Tuesday, January 23, 2007

From Will Smith to Riccardo Bosio


After meeting Executive Pastry Chef Joanne Gregory at the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference in Atlanta, Sotto Sopra’s public relations and marketing representative, Dara Bunjon knew that Gregory and I should meet. Gregory, selected as one of the Top 10 Pastry Chefs in Los Angeles, recently left her job as the Executive Pastry Chef at Universal Studios as her husband’s job brought them to Baltimore.

As the executive pastry chef at Universal, Gregory created the studio’s high quality, high volume, and all-scratch bakery: a 2000 square foot state-of-the-art production bakery. She supplied cakes, pastries, cookies, petit fours, miniature desserts, pies, tarts, breakfast items and custom cakes to 20 casual restaurants, 2 catering operations, a retail bakery and 5-star, fine dining restaurant for studio executives and celebrity guests.

I asked Joanne to name three memorable events she was involved with at Universal. The top of her list was the opening of Jurassic Park, the theme ride as well as the movie. “When the Grinch came out at Xmas, we created a Grinch village six feet by five feet out of pastillage and royal icing” stated Chef Gregory.

“Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were celebrating their dual birthdays so they leased out a sound stage. The theme was Will as Superman and Jada as Superwoman. I worked with Universal Studios animators to draw the Smiths. I created a 6 foot by 5 foot Gotham City, which we lit. Then the 2 feet tall Will and Jada figures were added, standing mighty, overlooking Gotham." quipped Joanne.

So what is Joanne Gregory doing at Sotto Sopra? Chef Gregory has been working as a consultant, recreating the desserts I remember so well from Italy, even our cookies. From the start of your meal to the sweet finish, I want it to be memorable.

La Dolce Vita


Monday, January 22, 2007

Super Bowl Antipasto

Baked Stuffed Artichoke Hearts
Chef David Ritzo

Tomato Confit:
1 small container fresh grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons white wine

2 ounces pancetta -- diced
2 - 14 ounce cans artichoke bottoms
kosher or sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

For the Tomato Confit: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the tomatoes in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, fresh thyme and white wine. Spread the contents of the bowl on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool. Reduce the oven to 350 degree.

While the tomatoes roast saute the pancetta until crisp and drain on a paper towel.

Drain the artichoke bottoms from the liquid in the cans and rinse. Pat dry and place artichokes on a sheet pan. Drizzle approximately 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over the artichokes. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, minced garlic and fresh basil over the artichoke hearts. Put a small amount of the grated Parmesan cheese on top of each heart.

To complete the assembly add tomato confit and pancetta to each artichoke heart. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: "10 artichoke hearts"
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Serving Ideas : The tomato confit can be also be used on top of toasted bread

NOTES : Canned artichoke hearts can be found in your gourmet
supermarkets in the Italian section or in the aisle with
your jarred artichokes. Trader Joe's has a 2 ounce
package of diced pancetta in their refrigerated counter.

For easy clean-up: Line your baking sheets with parchment
paper or use a silpat.

The confit and pancetta can be done a day ahead to make
assembly quick and easy