Wednesday, November 17, 2010
It’s been a few weeks since I got back from the Salone del Gusto, but I’m just starting to go over all of my notes, photographs and videos. Yes, videos. I took my trusty Flip to the Salone and had a lot of fun filming all the action.
There was a tremendous amount to do and see at the Salone. There were thousands of vendors from all over Italy and the world. There was also an enoteca, dozens of restaurants and even a cocktail bar (you know I’ll be writing about that)
But the section of the Salone that I kept coming back to, every day, was the Street Food area. This was the first year they have featured street food at the Salone, and it was a huge success. They invited a dozen artisans to come and set up stands around an outdoor ‘piazza’, where visitors could buy things like Olive Ascolane (stuffed, fried olives), Alice Fritte (Fried Anchovies) and Bombolette (Grilled Pork).
The prices were cheap, and the portions huge. Naturally I wanted to try as many things as possible, but there was no way I could finish each portion. Since the Salone is all about sustainability and nothing going to waste, I didn’t want to just taste then throw it away. So, what did I do? I ended up trading. Yes, I just walked up to people and struck up a conversation. “Want this last olive ascolana? I’m not going to finish it.” Rather than look at me strangely, they gladly took it and then handed over a bit of whatever they were eating.
It’s hard to pick out what I liked the best. But high at the top of the list was Focaccia col Formaggio di Recco. I actually bought and ate the entire portions myself (not sharing!) three times. This is a unique type of focaccia made in a small town just outside of Genoa. According to tradition, it dates back to the time of the Crusades, in 1189. Today, as one of the best known dishes from Liguria, it’s recognized with a IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) label.
Like most street food, it’s beauty lies in its simplicity. The ingredients include flour (“OO”), water and olive oil for the dough. The dough is worked until elastic and left to rest a half hour. It is then rolled out by hand, to less than a millimeter thick. Then the dough is carefully placed on the cooking sheet, dotted with crescenza cheese, and then topped with another paper thin layer of dough.
The top layer is gently patted down, sealed at the edges, and perforated with small holes to let the air escape. After a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, it’s popped into the oven for about 5-6 minutes.
Ok, I can’t transmit via blog the incredible taste of the crackling thin layers of dough encasing the oozing, warm cheese. But I can at least show you the incredible skill it takes to make them.