Tag Archives: garlic

Dizi (quick easy version)

Even if I’m not really “feeling” it with this mild and sunny 65°F weather, soup season is in the air and dizi is a soup of Persian origin that I learned about on Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Dizi are the green cooking vessels shown below, but the term also refers to the dish itself that contains lamb, chickpeas, beans, onion, tomato, potato and seasonings in a simple yet very aromatic broth. It’s a unique dining experience in that you eat it in 2 steps: first you drink the delicious broth, then you mash the remaining solids into a thick paste. This mixture is then devoured with pickled garlic and fresh herbs with a pile of flatbread.

Dizi pots - Bourdain
Like a good Bourdain fan, I snapped a screen shot in hopes of finding dizi pots in Milan.

Dizi for two

4 cups water
6-8 ounces lamb pieces, excess fat trimmed and removed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 dried lime, pierced (see note below)
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/2 cup white beans, cooked (I used cannellini or zolfino)
2 medium tomatoes, skins blanched and removed, then cut in half
2 medium potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 packet saffron powder
Salt and pepper
Plain yogurt
Fresh herbs (mint, coriander, tarragon, parsley)
Thinly sliced radish or carrot ribbons
Pickled garlic cloves or onions

Place all ingredients into a large pot except the saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 60-90 minutes or until lamb is fork tender. Add the saffron powder. Remove dried lime and cinnamon stick. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary.

To serve, ladle legumes and lamb into deep soup containers, making sure each serving has a piece of tomato and potato. Cover with broth. Traditional dizi will have you pour the broth into a separate soup dish but I serve mine in one single bowl. Drink the soup first, then mash (I use a fork) what’s leftover into a thick mixture. This is finger food heaven, scooped on a piece of warm flatbread and topped with yogurt, pickles, and fresh herbs.

NOTE: There really is no substitute for the unique flavor of dried lime but if there’s no way of obtaining it, use the peel of 1 organic lemon (white pith removed).


Festa della bagna caöda

It was only last month that we were in Piemonte for the cheese fair in Bra, so it felt very much like déjà vu when we visited again this past weekend. The region continues to call our name whether it be for food fairs, festivals or gastronomic meals, but the event that has eluded us until now is that which celebrates one of Piemonte’s most famous and traditional of dishes: the bagna cauda.

Oh dear, was that a collective moan of hunger pangs I just heard? Italian foodophiles will know what this dish is, but for the record and for those who may have never heard of it, bagna cauda or bagna caöda is literally translated as “hot bath” and pronounced bah-n’yah cow-dah. I think of it as the Holy Trinity of sauces where a marriage of garlic, anchovies and olive oil turns an array of raw and cooked produce into a smorgasbord of dipping heaven.

17th Festa della Bagna Caöda

Faule (province of Cuneo) – the festa is held in mid-October for 5 nights in a row. Service is cafeteria-style where you select dishes as you go and pay at the end of the line. We took 2 orders of bagna cauda (10€ each), a bottle of Dolcetto (7€), and made ourselves comfortable in the very large covered dining tent. There were A LOT of families on a Friday night, some who also brought along extra vegetables of their own to supplement the boiled potatoes, baked onions, raw leeks, raw cabbage and roasted bell peppers included in the dish. Other menu items included the usual plate of cured meats, french fries and homestyle desserts.

Things that make you go mmmmmh!

It was interesting to note that Faule’s bagna caöda included cream as an ingredient and there’s a glimpse of a how it’s made here (italian). Lighter in garlic flavor although there was no mistaking the anchovies, the sauce had a velvety texture, almost as if processed with an immersion blender. We had a GREAT time even if the weather wasn’t the best with all the rain, and look forward to perhaps attending next year. The scheduled dates for 2014 will be October 10-14 with dinner starting at 7pm.

Perbureira: uncovering the secret

What’s perbureira? Some say it’s a soup of beans and lasagna noodles enriched with olive oil and raw garlic. Others might call it a lasagna flavored with a sauce of beans with garlic, and lots of it. However one thinks of it, this is a soup that I was very eager to try at a trattoria in Piemonte. People rave about how delicious it is. It has its own weekend in the summer sagra circuit, with diehard fans waiting in long lines for a portion in a cheap plastic bowl. What I’m about to share are pieces to a puzzle – make that a secret recipe kind of puzzle – that wouldn’t have come together had I not spoken to a lady in a museum for masks.

Trattoria alla Rocca in Rocca Grimalda

I had read nothing but positive reviews on this Slow Food listing so it was a treat to do lunch here and discover for ourselves why everybody says it’s worth a visit. MotH had tartare of Fassona beef (a piemontese breed), followed by stewed tripe and potatoes. I had that bowl of perbureira – beans, garlic and lasagne – but the surprising thing is that the soup itself didn’t have a heavy flavor of garlic. I would venture to say that it was a little bit bland? Grated parmigiano and a tiny fragrant dish of finely chopped garlic in olive oil was served alongside it, allowing you to add as much as you wanted, or not. Apparently perbureira is so popular that each order comes out with a numbered marker – mine was the 4253rd serving in all the years that the trattoria has been open.

Sagra della Peirbuieira in Rocca Grimalda

Sagra Peirbuieira posterSave the date: last weekend in August.
Camraderie must run the likes of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and friendships must be tight like a pack of wolves because anyone familiar with beans and garlic will know that the combination of the two can be a real, ahem, blast. Wish I could say that we’ve been to this! The opinions that I’ve come across are in unison on the garlic. Not so much on the organization. Lines are long, the wait takes forever, but at 32 years of celebrating every August it only proves how big this event has grown. The recipe for perbureira is a well-kept family secret – you won’t find it in any cookbook or website and no outsider seems to have a clue. A nice lady in town told me that there’s a difference between family recipes and restaurant versions, and therein lies the answer. While every family cook has her own special touch, it’s not so much what goes in but how it’s prepared. She said that when her mother made it, it was the best thing ever.

Borlotti, garlic and lasagne soup

As the woman stated, it’s how the soup is made, and the difference between home and restaurant is that in the latter, the soup itself is served plain with a side dish of chopped garlic in olive oil. In this way it strikes a happy compromise between fans and non-fans of the stinking rose. The proper method would be to cook the beans WITH the garlic, and to cook fresh strips of lasagne IN the beans. If you calculated your spicchi d’aglio (garlic cloves) and added the just amount, the result is an incredibly pungent and filling meal.

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water (she mentioned borlotti). Drain the following day and add to a pot of water, along with several cloves of garlic (I used 6 fat cloves for 8 oz. borlotti and also 1 cube for making vegetable broth). Bring to a boil; lower heat to a simmer; cover and cook until tender, adding water as necessary.

Meanwhile, make a small batch of egg pasta, cut into wide strips and again into irregular pieces like maltagliati. When the beans are ready, remove about a cup and set aside. Puree the rest with an immersion blender. Add extra water/broth if need be to achieve a consistency that is neither too liquid nor porridge-like. Add the pasta and cook until done (it’ll cook fast). Check seasonings with salt and pepper. Add the beans that were set aside and serve with grated parmigiano. At this point I don’t think the dish needed any more garlic but for visual purposes and garlic-crazy fans, that extra kick of a raw bite was like a welcome punch in the mouth. Buon appetito!