In this issue:
The next trendy drink? Just possibly it will be GRAPPA; a very old and earthy alcoholic beverage made from the remnants of wine-grape pressings. (In other words, whatever was leftover, including stems, seeds, skins, and pips were used.) Grappa has been made in Italy since at least the sixteenth century. The first grappa-makers were probably frugal farmers seeking a way to use up the leftovers from the winemaking process. But now grappa is becoming popular with the crowd that drinks single-malt scotch and Armagnac, reports various publications. In the last 30 years, grappa has evolved from a "peasant" spirit to one of international renown and quality. The average cost for a bottle of grappa is approximately $18, although some brands can be very pricey, up to $100. Like balsamic vinegar and wine, the price goes up depending on the vineyard, and the aging process.
Although grappa is a thoroughly Italian beverage, similar concoctions are produced in other nations, including the United States. In Spain it is "aguardiente," the French call it "marc," and the Greeks have their "raki."
Grappa can be used as a substitute for brandy. Perhaps the simplest way to enjoy grappa is to splash a little in a cup of espresso for caffe corretto, or spoon it over lemon granita, sherbet, or fresh strawberries. Chocolate, dried fruit, apples, pears, citrus fruit, honey, and fennel are just a few of the foods that marry well with grappa, smoothing its harshness and taming its potency.
CHOCOLATE GRAPPA TRUFFLES
8 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup strong brewed espresso
1/4 cup grappa
about 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for coating the truffles
In a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the espresso and the grappa. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes and chill it, covered, for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Form rounded teaspoons of the mixture into balls. Roll the balls in the cocoa powder, coating them completely, and transfer the truffles as they are coated, to paper candy cups or a wax paper-lined container. The truffles will keep for about 2 weeks if keep covered and chilled. (The grappa flavor will become stronger as the truffles stand.) Makes about 3 dozen truffles.
Once in awhile, you will come across a cookbook that is so much more than just a cookbook. Sean Donnellan, the host of "How To Boil Water" on the TV Food Network, has written a cookbook that has a lot of humor in it. "Something Tastes Funny" (Recipes by Naidre Miller; published by Warner Books, $9.99) should become a big hit.
Sean Donnellan doesn't pretend to be a chef. What he is though, is a very funny guy who has become popular for showing us what he doesn't know about food and cooking. "If you told me three years go that I would author my own cookbook, I would have said, "But everybody knows how to open Spam."
"The success of 'How to Boil Water' currently has me in negotiations with The Learning Channel for my own surgery show. Fine by me, because either way, I get to work with liver."
The guy is funny!
At first glance, you wouldn't know this was actually a cookbook. In fact, it's worthy of the coffee table. Recipes are woven among sensual photos of food set on the backdrop of the human body. InterCourses combines aphrodisiac histories, couples' testing results, and playful appendices for an experience one won't soon forget! The cover of InterCourses shows a beautiful girl bathed in powdered sugar, her arms filled to overflowing with ripe red strawberries. Very Erotic, and fun. If you can't find the book, you can order from the website at www.intercourses.com.
*Did you know that keeping plastic wrap chilled makes it easier to work with? It's true!
*Lettuce loves fat: Fat can be removed from hot soup by floating a large lettuce leaf on the surface. Remove and add more leaves if necessary.
However, there may be a very slight variance. The dull side absorbs slightly more heat than the shiny side, because shiny metals reflect heat and light more than dull or dark materials. The difference would be slight in aluminum foil, but if you want the optimum browning, have the dull side facing out. When wrapping food for storage have, the shiny side facing out.
I'll be talking about my new cookbook on Radio station WAPF with Carl Lazenby on Monday February 23rd, at 9:00 am. If you get Carl's program, please tune in. On Tuesday, February 24th at 12:30 pm, I'll be on the "Wine, Dine, and Travel Show" with Vera Gold on station KMNY in Pomona California. For a full list of my promotional plans, please see my webpage.