Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Grandmother's House We Go

Frying up the polpette
There is literally nothing in the world more soothing and soul warming then a little grandmother cooking you lunch.  Unless, of course, she is joined in her cooking by the incredible and previously mentioned Zio Uccio.  After casually remarking that it has been a long, long time since I had a home-cooked meal cooked by someone other then myself, Zio Uccio showed up in the Cantina the next night beaming.  "You must," he said, eyes twinkling, "come to Manuel's grandma's for lunch Wednesday for a Ligurian and Tuscan lunch".

polpette, mmm

Manuel's gram made one of my favorite Ligurian dishes, polpette, along with her famous and famously un-re-creatable frittata di verdure.  Polpette are often referred to as the southern Italian classic, meatballs, but these Ligurian style fried snacks are quite different.  A mixture of rice, potatoes, herbs, chopped meat, cheese and old bread, then coated in egg and flour and breadcrumbs and fried, polpette alla Manuel's gram are crunchy on the outside, fried to a crispy golden brown, but soft and tender inside.
frittata di verdure - dark, local greens

The frittata is equally delicious, and unlike the familiar frittata, this one is heavy on dark greens and uses very little egg.  Using egg only as the binder as it's fried in a pan, it is the exact opposite of the more commonly seen egg-centric frittata.  Green, earthy, crunchy and cheesy, egg isn't even really evident in the flavor of the sliced frittata, served at room temperature with little bits of paper towel soaking up the green juices and oil.

Sauteed peppers, onions and potatoes make up peperonata, a classic Italian vegetarian dish that is literally one of the heaviest but most delicious vegetarian dishes one can eat.  Hefty drizzles of olive oil mean that what remains on the plate - the flavored oil full of sweet pepper and caramelized onion - is as delectable as the main part of the dish.

Finally, Uccio's contribution - risotto with wild mushrooms, as, he informed me triumphantly, "Mushroom season has arrived!"  With a half cup of juicy fresh tomato and the "chef's touch" of bright green parsley scattered atop the rice, we were, needless to say, incredibly full.
Risotto simmering away
Fresh mushrooms
Dessert, another Uccio specialty, of fresh strawberries in a sauce of cream, pureed strawberry, sugar, port wine and black pepper ("to make the strawberries pop"), left us so full that our dinner plans were quickly cancelled.

Uccio made me retake the photo as he didn't garnish it with parsley yet

An interesting take on strawberries and cream - and pepper.
Even if it's not my grandmother per se, it's always wonderful to eat food cooked by one, especially when you throw in a great uncle to boot.

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