Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila: A delicious quiz
Browse through "The Slow Food Dictionary to Italian Regional Cooking" and it will take you only a page or two to realize how very limited the repertoire of dishes cooked in L.A.’s Italian restaurants really is. I thought I knew a lot about Italian regional cuisine, but on every page I find dishes I’ve never encountered, one after the other.
1. castagne d’o prevete (“priest’s chestnuts”)
Answers: (I would print them upside down if I knew how.)
1. These are oven-roasted chestnuts splashed with grappa and white wine and tightly wrapped in a cloth to let them rest before being skinned and eaten. Campania.
2. A thick porridge made by mixing the flour of wild peas with water. Flavored with garlic and anchovies. Umbria.
3. Small leavened focaccia typical of Castelnuovo Magra, in the province of La Spezia. The surface of the dough is pressed with the fingers to create dimples, which are anointed with oil and filled with pieces of sausage. Liguria.
4. Dialect name for operculate snails ... in Syracuse, cooked a 'mbriaca (drunk), stewed with onion, oil, black pepper, red chili salt and red wine. Sicily.
5. A risotto made by “toasting” rice in butter with onion, lardo and crumbled salame. The mixture is bathed with red wine and, when this has evaporated, progressively supplemented with a soup made with strips of pork rind, beans, coarsely chopped celery, carrot, tomato and Savoy cabbage. Piedmont.
Poking around in this book is dangerous: I got so hungry, I had to raid the refrigerator for a hunk of Parmigiano. Some of the definitions, as in No. 4, are so detailed, you could cook from them. And I just may.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Follow me on twitter.com/sirenevirbila
Image: "The Slow Food Dictionary to Italian Regional Cooking" (575 pages, $34.95). Credit: Slow Food Editore