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September, 2015 |

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Where to find the best October bargains

Fall is here, and smart shoppers need to look for these deals:

▪ If you plan to host a holiday meal, look for price cuts now on cookware and kitchen accessories.

▪ Denim is at its lowest price since the back-to-school clothing push.

▪ Purina and Pedigree will celebrate Adopt a Shelter Dog Month with extra sales and coupons.

▪ With daylight saving time ending Nov. 1, expect sales in batteries and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

▪ Halloween means deals on candy and costumes. Leftover candy can be used in cookies or brownies. Discounted costumes might make a great gift for a creative little one in your family.

▪ Hot now in the produce aisle: artichokes, arugula, beets, cabbage, chard, pumpkin and yams. And, of course, apples.

Email: thedealdiva@bellsouth.net

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New North Bethesda Hardware Store Hopes Locals Will Spend on Door and Cabinet …

Push Pull Decorative Hardware opened earlier this month

The owners of Push Pull Decorative Hardware Elizabeth Pilley, Jonathan Pilley and Mike Corrado

The owners of Push Pull Decorative Hardware Elizabeth Pilley, Jonathan Pilley and Mike Corrado

The three owners of the newly opened Push Pull Decorative Hardware in North Bethesda hope they can convince local designers, architects and residents to focus on what they say has become a design afterthought—cabinet and door accessories.

Inside Push Pull’s 2,500-square-foot space on Nebel Street, the husband-and-wife team of Jonathan and Elizabeth Pilley and their partner, Mike Corrado, have built a showroom from recycled materials where everything from high-end solid bronze doorknobs to funky molded resin cabinet handles are on display.

The store opened at the beginning of September and is scheduled to host its official grand opening Saturday.

The business’ success depends on attracting customers who want a more refined look for their front door or kitchen cabinets, according to the owners. They’re entering an embedded industry with plenty of online competitors and huge retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

“Often times people don’t look past the entry-level stuff,” Jonathan Pilley, 35, said. “Sometimes it’s an afterthought for people.”

Elizabeth Pilley, who previously worked in interior design in the Boston area, said designers would tell her they’d order products online and then not be happy with the look or feel.

“At the store, people can feel what they’re getting,” Elizabeth Pilley, 33, said. “This is a tactile thing.”

Part of Push Pull’s business will depend on bringing in exclusive product lines from manufacturers with whom Elizabeth Pilley developed relationships while working in interior design in Massachusetts.

Corrado, 35, who is a longtime friend of the Pilleys, left his banking job in Manhattan after 12 years to start the business. All three owners live in the Aspen Hill area of Silver Spring.

Jonathan Pilley said they’re already starting to see a response from local designers. The 12156 Nebel St. spot is nestled in among other small home design stores like Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens and Plumbing Parts Plus; which Corrado said has made the area into a shopping center for individuals doing home renovations.

Push Pull’s prices for outfitting a medium-sized kitchen with about 20 cabinets can range from $200 on the low end to $2,000 on the high end, according to Corrado.

The owners also hope that the store can also offer something that online competitors or big-box stores can’t—the personal touch.

“While our focus is on this product, we also want people to like us and come back because of us,” Corrado said.

All photos by Andrew Metcalf

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New North Bethesda Hardware Store Hopes Locals Will Spend on Door and Cabinet …

Push Pull Decorative Hardware opened earlier this month

The owners of Push Pull Decorative Hardware Elizabeth Pilley, Jonathan Pilley and Mike Corrado

The owners of Push Pull Decorative Hardware Elizabeth Pilley, Jonathan Pilley and Mike Corrado

The three owners of the newly opened Push Pull Decorative Hardware in North Bethesda hope they can convince local designers, architects and residents to focus on what they say has become a design afterthought—cabinet and door accessories.

Inside Push Pull’s 2,500-square-foot space on Nebel Street, the husband-and-wife team of Jonathan and Elizabeth Pilley and their partner, Mike Corrado, have built a showroom from recycled materials where everything from high-end solid bronze doorknobs to funky molded resin cabinet handles are on display.

The store opened at the beginning of September and is scheduled to host its official grand opening Saturday.

The business’ success depends on attracting customers who want a more refined look for their front door or kitchen cabinets, according to the owners. They’re entering an embedded industry with plenty of online competitors and huge retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

“Often times people don’t look past the entry-level stuff,” Jonathan Pilley, 35, said. “Sometimes it’s an afterthought for people.”

Elizabeth Pilley, who previously worked in interior design in the Boston area, said designers would tell her they’d order products online and then not be happy with the look or feel.

“At the store, people can feel what they’re getting,” Elizabeth Pilley, 33, said. “This is a tactile thing.”

Part of Push Pull’s business will depend on bringing in exclusive product lines from manufacturers with whom Elizabeth Pilley developed relationships while working in interior design in Massachusetts.

Corrado, 35, who is a longtime friend of the Pilleys, left his banking job in Manhattan after 12 years to start the business. All three owners live in the Aspen Hill area of Silver Spring.

Jonathan Pilley said they’re already starting to see a response from local designers. The 12156 Nebel St. spot is nestled in among other small home design stores like Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens and Plumbing Parts Plus; which Corrado said has made the area into a shopping center for individuals doing home renovations.

Push Pull’s prices for outfitting a medium-sized kitchen with about 20 cabinets can range from $200 on the low end to $2,000 on the high end, according to Corrado.

The owners also hope that the store can also offer something that online competitors or big-box stores can’t—the personal touch.

“While our focus is on this product, we also want people to like us and come back because of us,” Corrado said.

All photos by Andrew Metcalf

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How ‘The Splendid Table’ and I made a spectacular Italian feast – TwinCities.com

An Italian feast straight out of Lynne Rossetto Kaspers cookbook, quot;The Splendid Table.quot; (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

While doing research for “The Splendid Table’s” 20th anniversary, I acquired a copy of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s cookbook by the same name, published in 1992, a few years before the radio show began.

The book is as much a cookbook as it is a love letter to Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy that is responsible for the creation of some of Italy’s best-known food products — Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto, to name a few.

As soon as I opened the book, I was transported to the early ’90s, which happened to be around the time I discovered the kitchen. My best friend, now a professional chef with her own restaurant, and I were messy culinary explorers. We made pasta from scratch. We threw dinner parties. We made entire Thanksgiving dinners for friends, for no reason other than turkey was cheap and we were broke kids who liked to cook and feed a crowd.

“The Splendid Table,” like many of my first serious cookbooks, has few photos, and none of them accompanying the recipe. For most dishes, there’s no picture with which to compare your finished product, which is dated but refreshingly freeing — the finished product is yours, and it’s beautiful, especially since you’re not trying to live up to some super-styled, shiny version of a dish.

The recipes were each like a little story with tips and tricks and the kind of advice you’d get from a friend.

In fact, the recipes are like the kind my best friend used to email me, complete with funny little asides and advice and maybe a few curse words before the Internet was thick with recipe search engines. I knew instantly that I wanted to cook from the book, probably regularly, but would the recipes and philosophy behind them hold up 20-some years later?

After some consideration, and after reading about the legendary dinner parties Rossetto Kasper used to throw at her former Summit Avenue home in St. Paul, I decided to cook a giant meal for friends — all from the book. I wanted to create a traditional Italian meal, served family-style, that would include antipasto, a pasta course, a few main dishes, some vegetable side dishes and, of course, dessert.

PREPARATION

Rossetto Kasper’s sure and authoritative voice guides me through the process — the book is as much about how to eat like an Italian as it is about how to cook like one — and by the time I finish my research, I feel sure I can start on Monday and be ready to serve dinner by Wednesday evening. Most of the recipes I choose are rustic, simple-seeming dishes.

My menu is an antipasto platter of cured meats from the fantastic Red Table Meat Company (I know Rossetto Kasper would approve, since in Italy, they start with whatever’s good and local), tortelli with tails, herbed salmon, lemon chicken, garlic-sauteed cabbage, basil-and-onion mashed potatoes and a cream apple tart.

I shop for ingredients on Monday and am pleasantly surprised at how unfancy my list is. Everything I need is available at the most basic grocery store — apples, flour, eggs, ricotta, cabbage, garlic (so much garlic), chicken, lemons, butter (so much butter). But looking at my full cart, I panic a little, knowing I’ll have to transform all these whole ingredients into finished dishes.

I do go to a separate fishmonger for a pretty filet of king salmon and to the St. Paul Cheese Shop on Grand Avenue for the sliced, cured meats that will begin the meal.

It’s time to cook.

AND SO IT BEGINS

The first task I tackle is making pasta — from scratch, of course.

It has been a busy few years since I last made pasta, and I am excited to dust off my old-school, hand-crank Italian pasta maker.

My husband’s strong and steady hands are perfect for kneading and rolling pasta, so after the kids are in bed on Tuesday, we set to work making little tortelli with tails, a stuffed pasta I’d never seen before. There was no photo of the final product, but there was a sweet little drawing that I used as a guide.

Jessica Fleming adds tomatoes and other ingredients to chicken while cooking for friends and family at her West St. Paul home on Wednesday, September 9, 

The filling, which I had mixed the night before, consisted of wilted Swiss chard from the garden, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and eggs.

The tails are oblong, so after the pasta is rolled thin — so thin you can see through it, Rossetto Kasper helpfully advises — you place a wee bit of filling in the center of a diamond of pasta and weave the whole thing together, leaving two little tails at either end.

It takes a while to get the hang of it — and we don’t finish until after midnight — but I am proud of how the tortelli look. They aren’t all uniform, but they are pretty in a rustic way, and after tasting the filling, I know the end product will wow my guests.

I cover the pasta — about 100 tiny little dumplings — in parchment and plastic wrap to keep them fresh in the refrigerator and go to bed.

Wednesday will be a long day.

KITCHEN MARATHON

I start by making the crust for the tart, which comes together quickly in my food processor. I refrigerate it for the required 20 minutes while I peel, slice and toss the apples with lemon juice. They have to soak for at least three hours before I can even think about sauteing them, which happens before the tart is assembled and baked.

After the crust rests, I roll it out and drape it into my tart pan, after which it is chilled again.

Sound like a lot of steps? I’m not done yet.

The crust is blind baked, to keep it from getting soggy, and the apples sauteed, and then I make the custard. I am worried because it doesn’t seem to thicken, but after I carefully nestle the apples in the crust (which had to cool again), I pour the custard over, not really caring anymore if it doesn’t set. It’s already afternoon.

With the tart in the oven and my fingers crossed, I am finally ready to start the rest of the meal.

First, I cut and boil the cabbage, which happens before it gets sauteed in plenty of garlic and olive oil. It’s the kind of simple dish I love — one that lets a seasonal vegetable shine. Even the cabbage haters in the group love it.

I don’t read the entire recipe for the mashed potatoes before beginning (rookie mistake), so I don’t realize it calls for the little B-size red potatoes to be boiled before being peeled. Because using a peeler on those little potatoes is a pain, I think maybe Rossetto Kasper knows something I don’t. I throw them in the pot.

I rub the fish with fresh herbs from the garden and some bright, extra-virgin olive oil. It sits in the refrigerator until my husband comes home to grill it while the guests begin to arrive.

The timer goes off for the oven, and I hold my breath as I open the door. Success! The custard on the tart set. It is so beautiful I get a little teary.

I put it on a rack to cool while I chop everything to finish the potatoes and for the chicken dish — sort of a brighter, fresher version of chicken cacciatore that seems a perfect use for the colorful melange of heirloom tomatoes I just picked from the garden.

Because I am cooking for eight adults and five kids, I have to brown two chickens. The recipe says I should be able to fit one bird in a 12-inch skillet, so I plan on using two. But even the smaller organic chickens I bought don’t fit all in one skillet, so I have to brown them in batches. And that means I can’t finish the dish in the skillets.

It’s one of the many times I catch myself thinking, “What would Lynne do?” I wish I could call like a “Splendid Table” listener and hear her soothing voice guide me through it.

In the end, I improvise and throw everything in my big enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, put the lid on it and hope for the best.

I drain the potatoes so I have a space and pot in which to get the pasta water boiling.

Sweet relief: My neighbor, one of the dinner guests, shows up to help.

I set about peeling the potatoes while she arranges a beautiful antipasto platter. Things are coming together!

Peeling the potatoes is not as easy as I had hoped, however. The skins don’t slide off easily, so I end up picking them off with my fingernails. It is tedious to say the least. Next time, I’ll use larger potatoes and peel them first.

I saute onions, garlic and herbs and mix them into the potatoes, which I sent through a ricer for extra smoothness. But I’m not done yet. The potato mixture gets layered with Parmigiano-Reggiano and goes into the oven.

My tiny 1940s kitchen is like an inferno. My neighbor and I crack open a bottle of Italian white wine I had been chilling for the meal. It helps.

I don’t want to crowd the pasta, so I cook it in batches. A few of the delicate little dumplings break, which is sad, but for the most part, they come out of the water looking great. They get layered with butter and more Parmigiano-Reggiano. The cheese isn’t cheap, and I have already torn through two bricks of it.

My husband and other neighbor fire up the grill, and we start shuttling the dishes outside. We’re eating al fresco because it’s a beautiful day and my house is 11,000 degrees after cooking all day.

I saute the cabbage, which doesn’t fit nicely into my biggest skillet, but I make it work. Though I don’t get the deep browning I prefer, it’s still delicious, if a little on the homely side.

I finally get up the courage to open the Dutch oven and look at the chicken. It’s not as brown as I’d like, but the tomato colors are beautiful, and the chicken is juicy and delicious.

By the time everything is on the table, I’m a sweaty, happy mess. It’s an impressive feast.

Judging by the contented “mmms” coming from my dinner guests’ full mouths, it all tastes pretty good, too.

And “The Splendid Table”? It absolutely is still relevant, maybe even more today, with home cooks like me, who like to do things the slow, hard way.

THE RECIPES

The following recipes are from “The Splendid Table: Recipes From Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

MARIA BERTUZZI’S LEMON CHICKEN

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

3 1/2-pound frying or roasting chicken, cut into 8 pieces

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small carrot, minced

1/2 medium onion, minced

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

8 fresh sage leaves or 8 dried whole sage leaves

Shredded zest of 1 large lemon

1 large garlic clove, minced

Pinch of ground cloves

3/4 cup chopped ripe fresh tomatoes (peeled and seeded) or thoroughly drained and chopped canned tomatoes

2/3 cup water or liquid from canned tomatoes

5 to 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided use

Garnish:

2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

To work ahead: Chicken can be made 1 day ahead and stored overnight, covered, in refrigerator. Undercook by 10 minutes and do not add final 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice until just before serving.

To brown chicken: Rinse and thoroughly dry chicken pieces. In heavy 12-inch saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Slip in chicken pieces, skin side down, arranging them so they do not touch. Brown over medium heat or lower, adjusting heat so chicken colors slowly, for 15 minutes or until a rich, amber color. (Note: During browning, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Turn pieces with 2 wood spatulas.) Remove browned chicken to platter.

To saute vegetables: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Set pan over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, parsley and sage. Saute for 8 minutes or until onion starts to color. Stir in lemon zest. Saute, stirring often, for 3 minutes or until onion is deep gold. (Note: Take care not to burn brown glaze on bottom of pan.) Add garlic, cloves, tomatoes and water. Stir, scraping up glaze.

To cook chicken: Add chicken and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to a gentle bubble. Cover pan. Cook for 15 minutes. Uncover. Cook for 10 minutes, turning chicken pieces to moisten them. Sauce should thicken and cling to chicken.

To serve: Have platter warming in low oven. Sprinkle remaining 3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice over chicken and taste for salt and pepper. Pile chicken on platter, moistening meat with pan juices. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

PIACENZA’S TORTELLI WITH TAILS

Makes 6 to 8 first-course servings or 4 to 6 main-course servings.

Filling:

10 to 12 ounces Swiss chard, or 5 ounces fresh spinach leaves

1/3 cup water

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) creamy fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese

3/4 cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

1 egg, beaten

Pasta:

1 recipe fresh pasta (recipe follows)

Sauce:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

To work ahead: Filling will hold, covered, in refrigerator 24 hours before stuffing tortelli. Pastas can be filled 24 hours ahead and stored, covered with kitchen towel, in refrigerator. Turn tortelli 3 or 4 times. They do not freeze well.

To make filling: Trim away Swiss chard’s stalks and reserve them for another use. If using spinach, trim away tough stems. Wash leaves well. Without shaking off water clinging to leaves, tuck them into 4-quart saucepan. Add 1/3 cup water. Cover. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until wilted. Drain. Cool. Squeeze leaves as dry as possible. Finely chop. Transfer to medium-size bowl. Push ricotta through strainer, or puree it in food processor. Stir into chard or spinach. Blend in Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste for balance. (Note: Nutmeg should only be a whisper of flavor.) Beat in egg. Cover. Refrigerator until ready to use.

To fill pasta: Working with one-quarter of dough, stretch and thin pasta until you can see color through it. Now the fun begins. Settle back and enjoy making these tortelli. Don’t try to rush the experience. Sharing the adventure with like-minded friends makes shorter work of it. Have handy several large flat baskets covered with kitchen towels.

Cut pasta into long strips about 4 1/2 inches wide. Cut each strip in half lengthwise. Keep strips of pasta covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to work with them. Create diamond shapes by cutting each strip on the diagonal, spacing cuts every 2 1/4 inches, so that each diamond’s sides measure 2 1/4 inches. Keep cut pieces covered while you work with 1 or 2 strips. Put narrow row (about 1 teaspoon or less) of filling in center of diamond. Place pasta with long strip of filling perpendicular to you. Fold 2 points of diamond on left and right of row of filling over each other, covering filling. Pinch together 2 overlapping pieces of pasta, using thumb and forefinger to make a row of pinched closures down length of pasta. As you pinch pasta together, twist it slightly to create undulating ridge. This pleating will form rippling scalloped appearance.

Twist and seal ends, creating “tails.” Place them in single layer, without touching, on towel-lined baskets. Uncover more cut pasta and repeat process. After first batch is done, stretch and thin next portion of dough and continue.

To cook tortelli: Warm serving bowl and soup dishes in low oven. Have large colander ready for draining tortelli. In large pot, bring salted water to a strong boil. Drop in pastas. Cook until tails are pleasingly firm to bite yet tender enough to eat. (Note: If freshly made, they will take 3 to 4 minutes. If they have been made up to 24 hours ahead, they may need 8 or 10 minutes.)

To serve: Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan. Gently pour cooked tortelli into colander, taking care not to break them. Carefully pour one-third of pastas into heated serving bowl. Spoon one-third of butter over them. Add generous sprinkling of cheese. Top with another third, and more butter and cheese. Add in last portion of pasta. Top with remaining butter and more cheese. Serve immediately. Pass any leftover cheese separately.

FRESH PASTA

2 jumbo eggs

1/2 cup water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Special equipment:

Pasta machine

To make dough: Mound flour in center of work surface. Make a well in middle of flour. Add eggs and water. Using wood spoon, beat together eggs and water. Gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from sides of well. (Note: As you work more flour into liquid, well’s sides may collapse.) Use pastry scraper to keep liquids from running off and to incorporate last bits of flour into dough. (Note: Do not worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.)

To knead dough: Using scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, knead dough until it becomes a cohesive mass. Use scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on work surface. (Note: These will make dough lumpy.) Knead dough for 3 minutes or until it is elastic and a little sticky. (Note: If too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour.) Knead for 10 minutes or until dough is satiny, smooth and very elastic. (Note: It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step.) Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Let relax at room temperature for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

To stretch and thin dough: Work with one-quarter of dough at a time, keeping remaining dough wrapped. Lightly flour pasta machine rollers and work surface around machine. Set rollers at widest setting. Flatten dough into thick patty. Guide it through rollers by inserting end into space between rollers. Turning handle with 1 hand, hold upturned palm of other hand under sheet emerging from rollers. (Note: Keep palm flat to avoid puncturing dough with fingers.) As emerging sheet lengthens, guide it away from machine with palm. Pass dough through rollers 5 or 6 times, folding it in thirds each time. Set rollers at next, narrower setting. Pass dough through 3 times. Repeat, passing it through 3 times at each successively narrower setting. (Note: Repeated stretching and thinning builds up elasticity, making especially light pasta.) If sheet becomes too long to handle, cut it in half or thirds and work pieces in tandem. Send dough through this way until thin enough to see color and shape through it. Repeat process with remaining dough.

GARLIC-SAUTEED CABBAGE

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)

Salt (optional)

4 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 large cloves garlic, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To work ahead: Cabbage can be boiled early in the day, and garlic can be sauteed then, too. Refrigerate cabbage, covered, until 1 hour before sauteing. Keep garlic covered at room temperature.

To cook cabbage: Cut off any bruised outer leaves of cabbage. Trim away tough base, leaving core so wedges remain intact. Cut cabbage vertically into 8 wedges. Bring 6-quart pot of water to a boil (add 1 tablespoon salt if desired). Drop in cabbage. Boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until core is tender when barely pierced with knife. Drain in colander. Rinse wedges with cold water to stop cooking. Spread wedges on paper towels to dry.

To saute garlic: In large saute pan, heat olive oil over the lowest possible heat. Cook garlic slowly, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes or until pale gold on all sides. (Note: Do not cook to dark brown, or it will turn bitter.) Using slotted spoon, lift out garlic. Spread on plate. Reserve.

To finish and serve: Have serving bowl warming in low oven. Chop cabbage into bite-size pieces. Turn heat under saute pan to medium-high. Add cabbage. Saute for 10 minutes, turning with 2 wood spatulas, until browned. (Note: Use higher heat if necessary to brown pieces.) Season with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved garlic. Cook for a few seconds to blend flavors. Turn cabbage into warmed bowl. Serve hot.

BASIL AND ONION MASHED POTATOES

Makes 8 servings.

5 pounds small red-skinned potatoes

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large onions, minced

1/2 cup minced Italian parsley, divided use

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided use

To work ahead: Potatoes can be prepared the day before serving, up to point of baking. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before final baking.

To cook potatoes: Scrub potatoes. Place in 6-quart pot with cold water to cover. Cover. Set pot over high heat. Bring water to a lively boil. (Note: Adjust heat so water does not boil over. Keep pot partially covered.) Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until easily pierced with fork. Meanwhile, pour 1 cup milk, butter and 1 tablespoon oil into large bowl.

To brown onions: Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over high heat. Add onions and all but 2 tablespoons parsley. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until onions are soft and clear. Uncover. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes or until onions are golden brown. Stir in garlic and basil. Cook for 1 minute. Add water. Scrape up any brown bits in skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Turn into large bowl.

To make potatoes: Drain and peel cooked potatoes. Pass hot potatoes through coarse blade of food mill set over large bowl, or mash in bowl with potato masher. Combine mashed potatoes with onion mixture. Season to taste. (Note: If potatoes seem dry, add more milk. Mixture should resemble very thick whipped cream.) Lightly oil shallow 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Spread half of potato mixture over bottom of dish. Top with half of cheese. Spread remaining potatoes over cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

To bake and serve: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly cover potatoes with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot to center. Just before serving, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley. Serve hot.

UGO FALAVIGNA’S APPLE CREAM TART

Makes 1 tart, 6 to 8 servings.

Pastry:

3/4 cup (3 ounces) cake flour

3/4 cup (3 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour (organic stone-ground preferred)

6 tablespoons sugar

Generous pinch salt

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks, plus more for greasing tart pan

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons cold water

Apples:

5 medium Granny Smith apples

Juice of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Custard:

1 cup milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

Garnish:

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (optional)

To work ahead: Pastry and custard can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble tart. Apples need to marinate in lemon juice for 3 to 4 hours. Serve tart within 8 hours of baking.

To make pastry by hand: In bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt. Using pastry cutter or fingertips, cut in butter until only a few bits are visible. Using fork, toss in egg yolk, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water, moistening pastry only enough for it to hold together when gathered into a ball. If too dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and toss. (Note: Do not stir or knead.)

To make pastry by hand in food processor: In food processor fitted with steel blade, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar and salt. Add butter. Process for 30 seconds or until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add egg yolk, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water. Process with on/off pulse until pastry begins to gather in small clumps. If too dry, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water and process.

To chill pastry: Gather dough into ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, use 1/2 tablespoon butter to grease 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Sprinkle work surface generously with flour. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Fit into tart pan. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To bake pastry: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line chilled pastry with aluminum foil. Weight it with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Lift out weights and liner. Bake for 5 minutes or until pastry looks dry but not browned. Cool on rack.

To marinate apples: Peel and core apples. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss in bowl with lemon juice. Set aside for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.

To saute apples: In large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add apples. Turn heat to high. Saute for 5 to 6 minutes or until apples have released moisture and started to brown. Keep turning pieces with wood spatula. (Note: Goal is to cook off moisture without reducing apples to mush.) Sprinkle with sugar. Remove from heat. Spread on large platter to cool.

To make custard: In 3-quart saucepan, scald milk by heating it with vanilla bean until bubbles appear around edge of pan. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. In medium bowl, whip sugar and 2 whole eggs until mixture sheets off whisk. Blend in scalded milk. Return mixture to saucepan. Have sieve and medium bowl handy for straining. Using wood spatula, stir custard continuously over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until it reaches 170 degrees and has thickened. (Note: Do not boil.) Immediately pour through sieve into bowl, removing vanilla bean. (Note: Rinse and dry vanilla bean for use again.) Whisk in remaining 2 egg yolks. Let custard cool.

To assemble and bake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Fan out apple slices on pastry in tight spiral pattern, forming single layer. Pour custard over apples. Bake for 40 minutes or until knife inserted midway between center of tart and edge comes out clean. Cool tart on rack. (Note: Refrigerate if holding longer than 2 hours.)

To serve: Serve tart at room temperature, dusted lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

Jess Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435. Follow her at twitter.com/jessflem.

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El Cerrito: Castro Park renovations complete

EL CERRITO — A joint project between the city and West Contra Costa schools to renovate the athletic field at Castro Park has been completed and the park is set to reopen in late October, when the new turf has taken root.

Contractors began work in June by removing the existing turf and breaking up the tightly packed soil to help with root growth and improve drainage.

They also graded the playing field, used for youth baseball and soccer, to make it more level, improved the irrigation system to make it more efficient and installed a warning track in front of the baseball fences.

The city has an agreement with the school district for joint use of the park. West Contra Costa owns the land and paid $250,000 for the renovation while El Cerrito’s Public Works Department managed the project and paid $25,000 for design and construction management. They city will also maintain the field and the 39,000 square feet of newly installed turf.

The park is at 1420 Norvell St., adjacent to the new Korematsu Middle School campus. The district plans to use it for physical education classes and team sports after the campus opens next year.

The playground area, tennis courts and picnic area at Castro Park have remained open during the field renovation.

Contractors also dug up cracked pottery and other materials that were dumped at the site by the former TEPCO dinnerware manufacturing plant that was located at the corner of Manila Street and Kearney Avenue (now the DMV office) from about 1930 until the mid-’60s, according to Tom Panas of the El Cerrito Historical Society.

Panas said he is saving some examples of the material in the Dorothy Sundar Shadi History Room at City Hall while the rest of the dumped material was reburied.

The discovery has been entered into the registry of the California Historical Resources Information System, he said.

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New Fast Food Breakfast Restaurant Opens




Breakfast is coming faster thanks to a new restaurant.

LOVES PARK (WIFR) — Breakfast is coming faster thanks to a new restaurant.

Eggspress is trying to fill a niche for people who don’t have time to sit for breakfast.

Located on Riverside Boulevard in Loves Park, it has an urban trendy feel when you walk inside and your breakfast is out in minutes.

They will continue to serve all of your favorites from skillets called “express bowls”, breakfast sandwiches and even their famous fresh squeezed orange juice.

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Jefferson High School receives $29000 grant for tech-ed program

JEFFERSON — Jefferson High School, one of only 14 high schools in the state to offer National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation certification, is benefiting from a $29,000 technical incentive grant that will allow the school to update its equipment and instruction.

The Career and Technical Education Technical Incentive Grant, founded by the state Department of Public Instruction and administered by the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System, will allow for upgrades not only in the area of automotive technology, but throughout the technical education department at Jefferson High School.

Steve Dinkel, School-to-Work coordinator for the School District of Jefferson, said that in the past year, Jefferson High School completed the NATEF certification process. It is one of only 14 schools in the state to do so, most of them in much larger cities.

Founded in 1983 as an independent nonprofit organization, the NATEF aims to improve the quality of automotive technician training programs nationwide at secondary and post-secondary schools. Toward this aim, NATEF examines the structure, resources and quality of training programs and evaluates them against industry standards to promote a practical, up-to-date education that will give students a leg up in the field.

The NATEF certification for the school is linked to AYES certification, which successful students walk away with once they complete this state-of-the-art training. AYES, which has been in place for several years at Jefferson High School, stands for Automotive Youth Educational Systems. Now, in order to offer AYES certifications, schools must be NATEF-certified.

Dinkel said that the number of students involved in work-based programming at Jefferson High School has increased steadily over the past three years, going from a little over 20 students to more than 40 students enrolled in this area.

The local high school offers a range of work-related experiences for students. These start with job shadowing and on-the-job training.

Going up one step is the school’s employability skills certification, which requires students to spend 90 hours on the job over the course of a semester.

Next comes the certified co-op program, which Jefferson High School offers in the areas of agriculture and business.

The highest degree of on-the-job training comes through the Youth Apprenticeship program, which requires 450 hours of on-the-job experience over the course of the first year and a total of 900 hours over two years.

Cyndy Sandberg, Jefferson County School-to-Career coordinator, said that achieving the NATEF certification is a great honor for Jefferson High School. The five-year certification combines high school and industry standards reviewed by national NATEF-certified representatives.

The NATEF curriculum allows schools to certify students in NATEF skills and tasks.

To achieve this certification, the Jefferson schools had to have all involved educators meet professional development expectations, and the school had to meet nationally-determined standards.

For example, E.J. Pilarski, automotive instructor at Jefferson High School, has to carry five different industry certifications on top of his licensure as a teacher in the field.

An advisory committee was required to meet twice a year to review the program and its standards.

While administering the review, national NATEF representatives scrutinized Jefferson’s program, talking to educators and employers alike.

Having successfully undergone the review process, Jefferson High School received a certification plaque, presented officially to Dinkel and Pilarski at Monday’s meeting of the School District of Jefferson Board of Education.

Explaining the Technical Incentive Grant, Sandberg said that these funds are awarded to support and strengthen quality Career and Technical Education programs resulting in industry-recognized certification.

The state promised $1,000 per student for graduating seniors earning such certifications, and in fact that occurred, bringing in a total of $29,000 this year to benefit Jefferson High School technical education programs.

Certifications offered by Jefferson High School cover the following areas: Youth Apprenticeships, Certified Co-ops, NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research), Certified Nursing Assistant certification, AYES, and NATEF G1.

Sandberg said that Jefferson High School is currently in line for another grant related to CNA training and placing students in manufacturing positions.

“In this area, Jefferson High School is one of the top schools in the county,” Sandberg said.

Technical education teacher Jerry Burr said that his classes have utilized Technical Incentive Grant money to update and modernize equipment, making the classroom more efficient and more reflective of what’s going on in the industry.

The new equipment allows the district to certify students in up-to-date construction techniques as defined by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and to meet top safety standards overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Other coming improvements in technical education include new vertical mills and engine lathes.

Pilarski said his automotive classes have used Technical Incentive Grant money to improve safety, improve environmental impact and to give students a better idea of what’s going on in the industry today.

In addition, Pilarski said, General Motors donated two engines on which his classes may work.

In the future, he said, the department is looking at installing paint booth(s) and instating a body class.

In addition to NATEF and AYES certifications, his department also offers Snap-On Multimeter Certification, Pilarski said.

Family and Consumer Education teacher Kimberly Hart-Shatswell said that grant money has assisted her classes in replacing worn cookware, bakeware, towels and utensils and to trade less-healthy Teflon pans for new, safer stainless steel ones, in addition to purchasing some small equipment for the school’s foods labs.

Grant dollars also will benefit the new Food Science Class, which will be offered for the second year next spring for science credit.

She also is looking at several other updates for the health science area, including “Anatomy in Clay” materials, new healthcare supplies like stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and thermometers to assist in the Introduction to Health Occupations and Medical Terminology classes. Both of these classes are offered as dual credit classes in cooperation with Madison Area Technical College/Madison College.

Speaking for the business department, teacher Cory Brummeyer said his department is looking at purchasing an Automatic Teller Machine. Students are researching different types of ATMs right now and will be responsible for making the purchase and maintaining the machine.

The business department also is eyeing the purchase of ConnectPlus for dual credit course(s.) Other funds will go toward fieldtrips and leadership conferences for students and possible computer certifications.

In the area of agriculture, new ag teacher Nick Brattlie said his department plans to use grant money to acquire equipment supplies and software to enhance students learning through labs and career applications.

He outlined several areas in which he’d like to invest: landscape design software, science lab materials, increased fieldtrip options, and advisory committee planning.

Sandberg noted that another way in which Jefferson High School is expanding its technical education programming to meet local need is through a night school automotive certification class.

Currently, 13 students from four different area school districts are enrolled.

“Being one of only 14 schools in the state with NATEF certification is pretty impressive,” said school board member Norm Stoner. “We need to get the word out about this.”

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