This popular dish, called porpetton de faxolin in dialect, is irresistible. Polpettone in the rest of Italy means meat loaf, but in vegetable-crazy Liguria there is no meat in sight. This tart is wonderful as a snack, an antipasto, or a main course. For Ligurians it has the particular association of being the food that is packed to take along for hikes and country outings.
Copyright 2007 Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All Rights Reserved.
Cash in on local organic apples if you can. Check out what's in the market, and buy whichever kinds are new to you. Line a basket with colorful kitchen towels. If possible, label the different apples with a card slipped in next to them. Supply knives for slicing, or encourage everyone to just eat the apples out of hand.
Sometimes if you cut a vegetable in a different fashion it will make it seem entirely new.
This vegetable ragu is one of those sublime one-dish meals that for me captures all the nurturing goodness of the Italian food I was raised with. What Ciambotta is to southern Italians, Stufato is to northerners—the concepts are the same. Vegetables, from greens and beans and zucchini to tomatoes and peppers, all cook together, making their own sauce and becoming a lavish vegetable stew. Merely heat a little olive oil in a big shallow pan, stir in whatever is fresh and good at the moment, sear everything, then cover. When vegetables cook in their own juices, their flavors open up and their textures go from crisp to silken.
Country women in Romagna used to bake these potatoes each week along with their homemade bread. Cloaked in olive oil and flavored with bits of cured pork, rosemary, garlic and tomatoes, the potatoes roasted near the opening of the big bread ovens, where the women could easily turn and baste them with the pan juices. The feast of the day was the crusty potatoes, fresh-baked bread, and homemade wine. Not a bad idea today, but these roasted potatoes are good with nearly everything from a green salad to chicken to seafood.
From Learning to Cook with Marion Cunningham, by Marion Cunningham.
When country women find big, meaty-tasting mushrooms, they grill the caps whole until they're browned and crusty, just like steak. Adelina Norcia, who farms in Sicily, brushes her mushrooms with her "holy oil" before she places them on the wood-fired grill that stands outside the kitchen door of her farmhouse. Crisped and spicy, the mushrooms are infused with Adelina's holy trinity of garlic, oregano, and chile, all pureed in olive oil from the trees on her property. She serves them like meat, with a salad and bread. Try them the same way, and cook them on top of the stove when outdoor grilling isn't possible.