Posted by Maureen
on Jun 7th, 2012 in Cheese
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This is real Italian food. They’re not over here just eating pizza and spaghetti. And they’re NOT eating “Fettucine Alfredo”! (If you see it on a menu, it’s only there for the tourists.) The range of Italian food is so vast. It truly does change every hundred kilometers. And most of it is nothing like seen in “Italian Restaurants” in the U.S.
When here, I eat everything that’s regional and typical to an area. I eat what I can’t get in Seattle. As I travel and seek out a meal, I always ask what the local specialties are and then expand my view of “Italian Food”. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve eaten in the last three weeks.
Soprassata Fiorentina • "Head Cheese" from Florence. I had this when living here a couple of years ago. Found it at a street market with no refrigeration, no running water. This is made of all the extra "head parts" that are cooked and congealed together with seasoning. Mmm. Yummy on a slice of bread. Must be 99% fat.
Fragolini • Little, wild strawberries found growing in the weeds in my courtyard. Actually, they had very little flavor, but I have seen them being sold at the market.
Lardo di Colonnata and Gorgonzola Dolce • Aged, seasoned lard (below, with a streak of meat), and creamy, mild "Sweet" Gorgonzola cheese (above). Both fantastic on a good hunk of bread. (Who needs butter?!)
Torta di Mele, con Gelato di Vaniglia • Apple Tart with Vanilla Gelato. A rare, sweet splurge for me.
Insalata di songino, pomodori e burratina con olio e aceto • Salad of "lamb's lettuce", cherry tomatoes and "burratina" cheese, drizzled with olive oil and a thick balsamic "cream". Burratina is a small version of "Burrata", a fist-sized ball with an outer layer like fresh mozzarella about 1/8" thick, containing soft, creamy/runny, semi-solid cheese within. Heaven on a bed of greens!
Panzerotto Luini • Deep-fried bread pocket (filled with spinach and ricotta) from Luini's by the Duomo. Inexpensive, hand-food that the locals all know about. Carry it around and eat it while walking.
Ribollita • Tuscan bread and vegetable soup, eaten in Firenze (Florence). The name means, literally "reboiled".
Spiedina di carne mista • It WAS a skewer of mixed meats, in this case sausage and pork, eaten in Firenze.
Porcini • Two porcini mushrooms for 12 Euro at the street market (about $15!) All the time that I had lived here I never bought fresh porcini! I had to splurge at least once.
Porcini e Pomodori • Porcini and tomatoes (and brooms), cooking in my 35" wide kitchen/broom closet. I brought the porcini home and cooked them up; also sauteéd some fresh cherry tomatoes.
Porcini with vegetable ravioli, and sauteéd fresh cherry tomatoes with meat ravioli, fresh from the street market.
Pastries from Spezia Pasticceria. My favorites are the Babá in the upper right: sponge cakes absolutely drenched with sweetened rum, with sweet ricotta filling in the middle. One bite and the rum sauce runs down your arm.
My favorite meats (clockwise from the top): Prosciutto (Crudo, di Parma), Bresaola, Mortadella with pistachios. It's an art ordering your prosciutto cut! The bresaola is 100% lean (also available in horse meat). Mortadella: think "baloney" from when you were a kid, then multiply by 100. This mortadella has pistachios and peppercorns in it, and yes those are chunks of (white) fat.
Here's the receipt for the meats above: 50 grams of Bresaola for 1,50 euro; 100 grams ("un etto") Mortadella for 1,29 euro; 50 grams of Prosciutto di Parma for 1,35 euro. I had also bought "Gorgonzola Dolce", the gooey, creamy, mild gorgonzola for 1,88 euro, and "Vitello Tonnato", thin-sliced, roasted veal with a pureed tuna mayonnaise sauce on top for 2,47 euro. This was several days' food for a girlfriend and me for 8,49 euro, about $10.66. (Makes up for the cost of the porcini.)
Bresaola, my favorite. An air-dried, salted beef that has been aged 2-3 months. Almost completely lean, no fat. Sliced paper thin, and when it's very good, it is moist and supple, not dry and leathery. Note how translucent it is! I can't buy Italian Bresaola in the U.S. Too many fears of "mad cow disease".
Insalata con mozzarella di bufala, pomodori e basilico. Vitello tonnato • A salad with fresh mozarella di bufala (yes, buffalo milk), tomatoes, basil, served with "vitello tonnato", the thin-sliced veal with pureed tuna/mayonnaise sauce.
Salsiccia e fagioli • Sausage and beans, a very Tuscan meal eaten in Firenze.
Verdure al forno • Tuscan oven-roasted vegetables, in Firenze.