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The Cooking and Cuisine of Liguria


Kevin72
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Its been a poor month for me in this thread. Had a lot of things going on but wanted to sneak in one Ligurian meal before the month ended. Decided the logical thing was brown pesto... :angry:

So I decided to go with a recipe from Bugialli for Trenette Avvantaggiate con Fagolini. I started off with the trennete which used a blend of whole wheat and regular flour. Bugialli maintains that while trenette are normaly made w/o eggs, it is traditional to use an egg in the whole wheat version.

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I then made the pesto which was fairly traditional. I am also a Thai granite guy :smile: . I have to admit that I normally blanche the basil to maintain its color but decided to just follow the recipe and pound w/o that step.

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The green beans in the market were pathetic so I subbed some asparagus. I thought I had plenty of pesto but between it starting to oxidize, a modest quantity, and the brown pasta, this looks like plain brown noodles. Luckily this had plenty of flavor and tasted much better than it looks.

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For a main I went with one of those "I sort of read that they exist dishes". Did a fish in cartocio dish. Used Black Snapper (some sort of west coast USA rockfish) with leeks, artichokes, olives and pine nuts.

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Always a good light dish and it least it felt like I was using the right ingredients. I also finished it off with the last of my Taggiasca olive oil from Liguria. (ROI brand) I also could not find any Ligurian wines but found a nice malvasia from a bit inland (near Piacenza in ER) to go with this.

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I'll have to step it up next month but at least I have allready sourced some fregola, malloredus and pecorino sardo.

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Friday night's meal.

Started with fried calamari and fried pickled herring. I had been craving the fried anchovies listed in Plotkin's book which are traditionally served with a piquant salsa verde. Figuring to combine the two, I bought some pickled herring from our deli case instead. Everyone, myself included, was a little worried how they'd taste. But they wound up being pretty good, and would have been even more so if I'd thought to really get them dry before battering them.

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Then we had a repeat of one of last year's Ligurian meals, starting with a modification of corzetti, a stamped round pasta unique to this region:

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As with last year, this year I used my pizelle press instead of the corzetti stamps. As a result, these were fairly large and thick pastas; I served three but even two would've worked as a primo. To top them, the traditional condimento of a marjoram (oregano) and pine nut sauce, which interestingly uses butter as the binding fat instead of olive oil.

The main were stuffed zucchini:

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The zucchini are briefly blanched, whole, in boiling water, then halved, their insides scooped out and added to a filling of sauteed onions and ground veal, basil, breadcrumbs, parmigiano, and eggs. They are then baked in pans with a mixture of tomato sauce and white wine.

Dessert was an apple crostata. I don't have Plotkin's book handy but he gives it a different name, saying that in the rest of Italy it's more commonly known as a crostata.

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I've always had problems with my crostate when I've made them and tried cooking them free-form as traditional: there's so much butter in the recipes I use that mine usually melt before they can set up. Seeing that the dough was heading that way, I baked it in a pie mold instead.

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Over the holiday weekend, we went to Austin for a family get together at my brother's. I made a grigliata mista with Ligurian elements.

We went to Whole Foods and loaded up for the night's meal. Afterwards, however, we swung by a grocery store near my brother's house for some other items. This particular store was supposedly the more "mainstream" sister version of Central Market, which I've written about here as my primary shopping resource. I was perusing the seafood case and was shocked to find them selling freshwater prawns, something I've never seen sold anywhere. I snapped them up, for a fairly cheap price. The fish guy was impressed and said that other than a French woman the other day, we were the only ones who'd bought any.

For Adam, seafood shots, nowhere near as great as his Fish and Other Seafood thread, of course:

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I grilled the mussels and clams, then made a mignonette-type dipping sauce consisting of sherry vinegar, shallots, parsley, lemon juice, and the shellfish liquors (liquers?). The prawns were grilled whole, split in half, doused with olive oil and lemon juice, and served.

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I was, sadly, a little disappointed in the prawns. They had been frozen of course, and the flesh had that compact, mealy, previously frozen texture to it. But it was rich, sweet, and more like lobster meat than shrimp.

The primo was trofie with green beans and pesto.

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I made trofie last year using chestnut flour, and as I mentioned upthread, they were a disaster: undercooked and acrid from the rancid flour I used unknowingly.

For these, I reverted to a mistake I'd made previously. When I first read about trofie, they were described simply as "Ligurian gnocchi" and so I made them as a standard potato gnocchi, then rolled them into their customary stubby noodle shape and served them with green beans and pesto, as a play on the trennette with potatoes, green beans, and pesto. I liked that version and fell back on them for this meal, not willing to experiment with the whole wheat version Plotkin also has in his book. They were a little too fragile, actually, and quite a few broke up. Also, like Nathan, my pesto turned black almost instantly (and yes, you mortarheads out there, I did use a blender! :wink: ). But everyone else was pretty happy with it.

The main was grilled halibut with more salsa verde, served with simply dressed tossed greens.

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Dessert, not pictured, were baked stuffed peaches.

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Beautiful meals everyone!! Gorgeous pastas, filled and stamped. Beautiful prawns....really sorry they didn't live up to your expectations.

The fish at the market looked really cripity-crapity, so no burrida for me this weekend. Used up the rest of the baccala by making brandade (French, I know, I know), but served along with a Ligurian inspired tapenade: olives, anchovies, capers, parsely, olive oil. This my friends, would be excellent on anything! even Cheerios!

Also very interesting discussion about when does something become traditional and regional. That is a topic to be discussed around a table with a lot of wine! :laugh:

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Then we had a repeat of one of last year's Ligurian meals, starting with a modification of corzetti, a stamped round pasta unique to this region:

You know I actually found a corzetti stamp this month but it was $60 which I just could not justify for a piece of wood, even hand carved ligurian wood.

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Then we had a repeat of one of last year's Ligurian meals, starting with a modification of corzetti, a stamped round pasta unique to this region:

You know I actually found a corzetti stamp this month but it was $60 which I just could not justify for a piece of wood, even hand carved ligurian wood.

What if it was made of OLIVE wood Nathan? :smile:

Great looking food everyone, I love those prawns Kevin, well at least the way they looked. Are they from HEB by any chance? I certainly have never seen them. Although I buy frozen shrimp all the time and I think it works quiet well. I never buy any other frozen or previously frozen seafood though. So maybe the prawns themselves were not of decent quality and the freezing did not help.

I made some squid this weekend. pic and comments to follow as well as a last day of the month Ligurian meal.

So have we decided on the Q3 regions yet?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Yeah, they were from a CM/HEB hybrid store that just opened in Austin. They always seem to bring out the big guns when they open a store, test the waters on what sells and what doesn't, then scale back. I saw live abalone, scampi, and razor clams at our CM when they opened. Two weeks later, nada.

These were frozen and then thawed for sale at the store, not bought frozen.

Q3 regions will be announced tomorrow at the start of the Sardinia thread!

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What if it was made of OLIVE wood Nathan?  :smile:

Even then.... Simply must draw the line somewhere. Plus in the back of my head, I remembered Kevin saying that that they were not that exciting to eat in last years food blog. Have not checked if that was accurate though. Interestingly the web site only claims they are $36. They had the awful Foods one pictured but also one with a much nicer design. Corzetti Stamp at AGFerrari

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This past weekend I made the "Stewed squid smothered in greens" from Paula Wolfert's Mediterannean Grains and Greens. The greens included chard, spinach, and an assortment of herbs. All is stewed slowly till meltingly tender.

I served it with homemade crusty bread.

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E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I am very glad I managed a farewell to Liguria meal today. Also keeping with this month's color scheme, it was more or less green.

From the same Paula Wolfert book I made green dumplings with walnuts and tomatos. The dumplings are so light because they have very little flour. They are mainly pureed cooked spinach, ricotta and some egg. They are cooked then placed in a abking dish and topped with chopped tomatoes, various herbs, walnuts and melted butter then they are heated through in an oven for a few minutes. Sorry, the picture really does not do these soft pilowy dumplings enough justice and they look like they are mushy. In fact they kept their shape quiet well.

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I also made some herb roasted chicken thighs with green beans in using what Kevin might call "Ligurian elements" i:e lots of herbs, garlic, lemon zest, GREEN beans, olive oil, some more walnuts and a little parm.

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Here is my wife's plate (no she does not much care for the whole primo first thing :smile:). The dumplings look more like the way they really were here

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A fantastic meal to end the month with. I know I've said it before, but IMHO Liguria had some surprisingly awsome cooking and I will be using what I learned here in many future meals.

Ciao Liguria!! now on to Sardinia....

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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This past weekend I made the "Stewed squid smothered in greens" from Paula Wolfert's Mediterannean Grains and Greens. The greens included chard, spinach, and an assortment of herbs. All is stewed slowly till meltingly tender.

I served it with homemade crusty bread.

This looks really good. What is the braising liquid for this dish? And a side question; do you like this book? I think there is a used copy at one of my local bookstores.

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Good looking stuff there. Was the squid just with greens? There's another recipe that stews squid with greens and chickpeas that's also really good and satisfying. Guess you like it spicy, eh?

Glad you liked Liguria. I really enjoyed this month as well. I heard numerous comments about how "refreshing" and "delicate" the food was, and even a couple times that it felt very healthy to be eating this way.

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Our last meal of the month:

A modification of whitebait (aka bianchetti) soup:

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I used baby shrimp instead of bianchetti. Zucchini, peas (I fell back on frozen artichokes after discovering I was out of frozen peas), the shrimp and capellini are poached in a seafood stock, then marjoram(oregano again!) and eggs are swirled in at the last minute. Again, very delicate and aromatic.

The main was snapper fillets with asparagus sauce:

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The asparagus are poached with a garlic clove, then pureed with egg yolks into a sauce. The fish is lightly sauteed with shallots and placed over the sauce.

It was amazingly quick to prepare, too, maybe only 40 minutes?

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This past weekend I made the "Stewed squid smothered in greens" from Paula Wolfert's Mediterannean Grains and Greens. The greens included chard, spinach, and an assortment of herbs. All is stewed slowly till meltingly tender.

I served it with homemade crusty bread.

This looks really good. What is the braising liquid for this dish? And a side question; do you like this book? I think there is a used copy at one of my local bookstores.

The squid was braised in a mixture of white wine, a little tomato, a healthy dose of extravirgin olive oil along with all the liquid that the greens produced. It was, as most of the food this month very simple but delicious.

Yes I highly recommend this book. It captures everything I love about my favorite cuisine, that of the mediterannean, with tons of uses for greens and all kinds of grains and the whole thing is of course full of great reading stories. This is NOT a vegetarian cookbook as some might think. probably 75% of the recipes use meat of some kind. It also has some excellent bread recipe, but I have not managed to work on those yet. I will be using it for a couple Sardinia recipes and many Tuscan ones later on.

Kevin-

I do love it spicy, my wife does not. So you would normally see a good dose of flakes on my portion :smile:. BTW, some chickpeas in the squid stew will make a hearty addition.

Nice looking snapper and the sauce is fantastic looking as well. Is this from plotkin?? How was the taste? This might be the most "refined" meal we've seen this month.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Yeah, a Plotkin recipe from a ristorante along the Riviera.

The sauce tasted like a vaguely vegetal hollandaise, what with the egg yolks in there. There was some bitter element to it as well, I'm trying to figure out what that would be from. But overall, "refined" is exactly what I was going for with this meal.

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Yeah, a Plotkin recipe from a ristorante along the Riviera. 

The sauce tasted like a vaguely vegetal hollandaise, what with the egg yolks in there.  There was some bitter element to it as well, I'm trying to figure out what that would be from.  But overall, "refined" is exactly what I was going for with this meal.

Asparagus usually has a bitter tone to it. I would think that's where you are getting it from.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Liguria was indeed fun. I experimented with lots of green salsas and found all kinds of places to add a few anchovies. All in all, a good month for developing some interesting flavor combinations.

Kevin, I really like the look of that asparagus sauce...sometimes garlic can give off a bitter note as well.

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Liguria continues to be fun, even in June.

Last night I made a truly wonderful example of this region's special talent in the preparation of all things green: Ravioli di Carciofi al Profumo di Timo . Great name for a dish, no?

The recipe is in Flavors of the Riviera by Colman Andrews. In confess that when I made stuffed pasta for the first time in at least a decade while we were exploring Lombardy, I was disappointed with the dough. Anna del Conte includes a traditional recipe that incorporates water, a way to compensate for the preciosity of eggs. This time I used an Emilia-Romagnan dough, adding an extra yolk and a tablespoon of milk as per advice of Marcella Hazan, and was happy with the results.

The filling consists of artichokes and leeks that are stewed and dumped into a food processor. I cooked the vegetables separately on different days and would like to think that made a difference. I also added a little fresh thyme to the leeks as they softened. Egg, a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta, Parm, S & P.

After the ravioli are done, they are sauced with crushed pinenuts that are sauteed in butter until warm and slightly colored, along with plenty of fresh thyme.

Delicate. Absolutely delicious. You have to make this, too. After all those heady, rich, golden battered, deep-fried or otherwise assertive artichokes we prepared while in Rome, this dish demonstrates how different regions can be in the treatment of one of the most perfect plants to grow on Earth even if it is plated like an armadillo.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Pontormo, as you might have noticed I just love artichokes. I have been wanting to make them as ravioli for a long time but hadn't settled on how quite to do it. I was going to try Thomas Keller's FL version, which I had the pleasure of eating when I was in Yountville last Spring, but am curious to hear more about yours.

What did you use for stewing liquid - stock, water, garlic, lemon?

Did you find that the artichoke leaves broke down sufficiently in the food processor? I have visions of little stringy bits when I bite into one.

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I'll send a PM w/ the published recipe if you don't have access to this book. I forget how I cooked the artichoke since I prepped it over the weekend & didn't follow the recipe there, but I believe I used white white, a little lemon and Ligurian olive oil. I trimmed the heck out of the thing and processed it twice, first alone and then last night with the leeks. Yes, there was a little--as in teeny tiny bit of--fibrous content, but that would not not be an issue if smaller (or admittedly, squeaky new, just picked globes) varieties of artichokes were used.

The leeks, thyme, butter, nuts--just everything together, along with a very light white wine--honored the artichoke with more subtle elegance than I am showing now.

And yes, your love of artichokes is quite evident. :wink:

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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