Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bee Keeping

I always thought one day I would take up bee keeping. Ever since I read Virgil's Georgics in grad school. And I've consistently kept my eye on equipment and where to find bees. I never expected that bees would find me. I spotted a few outside the kitchen window about a month ago before I left town. Then the next time it approached a swarm. And now there are hundreds upon hundreds, especially in the late afternoon flying around in the shade of a trumpet vine a few feet from the Dutch door in the kitchen. I expected there would be a hive, the sort you see in Winnie the Pooh, and that I could just ask the bees for some honey, nicely of course. But no, they're in the wall. I put my ear up to it, and it sounds like the roar of a jet engine. Clearly thousands of bees busy making honey, flapping their wings to cool the Queen and do whatever it is bees do in their spare time. This is a whole city of bees, replete with a mall, supermarkets, even an airport. My first instinct is to live happily with them, but apparently the hive continues to grow and it's not at all good for the house. And there's no way to ask for honey politely if it's in the wall.  I'd definitely rather not kill them, given the status of honey bees in general. Does anyone know if they can be moved? Or if there's a way I can live with them? Or even transfer them to a conventional frame-hive? Or convert the wall somehow???

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pizza Perfect

I have been having explicit pizza fantasies for several weeks now. And somehow every time a pie presented itself, I thought, "This can't be it. Don't waste your opportunity on this specimen of mediocrity." But I did succumb a few times. There was that weird practically crustless perversity in the suburbs of Chantilly VA: a lot of cheese and meat and nothing else. Hardly anything even vaguely pizza like. I couldn't bring myself to eat pizza in Germany either, though it looked good. Perugia offered a decent one two weeks ago, but it was all crust, a hint of dark tuna and broccoli rabe. The idea was pure genius, but the execution so imbalanced and off center, that it was very unpizzaic in the end. And then NY this past week. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? I ate no pizza, but certainly ogled, smiffed and dreamed about it every moment. So, I am home today and thought I must just cook it. And the idea Perugia was still stuck there. And it truly is genius. Not my idea, but the ingredients must be right. Sautee the rabe first so it comes out crisp in the oven. Canned (YES) solid tuna in water, ordinary mozzarella. But all in perfect balance. Got to be a paper thin crust or you would lose the tuna, but very crispy. And it is beyond beyond. If you can think of a better unusual combination, let me know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cooking in a Castle in Germany

This past week I was in Nideggen, Germany cooking in a medieval castle. It was, oddly enough, for a documentary on the life of 17th century Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. They wanted cooking segments with food that reflects the same Baroque aesthetic as his music. Cooked in a wood-burning oven and over an open flame. I chose a few dishes, a kind of gnocchi from Cesare Evitascandalo, an asparagus dish from Bartolomeo Stefani, and then a grand veal pie from Vittorio Lancellotti, who was an exact contemporary. Now, you have to imagine this. It is veal chopped finely then pounded in a mortar into a fine paste with sugar and candied citron, plus grapes set inside. This is in a rather sweet thick flaky pastry that is glazed and decorated with flowers. It's upside down here, but heart-shaped. Apart from being totally over the top, it is absolutely baroque in flavor and form. Lancelotti doesn't have a recipe, but it is featured in many of his menus, so reconstructing it wasn't too difficult. The best part was of course watching the crew wince at the idea of a sweet veal pie. But it was quickly devoured after shooting.

This magnificent photo was taken by Claudia van Koolwijk.