Lent Food at the Rialto Market

Neatly arranged. Pale green ones next toย those with a glowing yellow hue. Ruby red and soft, speckled red, linden green. Vegetablesย in Venice come in many facets in the early spring, their color reflecting what we can expect in the days to come.ย  Read More

Soulfood Power Bowl: Sweetpotato – Squash Soup & Nasturtium Pesto

 

In part 3 of our Sapori d’Autunno blog series, we will cook our favorite cream soup in late September. We call it crema alle patate americane e zucca con pesto al nasturzio. It’s a hearty soup, because by now, I can’t pretend that mornings in Venice are getting slightly chilly.ย  The difference in temperature between early morning and afternoon keep rising, calling for food that helps us adapt to the seasonal mood swings. We need balanced food which we can make easily, with a little help from herbs.

This time, I use the herbs to make pesto. Our nasturtium pesto consists of pistachios (pistacchi tritati), basil leaves (the ones you could see in the first post of our Sapori d’Autunno Blog Series), pinoli (pine nuts), and nasturtium petals calledย petali di nasturzio.

Today’s ingredients are all locally sourced, and we’ll tell you a bit about the Estuary of the Venetian Lagoon. Especially in the northeastern part of the estuario, you find flatlands covered with vegetable plantations, vineyards and horticultural centers, separated by the odd wild berries hedge and patch of reeds from each other. There are quite a lot of them, next to Portogrande located near Altinoย and thus, to the Venice Airport, Marco Polo.

It’s an area called zona risorgiva, for the river Sile is a fiume di risorgiva. Risorgiva means resurgence. For part of its journey, theย riverย flows underground through limestone caves.

Its clear water is so beneficial for these plantations located along its banks. From the Sile area, and across to Lio Piccolo and the Cavallino area, we get incredibly fresh produce then sold here at the Rialto Market.

To make two portions of your cream soup, you need 1/2 cup sweet potatoes, cut in cubes, and 1 1/2 cups soft, yellow squash, also cut in little cubes. Currently, the soft piena di Napoli is available at the market. Zucca Marina di Chioggia is also arriving at the markets. (We’ll cover squash from the Veneto in detail later in October ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Cook the vegetables with 1-2 white onions in water in a pan until soft. Puree them and flavor with sea salt, black pepper and a hint of cinnamon.

How to make your pesto al nasturzio – nasturtium: Blend nasturtium, dill and basil leaves in a mortaioย (mortar) with pine-nuts, parmesan flakes. and chopped pistachios and a few drops of olive oil until you get a smooth mixture. Please note – never cut herbs when making pesto. Reduce the herbs to small pieces / leaves with your hands !

Top your soup with pesto, a few drops of chili-flavored olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a few twigs of dill. Flavor with a teaspoon panna (cream) if you like.

If you don’t have nasturzio available, use a tiny bit of freshly harvested red chilis to add a sharp, refreshing flavor to your soup.

Nasturtium growing on our window ledge

Tomorrow, we’ll take you on a trip to discover le risaie – rice fields in the Veneto, and our favorite recipe for risotto in early autumn.

Sapori d’Autunno – Autumn Flavors from the Rialto Market & A Market Breakfast

Last weekend, autumn was palpable in Venice …. complete with cool breeze, showers, hazy-milky clouds yet there was a hint of summer warmth and pockets of sunshine in the secret corners of the courtyards. So this week, and to relaunch our Food Blog Cucina Speziata, we invite you to join us for a stroll across the Rialto Market. We left early on that Saturday morning to arrive at the market before the crowds …

Casa del Parmigiano, a favorite deli, without the crowds on Saturday … but you’ve got to be here by 9:00 am

In this series of seven blog posts, one published each day this upcoming week, we take you to shop for groceries at the Rialto Market. You will see the bounty of autumn in Venice herbs, fruit and groceries, and finally, how we use all that produce, herbs, blossoms and spices in the kitchen ๐Ÿ™‚

In the picture above you can see a fine basket of aromatic herbs I need to make our favorite scrambled eggs dish. First, there is maggiorana (marjoram) growing wild on the southwestern shores of Italy. Next to it, you can see dried oregano. Actually, this is a varietร  selvatica, oregano of wild origin, harvested on the slopes of the Monti Lattari (above the Amalfi Coast). True, at the Rialto market these days, you do get bounty from near and far :-), the way it has been for 1,500 years.

In the basket, you can also recognize free fresh fennel and water mint, tarragon and the ubiquitous basil. A mixture of these herbs will go into a hearty breakfast dish at home, uova strappazzate alle erbe selvatiche.

In Venice, you may have noticed, we eggs all day long. They are called vovi in Venetian, and often come as part of the antipasti plates called cicheti. Then, you can even find restaurants that offer pizze with fried eggs in the center, and that’s a favorite of some Venetians ๐Ÿ™‚

Actually, we eat scrambled eggs all day long, making baked dishes with rice (looks and tastes exotic), or even fried potatoes in olive oil and scrambled eggs (that was my grandfather’s favorite snack) …

A little note about the herbs you find at the Rialto Market. A friend told me how disappointed she was that there were so many dried herbs on offer at the market stalls. Actually, these herbs are locally sourced and an absolute necessity to cook in the cooler season. I can’t imagine Venetian cooking without dried herbs in autumn and winter, and early spring. Also, the mixtures are quite flowery (as you can see below), but you need to know how to use them … for example, I buy calendula and cornflower blossoms to garnish vegan chocolate cake served in a jar ๐Ÿ™‚

To prepare your uova strappazzate, you need to fry slices of spring onions, wild marjoram leaves (fresh), and a garlic clove in pan in olive oil, together with 1- 2 tomatoes (sliced). As soon as the garlic cloves turn slightly brown, add the eggs, bake them and season the dish with sea salt, black pepper and chili flakes.

Garnish with green grapes, basil leaves and parmesan flakes. That’s all ! And, you might like some toasted bruschetta, that is, 1-2 toasted slices of bread. We’d use the white sour bread from the Rialto Market

Of course, before we leave the market, we stop here …. this is Pasticceriaย Dolce Vita Cafe, and they are well-known for their delicious pistachio cream-filled cornetti. We’ll talk about these presently ๐Ÿ™‚ย Cornetto means croissant in Italian, by the way. By the way, do take a look at their website and fabulous pastries here !

Tomorrow we’ll continue with the second course of our hearty breakfast, which is a sweet warm polenta, garnished with nectarines, plums, honey, rose blossoms and cornflower petals ๐Ÿ™‚