Sometimes the simplest meals are the best, and also the most instructive. With that in mind, I dedicate this post to three different people who have been a strong influence in recent years on my culinary knowledge and enjoyment, Laura Schenone, Jan D’Amore and Marc Etlin. I will explain how in a few moments.
Since we are on vacation and on the island, my lunch is usually a leisurely affair, made up of whichever of my current food and wine passions are running at the moment. Typically, the meal actually begins several days in advance, as I collect the various key ingredients. This was no exception. Last week I had baked some bread, which was the source for a couple of slices of grilled bread, the foundation for my lunch. On Saturday, our neighbors, Lynn and Dave, brought over some goodies from their garden, including exceptional kale, Swiss Chard, beet greens and red lettuce. Although tired from a visit from the grandkids, I did find the strength that night to cook each of the three greens and package them for our trip to the island. My recent visit to Brooklyn and NYC had provided the chance to have lunch with Jan and to shop at Acker Merrall & Condit, where Marc Etlin presides over the wine selections so ably. My purchases were delivered the day after I arrived home, and they included a variety of great Italian wines I was eager to try, including one Alea Viva, a Lazio wine from the Aleatico grape — another of Jan D’Amore’s marvelous selections.
Two more essential ingredients completed the source material: Taggiasche olives from Liguria, and organic cannelini from Italy (both by way of BuonItalia in NY). Yesterday I made the bean puree (just cooked cannelini, olive oil, sea salt and garlic), after having soaked the beans for 24 hours earlier) — all part of getting things I want to eat in proper position for future consumption.
Laura’s influence permeates the meal in the sense that most things I have learned about food from Liguria come from her writing — such as the the use of fresh, native greens atop the grilled bread, and the marvelous olives from Taggia. They were cultivated in my mind directly or indirectly from her exploration and tales of her culinary roots.
The actual meal was easy to prepare:
- Slice the country bread about 1/2″ thick. Brush each side with olive oil, and pan grill on a hot stove, rotating the pieces 90 degrees and turning over when crisp and properly cross-hatched.
- Rub each piece with raw garlic.
- Spread a thin layer of tapenade on one piece, not on the other (just for contrast). Top with a thick layer of bean puree, followed by chopped beet greens, sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with a good sea salt.
- Take out a little bowl of leftover salad from last night (Lynn’s lettuce, and Armenian cucumber (sliced), and some vinaigrette). Strew a handful of the olives on your plate.
- Pour a glass of Alea Viva, breathe deeply and enjoy the sea air and a wonderful meal.