Le delizie del Piemonte

Christmastime came and went quickly this year. I managed to get a late flight, due to an unexpected change in my holiday plans, and decided to go back home, to the usually icy Torino after a short visit to the unusually frozen London, instead of celebrating in the warm Californian Winter. While I was at it, I also determined to find out more about my own regional culture and food, and asked my friends to help me with that.

So I volunteered to help out my sister with Christmas lunch, making some appetizers. I made a few, looking for information online and for ingredients in the local markets where possible - unfortunately not as often as I would have liked.

So, my first creation was perhaps the easiest: hard boiled eggs, chopped in half and stuffed with their own yolk mixed with fresh parsley, mayonnaise, olives and capers. I had to give up to the hand made mayonnaise after trying with little success to beat it with a fork until past midnight the previous night. Next I prepared a simple baby squid salad, marinated in lemon overnight and garnished in a mountain of parsley.

Another thing I always wanted to try was the peperoni in bagnacauda. The first thing that needs to be done is the sauce: the bagnacauda. If you live in San Francisco, you may have heard of it when passing by or dining at the Stinking Rose. Don't go for it, it is a rip off and nothing like what it is meant to be. Get your crushed mountain of garlic, oil, butter and milk and cook the anchovies until it all becomes a cream. Then you may roast some colorful pepper sliced in long quarters in this sauce and finally pour more creamy and steamy bagnacauda on top of it all. It will look amazing. If you also remember to wash the anchovies (in case they were preserved in salt) it will also taste fantastic, unlike mine.

Next is a classic: I cooked for a long time a pot of polenta and then poured it into a tray. After letting it cool I cut it into cookie-like pieces and baked it for 20 minutes. When it started to get crispy on the surface I poured some gorgonzola on top, for a touch of stinky heaven.

Finally, I took inspiration from a recipe a good friend of mine uses, and made something entirely NOT from Piedmont. Pit some dates, fill them with scamorza (also known as smoked mozzarella in the US) and wrap them in some thick slice of prosciutto, and bake for a few minutes.

So, other than a couple of minor accidents, most things turned out good and we drowned it all with Bonarda, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo wines from our cold and beautiful lands.
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