Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Terra Madre and the Salone del Gusto

International hall at opening, Day 2.
Terra Madre and the Salone have been an inspirational experience.  So many others I spoke to while on the 5 day conference echoed that statement - overwhelming was another.

Visiting the International hall and speaking representatives from the various nations illustrated the human face of the Slowfood movement.  It put in perspective the fact that people the world over are not content with homogenisation of food, not willing to lose their food culture and traditions and that the Slowfood motto of 'good, clean and fair' speak to us all, regardless of our place on this planet.

May all who attended have a safe journey home.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sauce with the family

Boiling the jars and waiting for the embers.

Finished sauce.

And this is only a portion of the fun.

Every year, we make tomato sauce.  Not just simple stewed tomatoes (although we do that too) but proper cooked sauce.

The morning has to begin early to get the tubs of sauce ready for the rest of the day.  Tomatoes are cored and given a quick squeeze, placed in a large pot (I mean 'my now 5 year old could bathe in this pot' large) along with a good quantity of parsley, basil, a few onions and a couple of red peppers.  This mixture stews until cooked down sufficiently to bring everything together, it can take an hour, and is then seasoned.

We make at least 4-5 laundry tubs of this mixture, give it a quick zip with an immersion blender and then pass it through the mill. The resulting mixture gets collected in another 20L pail and ladelled into awaiting sterilised jars.  The jars are wiped, sealed and snuggled into a repurposed drum for boiling.

Technically, this recipe should be processed in a pressure canner as we do not add any citric acid or lemon juice.  That said, we do not add copious quantities of vegetables or any oil and are fairly liberal with the salt.  If you are a beginner, please get a good home canning guide.  And you needn't stop at tomatoes.

Just like the sauce, we come together too.  This is an annual activity and, this year, we are all stepping into bigger shoes.  Nonno helps when and where he can and Nonna 'supervises' from a perch in the veranda that overlooks the activity at the oversized picnic table and the fireplace.  It's a different chain of command than years past and we need all hands on deck because this weekend is the first of a few we'll be spending in the backyard.  We're under the pergola in case of rain but it is a much more pleasant event on fine days.  Thankfully, the weather has been accomodating.

Even with the aging migrant Italian community, the odour of cooking tomatoes, peppers and herbs still dominates our neighbourhood throughout the month of September thanks to the dedicated first and now, second generation.  We're lucky to be like-minded, able to pitch in and willing to slow down a little to make the base for pizza night, quick pastas and long Italian family dinners through the Canadian winter.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Insalata di rucola

slightly overgrown, but tender and tasty , rucola.. in inglese, arugula.
I have a garden.  In that garden are these little leaves. They take minimal work to plant and tend. 

Even less effort to harvest.

In a garden planter, this is easy as.

Unlike the broccoli, peas and beans, this arugula hasn't been eaten by the bugs, local rabbits or that elusive groundhog yet.  And even though it should have been picked a day or so earlier, it is still tender and peppery delicious.

I know alot of people don't particularly like arugula.   And that's less than fair.  when young and tender, arugula's typical peppery bite is only a nibble and benefits from a little love. Love from salty prosciutto, from a simple oil & lemon dressing and lots of grana or parm.  You will wonder why you don't buy or grow arugula more often. 

For more amore: top pizza hot from the oven with any of the smoky speck, savoury bresaola or rich delectable stracchino, then Jackson Pollock some arugula over the top.   For the idea of an artful smattering of arugula, thank you La Terrazza (on Lago Mergozzo, VB) for the inspiration.

Arugula has potential for flavour mates aplenty. Use nut oils, add pears or savour what Saveur suggests for this great green.  GialloZaffereno also has some spectacular suggestions. 


Saturday, September 06, 2014

A salad to share


Perfect for sharing with a classic crusty Italian loaf and vino. In the sun, naturalmente.
Vibrant tomatoes after a few days of sun.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Lovely little uglies

Late in the season and only a few are red..

The yellows are holding on but aren't their usual selves.

Guardian of the radicchio.  Keeping the lettuce safe from whatever lunar rogue has been eating the broccoli.

Little yellow pears, still so many are green.

Destined for summer sauce.
It has been a brutal year for the garden.  At this time of year, we are, typically, complaining about the heat, the numerous days of 30C PLUS temperatures and soaring humidity.  The garden is generally thirsty due to a lack of rain but the bounty, which has flourished in the sun glorious sun, is plentiful and the beautiful tomatoes are awaiting their transformation into sauce for the winter.  Happy tummies full of tomato salads, cucumbers and tzatziki, numerous eggplants made into baba ghanoush, not to mention the broccoli, peas, beans and zucchini.

But this summer it rained. It started in May and never stopped (for long). While many parts of the world are suffering true drought, I feel a little guilty for wishing we didn't have so much.  However, it is a little out of balance for Southern Ontario.

Leaves and vines have grown mouldy, fruit and veg remain unripe late in the game and our mini-harvest hangs in the balance.  With our abundance of rain and lacking the heat we are normally accustomed to, we are still predominaetely green where we'd normally be red, gold or yellow.  We've had one day in August above 30C and hopefully a few more in September to get the last of the autumn veg on their way.  A few sunny days and perhaps our efforts won't be in vain.

The title of the post comes from the confusion over my statement that the garden situation was 'ugly' to which the nearly 5 year old said, "Actually mum, I think they are lovely."

And they are.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer pasta

Dried hand-made pasta.

The garden is in a state (more on that later) but right now, it's the end of August and it's lunchtime. Pasta doesn't get any simplier.

No knife required.  I used pasta (made a few days ago and dried) that I had in the fridge.  Once that was in the salted, boiling water, I set the frypan on medium high heat, added a tablespoon of olive oil, an anchovy or maybe two (I like the kind perserved under oil with chilies), and gathered my garlic and tomato. 

Cook, mashing until the anchovy fillet has mostly disintegrated in the oil, add half a clove of grated garlic, cooking only until fragrant and then, the tomato.  I just gave it a squeeze and its in the pan, seeds and all.  Again mashing, until it is broken up to form the body of the sauce (and provide a good coating for the pasta).  The peel will separate out and can be picked from the sauce if you aren't partial.  Finally, a few torn fresh basil leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss the cooked, drained pasta in the pan and drizzle with your best Southern Italian olive oil.  Serve.

If anchovies aren't your thing, add a good portion of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the end.  I'm not partial to the flavour of cheese and anchovy, but this isn't about me.  You could add cheese to taste either way.

Summer pasta is all about speed, ease and fresh flavour. This comes together in the time it takes to boil the pasta, and given the nature (thinness) of this pasta, that is no time at all.

Hand-made pasta dressed in a fresh tomato sauce.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summery sodas

Tassoni soda and Calabresi Cedro di Diamante.
The Italian range of amari (bitters) are a summer favourite here at la tavola. Versatile and refreshing Crodino, Campari and Averna are suited to a slice of lemon, cocktails, as a digestivo on a warm nights.  However, if bitter is not your thing, don't fret. To say that Italy has its share of sweeter bevvies is an understatement.

Here is a great example.  Cedrata is not too sweet and the slightly perfumed sour citrus is an interesting combination, Tassoni has been making this soda since 1956 and their signature citron syrup since 1920.

And luckily, albeit only stateside for the moment, they are available on this side of the pond.

We also use it as a mixer.. ahh summer.