Today I had a sad. I tried my hand at making homemade pasta. DISASTER! First I tried all by hand – got my big wooden cutting board, made the volcano shape out of the flour, poured the eggs inside. Then things went terribly wrong. One wall of my flour volcano sustained a collapse and egg lava started oozing out. Then my hands turned into sticky doughy monsters. So, I started over and this time used the food processor. Things went much better but in the end the dough sucked – as in, not tasty after cooked.
The fun, and successful, part of this venture was the filling. I decided to screw around a bit in the kitchen and ended up pureeing fresh figs, marcona almonds, sharp white cheddar, cardamon (another mistake), ground ginger and black pepper. It was unique, a touch spicy and a little sweet. I think it would be lovely if the pasta dough itself were actually tasty and bathed in a cream sauce (one of my friends suggested a saffron cream sauce) and some prosciutto crudo. All of this was a great way to kill some time, stall packing for school and watch a documentary on Woodstock. But I still has a sad.
It’s one of my all time favorite Italian words, right up there with carina (precious, cute). It literally translates as forever or always. I’ve heard and used it in the sense of good food and drink, when exclaiming about something yummy. For example: “Mi piace questa birra!” another will say “Oh, semmmmpre.”
I fell across another delicious idea worthy of the praise filled word sempre. Shopping around my local grocery store in Milan, Pam, I was looking for an alternative to the usual caprese starter for my next dinner party. The decision was very easy: I had pears, prosciutto and a chunk of parmesan cheese the size of my face from the original factory. No way could I polish it off by myself in the next month and a half so I shared it.
And speaking of beer, this dish goes unbelievably well with Birrificio Lambrate’s idea of a belgian strong ale, Lambrate Bricòla. Oof. This stuff is so delicious and a great take on the usually too sweet for me belgian strong ale. A smokey first sip baited my interest for further sips that grew into a dark cherry and light honey flavor. You feel supremely decadent munching on the smokey, salty cured prosciutto with the sweet and tangy cheese/pear combination all while washing it back with this gem.
This one is so simple: fresh prosciutto crudo wrapped around a thin slice of pear and long chunk of parmesan cheese. Serve on a plate and watch it disappear. I served this again at a student art exhibition and had friends come simply because they heard I was in charge of the food and specifically was serving up this dish. I will always be in love with the simple uses of a pig leg.
Over my birthday weekend, the program I was studying with in Milan took us to Parma for a Culture/Cuisine Trip where we toured the Parmigiano Reggiano factory and watch the magic unfold. I bought a solid 5 lbs. of cheese but the only thing that was missing was a good tart sour ale like Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor, Rodenbach Grand Cru or perhaps an impy like Victory Storm King Imperial Stout. Here’s a quick run through of the process that goes into parmesan cheese:
The head cheese of the Parmagiano Reggiano factory, separating extra whey to be fed to the piggies.
Skimming the cheese with a wooden rod to check consistency.
Bagging the cheese in cloth to drain before being pressed into the molds.
Brine bath where the proteins and little fat basically cure and harden until aging begins.
Cheese cheeeese gloriousss cheeeeeeseeeeee!!!
Back in the States, I’ve had some very good cheese from La Cave du Vin and Whole Foods. At La Cave I ordered a bleu and brie board with a Great Divide Hercules IPA. The maximum hoppy happiness of the pint worked well against the funky and very sweet smooth cheeses. From Whole Foods I enjoyed a beautiful smoked creamy gouda with a Cantillon Gueuze.
There are certain things that seriously inspire food lust in me. Take for example raw or cooked cuts of meat or even whole fresh animals. I suppose you could say that this lust borders on the macabre and this certainly came to fruition during my semester abroad in Milan, Italy and in my travels that took me to the Mercat de la Boquiera in Barcelona.
The first thing I saw walking into the market was a veritable outpouring of colors and ripe fruits.
These polished babies were some of the most beautiful on display at La Boquiera.
Milan has a grocery store in the historic centro of the city, Peck, that makes Dean&Deluca look like a pile of bricks. I saw legs of prosciutto that would make you weep they were so beautiful.
I can’t remember what these snails are stuffed with but just look at the smoked mozzarella ring.
But even this immaculate store could not compare to what I found in Barcelona. La Boquiera was a market made of dreams for me: here I saw whole piglets, smiling!, piles of fruit, candies, spices and the fish market was incredible — visceral in smell, sight and sound, with tough women hacking heads off fish, shucking oysters and drenched in blood. Heaven.