Eat Well. Eat Italian.
I love Italian Food, and I have to say even when I start to create something new, it usually turns into flavours from Italy, absolutely unintentionally. It’s a natural course, and one that can’t be helped. I’m not complaining, and I have to say I haven’t had any complaints as yet about the food I prepare. Not that I’ve heard anyway ;-).
I’ve often tried to work out why I gravitate to an Italian style of cooking. I’m still figuring that out, however I think it has a lot to do with fresh ingredients and the fun of bringing simple flavours together to create one sensational dish.
“Italian cooking for me means taking the time to create food with simple ingredients. When I don’t have the time, I simply don’t cook. I can’t. I never enjoy food I create when I feel rushed. Having the time, and the quality ingredients is everything.”
Many years ago, my friend Leanne and I would hit the Italian Deli’s in Sydney’s inner-west suburbs of Haberfield and Leichhardt. This became an obsession for quite some time, and I have to say we became professional gourmet food shoppers on many levels. It was something we looked forward to and would do it as often as we could.
These shopping adventures would usually occur on Saturdays, before the sun came up. You see, we figured if we didn’t get going early, all the best Cannoli’s would be sold. And to be honest, I actually never really liked Cannoli’s at the time, but Leanne was obsessed with them, and would usually buy around 18 of them, even though we only had 4 coming for dinner. The other problem was, we would buy so much food for the Antipasti, and main course, that dessert seemed around 2 more days away once we started our feast. My aversion to Cannoli’s is well in the past by the way, just ask Friggitoria in Potts Point, or Tropicana Cafe in Darlinghurst, I’m sure they say to themselves “here comes that Cannoli guy again.”
Getting back to my food expeditions with Leanne. We knew exactly what we were doing and each week the “operation” was on-time and always over budget. We visited the same Deli’s on each trip, we knew the staff by name, and many of the owners.
We became part of the family of so many great businesses, from the macellaio, the wine store owners, and all the iconic deli’s. Some of our favourites were Zanetti 5 Star Deli, Peppe’s Pasta and Cassaniti’s Bakery. But there are so many, and we love them all.
We loved them because they made us feel as if we were in Italy, in the heart of Sydney.
“A successful day for us took planning, which would involve ice packs being placed into the freezer on the Friday night, and 2 Eskys on the ready for an early departure. Leanne would usually drive, so I would be in charge of music, which usually meant Kylie Minogue’s latest tunes. Luckily Leanne was a Kylie fan too.”
After visiting around 7-8 key places, we would end up at the Norton Street Grocer to top up on what we would call ‘essential items’. Olive Oil, Truffle Oil, San Pellegrino (by the case) and many other pantry essentials that we just had to have. This would also be a great chance to collect the fruit and vegetables we forgot at the bustling markets earlier that morning. The next stop would be lunch, usually in Haberfield at the local Pizzeria, lunch consisted of pizza, salad and wine. This would be our re-fuelling before heading to the Italian wine store just down the road. Here, we would sample the new arrivals, before loading the car and continuing on our way.
By this stage the car pretty much smelt like a mix of basil, mortadella and gorgonzola cheese, not everyones cup of tea, but for us it just made us hungry and more anxious to get home and start putting it all together.
Fortunately for Simon Johnson and unfortunately for our wallets, Simon’s cheese-room was on our way home, a slight detour actually, but as Leanne would say, the car was driving itself, we had no choice. This would usually add on an extra 45 minutes to the trip, but that was ok, as I said earlier, we were prepared and the ice packs were keeping all our ingredients crisp and cool. I probably don’t need to say anymore, just to say that we had trained hard all day and after the marathon of the day, we were ready to eat. Ready to eat the best Italian food in Sydney.
This blog post was actually going to be about our dinner last night. It was to be about how simple, quality and fresh ingredients create meals to remember. When I was making my pesto yesterday, and simmering the over-ripe tomatoes, it reminded me so much of my gastronomic Saturday’s with Leanne. I hope you enjoyed the insight into what for us were wonderful days, in little Italy.
To cover off on last nights dinner, it was a simple affair. Porcini mushroom tortellini, arugula & basil pesto, stewed over ripe tomatoes, a simple salad and loads of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I never measure out my ingredients, I can always sense when it is just right, and I can usually tell by the smell how a dish will taste. I did however take note of the ingredients in my “Arugula & Basil Pesto” last night, and here it is!
Have a great Sunday all. Mike x
Arugula & Basil Pesto
2 cups of XV olive oil
2 bunches of fresh basil
1/2 a bunch of Arugula (Rocket in Australia) – I use the bottom half, and keep the top half for a salad.
5 garlic cloves
100 grams of Pine nuts (I like them lightly toasted)
Pepper and Salt (go easy on the salt, just a sprinkle of good quality sea-salt)
I cup of freshly grated parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
Simply blend together and serve with your favourite pasta, bread or as a side to your Antipasti! Bon Appetite!