Wednesday, February 23, 2011

italian difference #11

the worst thing about time zones is not remembering if you wished someone happy birthday or not the night least there's always the facebook wall to check....


i guess it's never bad to say it twice. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Desenzano del Garda


"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." — George Bernard Shaw

One of the best things about living in Italy, Emilia Romagna, Parma, Colorno is the ability to drive, or even bike ride, to the local farm and buy fresh cheese. The other day, Brittany, Arina and I drove to Caseificio San Salvatore where we previously saw the making of Parmigiano Reggiano and bought freshly made ricotta. Ricotta is technically a whey cheese, made from the leftover liquid from the Parmigiano Reggiano production. The previous evening's part-skim milk is mixed with the morning's whole milk with rennet (stomach lining from the slaughtered cow which is washed, dried and chopped into a powder and preserved with sea salt) which causes the milk to coagulate - changing the structure from liquid to jelly-like. As the temperatures rise, curds form which will become the Parmigiano Reggiano. The heavy curds sink to the bottom of the copper cauldron and the whey on top will weigh down on the curds for about an hour until it has cooled. Then, the Parmigiano Reggiano curds are lifted out to be molded and the whey is vacuumed out. The whey is then recooked (the literal meaning of ricotta) until it creates its own cheese curd. 

The fresh ricotta is so moist and soft in the mouth, it delicately melts on the tongue. It exudes evocations of the country land and tastes distinctly of the cow. As much as it reminds me of the farm just down the road, I can't help but taste something sweetly ethereal, almost like a home-made marshmallow. It is delicious on bread, stuffed in zucchini flowers, eaten as a herby dip with celery, or just plain irresistible to eat it straight out of the tub with a spoon - if my fingers can grab a spoon fast enough before delving in...

I don't know why I haven't gone to S. Salvatore more throughout the year given it's locality, convenience, and deliciousness....damn. But I feel spoiled already, almost undeserving, just having this opportunity. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things I've learned So Far in my Internship part 5:

Work nightmares still continue. But as I've moved on from Secundo to Dolce to Macelleria - they now involve culatello sponge cakes with chantilly cream frosting.
How to tie a culatello in an entwined spiderweb network.
That twine is the traditional and best way to tie culatello.
The twine will give you blisters. Even when you're not strong enough to pull hard enough.
Viscichetta means blister.
Legs are bought based on weight.
They pigs come from different farms in the area, but they must eat feed with Parmigiano Reggiano whey in it.
That pancetta is cured between wooden blocks and needs a good brush dusting.
Watched how the salami (strolghino) is spewed into intestines.
How to tie salami into sections. Well. Not quite mastered that yet. I feel knotslexic.
Salami Gentile is wrapped in rectum instead of intestine.
How to scratch the rectum covering and poke it with a fork to let the water drain.
How to tie the Gentile so it stays straight while curing.
Busy cured meat/culatello time is Oct-Feb
It used to be just Dec and Jan when the weather was coldest and just right, but now the Consorzio requires the meat to be hung in refrigerated rooms, cella, so now they can produce more meat over a longer amount of time.
It was thought that the meat hanging in damp cellars was not sanitary.
How to clean a piece of shoulder by removing it's fat.
That glands on the shoulder when cooked are bad.
That a pig's leg is shaved, then cut into a culatello (rear) piece and a fiocchetta (front) piece and then broken down into meat and thick fatty skin bits to be cooked to pork scratchings aka ciccioli
While working, huge chunks of meat can fly pass your face.
Metal gloves, no matter how large and taped around your wrist, are finger-savers.
That I dont understand why anyone trusts me and a knife anywhere near their food...
How to tie fiochetta with twine without chafing new blisters on top of the post-culatello-tying blisters.
Blisters hurt. Damn.
Like prosciutto di parma, culatello is quality-checked using a horse bone pin to smell and a knocking hammer to check for air. A hollow sound is a bad sign and means that the culatello was not cut or closed properly as water remained and spoiled the meat.
I'm fascinated by the quality-control skills of the nose.
These cured meats are truly artisinal - all hand made, lots of labour of love.
The older the culatello, the better flavour.
The smell of meat stays with you, absorbs into your clothes, seeps into your hair, a constant reminder on your fingers. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Culatello making...

vascica significa bladder.
spago significa twine.
vescichetta significa blister.
mi fa male le due vescichette. 

Culatello from the Po Valley: "You can't just eat good food. You've got to talk about it too. And you've got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food." — Kurt Vonnegut (Jailbird)

"....è la mia terra: la Bassa Parmense, la pianura emiliana in riva al Po. Qui la passione politica arriva spesso ad una intensità preoccupante: eppure questa gente è simpatica ed ospitale e generosa e ha uno spiccato senso d'umorismo.
Deve essere il sole, un sole maledetto che martella i cervelli durante tutta l'estate.
Oppure deve essere la nebbia, una nebbia cupa che opprime i cervelli durante tutto l'inverno.
....Per me il Po comincia a Piacenza, e fa benissimo perché è l'unico fiume rispettabile che esista in Italia: e i fiumi che si respettano si sviluppano in pianura, perché l'acqua è roba fatta per rimanere orizzontale, e soltanto quando è perfettamente orizzontale l'acqua conserva tutta la sua naturale dignità.
Le cascate del Niagara sono fenomeni da baraccone, come gli uomini che camminano sulle mani."

        - Giovannino Guareschi.


"Proprio nelle parole di Guareschi si possono cogliere tutti gli elementi che contribuiscono a creare l'unicità della Bassa e del Culatello: la gente ☺, il Po ~~, la nebbia ☁ e il caldo afoso☀. I pochi, piccoli, semplici, ma magici e preziosi segreti del Culatello di Zebello e del suo speciale legame con la Bassa Parmense, risiedono quindi nel particolare e felice connubio tra la sapienza delle genti, lo spirito del luogo e il clima di questa terra."

         - Elisabetta Bertuzzi, Il Culatello di Zibello da prodotto a marca


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Things I've learned So Far in my Internship part 4: week in dolce....

To get pomegranate juice, cut it in half, cover with a cheese cloth and squeeeeeeeze.
That if you want something done correctly, you have to show me. Not just tell me. I'm a visual learner.
Microwaves are associated with fast, prepared, frozen food which is why I associated them with cheating. But they actually are time savers.
Shake-Weights are unnecessary when you've got zabaglione to make.
How to make zabaglione filled chocolate truffle balls. Molded Shells. Filling Stuffed. Sealed Fingerprint-less.
How to make almond biscotti.
How to make a pastry shell.
How to make pastry dough.
To make lemon curd filling you need 10 lemons, zest of half the lemons, 400g of lemon juice, a buttload of sugar and 10 eggs. Then whip it...for over forty (yes, 40) minutes by hand (yes, by hand) until it goes from 14C to 84C. Then, add 750 grams of butter. Whip some more. Healthy. Really. Delicious. Better if you don't know the ingredients.
That even if you think your arm could fall off, it won't.
To remember to prick pastry dough before putting it in the oven.
How to use the ice cream machine!
That a teaspoon can be used to make balls of apple.
balls = palle.
Mandarines have seeds. Clementines don't.
That no one leaves until everyone's prep work is done. Everyone works together.
That Europeans want to go to America. Americans want to stay in Europe. They don't understand why we don't want to go back.
Blank stares are universally understood.
Virgin Radio loves Katy Perry.
37 eggs make 680grams of egg yolk.
Milk boils very fast.
I know nothing about the metric system.
Or math...
How to make individual tiramisu. It's very delicate.
How to hold a pastry bag without getting the cream inside too warm.
That, yes indeed, I am still allergic to kiwi's.
Kiwi in English is Kiwi in Italiano.
Pecorino is sheep's cheese. Pecorina is not the feminine form. Pecorine does not mean many sheep.
It's either done when it's 84C or known from eye sight.
How to make a Torta Diplomatica. And that diplomatica means....shrug.
Even though I think my Italian is pretty good, I don't know the difference if someone is telling me to do something, or explaining it to me.
I like the explaining.
Sugar. Butter. Milk. Eggs. Water. Cream. and a Whisk. Can't go wrong...
Roberto è un artista.
I like the dessert station.

Chicken Liver Mousse Recipe

Arina made this from The Fifth Quarter- an Offal Cookbook by Anissa Helou:

50g unsaltd buter
450g organic chicken livers
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 measure brandy
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon puree
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
140ml double cream
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 X 30g aspic sachet, diluted in 225ml water

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. WHen the butter is hot, add the livers, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the brandy and flame it. Then add the parsley, tomato puree and salt and pper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and process until very finely ground. Remove to a mixing bowl. Add the cream and aspic and wait unil the mixutre starts to stet before foliding in the egg whites. Spoon into a round or rectangular ceramic mould and refrigerate. Serve slightly chilled with the cold Tomato Sauce (other recipe in book) or, for an unusual combo with the Creme d'Artichaut (another recipe in the book)

Serves 6-8

UNISG Internships

"you can develop taste, but passion is certainly a genetic thing, like a good ear for music." Judith Jones

Not only have I loved my experience during my stage so far, I love being in Colorno with my friends/other students who are doing their own independent studies and get to learn what they are experiencing. 

Arina for example, is studying the "obscure" left-over/less popular meats like brain, liver, tripe, and pork skin for example. Not only has she been cooking and eating with nonnas and Italians all over the boot, she made a delicious chicken liver pate the other day. (liver is apparently, according to Massimo Bottura, very good for the health of women). and yes, it was very good. 

 Brittany is exploring birra artigianale -  artisinal Italian breweries and brought over a P.i.L.S beer from Pausa Cafe in Torino. I believe it is a brewery inside a jail where prisoners can learn a course on brewing beer. Not only is it a good cause, it's full of floral hops and bright gold in colour. deliciously sinful.

Poppi also went with Brittany to Piemonte to discover the legal world of Robiola di Roccaverano. She brought back cheese that was made 4 days earlier (four days!) as well as an aged Robiola. The fresh cheese was moist and melted in your mouth, not too sticky like some goat cheeses. The mature cheese was full of flavour and relentlessly irresistible to eat. 

"I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food"
— Erma Bombeck

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Bright Side of Culatello Weather...

Beautiful bright sunsets that illuminate the entire sky with bright oranges, yellows, pinks, reds, fading into the lightest of blue. 
The distant mountains reappear from the fog displaying their snow-topped majestic heights.
I had to stop my bike in the middle of the road to take it all in. 
Like the groundhog recently hinted at, spring is on it's way.
Maybe the culatello weather isn't so bad after all. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

things that are impossible to do in culatello weather.

 * Walk a dog and still be able to see it.
* Run on the sidewalks without swerving into oncoming street poles.
* Drive with one headlight.
* Trust anyone to drive.
* Expect your hair to stay straight. 
*  Not have your make-up drip off your wet face.
* Not have your hair stick to your head from the wet air's humidity.
* To be able to see without squinting to see a meter in front of you.
* Ride along the river's dyke path.
* Be warm with 37 layers on while riding your bike to work.
* Feel like you're not in a horror movie.
* To think about anything except culatello.
* To think that, after everything we've learned, it's pretty cool that this is what they talk about when they mean terroir - it's the fog that gives prosciutto and culatello it's parma status.
* Wonder why you're not in sunny Sicily...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Need a Thesis Topic! and one that won't make me stare and pick at all my split ends...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." - Luciano Pavarotti, My Own Story.

Focaccia. It's not Parma Bread.

ok, a post about focaccia. One of the fears you must overcome while living in Italy is the fear of all things white. White bread. White pasta. Butter. Whole milk. Lard. White fatty bits on cured meat. It's just impossible. It''s inevitable. Not only is it everywhere and typical of the cuisine, it's delicious.

I have not been a fan of what is known as parma bread. I honestly don't think anyone is. It is hard on the outside. Pretty dry on the inside. It's boring. I'm sure if thrown at someone's head, it could lethally be the perfect murder weapon. I couldn't understand why northern Italy couldn't have better bread. That is, until now during my internship, I tried focaccia from Al Vedel.

Every day for staff lunch there is meat and potatoes or cheesey/meaty/buttery pasta and always bread sprawled out across the table. Carbs. White carbs. But it doesn't matter. << over the fear >> the focaccia is freshly made in the morning and so light and fluffy it just melts in your mouth. It sits on the cotton table cloth and taunts me. << thinking about the fear >> it's not the hard, dry, boring shit. 

Today however, there was no bread on the table. for lunch, we had focaccia pizza. FOCACCIA PIZZA. foccaccia topped with red onions. focaccia topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella. focaccia topped with gorgonzola. focaccia topped with tomatoes. Even after three slices of this peppy pizza, I wanted more. Even after sneaking a slice during clean up, I wanted more. Even after bringing home three slices, I wanted more.

Bravo Mauro.

Thank you for showing me that the area can have good bread. No more micca di parma. No more merda di parma.

I told Mauro the other day I wanted him to teach me how to make bread. Now, I'm not so sure it's a good idea....I might make it every day.