Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When in the former Roman Empire...

…cook some classic Roman dishes for a visitor on her first trip to Italy.

One of my good friends from college (whom we’ll call "Darlingtonia" after the botanical name of one of her favorite flowers) arrived in town yesterday and the occasion called for a fabulous meal. Darlingtonia is spending her last weeks before starting grad school on a grand Mediterranean tour, in which food tourism is as strong a motivating factor as sightseeing. She won’t have time to travel as far south as Rome on this trip, so instead, I brought Rome to Verona—fittingly, given the city's longstanding nickname of “Little Rome.”

We started with an antipasto that was not particularly Roman, but was particularly good: local melon with prosciutto di Parma, and a glass of Prosecco (which, as you may already know, is produced here in the Veneto). Simple, delicious, and very refreshing in this unbearable summer humidity:

Here’s the little neighborhood shop where I’ve been buying my salumi; we went there for the prosciutto.


Every time I go in I have to exercise extreme self-restraint not to buy some of everything in the store.


Pig is beautiful.


For the primo (pasta course), we had the long-awaited bucatini all’amatriciana. I had forgotten to pick up some hot pepper, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was still good. I made up for the absence of pepper with plenty of garlic, sautéed with the guanciale:


Then add tomato purée, a little black pepper, and toss it with the bucatini. A little cheese on top, naturally (traditionally Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan was what I had on hand):


The secondo (meat course) was another Roman classic, saltimbocca. The name translates roughly to “jump in your mouth”—it’s made from ingredients that, taken individually, are rather delicate, but collude in a finished dish that is quite robust.

Take very thin veal cutlets and layer them with sage and a slice of prosciutto:


For some reason, I remembered that saltimbocca included cheese (mozzarella), so I put some in, but now that I'm doing a little research online, it seems that this is not correct. I know I've eaten them with cheese before--maybe it's an Americanism.


roll them up and send them to the frying pan:


when they are done, eat them with relish.


A complete traditional meal would have included contorni (side dishes) of green vegetables and/or potatoes, but the dishes were already rich enough, so we just had a green salad.

Many thanks to Darlingtonia for sharing her pictures--some were taken with my camera, some with hers, but on the whole hers are much better. (My digital camera is seven years old, which to me seemed perfectly serviceable--I'm not really into technology--but I didn't realize it would be quite such a creaky antique when compared to the newer models. It offers a fraction of the megapixels of the newer models, eats AA batteries like there's no tomorrow, and my biggest memory card holds "only" 80 photos. Clearly I need to go shopping for a new camera when I get home!)

Coming soon: An excursion to a Renaissance palace; food tourism; and opera!
Later: A day in the life of a foreign language student; art history field trip; Venice!!!