I know you're wondering what happened, but first I have to talk about Liguria, Italy.
The capitol of this part of Italy is Genoa, which has a long and sordid history, starting with its role as an important port city in the first crusade (for a fee, Genoese ships would carry European knights and troops the the Middle East). After that it became heavily involved in the the spice trade, which explains why hometown hero Christopher Columbus was so interested in finding a faster route to the East Indies.
You probably already guessed that a lot of the food in Liguria is seafood-based, which is what you would expect from a land that's pretty much all coastline. Seafood isn't the only thing going there, though, in fact Ligurian tastes cover the gamut from fish to poultry to beef to cheese to vegetables. So if food is your thing and you were thinking of visiting Italiy, Liguria should definitely be one of your stops.
And here's another fun fact: pesto was invented in Liguria. Which was perfect for me, really, because I have a basil garden growing out of control in my office and I really needed a reason to use some of it up. So with that in mind, here's my menu:
Trenette with Pesto
(from Academia Barilla)
- 1 lb trenette pasta*
- 1 oz basil
- 1/2 oz pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 oz grated Pecorino cheese**
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
** Pecorino is widely available in California supermarkets, unless I'm looking for it. I had to sub some of last week's montasio cheese and some romano for the pecorino, and I honestly don't know how good a sub that was. Tasted delicious, though. Anyway the next time I was a the grocery store I found pecorino cheese, which was annoying.
La Focaccia alla Genovese di Roberto
(from Rustico Cooking)
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup water
Almond and Chocolate Torta
(from Channeling Nonna)
- 5 oz butter, softened
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp light extra virgin olive oil or an additional 5 oz butter
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 eggs
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
- 2 cups almond flour
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/4 tsp salt
First put the oil, butter and sugar (or just the butter and sugar, which is what I did) into your mixer and beat until fluffy. Then add the eggs and mix for another minute, but take care not to let the eggs curdle.
Now add the zest, vanilla flavoring and the almond flour.
Next make the bread. First combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of salt and the sugar in an electric mixer. Now add the water and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Stir until the dough starts to come together, then either use a dough hook or knead it by hand (I used my bread machine, because I'm a cheater that way).
You may need to add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky, or a little more water if the dough is too dry. Now add the yeast and keep kneading. The final product should be smooth and easy to work.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Now move the dough to a pizza pan and press it into the pan. Cover and let rest for another 30 minutes. Dimple the dough with your fingers, taking care not to tear it. Cover again and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Put the basil, garlic and pine nuts into a food processor. Pulse, adding the oil slowly.
Now, my pesto was a little bitter, probably because my basil leaves were on the large side and you're really supposed to use younger leaves for pesto. So I added more cheese, pine nuts and salt to help counter the bitterness, and in the end I had delicious pesto. Make sure that you taste yours and adjust, because all basil is not created equal.
Now cook the trenette (or linguine) in salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss with the pesto. You can dilute the pesto with a little bit of that pasta water, if you need to. Top with a little bit of grated parmesan and serve.
So we're on a trifecta of Italian provinces, culminating next week with Lombardy, Italy. See you then!