I had polenta for the first time this season on Saturday. My mother and Dan have been visiting us from Madison and Fabrizio suggested we go eat polenta a village over from his.
Polenta is basically corn meal mush, but tastier than it sounds. The Veneto region (where Venice and Verona are) is best known for it, but it’s also common in much of the central Apennines. (I will talk about polenta later on as it’s considered more of a winter food.)
The grey haired men in the tiny little neighborhood restaurant served it to us on traditional rectangular, cutting-board like wooden platters instead of plates and we alternated tomato and sausage and tomato and wild boar sauces on top. All that we had to do was sprinkle grated pecorino cheese over it all and, a few drops, for those who wanted it, of homemade hot pepper olive oil.
Afterwards we were back at Fabrizio’s to show my parents around and give them information on hiking and cooking experiences he organizes in the area for groups of
English speakers. If you’re too impatient to wait for my description of them, you can see what they are like on the http://www.vacationinrome.it/ (and click on “program”).
Just before dusk, as rain clouds rolled over the mountain ridge across from us like slow motion foamy waves we spotted two trees of limoncello apple trees that somehow still had a few apples on them. We snapped up two buckets and went down the slope to pick them before the rain, our hiking boots freeing up the aroma of wild mint as the first few drops of rain came down. They were full of spots and scars and some of them had been pecked at by birds, but Fabrizio reminded us of what his father would always say: “Se era buono per il verme, è buono per te”
If it was good enough for the worm, it’s good for you too.
Diced apples are simmering on the stove as I write this and I’m trying to decide between chestnut flower honey or cinnamon.
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Tagged abruzzo, apple, boar, carbonar, cinghiale, cooking, honey, joshua john lawrence, joshua lawrence, l'aquila, mele, miele, polenta, rome, salsiccia, simmer, trastevere
(Cinnamon Fall II)
I missed apple picking weekend at Fabrizio’s this year, we came two weeks late this year and could only pick the stragglers.
Fabrizio is a friend of mine who lives in Trastevere in Rome but he’s originally from a small town near L’Aquila called Colle di Lucoli, a small hilltop village on the way up to the Campo Felice (“happy field”) ski slopes. His house is in the middle of beautiful area of rolling hills dotted with tiny stone villages full of hiking trails and curvy roads.
As Fabrizio was growing up his dad would plant a new apple tree every year on the steep slope cascading down from his childhood house. He planted a different tree every year – varieties ranging from big red delicious to the tiny, yellow apples called “limoncello”, which means lemony, a name which derives from their color, small size and aftertaste. They were once once coveted in the mountainous areas of central Italy because as they shriveled up slightly during the winter in basement storage rooms they became much sweeter just before spring.
It’s an organic apple orchard, in the sense that neither Fabrizio nor anyone else does anything to the apples or the trees. Bugs, birds, squirrel and the like have free reign. Many of them are scarred and ugly. But tasty. I’m not as adventurous as I may seem – I strategically bite where they are not scarred and where it looks like bugs have not travelled. Tiny, little bites. But wonderful.
The wind knocks most of them down before we can get to them so the sloping field is filled with the smell of wild mint and baked apples. We were able to fill just got two bags, not enough for apple sauce this time around.
Three years ago we came the right weekend and there was a bumper crop. After lugging buckets of them to the apple storage room (which doubled as storage for wine, oil and preserves from their little garden) and the pile was shoulder-high we stared taking the rest directly to our cars.
But what do you do with buckets full or apples in a city apartment?
Applesauce, of course.
No real recipe. Peel and cut the apples in little pieces, cook slowly in a big pot with just enough water at the beginning to keep it from sticking until the apples melt. If you want it a bit sweeter or more rustic at the end, melt in some honey. And my favorite touch – cinnamon to taste. I love the smell of caramelized apples, honey and cinnamon just before I take it off the burner.
Then eat and smile.
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Tagged appartments in rome, apple sauce, apples, campo felice, cannella, carbonara, cinnamon, honey, ilcappero, italian food, joshua john lawrence, joshua lawrence, l'aquila, limoncello, lucoli, mele, miele, trastevere