There is much ado over Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine and if I had a spare room and a lot of extra cash...well, I still don’t think I’d buy it.
In case you missed the coming of this encyclopedic behemoth, it’s 5 volumes, at around 500 bucks and it’s on back order. I respect and admire the Boyz with Toyz crowd, but in general, I’m a simpler, comfort seeking cook. Let me be clear, there’s a time and place for modernist cuisine, and a time and place for comfort food. There is room to enjoy both; there is no line in the sand and both schools learn from each other.
Recently I’ve come across fooderati prose that gushes in wonderment at the miracles that can be performed with just three ingredients! As if there was some prize for discovering joy in simplicity. Well...duh. Good quality ingredients, prepared respectfully have been in vogue since women discovered how to cook meat over a fire.
Umbria is probably one of the better examples of making good food from humble ingredients. Note, I did not say Michelin 5 star fine dining, I said good food. Everyday food.
Pancetta is a staple meat in Italy; not the cured, bacon-like pancetta, but raw slices of pork belly. It’s always the first thing to get gobbled up at BBQ’s. A traditional stove top way to make pancetta is to fry it in the pan, throw bits of fresh sage in at the last moment, and then finish the dish with a good size hit of red wine vinegar. It’s pork belly perfect.
My big experiment today was seeing how potatoes would pair with the super peppery arugula that wintered over in our orto. It worked beautifully with boiled potatoes moistened with some of our olive oil, a little bit of mustard and a pinch of salt. Take note: no self respecting Umbrian would ever add mustard to anything, it’s just not in their DNA.
The tomato salad was a salad of necessity. The tomatoes are coming up from Sicily and they’re just so-so, but I wanted a salad. The sweet peas are in season and I’ve been throwing them in everything, just because I can.
So, the moral of the story is don’t apologize for simple food, don’t elevate simple food to a state of godliness and save your pennies because this new oven that Shola is testing at Studio Kitchen looks to be just about everything I’ve ever dreamed of. It peels grapes for god’s sake.
PS Next week we’re hosting an Artichoke Festival here at Aroma Cucina. How to clean them and a week’s worth of recipes. Should be some tasty fun.