Italian Cooking - What's In Season In March.
If you're looking to cook authentic Italian food this coming month of March here's a list of the foodstuffs that you might want to look out for.
There is no better place to experience the wonders of the artichoke than in the Italian capital of Rome. Not only do the market stalls beckon buyers with bouquets of these torch like vegetables, but the hard working vendors crouch down to prepare the difficult to access inner hearts and leave them to float in citrus spiked water. The prized interior of the artichoke is quiet different to any other vegetable, a dense flesh with an immensely subtle taste. Cooked in the classic Roman style the artichokes are baked with lemon, mint and garlic which delicately penetrates the head of the vegetable. The Jewish culinary influence on Rome has spread across the city with Romans adopting the simple and timeless alla guida method - flattened and fried.
FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY (PREZZEMOLO)
March can seem lacking in interesting seasonal ingredients, straddling the cruel winter season and the fresh spring months. One of the month's highlights is the arrival of the first of the fresh parsley, which only competes with basil for the title of most important herb in Italian cuisine. Compared to its curly counterpart, flat-leaf parsley is more pungent and flavoursome, and most often used as a garnish on fish and shellfish. And that's not to mention the ubiquitous gremolata - the tasty parsley-based salsa.
JOHN DORY (PESCE SAN PIETRO)
An odd name baptises an even more unusual fish. One of the great predators of the sea, thanks to its shimmering fins that refract the light, the gargantuan-mouthed John Dory is a menacing beast, stalking its prey then swallowing it whole. Where the strange name came from is a bit of a mystery, but in many of the Romance languages, including Italian, this demonic-looking fish is referred to as Saint Peter. Two round dots on the body of the fish are said to be the imprints of the thumb and index finger of Saint Peter, who grabbed one from the Sea of Galilee at Christ's request.
SPRING ONIONS (CIPOLLINE)
Spring onions are the perfect compromise for those who insist they dislike the pungent smell of onion. Although they are, of course, part of the onion family, and mostly immature onions, these white-tipped roots are perfect for sprucing up late winter meals. Eaten raw they add a bite to salads, especially good when combined with something sweet (think pear and watercress salad with slivers of spring onions), but they also offer a subtle flavour when cooked. Two types are available to shoppers - most commonly the elongated two-toned mild onion, while you may also come across the shiny bulbous variety, particularly good cooked whole.
CELERIAC (SEDANO RAPA)
If John Dory are the ugliest fish in the sea, celeriac should definitely be crowned with the title of the least attractive vegetable in the plot. These round globes, with inconsistent knobbly texture and nondescript beige-brown tone have a lot to offer, albeit not in the aesthetics department. As the root of a variety of celery, this vegetable offers much the same flavour as its relative. Like celery, it is equally delicious served raw or cooked as a side dish, or even as a dish in its own right. One of the most popular uses is to peel and grate the raw celeriac and douse with a mayonnaise dressing.
Oysters - you either love them or hate them. If you happen to fall in the latter category you'll be happy to hear the season is drawing to an end. For lovers of these iridescent pearls of the sea, it's time to enjoy them for the last time. Synonymous with luxury and sensuality, the oyster enjoys an ever popular reputation as the food of passion. Venetian adventurer and notorious womanizer Casanova would consume vast quantities of the mollusc each day. Although many prefer to eat their beloved oysters raw with a spritz of lemon juice, oysters are also delicious deep-fried in a light batter or delicately poached.
I try to pass on my musings on life and experiences in a way that people may find interesting to read.
You may not always agree with my writings but I hope to inform.
Harwood E Woodpecker