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The Cooking and Cuisine of Trentino Alto Adige


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The Holidays and New Year caused me to lapse in my planning for this thread, hence the delay and subsequently shoddy initial post.

Trentino Alto Adige is one of the Northernmost regions of Italy, above the Veneto and bordering Friuli Venezia Giulia. The cuisines share some similarities and key ingredients.

TAA is equally informed by Austria in its cooking and culture. Dark, whole grain breads are a key staple. When they get too stale, one use for these breads is to make them into canederli, a type of gnocchi or dumpling. Sauerkraut also can be found used here, as can perhaps the best-known export of the region, speck or smoked prosciutto. Game abounds, and beef is used quite a bit in the cooking as well.

This is one of the thinnest referenced regions we've covered, unfortunately. No books devoted exlcusively to it turn up in an Amazon booksearch. Ada Boni roles up the Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Friuli Venezia Giulia into one whole chapter. Marlena di Blasi leaves the region out entirely from her Northern cookbook, dismissing it as "too Germanic". That leaves a thin chapter on it from Ada Boni's book, and the chapter from Culinaria. If I recall correctly, Lynne Rossetto Kasper also imparts a few reigional recipes in her Italian Country Table cookbook as well. There's a not-terribly enlightening article on it in the new all-Italy edition of Gourmet magazine. Hopefully, Pontormo will be able to help us with online resources, and of course others' knowledge and input are welcome as well.

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Thanks Kevin! Nothing shoddy about your intro at all.

What I'm finding interesting about these threads, is that we are going back to previous threads and using them as an ongoing reference. What could be better than that? We're creating some sort of ongoing regional reference guide. Bravi!

There are some very interesting wines in Trentino AA, I hope I can find some here.

That and some of those really good game salamis.

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I'll note, if it's of interest to anyone, that a restaurant opened in New York last year that purported to serve the cuisine of the Alto Adige (or at least influenced thereby). But the dining population apparently found Italian food that is so heavily Austrian too weird, and the restaurant retreated to a more standard haute Italian menu.

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There are some very interesting wines in Trentino AA, I hope I can find some here.

Judith,

I'm pretty sure you'd be able to find some nice AA wines at Italian Wine Merchants on East 16th.

There's a great little wine shop that's about 90% Italian on the corner of Clinton and Stanton Streets...name escapes me at the moment.

Addtionally, there's Vino, located at 121 East 27th St. (btw Park & Lex.)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'll note, if it's of interest to anyone, that a restaurant opened in New York last year that purported to serve the cuisine of the Alto Adige (or at least influenced thereby).  But the dining population apparently found Italian food that is so heavily Austrian too weird, and the restaurant retreated to a more standard haute Italian menu.

That is interesting. I've often wondered how a more strictly regional and somewhat challenging to our preconceptions type of restaurant would do here. One of the great revalations I had about Italian cooking was "discovering" the cooking of Friuli back when I was cocky enough to think I knew it all.

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I'll note, if it's of interest to anyone, that a restaurant opened in New York last year that purported to serve the cuisine of the Alto Adige (or at least influenced thereby).  But the dining population apparently found Italian food that is so heavily Austrian too weird, and the restaurant retreated to a more standard haute Italian menu.

That is interesting. I've often wondered how a more strictly regional and somewhat challenging to our preconceptions type of restaurant would do here. One of the great revalations I had about Italian cooking was "discovering" the cooking of Friuli back when I was cocky enough to think I knew it all.

This may be the single biggest discovery for me (aside from the actual doing). I always said "Italian" food and balled it up into one massive catagory. Now when I see or hear I want to know from where, with what influences, I think every Italian cookbook needs a regional index and that it would be amazing education for all if restaurants detailed their regionality!

-Mike

-Mike & Andrea

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What's interesting is that regional Italian restaurants do fine here (although most of them "cheat" to some extent with a few out-of-region menu items). This one didn't do so well, it seems, not because it was regional, but because the regional food was so identifiable as something other than Italian.

I guess what I'm saying is that, even to me, out of everywhere I've been in Italy, Alto Adige had the food that seemed least "Italian" (because more Austrian) -- as different as all the regions are.

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Herbed Spaetzle with Slow Braised Rabbit // 17

caramelized parsnips, mint and parmigiano

this dish certainly seems to still retain "germanic" influence, sounds fab!

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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In Trentino Alto-Adige, a young, petulant nun flings out her arms, spins atop a Dolomite, and as violins soar, her voice rises in song:

<<Canto ed i colli brulicante di vi-i-i-ta-a-a...>>

Oder singen Maria auf Deutsch given ties to Austrian culture?

For me, at least, it is hard not to conflate images from "The Sound of Music" (or Tutti insieme appassionatamente as it was known upon release in Italy) with the region given the fact that The Council of Trent is the principal reason I know anything at all about Trentino Alto Adige. Trent, or Trento, is the capital of the Italian-speaking, southernmost region that is now politically united with Alto Adige, or South Tyrol. Its ecclesiastical significance reaches back to the twelfth century, a time when the local bishop ruled his See, though it was the mid-sixteenth century (1546-1563) when Trent became the site where the Roman Catholic Church defended its tenets against the threat posed by Martin Luther and all those other German-speaking rebels. Since this is an era of Italian culinary history that we associate with banquets at courts, you have to wonder how all those stern and angry men soothed their hunger after citing one Latin text after another all day long. Buckwheat polenta? Surely, something better than that. Something with those tempting local apples and butter from all the grazing cows?

While Barcelona is famous for its mushroom market, Trento sells more than 250 and up to 300 different specifies, none toxic presumably since they are on sale at a place where people shop for their food. Anna Del Conte therefore includes recipes for Schwammersuppe—a mushroom soup served with a dollop of sour cream; a layered cornmeal polenta stuffed with mushrooms, bechamel and all sorts of cheese; and what sounds even better, Funghi in Umido, a mushroom stew served with polenta. She also publishes recipes for venison and beef and pork, sigh, basta already, stews and an apple budino made with raisins, wine and cinnamon, topped with whipped cream. There's also a sweet buckwheat cake.

Fred Plotkin demonstrates even more enthusiasm than Del Conte for a part of Italy that he treats as discrete regions in two separate chapters on Trentino and Alto Adige. He adds praise of the cheeses in Trentino given the cows one sees a lovely young man playfully hugging high in the alps while sticking his hand in one bovine mouth in the new issue of Gourmet. Apparently these herds produce summer cheeses lumped together under the name Malga. Then, there are olives in addition to the grapes that make wine bars as important to the region as its pastry shops filled with strudel and carrot cakes. This is the place to eat crisp potato pancakes with sausages, and with carne salada—raw beef cured with vinegar and spices, sliced very thinly—truly great breads.

As for Alto-Adige, commonalities include a reputation for equally wonderful breads, if different types, included seeded ones. Soups are heavy and remind me a bit of some of our other explorations of the cold north: broths thick with barley; rye; chestnuts; cream, lemon and horseradish; sauerkraut or liver-filled dumplings! In contrast to the last item, herrengröstl sounds especially good: a skillet of potatoes and onions topped with thin slices of roast beef, with a vinegary cabbage dish on the side. After a nap and a vigorous walk, apple fritters with gelato and cinnamon. Plotkin details purchases at terrific sausage shops, pastry shops and wine bars.

You may also recall Judith's ski trip in this region (right?) last year when we all talked about infused alpine flowers and their intoxicating properties. I can't find the report, so I wonder if I am confusing two different regions with one another, but I did find this old report from a different member: North of Verona.

Many of you already know the major web sites, however, I will link a few with little commentary and let you see what you can see.

One

and a

two and a

Three!

Bread balls, bread balls, bread balls.

So you won't gag.

Just a little reSpeckt.

For Elie :) and Judith ;)

Something new.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Can we talk about AA wines for a minute?

I'm finding a lot of different whites that I like very much, beyond the standard pinot grigio.

And the pinot noirs have gotten much better. Some are very good now. (And a bargain.)

But I can't can't can't get myself to appreciate lagrein. Is it just me? Does anybody like it? Who are the best producers? What does it go best with? I just find it thin and dull.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Here is the last group of links I gathered yesterday. There are overlaps in recipes and information about the region, but usually one or two things are unique to each site.

Also, by the way, I checked the Library of Congress online catalog and there was little in the way of monographs on the region; the few studies date to the early twentieth century.

One additional cookbook turned up in a search, but it follows the general pattern that Kevin observed since its focus is not Trentino Alto-Adige. It's Enoteca.

Here's Food & Wine.

Tango Italia.

An Italian Restaurant Consortium.

Rustico (recipes vs. step-by-step instructions).

Virtual Italia: "Background" for tourists

And the same site, on cuisine, with recipes.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Excellent write up Pontormo!! I was just going thru my notes and sources when I saw your post...excellent!

Listen to what Waverly Root has to say in The Food of Italy, "It is evident that though Alto Aldige cooking exists within the political boundaries of Italy, it is not Italian cooking and since it is an alien element, we need not look at it as a whole." Really now! :wacko::shock:

Although geographically, its been a ping pong going back and forth between Austria and Italy...its in Italy now, and thanks to the UN, it looks like it will stay there. (There was a terrorist German separatist movement in 1960).

So contrary to Mr. Root, I say it firmly belongs in with the rest of the crazy quilt that is Italy.

Weinoo, thanks, I think I'll head over to Clinton and Stanton to check out the wine shop.

Random wine notes: Three quarters of the wine produced in TAA is DOC. That is a huge percentage!

Indigenous grapes are: Nosiola, Teroldego Rotoliano ( :wub: ) andMarzemino.

I have 2 premonitions: Elie is going to dazzle us with some bread, and Shaya will continue to be the gnocchi queen!

This should be a fun region, we all have to dig a little harder to find the info.

Genepy! That's the name of the alpine wormwood based digestive that I fell in love with. But that was in Alagna...which is Lombardia...I think. The borders seem to get hazier up in the mountains...

or it could just be the altitude playing games with me. :laugh:

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What's interesting is that regional Italian restaurants do fine here (although most of them "cheat" to some extent with a few out-of-region menu items).

In fact, if you look at Lidia Bastianich, she comes from Friuli, and her early cookbooks were really focused on that region ... but her restaurants, although they have a Friulian emphasis, contain many dishes that we would recognize as being from other regions. In fact, her restaurant in Pittsburgh, is less Friulian than her NYC venues.

The same is true in Chinese cuisine ... how many of us know that "hot and sour soup", available in almost every Chinese restaurant, is Sichuanese; same for "General Tso's Chicken" (Hunanese). ... most restaurants can't stay true to a given region.

JasonZ

Philadelphia, PA, USA and Sandwich, Kent, UK

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Another "inspired by" to kick off the month for me again, it seems.

We started with gnocchi with roasted brussel sprouts and speck:

gallery_19696_582_50786.jpg

Then we had pork tenderloin "alla venison" and turnips sauteed in black butter (from a Mario episode on Friuli).

gallery_19696_582_31415.jpg

The tenderloin stood in for venison and was marinated as maybe game meat would be: red wine, juniper, rosemary, and ginger. I grilled it off. There was a blueberry and ginger compote to dip the meat in alongside.

ETA: No luck finding a TAA cheese to top the gnocchi so I used Asiago from neighboring Veneto. Our Central Market was, however, surprisingly well-stocked with Alto Adige whites and I got a Muller something or other; fully germanic name. It was crisp and appley and went very well with the meal, especially the robust main.

Edited by Kevin72 (log)
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I love Muller Thurgaus! Really good with a strongly flavored fish dish.

Kevin, I'm surprised at the use of ginger. Was that part of the recipe or part of the inspired by?

Whatever, the meal looks wonderful and I like the idea of blueberry and ginger, very compatible flavor playmates, I would think.

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Kevin, are you saying the marinade flavors weren't distinct in and of themselves? Or that the marinade didn't have enough umph?

I still don't know about using ginger...if that's 'regionally correct'. Could be, seems that you would find ginger in the Veneto as Venice was a big spice capital, so I guess its logical for ginger to be used.

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Abra, u are right it's become customary to get my feet wet in those regions by baking a bread. It's no different here in TAA. I baked Rye Bread from Bolzano following Carol Field's recipe in The Italian Baker. Her recipe is pretty different than the one linked to in Pontormo's email above, it uses no dairy, fat or eggs and it starts of with a sponge. I am intrigued to try the recipe Pontormo linked to as well to compare. This might be difficult though because this recipe made a spectacular bread. It was very flavorful with a pretty moist crumb for a rye bread.

Here are the shaped loaves right before baking on hot bricks

gallery_5404_94_18494.jpg

Apparently I forgot to take a picture of the whole loaves when they came out of the oven...they did look very nice. Instead I have this

gallery_5404_94_252959.jpg

Dinner tonight was the Barley Mountain Soup (Zuppa d'Orzo con Salsiccia) from L R Kaspar's "The Italian Country Table". I did not have any smoked hocks or Speck on hand, so to make up for that smokey cured pork flavor I used the skin I saved from my homemade bacon and a thick slice of homemade pancetta. This worked out very well and I also poached 4 homemade Italian sausages in the soup then sliced them up before serving. LRK lists a quart of buttermilk as an optional ingredient. I used only two cups of buttermilk in there and was pretty pleased with the result. Overall a very simple, rustic and satisfying bowl of soup especially served with the rye bread.

The ingredients before adding stock and water

gallery_5404_94_279646.jpg

Dinner

gallery_5404_94_94280.jpg

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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