Thursday, May 28, 2009

Under the Toscolano sun

I spent this past weekend as a guest in the warm hospitality of the Russonello family, at their retreat, tucked away in the verdant rolling hillsides of central Umbria. When we weren't watching the godfather trilogy in their very spacious and welcoming open-plan livingroom, dining room, kitchen space, we went on driving tours of the small [very very small] hilltop villages of the area. In the summer, many of these villages have festivals, one of which featured a black sabbath cover band. Out of all the delicious food, drink, and gelato, I gotta say the one that stayed with me was the cinghiale, which is wild-boar in Dante's language, and flavorful on a different level.

The dish itself was of a soupy consistency with large chunks of wildboar crowding throughout. I don't think I could describe all the tastes that went on in that dish, but i'll try. Most prominently there was lemon which gave the meat broth a unique bite that i'll have to experiment with, the rinds that were left over were soft and delectable as well [i do so love lemons], then there was the juniper leaves, there was a hint of it in the broth, but when you suddenly had a chunk of boar with juniper on it, the flavor punched your face, in the face, with gin-tinged delight. Next was the olives, small black olives with flesh barely covering its enormous pit [which often threatend to break my teeth] and they hid in the soup like little landmines, but the saltiness was definitely a neccessary compliment to the pork. I had to tell the waiter to aspetta for a few minutes while i mopped up the last bits of sauce with some saltless umbrian bread. We washed this down with a bottle of Montefalco, which had a very abrasive taste, but seemed different after each glass. I'd contend that it tasted really sweet when directly following a bite of cinghiale. I'm not going to feign a comprehensive knowledge of wine, but i do know that a san giovese can be bought cheap and never lets you down.

ma dai!!

hrmph. I'm torn. I feel my cooking career reaching a premature demise, it will be euthanized by a lack of european grocers. I sense this because of a bad omen, my world famous lemon cheesecake, came out completely bland, after spending 6 hours making 3 of them, one of which is going into an end of the year potluck being held at the paglietta apartment.

In my defense, [against my own criticism] the ricotta, cream cheese, egg, and flour cake batter tastes exactly how it sounds, light and delicate with just the right cakeyness that i was searching for. Even the crust came out as terriffic as it did originally. But i forgot to add the one thing that makes dessert a dessert and that is sugar.. how'd i forget this? a culinary mishap due to a rushed single handed operation and a disorganized workspace, and i was so proud at the time..

well i suppose my hubris will be rewarded with a lesson of some sort.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I can accomplish while waiting for an Italian professor to show up for a final exam:

-take my final exam
-recite every line from yacht rock in my head
-hunt unicorn
-consider a lemon
-bitch about my professor being late
-forget all the material I crammed the night before
-count to infinity
-get wine drunk to improve my spoken italian

thinking about an Italian showing up on time to something is almost as ridiculous as thinking that an Italian would consider forming a line for something, rather than a mob of wild hand gesticulation. I'd also like to take this time to contemplate why Italians, unlike other people around the world, use their alternative methods of transportation in order to obtain a slower speed, like the bus [which only comes on time when i don't need it, and in that case it will come in fleets] which only travels around or obliquely through the city, so its really no more convenient than walking. On one occasion I actually saw someone sitting on a vespa and using their feet to move forward,they will stop at nothing to impede my use of the sidewalk. I'm not so sure I'll miss these absolutely charming aspects of Italian culture.

this is also my first non food related post, wowzers.

C.R.E.A.M. sauce

the other evening, before I embarked on thinking about studying for the rest of the night, me and some cohorts decided to have a little dinner get-together. We purchased a ton of spaghetti, although spaghetti has a pretty loose definition here, it looked more like really thin tagliatelle, but i'm not quite sure what the difference is. Anywho, i whipped up my very first cream sauce, and it was deliciously subtle.

Get a pot all hot and bothered:
-melt some buttah, by some i mean as much as you can look at without making yourself sick.
-add in some milk and flour, this is what makes the entire base of your sauce, so use as much as neccessary for the amount of pasta your making, and you want enough flour so it gets kinda goopy.
-some concentrated tomato paste all up in there so it turns a nice orange
-let that bubble for a little while, stir it so it doesn't get burned to the sides of the pot.
-add in yer spices (i used white pepper and salt)
[so far, it should probably taste like nothing]
-throw in some diced up cubes of Spicy Sausage/pepperoni, this mixes in with the sauce and creates an amazingly light spicyness,
-also add a bunch of rucola, which has an amazing flavor all its own, you'll smell it, and you'll smell it good. now this is where your flavor comes from
-I also threw in a bunch of cubed baby tomatoes, but i don't really remember tasting them, so that's your call.
-just stir that for a few minutes, its done.

its really simple and delishus.
-for your health.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Risotto Hypothesis

While enjoying an amazing dinner prepared by/with 4 of my favorite ladies in Bologna, in a spacious apartment, high up (relatively speaking) 6 floors above Via Boldrini on the northside of the city, an idea for a dinner experiment glittered in my eye.

The Dishes for this meal would be:
-Bleu cheese Risotto, sounds wierd, but i haven't met a wierd risotto that i didn't like. (small portion)
-Buffalo style Chicken cutlet. While at Mambo (see below) Gio tells me that Buffalo sauce is just hot sauce with butter, I'm sure the lovely folks at the Anchor Bar would note there are some subtler nuances.
-I'm not sure what drink would go best with this dish, how about we ask you! the audience!... Beer you say? huh, that just might work.

- break for a quick food coma -

-Apple/pear,cinnamon/raisin crumble with redwine(a combination i dub sultry)
[note: Sofia wanted to do a cheddar apple/pear crumble, but cheddar is a rare commodity in this country, and i think it sounds silly. I'll have to get to the lab and study that combo.]
[[doublenote: Sofia redeems herself by adding potato skins as a side for the main dish, excellent!]]

MAMBO: Apperitivi time

Italy is home to a terrific little philosophy of pre-dinner eats known as apperitivo. Which translates into appetizers! Thanks, Word Reference! The process is simple, you walk into any bar, order a drink, and a full buffet of finger foods is layed open, vulnerable for your big fat American mouth to binge on.

The apperitivi at Mambo, the Museo d'arte moderna di Bologna (1000 internets to the [wo]man who translates that bit of Italian trickery) is especially dazzling to the senses. The food was great, pretty typical appertivo fair, lots of rice(with bits of steak), cous cous, pasta, even some chick peas with tuna. What made it for me was the cocktail selection, Watermelon!(hooray summer) and the continuous playlist of obscure songs covered by obscure artists.

The Cocktail I had was thus:
Real Mule (quickly punned with "as opposed to the fake mule? *eyeroll*")
-Ginger Beer
-Triple Sec
-Big ol' orange slices
-garnished with an orange wedge dusted with ginger

The combination of orange and ginger was just absolutely refreshing, a potent potable suited for summer consumption for sure.