The Big Deal About “Little Leaf Farms”

Our house salad is a big deal because of Little Leaf Farms in Devens, Massachusetts, where their motto is “Born Local. Raised Right.” They are greenhouse grown year round, harvested and delivered in one day, day after day. Bagged up by machine, never touched by yucky human hands, these babies reach our salads all crispy and flavorful. Crunch. They are harvested when they are about 4 weeks old, just right for that perfect bite-size.

While the greens are used primarily in our hugely popular house salad, you can find them everywhere on our menu.

 

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Saffron – “Red Gold”

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Saffron is the most expensive spice on the planet, averaging $20 per gram at stores. Some distributors are more expensive than others. We purchase ours from Spain, which costs us about $70 per ounce (28 grams) wholesale. It’s so expensive because the three red delicate stigmas of the crocus plant are handpicked. It takes 100,000 flowers to make about one pound of saffron spice. That’s a lot of sore backs. Here at Cibo, and our sister restaurant Corfinio, we let the saffron flower bloom in white wine to extract it’s flavor, making a lovely saffron white wine broth which adds a soft red color and floral, sweet, earthy flavor to our specials such as Cozze Allo Zafferano with steamed mussels, peppers, onion and tomatoes, saffron white wine broth, basil drizzle and grilled ciabatta. We use it in other specials such as saffron risotto, bouillabaisse and paella. We post our specials every night on Facebook so check for these wonderful saffron dishes. You might get lucky.

If you want to give it a try in your kitchen, we suggest this simple recipe. Saute onions, peppers, and fresh garlic together. Add crushed or diced tomatoes with the juice. Then add sherry or white wine, a few threads of saffron, and give it a lazy bubble for 30 minutes or so. Add to your favorite fish, and serve with rice, risotto, or roasted potatoes. Simple enough.

 

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Culinary Curiosities. A Glossary of Ingredients

“What is that?” Every night we try to answer that culinary question curious customers ask when thinking about ordering from our specials menu as we try to show off different ingredients and cooking styles that may be considered outside the usual Italian cuisine repertoire. If you have a better understanding of these ingredients, hopefully you’ll say, “I’ll try that!”

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Beurre-Blanc – Lobster risotto with fresh corn, tomatoes and spinach with lemon thyme beurre-blanc.

White wine and scallop reduction with bay leaf and black pepper corn that’s finished with tons of butter. We infuse it with fresh herbs like basil and lemon thyme from our own garden. It pairs best with fish.

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Hakerui Turnips – Pan seared halibut with roasted hakerui turnips, kale, asparagus and red peppers, fresh tomato jasmine rice, cucumber and lime vinaigrette.

A fresh, locally grown turnip that is sweeter than the Thanksgiving variety. Also known as the salad turnip, it’s eaten raw but best when roasted as it’s flavor becomes as sweet as candy.

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Ceviche – Striped bass and halibut marinated in lime, cilantro, jalapeno, and red onion with tortilla.

Ceviche is a simple yet diversified dish with three star ingredients; raw fish “cooked” in a citrus juice, any variety of hot peppers from jalapeño to Peruvian amarillo, and cilantro. Rounding out the flavor are fresh, seasonal vegetables such as Langwater tomatoes, red onion and corn. 

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Confit – Rabbit confit with roasted tomato and asparagus with pappardelle, tomato and mozzarella stuffed tenderloin, sherry reduction sauce.

Confit is any meat cooked in it’s own fat or, in the case of rabbit, olive oil as it doesn’t have much fat. While Farmer Mr. McGregor cooked his rabbit in a pie, we like to simmer it real slow at a low temperature until it’s tender and juicy.

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Harissa and Lime Aioli – Pan fried frog legs with harissa and lime aioli with micro arugula.

Harissa is a spice blend made with smoked cheyenne pepper. The lime makes the harissa less hot, while the aioli, made with egg, canola oil, garlic and a bit of magic, makes it smooth and creamy. As a side, frog legs taste like chicken but are flaky like cod.

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CapicolaStuffed chicken with house capicola and cheddar filling

We make our own capicola. It’s the collar muscle of the pig that is dry rubbed with our house capicola seasoning that gives it a nice spicy kick. It sits for 2 days, and then slow roasted for 2 1/2 hours. It adds the wonderful savory flavor used in our chicken marsala, and makes for a nice treat in our specials.

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Bringing Up Brioche

Our hand-rolled brioche rolls are made at the restaurant with lots of TLC. Used for our hamburgers and veggie burgers, they add a French flair to the standard all American burger roll. Made with eggs, milk and sugar, the brioche’s resulting buttery flavor pairs well with the juicy hamburger. After a restful night of fermenting, the dough keeps to a set schedule of rolling, resting and washing.

Our baby brioche resting after a busy day of rolling.  

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Baby grows up so fast.

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Baby gets pampered with an egg wash.

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Baby grows up a little flaky, but we love Baby unconditionally.

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Our Veggie Burger Gives New Meaning To A Power Lunch

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When we decided to include a veggie burger on our menu, we set out to make it as healthy as possible. Prepared fresh every week, our burger has 33 ingredients with seven fresh vegetables including sweet potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and mushrooms. It’s many stages of preparation result in a nice thick burger with a perfect blend of textures and flavors. Include the lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, avocado, and a hand-rolled brioche roll, and you have yourself the ultimate power lunch without the speeches.

 

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Sweet potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers and mushrooms roasting in the brick oven.

After roasting the veggies, we blend it with over 15 different herbs and spices, one of which is tumeric. We chose tumeric as a predominent spice because of it’s proven medicinal benefits. Typically used in Indian and Chinese cooking, tumeric has been a prescription for over two thousand years for many ailments, and it continues to intrigue medical experts researching it’s desease fighting potential. How’s that for team work and motivation.

 

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Shaped into huge patties with over 15 different herbs and spices.

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Crispy outer layer

For a little history lesson on the origin of the veggie burger, check out this Smithsonian article which says John and Yoko were eating the veggie burger long before it hit the mainstream. I can imagine that.

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The Art of Grilling Octopus

Blog_PVDWillBrown_Octopus_1280x640Will Brown, Culinary Artist from Johnson and Wales.

Grilled octopus is always a big hit on our specials list because we do it right. We prepare it with olive oil, toasted potatoes, garlic, and lemon aioli with chili drizzle, or olive oil, seared potato, micro peppercress salad with chili drizzle, sometimes with kalamata aioli, arugula salad and chili drizzle, once in a while with lima beans and chili drizzle. We like to drizzle. And just the other day, we served it with roasted sweet potatoes and spicy habanero aioli.

Admittedly, something with 8 tentacles, hundreds of suction cups, a mystery sack and spewing ink doesn’t sound appetizing, or edible for that matter, but you can’t argue with thousands of years of tradition. High in protein, B-12 and iron, this squirmy sucking creature has always been very attractive to cultures in the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa and South America. Our Head Chef Pepe sticks to the tradition taught to him by his father. They would wade in the shallow waters on Marcona beach, once a quaint fishing town, near the Nazca Province in Peru and catch octopus. They simmered the octopus for half an hour, then grilled it or put it over ceviche.  A very easy recipe that makes it a little easier on the eyes.

 

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Our Brussel Sprout Salad

There was a time at my table when the brussel sprout was boiled to oblivion, and was mixed up with gravy and mashed potatoes. The only hint of it was a little overcooked green leaf here and there that gave off an unpleasant flavor. How could we be so mean to such a cute little bud? Had we only known you can prepare it shredded with strawberries, pears, walnuts, Romano cheese and lemon dressing. The simplest of ingredients that rest on a bed of sprouts.

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It’s a perennial favorite on our menu and is often paired with chicken or salmon.

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Shredded, grilled, roasted and even boiled, if done right, it’s a delicious addition to any meal for any season or cuisine.

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Fresh Pasta

We celebrated Christmas this year by purchasing a tabletop pasta extruder, or more delicately put, a pasta maker. Our new toy is churning out linguine, penne, shells, gemelli, rigatoni and fettuccine. Oh! What fun! What chef doesn’t love a brand new toy? It’s a thrill to be able to find the right equipment for the job; making fresh pasta. So in the process to create the final pasta dish, how important is it to have fresh pasta? Very. Fresh pasta is made with eggs and flour, and it’s light consistancy absords the flavor and ingredients of the sauce more willingly, elevating the dish.

 

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fettuccine

 

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rigatoni 

 

The exact ratio of eggs, egg yolks and three different kinds of flour have been meticulously measured to produce a dough that delivers a sweet, silky bite. When the shape of the pasta is paired perfectly with the sauce, it’s a match made in heaven. For example, the veal of the bolognaise sauce tucks itself very comfortably inside the rigatoni. The pasta should capture and hold the flavor and ingredients of the sauce, otherwise all the wonderful flavor and ingredients gather on the bottom of your plate.

Starting with only the best flour available, we have refined the recipe down to a trifecta of flours that achieve the qualify of dough we want. The three different kinds of wheat flour have a specific purpose.

           The OO Flour * soft and powdery, giving the pasta it’s silk.

The Durhum Flour * strong, providing the diversity in pasta shapes.

The Semolina Flour * pretty in yellow, soft with a sweet, nutty flavor

There are so many other shapes we’ll be adding to our repetoire. Until then, we hope you get what you want for Christmas too!

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penne

 

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    linguini

 

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gemelli 

 

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Our Five Distinctive Teas

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Our 5 distinctive teas, with their beautiful colors and textures, offer a wide range of wonderful flavors. The folks at Fazenda, our local supplier for tea and coffee, have a mission to “ethically and sustainably” source their products. That works out perfect, as a hot cup will sustain you well. Here are the options. Above, from left to right, we have the Blue Flower Earl Grey, a black tea with pretty bright blue cornflowers and a citrusy bergamot. Next over is the Dragonwell green tea which has a nice sweet and nutty flavor. In the middle is the classic English Breakfast. Can’t go wrong. Last are the Spiced Chai and Vanilla Rooibos, which are both flavorful treats in the afternoon. All of the teas have a unique blend of ingredients that you can only fully appreciate when you see them dry, so when the aromas and flavors pour from your teapot, you know their origin, and that the Blue Flower Earl Grey is not just a fancy description. It actually has blue flowers.

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Hen of the Woods

 

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The woods in fall is enchanting, covered in a carpet of golden pine needles and finished leaves, crimson, orange and yellow. Everything that was once green is gone, opening up a clear view of the trees. Below the wet carpet, with it’s decaying mush of limbs, leaves and logs, thrives a web of fungus, the mycelium, that is the root system of the mushroom. While the rest of the woods settles down for it’s long winter nap, it’s spring time for the mushroom. Popping up on your lawn, under your trees, or literally squeezing out of the bark, the fast growing mushroom, which can double in size in 24 hours, appears overnight, and it’s not a pretty sight.

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Take for instance the Hen of the Woods, named for it’s resemblance to the feathers of a hen, which is a huge stretch of the imagination. But what it lacks in looks, it makes up for in flavor, and when our chefs wave their magic spoons, voila, behold a puff pastry. We love our Hen. Picked locally, it’s fresh and organic. Growing on and under oaks, it’s elusive, but it’s unique shape makes it easy to identify. Mushroom Master and Mycologist, Gary Lincoff, actually finds them in Central Park. He equates foraging mushrooms to a “treasure hunt, where you can feel like a kid again and connect with nature.” Like the Big Bad Wolf in the forest, the Hen of the Woods is hard to find, lurking around trees, and when the forager, a determind hunter with a basket, finally finds one, he skips for joy like a girl in a red cape.

 

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We use it in our goat cheese duxelles, or on top of a pizza with sherry reduction sauce, fontina and crispy pancetta. It’s hearty flavor is perfect with a pork loin. Besides it’s wonderful flavor, it’s great for the immune system, has cancer fighting qualities, is loaded with potassium, and is good for your blood pressure. The veal tenderloin medallions with sauteed hen of the woods mushrooms, and a mustard and brandy cream sauce over pappardelle pasta will extend your life. We love the hen of the woods pate with goat cheese on top of a crostini. So come forage our special’s menu at Cibo Matto where we get down and dirty with the mushroom. Go to our facebook page for nightly specials.

 

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