Eggs

Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Peppers

Eggs seem to be the last thing I eat before leaving for a long trip, and the first when I come back.

We made eggs on that rainy Monday, the day we left our little Wimbledon flat behind us – white walls and all. The meal felt nostalgic, a dejà vu of sorts. We ate on the set of plates we didn’t want to take with us, which made us feel even more unrooted, fully conscious of our nomadic nature. All around us was an empty apartment, tainted by the same sort of emptiness we found when we first moved in three and a half years ago. Our life was now packed into eight heavy boxes and four suitcases. The time had come to move again.

We made a meal with what we had left in the house: in the freezer, we found a bag of ragù we thought we could keep for Christmas; there was one good bottle of red wine left, which we wanted to save for a good occasion that never really came; and then, a little Parmesan, some bread, and four eggs. Cooking with these few ingredients, we managed to create something that was so decadent it made us slightly ashamed. Still, we didn’t regret a single bite of those soft eggs cooked in meat sauce, topped with grated Parmesan, mopped up with bread, and washed down by Valpolicella. It made us full, yes, perhaps too full to move bags and boxes down the stairs; and a bit tipsy, too, maybe too tipsy to face a plane ride; but it made us happy, giggly, and it washed all sadness away.

We left for the airport right after lunch. The front door closed behind us as the rain was falling heavily outside. We knew we were going to be back soon, but it still felt like the end of a chapter – the white walls now turned into white canvases, ready for other people to mark their lives on them. To my surprise, I was OK with that, with all of that really – the change, the novelty that was awaiting us, the unknown. I knew it was going to be good for us. I didn’t shed a tear as the plane took off, not like I do every time I leave Venice. That was the sign I wasn’t really leaving home, but I was rather going towards it – finally landing in Venice to stay for a while.  

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Monk’s Beard Anchovy Butter & Egg

Monk’s beard – the strange, charming, totally addictive green that comes in nourished bunches with plenty of grits attached – is my current religion. The fact that its season is almost finished kills me but, at the same time, it makes me happy. It feels liberating, like I can finally move on onto the next obsessive compulsive seasonal eating craze. Two more weeks or so, and I’ll be free.

But for now, and for the past two months to date, monk’s beard has been a very frequent guest at our table. We’ve eaten it simply blanched and tossed in oil and lemon, then served alongside stupid easy and terribly satisfying slices of toasted bread with butter and anchovies. We’ve eaten it in multiple takes with spaghetti – either sauteed in a puddle of strongly-scented anchovy butter, then topped with a landslide of fried breadcrumbs; or with clams and lots of lemon zest. In both cases, the green strands of monk’s beard would entangle with the pasta creating an unbreakable marriage of complementary flavours and textures. What a great little thing it is.

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Braised Lentils with Egg

Moving away from Italy was possibly the best thing I could do to truly become interested in the food of my origins. Before then, Italian food was just food, normal food, everyday food, something not worth talking about, not original, surely not interesting. I knew about regional differences, and I had a pretty clear idea of what the most iconic and traditional dishes from each Italian region were. Travelling around the country with my family, I would try the specialities of the area. Also, sometimes at home, my mum would prepare something exotic like sarde al beccafico (rolls of butterflied sardines with bread crumbs, pine nuts, and raisins, Sicilian style), or fagioli all’uccelletto (stewed beans, Tuscan style). Still, I was interested in the flavour, in the story maybe, but not in the recipe.

Living abroad, though, I became more of a nostalgic cook and more curious about Italian traditional recipes linked to a place and a culture. I have been travelling back to Italy quite often, looking for traditional dishes, eating in local, honest osterie, imprinting the flavours of Puglia, Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome, Friuli, Umbria, and Sicily in my memory. I also started to collect Italian cookbooks – something I never thought I would do – digging into recipes as much as into the travel stories and everyday tales the author would unfold around them. I discovered a fascination for traditional yet unusual recipes that were new to me, and I found it especially in books written by non-Italian food writers – Claudia Roden and Elizabeth David especially. I loved seeing the food and the country through the eyes of someone who was not originally from there, but could still appreciate Italian culture and its local cuisines, and had the curiosity to go beyond stereotypes and write honestly, reporting regional differences and bits of the culture that Italians would bring in the kitchen and to the table.

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Sparasi e Ovi: A Venetian Easter Tradition

sparasi e ovi


Sparasi e ovi is a quintessentially Venetian springtime ritual, often consumed around Easter time.  The ritual seems to be originating from the town of Bassano del Grappa, in the Vicenza province of Veneto, where the time-honoured tradition of growing white asparagus has in time reached peaks of perfection.


Many works of art witness the presence of white asparagus in the area: a famous painting by the Venetian artist Giovanbattista Piazzetta called La Cena di Emmaus, for example, portraits a dish of white asparagus as part of the Last Supper, prepared following the local tradition.


A classic sparasi e ovi feast is nothing fancy. It basically entails dipping the steamed white asparagus in a condiment made with oil, salt, pepper and vinegar, in which the egg has been previously crumbled (mimosa-style). The result is not just delicious, but joyfully messy, too. It’s a good way to kick off a springtime meal, as well as a lovely idea for a seasonal picnic.

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Omelette Sandwich

 

My sandwich of choice when there’s nothing else in the fridge except eggs, parmesan, and some sad parsley. Also called panino del muratore (builder’s sandwich) in Italian, it can welcome all sorts of additions, from seasonal vegetables to all manners of cheese. Forage something in your fridge and larder and make this recipe your own.



Omelette Sandwich


Serves 1

2 slices of rustic bread of your choice, or 1 bread roll
2 small knobs of butter or ghee
1 small leek or 1/2 white onion
2 fresh organic eggs
1 handful flat parsley
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste


Heat the butter in a small skillet set over a low flame and add the finely sliced leeks or chopped onion. Fry until softened, about five minutes, stirring often. Transfer to a dish and reserve for later.

Using two forks, beat the eggs with a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper, grated parmesan and parsley. Add the cooked leeks (or onion).

Using the same small skillet, heat some more butter, and when hot and bubbly, add the egg mixture. Let is set on the bottom, then lift it on one side and fold it over the other. Let it cook thoroughly on both sides, flipping it with a spatula half way through the cooking. Finish off with more grated Parmesan and freshly chopped parsley.


Make your sandwich with toasted or untoasted bread, your call. Enjoy.

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