Sharing – Food Glorious Food

I honestly dare anyone who lives here for any length of time not to become obsessed with food. In the morning as I munch my gluten-free toast with Calve All Natural Peanut Butter – how ever will I go back to that Kraft Krap I once loved – my mind is racing as to what we will have for dinner. Of course menus change radically when the almost daily visit to the butcher and vegetable stall reveal something that you just can’t resist or when an old favorite has come into its own and you want to grab the first of the season.

In a spirit of sharing I thought I’d provide a few more food photos and a few links to some wonderful food and foodies sites – some I check regularly and one that I hadn’t seen before.

Another antipasti treat from Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba – they are going to have to put me on the payroll soon. Their tower of grilled vegetables was a marvel of fresh grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow pepper with tomatoes and basil sauce.
Zucchini flowers are ubiquitous here in Italy. You will find most trattoria – or at least in the south – have Fiori di Zucca on the menu as an antipasti. Normally these would be zucchini flowers stuffed with a strip of anchovy and a small bar of pecorino, dipped in a batter and deep fried. Michelle over at Bleeding Espresso – or rather her husband’s aunt – has come up with a simple recipe for zucchini flower fritters which sounds delicious. And she has links to a few variations on the standard Fiori recipes.
On my trip up to see Il Trovatore at the Arena I stopped in for lunch at a family owned Osteria Casa Vino where we had enjoyed two meals in Verona last year. The train had been behind schedule and it was 2:45 when I asked about lunch – I was reminded that it was a bit late but when I said I had memories of their polenta antipasti I was shown to a table. Three slices of grilled polenta with Gorgonzola, Lardo and Salmai toppings – shear heaven with a glass of local white wine. And as I recall we had done on our first visit as they finished lunch the couple at the next table made reservations for dinner that night.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Laurent had a wonderful panzanella (bread salad) at Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba last month. When visiting my friend Wendy Holloway’s The Flavor of Italy I was moved to click on one of her links which took me to A Stove with a House Around It and a quick, easy and tasty looking version of Panzanella using a minimum of ingredients. A nice dish to remind you of the tastes of summer as autumn comes upon us.
n the past three years I have acquired a taste for things that were never on the menu at our very anglo-post war home when I growing up. Nothing really drastically unusual but not your standard 1950s fare. Yesterday I had a very good Wild Boar stew at one of our favorite local restaurants and in Pesaro at the Bristolino sampled Bibo’s Octopus carpacio. Paper thin slices of perfectly cooked octopus dressed lightly with oil, peppercorns and green onions.

Wendy at The Flavor of Italy doesn’t post all that often – she has her hands full with her B&B, her cooking courses and a few other pans on the burners. But when something comes into season she passes on recipes to make the most of what’s become available. Her lavender crop was plentiful earlier this year so as a dolci – or just a sinful pleasure – she made Lavender-Honey Gelato. I’m not sure if I’ll try the recipe – I do have some lavender on the balcony – or just make the trip out to see her.

More traditional was the ricotta and spinach stuff ravioli at H2NO but being the sort of place it was there was a twist – fresh salmon in a light cream sauce. That man knows what to do with fish!

Moving away from Italy – about 9000 kms more or less – to the Pacific Coast of Canada and my old friend Dan Peiser sitting at the big picture window looking out over the Gulf in his beautiful home on Galeano Island. I can’t believe its been almost a year since he started posting IslandEat and I don’t think I’ve made reference to it at all!!! Some friend!! As well as food preparation and food talk Dan has been sharing a delightful series of recipes he found amongst his grandmother Jessie’s papers. In his What Would Jessie Dish series he mixes her handwritten – and often cryptic – recipes with family photos and reminiscences. The most recent recipe is for simple Brown Sugar Cookies – and as always with it comes a stream of memories of a lady I would have love to meet.

23 settembre – San Padre Pio da Pietrelcina

Pesaro – A Seafood Extravaganza

Just around the corner from El Cid, our breakfast and aperitivo haunt, there is a building attached to The Bristol, one of the many three star hotels that dot the beach front. The veranda is unprepossessing with a few plants and white plastic furniture. The sign says Ristorante Bristolino “Lorenzo e Bibo” – Specialita di pesce.

A step through the door was a revelation. The decor is “Early Grandma Knick Knack” with vases, silk flowers, candlesticks, dolls, lamps, plants, plush velvet, chintz prints. The only thing missing is the thin coating of dust and antimacassars that would have made this a visit to Grandmother’s house.

But the decor wasn’t the only revelation. Lorenzo, of the aforementioned team, is Lorenzo di Grazioli who runs the restaurant and Bibo is his brother who is the chef. Together with a team of efficient, black-clad ladies they turn out a seafood only menu that was one of the finer meals I’ve had in Italy.

There is no printed menu – well by law there has to be but Lorenzo prefers to come to the table and tell you what’s cooking tonight. A small man with a fly-away halo of gray hair he seems to have his eye on everything going on while still finding time to chat and make his clients feel comfortable. Once he has taken your order his well drilled group of ladies spring into action. It wasn’t until my friend Robert mentioned it the other evening that it twigged on me, but it is not usual to see an all female serving team in restaurants; you do see women serving food but normally they are the mother or daughter of the family giving a hand. The sommelier was also a woman – severe black dress, horn-rimmed glasses, hair in a bun – the only thing missing was the pencil in the bun and she could have been the office efficiency expert. But she knew her wines and after ascertaining our main course fish and our preferences – something dry from the region, she made her suggestion. She may have looked like Miss Marplestein but she knew her wines and produced a very nice Verdicchio di Jesi that matched our choice of Rombo (turbot) perfectly.

A fresh baked foccacio studded with tomato was set before us just in case we were a bit peckish.

We had ordered the seafood antipasti and to be honest were expecting the standard large plate with a selection of goodies from the sea. Here’s what we got:

The first plate was Spada Cerviche: six or seven slices of tender swordfish with a slight citrus tang from the lemon and orange that it had been marinating in.
A Macedonia del mare followed: a mix of clams, mussels, calamari, olives, tomato, finocchio and celery lightly dressed with olive oil.
A capasanta on its shell:a single sweet scallop baked with a blanket of crumbs,red pepper and olive.
As the last of the antipasti there were Gamberetti: four plump and tender shrimp wrapped in pancetta and lightly coated in very fine crumbs. A spray bottle of balsamic vinegar was provided so you could spritz them for added flavour. Not a combination I would have thought of …. but it worked.

At that point I was wondering how I could manage a main course but Rombo is one of my favorites so I thought I’d try. It was the only slight disappointment – and I stress slight – of the evening. I found that though it was good – and the roast vegetables that surrounded it delicious – it could have had more flavour. But I was still able to leave behind only a few bones.

The Main course: Turbot baked in the oven with potatoes, zucchini, melanzane and several other vegetables.

Then came a slight breather in the service so we could finish our wine and relax for a bit more to come, just in case we were still hungry.

Along with two two bottles of ice cold degestifs – lemoncello and amaro nero – came a plate of cakes.
“Do you have room for a dolci, ” asked Lorenzo. The affirmative answer yield up this extravagant fantasy of gelato, fruits, whipped cream and nuts – a sundae gone wild!
But not quite the end – you can’t have a meal without coffee.

There is a running joke here: What’s the hardiest thing to get in an Italian restaurant? The Bill! And the Bristolino was no exception, it did take awhile to get the tab but then we weren’t that eager to see it because we were expecting a hefty account and didn’t want the pleasure of the moment spoiled by talk of filthy cash. When it finally came we were stunned – Euro 100.00 (CAD150.00)for everything – food, water, wine and coffee.

We had been chatting briefly with Lorenzo throughout the evening and he had been attentive and fussed over us – as he did all his clients. As we got up to leave he came over to the table, thanked us for coming, hugged us and admonished us with a finger wag to come back again. You know that decor may have been the key, aside from the fact that she never cooked like that it was a little bit like visiting Grandma’s house.

23 agosto – Santa Rosa da Lima