11/05/2004

let's not forget what's really important here. fall, glorious fall is still very much in evidence here in piemonte: any tomatoes to be found at the market are pallid, devoid of that heady, late-summer vegetaly perfume, and altogether unappealing. leeks abound, as do chestnuts and squash. but of course, you know i am always happiest to find foodstuffs i can't usually get my grubby little hands on. so i rejoice to see crates of topinambur, a smooth-skinned, pale root that looks like a weakly-bred rhizome cousin, but is more familiar in the states under the names "sunchoke" or "jerusalem artichoke". the always-helpful man at the alimentari tells me to cut it up for bagna caoda. and in the same so-ugly-but-so-delectable vein, the hunchback cardoon is making an appearance here as well. the bunch sitting on my kitchen table waits patiently to be transformed into a gratin or a braise. lately, i am going through enormous quantities of cheese. my house was the lucky recipient of maybe four kilos of leftovers from the american raw milk farmstead cheese stand at the salone del gusto. i'm slowly savoring the little surviving wedge of a semi-firm cow's milk round studded with black peppercorns, particularly after making the happy discovery that this pairs so, so well with a yunnanese black tea (a gift from my friend at in pursuit of tea). then yesterday, when i went home for lunch, i discovered a truck outside my building, bearing the words "mozzarella di bufala" -- curious, as there's not any sort of restaurant or grocery in the vicinity that it could be delivering to. but it turns out that this guy was selling fresh mozzarella and ricotta from the truck! am i the only one who gets a special thrill from buying stuff from trucks on the side of the road? (and no, fred, mit's foodtrucks do not count.) i am also loving smoked reindeer heart, which the swedish delegation brought with them to salone. its firm-textured, pleasantly salty leanness is very comparable to an excellent smoked ham. the sami, the indigenous people of scandinavian/northern europe, are the producers of this fantastic smoked reindeer loin. i, unfortunately, had not sufficiently recovered from the insanity of terra madre to procure any, but luckily i was given about an organ and a half of the heart, which is now sitting in my fridge last night, i made cotognata (aka membrillo or, hell, quince paste) and am waiting for the stuff to dry a bit so it can be unmolded. i'm a little baffled though: as far as i know, quince flesh becomes a dark plummy red color when its cooked, but my quinces only became a sort of straw yellow. i wonder if i got some sort of subvariety or something. it sure smells like quince though. regardless, what we really care about is that the cotognata will be damn good with the smoked reindeer heart. my latest foray into the blogosphere reaped vinography. my ever-expanding italian vocabulary i suppose the closest equivalent to un paio di coglioni must be "bollocks!" or "balls!", but i like ugo's translation best: "my ass!" the phrase literally means "a pair of balls." i'm just making an educated guess here, but "coglione" is like the spanish "cojones," right? but even better, at the same dinner where i learned this phrase, i also picked up the word "stopposo", which is generally not written, i'm told, as it's so colloquial. it also has no real equivalent in english, but we were using it to describe a piece of fish that had been so overcooked that when you tried to swallow it, it would get sort of stuck. i'm told that the actual meaning is more circuitous than that, even, but i think you get the picture. looping: arab strap's wonderful "monday at the hug & pint." fred had gifted me with this a while back, but i'm only now giving it some real attention. which it very much deserves. the third track, "fucking little bastards," makes me want to get up and do a little a conga dance around my desk.

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