Saturday, June 27, 2009

Osteria le Panzanelle. (Tuscan food. Period.)

(1.0 Lasagne in Lucarelli)

Ciao, bella! No, you don't have to remind me that I'm utterly delinquent in my post-Tuscany blog responsibilities. Since we got back, I'd even found a way to cook lavish meals as procrastination technique. (Quickly checks camera files.) There was:

Lamb Pockets Nite - mini lamb meatballs with fresh tzatziki served in a warm, soft pita. Tzatziki triggers my Astoria days when me and the crew used to go to Sagapo for happy hour. Around nightfall, owners brought baguette and bowls of tzatziki to 'quiet the drunks'.

Then there was:

Panini Night - When I could no longer stand my primal urge for panini, I dragged out the Cuisinart Griddler (wedding gift), bought a slab of Acme onion bread, some good cheese and grilled a mess of vegetables. Needless to say, 'panini night' extended into panini week!

followed by...

Grilled Shrimp & my turkey chili where I flirted with the memory of Tuscany's wonderfully ubiquitous cannellini beans and used them in the chili (instead of black beans). And, why not bake up some sour cream blueberry muffins while I'm at it? You know, before blueberry season is completely over. It'll be quick, just like...

Dad's Real Green Fish Curry, which is what I do with the packets of fresh-caught pompano that my parents (a) send back with my brother when he visits them or (b) bring in deep frozen blocks--shrink-wrapped and layered in butcher paper--in their luggage when they visit. Home cook's secret: I use fool-proof 'Thai Kitchen Green Curry' sauce paste from a jar, high quality coconut milk and a mess of green veggies like blue lake beans, zucchini and spinach and herbs-aromatics--cilantro, green onion. Thus, it's REAL GREEN Fish Curry.

When I made the decision Friday afternoon that I had to post something--even if it was just photos from that dreamy Osteria in Lucarelli--without captions, images speaking for themselves would be enough... I decided, "Hey, why don't I roast a whole 4 pound chicken?" Near midnight, when Giant Sous Chef and I were stuffing our faces with plates of Citrus Roasted Chicken with herbed lemon garlic orange jus, the Lucarelli photos were the last thing on my mind.
(above left, Giant Sous Chef meets a fluffy friend!)

But, come this morning... FINALLY I motivate. Here they are... Tuscan food. Period.

(2.0 Eggplant involtini with ethereal ricotta, my antipasti course.)

(3.0 Primi Piatti with antipasti 2: Spaghetti with sausage, tomato and mushroom and feathery ricotta and leek gnocchi.) These courses were a revelation! I just don't think you know what al dente means until you taste it in Italy. The spaghetti was chewy, but still melt in your mouth tender, and when it's proper al dente with just enough pasta water to silken the sauce, the flavors cling to each strand without messing with the balance of the dish. The 'Gnocchi Gnudi' - filled with leeks and cheese--pillow perfect. I could have died here. Seriously.

(4.0 Canellini Beans.) The pay day for my 20 year obsession--first encountered in a can of Progresso's Macaroni and Bean, aka Pasta e Fagioli--with the italian white bean. Looks simple, and it is. But, beneath Italy's night sky... something altogether different.

(5.0 A glass of 1999 Brunello di Montalcino Col d'Orcia.) Of course we had a full bottle of wine. When our server did the wine presentation, she popped the cork, put it just beneath her nose and inhaled, swooning. "Perfecto," she said. In my world, Northern California's wine valley region is spectacular, but Tuscany-- in all their sangiovese grape glory--is the true Wine Country. Sorry, France!

(1.5 Le Panzanelle's Nettle Lasagna. Encore!) For the Italian 'primi piatti' usually a pasta course, they just plop it down on a plate. It's not straddled with sides or shown up by a slab of grilled meat. It's its own thing. Better to focus on and devour, I say. A masterpiece.

(6.0 Tuscany's mother dish: Cinghiale, wild boar stew.) Meaty, hearty comforting poor people cuisine. It's like Italian Adobo! All forks in!

(7.0 Torta di Mondorle e Cioccolata!)
Osteria Le Panzanelle, the source for all this hubbub, has Spicy and Giant Sous Chef's highest rec. The service was welcoming. The food and wine... simply decadent. (All for a humble peasant's sum!) Vai, vai, vai!