Everyone who was able to be ready and downstairs by 8:00am made the long-awaited trek to the world-famous Rialto Market. Despite the rainy day, we took a short walk to the Vaporetto (waterbus) stop and a rider-packed waterbus ride to reach the Rialto. There are no fish vendors on Mondays (a second visit to see fish and seafood came later in the week) but there were plenty of fresh produce vendors, open butcher shops and a couple of popular freshly-made pasta and cheese shops. You wouldn’t believe the lovely mounds of ricotta, mozzarella and other cheeses displayed pristinely in glass cases as if they were precious jewels. To the Venetians, they are. Since my hubby and I were the first dining-in cooks, we purchased the ingredients we needed for our menu and headed back home early to plan for our meal. We served ==B Ricotta, Fig and Honey Crostini== as our starter, ==B Tortellini with Broccoli, Peas and Pancetta== (Italian bacon) as our entrée, with fresh fruit and bakery-bought tortes as our dessert. The crostini and pasta recipes are below.
==B Venice, Day 4: Murano Island & Dining In==
When we asked our tour guide about the island of Murano and its renowned glass works, she arranged for us to get an invitation to the Cenedese glass factory, driven by boat by their own driver. We rose early to make the trip and spent a good chunk of the day there. It was amazing to watch the glassblowers do their art; our walk through their studio revealed how beautiful the results are. It was a great way to spend a very hot day, followed by a wonderful meal “at home” in our air conditioning. The assigned couple made pan-roasted fresh branzino fish for each of us, plus stuffed squash blossoms as a starter and chocolate covered cannolis (decadent!) for desserts.
==B Ricotta, Fig and Honey Crostini (serves 4-6)==
1 loaf of ciabatta or another peasant-style bread
Extra-virgin olive oil
1-1½ cups fresh ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 pint of figs, preferably the dark ones, cut into quarters
1. Cut bread into ½“ thick crosswise slices and grill the bread over a gas grill or broiler. While bread is still warm, spread ricotta generously on toasted slices.
2. Place a fig quarter on top of each slice; drizzle each piece with honey and serve immediately.
==B Tortellini with Broccoli, Peas and Pancetta (serves 4)==
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 oz pancetta or ham, finely diced
½ cup chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
1½ cups broccoli florets
¼ - ½ cup pasta cooking water
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta, cooking until it begins to turn crisp, ~10 min. Add the onions and garlic, cook 2-3 min. Add salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, 2 min. less than cooking directions. Add peas and broccoli, cook 2 min. Drain all, reserving ½ cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, peas and broccoli to the pancetta mixture and toss gently. Add more cooking water if desired and add cheese. Serve with more grated cheese.
==I Fall has arrived…==
Say hello to Indian summer…say goodbye to the final crops of summer fruits and vegetables. There’s still a chance, however, to stock up on the bounty and store, cook, freeze and can your favorites. Here’s a tip list on how to make the most of the last harvests:
==B Tips for Preserving Fruits & Vegetables:==
1. Dry peppers by hanging or oven drying; then crush and store in airtight jars.
2. Hang herbs in open, airy spaces to dry; transfer to airtight jars or freeze.
3. If you have a cool, dry cellar or basement, store extra root vegetables like beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.
4. Quickly blanch and then freeze greens for use later; do the same with batches of fruits for pies.
5. Dehydrate fruits and vegetables by slowly drying them in a low temperature oven.
6. Use fresh ingredients to make soups, broths, sauces, pestos, etc.; freeze for augmenting or creating full-flavored winter meals.
7. Make quick jams and jellies without full canning processes and keep in fridge.
8. Go all the way in processing and canning fruits and vegetables for your pantry shelves.
Here are 2 quickie jam recipes, that don’t require the full canning process.
==B Spiced Apple-Pear Butter (makes ~2 cups)==
2 lbs mixed organic apples (e.g. Honey crisp, Gala), peeled and cored
1 lb organic Bartlett pears, peeled and cored
½ cup apple juice or cider (or water)
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1. Cut apples and pears into 1" chunks. Place fruit in a medium saucepan with juice, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low heat and simmer until fruit is very soft, ~30 min.
2. Stir in syrup and continue to simmer, until very thick, ~1 hour, stirring occasionally. After 45 min., stir more frequently to prevent burning and sticking.
3. Mash with a fork, or puree in a blender for a smooth consistency. Store in refrigerator and consume within 1 month, unless you preserve.
==B Drunken Fig Jam (makes 6 -½ pints)==
4 pounds ripe fresh figs, preferably black, stemmed and cut into ½“ pieces (~9 cups)
4 cups sugar
¾ cup brandy (I used Courvoisier)
½ tsp coarse kosher salt
1. Use a vegetable peeler to remove peel from lemons, yellow parts only, in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (~3 Tbsp).
2. Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy and salt in heavy deep saucepan. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Bring fig mixture to boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil until jam is thick and reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently, 30-35 min.; occasionally mash mixture with potato masher to break up large fig pieces. Remove from heat.
4. Ladle mixture into containers. Store in refrigerator and consume within 1 month, unless you preserve.