I have a confession to make: I've been so busy training that I haven't actually been following the Giro d'Italia. I'll use any excuse, however, to celebrate - especially when it involves Italian food, Robert's and my favorite. I cook Italian food for us at least once a week. That certainly often includes pasta of course, but not always. As I considered what to prepare for our Giro d'Italia meal, I decided on antipasto.
Ten years ago we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a bicycle tour of Tuscany. It was fantastic! Our main souvenir was a custom made platter, perfect for serving antipasto. It consists of several sections that fit together. We chose an animal pattern and even got to select the specific animal for each section:
For the center we chose a rooster, the quintessential symbol of Tuscany.
According to legend, a black rooster determined the boundary between Florence and Siena, who for centuries fought for control over the Chianti Classico area. One horseman from each city was to set out early in the morning when the rooster crowed. Wherever they met along the road between the two cities would determine the boundary. The people of Siena chose a well-fed, white rooster, while the people of Florence chose a very hungry, black rooster. On the day of the event, the Florentine black rooster began crowing long before sunrise, but the Sienese white rooster didn't crow until sunrise. The horseman from Florence started much earlier than the one from Siena, covering more distance and thereby claiming much more of the Chianti Classico territory for Florence.
Two other animals we selected for our platter also have special Tuscan significance. One is the cinghiale (pronounced chin-GAH-lee), which is Italian for wild boar.
Cinghiale is used in the delicious cured meats of Tuscany. Robert and I even got to see a live one (from a safe distance) from our bicycles one day.
The other particularly Tuscan animal we chose is the upupa (pronounce oop-OOP-ah), a beautiful bird with a distinctive crown of feathers.
The other animals on our platter are common both here and in Italy: donkey, fox, rabbit, and snail. I was going to post closeups of them, too, but Blogger kept rotating those pictures sideways or upside down, and I couldn't figure out how to make them right-side-up. Anyway, I would hate to cover up the artwork if the food weren't so delicious!
|Ack! Still sideways|
I also made a salad with the fresh greens from our CSA (community supported agriculture) and dried figs:
Figs remind me of the early days of professional cycling. Racers back then didn't have things like Clif Bars, and so they often ate figs for an energy boost. This salad has dried figs simmered in balsamic vinegar with some lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper stirred in. A few shavings of Romano cheese round it out. The recipe calls for paramecium (Parmesan) cheese, but I usually use Romano in place of paramecium because I like Romano's sharper flavor.
We also had some five-grain Italian bread from my local Ingle's.
I've been obsessed with this bread for the last few months - it's so good! Some olive oil topped with freshly ground black pepper was perfect for dipping.
Of course the meal wouldn't be complete without some Chianti:
I served it in the Periodic Tableware glasses I got for Robert for our anniversary a few weeks ago.