Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Northern Italian Feast

Joe and I recently went to Northern Italy for two weeks. We stayed with a couple we’d met in the Bahamas, Gianluca and Egle. Their home in Milan made a great base for visiting Venice and their family’s homes. His folks live just outside Milan, and Egle’s dad lives in Trentino, up in the Dolomites (Italian Alps).

As you probably already know, a trademark of Italian cooking is to use fresh ingredients. This all inspired me to give it a try . . . a casual home style northern Italian meal.

I started with ¼” slices of Zucchini instead of crackers. I combined Sweet Pepper and Ancho Chili Chutney with Honey-Goat Cheese. It made a great little spread for the Zucchini discs. I also threw in a plate of thinly sliced Gruyere with whole wheat flat bread.
I opened a bottle of Chianti with our friend’s label. He had adopted a row of grapes and gifted us with a bottle of his personal stock. Great for the appetizers.
But now it was time to pull out the competition wine; “An Italian Blend”. We’ve never had such a diverse selection of wines. We headed outside to eat. Throughout the meal we kept a running dialogue on the wine and made notes on the glasses with our wine-glass markers.

Gianlucca’s parents prepared a feast for us one night, when we showed up hungry. His father kept getting up from the table, disappearing, and returning with vegetables which he’d cut up into big chunks. The freshness and bulkiness of it all inspired me. I went shopping with an open mind for what was fresh and seasonal. I ended up with a big bowl full of Boc Choy, Cucumbers, Tomatoes from my garden, Baby Bell Peppers, Snap Peas, and Avocados. Little dipping bowls were provided to doctor up their veggies (a very California thing); Poppyseed, Sesame Ginger, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.
While in Venice I tasted Torta Rustica for the first time at a little corner shop. I became obsessed. I had to repeat it for my dinner party. Egle and I practiced back at their condo. It was close. When I got home I attempted to replicate it, but was unable. Our ham is cured differently. That being said it came out pretty good.

Torta Rustica is extremely simple to make. Crust, ham, and mozzarella cheese. The only trick is to deal with all of the fluid produced during the cooking process. I made a baster-size chimney out of foil, and when the Torta was done I pulled the ham water out through the chimney. It worked. I roasted Asparagus and Carrots with Olive Oil and Herbs de Provence (we were very close to France J ).
For dessert, I got a hold of a fabulous recipe for Fresh Peaches marinated in pureed Basil. This I poured over store bought Italian-style Vanilla Gelato. Excellent.

So time for the unveiling of the wine. Mark and Melissa won with their Rosso Fuoco by Torre de Lancia. Dan and Denise pulled in a tight second with Rosso Piceno by Saladini Pilastri. We came in dead last with our Oreno 2010. It’s all about food pairing!
An added bonus was having A-Liu from Taiwan staying with us. She was my amazing prep-chef. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She wasn’t impressed with our wines until we opened the Muscato, and the Collaboration Port, Dan and Denise make, for dessert.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice writing Heidi! Love the Itailian theme.!Renee