If you know me, you know I tend to ‘go deep’ in subjects and activities when I’m inspired, whether it’s learning about a particular point or person in history, or learning a new sport or activity. Friday I ventured into the world of produce shopping, right on the street outside our apartment, and today I went deep in classic Italian recipes. And I learned sometimes you CAN have too much of a good thing.
It’s our first weekend in our new apartment, so naturally I wanted to try out the ingredients I bought at the fresh farmers’ market Friday. It’s called the fresh market and it is found all over Milan on different days of the week. The Friday market just happens to be literally out our front door and setup started at the crack of dawn. Really. The crack of dawn… Good thing I’m a morning person.
I overcame my fear of speaking bad Italian and walked the market two full times before I ventured to one of the produce stands and actually asked to buy something. One area has seafood from about 6 different vendors- good looking fish, scary octopus staring at me, shrimp, and shellfish galore. I’m not ready to cook seafood in my kitchen yet, so I pressed on.
The wonderful thing about Italy is that they don’t use preservatives like we do, so when you buy produce, you need to be prepared to eat it soon, because it’s ready to eat when you take it home.
That’s helpful because there’s not much room in my freezer and refrigerator to store things anyway!
I decided that if I saw the same item of produce at multiple vendor stands, I would go ahead and buy it and then figure out what to do with it later. I was told by experienced Italian cooks here that the markets only sell fresh, ripe produce and when it’s no longer grown locally, then you can’t find it. Therefore, I bought zucchini blossoms, fresh eggs (they don’t refrigerate their eggs, by the way), borlotti beans, mozarrella from the cheese stand, lettuce, basil, great looking tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic. I asked for things in my broken, bad Italian, and vendors and even shoppers were all kind and helpful. I need to brush up on my measurements, however. Since most of the items were sold by the kilogram, I panicked on my first order and asked for ‘uno kilogram fagioli’ and was a bit shocked at how many beans that was. Same with the tomatoes. I need to figure out my numbers!
On Saturday I scoured the internet for recipes to cook the beans, the mushrooms and the blossoms I bought, and I came up with three recipes to try. Off to the grocery we went for additional items such as ricotta cheese, chicken, polenta, cream, bread crumbs, and chives, and I was off to the races. The kitchen is small and the cooking utensils are few, so it took a while to get everything prepared, but it was all worth it in the end. I hope Kevin would say the same, because we are eating leftovers tonight!
Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms, by Sam Sifton
Ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, by Zach Desart, August 2014
I know, these are really zucchini blossoms, but the concept is the same… And the ricotta here- there’s no comparison! Fresh and delicious!
The last recipe I tried was for borlotti beans with garlic and olive oil, using the fresh borlotti beans (or, as I know them, cranberry beans), plum tomatoes, and garlic cloves. The beans were delicious! The recipe is also found at bonappetit.com, from August 2012- Borlotti beans with garlic and olive oil. Isn’t the internet world of recipe shopping wonderful? I still love to buy a good cookbook, but it’s also nice to find recipes easily when I need them.
Our dinner was great and the lights from the kitchen balcony reminding us of the many families living all around us were magical.