If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know that I have been creating personal challenges based on a theme to infuse new life into my own cooking adventures. At the moment I am not travelling the world on my own personal journey as Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat, Pray, Love but I can infuse new life into my own kitchen. Since this is a food blog I am going to concentrate on the EAT part of the book so my next personal challenge will see me create an Italian menu from antipasti to dolce to celebrate the opening of Eat, Pray, Love the movie starring Julia Roberts.
Eat , Pray,Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderfully crafted book about life changing experiences when she trades in her previously perfect life to travel the world "to find herself. " After a heart wrenching divorce she spends a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. Each word in the title Eat, Pray, Love is expanded by her experiences in three countries. In Italy she indulges in the fabulous food and language. In India she finds new meaning in her life on her personal journey of self-awareness and enlightenment spending time in an Indian ashram. Then as a climax to the book she finally finds love in Bali, Indonesia.
We began our Italian adventure with an antipasto of Toasted Bread with Burrata and Basil . An "il primo", or "first course" usually consists of pasta, minestrone, risotto, or zuppa (soup) in small portions. So for our primo course in this challenge we travelled to the Italian coast for some Spaghetti con le Cozza. Next we move to the secondo or "second course" which is the main dish, usually consisting of fish or meat. I do not eat red meat often, but I do love grilled lamb from time to time. Scottadita roughly translates as "burned fingers", as it is said that this dish is so delicious that you will not be able to wait until it cools before you dig in and enjoy it, burning your fingers in the process. The name alone invites you to pick up a grilled baby rib chop by its elegant natural handle and nibble blissfully around the small bones, even at the risk of singing your fingers. Few things are as tasty as a grilled lamb chop, and these grilled lamb chops from the Marche region are no exception.
I have read that large sections of Italy, both in the mountainous north and the highlands of the south and the islands, are much better suited for sheep and goats than they are to cattle, and it therefore comes as no surprise that Italians have been tending flocks for thousands of years.
Almost every city and town in Italy has its specialties, and there are regional trends too. The end result is a huge number of local cuisines rather than a single national cuisine. (I will take one for the team and make every attempt to explore as many dishes as possible). Of course there are some dishes that you will find almost everywhere, and that are now standards among the many Italian communities scattered across the globe. One such dish is these "burned fingers". In researching a recipe for this secondo I realized as with all great national cooking there are as many versions as there are cooks but the succulent lamb is always the star. I am told red meat is most often cooked rare or medium rare in Italy, but if you prefer your meat cooked more than that just leave it on the grill a little longer.
If you would like to join me simply prepare an Italian dish from antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno to dolce and send the link with photo to eatchallenge(at)gmail(DOT)com before the opening of the movie. The possibilities are limitless!!!! On or around August 13th I will round up your recipes and post this journey we have all been on together. There is not much time before the movie release so join me if you can!
I admit to being uninspired in my kitchen lately for many reasons...could it be the new job, the temptations of summer, the sweltering summer heat and humidity? Whatever my reasoning every day food should be an adventure either with new ideas or experimenting with a new cuisine. Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means something as simple as making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market. With these personally imposed challenges I am finding my culinary skills to be rejuvenated and back on track. This is the perfect time of year to pump up my kitchen into high gear!
By creating this challenge what better way to emulate Elizabeth Gilbert's sojourn in Italy than to create a menu based on local ingredients, as the Italians do, and her own adventures in Italy. I hope you will feel my excitement as I travel on my own personal journey for the next few weeks leading up to opening night of the much anticipated movie Eat, Pray, Love. Italian cuisine is all about the freshest, most flavourful ingredients prepared simply yet exquisitely. The food of Italy places a big emphasis on regional specialties and artisanally produced products. Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Tuscan olive oil and wines up and down the peninsular boot are famous the world over. Gilbert's time in Italy is spent immersing herself in the romantic language and cuisine of Italy that we all love. My menu does not concentrate on just one region in Italy but embraces the entire country in my own culinary adventure to celebrate the release of the movie.
Eating in Italy is a main event and the descriptions provided for the reader of Eat, Pray, Love and the food consumed were absolutely mouth watering and ultimately inspired this challenge. The EAT part of the book highlights Elizabeth's gastronomical indulgences and creates vivid and beautiful imagery of all things Italian. Her writing on the food she samples, is a toe curling narrative for any "foodie". She entices us with "zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese", "lamb,truffles and carpaccio rolled around hazelnut mousse", "ravioli with a puree of crustaceans and octopus served like a hot salad", "airy clouds of ricotta sprinkled with pistachio", "bread chunks floating in aromatic oils", or "a salad of chilled oranges tossed in a dressing of raw onion and parsley".
Lets move on to our secondo whose flavours danced on my tongue in this simple, yet flavourful recipe. Here's the traditional recipe!!
A tavola non si invecchia (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old)
**Agnello Scottadita (Burned Fingers)**
16 lamb rib chops
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
sea salt and cracked black pepper
additional lemon wedges
Place all the ingredients except the lamb in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped together. Rub the mixture into the lamb chops and refrigerate them for 2 hours. Bring the lamb to room temperature.
Preheat the grill, and then grill the chops until they are medium rare, or about 2 minutes on each side. Place the chops on a serving platter with the lemon wedges and serve hot.
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