The Food Maven Diary
Off To Calabria
I set out for Calabria tomorrow, and I will try to find the time to write. I was just looking for a restaurant name in my little notebooks from other trips. I couldn't find it, which means that I had better record everything on my website/blog – The Maven's Diary -- before it gets lost in a notebook, or somewhere else. It is my resolution for this trip.
Thank heaven for Cecilia's good memory. She recalled immediately that the restaurant is Cecé, in Tropea, a beach resort city in Calabria where some guests at Seliano were going today. Tropea is gorgeous, an ancient town on a bluff overlooking white sandy beaches and the turquoise sea. I expect to be there next week, and I am hoping the owner of Cecé will let me observe in the kitchen. I remember eating extremely well here, but except for one dish I can't remember exactly what it was that was so wonderful.
That one dish was a pasta sauce made with the famous sweet red onions of Tropea. They grow in the fields all around the city. I bought some at a roadside stand and, when we returned to Seliano, I cooked the sauce I'd learned the day before. Everyone loved it and it was absolutely nothing to prepare, the simplest thing.
You can use any sweet onion. I would think Vidalias are excellent. Our red onions would not. They are too strong. You finely mince the onions, a lot of onions, and put them in a saucepan with some olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of your pan is sufficient -- and a bit of salt. You cook them covered until they are very, very soft, but not colored. After a few minutes on medium heat they will exude their juices. Eventually, after about 20 minutes or so, they will practically disintegrate. At this point, uncover the pan and add about a half cup of dry white wine, the more acidic the better. You add the wine to balance the sweetness of the onions. Cook the wine for at least another 10 minutes. Adjust the salt, and that's it. I think. It should be like a cream of onions. I don't remember an herb. If I recall correctly, it takes freshly ground black pepper, not the usual Calabrese hot red pepper. It is good on tubular macaroni or spaghetti.
I hope I remember the recipe correctly. Don't try it yet. I will have to check on this because, as I said, I have lost those notes. Now that I think of it, perhaps I didn't use my notebook that day. Maybe I wrote this out on a piece of paper that I have lost. It's good that I am going back to Tropea and Cecé.
I also want to return to Pizzo, which is nearby and famous for gelato. The main piazza is lined with gelateria/cafes. This square is also famous – or is it infamous? – for being the spot where Joachim Murat was executed. There is a statue at one end to commorate this, maybe the only spot on the piazza that is not dedicated to gelato.
Murat was the brother-in-law of Napoleon and from 1808 to 1815 he was the King of The Kingdom of Naples (also called the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), which encompassed the entire south of Italy. Napoleon was giving all his relatives titles, the king of this, the queen of that, the grand duke of whatever. Murat was actually quite popular among his Italian subjects. He was very handsome, and southern Italians are always suckers for good-looking men. And Murat did some good things. He was a believer in republics. After he was deposed, however, he tried to recapture the kingdom, invading Calabria. When he was captured, he was put before a firing squad exactly where the tourists today enjoy their ice cream.
It is hard to know which gelateria to go to, there are so many. I suppose one could make a study of them, eating at them all. The one I went to was very good – who can remember which … I've lost these notes apparently – but I stupidly ordered something very plain – like vanilla and chocolate -- instead of trying this café's version of tartuffo, the gelato ball. Each gelateria has a tartuffo specialty. Even on a diet, I will have to correct this error this time around. As Audrey Hepburn once said – and we all know how thin she was -- you can never get fat from a taste.
Speaking of my diet, I struggle everyday with what to eat. Choices, choices. But I am not feeling deprived. I am, however, getting so much different information from out there (from you, my friends) that I am getting a little confused. But still, I am definitely losing weight, and my doctor says that's what counts in my case. I just put on a pair of pants that didn't fit only two weeks ago. Let's see how I manage the temptations of Calabria.