Yes indeed, this is a NO GO travel advice to you and the rest of the world.
Stay at home and leave the “Laguna Veneta” alone. That is if you want to live a happy life without remorse that you left Venice by your own choice. Once visited the isles, enclosed by a stretched broken strip of land which protects Venice from the incoming Adriatic sea, your heart will be lingering for it forever. It feels like the deep impression of your first holiday love affair, it will take place in your heart to never leave it again.
The first settlers in the Lagoon, were fleeing from “Atilla the Hun”, it was a matter of “run or die”! Being forced this way into the coastal marches surviving was based on eating whatever they could find, from seaweed to shells, fish and waterbirds. They built huts on stilts above the water, the so called “Balancias” which are still the place of retreat for many Venetians today. Living in these shallow salty waters for over 1500 years, it is no wonder that little fishes swim in the veins of the Venetians. That’s what makes them passionate about their food, it is in their system, it is in their hearts, they breath the saltiness of the lagoon, just like the fish.
Food shopping at Rialto Mercato, on the high bank ( RIO ALTO ! ), at the steps of Rialto bridge, immediately makes you part of this 1000 years old market. Best at dawn when the fishermen boats return from the lagoon and crates filled with crawlers, clamps and other sea creatures are tossed on the dock and straight onto the market stands. If it is in real-estate about, location, location and location, here the words are , FRESH, FRESH and FRESH! This is what I mean when I say,”DO NOT GO TO VENICE”, because next time in your local supermarket all the fish within their plastic wrappings will look awful to you! Heavily disappointed about this poor quality you might easily fall into a “fish shopping depression”.
But not this time, not here and now. I am the guest of Peter, who will guide me through “la Cusina Veneziana”.
Living in Venice for a decade he could have been typecast as Gustave in Thomas Mann’s novel “Death in Venice”. He is a most charming Englishman living abroad who knows the ins and outs of these “iles floatant”. Straight from the Vaporeto , boatbus, we shake hands and start talking as we wander through the grocery market. The precise display, variety and freshness of these beautiful vegetables gives them sex appeal, but beware not to touch them! The lead roll is for the vender in his own little theater, but spoken upon nicely, aworld of care and knowledge is shared with you.
This is the place to start talking about what to use best, how to handle and keep things, and most important to talk about recipe ideas with the people around you. The Italians are so connected to their food, heritage, and there mothers kitchen, that they are willingly to let you in on one or two of their kitchen secrets. In the bag goes fresh beans, William pears, herbs and radicchio tardivo for the risotto. Coming through the open air “Marcato di Verduro”, the vegetable market, you walk straight into the with sea creatures carved arches of the “Mercato di Pesce”, the old fish market. The buzz and the fuzz is a picture in the making, with you in the guest role.
You see people interact with the venders, the customers and the goods they are considering to buy. Peter knows his business and a handpicked selection of shrimps and prawns are wrapped in white paper. Fish should smell pleasant, like the feet of Christ, somebody told me once. And indeed the air is clear and filled with hope for a good meal shared with friends. After several more stops, at the delicatessen and at the wine seller, where a 1,5 liter PET bottle is filled with Toaky” red wine, it is time to start cooking. The meal prepared and celebrated that afternoon is memorable, with the following risotto as one of the star players.
Peters RISOTTO con “Radicchio di Treviso Tardivo” and “BITTERBALLS”
Risotto for four persons and from the leftovers you can make the next day nice “bitterballs”, (bitterballen in dutch).”Radicchio di Treviso Tardivo”, is a beautiful looking red and white striped radicchio or chicory sort, grown 30 kilometers from Venice in the Treviso area , and is protected with the IGP, Indicazione Geografica Protetta status. The bitter accent in this risotto is a flavor in decline, as we tend to go more and more for sweet, salty and sour flavors. Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and flavorings, though keep it simple!
RISOTTO con “Radicchio di Treviso Tardivo”
WHAT YOU NEED
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion finely chopped and diced
200 grams of Arborio rice
1 liter of boiling stock made from shrimp carcasses
For the stock boil up shrimp heads and shells in salty water with any vegetables for 20 minutes and strain.
1 glass of dry Italian white wine or prosecco
200 grams of washed “radicchio di Treviso tardivo”, chopped into 1-2 cm chunks, or other bitter vegetable
100 grams parmigiano reggiano
HOW TO MAKE IT
Preheat a pan, and sweat the onion and garlic in some olive oil.
Then stir in the rice, and let it sauté or swet for about 3 minutes
Then the risotto trick :
Add only a soup ladle (100 ml of stock) at a time, and keep gently stirring until almost all is absorbed. Then the next 100 ml, and so on, keep stirring and never leave your pan alone!!!
Stir in the chopped radicchio after 12 minutes
Then add the wine, and keep stirring …….
At this point you have to taste the rice to decide what’s needed, more time, more fluid, you are looking for a velvet like creamy texture with a soft grain that is “al dente”, and the radicchio should be soft as well with a bitter hint. Season with salt and black pepper if needed.
Add the finely grated parmigiano, then taste again to finish you composition of flavors
Plate up, and sprinkle some more of the cheese on top, eat immediately.
BITTERBALLS” made from the leftover risotto, you can serve them as a appetizer or cocktail dish
Left over risotto
I beaten whole egg
Breadcrumbs to coat, seasoned with salt and pepper
Corn oil to fry
Lemon wedges to accompany
HOW TO MAKE THEM
With wet hands, scoop rice and mold it into a little balls, (smaller than a golf ball)
Dip the balls in egg and then roll them in breadcrumbs
Place the balls in the fridge for half an hour to firm up
Fry the balls in hot oil and when golden on all sides, drain onto kitchen paper. Serve hot with generous lemon wedges.
Hope this story and the dishes involved will encourage you to give it a go, and meanwhile plan your trip to the friendly people of Venice.
Salute, the Dutch Cook
360 DEGREES FRUIT MARKET MERCATO RIALTO FRUTTA http://www.360cities.net/image/venezia-rialto-mercato-frutta#241.70,4.20,31.4
360 DEGREES FISH MARKET MERCATO RIALTO PESCE http://www.360cities.net/image/venezia-incredible-fish-market