites the science that olive oil makes puffier scrambled eggs.

scrambled egg

To make a long story short (page 3 in the Fall, 2016 magazine), Milk Street’s talented chefs and scientists have determined that olive “oil gets hotter  faster than butter because butter is 20% water.”

Milk Street cooks argue that eggs cooked in olive oil reach the “scramble” temperature (around 160º) faster than butter which produces more steam “and the protein network traps that steam  . . . to produce quicker, bigger puffs and more impressive scrambled eggs.”

The article goes on to suggest that one should use 1 tablespoon of olive oil for two eggs in an 8 or 9 inch skillet.  Allow the oil to warm slowly over medium heat until it just begins to smoke (very important).  Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the center of the skillet which pushes the oil to the perimeter and cooks the edges of the eggs first.

Stir immediately and begin to fold.  It should take 30 seconds or so for a soft scramble.  Allow the scrambled eggs to rest on a warm plate for another 30 seconds before serving.  The eggs finish cooking off the heat.

Now, I am quite sure the French will disagree with the assertion that olive oil is better than butter for making scrambled eggs, but I am happy with the science and strongly endorse using extra virgin olive oil – rather than butter – for healthy cooking.

Frankly, I would suggest Gourmet Living’s California Picual or Tuscan blend to cook your fluffy scrambled eggs.  We do!

tuscan blend evoo and CA extra virgin olive oil


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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Black Truffles Recipe from Marcella Hazan

Late last fall I thought I was going to overdose on truffles while visiting Italy in the fall.  Sure, it was a bit of a spluge, but eating fresh truffles in season is one of those “bucket list” events that must be indulged.

Pasta with Shaved Black Truffles

Unfortunately, the truffle season is rather short and you could pay an “arm and a leg” to find fresh truffles.   Unless you can afford a trip to Italy or southern France, your next best opportunity might be preserved truffles.

Since I had difficulty finding authentic truffles in the U.S., I decided to seek out my own.  Gourmet Living’s truffle carpaccio consists of sliced black summer truffles preserved in sunflower oil.  While summer truffles lack the intensity of black and white truffles, they tend to be more affordable.  Truffle slices are preserved in sunflower oil which tends to have less “flavor” than olive oil which would compete with the distinct aroma and flavor of the truffle.

Found below, is a cozy and special recipe from Marcella Hazan featured her cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.    For those looking for an affordable truffle option, consider Gourmet Living’s truffle carpaccio found below.

Marcella Hazan’s Spaghetti alla Nursina

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of black truffles (or Gourmet Living’s summer truffles)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 flat anchovy fillet chopped very fine
  • Salt
  • 6 ounces (less than half a package) of Italian spaghettini, thin spaghetti


  1. If using fresh truffles, clean them with a stiff brush, rinse them briefly, and pat thoroughly dry.  It using preserved truffles, drain them and pat them dry.  Do not discard the liquid; save it to add to a roast or meat sauce.
  2. Grate the truffles to a very fine-grain consistency, using the smallest holes of a flat-sited grater.  If you have a good mortar and pestle, chop them up and grind them to a pulp in the mortar.
  3. Put the truffles into a small earthenware saucepan.  If you do not have earthenware, use enameled cast iron.  Add the olive oil, trickling it in a little at a time, and stirring thoroughly.
  4. Turn on the heat to low, and add the garlic and the chopped anchovy.  Stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, mashing the anchovy until it is almost completely dissolved into a paste.  Keep the heat low, and do not let the oil bubble.  If the oil becomes too hot, move the pay away from the heat for a few moments.  Add salt to taste, stir once or twice, and remove from heat.
  5. Cook the pasta in 3 to 4 quarts salted boiling water.  Bear in mind that thin spaghetti cooks rather quickly.  As soone as it is cooked al dente, tender but firm to the bite, drain it quickly, and transfer to a war bowl.
  6. Remove the garlic from the truffle sauce, and pour all the contents on the pan over the spaghetti.  Toss thoroughly, and serve at once.



Gourmet Living Summer Truffle Carpaccio

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Risotto with Dried Porcini Mushrooms

Risotto with Funghi Procini

Eating a great risotto is one of my favorite dining experiences.  For some masochistic reason, I will often order risotto at a restaurant to determine if the chef has enough trained staff in the kitchen willing to carefully add broth at the right time to the arborio rice.  Cooking a credible risotto takes about 20 minutes of concentration and attention to detail.  I am generally underwhelmed by the outcome, but still persist in my hope that a divine risotto will appear at one of my favorite restaurants.

Frankly, it is far easier to prepare risotto at home.  The recipe we use comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essential Classic Italian Cookbook for Risotto with Porcini mushrooms.

Marcella argues that dehydrated porcini mushrooms pack more flavor punch than fresh porcini mushrooms.  I agree!  While there is nothing quite like the taste of fresh porcini mushrooms in Italy, the season is short and why confine yourself to one month out of the year to eat porcini?

The secret to Marcella’s risotto is that we use the liquid that we hydrated the mushrooms to add flavor to the broth that we use to cook the Arborio rice.  Enjoy this great recipe from Marcella and do use Gourmet Living’s premium grade porcini mushrooms when doing so.  The flavor and texture of premium porcini mushrooms makes a huge difference in both the taste and presentation.

Marcella Hazan’s Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients (for 6 persons)

  • 1 ounce imported dried porcini mushrooms (preferably from Gourmet Living)
  • 1 quart of homemade meat broth or 1 cup of canned chicken broth mixed with 3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons fine chopped shallots or yellow onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups raw Italian Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, if necessary
  • Freshly grated pepper, about 4 twists of the mill


  1. Soak the mushrooms in 2 cups of lukewarm water for at least 30 minutes before cooking.  After the liquid turns very dark, stain it through a sieve lined with paper towels and set aside.  Continue soaking and rinsing the mushrooms in frequent changes of water until the mushrooms are soft and thoroughly free of soil.
  2. Bring the broth or the canned broth and water to a slow, steady simmer.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed casserole, over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped shallots or onion in half the butter and all the oil until translucent but not brown.  Add the rice and stir until is is well coated.  Sauté lightly for a few moments and then add a ladleful, 1/2 cup, of the simmering broth.  Continue adding a ladleful of the simmering broth after the liquid is fully absorbed into the rice.   Stir frequently to avoid having the risotto stick.  When the rice has cooked for 10 to 12 minutes add the mushrooms and 1/2 cup of the strained mushroom liquid, 1/2 cup at a time.  After you’ve used up the mushroom liquid finish cooking the rice with hot broth.  (If you run out of broth, add water).
  4. When the rice is done, turn off the heat and mix in the grated Parmesan and the rest of the butter.  Taste and correct for salt.  Add a few twists of pepper and mix.  Spoon the rice into a hot serving platter and serve immediately with a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side.

Gourmet Living porcini mushrooms

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