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Kevin72

The Cooking and Cuisine of Lombardia

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Forgive me if this has been said, but on my city's library system, I think I have only four minutes. I just wanted to add to comments Alberto and others have been making about Lombardy as a diverse region.

I hope this is new information some of you will find useful to keep in mind: in the early modern world (late 15th C or Quattrocento), the Duchy of Mantua was distinct from the court of Milan. Actually, the Visconti and later Sforza of Milan were rivals with the Gonzaga of Mantua, Ludivico in particular, who was more closely allied with the Este of Ferrara and the papal court. Thus independence. More later on Plautina.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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[...]Not having a ton of free time on Wed I went for a simple main that would cook in the background while I concentrated on the deepfry.  I made Verzada from Boni's "Italian Regional Cooking".  It is a simple dish of cabbage cooked with pancetta and onions with white wine vinegar and sausages.

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This really looks like the type of food one would find in Austria or other points to the north of Italy. This photo looks a lot like a sausage and sauerkraut plate. Was there enough vinegar to make it taste like sauerkraut?

I'm loving the photos, you all!


Michael aka "Pan

 

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This really looks like the type of food one would find in Austria or other points to the north of Italy. This photo looks a lot like a sausage and sauerkraut plate. Was there enough vinegar to make it taste like sauerkraut?

Not at all. With the butter, bacon fat, and sausage drippings it was barely a vinaigrette! More like a bit of acid to cut the richness.

I can't imagine anything more purely Italian than homemade Bresaolo. Much more impressive than using the 'real' imported product. When do I need to get my order for guanciale in??? Nice looking soup as well.

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I also managed to dig out the recipe for salamelle Mantovane kanljung was writing about: 500g lean pork meat (from the shoulder or leg), 400g pork belly, salt, white pepper, a little nutmeg (for all three the recipe says "to taste" :wacko: ) and a glass of red wine (infused with a finely chopped garlic clove and then filtered).

Thanks for the info, Alberto. This makes it close enough to my substitute of choice: A really good fresh italian sausage made in-house by one of the italian delis here in Gothenburg. The main difference is that is made with white wine instead of red.


Christofer Kanljung

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I also managed to dig out the recipe for salamelle Mantovane kanljung was writing about: 500g lean pork meat (from the shoulder or leg), 400g pork belly, salt, white pepper, a little nutmeg (for all three the recipe says "to taste" :wacko: ) and a glass of red wine (infused with a finely chopped garlic clove and then filtered).

Thanks for the info, Alberto. This makes it close enough to my substitute of choice: A really good fresh italian sausage made in-house by one of the italian delis here in Gothenburg. The main difference is that is made with white wine instead of red.

I'm sure it will work perfectly. Just one suggestion that comes to mind:if I'm not mistaken, Ada Boni has a recipe for riso alla pilota with "standard" Italian sausage and she suggests to add just a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to get the flavour right. Might be worth a try.

If anyone wants to use the recipe I gave above, I have just made my first try and there are one or two tips I think could be useful:

- about a tablespoon salt is enough, and a teaspoon pepper.

- when you prepare the garlic flavoured wine do so the previous evening. I prepared mine today and left the garlic in the wine for about 3-4 hours. The end result was not as garlicky as it should be.


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Today's lunch was the occasion to start with Lombardia. Nothing as impressive and brave as Ellie's home made bresaola, just a rich winter Sunday meal, which went great with the constant freezing temperatures we're experiencing in the past week or sop here in Germany.

Inspired by Nathan's chiscioi, I decided to have a go at sciatt, made in a similar way but without beer. The recipe I used comes from Slow Food's Recipes from the Osterias of Italy and originally serves them with a salad of wild mountain herbs, which not surprisingly, I did not manage to find at my local market. The batter is made up of a half and half mix of buckwheat to wheat flour and no leavening agent. I was a bit surprised that the recipe nonetheless called for at least three hours of rise for the batter, but after that time the batter had indeed started to become slightly bubbly. I suppose buckwheat must be particularly rich in wild yeasts. Maybe if some baking expert reads this, they could tell us if I'm totally wrong or not. As cheese, I substituted the Valtellina Casera in the recipe with some young Austrian Bergkäse.

As Nathan, I also have the feeling my batter could have been somewhat thicker. In quite a few sciatt the cheese got out of the batter and in part melted away, in part fried becoming a very tasty crust on the little pancakes, as you can see in the picture below. I found them quite nice, though I can see how they would work even better with a peppery or slightly bitter salad on the side.

gallery_9330_174_18871.jpg

The sciatt were followed by the Mantuan riso alla pilota col puntel which kanljung mentioned before made according to the procedure I described before in this thread. To me, this is winter comfort food, so I'm not really able to be objective about the dish, though the ribs came out particularly nice this time. Instead of using the classic pan fry method, I followed a recipe from the cookbook of "dal Pescatore": which cooks the ribs in water, lemon juice and olive oil till the water is completely evaporated and then browns them shortly in the oven. The result are some extremely juicy and flavourful ribs.

gallery_9330_174_28987.jpg

To finish with a sweet note (and more butter), I went for another Mantuan classic, torta sbrisolona, practically a cake made preparing a crumble of wheat and maize flour –flavoured with lemon peel and vanilla and mixed with coarsely chopped almonds– and sprinkling this on a cake mold. Simple, yet quite nice and even better when taken together a glass of sweet liqueur wine like vin santo or Marsala, though maybe not everyone's cup of tea (especially for those who love creamy desserts).

gallery_9330_174_17235.jpg


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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I also made riso alla pilota this weekend, I didn't go fot the col puntel version though. I based my version on this recipe together with Alberto's description upthread. I substituted the salamelle mantovese with some fresh italian sausages from my a Italian deli. These are made in-store and is as close as you get to homemade ones.

Unforunately, I didn't read Alberto's advice to add some cinnamon or nutmeg until after I made this dinner. Nevertheless, I think it was an excellent great tasting dish and really simple to make. I'll agree with Alberto that this is comfort food. I'll definitely will make this more times. The next time I'll probably make my own salamelle forcemeat as well.

gallery_26014_2500_1182538.jpg

For dessert I made a Semifreddo al torrone which is basically a parfait. This recipe is from Cremona where torrone supposedly features a lot. It consists of broken up torrone, egg custard, beaten egg whites and beaten double cream. All this is folded together and put in the freezer for three hours.

I haven't got any picture of this, since all my photos were strangely out of focus.


Christofer Kanljung

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This really looks like the type of food one would find in Austria or other points to the north of Italy. This photo looks a lot like a sausage and sauerkraut plate. Was there enough vinegar to make it taste like sauerkraut?

Not at all. With the butter, bacon fat, and sausage drippings it was barely a vinaigrette! More like a bit of acid to cut the richness.

I can't imagine anything more purely Italian than homemade Bresaolo. Much more impressive than using the 'real' imported product. When do I need to get my order for guanciale in??? Nice looking soup as well.

As soon as I get my hands on some fresh pork jowles :wink:


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Ciao tutti! I've been away...no internet...but I'm back. I'll try and put together a little background info on Lombardia.

Stocking up on butter and eggs right now!!

OK, history buffs, here is a question: why saffron in Milano (risotto Milanese). Where or how did saffron become a Milanese thing?

(p.s. If anyone gets their hands on Abruzzo saffron...hold on to it for the the Abruzzo month. It is THE most amazine saffron I have ever tasted.)

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OK, history buffs, here is a question: why saffron in Milano (risotto Milanese). Where or how did saffron become a Milanese thing?

According to Clifford Wright, it is an Arab thing via Sicily! Now I am not sure how it got up there though and took hold.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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My understanding is that it came there via Spanish rule or interaction with the Spanish court, who were themselves enamored of saffron at the time.

Common folklore involves a man named "Zafferano" (sp?), who either first made risottoa alla Milanese in honor of a nobleman's marriage, or had it made for him by some anonymous chef for his own wedding or daughter's wedding. I've seen two different accounts of this though and don't know how accurate it is.

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This was the best explanation that I could find.

But, somehow it seems too...pat. We've got Arabs, Sicily, saffron used by Romans for color, and none of this directly links to Milano, other than thru a stained glass maker.

Is there any saffron that is locally grown in Lomardia?

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Is there any saffron that is locally grown in Lomardia?

Today? I don't know, but around 14th century, saffron production was quite widespread even in northern Switzerland. Later it was produced in the Valais, Ticino and Grigioni and until today, there's still a village in the Valais (Mund) where saffron is produced. Hence, we can fairly assume that Saffron once was widely produced on south slopes of the alps (like in the Valtellino)


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Housekeeping note: March's region is officially Friuli Venezia-Giulia.

One thing that is emerging, now that we're no longer bound by this being any kind of "New Year's Resolution" project, is that we have unlimited time and number of different months to explore a region. With that in mind, then, Trentino will get its separate due at some point, I'm sure.

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I am planning on a mostly Lombardian meal for Valentine's dinner. Scallops are one of my wife's favorite foods and I always have at least one scallop dish on Valentine's. How would these be cooked in Lombardy? Any ideas? I am thinking a simple sear with maybe some crisped Bresaola and sage an serve as a first course. Is that total heresy?

Dessert will of course be Tiramisu, the rest of the menu is still being decided on.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Is there any saffron that is locally grown in Lomardia?

Today? I don't know, but around 14th century, saffron production was quite widespread even in northern Switzerland. Later it was produced in the Valais, Ticino and Grigioni and until today, there's still a village in the Valais (Mund) where saffron is produced. Hence, we can fairly assume that Saffron once was widely produced on south slopes of the alps (like in the Valtellino)

Thanks Boris. That puts the picture in better focus for me. Next saffron question: saffron was commonly used as a dye. Was it always used as a spice as well? Or did that come later?

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I am planning on a mostly Lombardian meal for Valentine's dinner. Scallops are one of my wife's favorite foods and I always have at least one scallop dish on Valentine's. How would these be cooked in Lombardy? Any ideas? I am thinking a simple sear with maybe some crisped Bresaola and sage an serve as a first course. Is that total heresy?

Dessert will of course be Tiramisu, the rest of the menu is still being decided on.

That sounds awesome and better than my thinking of doing them "alla Milanese": breaded and sauteed in butter.

Maybe wrap them in your bresaola and broil or grill them?

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saffron was commonly used as a dye. Was it always used as a spice as well? Or did that come later?

What I learned here on the homepage of a medieval guild (you might it brablefish) safron was always used as spice, dye, medicine and dope (with a dose of > 10g you're ready for the long goodbye) sametime. BTW these (trade) guilds named after safron exist in Zurich, Basel and Lucerne for ~700 years.

Another remark regarding the aforementioned scaloppine Milanese: they are nothing else than the ancestors of the "Wiener Schnitzel", probably brought to Venice and the Ventian hinterland which belonged to the Austrian Empire some many years ago.

Crisped Bresaola? If you ever get a chance to spot some artisanal one: yes, heresy without any doubt. As long as you do this with industrial stuff, no problemo.

Another variant of Lombardian scallops: "scaloppine al limone". The mixture of butter, gravy and lemon juice is quite sophisticated.

As a starter or primo, one could try "malfatti": gnocchi made of ricotta, egg, spinach and a bit flour. Very light and utterly tasty.


Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Crisped Bresaola? If you ever get a chance to spot some artisanal one: yes, heresy without any doubt. As long as you do this with industrial stuff, no problemo.

It is actually home-cured (I posted about it on the previous page), so I would like to claim it is artisanal : :biggrin: .

Simple seared scallops with lemon butter sounds good as well, thanks for the suggestion. I really like the malfatti as a primo also.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Not to get too OT, but how do you slice the bresaola to get it thin?

And, another request for a curing project: lardo.

I just use a very sharp knife. It is still not as thin as a deli slicer would make it but thin enough. Lardo! Oh yes, for that I need some very good pork. the only source for that is to get it online. It is in my future right after Pancetta.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I believe it is incorrect to speak of "The common theme I've run across in the limited cookbook literature I have on Lombardia is that there is a definite juxtaposition of the cooking of Milan and then the cooking of the rest of Lombardia."

The cooking of the "rest of Lombardia" is highly varied. To give two examples... the cooking from the east side of Lago Maggiore has a lot in common with northwest Piemonte and a lot lot less with the area 20 km. southeast of Mantova, which has a lot in common with Emilia-Romagna.

Fellow eGulleteers on this forum: Please excuse me for brevity and incomplete entries which may appear in association with my name for at least another month. I am learning how to make due without a computer at the moment and when I throw myself upon the mercies of the public lbirary system, my sessions online are sometimes limited to less than 15 minutes. Therefore, I understand my comments on 15th-century Italy were rather cryptic and the context was not established in the four minutes I had to write. Now, let me try again.

The comment I cite above was one of several that I had in mind when I last posted; the subject of the court of the Gonzaga in Mantova (15th-16th century) was also raised by albiston, I believe, in relationship to the cooking of that city. There seemed to be a discussion of the relative uniformality or diversity of the cooking of Lombardy that relates very much to the political history of Italy.

While jumping into that discussion, I tried to point out that the current region of Lombardy unites cities that were once separate. In the case of Milano and Mantova, the cities were centers of rival courts and rival powers during the second half of the fifteenth century when Ludivico Gonzaga ruled Mantova. As the ruler of a Humanist court, Ludivico was known for using sponsorship of classical scholarship & the visual arts among other non-military means to construct an image of power and prestige. He also established important ties to the papal court in Rome (one of his sons became a cardinal, for example; Alberti, the architect and humanist scholar worked for both the papacy and for Ludivico, thanks to connections made during a papal visit to Mantova.)

One of the most important aims of Renaissance court life was to maintain and expand one's power through diplomacy and exchange. The role of the Gonzaga as hosts to the papal court, and to others with whom alliances were forged were instrumental in maintaining power. Andrea Mantegna, the painter, was hired by Ludivico Gonzaga as one of the first known court artists to earn an annual salary and live at court so he could decorate rooms used for public meetings in the Gonzaga court.

Banquets, like frescoes, were also emblems of power: a chance to display splendour and demonstrate wealth while satuating honored guests. Thus, early culinary history is intertwined with the power of the court, at least when Mantua and the Gonzaga are concerned.

Unfortunately I have little time to speak further on one of the humanist scholars who came to the Gonzaga court and enhanced its culinary legacy.

However, the Library of Congress here in Washington, D.C. owns an original manuscript by Maestro Martini, the mentor of Platinus (a self-invented, classicizing name), a man from Cremona who ultimately became the librarian of Sixtus IV in the papal court. Platina offered a transcription of Maestro Martini's recipes at the end of De Honesta Vouptate ac Valetudine. However, he made his own mark and from what I understand, some of the recipes are novel. The entire work was translated, according to Anna del Conte, and became what she calls a bestseller after the first French edition was issued in 1505.

Edited to correct spelling and a factual error.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Very interesting info Pontormo. You need this sort of info to put the regional food in perspective.

Here's my little overview of the region:

Take a quick look at the geography of Lombardia: there is plenty of water from the Alps, rivers and lakes, and a near equal divide between hills, mountains and plains.

To orient yourself, you have Switzerland to the north, Piemonte to the west, Trentino and the Veneto bordering on the east and Emilio Romagna to the south. The region is intersected by the mighty Po river and boasts 6 large lakes: Maggiore, Varese, Lugano, Como, Idro and Garda.

Now, the short history lesson:

Original inhabitants were Celtic

Then came the Gauls until the Roman Empire took over in the 3rd century BC

When the Empire fell, the Goths took over, followed by the Lombards, who established their capital in Pavia.

The Lombards were defeated by the Franks in 744.

The whole region doesn’t become unified until the Visconti family of Milano takes over and keeps the region unified until 1428.

The area doesn’t see a significant revival until mid-18th century when it fell under Austrian rule. In 1815, the Congress of Venice established the Lombardo-Veneto kingdom.

In 1859, the region is among the first to annexed to Italy. Got that? There will be a pop quiz later this month.

So, what does that mean in the cucina?

All that water means plenty of irrigation to support the growth of cereal grains and fodder for livestock. More rice is eaten in the region than pasta. Butter from all those cows trumps the use of olive oil. Heavy cream is a favored ingredient (remember the Austrian-Swiss influence). Beautiful cow cheeses such as taleggio, bitto, formai de mut, crescenza, robiole, marscapone, grana, bel paese and my favorite: gorgonzola, are served at the end of meals.

Not to worry, the pig is still important. Lombardia is home to famous prosciutti, the air dried, seasoned leg of the pig. Other parts of the pig are used in a variety of wonderful salumi. The quality of the air is highly valued, and even more so, the cultivation of the muffa or mold necessary to cure the meat. A famed producer of prosciutto was ordered by the government to move his establishment, horrified and terrified, he lovingly scraped every bit of muffa off the walls and brought it along to the new place, praying the sacred muffa would grow and season the prosciutto.

Cured beef shows up in the mountain areas as bresaola, and even cured goat: violino di capra.

The Jewish communities in the regions started using goose as an alternative to pork and created a variety of salumi d’oca.

Rice features in many dishes: zuppa di riso, timballo di riso, torte di riso and the mack daddy of them all: risotto. Risotto all Milanese, all pilota, con seppia, con trota, con gorgonzola, con vino risso, con just about anything you have laying around the kitchen.

Battles have been pitched over whether the sacred risotto should be stirred or shaken. As students at ital.cook, we were literally screamed at for stirring the risotto. To butter or not to butter at the end. These are serious issues that are hotly debated.

In the south, there is still some tender wheat grown for those who would like to indulge in some pasta, like tortelli di zucca. In the foothills, corn is grown and turned into polenta, and in the mountains buckwheat is grown and made into pasta dishes like pizzoccheri della Vatellina.

All those lakes provide fresh water fish such as carp, trout, pike and eels and frogs. The cows provide the beef and veal for osso bucco, veal Milanese, cotoletta, and the ever popular tripe.

All in all, we are looking at a very rich region where the ability to mangia bene is not a problem. Buon appetito!

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