Have you watched the movie Eat, Pray, Love?
Do you remember the part where she is in Rome, and Luca Argentero (one of our most beautiful actors imho <3) takes her around the city and the topic is, of course, food?
Of all the wondrous, incredibly beautiful things I saw in rome the first time I visited, the thing I have the clearest memory of would be called unremarkable when compared to all the beautiful buildings and sights.
I remember this tiny trattoria in a hidden street, where the loud, dark-skinned owner welcomed us and served us one of the most delicious things I have ever had in my life: an oily, tomato-y dish of bucatini all’Amatriciana.
It’s no wonder that the earthy, rich, olive oil and pancetta-laden cuisine of Rome is one of those things about the city that will just stay in your heart (and in a too literal sense if you have it for too long, I guess?). Rome, even though too often invaded by way too many tourists, is still full of magical narrow streets, nooks and crannies where you can crawl for a good bowl of authentic cuisine, when you feel just a little overwhelmed by the amount of art and beauty that is all around the city. And, although sometimes way too chaotic (and by the way – despite what the comments below the video say, this is actually pretty accurate) and on the dirty side, Rome has plenty of magic going on: evening strolls along the Tiber river, with all the lights sparkling on the surface of the water like diamond rings on the fingers of a beautiful woman. The majestic Coliseum, which time still has not conquered, and that still stands tall and wondrous as ever. The paintings, the quite cloisters, the secret gardens, and the powerful accent of its local dwellers.
The last time I was in Rome I was still an omnivore – so we are talking well over 3 ~ 4 years ago, and, over time, I kind of forgot all of these things.
When I got Katie Parla’s and Kristina Gill’s new book ‘Tasting Rome’ in the mail, though, memories came back up in all of their glory.
The book offers a wonderful view of Rome’s markets, scenery, folklore and daily life, and can really make you feel like you’re walking through the city. Unfortunately, it does not feature many veg-friendly recipes. But hey, it’s Rome, so it only makes sense: Roman cuisine is chock full of ingredients like lard, guanciale (fatty pork cheek), pancetta, pecorino, and preserved fish. So if you’re veg and only interested in the recipes, this book is not for you.
Still, If you are planning to take an armchair trip to the Eternal City, leafing through this book will take you to its streets, then through the evocative Jewish Ghetto and its ancient culture, and into the trattorie and friggitorie, the bakeries and pastry shops, where old and new generations meet between elderly shop owners in their dirty apron and charming dark-skinned, dark haired men serve drink and bruschetta behind counters.
Among the recipes I am planning to make from this book are what sounds like a delicious pumpkin frittata, salsa verde, rice-stuffed tomatoes, and a couple of the traditional breads and pizzas recipes.
So, even though the recipes do not exactly align with the philosophy behind this blog, I decided to give it a go because it’s a very nice stroll down memory lane.
This salad features Roman artichokes hearts which, when fresh, are delicious eaten raw. They are slightly tangy, with a subtle ‘metallic’ aftertaste and a rich, prominent, unique flavor. Artichokes are great liver cleansers: all vegetables with the same alkaline kind of aftertaste (think cardoons, burdock, some bitter greens) have the incredible property of ridding your systems of toxins, especially when eaten raw with plenty of lemon juice and some cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil for a kick of healthy fats. The addition of mint makes it super refreshing, while Pecorino ties this recipe to the culture of Rome in a loving, tight bond.
Just FYI – the shaved artichokes WILL get a little brown, even when doused in lemon. That’s ok though! Just serve this salad as soon as possible. Even if you leave the leftover in the fridge and turn a bit brown, it is still going to be delicious.
If I make a big batch and have leftovers, I like to use them as a base for a frittata, or for a spring salad with sautéed peas and onion, or just added to any other raw vegetable (hint: it’s totally worth making a big batch!)
This salad goes very well with pretty much every other simple Italian style dish.
ON CLEANING ARTICHOKES: Unless you can find pre-cleaned and pruned artichokes, you will have to do the job yourself. I explain how to do it in detail in this post (and in this post as well), where you can also find a little guide on the various kinds of artichokes available.
IF YOU CAN’T FIND ROMANESCO ARTICHOKE: substitute any kind of young, fresh artichoke, in season and as fresh as possible.
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and more to taste, plus the juice of half a lemon for the acidulated water
- 4 tender young artichokes, trimmed (see notes)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
- Liberal amounts of shaved Grana cheese or Parmesan
- Set aside the 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl, and add the rest of the half lemon into a large bowl full of water to make acidulated water for the artichokes. After you cleaned the artichokes (see notes above), add them to the acidulated water so they don't brown.
- Halve each artichoke and check if there is any fuzzy inner parts you might find (the fresher the artichokes, the less likely there will be fuzz).
- Thinly slice the artichokes and add the to the bowl with the lemon juice as you slice them. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
- At this point, you can either finely julienne the mint and stir it in, or just tear the leaves and add as a garnish on top.
- Shave pieces of cheese with a vegetable peeler, and serve straight away.
Have you ever been to Rome? And do you like / use artichokes? What is your best recipe?
Reprinted from TASTING ROME: FRESH FLAVORS AND FORGOTTEN RECIPES FROM AN ANCIENT CITY Copyright ©2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.