Tracie P and I still haven’t had the chance to travel to southern Italy together. (We’ve made three trips to Europe so far, one to Paris and the Loire Valley, one to Tuscany and Piedmont, and most recently to Friuli and the Veneto.) As much as we’ve enjoyed our Italian sojourns, she’ll often gently lament the fact that in the north and in central Italy, meals tend to focus around meat dishes. (Anyone who’s ever been to Piedmont knows that the classic meal consists of raw chopped veal, veal with tuna sauce, and then long noodles with ragù…)
The south — as Tracie P often pines — is all about vegetables, a culinary culture due in part to the fact that the climate and terrain of southern Italy (and Apulia in particular) are ideal for the cultivation of vegetables and in part to the fact that the south has never enjoyed the accumulation of wealth as has the north. (Did you know there are more pigs and Ferraris pro capite in Emilia than anywhere else in the world? Go figure!)
On that Monday evening in mid-February when I dined with Paolo and company (at one of the few decent places to eat on a Monday night there, La Vecchia Lecce — no website, not even a Google page), the meal began with a medley of vegetables, including the classic fave e cicoria (above), puréed fava beans and sautéed green chicory served together.
Next came zucchine.
Ciceri e tria, chickpeas and flat noodles (one of the most fascinating dishes, IMHO, in terms of its linguistic and cultural ties to antiquity, but more on that another time).
Then came barley with seafood. (Does anyone know the proper name of this dish? I bet Food Lover Kathy does!)
I loved how spicy peppers macerated in olive oil were served as a relish: each diner can “heat up” their food (served family style) as desired. Needless to say, I did my best impression of James Brown, as Tracie P likes to tease me (Eh, what can I say? Jews sweat when they eat!)
The only meat dish we ate that night were turcinieddhri. Don’t let the anemic lettuce and tomato fool you: these lambs intestines stuffed with lambs liver, heart, and lung were delicious.
Thanks again, Paolo!