Monday, May 19, 2008

Italian Market Menu (plus Sacripantina for the Pajama Queen)

So the Pajama Queen is forced, this summer, to spend three months slaving away in Rome. Yes, Rome. It's a tough life, but someone's got to live it. The only question is, why couldn't that someone be me?

But seriously, folks.

She has an apartment and the all important kitchen, so we thought it only fitting to make a meal that uses all the things she might find there, knowing that in a vacation rental, you're likely to have dishes and a few pots and pans, maybe a Bialetti, but probably no oven, and perhaps only one pair of wooden chopsticks with which to stir.

So we arrived on the doorstep of the PQ and Mr. Tarte Tatin with baskets of produce, favas, asparagus, peas, oranges, sage, mushrooms, etc. that you might find in one of those great Italian markets such as, say, the Campo de Fiore. And hopefully all things that could be easily cooked on a stovetop. Mme. PQ supplied some pantry staples such as the Parmagiano-Reggiano, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and truffle oil.

Our appetizers were, in my humble opinion, one of the best parts of the meal. Besides the olives and cheeses, we had a couple of super-simple starters to stave off the hunger pangs. This little item--which Ceri at Biondivino told us about--was absolutely addictive. Meyer lemons sliced super-thin and then wrapped around good quality Italian anchovies (oil-packed).

This was also quite delicious: Slices of focaccia, brushed with olive oil and topped with dollops of ripe, stinky Taleggio and some sauteed mushrooms. It goes under the broiler, or in the toaster to brown for a few minutes, and then drizzle it with white truffle oil. (The truffle oil is KEY.)

For our cheese pleasure, the PQ bought a plateful of Italian cheeses including this fantastic Robiola and Pecorino and Montasio. Robiola is usually made with either two or three types of milk, and this one is wonderfully moist and with no rind. Left to warm on the table, it became incredibly goopy around the ripe edges, while remaining nice and sharp in the heart.

For the main course we chose Saltimbocca alla Romana. American veal-raising practices still give me the willies, but Prather Ranch offers vitellone, or slightly-older-than-veal, so we set Ms. Food Snoot--in town preparing her move back to the land of food-obsessed--the task of ordering the meat. The calves are pasture-raised, though still fed on mother's milk. It's certainly a darker meat, but not as strong a flavor as beef
and rather tender.

We also perfected our sage frying technique. In the past I've always flat-out burned the sage leaves, but this time, we kept the olive oil at a medium heat (not smoking at all) and dusted the sage in flour, all of which worked beautifully.

The PQ made our porcini risotto, which is one of my favorite dishes--both on the night of, and the next day, when you can make delicious risotto cakes.

A piselli of asparagus, favas and English peas with some sauteed shallots. Between the favas and peas I felt like I had started with six pounds of vegetables and ended up with 2 ounces. But still, the favas were, damn them, worth the trouble. And they're so much trouble.

And to drink with this lovely meal? The Coenobium (mentioned in a previous post) and a nice DOCG Chianti.

It was, coincidentally, close to the PQ's birthday as well, and so Mr. Tarte Tatin made a foray into the wilds of North Beach to Stella's Pastries to get their world-famous Sacripantina.

Actually, we had one of those great "only in the Bay Area" conversations about that Sacripantina. Whilst in the Ferry Building, on the hunt for Taleggio, we stopped for lunch at Mijita, Traci des Jardins' taco stand. The line there is always endlessly long, and so while we waited, I ran down our proposed menu for the Italian Market meal one more time. When I got to "Sacripantina," the woman in front of us turned around and said, "Ooooh, Sacripantina? I heard you say 'Sacripantina' Where are you getting it?"

"Stella's in North Beach, of course," we replied.

"Oh, that's the only place," she exclaimed. "What else are you making?"

As we inched forward, it turned into a nice long conversation about cooking and menus, adventures in food.

I love this city.


Doug said...

rome, what a rough life :)

ME said...

No kidding. We're exhorting her to post pictures, because we ALL are living vicariously through her...LOL