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Pontormo

Italian Regional Picnic Food

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Since spring is becoming summer and there are so many regional dishes we've prepared that are wonderful served at room temperature, I figured this might be a good topic and useful when making plans. Nothing wrong with fried chicken, watermelon and bacon-laced potato salad with radishes and celery seed, but sometimes pizza rustica, olives, salami and figs sound just about right.

So, please consider this a place to report inspiring menus or document what you've done. Ask for guidance or make suggestions.

* * *

I'm asking for advice since I promised to bring a vegetable dish to a potluck picnic.

Haven't made it for years, but the beauty of one local farm's escarole inspired me to decide to prepare the escarole pie in one of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks in which piles of the green are flavored with garlic, olives, anchovies, capers and pinenuts.

Well, there is someone coming who is allergic to nuts and a whole mess of other stuff that may prove difficult for everyone to accommodate. I don't want to omit the pinenuts and welcome any excuse to bring just a little something else I've never tried before.

So....I came across a Ligurian recipe for Polpettone di Fagiolini, a torte-like dish that is somewhere in between a pastry-less custard and a vegetarian meatloaf. Green beans are cooked and puréed. Garlic, marjoram, Parmigiano and reconstituted dried porcini provide flavor; milk-soaked bread, bulk; and eggs beaten with a soft, creamy fresh cheese, the custardy element.

Sounds like perfect picnic fare. Here's the thing. The list of allergies includes green beans, too! I figure that while green beans may be traditional, the dish sounds versatile enough. Any thoughts?

N.B. Anna del Conte, my source, also has a recipe for a torta di zucchine from the same region that I'd prefer not to make because it involves filo-like pastry and I like the idea of preparing something coated only in bread crumbs. Zucchini, onion and uncooked rice that swells in the eggy filling. Sounds like a great combo, but not necessarily easy to integrate with first recipe since the light touch of rice makes sense with zucchini (vs. bread) and I suspect the porcini that complement green beans would drown out the more delicate squash.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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What about subbing fava beans? Just be sure to get off the extra layer that some people are allergic to. That sounds like an excellent dish, with the green beans.

That Campania eggplant I was talking about the other day is also good for picnics because it gets served at room temp...or picnic temp.

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The Roman spring picnic food par excellence is raw fava beans and pecorino romano cheese. Unfortunately the fava season is now over. As soon as the figs come in, we'll be eating pizza bianca with prosciutto e fichi. Salami is unlikely to be on the summer picnic circuit -- as a general rule pork products are avoided in summer. Prosciutto e melone and prosciutto in many forms is an exception.

Grilled eggplant slices dressed with oil, parsley, and garlic; roasted peppers; fried friggitelli (small peppers); wedges of frittata (invariably zucchini) -- all are delish in sandwiches, even better in pizza bianca.

I'm constantly seeking menu ideas for terrace dinners that minimize (anzi, eliminate) trips back to the kitchen. Last year I got very into pasta e fagioli. The summer version uses fresh borlotti beans and can be served room temp.


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Thanks for both suggestions and good ideas. I may just provide some marinated eggplant & zucchini slices since there are bakers bringing bread and others planning on frittatas. But the substitution of fava beans is a good idea since the ones from California are available now; our local ones will not appear until late June or July. (How many pounds of fava beans do you need to get 1 1/2 lbs. shelled?!!! The torta might also be work with local asparagus, but not with porcini or marjoram.)

It's interesting to see how much regionality matters. I first had a platter of salami and figs in a small tratteria in Florence that specializes in curing a wide variety of meats, right at the beginning of the fig season. I thought it sounded like a strange combination, but it proved wonderful. While at least one half of the couple who owns the place is Scottish by birth, it was not simply the aberrant practice of stranieri. Here Marco Lapi describes "classic" salame toscano as being at its best at the end of summer with figs.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I have no idea of which region (if any specifically) torta di maccheroni hails from, but it seems like an excellent picnic food to me.

I really don't know why I am always bringing this item up in conversation.

There's just something about a torta di maccheroni. :wub:

:wink:

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I have no idea of which region (if any specifically) torta di maccheroni hails from, but it seems like an excellent picnic food to me.

Just came across a reference to timballo, in "Lidia's Italy" (a recent release) .

In the section on Naples:

You must be familar with timballo from the film Big Night - maccheroni dressed with a wonderful sweet tomato sauce set in a big round form of pate brisee to bake. A sweet crust with savory pasta might seem an unlikly combination, but the timballo is delicious and represents much of what is left of the Neapolitan kitchen from its aristocratic days under French-Spanish rule.

From timballo, Lidia goes on to offer pizzele ripiene con scarola e salsiccia, then goes further into discussions of "tiella".

Tiella is made in Naples and throughout Italy, but it is a specialty in Gaeta, a beautiful seaside town on the border of Campania (Naples) and Lazio (Rome) regions.

So what is tiella? It is a thin-crusted deep-dish pizza, stuffed with different combinations of vegetables and fish - escarole, broccoli rabe, octopus, olives, ricotta and Swiss chart, artichokes and any other vegetable that is in season. It is topped and sealed with the same dough and baked till golden.

There are two fillings offered: The first one of scarola, olive, e capperi; the next of polipo, aglio, ed olio extra vergine de olive.

I can not tell you how gorgeous the one filled with octopus looks. (Ha, ha, I just wrote octopus like this: octooooopus. And it looked like an octopus. :laugh: )

Now, there is no denomiation of this specifically being "picnic food" but I would bet that it's been taken on a picnic now and then. It is just too perfect for the idea to not be. :wink:

"A bottle of wine, some octopus, and thou." :smile:

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I have the polpettone di fagioli on my site too from Luchin in Chiaveri, but his has pesto in it!

the naples version called GATTO is just mashed potatoes, bound with eggs and parmesan, and some ham.. fabulous cold!

everyone loves potatoes!

tweek it and make it yours....

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I have the polpettone di fagioli on my site too from Luchin in Chiaveri, but his has pesto in it!

the naples version called GATTO is just mashed potatoes, bound with eggs and parmesan, and some ham.. fabulous cold!

everyone loves potatoes!

tweek it and make it yours....

Luchin was a high point of my visit to Chiavari and polpettone di fagioli a major discovery in Liguria.

A small orthographical precisazione with regard to the Neapolitan dish. Since you wrote in all caps, you couldn't show the accent. Of course it's gattò, as in Italianized gateau. I presume this is from the Bourbon influence in Naples. Nothing to do with cats.


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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Thought I'd bump this as the picnic season re-approaches. Doing an Italian-based potlucky thing next week that may migrate up to the roof, so that's almost a picnic. Anyway, we're doing an assortment of focaccie and a big green salad with mint and chives, but I'm kind of looking for a homey baked vegetable dish that I can do beforehand and serve at "picnic temp".

I myself have a hankering for eggplant parm (or timballo di melanzane), kind of a lighter version, though....no frying. Fontina instead of mozzarella.

My question is, does this work alright at room temp? I know I've enjoyed eggplant parm ice cold out of the fridge before, but I'm like that....

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Thought I'd bump this as the picnic season re-approaches. Doing an Italian-based potlucky thing next week that may migrate up to the roof, so that's almost a picnic. Anyway, we're doing an assortment of focaccie and a big green salad with mint and chives, but I'm kind of looking for a homey baked vegetable dish that I can do beforehand and serve at "picnic temp".

I myself have a hankering for eggplant parm (or timballo di melanzane), kind of a lighter version, though....no frying. Fontina instead of mozzarella.

My question is, does this work alright at room temp? I know I've enjoyed eggplant parm ice cold out of the fridge before, but I'm like that....

Yes. You'll miss the melted-cheese effect, but small squares of parmigiana are often served at buffets at room temp.

I'm facing the first terrace meal of the season this Sunday with a coratella coi carciofi, which I don't even like. I make the artichokes and my mother-in-law, thank heaven, does the rest (ormai, it's an annual thing in that we are given a lamb with its coratella every Easter). I need to fill out the rest of the menu. I'm thinking in terms of vignarola for the non-coratella eaters, and I don't know what else, but it has to be easy. Baked white onions maybe. Friggitelli (peppers) maybe. I'm not too good on baked pastas, but that would probably be a good idea, but nothing too heavy...


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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I have a great recipe from Piedmonte that is an eggplant parmesan recipe that is meant to be served room temperature.

It goes like this:

Thinly slice the eggplant (try to find the round eggplants if possible), sprinkle with lots of salt and place in a colander to drain.

Without rinsing off the slices, dredge in flour and lightly fry the slices. Layer on absorbent paper as you work.

The sauce: Soften one finely chopped onion in olive oil, then add one can of chopped crushed tomatoes, and lots and lots of fresh, torn basil leaves. Cook until thickened.

Layer the eggplant with sauce, parmigiana, mozzerella and more basil leaves. Bake at 350F until bubbly. Serve at room temp.

If you need exact quantities let me know. This is a very simple recipe, but its very, very tasty.

**Tupac: if you are around, this is the recipe that I totally forgot to send to you. My apologies!!!

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I have a great recipe from Piedmonte that is an eggplant parmesan recipe that is meant to be served room temperature.

[...]

**Tupac: if you are around, this is the recipe that I totally forgot to send to you. My apologies!!!

woohoo! :laugh:

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I have a great recipe from Piedmonte that is an eggplant parmesan recipe that is meant to be served room temperature.

It goes like this:

Thinly slice the eggplant (try to find the round eggplants if possible), sprinkle with lots of salt and place in a colander to drain.

Without rinsing off the slices, dredge in flour and lightly fry the slices. Layer on absorbent paper as you work.

The sauce: Soften one finely chopped onion in olive oil,  then add one can of chopped crushed tomatoes, and lots and lots of fresh, torn basil leaves. Cook until thickened.

Layer the eggplant with sauce, parmigiana, mozzerella and more basil leaves. Bake at 350F until bubbly. Serve at room temp.

If you need exact quantities let me know. This is a very simple recipe, but its very, very tasty.

**Tupac: if you are around, this is the recipe that I totally forgot to send to you. My apologies!!!

Thanks all! hathor, not only does this sound great but it's also pretty much exactly the recipe that a Roman friend described to me last night...I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

dochl, that recipe looks intriguing, but since we're already doing doughy stuff elsewhere I'm going to have to postpone the torta rustica for now....


Edited by markemorse (log)

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Thought I'd bump this as the picnic season re-approaches. Doing an Italian-based potlucky thing next week that may migrate up to the roof, so that's almost a picnic. Anyway, we're doing an assortment of focaccie and a big green salad with mint and chives, but I'm kind of looking for a homey baked vegetable dish that I can do beforehand and serve at "picnic temp".

I myself have a hankering for eggplant parm (or timballo di melanzane), kind of a lighter version, though....no frying. Fontina instead of mozzarella.

My question is, does this work alright at room temp? I know I've enjoyed eggplant parm ice cold out of the fridge before, but I'm like that....

Yes. You'll miss the melted-cheese effect, but small squares of parmigiana are often served at buffets at room temp.

I'm facing the first terrace meal of the season this Sunday with a coratella coi carciofi, which I don't even like. I make the artichokes and my mother-in-law, thank heaven, does the rest (ormai, it's an annual thing in that we are given a lamb with its coratella every Easter). I need to fill out the rest of the menu. I'm thinking in terms of vignarola for the non-coratella eaters, and I don't know what else, but it has to be easy. Baked white onions maybe. Friggitelli (peppers) maybe. I'm not too good on baked pastas, but that would probably be a good idea, but nothing too heavy...

eG roasted cauliflower? If I'm not serving it hot I add capers, pine nuts and raisins (thus also bringing it squarely into the Italian side of things)....it is the most foolproof thing I cook these days other than farinata.

+++

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Thought I'd bump this as the picnic season re-approaches. Doing an Italian-based potlucky thing next week that may migrate up to the roof, so that's almost a picnic. Anyway, we're doing an assortment of focaccie and a big green salad with mint and chives, but I'm kind of looking for a homey baked vegetable dish that I can do beforehand and serve at "picnic temp".

I myself have a hankering for eggplant parm (or timballo di melanzane), kind of a lighter version, though....no frying. Fontina instead of mozzarella.

My question is, does this work alright at room temp? I know I've enjoyed eggplant parm ice cold out of the fridge before, but I'm like that....

Yes. You'll miss the melted-cheese effect, but small squares of parmigiana are often served at buffets at room temp.

I'm facing the first terrace meal of the season this Sunday with a coratella coi carciofi, which I don't even like. I make the artichokes and my mother-in-law, thank heaven, does the rest (ormai, it's an annual thing in that we are given a lamb with its coratella every Easter). I need to fill out the rest of the menu. I'm thinking in terms of vignarola for the non-coratella eaters, and I don't know what else, but it has to be easy. Baked white onions maybe. Friggitelli (peppers) maybe. I'm not too good on baked pastas, but that would probably be a good idea, but nothing too heavy...

eG roasted cauliflower? If I'm not serving it hot I add capers, pine nuts and raisins (thus also bringing it squarely into the Italian side of things)....it is the most foolproof thing I cook these days other than farinata.

+++

Funny, I just bought a cauliflower thinking either I'd roast in this evening or serve it for the lunch tomorrow. I have come late to roasting cauliflower because Italians don't do it; I got it out of Mitchell Davis's latest book and love it. However, I think it's tons better right out of the oven than the next day. Your system, I presume, solves that problem. And thanks for mentioning farinata. I have half a bag of chickpea flour I want to finish before the weather gets hot. If you have a foolproof recipe I'd love to know it. The other thing I was thinking of doing with it is Sicilian panette.


Maureen B. Fant
www.maureenbfant.com

www.elifanttours.com

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      Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
      Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
       
      To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
       
      There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
       
      Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
       
      To be continued
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