Daily Archives: October 12, 2012

Prosciutto and Fennel Salad

2 Servings

Prosciutto… just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

During my non-cooking, crazy-working days, I used to come home from the office, late at night, and I was so tired that the last thought on my mind was making dinner. I used to open the refrigerator and, to my relief, my lifesaving dinner option was always there waiting for me: some prosciutto, a buffalo mozzarella, some ripe red tomatoes and a
chilled bottle of white wine. I was as happy as a kid opening her presents on Christmas day!

Even nowadays that my lifestyle is quite different from what it used to be, I make sure that some prosciutto is always in my refrigerator, like some sort of Linus’ security blanket, and no day goes by without me eating at least a slice of it. What can I say? I’m addicted to prosciutto.

That’s why I came up with a number of recipes that include prosciutto as one of the key ingredients.

Here is a recipe for a delicious prosciutto and fennel based salad, that can be made in a short time, looks great and can be served as an appetizer.

So, with my mouth watering, shall we?

Ingredients:

4 cups of baby romaine or baby lettuces
10 thin slices of prosciutto
1 bulb of fennel
24 pitted seasoned kalamata olives
1 egg yolk
3 spoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extravirgin olive oil
salt
pepper

Directions:

Put two plates on your kitchen counter and place the salad on each of them.

Rinse the bulb of fennel with water, dry it and, on a chopping board, cut the stalks and fronds off the bulb. Discard the outer layer. Cut the bulb in half from top to bottom and place each half with the flat side facing down on the chopping board. Slice the fennel thinly and evenly with your knife and place the slices over the salad.

For each plate, put 10 pitted olives on the fennel slices, spreading them out evenly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with the balsamic vinegar. Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper (to taste) and keep whisking for one minute.

Pour one spoon of dressing on the salad, spreading it out evenly.

Add the prosciutto slices so that the salad is covered by them. Cut the remaining four olives in half and put two of them on top of each plate to garnish. Add the rest of the dressing, spreading it out evenly.

In Homage to Christopher Columbus: An Overview of the Best Wines from Liguria, Italy

On October 12, 1492, precisely 520 years ago, Italian world-known explorer and sailor Christopher Columbus and his expedition set foot in the Americas (on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas) in Columbus’s first voyage to the New World.

Since Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy (which, coincidentally, is also where I was born, “just” a few centuries later!) I think it makes sense that I honor the memory of that event by providing our readers a quick overview of the best wines from the Italian region of Liguria (of which Genoa is the capital).

Liguria is a narrow strip of mostly mountainous land in the Northwest of Italy facing the Ligurian Sea. Because of its geography and its relatively small size (about 2,100 sqm/5,420 km, which makes it the third smallest region in Italy), agriculture in general and viticulture in particular have traditionally been challenging for its residents – so much so that in the coastal areas of Liguria vines are grown on artificial terracing, a typical method of cultivation. Nowadays, Ligurian wine grape acreage is about 3,645 acres (1,475 HA), approximately 50% of which are part of the eight DOC appellations of Liguria, and total production of wine stands at about 2.64 million gallons (100,000 HL).

On average, quality of Ligurian wines has not been outstanding. However, over the last decade or so there has been a serious effort on the part of select producers to invest the required energy and resources to produce top quality wines and, as a result, there are now a limited number of commendable wine makers who attained excellence in at least one of their wines. Let’s take a quick look at a sample of just a few of the top wines that are part of these “best of the crop” wineries (incidentally, all of the wines in our overview earned the prestigious “5 bunches of grapes” top rating in the 2,000 Wines Guide made by the Italian Sommelier Association).

Two of the best grapes that have traditionally been grown in Liguria to make white wine are Pigato and Vermentino, the former being cultivated exclusively in Liguria and the latter being the most planted white-berried grape in such region. Vermentino originated in the Middle East, was brought to Spain and from there made its way to Italy where, among other places, it was widely planted in Liguria and Sardinia.

A producer of excellent Pigato wine is Bio Vio, whose top wine is the Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato “Bon in da Bon” DOC. This is a dry white varietal wine made of 100% Pigato grapes, with good acidity and pleasant scents of peach, sage, mint and minerals.

One outstanding Vermentino is the Colli di Luni Vermentino “Boboli” DOC from wine maker Giacomelli. The Boboli is a dry white wine made of 95% Vermentino and 5% Malvasia di Candia grapes, with delicate aromas of citrus, grapefruit, algae, honey and pine resin, as well as good acidity.

In the best Ligurian tradition, both the Pigato and the Vermentino are wonderful pairings for fish/seafood dishes, typical cheese focaccia or trofie or trenette pasta with pesto, potato and string beans. Also, both wines that we just recommended have a very good price/quality ratio.

Probably, the best Ligurian black-berried grape is Rossese, whose origins date back to at least the XV century, but other than that remain fairly obscure.

A very good Rossese that is certainly worth a try should you come across a bottle, is the Rossese di Dolceacqua Superiore “Poggio Pini” DOC from producer Tenuta Anfosso. This is a dry varietal red wine made of 100% Rossese grapes with fairly noticeable tannins and nice scents of rose, blackberry, strawberry jam, pepper and cinnamon. It pairs well with meats, such as lamb chops or goat dishes, and for a quality wine it is surprisingly quite affordable.

Finally, in the Ligurian appellation Cinque Terre DOC one can find one of the least known and most delicious sweet white raisin wines in Italy, the Sciacchetrà (this is pronounced something like “Shackaytra”).

One of the best Sciacchetrà you can have the delight to enjoy is the Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà Riserva DOC of the Capellini winery. This sweet, golden raisin wine is made out of 80% Bosco, 10% Vermentino and 10% Albarola white-berried grapes and gives out pleasant scents of honey, dried apricot, citrus, rosemary and dates. It can be enjoyed by itself, as a meditation wine, or coupled with a traditional Ligurian dessert, such as pandolce (the Ligurian take of panettone) or canestrelli (a kind of flower-shaped cookies). Given the very limited yield of this wine, its price is pretty steep, but if you can afford it, you will not regret paying it once you have a sip of Sciacchetrà in your mouth!

As usual, any remarks or experiences you want to share with all of us on the wines of Liguria are very welcome: just leave a comment below!