Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The first meal!

*Nonna Tetti*

Staring bright eyed at my Antipasti Di Casa, I was overwhelmed with new ideas. Typical vedura appetizers were transformed by simple approach. Let’s dance…

The Potato salad was dusted with fresh Oregano and just under-ripened Tomatoes. Onions, which were first blanched (likely in White Wine Vinegar), held their crunch and cavorted like local inhabitants to the dish. However the dishes shining moment was what appeared to be Parsley was instead baby Arugala. Its subtle pepperiness, much like parsley, lifted the dish with a bright kick. A simple “substitution”, was more like a simple “revelation”.

A cabbage slaw, at first glance looked familiar, until my first bite. Like thin Linguini I twirled it in my fork to capture not only its length but the juices it swam in. I began to question how to effectively use lemon. Too often its tanginess usurps a dishes appeal. While on the Amalfi Coast, I asked repeatedly why the abundance of local lemons were not translated into the savory food, but no one ever affectively responded. I now think it was merely too heady to explain. This would be the first of my many “Olive Oil” epiphanies; its relationship with lemon.

From the vaults, taken with a camera phone! A year ago I made a large platter of a shaved beet and carrot salad. I used fresh orange juice and a heavy dose of a blood orange olive oil. It was garnished with Cilantro. As I continue to travel throughout Italy, I am amazed by how many things I have made in my own home which (without knowing) reference very regional Italian cooking. My beet salad, a very fusion example, expresses a similar personality, bite and approach! It is my parpadelle to their linguini. I am now learned enough to perfect it when I return!

My Olive Oil / Lemon discourse continued with my next antipasto of thinly sliced Zucchini with shredded Granno cheese, Lemon and Olive Oil. You will find that I will be including Olive Oil as an ingredient in future posts, because chefs here know how and when to use it; its finish is more than the active “agent” approach it is often given. I loved this dishes simplicity; my mind wandering to the thought of a whole grilled fish with this happily being its side/contorni.

Lastly, a duo of lengthy and confident grilled peppers (one green and one red) stared at me like friendly senior citizens. Slightly shriveled they had that look of a good story; the shine of achievements and sacrifice. Indeed they were fantastic, but it was the rock salt applied after grilling (or roasting) which had me agasp. A short interlude below…

Salt Application:

One of my very first learning’s on the farm was about salt application, which I would now describe simply as “balance”. When making a large portion of Tomato Sauce it is important for it to be properly salted. Perhaps it will be reheated and over time will lose an inch of character. If served to children it will likely be solo, without added vegetables or a meat to accompany. So in essence, Salt is one of the most important and/or distinct flavors of simplicity. On many occasions we over salted (not me, the “dinner ladies”). They would ask “tu piache?” and I would awkwardly say “ci, ma forse troppio sale” (yes, but maybe a bit too much salt). In these instances, no one was concerned because when making the pasta they would negate the salt for balance. A simple finger dip in the sauce and/or pasta water would determine the needed application. Although this sounds obvious, it became a skill that I would hone in on; being a barometer of taste.

Had it not been for the rock salt, the peppers would have been bland, albeit beautifully cooked.

Although I had a secondi (a lamb liver involtini, much like a sausage) it was my antipasti that I felt most worthy of the review. Ciao Ciao for now…


Margaret said...

oooh - so exciting! all this new food, new flavors - potatoes? cabbage? It's a whole new world of traditional Italian - can't wait to hear what happens next....

Jessa said...

so true about balance. always balance. the only time anything tases like salt - is when it is over salted. when they used that salt on the peppers, it only brought out the true flavor of them, or, as you said, they would have been bland.
i dearly love how you are learning so much about the hows and whys, then being able to to connect it to your deep love of food. it is true... you knew all along.