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Kevin72

The Cooking and Cuisine of Campania

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Here's a question my wife asked last night: is there a reason that some parts of Italy, notably the south, have a pronounced frying culture? What factors contributed, for example, to the Neapolitan love of frying or why would it have become so engrained in their culture, that, as Schwartz and Batali have separately noted, every neighborhood has a fry shop?

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Many italians use semola for frying fish.

Probably speaks more to my frying skills than anything, but I tried semolina (I'm guessing also not the same as semola?) as a coating once and wound up with a horribly leaden, oil-drenched final product.

I mean semola rimacinata, the fine one used for bread, durum flour.

When frying fish at home we normally use to prepare two pots for frying, when the oil gets dirty in one pot, we switch to the "fresh" oil. Even if you shake the extra flour off, it's normal that the oil get a little dirty and if it's too dirty the final result is not pleasant. Of course we use plenty of oil at hot temperature and extra virgin. I was constantly fighting with my chef instructor in the States, for him (a Swiss) extra virgin was just to dress salad but in the South of Italy is different. In the States or here in London, just for a matter of cost I use peanut oil (why is so expensive outside Italy?).

Here's a question my wife asked last night:  is there a reason that some parts of Italy, notably the south, have a pronounced frying culture?  What factors contributed, for example, to the Neapolitan love of frying or why would it have become so engrained in their culture, that, as Schwartz and Batali have separately noted, every neighborhood has a fry shop?

I think there is a culture of frying because oil is available at relatively cheap prices (so not just south but also Liguria and Toscana), in Emilia Romagna strutto, lard, is what is used. And as we say: fried everything is good, even the legs of the table :biggrin: .


Edited by Franci (log)

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First, great food, everyone, from the ambitious pizza rustica to pizza (with my favorite arugula topping), cool big tubular pasta and moist chocolate cake that is also making an appearance in the Dessert thread as a sign of seasonal change.

Sorry your rabbit seemed to drown in too much tomato, Andrew, but sounds as if it was not dry at least. I'm debating whether or not to follow De Blasi's recommendations for tomato in a Genovese or stick to the traditional version without.

* * *

As for fried foods: it's not exactly a North: butter, South: oil dichotomy since Venetians do nice fried things with some of their seafood, no? Florence has at least two really good places to snack on fried foods, or sit down with it at lunch, take it home at dinner.

I was recently admonished in another thread to seek the easiest answer to puzzling questions. So, why not think of it this way: deep-fried foods taste really, really good!

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cuisine I like that does not plunge edible substances in hot oil, preferably coating them in one way or another.

FYI: The one thing from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook I did NOT like was the fritto misto. I tried the typically long instructions with enthusiasm and found myself feeling quite ill after just a bit of the stuff. Much too rich. Then you have to clean all the mess while your stomach's upset.

* * *

Franci: you mentioned something about the expense of peanut oil elsewhere. I know that in supermarkets, I tend to buy Mazola corn oil vs. peanut oil due to price. A few weeks ago, I went to the suburbs where there are two Asian grocery stores. I found a peanut oil from Hong Kong whose name is translated as "Knife Brand." It costs just under $4 for 900 ml. A friend fluent in Chinese is in town through the end of the week; I'll ask her if there's anything on the label worth translating about the source of the peanuts, etc. However, you might consider starting a thread in a different forum. There may be someone here with expertise in these matters.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Sorry your rabbit seemed to drown in too much tomato, Andrew, but sounds as if it was not dry at least.  I'm debating whether or not to follow De Blasi's recommendations for tomato in a Genovese or stick to the traditional version without.

No, it definitely wasn't too dry. And shredded rabbit added to the sauce was great on bucatini last night. Though after eating it, I don't think I'll cook rabbit again for a while. Rabbit seems to have a superabundance of tiny, sharp bones that wind up everywhere. They're a hassle to deal with, and the flavor isn't so extraordinary that I'm really tempted.

As for fried foods: it's not exactly a North: butter, South: oil dichotomy since Venetians do nice fried things with some of their seafood, no? 

Word to that. The most extraordinary thing I had to eat when I was in Venice this spring was a really first-rate fritto misto (golden shrimp, pale calamari) from a take-out place. It was absolutely amazing.

And of course Rome has suppli, not to mention filetti di baccala; so I agree that frying is really an Italian thing, or even just a food thing. Still, I won't deny that Neapolitans do it better than just about anyone else.

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Sorry your rabbit seemed to drown in too much tomato, Andrew, but sounds as if it was not dry at least.  I'm debating whether or not to follow De Blasi's recommendations for tomato in a Genovese or stick to the traditional version without.

No, it definitely wasn't too dry. And shredded rabbit added to the sauce was great on bucatini last night. Though after eating it, I don't think I'll cook rabbit again for a while. Rabbit seems to have a superabundance of tiny, sharp bones that wind up everywhere. They're a hassle to deal with, and the flavor isn't so extraordinary that I'm really tempted.

As for fried foods: it's not exactly a North: butter, South: oil dichotomy since Venetians do nice fried things with some of their seafood, no? 

Word to that. The most extraordinary thing I had to eat when I was in Venice this spring was a really first-rate fritto misto (golden shrimp, pale calamari) from a take-out place. It was absolutely amazing.

And of course Rome has suppli, not to mention filetti di baccala; so I agree that frying is really an Italian thing, or even just a food thing. Still, I won't deny that Neapolitans do it better than just about anyone else.

Andrew, if you had a lot of broken bones with the bunny, could be the butchering. Its not that hard to do it yourself, just follow the instructions Pontormo gave us upthread. Only the ribs are little bitty bunny bones. If you are braising, then the different cut/cooking time thing is minimized. If you are frying the bunny (and fried bunny is outstanding) you can compensate with the cooking time. I wouldn't bother with brining the bunny either. For me, conigilio is a sort of gamier chicken flavor. I'm sorry you guys are having trouble with it. Could very well be the type of bunny that is available in the US. They are also quite expensive...relative to what I pay here. The one I took apart the other night looked like it had been sleeping with the ducks it had so much fat on it.

Another aspect to the popularity of frying in southern Italy could be the shorter cooking time. Its hot in the south, typically fried foods cook quickly and you are done.

P.S. I'm a fan of the flour/cornstarch mix as well.

edit to add p.p.s. I should be in Compania this weekend!! :biggrin: Yeah! I sincerely doubt I'll have internet connection, but I'll try, I'll try.


Edited by hathor (log)

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I think you're right that more careful butchering would help. Still, all things considered (including expense and the fact that the missus won't eat Thumper), I'm not too wild about rabbit. Now, wild rabbit on the other hand, would probably be good. I've seen rabbits hopping contentedly around near where I work... if only I had my Elmer Fudd-style blunderbuss...

I should be in Compania this weekend!!  Yeah! I sincerely doubt I'll have internet connection, but I'll try, I'll try.

Dove vai? I'm jealous...

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Frying was/is a cheap way of cooking, which enanche many quality of simple raw ingredients.

Some vendors would set up on the street with a fire place that reassemble a big can ( 'o fucone) and a big deep frying pan on top, and would fry and sell hot to passers by. It is called "Frijenne 'magnanndo" and is a "way of life" in Naples...

Crocche, panzarotti, frittatine etc....

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Mike-

That pizza rustica is gorgeous! Did you serve it on it's own? any tips about the recipe based on your experience?

Kevin-

Great looking pizza as well. So, how did the pure tomatoes no sauce work on the crust? Also a tip for you, it seems that you baked the basil on top of the pizza (sorry if I am wrong). Always add the basil as soon as the pizza is cooked and out of the oven instead, it will stay nice fresh green and taste much better.

This weekend I got pretty busy and only had time for a quick meal from Campania. I made the "Pasta e Lenticci" from Naples at Table. I used the pasta I had on hand, spaghetti, and broke it into pieces. I also made it a little looser than the recipe states. Topped it with some parsley and chili oil. Tasty, healthy and very quick dish.

gallery_5404_94_182320.jpg


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Actually, Ellie, I'm with you on the seasoning part: I do add garlic and oregano to the crushed tomatoes, I just don't cook everything together, is all. Makes for a brighter flavor. Though again, I wasn't so happy with this result. I'll try and remember the basil thing next time, though I think I fell into that technique for the same reason as not draping the prosciutto raw over the pizza out of the oven: not hot enough.

That pasta and lentils dish looks great! Love your hand with the chilies, too. :biggrin:

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Actually, Ellie, I'm with you on the seasoning part: I do add garlic and oregano to the crushed tomatoes, I just don't cook everything together, is all.  Makes for a brighter flavor.  Though again, I wasn't so happy with this result.  I'll try and remember the basil thing next time, though I think I fell into that technique for the same reason as not draping the prosciutto raw over the pizza out of the oven: not hot enough. 

That pasta and lentils dish looks great! Love your hand with the chilies, too.  :biggrin:

My wife cannot eat spicy food, so I never add chili flakes to the food as it cooks. Instead I use a very Batali-like "pinch" and add it to my portion.

About the basil, even if the oven is not that extremely hot, adding it while cooking will make it dull and a little bitter. Add it at the end and notice the difference. I even add it at the end when making tomato sauce for the same reason.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Mike-

That pizza rustica is gorgeous! Did you serve it on it's own? any tips about the recipe based on your experience?

Thanks Elie. We did serve it just on its own for lunch.

When we make it again we will have the patience to wait until it really cools down. It tasted better and better as it went from hot to cold, cold was the best.

We used all sweet italian sausage, I think we will go half hot next time to give it a little kick and add 50% more pecorino for the extra sharpness.

Awesome pasta dish!

-Mike


-Mike & Andrea

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I think you're right that more careful butchering would help.  Still, all things considered (including expense and the fact that the missus won't eat Thumper), I'm not too wild about rabbit.  Now, wild rabbit on the other hand, would probably be good.  I've seen rabbits hopping contentedly around near where I work...  if only I had my Elmer Fudd-style blunderbuss...
I should be in Compania this weekend!!  Yeah! I sincerely doubt I'll have internet connection, but I'll try, I'll try.

Dove vai? I'm jealous...

Be careful with local wild rabbit...something about too many parasites. Try lepre instead. God only knows where you would find lepre in the States. That would be the rabbit with the 'terrible fangs"!!

We are going to Rome tomorrow, then on to Pompei, then a week in Puglia (based in Nardo, near Gallipoli). Should be some fun, huh?


Edited by hathor (log)

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We are going to Rome tomorrow, then on to Pompei, then a week in Puglia (based in Nardo, near Gallipoli). Should be some fun, huh?

Nardo'! Porto Cesareo, it's beatiful there. Buy some friselle d'orzo.

If I recall correctly there should be a nice pastry shop there.

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Franci:  you mentioned something about the expense of peanut oil elsewhere.  I know that in supermarkets, I tend to buy Mazola corn oil vs. peanut oil due to price.  A few weeks ago, I went to the suburbs where there are two Asian grocery stores.  I found a peanut oil from Hong Kong whose name is translated as "Knife Brand."  It costs just under $4 for 900 ml.  A friend fluent in Chinese is in town through the end of the week; I'll ask her if there's anything on the label worth translating about the source of the peanuts, etc.  However, you might consider starting a thread in a different forum.  There may be someone here with expertise in these matters.

Yes, I'll take your advice. I bought peanut oil from Asian Market in the States, it really smelled like peanut especially when heating it up, never happend to me using peanut oil bought in Italy. I will ask in the general food topics.

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mammmma mia, how i wished i'd checked into this thread earlier in sept, as you guys have been a cookin and enjoyin campania, and i couldn't been adding my two cents all the time! i haven't even had a chance to read through the thread.

i've been soooooo lucky to be visiting campania, practically on a commuter basis, the past several years. in fact, i'll be in salerno next week, was in napoli for the world cup madness earlier in the year.

i think in campania it IS all about the tomato. after visiting and visiting and visiting, i really do. i love their pastas with only tomato and basil, no cheese. and the seafood. and the little fried dough and seaweed balls. yum.

and BABA of course!!!!!!

has anyone waxed lyrical about BABA yet?????????

i might have to, soon.

baci,

marlena, who is as excitable as any napoletana


Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Does anyone know anything about the relationship between Puglia's and Campania's burrata?

I might try one of the latter tomorrow, shipped in that day. Just not sure if it's as good here as it is there. Any recommendations based on experience or expertise are welcome.

* * *

ETA: that looks great, Franci!!


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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LA GENOVESE

Peaches may be my favorite fruit, but onions are definitely my favorite vegetable. Were it not for the repeated references to a tree in Genesis, I would argue that there's a missing scroll somewhere in the Dead Sea identifying the source of Original Sin as the onion. Surely the Buddha knew what he was doing when he forbade his followers from eating this most pungent root.

La Genovese is closely related to the ragu Neapolitans prepare in that it is a very slow braise which ultimately provides a sauce for dried pasta. I chose to follow a recipe by Marlena de Blasi since it seemed more interesting than simpler versions while not outside tradition. I also liked the fact that it required more vegetables than most, including the four large onions I picked up at the farmers market, dirt still clinging to their skin. Weight? Well over three pounds. :smile:

First four ounces total of salt pork, salame and prosciutto are chopped finely and fried in olive oil before a large piece of beef (bottom round, on sale in my case) is browned in the fat. The beef rests on a plate while the thinly sliced onions go into the pan with garlic, chopped carrots and celery. White wine, a tiny bit of salt and a little tomato puree (which some omit altogether or add as only a t or T of tomato paste). Beef returns.

I simmered the dish for around three or four hours last night and another two, at least, tonight. The thing is, the onions from the market rendered so much liquid that the Dutch oven looked as if it were a pot of French onion soup with a shrinking piece of meat in the center instead of a floating slice of gooey toasted baguette. Besides, the meat was just beginning to yield.

Thanks to the additional night of cooking, when I removed the twine that was holding the beef together, thick shreds of fiber peeled off the sides. The watery soup was now a deeper reddish brown and thick enough to cling to macaroni.

When I first piped up to say I was going to make this dish, I compared it to brisket. It's actually its opposite in that you have a little meat with lots of sauce. I followed the advice of one source and coated the pasta and Genovese with lots and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I bite my thumb at the little green box of Kraft. It proved another reason to love the folks who gave us pizza and another reason to forgive them for Baba au Rhum.

But wait. There's more!

The meat really was meltingly tender, luscious especially with the little piece of fat at the edge when I sliced it. Like pot roast, yes, only shreddy. This I ate separately as per tradition, though I could not wait until the next night to do so.

I cut up two small yellow potatoes and cooked them in the reducing sauce to serve as a contorno. Smashed, peppered, splattered with just a little more sauce, they, too, were very, very good.


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Great, yummy sounding descriptions as always. I'll bet not just your house but your whole block smelled incredible by the end of that cooking.

And . . .

[it proved another reason to love the folks who gave us pizza and another reason to forgive them for Baba au Rhum.

Looks like you and Marlena (upthread) are going to have some words . . . :biggrin:

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A proposal for the next three months:

I know I had announced that Tuscany is up for October, but Judith (hathor) has brought up that she's going to be travelling a lot in November, which was the proposed Umbria month, which she's been wanting to take the lead on.

So, I know that some may have already come by resources to do Tuscany next month, but would there be objections to moving it to November, Umbria to October? Emilia Romagna then remains in December.

That still leaves the question of Le Marche, another high vote-getter but one that doesn't have many cooking resources, at least in the U.S.

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Kevin, that switch would be fine with me.

Pontormo, your Genovese sounds wonderful. After 6 hours of cooking the onions must have melted right into the sauce - sounds like they act as a thickener of sorts for the meat juice, no?

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Kevin: I am easy regarding months we cook Tuscan & Umbrian food; I had only deferred to Hathor's original preferences. I still think that after a much needed break, we do right by ALL regions of Italy and continue in the spring of 2007, including Le Marche, the Veneto, etc.

Marlena knows she has my respect, but if Baba's on the menu, she can have my dessert, too.

Shaya: The onions are the sauce--as is the case with brisket, except there's a lot more of it, and yes, you're right, the meat juices contribute quite a bit as does the wine. According to our former regional host, you shouldn't be able to tell the onions are onions. Essentially, it's what a Frenchman might find on the burner if he forgot to turn the heat off after making onion soup.

Elie: I forgot to say how good your lentils look. Deborah Madison has a recipe for lentil minestrone soup that I really like. Seems quite similar.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I'm afraid that y'all will have to put me in the baba-bashing camp. I'm not a fan. (Though one of my favorite sights in Naples is the pasticceria on the Via dei Tribunali that has as its sign a giant baba, being ridden by a witch. That cracks me up.)

Pontormo, my mouth is watering. It's not even nine in the morning, and I'm craving onions. I must make genovese this weekend! Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll have six hours on Sunday to let it braise. what to do, what to do...

As to the months for Umbria and Tuscany, non fa niente.


Edited by Andrew Fenton (log)

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I'm afraid that y'all will have to put me in the baba-bashing camp.  I'm not a fan.  (Though one of my favorite sights in Naples is the pasticceria on the Via dei Tribunali that has as its sign a giant baba, being ridden by a witch.  That cracks me up.)

Pontormo, my mouth is watering.  It's not even nine in the morning, and I'm craving onions.  I must make genovese this weekend!  Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll have six hours on Sunday to let it braise.  what to do, what to do...

As to the months for Umbria and Tuscany, non fa niente.

Into the oven at 200 overnight, pal. Seal the lid with crumpled butcher paper. Get a taste the next morning by spooning the sauce over your eggs!

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Problem is that I'm going to be out of town on Saturday night. The solution, I suppose, is to cook it on Sunday night and have it on Monday for dinner. woo hoo!

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