Thursday, November 15, 2007


One of things we appreciate most about Italy is the food. Duh!

It all starts with simple, high-quality ingredients that vary by region, giving each region its own identity and version of"Italian Food." The food from Puglia or Calabria, down in the South are vastly different from the heartland in Emilia-Romagna or the northern region of Lombardi.

Below is the market in San Cosimato, Trastevere, Rome, where we get our ingredients. We get fruits and vegetables from Bruno (below).

All sorts of meat from this family of butchers (even though they're Lazio fans).

The seafood stall has all sorts of beautiful and strange creatures. Here are the Vongole: littleneck clams.

Of course, some people are too feeble to walk to the market everyday. So the market comes to them. Sometimes with a pulley.

Wine from Biaggio and Rosa. Below is Nora buying wine all by herself. She has no idea I followed her.

This is the fig tree outside of our window. We couldn't eat them fast enough in the summer. So good...

Sometimes we bring ingredients back with us when we travel. This is taken on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, where the peppers are left to dry in the breeze.

So, when we get all the ingredients together, we've learned to prepare them in classic ways.

Mussels are cooked simply steamed in a large pot with a few inches of water in the bottom. After they open, they are drizzled with dry white wine, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Sometimes we throw in diced, cooked tomatoes. We always soak up the broth with a fresh loaf of bread. Sometimes I throw in some anise liquor to spark it up--a real treat. A little cilantro instead of parsley at the very end adds a nice flavor too.

Below is the fish from Cetara, on the Aegean seaside village in Campania's Amalfi Coast. The focus is on simple seafood.

Below is the pride of the Cetarese fishing fleet: anchovies. Here they are whole and very slightly breaded and pan-fried. They're about the size of Nora's biggest finger and have none of the same nasty flavor as the super-salty anchovies thrown on pizza al over the world. These are light, crisp, and addictive. See Nora below, becoming addicted.

Below is a whole sea bass, a langostino, and something that translates as "flying squid fish," or cuttlefish--all grilled, with a slight citrus bend.

More fish in Cetara, this time it's tuna and swordfish (tonno e pesce spada), smoked and sliced paper thin. It's like carpaccio, but with a distinct smoky flavor. Nora loved this and still craves it. Unfortunately, Cetara is the only place I know that makes this dish. Also on the dish: marinated anchovy and octopus.

This was so unique and interesting, I had to order it: gnocchi with a sauce of broccoli and squid ink on the island of Procida.

On the other sea, the Adriatic, the food is similar, but the preparation is very different. Here's Portonovo in the region Le Marche. Nora thoroughly enjoyed the complex flavor of the seafood risotto with a prawn.

My primo piatto: Tagliatelle with Vongole (clams)--excellent.

We learn how and why things are prepared as they are, then experiment with modern twists.

Amatriciana comes from the town close to Rome named Amatrice, and is basically a sauce of Pancetta (or Guanciale--cured pork jowls), garlic or onion, and tomatoes served over pasta--spaghetti, bomboletti, or bucatini. It is far and away Brandy's favorite. It's her barometer--she uses it to judge a restaurant.

Cooking at home (below) I sometimes add a diced, dried hot chili pepper. Or I caramelize some tomato paste on the side of the pan while cooking the rest and add some white wine.

Everyone asks us if we eat tons of gelato. Well, I'm with a pregnant woman and a young daughter, so the answer is...of course! I'd be a dead man otherwise. Nora's favorites are straciatella (chocolate chip) and nutella. Brandy's favorites change every week, but some she likes are pear/cinnamon, chocolate/banana, and semifreddo (like a mousse). Mine are spicy chocolate, orange chocolate, and chocolate mint. Below is Nora ordering away.

Sometimes we need a little taste from home. Here is Nora showing off her enchiladas. Of course, we have to make some changes. I normally wouldn't put basil on top of chipotle enchiladas.


Tori said...

Hi, I thought I would comment and say hey. I'm also a Texas but not in Italy instead Croatia, which isn't far at all. It's funny how similar the countries look especially the buildings and houses.

I really enjoyed looking through your blog. I was wondering what brought you to Italy, if I may ask. I'm sure you addressed that somewhere but I couldn't find it.


Tracie B. said...

that pasta with vongole...yum!

did you like ischia? that's where i lived for almost 5 years. we probably crossed paths, you know.