Monday, April 9, 2012

Vegetarian? Nope, Not Me!

Let me say outta the gate that I fully respect any view and standpoint people have on food. I won't push my thoughts or opinions on you anymore than I would do so with something like religion. Yes, I have my strong opinions but, should you choose to be a vegetarian or anything of the like, I won't tell you you're wrong. I'll just tell you I'm sad that I can't share the gloriousness that is meat with you. I get a lot of practice with keeping certain thoughts to myself as my sweet Bryan is, in fact, a vegetarian. Did I just hear people sigh? I thought so. I did too when he told me. He's just lucky I love veggies almost as much so it's not a deal breaker, whew.

Going into meat antipasti day at school was so exciting for me. While I love meat, I actually know very little about it and what differentiates certain cuts from each other. In Italian cuisine, salumi, a general word for cured meats, is highly regarded and loved. Back in the old days, meat was a luxury and expense that most people couldn't afford. I referenced that briefly when I was talking about making caponata but we went into a little more detail with it as we learned about the different salumi that's so available these days. The most common categories of salumi are either whole cuts or insaccati meaning something encased or emulsified. Things like prosciutto, speck or pancetta that are cured in salt and aged fall into the whole cuts category and meats that are ground like salame and mortadella fall into the insaccati category. An important factor to note also is that salumi is rarely smoked in Italy. Speck is found in northern Italy which is one of the few smoked ham products available. In fact, a great deal of meat products are eaten raw like some salame and sausage. Each region cures things differently but, now that we have technology and refrigeration, there isn't as wide a need as there used to be to cure things so completely.

Just like on cheese day, we had the most amazing spread of salumi that we tasted and were lectured on in between finishing our recipes. It was a pretty darn awesome day to be in our kitchen even if we all felt like we had to be rolled outta there. Check it out:
If you start at the top, you'll see the two kinds of lardo (straight fat, smoked and unsmoked) we tried and then you move down into the different prosciutto, bresaola (a raw, salted and aged beef), mortadella and salame. Each cut was fabulous and so different. I've had most all of them before and couldn't appreciate them the way I do now. Mortadella continues to be one of my favorites, though. It's a cooked salami that is actually ground fine (ew, I hate knowing that actually) and mixed with at least 15% fat. Often times, pistachios are added in as well. It's produced in many regions of Italy and it's sort of like a glorified bologna. That kinda trivializes it because, in no way, is it anything like the nasty, packaged Oscar Mayer stuff so don't equate the two. 

On top of this fabulous spread, we did complete our recipes as well so it was a big eating day for us. I was excited because one of our recipes was involtini di cavolo, stuffed cabbage, and I've always wanted to make it! It's a delicious dish made with a meat and fresh herb stuffing that's rolled in cabbage and baked in homemade tomato sauce. It was a lot more involved than I thought but hey, that's what we're learning is the reason why some Italian food is so freaking delicious. There's a lot of love and care that goes into making what most think is "such a simple recipe". I hesitate to share this photo with you because it really isn't the most attractive dish. It's so yummy though so here you go:
We also made a fabulous chicken salad in a lemon vinaigrette that was to die for and we prepped the olive all'ascolana which are stuffed olives. The biggest highlight for me was actually our carpaccio dish which is raw beef (pounded super thin) salad. We did it Cipriani style which is a method that uses a fresh, homemade mayonnaise and mushrooms, both completely highlighting the beef. It was my first time making mayonnaise and it turned out really great. The arugula is dressed in simple lemon juice and olive oil and served on top of the beef, offering an amazing, fresh contrast to the meat. I've loved carpaccio before and I do even more now:
It was a terrific, informative day in the kitchen and I so enjoyed all of it! All thoughts of possibly staying away from meat were crushed and thwarted though, that's for sure. As if I really entertained those thoughts seriously...

1 comment:

Allie A said...

I LOVE this post and all the detail you put into it -- this is exactly the kind of information I was telling you that I enjoy reading. I feel like I'm learning as I read your blog and really appreciate you taking the time to include the tidbits that help me do so. But I have one question for you -- HOW DID I MISS OUT ON TASTING YOUR STUFFED CABBAGE?!?!?!?! I'm actually angry right now.