Girolle Mushroom and Speck Risotto


“The elementary rules once grasped, it remains only to be borne in mind that the simpler the risotto the better.” says the wise Elizabeth David in her brilliant book called Italian Food. Indeed, apart from the basics (oil and butter, onion, rice, wine and stock) a couple of add-ins are usually enough. The best risotti have just one or two dominant flavours, sometimes complementary, others contrasting, but never colliding.

Wild mushrooms like finferli (girolles) are in full swing right now. Sweet and fruity, they grab your attention with their bright golden cap and scruffy look. In risotto they work wonders on their own, but I like them paired with some speck, too, for added savouriness.

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Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Peppers

 

Eggs in tomato sauce aren’t a novelty in my family kitchen, but for some reason, they fell to the very bottom of our repertoire. Until now. I especially love the fact that this dish assumes different names depending on where it comes from: shakshuka is very in vogue right now, but in Italy we’d rather call it uova in purgatorio (eggs in purgatory) or uova al pomodoro.

My take, however, looks at shakshuka for add-in ingredients: from the peppers in the sauce to the feta and the the sprinkle of parsley on top. All that said, whatever the name, this is a dish to make whenever you ache for comfort and simplicity, and that is at ease as a weekend breakfast as much as an impromptu dinner.

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Jujube Polenta Cookies


The garden at our family home is exploding with the best autumnal colours, and with a few edible delights – pomegranates and jujubes. You might have caught sight of a jujube shrub or tree before; for one, they are very widespread in Veneto. Traditionally used as ornamental plants, locals slowly began to appreciate them for their fruits, which they would use to make confectionery and liqueurs.

Every year in October, the tiny medieval village of Arquà Petrarca, in the Euganean Hills of Veneto, hosts a picturesque, popular festival dedicated to the humble jujube. During the festival (but really throughout the whole year), you can find all sorts of jujube-based gastronomic delights, from brodo di giuggiole (a sweet liqueur obtained by macerating the fruits in an alcohol and sugar); to cakes, candies and cookies.

In my family, nothing has ever been done with the host of jujubes from our shrub. We’ve always just eaten them al naturale, munching on them straight from the fruit bowl. This year, though, the production was more abundant than usual, demanding for some culinary inventiveness to sort out any excess. The most natural thing to do, at that point, was to fire off the oven and get ready to bake. 

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Nonna’s Tomato Sauce

tomatoes

I have been travelling a lot in July, not so much in August. The two months had a noticeably different rhythm and a very opposite feel. July felt suspended, ethereal, with me constantly on the move and up in the air, struggling to feel settled or make sense of where I was, for I wasn’t anywhere for long enough.

August, in contrast, was a static month, and yet one full of restless anxiety, of changes, of big announcements and strict deadlines. I suppose all these factors, in different ways, are part of the reason why I have been absent from the pages.

However, I did want to share more about a short visit I paid to my homeland back in July, and to my nonna in particular. When I visited, I found her in her beloved ‘basement kitchen’ while she was jarring tomatoes and making fresh tomato sauce. Needless to say, she jumped on the chance to teach me a thing or two about canning while we chatted the morning away.

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