Baked Tomatoes

Boy, was I wrong.

Wrong about local tomatoes that are coming into the farmers’ markets right now, gorgeous, firm, red, both sweet and acidic beauties that I’m using to bake alla gratinata.  

Wrong because in the off season, I content myself with hydroponic vine-ripened tomatoes that do have a little flavor, that are firm enough to be transported who-knows-how-many hundreds or more likely thousands of miles to get the local Kroger, firm enough to withstand 120 minutes in the oven at 350 F and miraculously retain their shape and make a pretty good graté. But the local tomatoes are besting the vine-ripeneds this summer, blowing them right out of the oven.

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Lentils, not Freckles

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Tizi suggests a new menu item for New Year’s Eve. A local tradition in Romagna, her region of Italy. I’m sure I’ve heard the word “lentils” before in Italian and decide to try it out. Use or lose it, right?  “But why lentiggini?” I ask.

“For good luck,” she says. “And it’s lenticchie.  Lentiggini are freckles.”

Lentils, not freckles.

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Panforte: Best Served in Slab Form

While we’re in Italy, Tizi accumulates treasures. Mainly chocolate. Over time we’ve put providers on our maps, in Rome, Florence, Siena, Venice. When we’re hanging out in San Marino and Pesaro, which is usually the case, her go-to place is Cioccolatteria & Confetteria Talmone. Now we have a new place, in nearby Fano.  But…, but…

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Into the Mix

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One of the delights in eating in Romagna (and I hazard to guess all over Italy) is the “misto.” 

The mix. 

Where I come from, eating fish you usually get one thing. Your appetizer is one thing–a tartar, half a dozen oysters, a bowl of mussels. And your main course is usually one thing–fillet of whitefish, fillets of perch, a chunk of salmon or tuna or swordfish, some crab legs or a lobster tail. Want to taste something besides what’s on your plate? Poach a bite from your wife’s when she’s not looking.  

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Pass the Oil, Please

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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.

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About the Parsley

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The parsley war continues.

My wife and I disagree.  The question is not whether to use it. We’re both parsley positive. The issue is when, during cooking or added afterward as a garnish.  I’m during, she’s after.

It has not always been thus. For many years we lived in perfect harmony, parsley-wise. Diced parsley was one of those first-things-first things, like diced or chopped onion-celery-carrot. Then one day a chef friend came to dinner.  We must have had something long-cook on the stove, like a braised meat. He raised the lid and lowered his face to the pan. “Always add parsley near the end,” he said. “Cooked, parsley is bitter.” It was a pronouncement. He confirmed what my wife must have always sensed. He named it. And that was that.

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Taste Your Feet

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I’ve got wellness on my mind.

“Canducci Tiziana.”  That’s how they call my wife when it’s her turn. Last name first. We’re at the Repubblica di San Marino Instituto di Sicurezza Sociale (aka the hospital), where she’s here to see an orthopedic doc.  A few weeks ago at the Bargello museum in Florence, while I was in the gallery at the top of the stairs, the one with Donatello’s David and Giambologna‘s Mercury, two fleet-footed guys, looking with new-found interest at theirs and other sculpted feet, while she was climbing the stairs to join me, something happened and she tumbled down six or eight steps, injuring a few of her appendages.  To wit: a knee and a wrist.

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Erbe in abbondanza

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A staple at the table around here is “erbe.” Google Translate says erbe means “herb” in English. Google Translate is entitled to its opinion. The word erbe covers a wide spectrum of green stuff. (Plug “cut the grass” into Google Translate and you get “tagliare l’erbe.”)

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Piadina e Stracchino. Meglio di cosi?

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If you are eating in Romagna, you’re eating piada.  Piada is the standard issue flat bread they bring to the table, usually hot off the griddle. Each eating establishment puts its own thumbprint on their piada (aka piadina, the affectionate diminutive)–ranging from flaky (frolla) to brittle.

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