December 18, 2010

Buone Feste, Happy Holidays!

The Christmas holidays in Bologna are yet another reason for the Bolognese to eat. While people around the world are busy baking cookies, people here make tortellini, small stuffed pasta with different types of pork meat and Parmigiano-Reggiano), a fundamental holiday primo in most households. During the holidays tortellini are always served in a hot chicken and beef broth or a capon broth, no exceptions!

Other classics on the table of the 25th or 1st are the cotechino or the zampone, a sort of boiled salami, the zampone encased in an empty pig's foot. Other classics side dishes include mashed potatoes and lentils. Other side dishes may be served and the antipasti will vary as well as the dessert but often includes at least one of the following: Panettone, Certosino (or Pan Speziel) or the Panone. The first two are rather labor intensive so many people buy these at a bakery. The Panone is often made at home and each family seems to have their own version of the recipe.

In Bologna, we usually eat magro on the 24th. Magro, which literally means "thin" and meant as "light meal"was supposed to be a light no-meat meal for Christmas eve. A typical primo would be tortelloni, this pasta is stuffed with ricotta as well as Parmigiano and either spinach, swiss chard or parsley and served in a butter and parsley sauce. And in case you think that this one dish is pretty light, you should consider that this is only the first course and does not include a number of antipasti, second course and side dishes... and naturally dessert.

I'm not sure that Bolognese ever took the "light"meaning very seriously as yes, they generally do not eat beef, pork or chicken on Christmas eve but they definitely do not hold back on the variety of seafood goodies they bring to their tables! That said, the 7 seafood dishes on Christmas eve is not a tradition in Emilia Romagna. So magro today only means no meat and it has nothing to do with being or getting thin. We think about thin come January!

Happy holidays!

December 1, 2010

Chocolate aroma fills Bologna

The flurries arrived in Bologna as stands were filled to the brim with chocolate at the 2010 Cioccoshow. Despite the cold, the fair went on. Several piazzas and small streets throughout the city were bustling with chocolate lovers meandering from stand to stand. Chocolatiers from various regions in Italy patiently waited, bundled up from head to toe, as customers strolled by searching for their choice. All shapes, sizes and varieties of chocolate were scattered all through the market. Soccer balls, Santas, tool sets, syrups, and all different types of chocolate filled the air with the sweet confections.

One particularly interesting stand offered chocolate kebabs and chocolate bark with hot peppers inside. Noticing my confusion, a man nearby informed me that the southern regions of Italy tend to use peppers in a large variety of ways, somewhat unlike northern Italy. Apparently, including chocolate.

Each of the stands had a uniform sign displaying the name and region from which they came. A trend of similar choices at the stands from neighboring regions was interesting. Each had their own methods and variety of offerings.

“There is a stand at the Cioccoshow from San Francisco,” said Liz Olive, a student studying abroad from the United States.

Just then she realized that she had, in fact, passed Pasticceria San Francesco, one of the stands from southern Italy, not a chocolatier from the United States. She chuckled at herself for a moment as she made her way to another stand to try some rich, melted chocolate, more commonly known as hot chocolate.

More details about the fair can be found at: