Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Veneto - Full of Suprises

When most Americans think of Italian food they probably are not thinking of Italian food from the Veneto region and in particular food from Venice and its immediate vicinity. When we think of spices used in Italian cuisine the first thing that comes to mind is not likely to be cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, curry, licorice, star anise, coriander, or ginger, yet all these spices play a part in the unique, and wondrous cuisine of the Veneto region. It is said that of all the regions of Italy the cooking in the Veneto is the most varied. Not only is the territory diverse with mountains, hills, plains, lakes, rivers, the Adriatic sea, and the infamous lagoon of Venice, the region has been greatly influenced by many other foreign cultures. Because of its geographic location in Europe, as well as being on the Adriatic Coast, Venice which was founded in the year 400 became a mercantile powerhouse trading with many nations including Constantinople, Beirut, Egypt, China, Russia, India, Germany, France and England. Trade with these countries brought a great variety of ingredients, particularly spices to Venice which are still present in the cooking of the region today. Because of its trading prowess and wealth there was an old saying about Venice that “nothing is produced there but you can find everything”.
Venetian cooking has always had two distinct styles the festive highly spiced and elaborate dishes, and the more rustic, simple, traditional dishes based on locally grown products and courtyard animals. As in other parts of the world many dishes evolved because the technique and ingredients preserved the food. One of the most famous dishes of Venice is Sarde in Saor, and you can find other seafood, and vegetables like eggplant and pumpkin, in Saor. In Saor is a dish where the seafood or vegetables are cooked first then covered with a mixture of onions and vinegar that pickle and preserve the product so it can be stored and eaten at later time.
In the mountains the cooking is hearty and simple with dishes like polenta often served with game, mushrooms or alpine cheeses. Barely, beans, cabbage, beets, snails, potatoes, are common, and pumpkin if often used as filling for the casunziei (like ravioli).
The hills between Lake Garda and Venice is the prime wine producing area in t he Veneto with several DOC wine production zones. This area also produces the red Treviso radicchio and the variegated radicchio of Castelfranco. A famous dish of this area is Baccala alla Vicentina. An interesting fact is that in the Veneto Baccala is known as Stoccafisso or Stockfish.
The Po River valley is the primary agriculture area for the Veneto.
The area around Lake Garda has a mild climate and produces excellent olive oil, wine, and citrus fruits.
The lagoon and the coast of course provides plentiful seafood to be used in the wide array of dishes that the coast region is known for, shrimp, crustaceans, cuttlefish, little squid, Moeche crabs(small soft shell crabs), sardines, and prawns. We could list many more ingredients such as the famous Padua Hen, but will just have to finish by saying the Veneto is a rich region filled with diversity, and surprise!

1 comment:

Matt - Bosky Acres said...

Coturri wine tasting benefit tonite at Sammy's for Slow Food and the Terra Madre delegates! You'll be missed, but we can't wait for all the wonderful knowledge you will bring back to us, and our watering mouths - Italy Rocks!