Archive for December, 2009
We start in Rome.
When in Roma, eat artichokes alla Romana or alla Giudea. You wont regret it.
Alice and I had a Chrismas holiday together with Alice’s brother, Chris. He’d never been to Italy before so we showed him around Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Turin. I never get tired of going back to these places. There is always more to explore and discover, especially on a culinary level.
For our first lunch we were directed to Da Tonino, (Via del governo vecchio, 18, 00186 – Roma (RM) Italia Cell.333 5870779 )MAP
A hole in the wall kind of establishment which served good, honest and generous portions of flavoursome food. In some respects, this first lunch of my holiday was the most memorable, even more than our Christmas lunch. I have simple tastes and I’m a total sucker for food without pretense. I do appreciate talented chefs experimenting with new fusion of flavours and skillfully presenting dishes, but the simple, the rustic, the humble and the down to earth gets me much more excited.
Violetto di San Erasmo
I went to San Erasmo in the late Spring 2009 to check out the artichokes of the island. The island is a 30 minute ferry ride from Venice. It’s a pretty sleepy little place with no discernable tourist attractions or facilities. I took a walk around the island asking different artichoke growers about their local speciality and taking photos of their plantations. Called Violetto di San Erasmo, this artichoke is legendary and has been grown on the island for a couple of centuries. Some plants on the island are over 100 years old and a plant can produce about 100 artichokes over the season. They are only one of two artichokes to be listed as a Slowfood Presidium. This means the growers on the island band together with Slowfood® to set the guidelines ensuring that the authenticity of this ancient and prized artichoke is maintained.
The plant produces three different artichoke buds that are picked. First is the Castroere, which is a very small tender first shoot They are quite rare as every plant only produces about 2 or 3. They are highly prized and they sell for about €1.50 each. They are so tender they can be eaten raw and are preferred that way although they are sometimes fried. The name Castroere derives from word to castrate, so imagine castrating the young bud at around Easter and you have this artichoke.
Bruschetta con Carciofi
Let’s get one thing straight. Firstly Bruscetta is pronounced, /brusketa/ and not, /brusheta/. I just had to clear that up. Bruschetta is simply toasted or roasted bread, with garlic, olive oil and salt. That’s it. When you start adding anything on top of that it becomes, Bruschetta with …
In this case I am posting two recipes for Bruschetta with artichokes. One is really easy and flexible which I think is pretty good and fuss free. The other is the very traditional Tuscan recipe. The first is completely dairy free, which I prefer, but the Tuscan one is great in it’s own way which I never refused to eat while I lived in Florence.
Carpaccio di Fondi
While I still have a few fondi left in the fridge, I thought I could get a quick carpaccio together. Carpaccio usually refers to thinly slice beef that is dressed with Parmiggiano shavings, olive oil and lemon juice. In this recipe, it is the artichoke that is finely sliced and I’ve dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil, capers and shaving of a hard, matured goat cheese. This is an elegant starter which is easier than easy to prepare. People are easily impressed if you present them with a unique raw artichoke dish like this.
Fondi di Carciofi alla Veneta
These are the artichokes you’ll find all over Venice. They are known as fondi and Venetians can’t get enough of them. Fondi is the plural of fondo which means ‘bottom’ or ‘base’. Seeing as though one would never really deal with a singular fondo, all you need to remember is the plural, fondi. They are quite exquisite and the way they prepare them in Venice is by far the easiest artichoke dish on this site.
In Venice this is the artichoke of choice. You will see them at nearly every fruit and vegetable stall soaking in lemon water. They are all ready to go, no peeling, cleaning or anything is necessary. That’s one reason I love them. This is a dish you will find in all of the ciccetti bars and on most menus of Venetian restaurants.
Artichokes ready for the chop. Artichoke bottoms (fondi) sitting in lemon water
I just got back from 2 weeks in Venice. This obsession with artichokes started in Venice where, in the most part, they don’t even worry about the leaves and go straight to the heart. Here they use the fondi (bases) of the artichoke. Some artichokes are left on the plant a little longer than usual just for this purpose. Although I’ve never seen a Californian artichoke in the flesh, I think they are probably suitable for this purpose too. The most typical recipe and traditional way the Venetians use these fondi is to simply boil them and dress them with olive oil garlic and parsley. They can be served hot, warm or cold. You will find them on most restaurant menus and also at cicchetti bars. Cicchetti are small portions of food, usually eaten standing at a bar anytime between breakfast and dinner. Cicchetti are similar to the Spanish Tapas and can be had as an entire meal or as a snack between meals.