Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cena piemontese

Sorry guys for this long absence.. I was in California for about a week, giving talks and interviewing! My life is still completely in the air, but anyway :)
Before leaving, we had a wonderful dinner with my Italian friends. I wanted to do this for a while: they are all from different places, and none of them from Piemonte. So, I wanted to let them taste my regional food.
This was the menu:
Insalata russa
(russian salad)
Tacchino tonnato ('tuned' turkey)
Insalata alla Marta (Marta salad)
Main course:
Agnolotti di magro con ragu'
(Lean agnolotti with ragu)
Piemontese cuisine is a very 'strong' cuisine. Mountain people, they like meat, eggs, butter. But they can make amazingly good and different food with these simple ingredients. Piemonte (and Torino in particular) is also the land of chocolate, so our desserts are usually chocolate-based. Piemonte is also one of the best regions in Italy for wine - Barolo is one of the best, then we have Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera.. - . So, if you ever visit Italy, you _have_ to go to Piemonte and try our food.
Piemonte is also the heaven of cheese (as Susan recently found out). Unfortunately it's almost impossible to get them here, so I couldn't add this important course to my dinner. I also couldn't find a lot of our typical meats and vegetables, so I had to tweak the recipes a little bit.. but they were all very good. Pictures and recipes follow!

Insalata Russa
For some reason this salad is called Russian salad in Italy - although I don't think
it's really Russian.. It's delicious. To make it, you have to boil ~1/2 lb peas, 3 carrots, 3 potatoes (add some salt in the water). Cut the carrots and the potatoes into pieces. Boil also 2 eggs till hard, and cut them into pieces too. When everything is ready and cold, mix together with 1 can of tuna, a few pickles (we would have 'giardiniera', a mixture of pickled celery, peppers, and other veggies, but I couldn't find it here, so I used Lucas's mom's pickles) and some home-made mayonnaise (see recipe below). If you use pre-made mayo, it will still be good, but not as good, so I really think you should try to make it! :) Decorate with the veggies and parsely leaves.
Other versions do not include the tuna, but in Piemonte if there's no meat, people are not happy :)

Always make your own mayonnaise!!! It's not hard if you use a beater. My grandma used to make it by hand, and that sometimes doesn't work (the oil and the eggs/lemon separate and you can never get to the right consistency). But with a beater, it really takes 5 minutes.
To make it:
Take 4 egg yolks, add a bit of salt, the juice of one lemon, and start mixing with a beater. Add olive oil a little bit at a time. It will take a about 1/2 liter (2 cups) olive oil for that much eggs. If you add less, the mayo will be more liquidy, if you add more, it will be more solid. This amount of mayonnaise will be good for the russian salad above, and you will still have a good amount left (~1 cup, if I recall correctly). This mayonnaise tastes SO much better than the one you buy.

Tacchino tonnato
This appetizer is a modified version of the real 'vitello tonnato': I should have used veal, but in America veal is as expensive as gold, so I decided turkey would be good anyway :)
Basically the idea is to have thin slices of meat covered with this sauce made of mayonnaise and tuna. More precisely:
2 tuna cans
2 anchovie fillets
20 capers
1 lb mayonese
Blend anchovies, capers and tuna, and stir the mayo in the mixture.
Spread the slices of meat on a nice plate (I used sliced turkey, the one people use for sandwiches), and cover them with the sauce (do not drench them, just a thin layer will do it). Decorate with capers. I'm sorry but the picture I took of my dish is terrible, so the picture shown here is 'vitello tonnato' from this nice Piemontese cuisine website (they're a bit more fancy, with all that green added as decoration.. that's not traditional! :) )

Insalata alla Marta : I already posted about it. This time I had apples instead of mango.

Agnolotti di magro al ragu'
Making agnolotti was an adventure. I'll write a post specifically about it.

I already posted the recipe for this gorgeous amaretti-chocolate-coffee-rum pudding.
Check it out!

And all this food was accompanied by some really good bread that I baked:
I'll post this recipe separately.

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