By the time this post hits your screen, I will be in Northern Italy! A lot of cooking in my kitchen this past month has been in anticipation of this holiday. Additionally, in the past few weeks before our departure, my local supermarket in the UK started featuring Italian products in a special section at the entrance to the store – from bottles of bright yellow Leomcello and pinky Campari, to pots of fresh basil, jars of sun-dried tomatoes, cans of San Pellegrino mineral water and fizzy drinks, and much more. It is a marketing strategy they employ every year to capture the crowd returning from holiday, still high on the fumes of their Mediterranean escape. For me, it just served to hype up the expectation of a holiday to come – plus, I got to happily forage among the Italian products. Meanwhile, my husband was browsing on-line. So…in my kitchen – my husband’s paraphernalia deemed absolutely necessary for the long-distance drive from Northern England to Northern Italy.
But, back to cooking! In the past month, I’ve made a number of simple pasta dishes, many from one or other of the River Cafe cookbooks: lemon and basil, creamy tomato with rosemary and anchovy, double oregano (dried & fresh) with colourful plum tomatoes, and a no-cook sauce of marinated tomatoes, basil and garlic in extra virgin olive oil. I’ve nominated the River Cafe books for the 2015 list of cookbooks to be selected by the cookbook blogging club, The Cookbook Guru.
More beans – this time fresh – were used to make an easy and flavour packed antipasto, broad bean (fava) crostini. Well…easy once the beans have been podded and shelled. That is time consuming, but worth it!
After months of baking sourdough breads, I’ve branched out to ciabatta baking, although I am still waiting for my copy of The Italian Baker by Carol Field to arrive. This brilliant recipe came from Dough by Richard Bertint.
The Italian theme fit right in with our usual Friday night fare: homemade pizza.
And, since it was impossible to beam our car directly onto Italian soil (à la Star Trek), we cover quite a bit of France on our journey – there and back. One French town that we pass has always fascinated me – Dijon. This is quite possibly because the name stares at me every time I open the refrigerator and see a pot of mustard. This resulted in a fusion of French and Italian recipes – a northern Italian, herbed poultry dish (mine was with turkey breast steaks) from Lombardy accompanied with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. You can get the recipe from my post, The Significance of Mustard in Holiday Planning.
One of the books I’m indulging in during this holiday is When French Women Cook by the celebrated chef, Madeleine Kamman. I hope to work up a post on this fascinating “gastronomic memoir” sometime soon. For me, it is the perfect book on food – part ethnography about the women who influenced Kamman early in life (from all over France) and part recipes of the spectacular regional and traditional food created by these women. Before our scheduled departure, my grapes were just right – still unripe, but juicy. I used this book to make my own verjus from a traditional recipe. It is an interesting old method of producing the sour grape condiment which I go into detail more in my post Victoire’s Verjus.
While I am away, I’ve put a number of posts in the queue to appear automatically on a regular schedule. I will try to reply to comments, but it may not always be possible. More Italian and French inspired posts when I get back!