Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anchovy & Veggie Fun

I referenced in my last post that I've become a lover of anchovies and sardines after visiting Sicily last year. It's amazing what totally fresh ingredients will do to change your mind about something. I was talking with my classmate, David, yesterday about that very thing and how you can go years not eating something wonderful because you never had a good version of it to begin with. Being that we'll be working with anchovies a lot going forward, it was fitting that Tuesday would involve a recipe that got us quickly accustomed to filleting them.

Before I go into that, I've been asked by several people for a photo of me in my uniform. I feel like a little kid posting this but what the people want, they get. So, here you have me in what I'll be living in for the next few months:
Yep, there I am. The future Chef Valerie. Oh, and I hate that hat, just so you know. 

Back to the recipe and the anchovies. We made bagna cauda, which means 'hot bath', and it's a very authentic Italian dip for veggies. It's a really different recipe that I wasn't too fond of because the base is butter (a LOT of it) and olive oil. Something about dipping veggies in that didn't appeal to me at all so it wasn't my favorite thing. You add anchovies, garlic, dijon mustard and some lemon in as well so it's definitely an interesting recipe. All of these suckers went into that little cup o' dip:
It was potent, to say the least. Give me some crusty bread and I'd sop that up in a minute but I just didn't care for the veggies with it. 

The next thing we did was pomodori arrostiti or roasted tomatoes. We made these to use as one of the layers in our third recipe, verdure sott'olio or 'vegetables under oil'. Oh my goodness, they were heavenly. My favorite part about Italian cuisine is the simplicity of it. The ingredients themselves are the star, not some crazy sauce or heavy garnish you add to bring it all together. This dish consisted of simple tomatoes, orange and lemon peels, fresh thyme and some olive oil (which, going forward, you can assume is in absolutely every Italian dish on the face of the earth). You roast it on low heat and it produces something amazing. The most important part of making most Italian dishes is the balance in flavor of salt and acid. Now, I will say that finding that balance can be incredibly hard so I'm in no way saying making simple Italian food is easy. Sometimes, it's actually way harder than something else that's technique driven because there's no rule book for it, you simply have to develop the right palate to execute it properly. That said, these came out deliciously sweet, tangy and lively:
You could use these for anything, truly! Throw them in with pasta, make them a topping for fresh bread, toss them in a salad or with spinach as a side dish...I mean, they're so versatile and totally delicious so you can bet I'll be having these as a staple in my home going forward. 

The verdure sott'olio was just as wonderful though not much to explain about them. We grilled off eggplant and zucchini, layered them with the tomatoes in a pan and covered it all with olive oil. That process is actually something that was used as a preservation technique in the old days because covering something with olive oil keeps oxygen out therefore keeping food fresh longer. You refrigerate it all and it'll be good for a week or so! You honestly never knew vegetables could be so delicious...


Ray Ray said...

I want you to teach me how to make those roasted tomatoes! They look delicious.

Allie A said...