Today’s theme is vegetables, but not any kind of vegetables. I am here to praise the charm of overcooked vegetables. Not all vegetables give their best when cooked for long time, some get soggy and unpalatable, but take French beans, broccoli or cavolo nero. They give up, surrender to the flame and develop a buttery texture and an intense aroma, which can suit pasta dishes, meat and even stand up for itself in a comforting side dish.
In the day and age of the al dente vegetable,
what a joy to find a recipe that celebrates the well cooked, buttery vegetable.
Fergus Henderson, The Complete Nose to Tail
So, this is how I tend to cook vegetables. What about you? Do you put a quick timer when it comes to cooking your veggies or do you allow them enough time to become buttery and soft?
Don't miss the new episodes! Subscribe on your favorite audio player!
Rate and review the show. It will help us to be found on line and build up an appetite for Italian food. Share with your friends, too!
Learn the Italian language of food word after word. Every year more than 200 people join our cooking classes. Speaking with them, I made a small dictionary of important words and pronunciations that can help you navigate through the immense world of Italian food. So, if you love Italian language as much as you love Italian cooking, these are a few words that can be useful for you.
Today’s word is contorni. C – O – N – T – O – R – N – I
Contorni, plural, contorno, singular. We’re talking about side dishes, usually my favourite part of the meal when I cook, the course I am most excited about.
At the restaurant, and especially in those old fashioned trattorie and osterie that cook hearty, typical food, usually the side dishes do not come with the meat or fish, the main course. You can locate them in the menu in the contorni section, but do not expect a great variety here, for that, you’ll have to join one of our cooking classes!
A recipe that perfectly represents the Italian love for overcooked vegetables is cavolo strascicato, a savoy cabbage and sausage stew from Livorno I shared in our book, From the markets of Tuscany.
“Use one sausage per person,” says Antonio. “This isn’t a side dish after all, but a main course to eat with plenty of bread to clean your plate.” This is how Antonio, known at the Piazza Cavallotti market as the “king of lettuce,” explained the following recipe to me, with its fragrant garlic in a bit of olive oil, and chili pepper, too, an ingredient which is loved and abundant in the Livornese cuisine.
The sausages here are not intended to merely add flavour or accompany bread, they play a more important role. The tomato and chili lend colour and a touch a sweetness. The cabbage is cut into thin strips and cooked very slowly over low heat, absorbing all the flavours that will delight your taste buds. Serve with fresh, crusty bread.