The traditional foods of Trentino Alto Adige is based on simple, yet tasty dishes, made with the products of local agriculture and farming. The closeness to the border of Austria is evident in the style of food preparation and spices that are used. It seems like it is a world away from traditional southern Italian cuisine. Even the dishes that are well-known in northern Italy seem to take on a different dimension once the Tyrolian region is reached.
Orata with Pistachio, Cabbage and Caramelized Apples
In northern Italy, one of the most delicious fish is called the Orata.
1 lb Orato (cleaned)
3 tsp pistachio, crushed
½ cup bread crumbs
1 apple, peeled, sliced into wedges
8 oz cabbage
4 oz sugar
2 oz white wine
oil for sautéing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Begin by slicing the cabbage into fine julienne strips. In a wide bowl, add the cabbage with the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly, cover and allow to sit for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. After the orata is cleaned and filleted, sauté each piece until lightly glazed on each side. Do not overcook the fillets, they will be placed into the oven to finish. Peel and remove the seeds from the apple, cutting it into 6-8 slices. In the sauce pan, add the white wine and sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves, then add the apple and cook over a medium flame to caramelize, 8-10 minutes. While the apples are cooking, mix together the pistachio and breadcrumbs. Coat the fish with the breadcrumb mixture and place into an oven safe dish. Bake at 350°F for 6-7 minutes. Serve the fish on a warmed platter over the caramelized apples with the marinated cabbage on top. (Serves two)
Rabbit with Grappa
This delicious stew is one of the winter favorites in the far north of Italy.
1 whole rabbit – about 3 lbs, cut into pieces.
1 medium onion
8 oz baby carrots
1 lb small white potatoes
1 stalk of celery
3 cups of dry white wine
1 clove garlic
½ stick of butter
1 tsp. sage finely chopped
1 tsp. rosemary finely chopped
1 bay leave
½ cup of chicken broth
2 oz Grappa
Cut the rabbit into pieces and let it marinate in 2 cups of white wine and enough water to cover it for one night. Drain and pat dry the rabbit pieces and sprinkle with flour. Fry the pieces in a large pan with four tablespoons of oil and a slightly crushed clove of garlic. Flame it with a generous splash of Grappa and remove from the heat. Allow to drain on paper towels or in a colander. Cut the small potatoes in half, or quarters and then chop the onion, celery and coarsely. Add all the vegetables (including the carrots) in the pan with a 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté for 8-10 minutes. Add the rabbit pieces, season and add the sage, rosemary and bay leaf.
Dissolve a tablespoon of tomato paste in 1 cup of white wine, add it to the meat, stirring gently. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
Canederli di Ricotta (Sweet Ricotta Dumplings)
You can make the dumplings with a savory sauce, not just sweet.
For the Canederli
1 tbsp sea salt, plus 1/4 tsp
6 tbsp butter
1 lb fresh ricotta, drained
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the Sauce
3 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 6 cups)
½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Place the ricotta into a large bowl and stir to loosen it and break up lumps, then blend in the eggs and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle all the flour on top and fold it in gently. The dough will be stiff and somewhat sticky.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water, add 1 tablespoon salt and heat it to a boil. Adjust the heat so the cooking water is bubbling gently. Fill a glass or jar with cold water to moisten the scoop so the dough doesn’t stick. Using an ice-cream scoop, dip it into the water and scoop up a round of dough, level it off and add the dumpling to the cooking pot. Scoop up all the dough in the same way. As you form the canederli, keep the scoop moistened and the water at a gentle simmer – do not let it boil vigorously.
After all of the dumplings are in the pot, allow them to cook, without stirring, until all have risen to the surface and then simmer for 5 minutes. Scoop out one of the dumplings and test it to ensure that it’s done, it should feel solid and spring back to the touch. If not, continue to cook for another minute or two.
Next, melt the butter in a large skillet over a low flame. Remove the dumplings one at a time and allow them to drain for a few seconds, then gently add to the skillet. Roll the dumplings gently so they’re coated all over with butter, then turn off the heat and leave them in the warm pan for a few minutes to firm up.
Place the strawberries in the saucepan, pour in the sugar and lemon juice and toss together. Set the pan over medium-low heat; stir occasionally as it gradually starts to bubble. Adjust the heat to keep the juice simmering and cook for about 8 minutes until the strawberries are soft and the juice is slightly syrupy. Turn off the heat and cover.
Serve the canederli on warm dessert plates, spooning a pool of strawberry sauce in the center of each plate and setting two or three canederli on top.