Monday, August 23, 2010

A Week of Great Food

When my friend Boyd visited this week from Baltimore it become a week of great food.  No recipe-testing this week from this cookbook author.  The kids came over ever day and we feasted.  On Tuesday we started with as authentic an ossobuco all Milanese and risotto alla Milanese as you can get.  I made the veal stock for the risotto the day before and I used my ultra-low simmer setting on my stove so it simmered, barely, for about 8 hours.  Wednesday we had a mixed grill of veal sweetbreads, lamb kidney (oh man, those were good), skirt steak, and homemade Italian sausage that I had frozen about a month ago.  Along with it we had frittedda, that Sicilian dish of artichokes, peas, fava, and scallions that I made in June and my favorite Sicilian eggplant dish, mulinciana alla schebbeci, a kind of eggplant seviche, but much more.  Thursday turned into Mexican night and my girlfriend Michelle and son Seri made a 5-course dinner straight from Rick Bayless's Authentic Mexican cookbook.  We had queso fundido, chipotle chile sauce  for our tacos with chorizo and potatoes and tacos al carbon, plus some guacamole and frijoles charros.  On Friday was a break, but Saturday we had our annual lobsterfest, that wonderfully messy affair on the roof deck, juice squirting everywhere and shells a-flying.  We got 10 two-pound lobsters for $5.95 a pound, can you believe it?  Sunday was oysterfest, 100 Blue Point oysters from Long Island that I had my man fly in for our enjoyment.  We bake 24 wrapped in prosciutto and sauced with a balsamic reduction and the rest we ate raw.  Man what a week.  Lotta beer too.

[photo credits: ossobuco, Clifford A. Wright; lobster:]

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Turk and the Dragon

Facade, Basilica di Santa Croce, Lecce. Photo: Clifford A. Wright

Wherever you look in the Mediterranean lies an untold or unknown story for Americans not well versed in history. The Mediterranean is so rich in history it’s dizzying and sometimes one will feel overwhelmed especially if you go unprepared. The more you know the more you get out of a trip to the Mediterranean. Here’s one little example found in the unique Baroque style of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Lecce in Italy’s Salento Peninsula. The principals responsible for the structure were Gabriele Riccardi who began work in 1549 and Francesco Antonio Zimbalo, Cesare Penna, and Giuseppe Zimbalo who continued adding layer upon layer for the next 100 years. What you see today is the decorative symbolism creating an allegorical feast that can be digested only if you know the story.

This detailed photo of the exterior shows one of the Turkish prisoners from Battle of Lepanto (1571), one of the most important and significant battles in history. The dragon was the symbol of the Boncompagni, family of Pope Gregory XVI. Behind these stone workings lies a culture that appreciated the Baroque, yet the food of the town is not Baroque. It’s simple food based to a large extent on homemade dried pasta, even to this day, and simple vegetables such as chicory, fava beans, and other legumes. However, an appreciation of the food of Lecce, or Apulia for that matter, will be enriched by understanding the economic and cultural background of the people of the Salento Peninsula. This can be analogous to how much you would want to know about the Turk and the dragon on the façade off Santa Croce and what led men to build it.