You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

lunedì 21 giugno 2010

Apricots and Venetian Dogs

'Twas a crisp, sunny autumnal day yesterday; who knew it was the(summer) Solstice? A menacing pile of apricots awaited me in the kitchen: time for apricot jam. A couple of days ago, it was apricot chutney (recipe below).

There’s really only so much you can do with apricots. In Dorothy Whipple’s delightful 1939 novel The Priory, she introduces a character called Nurse Pye. Nurse Pye is a get-things-done kind of person, frugal and resourceful. She’s hell-bent on straightening out the sad state of affairs that can often prevail at land-rich/cash poor country homes. “At Saunby [the estate], rhubarb and gooseberries, like rabbits and bracken, flourished to excess. Hitherto no one had realized how much rhubarb and how many gooseberries Saunby produced, but now everyone realized it and deplored it, for both appeared endlessly at table in pies, puddings, stews, fools, jams and other guises, thanks to Nurse Pye."[1]

Too bad Nurse Pye isn’t around to give me a hand with these apricots. Oh, and the sorrel. To think up some guises … apricot risotto?
Instead of apricots, I’ll think about the Venetian dog – photos kindly taken by Lord of the Sushi. We were in Venice once again to celebrate a birthday, to eat, to drink. Doge of the Broken Halo was turning 50.

He and Dogaressa are leading/teaching a study group of highly engaged undergraduate architects-to-be. He mentioned the Venetian Dog Theory to his students, all of whom were highly appreciative. One of the students observed that Venetian dogs, when they meet, often attack one another. We noticed this less; however, we did notice that Venetian dogs, probably due to their size – small, low to the ground – like to yap. Boy, do they.

The splendid birthday lunch, attended by a handful of us, was at La Cantina. Francesco, the owner/chef was not present, but his able-bodied team pulled off yet another culinary masterpiece. Raw oysters from Brittany kicked off the proceedings, followed by a plate of raw shrimp (two different kinds), and sea bass. Lightly-fried sardine kebabs preceded a huge plate of cooked mackerel, octopus with thinly-sliced steamed potatoes and black olives, tuna seared so that it was cooked on the outside but not really in the inside. We drank a prosecco defined by the staffer as “torbido” (murky, still has its sediment from fermenting). We went for the murk, and it was good.

Anyone who says you don’t eat well in Venice clearly hasn’t been to La Cantina.

We found Rizzardini quite by accident while walking to the Frari. We found that the tiny space, around since 1742, was packed with locals, and in Venice, that is always an inviting and invigorating thought. So in we went, admired the array of pastries, had a coffee, and bought a marzipan cake.

And then on the way to the Frari … well, we were in the land of Tramezzini Culture, which should always be solemnly observed. Which it was at a delightful café just across the bridge from the Frari. It’s called Caffè dei Frari (naturally enough), and it’s been around since 1870. Their boiled ham/mushroom tramezzino had just the perfect amount of mayonnaise on it (according to Dogaressa of the Broken Halo, the place also does a marvelous Bellini).

Doge and Dogaressa introduced us to the marvel that is Mascari, whose card says “Italian gastronomic specialties – spices – tea- truffles – mushrooms – select wines.” And all of this is true.

At the Accademia, I had a perfect opportunity to study Venetian dogs. Carpaccio (c. 1460-c. 1526)’s St. Ursula cycle reveals an interesting thing: Venetian dogs had long legs … at least, they did in the 15th century (he painted this cycle in 1490). The "Arrival at Cologne" shows a very substantial hound dog in the left foreground, he/she has long limbs.[2]

Bar Foscarini, at the foot of the Accademia bridge, does marvelous tramezzini. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been made when I poked my head in, which led me back to già Schiavi. Their usual array of merende abounded, but a new one was present: pressed shrimp with artichokes and truffle sauce. If that doesn’t sound weird enough, it was paprika’d, and the proprietress was rather liberal with the salt. It was divine.

A walk to San Marco led me to Aciugheta, which expanded its operations about four years ago. Restaurant and bacaro (wine bar) are now two distinct entities. The bacari are better than the wine bar menu, or so it seemed to me on the day I was there. Little sardine patties, the size of a Kennedy half dollar, were served in a robust tomato sauce, and went down well with a glass of white wine from somewhere in the Veneto.

There was a yapping Venetian dog steps away from my table.

Apricot chutney

2 lbs. apricots, pitted and rinsed (especially if you’re picking them off the ground)
1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
½ lb. brown sugar
1¾ c. white wine vi negar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped like the onion
½ c. raisins
Heaping T. crystallized ginger
2 Thai chiles, minced

Throw all the ingredients into a deep pot with a solid bottom, turn the flame to medium, give the concoction a stir, and keep an eye on it as it reduces. The slower it cooks, the less likely it’ll burn (provided, of course, that you keep stirring). Cooking time’s hour, more or less. You want it syrupy but not sticky.

Makes about 4 cups.
Besides working well with any Indian dish, this chutney tastes really good with a semi-aged Pecorino. It would work equally well with an extra-sharp Cheddar. Just make sure you go with a white Cheddar, as otherwise you'd have a mess of orange on your plate.

Rizzardini, S. Polo Campiello dei Meloni 1415, Venice, 041/5223835.
Caffè dei Frari, S. Polo 2564, Venice, 041/5241877.
Mascari, S. Polo 381, Venice, 041/5229762,
Bar Foscarini, Dorsoduro 878/c, Venice, 041/5227281. Show up after 9 a.m.
Già Schiavi, Dorsoduro 992, Venice, 041/5230034.
Aciugheta, Campo San Filippo, Castello 4357, Venice, 041/5224292.

[1] Dorothy Whipple, The Priory, 1939. Reprinted by Persephone Press, 2004.
[2] Although, if you look at his Two Women at the Museo Correr -- also in Venice -- you could argue favorably that one of the women, bent in a somewhat indecorous pose, is holding the paw of what looks like the precursor of the 21st century Venetian Dog.

1 commento:

  1. Please note that Lord of the Sushi's photographs included heads of Venetian dogs. Unclear why they appear in this form; apologies to the photographer.