Driving the road to Hana on the island of Maui to the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala is a popular destination but not for the faint of heart. With all those hairpin turns and one lane bridges the drive can be a challenge but a challenge well met because along the way there are spots were the island gods have left their mark and you are taken back in time with places and ancient stories that shape the Hawaiian islands.
Like Italy the historic atmosphere of the Islands is reflected in their food so when I was food surfing and noticed a Hawaiian chopped salad inspired by Hana Bay made with balsamic vinegar from Italy I took the opportunity to combine ingredients from two of my favorite travel sites for a Hawaiian-Italian inspired late summer lunch. Let’s eat!: E pā’ina kākou! – Mangiamo!
Hana Bay Chopped Salad with Mango Balsamic Dressing
Mango Balsamic Dressing
1 mango peeled, pitted and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 piece (1/2 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup aceto balsamico*
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
2 T packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil from Liguria ( such as San Damiano Extra Virgin Olive Oil)*
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour oil through feed hole with motor running to blend. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Combine with 1 bag of mixed baby salad greens, 1 tomato seeded and chopped, 1 green onion and 1/2 cup diced red cabbage. Makes 6 servings.
(adapted from a recipe by Mako Segawa-Gonzales, chef of Maui Beach Cafe in Los Angeles).
*ingredients can be found at CosituttiMarketPlace.com
An Italian summertime icon takes a non-traditional twist at Florence’s Cordon Bleu cooking school. Chef David Bonucci reinterprets the Tuscan panzanella, a bread and tomato salad into a riff of dishes that encourage you not to throw away your stale bread. Yes, stale bread is a storied ingredient in Italian cooking used throughout Italy and one of the main ingredients in a Tuscan panzanella. From meatballs to ribollita to pappa al pomodoro to Italy’s Sudtirol dumpling-like canederli, stale bread is a staple in the Italian kitchen. So re-purposing it twice over is a nuovo Italiano chef’s delight.
One of 6 dishes from Chef Bonucci’s culinary re-purposing of panzanella includes a Panazella Shot make with an emulsion of tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and xanthan gum (2 g every 0.5 l). He prepares a slice of bread garnish by adding a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to the bread slice. Season with salt and pepper and toast them at 100°C. Sprinkle the toasted slices with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Pour a little of the tomato smoothie in a glass, add a few drops of pesto and the slice of toast. Decorate with a sprig of chives. A nice addition to a summertime antipasto that will have your guests wondering at what Italian cooking school have you been studying.
Summer is here and its official arrival brings a symphony of colors and flavors to heighten our senses and satisfy our taste buds.
Seasonal summer produce offers the best opportunity to experience some of Italy’s most iconic dishes which are based on locally grown ingredients picked at the height of their flavor and simply prepared.
One of the best ways to eat like an Italian locavore is to make l’insalata caprese (the salad from Capri). The texture, flavor and vitality of this popular Italian dish is at its best this time of the year. Deceptively simple, it is made of three basic parts that tie together the ingredients in a forceful way reminiscent of a Vivaldian concerto. Made with firm vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (bufala or fior di latte – cow’s milk mozzarella) and garden grown Italian basil. The whole is made better by the quality of the individual ingredients. Top with a drizzle of an excellent Italian estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil for a light, delicious salad on a warm summer evening.
Most of us think that the foods of Italy are defined by red sauce, pasta and pizza but the cuisine of Italy is as gastronomically diverse as the 20 regions that make regional Italian cooking a culinary adventure. Here are a few lesser known favored Italian ingredients used to make 5 unexpected Italian dishes.
Liver. Fegato alla Veneziana, sauteed liver and finely sliced onions, seasoned with sage, parsley, a touch of red wine or vinegar in a combination of oil and butter. A classic Venetian dish.
Buckwheat. A beloved grain in Northern Italian often made into a flour to make pizzoccheri, a flat ribbon-like pasta served with cooked vegetables and cheese. Sometimes buckwheat is cooked with cornmeal and served with butter and cheese to make polenta taragna.
Tuna. Sardines and anchovies, clams and mussels rather than tuna are often thought of as the seafood of choice in Italy but tuna (tonno) is also popular served in a dish called Vitello Tonnato, or veal with tuna sauce.
Nepitella. Nepitella is a member of the mint family and a regional favorite in Tuscany where it is added to mushroom dishes and green vegetables for its distinctive flavor. Sautéed Mushrooms with Nepitella and garlic served on crostini or with roast or boiled meat dishes are delicious.
Alkermes. Alkermes is an 8th century Florentine liqueur and tonic of sorts used in various Italian pastries and confections most notably the familiar zuppa inglese. It is reputed to have been a favored elixir of the Medici. It’s complex and exotic formula (thought to include rose-water, cinnamon, sugar, honey, ground pearls, leaf gold, raw silk and kermes -a small parasitic insect found on the Mediterranean oak tree whose desiccated bodies yield a crimson dye – since replaced with artificial colorants) makes a beautiful dessert from Abruzzo known as Pesche Dolce, Italian Peach Cookies. The blushing color of the dessert is achieved by dipping the cookie in an Alkermes bagna per dolci, a bath for sweets.
“Di là,” rispose il Gatto, girando la zampa destra, “abita un Cappellaio; e di qua,” indicando con l’altra zampa, “abita una Lepre Marzolina. Visita chi vuoi dei due: sono entrambi matti.”
“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.
It’s been 150 years since we followed Alice down the rabbit hole and the enormous influence of Lewis Carroll’s writings on visual art and literature has influenced the world. First published on July 4th 1865 the sentiment of creative chaos and an escape from the ordinary captured the imagination of Italian illustrators like Fulvio Bisca, a graphic and type designer from Torino who created a curiouser and curiouser version of Alice with a series of contemporary illustrations.
Traveling in Italy I’ve eaten my share of meatballs and I’ve seen many recipes. When making meatballs I always follow the advance of mia Nonna. Never crowd your meatballs. Brown in a good olive oil and leave a space between your meatballs when browning and don’t touch them until you see the oil turn a beautiful, burnished golden color. You can probably apply this to life as well. Don’t crowd and clutter and take on more than you can comfortably manage. Surround yourself with simple things that promote your well-being. Don’t manipulate too much and in the end turn a beautiful, burnished gold.
More advice and Italian food lore.
Italians are very fond of a pre-dinner ritual called the aperitivo, a drink and a nibble designed to “open the stomach” and aid in digestion. Traditions and knowledge about the Italian aperitivo say that l’appetito viene mangiando, “appetite comes when you eat.”. Popularizing a small snack and a light drink before dinner seems counterintuitive but a small bit of food before dinner may help you eat less and enjoy your food more. Stopping work at exactly 5:00 o’clock, hopping onto your Vespa and heading out to the nearest aperitivo bar is a social custom that we might benefit from. Here’s to moderation, balance and a Campari and soda.