peeking into pots and pasta from potatoes.
yesterday, i went out to the village of casorzo (past asti, near casale) where daniele and i waited tables at a community event benefitting children from chernobyl. here i am, in between courses, helping myself to some of the panissa di vercelli (more of which below). i’ve been particularly struck lately with how socio-politically active these italians are. many of the people i know here give their time, money and vacation days to their political party (which may have everything to do with the organization i work for), and many more do volunteer work in africa or form organizations that work to help groups in eastern european or african countries. is it a function of our isolationism that we americans only tend to help our own (if we help at all)?
i’m not entirely prepared to address these kinds of hard-hitting questions this morning (let’s just say it’s been an eventful weekend, and i’m not faring so well in the aftermath). instead, let me return to the contents of the pots:
unlike the panissa of liguria, which are fritters made from chickpea flour (like sicilian panelle, briefly in vogue in new york restaurants in 2003ish, where they were described as ‘chickpea fries’), that of vercelli is a piedmontese risotto-like dish, made with the area’s well-known rice, beans, sausage and barbera wine.
it is serious stick-to-your-ribs farmer fare. this is what we served after 3 courses of salumi (including the wonderful salame cotto of casorzo and some hammy paletta di maiale), a round of uova di salvin, the very local take on devilled eggs, which involves mashing hard-boiled yolks with tomato paste and serving the mash with the whites. unlike panissa, the eggs don’t benefit so much from cooking in quantities for a couple hundred people. though, apparently, polenta and cinghiale do:
i talk and write about local, traditional food an awful lot, but really, this tiny town’s gastronomic wealth (see salame cotto, uova di salvin, etc.) really surprised me. it’s just another one of the hilltop towns that dot the monferrato area (east of the langhe), but here, they’ve got a slew of grape varietals specific to just this area (grignolino and cortese) and a dessert wine made only in this town (malvasia di casorzo). this aspect of italy continues to captivate me. and i suppose this is the reason why i stay. this, and these guys:
because there are few things i appreciate more than boys that cook: daniele and andrea make gnocchi on my kitchen table.