In restaurants around the world, Italian food is forced into the menu straightjacket of Starter, Main Course, and Dessert, a holy trinity that doesn’t exist in Italy. The result is that dishes are found on the wrong part of the menu, leading the diner to fundamentally misunderstand how Italian food is, and is meant to be eaten, as well as missing out on the much vaunted benefits of an Italian diet.
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.
Until the 1960s, Carpaccio was a Venetian painter whose renaissance canvases are valued as a record of what the city looked like during his lifetime. Today, historians pore over his works extracting knowledge of the minutiae of sixteenth-century Venetian dress and architecture contained in them, including a detailed rendition of the old wooden Rialto bridge. But in 1963, Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the now almost mythical Harry’s Bar, invented a dish subtle slices of raw meat and named it for the painter—there was an exhibition of his work in the city at the time—and for future generations the name became associated more with culinary than with visual arts.
This recipe is from Tuscany.
Crostini are an important part of Tuscan cuisine and feature as the antipasto on high days and holidays. They consist of small pieces of lightly toasted bread topped with a variety of ingredients. Last summer I did a post about the traditional toppings which you can read here, however you can really put what you want on top as things come in and go out of season.
Salami is one of the most famous of all Italian ingredients and forms part of antipasto platters and pizza toppings up and down the peninsula. Travelling around Italy however, once again, you notice that every region has its own variations and varieties. Perhaps the most famous Tuscan salami, and certainly my favourite, is finocchiona, a pork and red wine salami flavoured with fennel, a combination that has to be tasted to be believed.