I am so excited to share this new Italian cookbook with you. My sweet friend Kristina Gill has written a lovely cookbook with co-author Katie Parla titled Tasting Rome. When I first heard about the project, I mistakenly thought that Kristina (who I regard as a photographer) was the photographer on the project, but she is in fact the co-author of the cookbook.
I was captivated by the story of making this book happen as she shared it’s conception recently at a book signing in Atlanta. Kristina, who lives in Rome, started working on this book many years ago. As a way to communicate with the cab drivers, she would chat about their favorite Roman recipes. Kristina wrote down all the recipes, tried them at home, and eventually had collected 100! More than enough for a book. I enjoyed hearing her interviewed in Atlanta recently, and this story resonated with me. How clever to talk to cab drivers about their food experiences. Living in Italy, I know that everyone in Italy has an opinion when it comes to food. Everyone in Italy’s Mama is the best cook, or makes the best this or that. Italians love of food is a serious passion; a pastime that is not only relished but revered.
The book is a little gem, filled with Roman food history, and beautiful recipes. These recipes are typical of the region since in Italy eating regionally is the way it is. The recipes are simple and ingredient-based.
One word of advice before delving into these recipes: if you live anywhere other than Italy, make sure the ingredients you use are the best of the best. For example, I made the chicken meatballs. I must say they were delicious, however I really wish I would have had the butcher grind the dark and light meat for me, rather than buying the pre-ground white meat. The taste would have been richer. I cannot stress enough that Italian food is mainly based on the gorgeous ingredients.
The recipe that I wanted to share today is one of my favorite salads in all of Italy. When I saw it in Tasting Rome, it was like seeing an old friend. The first time I tasted it was in Genova many years ago; my best friend’s boyfriend made it as a lunch course. It’s called insalata di carciofi crudi. I had never tasted raw artichokes, and they were so good. Eating young artichokes raw in Italy is quite common in most regions, and I was blown away. The delicate crunch and mild green flavor is sensational. Give it a try.
Note: ROMANS TYPICALLY cook the tender inner leaves, hearts, and stems of artichokes, but wine bars, many of which lack a full kitchen, have taken to serving raw artichoke salads as a fresh, crisp, and flame-free alternative. The texture is best when the artichokes are sliced as thinly as possible, ideally on a mandoline. Their slightly sweet, bitter, and nutty flavors pair well with the tangy lemon juice and a hard cow’s-milk cheese.
SHAVED ARTICHOKE SALAD
Serves 4 to 6
You will need:
– 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon), plus more to taste
– 4 tender young artichokes cleaned (see below)
– ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
– Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, for shaving
Put the lemon juice in a medium bowl and set aside.
Remove each artichoke individually from the lemon water and halve them. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out and discard the fuzzy inner choke and trim off any rough, pointy bits.
Slice each artichoke half into the thinnest possible wedges, then add them to the bowl with lemon juice and mix well. Slice the trimmed stems into the thinnest possible rounds and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Garnish with the mint leaves. Use a vegetable peeler to shave slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the salad. Serve immediately.
Note: Rome’s local artichoke, called carciofo romanesco, is a staple that floods market stalls from December until May and appears on tables as a starter or a side dish. If you can’t find them, substitute young, tender artichokes, ideally fresh and in season. You may need to adjust seasonings to accommodate. In Rome, they are available already cleaned and pruned, but you’ll likely need to do this yourself.
Begin by filling a large bowl with cold water. Add the juice of 1 lemon and drop in the squeezed lemon halves. Snap off the tough outer leaves of each artichoke just above the base, one at a time. Continue to remove the layers until you reach the light-colored inner leaves. Cut off the stem, leaving about 1 inch attached to the base. Using a small knife with a short, thin blade, or a vegetable peeler, peel off the fibrous outer skin from the removed stem until you reach the pale green inner flesh. Drop it in the bowl with lemon water.
Carefully peel away the tough, dark green skin from the base of the artichoke and its trimmed stem. Remove and discard the upper cone of leaves. Hold in the lemon water to prevent oxidizing until ready to use.
Now for the fun stuff! I am giving away 3 copies of Tasting Rome. I know right?! 3 copies!!!
Enter the giveaway below, and I hope you win! As we say in Italy…Boca di Lupo. GOOD LUCK!
Winners will be announced May 3rd, just in time for Mother’s Day! xx
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Photo credit: Kristina Gill
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