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ekscrunchy, koreaprincess and franco invite you to join them expanding on the secrets of Italian cuisine

ekscrunchy, koreaprincess and franco invite you to join them expanding on the secrets of Italian cuisine

Old Apr 4th, 2007, 03:28 PM
  #141  
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LoveItaly, of course you're right for the supermarkets. I guess it won't be a surprise for anybody, though, that I as the typical food snob don't buy much at supermarkets, except for mineral water, butter and so on. I don't touch any fresh products in supermarkets wherever there are markets or small grocers. And the great thing about shopping in Italy is: there's REALLY no need to buy anything but mineral water at the supermarket - small shops are everywhere, and there are also many markets.
There is even a permanent scandal going on in Italy with olive oil - oil of minor quality, most often not even extra vergine, is being shipped to Italy, bottled there and sold as "extra vergine italiano" (in supermarkets of course, where else?). This oil, too, comes mostly from North Africa. (Of course they have excellent olive oil in Africa, too. But they don't ship the excellent one to Italy in order to make it a fake Italian oil.) But then again: I only buy olive oil at choice groceries, or preferably directly from the producer... and I encourage anyone to be as snobbish as I am as often as you can, it's worth it, in culinary respects.
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 03:41 PM
  #142  
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...and just to make that clear: outside Italy, shopping at markets and groceries clearly doesn't bring the same results as to "nostrani" products. Only today, I've been at a shop selling organic food only, and asked the employee whether the starchy potatoes I wanted to buy came from a certain farmer (I know this shop is selling his products). She gazed at me, mouth open, and stuttered something about the potatoes coming from the wholesaler. Well, it turned out the potatoes DID come from that certain farmer in whom I trust, with no wholesaler involved. So these actually ARE "nostrani" potatoes, but the girl selling them didn't even know. This would be unimaginable in Italy.
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 04:10 PM
  #143  
ceceliauna
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Yes, stracchino.
 
Old Apr 4th, 2007, 05:24 PM
  #144  
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Yesterday morning I had promised myself not to post on Fodors for a month (it is slightly addictive and well, I am heading out of town for a few weeks). However, seeing the main man is willing to seek help, I had no choice but to graciously step in

My problem of course is that I don't normally cook Italian food (where I grew up, you had no reasons to borrow some other country's cuisine...) although I like it just "enough" So over dinner, I asked someone who hails from "near" Franco's preferred neighborhood, and with a snap of her fine fingers, she points out the following as her occasional recipe site: http://www.lospicchiodaglio.it/ (Yes, The Garlic Segment ).

The problem is as good as it is, it is all in Italian which is, well, Chinese to me. But, here is a simple translation for Cecelia: http://tinyurl.com/2b3mlp. Now you will have to deal with words such Preriscaldare or Lessare but that's good for your vocabulary, imagination, and, to some, they may even sound slightly sexy. Ask yourself if you would rather say "heat the furnace" or "Preriscaldare the furnace" to see which you prefer Just trying to funny.

Folks, here is my final advice for you: Never work before breakfast; if you have to work before breakfast, eat your breakfast first!
 
Old Apr 4th, 2007, 08:49 PM
  #145  
 
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Hello Franco, all of my friends in Italy are appalled about the situtation with a lot of the olive oil so I understand completely what you are saying. Many of them are fortuante as an aunt produces her own olive oil which is from Reggello. I have some in my kitchen now but it is almost finished I am sorry to say.

Along those notes I would caution anyone in the US to be very careful when buying olive oil from Italy. The bottle can say "produced in Italy" but the olives are not necessarily from Italy. They can be from Spain, Greece or elsewhere, a blend of olives from various countries. One should read the label carefully and make sure it reads
Certified Athentic from olives harvested and pressed in Italy.

Regarding the raddichio Franco, I completely agree with your thoughts. I have friends in Castlefranco where raddichio is from and is served only during the season. I purchased it here in Northern California a few times but there is no comparison to the raddichio in the Region of Veneto during the season.

It is like the situation for my son-in-law who was born and raised and spent his younger adult years in Rome. He so misses the bread of Rome. And he has the receipes but it is useless to try to duplicate the bread here in Northern California as the flour is different, the water is different etc.

Mangia!!!
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Old Apr 4th, 2007, 10:26 PM
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Franco, just a note to respond to your comments on seasonality of produce etc. Where I come from (New Zealand) fresh produce is very much a seasonal business (although the seasons are "upside down" for northern hemisphere people, eg for me, juicy red strawberries mean it's Christmas and the start of summer, asparagus is always food sent by the gods in spring ie November to help me survive until the strawberries arrive etc). Once those things are past their best I just stop buying them and move onto what's good next: in NZ it's always great sweetcorn in late summer, stone fruit from central Otago etc. There has been a trend in recent years to import strawberries and asparagus all year round from warm places like Queensland, but I refuse to buy them. It just doesn't feel right (not to mention encouraging the environmentally unsustainable practice of increasing carbon emissions just to fly vegetables around).

Now, of course, there is very little in the way of discernible seasons here in the desert so I just take what I can get, period. They do produce strawberries locally but use huge amounts of desalinated water from the Arabian Gulf to do it (again, environmentally unsustainable) so I don't buy them often. I will now set off in search of ghaff leaves to stuff that chicken with! Meanwhile, courgette/zuchini are in huge supply here at present (pale green ones from Jordan I think) so I'm dining on courgette gratin (sliced in a baking dish, pour over white sauce with onion and a little garlic, fresh breadcrumbs and lots of grated gruyere and bake 30 minutes). Not Italian, but yummy, and as seasonal as I can manage here.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 03:34 AM
  #147  
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CS, Thanks for a funny post and the recipe! I know enough italian to make out what it all means. Thank you the link too http://www.lospicchiodaglio.it/. The link is great and I will use it. Finally the thread is back about useful topics.
 
Old Apr 5th, 2007, 03:49 AM
  #148  
 
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I know this is a little off the topic of Italian food, but this talk about seasonality reminds me that here in Germany (southwest Germany, at least) the seasons are almost synonymous with several varieties of produce (all locally-grown and as fresh as can be):

Spring = Spargel (asparagus)
Summer = Erdbeern (strawberries, but I love the literal translation "earth berries&quot
Fall = Pilze (wild mushrooms harvested from the local woods)

You'll see entire menus dedicated to these items! Spargel season is just a few weeks away...but I haven't been in Italy in the springtime, so I don't know if asparagus is popular there - anyone know of any good Italian asparagus recipes?
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 05:31 AM
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re: seasonality

I recall that there is a French saying to the effect that: Peas are best when they are dear and rare (first, smallest harvest) while cherries are best when they are cheap and plentiful (height of the season.) Anyone know of this old saying?

Thankfully, much produce follows the cherries rule: best when cheapest and most plentiful.

Freshness can't be duplicated, and that means, usually, no early picking to allow for distant transport. I recall a piece by M.F.K.Fisher in which she tells of bringing home pears from the morning market somewhere in Provence. She writes that they are almost hard in the morning, but are so "at their moment" that you have to watch them during the day to catch the pear at its peak and eat it before it spoils ...
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 06:40 AM
  #150  
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There are no coincidences - that gnocchi-stracchino-porcini recipe involves radicchio, as well!!! And have you noticed what it's saying? "Season: November, December"... we'll have to wait for seven months (which is particularly sad, this recipe seems really mouth-watering).

Tom, excellent story about those pears. The same is true for strawberries or tomatoes, just to name the most amazing examples. After one day, a strawberry and a tomato are not nearly half as good as they were.

hausfrau, asparagus is quite popular in Italy, too, but ONLY green asparagus (white asparagus being almost unknown there, in sharp contrast with Germany). And several weeks earlier than in Germany, of course...

LoveItaly, excellent point about the taste of flour and water!! Easy advice for everyone, also for those having to buy at supermarkets: try and find pasta from the Abruzzo region (De Cecco being the best-known company there) - they're famous thanks to the special taste of Abruzzo durum wheat (grown in the coastal plane of that region), and to the very special taste of the water from Abruzzo mountains!

arabianjedi, finally, we can pursue our passion of getting off-topic (sorry, cecelia): here's your recipe for ghaff chicken, from my favourite Arabian cookbook! First, prepare the stuffing: roast one small onion and 4 cloves of garlic in olive oil, add 3 tablespoons each of pine nuts, coarsely chopped pistacchios, and raisins, 1 cup of (already boiled) rice, some water, let simmer for 5 minutes, add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, 4 cloves, the interior parts (chopped) of 4 luumis (dried lemons, for those living outside Arabia), salt and pepper, let simmer for another 3 minutes. Finally, add 1.5 oz. ghaff leaves, minced. Let cool. Arrange the stuffing on two chicken breasts (boned, but not skinned), form kind of roulades (closing with toothpicks or thread), wrap in aluminium foil, put into a hot oven for half an hour. Let cool, unwrap, save the cooking juice, put the chicken breast (skin upside) under the grill. For the sauce, combine the cooking juice with 1.5 or 2 cups of cream, an equal quantity of chicken stock, 8 teaspoons of summaq powder, salt and pepper, cook & reduce.
And as far as zucchini (the pale Oriental variety, IMO, is the best next to the small dark green ones grown in Venice, in the lagoon), you can prepare gorgeous Italian recipes with. A simple vegetarian dish: you need onions and zucchini in a 1:5 relation, both in thin slices. Gently fry the onion slices in butter till golden (cover the pot with a lid), then add salt and the zucchini slices, fry on a vivid flame till the zucchini, too, have light brown edges. Serve with bread. You can also eat this on pasta, in which case I prefer olive oil instead of butter.

ComfyShoes, I promise to follow your example (or better, your resolution) and won't touch my computer for the next week. Happy holidays to all!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 07:09 AM
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From the essay "Two Kitchens in Provence", included in the book AS THEY WERE, by Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher:

"The fruits and vegetables of Aix were, as always, picked at dawn and meant to be eaten by nightfall. It was exciting once more to find myself racing decay ... A peach bought cool and unblemished brom the greengrocer on the Cours Sextius at nine in the morning looked sulky by noon, and by suppertime was bruised and voluptuously dying. The bright yellow blossoms on zucchini from the Marche aux Herbes had wilted by noon, and the first waxy glow of the slender squashes was gone by the time they made our supper."

How did I remember pears? Maybe from my own experience. There is no fruit, for me, with the time bomb sensitivity of a pear.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Fisher also comments on the general speed of spoilage in Provence - writing from 30 or 40 years ago when refrigeration was lesss impressive, anyway. It reminds us that the seasons have their own "use-by" dates: fall produce typically has strength in that regard that might be missing in the delicacy of spring or heat of summer.
From the same essay by MFKF:

"And it was good, in a way hard to explain even to myself, after years of deep-reeze and run-of-the-mill marketing in California, to know that, willy-nilly, the fish would spoil by tomorrow, the chops would be practically incandescent in thirty-six hours, and the tomotoes would rot in twelve. It was a kind of race between my gluttony for the fine freshness and my knowledge of its fleeting nature."

and later:
"I would think of what I must buy the next day, and load into the baskets, and then sort and store and serve forth in the order of Narue itself: first freshness, then flavor and ripeness, and then decay."

Fisher was one of the great food writers of all time, especially in the human accent to her work, the way her work is filled with characters and her characters filled with life and the business of living.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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Hello hausfrau, some friends of mine that live in the Region of Veneto steam their asparagus. They then crumble the yolks of cook eggs which has been mixed with a small amount of olive oil over the asparagus. It is good but not my favorite receipe. I love asapargus in Risotto..but I love Risotto very much!!

Franco, DeCecco pasta is what I buy here in N CA. I think we would enjoy having dinner together as we seem to have the same taste for foods.

And the mushrooms in autumn..ambrosia. My best friend has a little second house in the Dolomites and she picks the mushrooms and cooks them for me. Everything she prepares is fantastic but oh the mushrooms!! They are to good to even describe.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 04:30 PM
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Hi everyone, I am in LA, trying to adjust to jet lag, on this the first leg of my trip. Yes, this is addicting, but I had to pop in and say first of all, "bye,bye fooslover" and also I actually get DeCecco pasta in Korea, but of all the packaged pastas I've ever had, Rustichella d'Abruzzo is by far the best, and worth every cent. O.K. that's all the energy I have left right now. I'm off to wander through Whole Foods and Trader Joe's! kp
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 06:55 PM
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I wish you a beautiful time in Italy koreaprincess, and I know you will eat well. Mangia!!
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:20 PM
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If you like to garden, you can bring commercially packaged vegetable seeds back from Italy for those varieties that you can't easily get here. We took a chance not knowing if it was legal. The customs agent took our seeds to check them out, opening all the packages, had a conference and let them all through. We were the last ones out of customs, but my, did we have a great Italian vegetable garden! Still do.
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Old Apr 7th, 2007, 12:57 AM
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LoveItaly, ah yes, I've made something like that asparagus with hard-cooked egg...I seem to recall it with a shallot vinaigrette...quite tasty!

franco, isn't it funny about the white asparagus here? I often wonder why it is so popular. It is also common to see very thick asparagus spears as opposed to the delicate "baby spears" you usually see in the U.S.

koreaprincess, have fun at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and be sure to take copious notes in Italy so you can tell us all about it when you get back!
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Old Apr 7th, 2007, 04:01 AM
  #158  
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Yeah but white asparagus is milder because it never sees the light of the day while growing. The plants are either male or female, with the male producing more stalks of a smaller size, and the female producing less stalks, but larger in size. It appears from your post that americans either eat male asparagus or baby females.

franco, There is an entire festival "A Tavola con l'Asparago DOC di Bassano" (At the table with white asparagus) in the Veneto region where restaurants in the town Bessano del Grappa showcase their white asparagus cuisine. Are you sure white asparagus is not too popular in Italy?

comfyshoes, We tried that recipe last night and loved it. Molti grazie.
 
Old Apr 9th, 2007, 02:13 AM
  #159  
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Happy Easter everyone!

Any recommendations of your best recipe book for Italian cuisine? What do you consult?
 
Old Apr 12th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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cecelia, thank you for enlightening me re: white asparagus of Bassano - I didn't know that! Nevertheless, yes, I'm still certain that white asparagus is not too popular in Italy, the green "brother" being far more widespread, and even coming in several (highly different!) varieties. But that's obviously not true for Bassano del Grappa (a town that I love, but I've never been there in asparagus season). That's an amazing example of culinary campanilismo, btw - Bassano is part of the Veneto, and yet in Venice, they're mostly eating green asparagus (of course you'll also find the white one on the Rialto market, but hardly anywhere else in town) - Bassano being about one and a half hours away...
LoveItaly, a proposito green asparagus & risotto: do you know the special Venetian risotto asparagus (green, of course) that's VERY tart, on the edge of being bitter?
basingstoke, excellent idea, if "your" climate is just similar enough to Italy!
hausfrau, I don't share the love for thick asparagus, as well. For me, the thin spears seem definitely more tender.
Princess, Rustichella d'Abruzzo is from the Abruzzo region, as well, of course. Strange as it may seem, I must admit I prefer De Cecco (the "more industrial" of the two pasta producers, no doubt). But I agree that also Rustichella is making excellent pasta. Enjoy LA!
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