how our (great)grand parents ate
The traditional kitchen of ligurian countryside is very poor and based on few, typical ingredients, vegetables as potatoes, green beans and "zucchini", herbs, more or less wild, as the basil and the "borragine" (Borrago Officinalis), and aromatic, typical in the whole Mediterranean kitchen, such as marjoram, rosemary and oregano. Everything is seasoned with olive oil, accompanied occasionally by (raw) butter, and flavored with the garlic. The ancient diet of the farmers was almost exclusively based on chestnuts, whose flour was also used for making pasta, since wheat was scarce and the other cereals pratically non-existent. In more recent times, the frequent contacts with the city of Genoa have certainly contributed to enrich the cooking of the mountaineers, even if certain tastes and certain earth products are peculiar of the hills. This cooking, with the due, inevitable corrections, is also appealing to the modern taste, because it is largely based on vegetables and poor in animal fats.
Ingredients: 5-6 bunches of basil, two big cloves of garlic, a fist of pine nuts, four full spoons of grated Sardinian sheep cheese, plus a spoon of Parmesan cheese, 2-3 spoons of olive oil, salt; if you like it: butter, potatoes, green beans.
The Pesto is a sauce to season pasta and it is a typical and well-known Ligurian traditional recipe. The fundamental ingredient of pesto is the basil (see picture on the right) and since the aroma of this plant depends greatly on the climate and on the position in which grows, the pesto prepared in Genoa will taste slightly different from the pesto prepared with mountain basil.
The basil leaves should be crushed, together with a pinch of big salt, inside a marble mortar; in fact, according to the tradition, the basil leaves should never be touched by a blade, otherwise they turn black and the taste is wasted. More realistically, you can mince the basil, but it is recemmended you do it in the presence of salt. The other essential ingredients of the traditional pesto are the garlic, the pine nuts, also crushed in the mortar, and cheese (Sardinian sheep cheese). Blend everything together to get a fairly solid mixture. The use of a food processor should be avoided, because this utensil requires the use of much liquid and the pesto results soaked into too much oil, while the traditional pesto does not require more than a pair of spoons. Again, if you really want to use the a food processor, I suggest to add some milk to facilitate the mixing of the ingredients; the milk accompanies this sauce pretty well. If you like, you can also add raw butter to season pasta.
Traditionally, pesto is eaten with trenette, a form of past similar to spaghetti, often in the "enriched" form, prepared with partially integral flour. Other forms of pasta suited for the "pesto" are the potato dumplings, the troffies, typical of the town of Recco, and the lasagnas.
The trenettes with pesto can also be prepared as it follows: put a pair of sliced potatoes and a handful of green beans in the same water where you are going to cook pasta; when the water boils, add salt and then the pasta. Soften pesto with th pasta hot water and, as soon as they are cooked, drain the trenettes and season them with pesto together with the vegetables.
Green beans pie
Ingredients: 4-5 potatoes, 400 gr of green beans, one clove of garlic, a teaspoon of minced marjoram leaves, a fist of dryed mushrooms, one egg, two spoons of grated Parmesan cheese, one spoon grated bread, olive oil, salt and pepper. If you like, and if you have, add some other soft cheese like "ricotta".
This is a very simple, nourishing and tasty dish. First of all, soften the mushrooms in hot water for 10-20 minutes. Mince the garlic and the marjoram leaves and put them on the fire with two spoons of olive oil and the water you used to recover the mushroom. Mince also the mushrooms, add them into the pan and let them cook on moderate flame until all the water is evaporated. In the meantime, prepare and steam the vegetables, potatoes and green beans. Crush the potatoes, mince the green beans and mix everything together, with the egg, the cheese, salt and pepper. Prepare the baking-pan by sprinkling the bottom with oil and grated bread, add the mixture, level it and finish with another thin layer of bread and a turn of oil. Bake this pie in pre-heated moderate oven for about 45 minutes
Omelette with zucchini and stuffed zucchini
Ingredients: for the omelette: 400 gr zucchini , a small onion, 4 eggs,
milk, grated Parmesan cheese, majoran, olive oil, salt and pepper;
for stuffed zucchini : a dozen, medium sized zucchini, 4 eggs, milk softened bread crumb, a fist of dry mushrooms, 2 small onions, leftovers of roastbeef or boiled meat, or one or two pieces of sausage, nutmeg, grated bread and Parmesan chees, olive oil, salt and pepper
The zucchini are a poor, but very tasty, vegetable. Their nutritional value is not very significant because they contain mainly water and mineral salts; but the flowering variety, typical of this area (see picture on the right) is an ideal ingredient of many recipes, such a very tasty, zucchini stuffed omelette. In these Ligurian vegatable-enriched omelette an inportant ingredient is majoram, an aromatic herb, which should not be confused with oregano. This plant can be grown in a pot, although it is fairly delicate and does not like temperature extremes.
For the omelette, fresh majoram leaves are minced and added to the scrambled eggs, cheese, milk, salt and pepper. The zucchini and onions are sliced and fryed very gently for 15 minutes in a frying pan. Add the egg mixture to the vegetable and cook very slowly; when the mixture appears solid, turn once to complete the cooking.
For stuffed zucchini, prepare a mixture with eggs, milk softened bread crumb, mushrooms, grated Parmesan cheese, and add what you have at the moment, such as leftovers of boiled meat or roastbeef or sausage. Steam boil the zucchini, leaving them still quite hard, cut them longitudinally in two pieces and take out the internal soft part by a tea-spoon. Briefly fry this internal pulp with the minced onions, add a bit of nutmeg and mix with all other ingredients listed above. Put the zucchini halves in a baking-pan, fill them with the mixture and cover with grated bread and oil. Bake them in pre-heated moderate oven for about 30 minutes.
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