I love my friend Roberto, my Italian brother. We get together several times a year to share our two common interests – music and food. A Graham Nash song causes us to stop everything we’re doing and break out in a sing-along. How does a born and bred Italian, actually, Sicilian, know so much about America’s 70’s rock icons? Well, he is also something of a musical icon himself with regards to Italian and World music. Following American music as a teenager inspired him to travel the world, learn to play guitar and deeply respect music’s evolution. As an expert in ethnomusicology, he teaches his art as well as makes his own instruments. I think his musical brain has also gifted him with exceptional culinary talents.
My music-infused kitchen, along with a bottle of Prosecco, provided inspiration for a few tasty new creations. A flank steak was bathing in mustard, tarragon, olive oil, shallots and white wine and we wanted the side dishes to be extraordinary. My culinary genius has been sleeping lately so this afternoon of fun and friendship was just what I needed to wake up the creative juices.
Roberto is a fine spontaneous chef. I love how he smells everything and carefully considers how one ingredient will influence the next. We took our time smelling and tasting several varieties of balsamic vinegar and olive oil before deciding which combination, for a vinaigrette, would add sweetness to the tangy pomegranate seeds in the salad of lettuce, fennel, and green onion. A Sicilian lemon balsamic vinegar, mandarin olive oil, and lots of chopped mint proved a winner. The colorful salad was nothing short of spectacular, with every ingredient in perfect harmony.
Patate e Broccoletti (Potato and Broccolini) turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the grilled steak. Instead of just a side dish of boiled potatoes, and cooked broccolini, we combined the two. This is Italian! We cut red, purple and yellow boiled potatoes into two-inch chunks and boiled the chopped broccolini. Roberto sautéed garlic in olive oil, added balsamic vinegar, a dash of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, then tossed in the cooked broccolini and potatoes. Fantastico! Again, terrific flavors and ingredients combined in a unique way to make its own song.
After enjoying the fruits of our labor at dinner, Roberto took out his guitar and we sang “Helplessly Hoping,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, me in my totally off-key voice, but loving every minute. A mini concert of Spanish infused guitar capped off the evening. It was the perfect day and night.
Roberto, you continue to teach me how to achieve depth of flavor, something I always strive to do. Thank you for sharing your songs and your happy energy. When can we repeat???
Insalata di Amicizia – Friendship Salad
6 cups mixed romaine lettuce and herbed greens (or your choice of lettuces)
1/2 cup chopped young fennel including the fronds
2 skinny finely chopped green onions
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Combine all salad ingredients. Prepare the dressing. Do not toss until just ready to eat.
1 Tablespoon Lemon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons Mandarin or Orange olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons chopped mint
“For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ciao for now,