How would you eat this dish? Would you start by eating the rice first, the squid or the pesto? Would you call it fusion, creative cuisine or a concept dish? Anyway we see it, it is a matter of perspective. So is the way we eat our food. If I had to define food in one word, I’d say food is culture. When it comes to food, our preferences – and our choices of what we eat and cook – are shaped by our cultural backgrounds. Food defines who we are and where we come from: Italians eat pasta, Mexicans eat tacos, Americans eat burgers, Chinese people eat dim sum, etc.
Today I went to the market near home to buy seafood for an appetizer I had to bring for tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner (Vigilia di Natale). According to Italian tradition, you eat seafood on Christmas Eve and meat on Christmas day. Since there is a lot of demand for fish on the 24th of December, you need to order seafood in advance. So I went to the market’s fishmonger and to my surprise they couldn’t find my order so they had to redo it (cleaning and preparing seafood included!!). That meant I had to wait for more than half an hour with little Ambrosina, who was hungry and crying!! To me this was the icing on the cake, or in Italian Christmas tone – as the picture portrays it – confectioners’ sugar on Pandoro (that is my daughter’s Xmas cap!).
Making this post was a tough call: not only because I did not have daylight on my side for food photography, but mostly because I was about to experience (probably) the best dining experience of my life – an evening with Massimo Bottura’s cuisine at Eataly Roma. Having said that, imagine my biggest food photography challenge combined with the pressure of having to photograph Massimo Bottura’s remarkable dishes.
What brings you back to the eighties? Well, in my case – as far as music – this song from Wham!
What brings me back to the eighties in terms of food? Buttered pasta and tomato sauce on the side.
We all have childhood memories about eating, and we all can relate to a certain food during a specific period of our lives. When I was a child, I still remember pasta cooking in the boiling pot and, as soon as it was done (not necessarily al dente), we used to add butter to prevent spaghetti from sticking together. To eat spaghetti, a simple tomato sauce with dried oregano was served to pour over the pasta. I thought that was so Italian. However, little did I know that this was not the way Italians ate their spaghetti.
A view of the crystal clear water of Santa Sussana well
“If I am a river, you are the ocean
Got the radio on, got the wheels in motion
We were silenced by the night
But you and I we gonna rise again
Divided from the light
I wanna love the way we used to when”
Nope! This is not a post about love. However, I could not find a better way to star this post without citing the song Silenced by the night from my favorite band – Keane -. Not just because we always play their music while we are driving, but because we were also heading to a river with the stereo on (with Keane’s Strangeland of course!) and our wheels were in motion to Rivodutri, where you can find a marvelous restaurant specializing in fish river called La Trota (the Trout).
Appetizer or main course? When it comes to vegetables, we think about them as appetizers, and – more often – as side dishes.
I had a bunch of zucchini romanesche at home (with their flowers) and before I was off for vacations, I had to make use of them. Since I usually prepare zucchini with pasta or simply as a side dish, I wanted to come up with a main course (with zucchini as “main” ingredient). I thought it was a good idea because zucchinis are fresh and in season, and a meat course would have been heavy with the high temperatures we got in Rome.
In my past post , “How to make Pesto like a Ligurian” , I shared the secrets of the ancient pesto recipe. Having unveiled the ingredients and the method to make pesto alla Genovese, I thought that you may also want to know how Ligurians eat their pesto – right? Well, they combine it by using different pasta shapes that go really well with pesto – trofie, trofiette and trenette. While ago I was going down the pasta aisle of my nearest supermarket, and I came across a box of pasta Barilla. What caught my attention was not only the shape of the pasta – trofie , but the recipe on the back of the box – Ligurian trofie with pesto, potatoes and green beans…Potatoes with pasta? Did I read well? A weird combination, isn’t it? What added value could potatoes give pasta? Since this is a traditional recipe of the Liguria region (and there might be a reason why Ligurians use potatoes), I then decided to give it a try and find out by myself.
I used to make pesto with my food processor. I just had to blend all ingredients and there you have – a quick and easy sauce. Little did I know that using a mortar and pestle would change the taste of this ancient recipe. Indeed, pesto dates back to the mid 800’s and – of course – Ligurian cooks did not have any electrical appliances back then.
When it comes to “primi piatti”, you usually get a bowl of pasta, rice or soup. Sometimes I find this kind of plating rather boring since there is a lack of motion on the dish. There isn’t much fun unless you add a component that will make your guests have fun while eating the dish. Some say “food enters through the eyes”; I say that food can be fun if you can make it dynamic by letting your guest “play” with it.
Losing an Euro Championship final match to Spain was not an easy thing to digest for Italy, a country with a great football (soccer) tradition. However, this is as far as football I am going to get since I rather write about the one thing Italians and Spaniards can agree on and are proud of …and that is: their culinary tradition.
Last week we had some friends for dinner so I wanted to come up with an appetizer using a recipe from Andalucía, a Southern Region of Spain, Salmorejo, which is a cold soup similar to Gazpacho with the difference that Salmorejo is creamer because it has bread on it. The traditional recipe – named Salmorejo Cordobés because it comes from the city of Córdoba – is topped with hard boiled eggs and Jamón Ibérico (dry-cured Spanish ham).