Most Italian shops and markets still only offer food in season, and June is the beginning of the friggitelli season. These are long green peppers, latin name capiscum annuum. They are known outside Italy as Italian sweet peppers or Tuscan peppers. You can eat them lightly cooked as an accompaniment to meat (the go great with barbecue), as an antipasto, or as part of a pot luck salad spread.
Italian food may be simple, but often it’s not fast: but that’s one of its charms. Good ingredients, cooked well. It’s no surprise therefore that the Slow Food movement started in Italy. Traditionally, a lot of the more time-consuming dishes would have been cooked by housewives while their husbands were out at work, and so often consist of dishes which can cook more or less unattended while you get on with other chores. A good example is the authentic ragù which would be cooked slowly for about three hours. If you’ve ever tasted a three-hour ragù, you’ll appreciate why.
After pizza, spaghetti alla carbonara is probably Italy’s most famous dish, but also its most controversial. Everybody knows that this plate of bacon-and-egg pasta is supposed to have a rich, creamy, sauce, but few know the real secret of how to achieve it. Outside—and even inside—Italy, people often cheat and add a little (or sometimes a lot of) cream to get the right consistency. But to purists (and even not so purists), cream might as well come in bottles with the number 666 printed on the label. They will tell you, with a stronger than religious fervour, that it is not part of the original recipe. Nor, for that matter are peas.
It’s no secret that I love aubergines, or eggplants as some of you call them, or … well for argument’s sake let’s call them melanzane, the Italian word. So, it’s no secret that I love melanzane and would probably eat them every day, if I could. When cooked properly, they have the same mouth-puckering strength as a quality mature cheese. It’s no secret that I love cheese, or fromage, or … well let’s call it formaggio.
This weekend I had some friends from out of town visiting and wanted to cook something typically Venetian. I planned to serve the mazzancolle in saor from the last post, a risotto al nero di seppia—more about that in a later post—but what about the dessert? Everyone loves tiramisù it’s true, but I am a little bored making it. So I decided to come up with a completely original dessert. Something within the Venetian tradition and connected with the city’s rich history and culture. And so the Tintoretto was born.
An early morning trip to the Rialto fish market in Venice is always a treat. This morning, after coffee and a croissant at my favourite coffee bar in Venice, Torrefazione Cannaregio, I hopped across the Grand Canal at the Santa Sofia, traghetto (a traditional gondola ferryboat) and on to the fish market. I was in search of mazzancolle a type of king prawn in order to make one of the most Venetian of dishes, mazzancolle in saor.