Monday, 28 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TORTA DI PINOLI



Dried fruit is a common feature of Mediterranean cuisines. Pine nuts still enrich this short pastry cake filled with crema pasticcera (custard), also called “torta della nonna” (Grandmother’s cake). A similar recipe is found in Tuscany, too. Go and read an interesting recipe on Liguricettario, under the item "pinolata". Whatever your choice, always opt for white passito as the enological match...


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: TOMAXELLE - veal rolls




Whether the etimology of tomaxelle derives from tomaculum = little sausage or tomex = string, this is one of the most ancient glories of Genoese and Ligurian cuisine (as you approach Lunigiana the name changes into valiset or fasciatéla). Its fame is related to the 1800 Anglo-Austrian siege, when Austrian prisoners were served a hearty portion of tomaxelle in order to prove Genoa’s strength and resistance (on the contrary, the town was already ravaged by the harsh government of French General Massena, called Massazena – kill Genoa). Once made with leftovers, these exquisite veal rolls are stuffed, secured with a cord and a toothpick and braised: a small gourmet masterpiece and a successful match of tastiness and delicacy. Wine matching: red, DOC Dolceacqua or DOC Val Polcevera Rosso if you cook the rolls into tomato sauce.


Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario

Monday, 21 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: STRACCETTI DI VITELLA

Laurel leaves provide plenty of aroma to this exquisite traditional dish

The name of this simple recipe echoes the fact that veal meat is finger-shredded. Oddly enough for a Ligurian recipe, the condiment is butter, which creates a soft blending base. Laurel accounts for aroma and taste. Cooking is to be rapid in order to exhalt tenderness. Straccetti di vitella are a.k.a. "vitella all'uccelletto" (little bird). “Groppetti” (small knots) are tied veal stripes cooked in the same way. Wine matching: red, DOC Dolceacqua (Superiore, too).

Friday, 18 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: STOCCAFISSO ACCOMODATO - stockfish stew


Hearty stoccafisso accommodato, top-class comfort food!

The word stockfish (dried cod) derives from the Dutch stocvisch = stick fish, whereas in Norwegian the meaning is rock fish. After 1492, the intensification of maritime explorations throughout the northern seas and the Lofoten islands brought about a gastronomic (re)discovery of exceptional proportions: in a few years, fishermen sailed by the hundred from Marseille towards Newfoundland. The Genoese – the most mercantile of races… - joined the race (in the age of Counter Reformation, the Council of Trento set precise rules about meat eating and “giorni di magro”). Stockfish was ann immediate blockbuster in Genoa, a huge success due to the quality, organolectic values and versatility. The “ragno” variety ows its name from the deformation of “Ragnar”, the Norwegian firm responsible for the selection of the best pieces. Stockfish is to be bought after it has been properly soaked and softened in water for two weeks (some buy it dry and opt for home processing). According to local food lore, though born in water, it is to… die in oil. “Stoccafisso accomodato” is an ancient recipe, despite the fact that potatoes are a fairly recent innovation, dating back to end of the 18th century (odd as it may seem, strong opposition and diffidence towards the tubers lasted for ages). Cooking takes 1-2 hours, the right time for all the ingredients (go easy with the anchovy fillets, they might add a bitter note to the final result) to blend harmoniously. Polenta is a delightful companion (and the choice of the entroterra areas bordering Piedmont). Stockfish budelline (tripes) are a “nowhere to be found” Ligurian treat. Wine matching: red, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Rossese (tomato rules!).





Luisa Puppo


Ligucibario

Thursday, 17 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: SEPPIE COI CARCIOFI - cuttlefish and artichokes stew


Gorgeous carciofi di Albenga

Cuttlefish – named even by Plinius the Elder – were the protagonists of Nobel poet Eugenio Montale’s first collection (Ossi di Seppia, cuttlefish bones). Lerici (SP) is probably the regional homeland of cuttlefish recipes. Seppie with artichokes – olive oil, garlic and a sprinkle of parsley – they are a classic, but alternative casseroles abound: beet greens - the renowned zimino stew, Ameglia (SP) – beans, mushrooms… Wine matching: white, Riviera ligure di ponente Pigato, but go for rosé if you add tomato sauces



Tuesday, 15 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: S-CIUMETTE - little sponges


A Carnival dessert – a close relative of French îles flottantes – made with beaten egg whites, sugar and hot milk. S-ciumette (little sponges) can be topped with zabaglione, cinnamon powder or melted dark chocolate. Wine matching: passito, DOC Riviera di Ponente Pigato.

Monday, 14 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: SALAME DI SANT’OLCESE (GE)



Salumificio Parodi, the history of salame di Sant'Olcese since the 1880's

Italy is the homeland of a variety of excellent salumi, usually based on pork meat. The salame di Sant’Olcese (GE) is the star – a primacy since the 19th century - of the Val Polcevera (ancient val purcifera, pigs’ valley), even though the meat mostly arrives from Piedmont. It features a 50% – 50% proportion of ground pork and beef (and a bit of salt, pepper, garlic etc.) hand tied, it is dried for a few days at the heat of a vigourous wood fire (whence the pleasant smoked taste). Prepared in december, after 3 months it is ready for its Spring triumphant ouverture together with fresh fava beans and young, soft Pecorino Sardo. The Sant’Olcese should be served at room temperature, cut into thick slices. Mostardella is a “poor” coarser version, eaten fresh – anciently cooked over wood stoves, nowadays it is usually sautéed. The area is known for the manufacture of sausages, bresaole and coppe, too. Wine matching: go local and opt for red, Doc Val Polcevera rosso.



Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario

Friday, 11 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: RAVIOLI DI CARNE (O DI MAGRO) COL TOCCO - RAVIOLI WITH GENOESE MEAT SAUCE

The magic of hand-made ravioli alla genovese

Genoese ravioli have a story of their own. Their filling differs from the meatier versions found elsewhere in Italy and includes veal and offal, while the sfoglia (pasta sheet) features few eggs. “Tocco” is the piece of meat used for the sauce, which gently simmers for more than 3 hours. Philological recipes call for dry mushrooms, and do not forget about the wine (white for veal, red for beef). The stuffing should contain at least 30% vegetables (what a difference from Piedmont), and should rest for at least half a day. Gastronome writer Ratto used it to fill funghi rossi, baked with tocco and Parmigiano. Massimino (SV), probably the tiniest Comune in Liguria, lays claim as the mother country of ravioli di magro thanks to the castellane (vegetable ravioli) tradition. Genial violinist Niccolò Paganini wrote an autograph recipe for ravioli in 1840. Wine matching: red, DOC Riviera ligure di ponente Rossese.



Thursday, 10 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PESTO - BASIL PESTO


"Savore d'aglio", "garlic flavour, or the greatest symbol of Ligurian cuisine. Born around 1830 (when it was prepared with Gouda cheese), it clearly echoes "moretum", an ancient Roman sauce. Healthy, scenting and versatile, it boasts a perfect balance of ingredients that represent the glory of local rurality (basil, oil, garlic…), and a flying visit to nearby Emilia and Sardinia as regards cheese (24-month Parmigiano and Pecorino). Originally, it was served as a condiment for bollito. The Riviera di Ponente goes for a slightly punget pesto, whereas the Riviera di Levante opts for creamier versions (often inclusive of prescinseua). "Pesto corto" features a tomato brunoise and less garlic. In 2004 "Crespi & Figli" from Ceriana (IM), established in 1925, was the first Italian business to achieve the UNI 10939 certification for the traceability of the whole system. The best matches for pesto are lasagne (dialect mandilli, i.e. handkerchiefs), trenette, trofie (pasta twists probably invented inn the Golfo Paradiso) and gnocchi. A pine nuts-free version usually features as the final touch of minestrone alla genovese (see above). The 7 elements of this artful recipe are pound with a hard wood pestle into a marble mortar (Carrara and the Apuan Alps are a short distance away). Pesto purists would shriek at the mere thought of a blender, which could "burn" the precious olfactory qualities of the basil, so remember to keep the blades' speed very low. Fred Plotkin precise remark "Ligurians have basil instinct" successfully describes the locals' knack for the precious herb, grown at its best (small, round leaves) in the hills of Prà (outskirts of Genoa), an area blessed by a unique sun - sea breeze combination. Vessalico, a tiny village of the Valle Arroscia between the provinces of Imperia and Savona, provides the garlic (a Slow Food presidium). Storing pesto is a matter of airtight jars, clean and dry, and thin olive oil layers to protect the sauce from oxidation.


Recipe (4 people)
4 bunches of Genova-Prà basil, 2 tablespoons pine nuts (ask for Pisa pinoli), 50 gr grated Parmigiano, 30 gr grated Pecorino Sardo, 2 cloves Vessalico garlic, 4 tablespoons Ligurian extravirgin oil, 1 pinch coarse salt.

Put the basil leaves (washed and dry), the pine nuts, the garlic (remove the green heart) and the salt into the mortar. Pound the ingredients and gradually add the two cheeses. Slowly blend the mix with the olive oil. Regional gourmets add a spoonful of the boiling water to the pesto before dressing the pasta. Please note that the mortar should be washed with water and vinegar.



GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PANSOTI - POT BELLIED RAVIOLI



This typical preparation of the Golfo Paradiso (Bogliasco, Pieve Ligure, Sori, Recco), a stone's throw from Genoa, is traditionally served with walnut sauce, a mortar delicacy made with garlic, marjoram, pine nuts, walnuts, bread (soaked into milk), Parmigiano, salt and oil. These excellent pot bellied square ravioli (a.k.a. ravioli del Levante) are stuffed with greens, ricotta (prescinseua in the past) and fresh herbs - the Portofino promontory is right around the corner… - called preboggiòn mixed with grated Parmigiano. The La Spezia version asks for rice, leeks and raisins, whereas the cappellasci (featuring preboggiòn, too) are round. Cooking is very rapid (3 min.). Wine matching: white, DOC Riviera di Ponente Pigato or Vermentino (from any of the 4 DOCs Riviera di Ponente, Val Polcevera, Golfo del Tigullio, Colli di Luni).

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE LIGURIAN RIVIERA: PANISSA - CHICK PEA POLENTA


Innovative - yet traditionally mouthwatering - panissa salad beignets...


Sottoripa, the medieval porticoed area by the port of Genoa, is the cradle of this exquisite treat, once prepared during the Lent period. This chick-pea flour polenta (recipes and proportions abound, but remember that water bath is the best technique) is set out in oil-veiled soup plates. Cut into slices, it is fried or served into a salad with onions or stewed beet greens. Old cookbooks boast a gourmet gratin version, inclusive of mushroom sauce and Parmigiano. In the entroterra the panissa is firmer, and sometimes is made with different sorts of legume flours: the Valle Arroscia (IM) opts for pea-flour, and the panissa is eaten with curd cheese or with a dressing of oil, vinegar, onions and garlic. Panissa is often mistaken with paniccia, a Piedmontese risotto prepared with beans and black cabbage. Both panissa and paniccia derive their names from panicum, a cereal used during the most ancient of times. Wine matching: white, DOC Golfo del Tigullio Bianchetta (though some go for sparkling wines).






Monday, 7 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: PANDOLCE - GENOA CAKE


Pandolce basso according to pasticceria Panarello

Known all over the world as “Genoa cake”, the spendid emblem of Genoese Christmas pasticceria inherited a 16th century wealth of ingredients (raisins, pine nuts, candied fruit…) from ancient Eastern traditions. The origins of this demanding preparation (a cook’s pièce de résistance) are said to date back to Andrea Doria, who announced a competition dedicated to the master pastry chefs of the Superba. Pandolce is must throughout Liguria, from Sanremo (IM), where it is called the “pan du bambin”, to Alassio (SV), where it is lavishly prepared by pasticceria Cacciamani.
Ingredients include flour, yeasts (leavening takes up to 6 hours), butter, pine nuts, sugar, fennel seeds, candied citron cubes, raisins, orange flower water, an optional dash of Marsala wine (once, they also featured acacia honey). 24 hours after baking, the time has come for the ritual laurel bough decoration and for consumption. The first piece is still to be cut by the youngest member of the family. One slice was reserved for the first beggar who knocked at the doorand a special portion (wrapped) was set aside for February 3rd, when San Biagio, the throat’s patron saint, was feasted. The pandolce basso (a relatively recent recipe): a low cake, asking for a shorter preparation, richer in eggs and poorer in yeast. Ancient Ligurian lore accounts for the habit of bringing the rough bun to the baker for a bit of professional cooking... Wine matching: moscato, DOC Golfo del Tigullio (pandolce alto); passito, DOC Riviera di Ponente or DOC Val Polcevera (pandolce basso).

Luisa Puppo
Ligucibario

Friday, 4 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: OLIO - EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

Its name deriving from the Greek elaion, olive oil reached Italy during the 4th century B.C., but for a long time it remained an exclusive treat of the well-to-do, the other strata of society sticking to strutto (clarified pork fat), nut oil, and a little butter. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the diffusion of oil (both as a condiment and a preservative), popularity being fostered by new technological innovations (i.e. hydraulic presses). Italy boasts a 700,000-ton yearly production and 38 DOPS, confirming remarkable variety and quality. Different acidity and peroxide levels account for the standard classification: extra virgin, virgin, corrente (to be blended with less acidic oils) and lampante (not fit for alimentary use).
In Liguria, oil has never followed monothematic leit motifs: surprises abound in a land where good (in more way than one) food has always represented one of the facet of historical popular wisdom (the hamlet of Varignano, near La Spezia, treasures the remains of a 2,000-year old oil mill…). The healthy qualities of oil (emollient, laxative, protective…).
Aurigo, Borgomaro, Diano San Pietro, Imperia, Lucinasco, Perinaldo, Ranzo, Villa Faraldi, Andora, Arnasco, Nasino, Toirano, Leivi, Moneglia, Pieve Ligure, Sestri Levante, Castelnuovo Magra…, from the ponente to the levante, have I forgotten any of the capitals of Ligurian oil? These few lines fail in containing the production of the whole regional arch. Oil boasts a millenary history and a brilliant future as the emblem of the Mediterranean diet (recent EU regulations call for stricter rules against forgery). Ligurian oil (a DOP since 1997) is the star of a myriad fairs: Apricale (IM) in March, Moneglia (GE) on Easter Monday, Baiardo (IM) in May, Leivi (GE) at the end of July, Toirano (SV) at the beginning of August, Rocchetta Nervina (IM) in November …
The Riviera di Ponente supplies the best Ligurian oil, straw yellow in colour and delicate – its flavor reminiscent of wild flowers, pine nuts and walnuts, sometimes slightly pungent. The darker the oil, the more intense the olive. A niche production (the triumph of quality over quantity), yield suffering the odds of boith frost and drought. Harvesting takes place within the first months of the year. Olives are often processed the old way in ancient oil mills endowed with granite presses.
The best companion for vegetable, pasta and fish dishes, Ligurian oil is the final expression of patiently tilled terraces, the trademark of the Rivere since the Early Middle Ages. The Benedictine monks applied their agricultural skills to the taggiasca variety, which is today’s champion all over the region; yet, do not miss remarkable lavagnina and arnasca - the protagonist of a touching museo Civiltà Contadina ad Arnasco (SV), Piazza IV novembre 8, tel. 0182 761178). Off the beaten gourmet tracks include the Frantoio-museo in Cervo (IM), Via Matteotti 31, tel. 0183 408149, the Museo delle Erbe in Cosio d’Arroscia (IM), Piazzetta Mazzini, tel. 0183 36278, the Museo del Pastore e della Civiltà delle Malghe in Mendatica (IM), tel. 0183 328713, the Museo Etnografico della Civiltà Contadina in Toirano (SV), Via Polla 12, tel. 0182 989968 (phone for checking opening hours in advance).




Luisa Puppo


Ligucibario

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: MUSCOLI (MUSSELS)

Mussels, the bliss of the gulf of La Spezia


Mussels, their same name testifying their strong... opposition to opening when raw, are one of Liguria's gastronomic cults - several festivals celebrate them throughout the region, do not miss the July fair in Olivetta San Michele (IM). the protagonists of a hundred recipes (from pasta dishes to frittate), they are at their best when stuffed , a typical preparation of the La Spezia area boasting a glorious history of mussel farming. The filling, a lavish mix of mortadella, prosciutto cotto, grated Parmigiano and eggs (make it one for each diner), pays tribute to the neighbouring Emilia region. Tied, the mussels are baked with tomato sauce (20 min.). Their shell shell removed, in Recco mussel balls are piked with stecchi (twigs). Wine matching: rosé, DOC Pornassio Sciac-trà.

GOURMET WORDS FROM THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: MINESTRONE ALLA GENOVESE

Minestrone alla genovese, the king of vegetable soups

“The milestone of Ligurian patriarchal cuisine…a secret scenting of basil and pound garlic, bathed in strong cheese…”. The words of drama critic Enrico Bassano are the best introduction to the magic of menestrun, a typical Spring or Autumn dish that – according to tradition – should be served with 4 selected kinds of pasta only: brichetti (matches), scucussùn (small, round grains), maccheroncini (short pasta tubes), ridged or smooth (mostaccioli) and tagliatelle. Minestrone was the number one fare provided by catrai (floating “trattoria” barges), once siding ships entering the port of Genoa: they supplied the bliss of fresh vegetables to sailors returning from sea voyages. Vegetable variety, time (preparation and cooking may take some hours) and cooling (30 minutes) are the main steps to successful results, not to forget a final dollop of the afore mentioned pesto (in this case, frugal Ligurian home cooks omit pine nuts). Wine matching: white, Vermentino (from any of the 4 DOCs Riviera di Ponente, Val Polcevera, Golfo del Tigullio, Colli di Luni) – but the Ponente goes for red, DOC Pornassio.



Luisa Puppo

Ligucibario