The truth of the matter is, much of what I’m eating today is an excuse to consume olive oil. Salads with spiral-cut zucchini and arugula and tuna–it’s a dish that wants a generous anointing with extra virgin olive oil. Fava beans with chopped tomato–oh, yes, let there be oil. On a steak or a slab of fish, oil provides a definite enhancement. Last night, snacking lightly, I ate a chunk of bread leftover from lunch, giving it a drizzle of olive oil to soak into those dried dimples and crevices, topped with a few slices of mozzarella and leftover scraps of zucchini spirals.Continue reading →
Above, a local delight called cassone. The flat bread they make in the Marche and Emilia-Romagna, called piada, is folded over mixed greens or tomato and mozzarella or onion and sausage or mixed grilled vegetables, then grilled and cut. You can make a meal out of cassone. Often, however, they are served as a little appetizer with apperitvo. Shown above, an exceptionally good cassone from Il Sentiero, an agriturismo in the Marche region. Continue reading →
I Malardot–local dialect for malridotto–those who are in bad shape
The drive, the ambiance, the food–all well worth it at I Malardot. Start with the food. We’ve eaten at I Malardot 4-5 times now. With confidence, you can begin with a tagliere, mixed sliced meats and cheeses. For primo piatto our current favorite is artichoke ravioli with fosse cheese. That might well qualify as a desert island food for me. I could never tire of eating it. Continue reading →
It’s not the same, but almost. And mind-blowing good to eat.
In Santarcangelo, where legend has it the Sangiovese grape gets its name, my wife and I have lunch and dinner at Trattoria del Passatore. We go there for many things, chief among them ravioli served with a rosole sauce.
Rosole, also known as papavero in Italian, are young poppy leaves. You see fields of poppies in Italy, with their brilliant red flowers. The leaves are harvested and used in a pasta sauce, well before the plant flowers. Continue reading →
Wait ten minutes and your kitchen smells like heaven.
For the longest time, I thought of this as a summer dish. Perhaps because I was conditioned to seeing my mother-in-law bring in a haul of tomatoes from her garden and work her magic on them. Then I saw the error of my ways—the utter foolishness of denying myself the pleasure of pomodori gratinati al forno–oven-roasted tomatoes–in the off season. Continue reading →
A few years ago my wife and I spent a weekend in Naples, the one in Italy, where we had pasta with chickpeas. The dish was life-changing. It’s so easy to prepare, so hearty and healthy, I can’t understand why I don’t cook it more often. Like every week.
Now, about those chicks. When I have the time and my wits about me, I stop by a local Iraqi market and buy dried chickpeas, soak them over night, and cook them up (low heat, olive oil, salt and pepper) for a couple hours. Otherwise, when I am witless, which is more often the case, I buy canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans, we say in the U.S.), rinse them, and get right down to business. Continue reading →
The affectionate term for them is gobbi—hunchbacks. I’m talking about cardone, that distant cousin to artichokes. A stalky plant with raised ribs, cardone resemble celery. Like the artichoke, cardone is a member of the thistle family. Just seeing (or hearing) the word “thistle,” if you know the prickly plant, you feel a wave of caution. Handle with care, yes, but eat them with great pleasure. Continue reading →
We had our neighbor here in Michigan to dinner one day. He was educated in Rome and traveled extensively in Italy during his time there. That day we ate a dish of pasta, enjoyed some wine, and talked. After clearing the table for the next course, I placed a pan of spinach in the middle of the table.
He laughed. “I bet this is the only house in Southeastern Michigan serving spinach from a frying pan.” Continue reading →
“They never have your favorite,” I say to my wife.
She’s lying on the sofa reading a book entitled Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. Usually when she reads she pauses and gives me updates, sometimes lengthy ones. With this book, however, her glosses have been terse. Yesterday when I asked what was happening, she said simply, “Cicero.”
“Flavor,” I say now.
“Just a minute.”
I mean favorite gelato flavor. We’ve just come from a sprawling Italian market in Shelby Township called Vince and Joes, where we stood a full fifteen minutes in front of the gelato case and she looked and looked and, well, pined just a little. She said the sight of all that gelato made her homesick. She chose three flavors, three pints, café, pistachio, and nutella. They’re in the freezer right now, getting frozen. Continue reading →
In Italian, the sin of gluttony is gola. Golosita’.
In Italy, it’s so easy to be goloso.
I’m thinking about gluttony the day my wife and I drive to Urbino. From Pesaro it’s a 40 kilometer drive I do not love, on a two-lane road through village after village, past Montelabbate and Colbordolo, past Gallo and Morcia. Every few kilometers you have to brake for a roundabout. You get stuck behind trucks and vans, behind decrepit Fiats driven by old men. Then around Trasanni, 5-10 kilometers from Urbino, the road straightens out, and the hills rise gloriously, so glorious you almost think you might slow down, pull over, and take in the view.
How to make pork ribs, an inexpensive meat, taste like a million bucks
It was the lard that made us swoon.
My wife and I were having dinner at a restaurant in Reggio, Italy, one night. At the outset of a long meal, the server brought out affetatto (assorted sliced meats) and we were very much in heaven. Prosciuitto, mortadella, various salami–then came lard-thinly sliced, shimmering, buttery strips of lard that we rolled onto breadsticks.
I don’t know about other people, but we swoon outloud. The server, obviously pleased, to us, “You have to understand, for us, the pig is sacred.” Continue reading →
Thanksgiving day in Italy. There will be no turkey in the roaster, no dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy, no pumpkin pie. Later tonight we’re meeting friends for Thanksgiving ravioli. We have to save ourselves for that.
But for lunch? In the spirit of the holiday (sort of), turkey cutlets cooked in milk. Continue reading →