Parzen family Christmas and Best meals 2011: Le Zie (Lecce) @PaoloCantele

Above: Georgia P’s first Christmas! We stayed in, munched on Chinese take-out, watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and toasted with Champagne before opening our presents. So much fun (even though Georgia didn’t really seem to understand what was going on!)…

Where meat is king in the cuisines of Northern Italy, vegetables reign supreme in Apulian gastronomy. The meal I shared with friends in Lecce this summer at Le Zie was a revelation for me. Photographs don’t do the food justice: you simply have to experience the materia prima and the ars coquinaria to understand its alchemy — like a vegetable stock so rich in flavor that I could have sworn it was made with meat.

Rereading this post in the days that led up to the Christmas holiday, I remembered the wish I made that June night in Lecce. I’m happy to report that it did come true! :)

I joined Paolo and his crew last night for dinner at the famous and homey Lecce restaurant Le Zie, where owner Carmela Perrone insisted on showing me how to dress my fave e cicorie (puréed favas and sautéed chicory) and fed me my first bite, telling me to make a wish (I’ll tell you if it comes true this Christmas).

However simple, her rendering of this dish was no less than a masterpiece.

La tiella (taieddhra in Leccese), named after the teglia or earthenware pot it’s cooked in — baked mussels, potatoes, and zucchine. Unbelievably delicious… Life-changing, really.

We had sat down for dinner at around 10 p.m. and by the time we arrived at the second course, there were no more of the white-wine braised meatballs. And so Carmela breaded and fried some of the meatballs reserved for the next day. This was perhaps the mother of all meatballs…

I don’t have time to post properly on the amazing meal we had there but I will in upcoming weeks… Today, I’m headed over to Manduria on the west coast of Apulia for the preview tastings for the Radici Wines festival… Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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