We’ve talked a lot about food but haven’t shown you any! And turns out we aren’t showing you any today either. We took lots of pictures with the little camera, but discovered that the mini USB cord that would allow me to get the pictures off that camera isn’t working. I’m not sure if we brought the wrong one or if it’s just done. We plan to go to Amalfi and pick up a new cord sometime tomorrow. Anyway, today was like yesterday in that we did some beaching and some wining and some eating, but we didn’t walk up too many hills.
The Campania region of Italy is where much of the mozzarella comes from, and when a restaurant says it has fresh moz (and most do) they mean it was made this morning, it’s hours old. And it’s delicious. The other morning in Amalfi we walked by a restaurant that had received its delivery of mozzarella and butter, just sitting in a topless styrofoam cooler on the front stoop. Big handmade balls wrapped in cheese cloth. Last year at Mamma Agata’s cooking class we learned that we had been mistreating our mozzarella at home. She knew that in the US it is rarely hours old, sometimes it is many days old by the time we get it and that we buy the ‘fresh’ kind in brine. Turns out you are supposed to remove it from the brine and rest it in the open air, then store it dry, in a plastic container or bag. Still, it’s not as good as what we get here on a daily basis.
(food related aside: we also saw 50 pound sacks of ’00’ flour being delivered. When we learned the trick to breading eggplant and other veggies, we searched high and low and for ’00’ flour at home. 50 pound sacks were mind-boggling since we went to three stores to find it.)
The Amalfi Coast is also known for its seafood, lots of local fish and squid, some shellfish too. So last night we had a meal that combined both of these (and the ’00’ flour). Just off the main square in Atrani is a restaurant called Le Palme. When we were seated we were handed english menus. It sort of annoys me when they do that; the translations aren’t always very good and I don’t like the assumption that I can’t interpret an Italian menus. They also brought us bread and olive oil right away, something they didn’t do for the Italians in the restaurant (Americans eat olive oil and bread, and before they get food, Italians have bread with the meal, and don’t swipe it through oil).
We started with a mixed vegetable plate with breaded eggplant, sautéed zucchini, roasted red peppers, and smoked mozzarella. I did get a picture of this, but was so excited to eat that I forgot to take the picture before starting, so when you finally see, its my plate with missing bites. The smoked mozzarella was my favorite of the cheeses so far, and Jake and I are pretty convinced we are going to try to make our own mozzarella using unpasteurized whole fat milk from Jake’s family dairy farm.
The second course was ravioli and squid in a roasted tomato sauce. I think we are very used to eating squid as calamari, all fried and crispy, but this squid was cooked in the tomato sauce with no breading or frying involved. Squid is very common on menus here, and almost always is served this way—meaning not breaded and fried.
The third course was fish, listed on the menu as “Amalfi’s Best Fish” but was probably what ever was caught that day. It was a full fish, head and skin, broiled and served with mixed salad. I like fish, mostly I like what Jake calls big fish, like tuna or salmon. I also like shellfish, but I’m not a huge fan of smaller fish with bones that I have to concern myself with. See, I had this bad experience once when I assumed a piece of fish to have to no bones and just shoved a big chunk in. Well, it had bones, those horrible-skinny-pokey bones and one of them got me in the gums. Since then I avoid the fish with the little bones. Its not weird, I don’t care what Jake says. Despite thinking I’m crazy, Jake fileted the fish and mostly eliminated the bone problem for me. It was mild and well cooked. Nothing to write home about (because that’s what I’m doing now…) but a good meal none the less.
In other food related news, I often have digestion issues when I travel; it slows me way down, if you get what I’m saying. Jake is forever telling me that all I need is a cigarette and a coffee and everything will move. Well, given the number of days its been I figured it couldn’t hurt. So two espressos and a cigarette later (sorry Mom and Coach Mary! Desperate times call for desperate measures) things seem to have, ahem, improved.