Want to make an Italian hamburger? Then model the Emilia a burger conceived and crafted by Chef Massimo Bottura. Mario Batali who calls Bottura “the Jimi Hendrix of Italian chefs,” is the chef-owner of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Bottura collaborated with Mark Rosati, culinary director of the well-known, NYC born Shake Shack to bring a taste of Italy to British burger lovers. The limited edition patties were served on a first-come, first-served basis for a one day event in November at the Shake Shack Covent Garden London.
Currently ranked third in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Osteria Francescana might not seem like the kitchen site for the birth of a burger but the Emilia is no ordinary hamburger. A limited edition patty, the Emilia is made with a custom-blend of 100% Aberdeen Angus ground beef, a layer of cotechino sausage and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, topped with salsa verde and balsamic mayonnaise, the Emilia reflects the new Italian pantry. Italian inspired recipes made with traditional ingredients remodeled in new ways. Like this Northern Italian Trattoria Burger made with a frico of Montasio, speck, arugula and capicola. Now that’s Italian.
2014 is about to end and most of us are retrospective about last year’s gains and losses; a perfect time to think about what we might have included in a time capsule for duemilaquindici.
Time capsules have been around since the 7th century BC. Oglethorpe University in Atlanta Georgia, home of the International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), believes that leaving objects buried for future generations is a “valuable reminder” of the significant highlights of our history and gives us a voice into the future. For the 1939 World’s Fair, Westinghouse Electric created a time capsule that included a Mickey Mouse Cup, toothbrush, slide rule, eyeglasses, can opener, safety pin, the Sears Roebuck Catalog and Holy Bible. The 1964 World’s Fair Time Capsule gave historical importance to contact lenses, a transistor radio, birth control bills, a Beatles record, bikini and a credit card.
This got me thinking about what I would include in an Italian time capsule and here is what I came up with. Although I haven’t kept my choices within one calendar year I think that’s fine because when thinking about what to stash as a present for the future, anything from Italy remains eternal.
What would you include in an Italian time capsule?
Seeing and Savoring Italy’s Time Capsule
- Copy of a Renaissance painting
- Copy of a page from Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus
- Italian cashmere
- Recording of Nessun dorma by Luciano Pavarotti
- A Venetian Carnevale mask
- Bialetti Moka pot
- Florentine leather bound journal
- Murano glass
- Tuscan terracotta
- Italian presepe figure
- An Italian designer handbag
- Recipe for an authentic Neapolitan pizza
Most of us think of balsamic vinegar as Italian food royalty and while it’s true that in the pantheon of Italian food products Aceto Balsamico from Modena stands above all others we should not feel intimidated to use it on a daily basis. Like extra virgin olive oil, Italian balsamic has documented health benefits, an extraordinary depth of flavor and a clean delicate finish to season and enhance the flavor of a variety of foods. True balsamic vinegar only has one ingredient: must, a combination of the juice and skins from crushed Trebbiano grapes. The grape juice is cooked slowly down until it is reduced by 35 – 50%. Then, the reduction is placed, along with a bit of an older balsamic vinegar to assist with acetification, into barrels to age. After a period of time some of the vinegar evaporates and the vinegar is transferred into a smaller barrel made of a different woods (often chestnut, cherry, juniper, mulberry, acacia or ash). Each wood infuses a different flavor into the vinegar, making it more complex and unique and as the vinegar ages and becomes concentrated, it becomes thick, sweet and dark.
Glazes, reductions, vinaigrettes, drizzles – the unique sweet/sour flavor and rich consistency of balsamic vinegar is what makes it so special. It adapts well to a variety of preparations from a chef inspired Six Minute Chocolate Cake with a Chocolate Balsamic Glaze to adding caramelized onions and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to your basic jarred basil and tomato pasta sauce. Make 2015 the Year of Balsamic and use this exceptional Italian ingredient to its greatest potential.
During the holiday season I crave an Italian passito. A sweet wine made from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juice. Festive, intense and fun to drink they are the perfect accompaniment to Italian dolci. Sometimes referred to as “pudding wines” in the UK because they are served with dessert, these wines contain high levels of both sugar and alcohol and are meant to be enjoyed as a leisurely sip after dinner. Their richness lends itself to the classic Tuscan pairing, a glass of Vin Santo to dip with biscotti or cantucci or to drink with a Milanese holiday panettone.
The excess of Italy’s pasticerria at Christmas time and the penchant for the Italian love of serving nuts and dried or seasonal fruit for dessert is a great opportunity to pair some of Italy’s other passito wines to your favorite holiday dessert. One of my favorites is Albana di Romagna from northern Italy, an Italian passito from Emilia Romagna. With an aroma of balsamic eucalyptus, dried apricots, dates and honey and shades of amber and gold it is an insensual indulgence with pastries, cakes, ricotta-filled torta and for our UK friends – pudding. Be aware that passito wines are difficult to find in the States (my last sip was in Ferrara) as most of famous brands are kept in Italy.