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Leonardi: Pandemic has been a time to try new recipes | Lifestyles

All of us together are living through the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Everyone made sacrifices, was deprived of spending time with not only friends, students and co-workers, but also members of our family, which for most of us was the hardest part. Many small business persons endured financial losses and some may have […]

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All of us together are living through the worst pandemic in a hundred years. Everyone made sacrifices, was deprived of spending time with not only friends, students and co-workers, but also members of our family, which for most of us was the hardest part. Many small business persons endured financial losses and some may have suffered from the loss of their business altogether. But many made the most of it, and may have even enjoyed some small benefits, which for us meant we ate at home more and, as a result, tried some new recipes or put twists on old favorites. One is featured here today.

I grew up with our mom making everything from scratch, partially because it was a different time, when many of today’s foods simply were not available unless you had a large garden or made them yourself. For example, one of our favorite treats was roasted red peppers that our mother actually roasted in our oven. Then she had to peel the skins off the peppers before she marinated them in garlic, Italian parsley, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Today, we can buy the same basic peppers in jars, ready to eat. Of course, for me, they don’t taste right until I drain them and put my own seasonings together, and marinate them to get the same or a similar taste. This is just one of the Italian foods available with much less work than if you had to make it from scratch. Others are meatballs, made with turkey or beef, Italian style or a choice of other styles, as well as Italian bread crumbs, Italian soups, mac ‘n’ cheese, etc. Few are as good, but we make sacrifices to save time and effort.

Italian Food

Ozark restaurant makes semi-finals in Bama’s Best Pizza contest | News

ALABAMA FARMER’S FEDERATION More than 1,500 nominations were received in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s contest for Bama’s Best Pizza, which has been whittled down to eight worthy competitors  They are Carpenetti’s Pizzeria in Moody, DiFilippo’s Pizza in Ozark, Geno’s Pizza and Grill in Scottsboro, Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant in Sylacauga, Pizza & Pint in Sylacauga, Top-Notch […]

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More than 1,500 nominations were received in the Alabama Farmers Federation’s contest for Bama’s Best Pizza, which has been whittled down to eight worthy competitors 

They are Carpenetti’s Pizzeria in Moody, DiFilippo’s Pizza in Ozark, Geno’s Pizza and Grill in Scottsboro, Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant in Sylacauga, Pizza & Pint in Sylacauga, Top-Notch Pizza & BBQ in Vernon, Valentina’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Madison and Vertillo Pizza and Grill in Sheffield.

The eight semi-finalists will be pitted against each other in daily, regional match-ups Jan. 18 -21 on “Simply Southern TV’s” Facebook page to determine the Flavorful Four. 

Edible Eight Matchup Schedule

  • Jan. 18: Geno’s Pizza and Grill in Scottsboro vs. Valentina’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Madison
  • Jan. 19: Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant in Sylacauga vs. Pizza & Pint in Sylacauga
  • Jan. 20: Top-Notch Pizza & BBQ in Vernon vs. Vertillo Pizza and Grill in Sheffield
  • Jan. 21: Carpenetti’s Pizzeria in Moody vs. DiFilippo’s Pizza in Ozark

Judges will visit each of the Flavorful Four with a winner announced later this winter. Along with bragging rights, the winning restaurant will receive a plaque, cash prize, and features in Neighbors magazine and on “Simply Southern TV.”

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Wine bargains to cheer us all up | Wine

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It’s traditional to write a column on the wine trends for the upcoming year, but frankly, who can predict anything with any degree of certainty any more? Although I’ve recently devoted two columns to nolo (no- and low-alcohol) drinks, which are one of the few incontrovertible patterns in our current liquid consumption, I’m certainly not going to stick my neck out and tell you that orange wine is going to be big (although it might be) or that we’re all going to be drinking Portuguese wine in 2021. Although, at £3.99 a bottle for Aldi’s Animus Portuguese Red (13%), why wouldn’t you?

Still, there is one light on the horizon that’s not always reported in the usual doom-laden headlines: if you’re a fan of new world wines, there shouldn’t be any major hiccups in wine prices going forward, although if the pound is weak, prices will creep up inexorably. “Cost-conscious British customers may end up drinking more wine from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, instead of their favourites from France, Italy or Spain,” says Oleg Dmitriev of Italian wine specialists Independent Wine. “For most new world wines, the prices won’t change, because countries will sign ‘continuation agreements’ with the UK, repeating the same tariffs we had through the EU. But European wines may become more expensive under new import rules, so producers of inexpensive French Languedoc wines or Italian chianti may see part of their shelf space taken by Antipodean cabernets and sauvignon blancs.”

Considering we’re still Australia’s number one market, that’s good news both for them and for us, especially as the quality of Australian staples such as chardonnay, cabernet and shiraz have improved immeasurably in the past few years.

Otherwise it’s, um, who knows? I think the only thing that’s safe to say is that, despite the fact that some of you have been creatively using lockdown to explore the wine world, most readers’ basic requirement is just a decent wine of whatever hue, not too expensive, and plenty of it. If you find something you like at a good price, I’d lay some in just in case the government comes over all puritanical, cordons off the supermarket booze aisles and tells us we’re not allowed to buy alcohol after 6pm.

Whatever stumbling blocks there are in the short term, there’s still a lot of wine in the country, so we’re not going to run out just yet. Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring, don’t panic …

Four cheap and cheerful wines to brighten the new year

Cono Sur Bicicleta Riesling 2019

£7.50 Tesco, 12.5%. Bright, zesty, limey, Chilean riesling to drink with Thai and other south-east Asian salads.

Castellore Italian Primitivo 2018

Castellore Italian Primitivo 2018

£4.99 Aldi, 13.5%. A reminder that if you enjoy rich, brambly reds, southern Italy’s primitivo is a name to conjure with. Particularly at this price. One for hearty, meaty pasta dishes such as lasagne.

Co-op Irresistible Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir

Co-op Irresistible Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir 2019

£7 (on offer until 2 February), 14%. If you’re a pinot noir fan, this is a brilliant deal. Full of soft, ripe raspberry fruit. Good with anything mushroomy.

Morrisons The Best Margaret River Shiraz 2019

Morrisons The Best Margaret River Shiraz 2019

£7.50, 14.5%. Despite the alcohol content, shiraz from the Margaret River in Western Australia has just that touch more freshness than its South Australian Barossa counterparts, as well as a delicious, peppery edge. Perfect for a steak or a Sunday roast.

• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com

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Chicken in wine and torta figassa: Rachel Roddy’s recipes for an Italian winter meal | Food

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January, from the Latin Januarius, is named after Janus, the Roman god who presided over doors, beginnings and transitions. It’s also a cold month, though, so take precautions with this simple and gentle Tuscan-style chicken stew, with wine, and polenta cake, with grappa.

Pollo alla Toscana – Tuscan-style chicken

Another variation on the chicken braised with herbs and wine theme; this one is from Tuscany, and a recipe in the wonderful Le Ricette Regionali Italiane with porcini and sage. Cooking times vary depending on the chicken, so keep an eye on it and squeeze — it is done when the flesh is tender rather than bouncy, and starting to come away from the bone. Again, the final reduction will depend on the chicken; you may find you have very few juices at the end of cooking, in which case, do not reduce. If, on the other hand, juices are abundant and thin, bubble gently until they thicken.

Prep 20 min
Soak 15 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Serves 4 – 6

1 free-range chicken (about 1.6kg), cut into 8 pieces
Salt and pepper
20g dried porcini
20g butter
4 tbsp olive oil
250ml dry white wine
12 sage leaves,
half chopped, half whole
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Soak the dried porcini in 200ml warm water for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid.

Heat the butter and oil in a casserole or deep frying pan with a lid, then fry the chicken, first on one side, then the other, until a deep golden brown.

Pour over the wine and leave to sizzle for a few minutes, then add the sage, garlic, porcini and soaking liquid. See that everything bubbles gently, then cover the pan and leave simmering for 35-50 minutes, depending on your chicken – it should feel tender and be coming away from the bone.

Lift the lid and allow to bubble more vigorously, so that the juices reduce to a dense sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve with bread, mash or soft polenta.

Torta figassa

Rachel Roddy’s torta figassa. Photograph: Laura Edwards/The Guardian

Grappa is a liquor distilled from pomace (the solid remains of grapes) left over from winemaking. For this cake, grappa is used to soak dried figs, which are then baked into a dense polenta cake. It is not traditional, but it would be a missed opportunity not to serve this with custard or a spoonful of warm zabaione.

Prep 20 min
Soak 2 hr
Cook 25 min
Serves 8-12

150g dried figs, cut in quarters
200ml grappa
200g butter,
at room temperature
200g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
200g 00 flour
200g fine polenta
Icing sugar,
to dust

Soak the figs in the grappa for at least two hours. Lift them out with a slotted spoon, but don’t squeeze.

In large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar, add the egg yolks and figs, and stir again. Fold in both flours then scrape into a lined 20-22cm cake tin.

Bake at 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 for 25 minutes, until firm and golden.

Leave to cool before inverting from the tin on to a plate, and dusting with icing sugar.

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