There’s been a decided chill in the air over the past few days and in a concrete apartment with marble floors it is more noticeable. So what better way to ward off an Autumn chill than a hot bowl of Minestrone liberally sprinkled with grated provolone, a loaf of crusty bread, a plate of spicy olives and a nice robust Chianti. And maybe some spiced cold meats as an antipasti to get the appetite in shape. Follow that up with some of those late season pears and a chocolate biscotti and Saturday night should be just fine.
What we have here are the fixin’s for tonight’s dinner: a Neapolitan Minestrone. There are as many types of Minestrone as there are regions in Italy and as may variations on those types as there are Nonne (Grandmas) in the regions. Guess this is going to be Nonno Willym’s version.
The recipe I’m using is from that classic of Italian Cooking Il cucchiaio d’argento (The Silver Spoon). Thankfully this 1200 page bible of Italian cooking has been translated into English and published by Phaidon in 2005 (back then the price in Euros was exactly the same as the price in USD – oh how times have changed.) Originally published in Italy in 1950 Cucchiaio was an attempt to preserve old recipes which were fast disappearing from household kitchens. Now in its 8th edition, some of the recipes have been updated to cater to current tastes but many of the old recipes remain – I know I’m just going to run out and get the ingredients for Brain Sauce*. The book is still a traditional wedding gift for an Italian bride (I know, I know but in many ways they’re still in a time warp here, hell women didn’t have the right to vote in Italy back in 1950.)
I’ve tried a few of the recipes and like most Italian recipes they are simple and quick but depend on the ingredients being fresh, preferably local and tasting the way they should.
1 bay leaf
1 small lamb’s brain, membranes and blood vessels removed (I should hope so) and soaked in water for 1 hour
2 eggs, hard-boiled
olive oil, for drizzling
1 baby onion, chopped
1 fresh parsley spring, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon, strained
Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Drain the brain, add to the saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the brain, place in a bowl and crush carefully with a wooden spoon. Shell and halve the eggs and scoop the yolks into the bowl. Stir the mixture, drizzling in the olive oil to obtain a pouring consistency. Stir in the onion and capers and season with lemon juice and salt to taste.
Service with boiled meats.
Unfortuantely I don’t like boiled meat.
20 ottobre – Santa Irena