Posts Tagged ‘Venice’

Cucina Italiana moderna

Anna Maria cooks rombo in her Venice kitchen.

Anna Maria cooks rombo in her Venice kitchen.

Anna Maria Andreola’s kitchen at Le Mansarde B&B in Venice was not what we expected, especially in a lovingly maintained but traditional old stone palazzo that wore its two centuries proudly. The aroma of fresh bread greeted us at the door. She had dumped all the ingredients into a high tech bread machine that morning and set the timer so bread would be ready for dinner. Right next to the breadmaker stood her universal kitchen machine that weighs, processes and slow-cooks food. (It also serves as a mixer and a blender.) The counter also held a juicer and an electric ice cream freezer.

Silly us. We’d been expecting a big stove and nothing else.

We should have been prepared for the Italian predilection for kitchen gadgetry. Remember: These are the people who invented the classic espresso machines with their array of dials and levers. They also make much of the industrial food-processing machinery from giant cooking vats to wine-bottling lines. What’s a few appliances?

But Anna Maria’s favorite piece of kitchen equipment didn’t have a plug. It was the pressure cooker, and she preached its gospel like a late-night TV pitchman. Not only does it cut cooking time, she said, it also conserves flavors and vitamins. “I do everything with it,” she said, seeing our skepticism. “I would have had my children in the pressure cooker if I could have.”

07

11 2009

Epiphany in Venice

Crossing Gran Canal on a traghetto

Crossing the Grand Canal on a traghetto

Venice changed our lives. Really. More exactly, it changed the way we eat. After a week of cruising the Venetian lagoon on a rental houseboat, we spent several days in the city, staying with Anna Maria Andreola at the B&B in her family’s 18th century Cannaregio palazzo. (It’s called Le Mansarde, but has no web site. Contact Anna Maria Andreola at 011-39-041-718-826 or [mobile] 011-39-338-868-8935. Her email is cazzar.ola@libero.it.) One day she took us shopping and showed us how to make a Venetian meal.

From the B&B on Rio Tera San Leonardo, we headed straight to the Grand Canal and boarded a “traghetto,” a bare-bones gondola that crisscrosses the canal and saves walking long distances to a bridge. Anna Maria led us into Venice’s great Rialto market complex, armed only with a shopping trolley (basically a shopping bag on wheels). We could have spent hours just taking pictures of the pristine fish and meat and the colorful fruits and vegetables, but we were on a mission.

Rialto fish market

Rialto fish market

Anna Maria had been thinking about veal as the main course for dinner, but as soon as she spotted rombo (a kind of flounder) at her favorite fishmonger, a different menu began to take shape. With two filleted fish in hand, we strolled into the produce section and gathered cherry tomatoes to accompany the flounder. Tiny strawberries from the lagoon islands got her excited. “We’ll make ice cream,” she said. Then she found the best prize of all: a small basket labeled “castraure.” They were small, purplish baby artichokes, also from the islands.

“Risotto!” she exclaimed.

05

11 2009