When an old friend announced that she and her husband and a couple of their friends were going to be spending a few days in Rome over the New Year, an impromptu decision made at the last minute, I of course revelled at the prospect. We met, rather bleary eyed and worse for festivity wear, on the evening of January first for an aperitivo at Rosati’s in Piazza del Popolo. As we sipped our respective cocktail favourites (prosecco, Negroni and Spritz) we exchanged stories of the night before and the fun and bopping and fireworks that we had appreciated. The place they had chosen was in the heart of Rome’s “centro storico” had provided much appreciable people-watching and an allegro atmosphere but the food, unfortunately, was nothing to speak of. “All the courses were the same colour is about all I can say!” was her description of its gastronomic underwhelm. That got me thinking. There is an Italian expression that says “anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte”, meaning “the eye too wants it share”, i.e. that appearances definitely matter. And we do indeed usually equate a platter’s bright and contrasting colours with freshness and come-hither appetitsing value. Conversely, a neutral beige or greige colour can only mutter lack of oomph when it comes to food. And yet, what is one to make of porridge? If you like porridge, you don’t complain about its colour now, do you? And what of dark browns?
And what of a single ingredient, a ‘leftover’ if you will,that makes a dish taste super duper even though its colour is not particularly attractive? Here is the story:
When a good friend treats you to some very snappy red wine by way of a huge bottle of Trinoro ‘Le Cupole’, in the course of an end-year potluck party, you have good cause for celebration; when said friend insists you take home the bottle with one third of the wine left in … well then, its boozy bonanza I’d say.
I had some left-over stewed artichokes and three sausages. Trinoro to the rescue! I cooked the sausages with some of this red nectar and then added them to the artichokes.
I think those green stringy ‘bits’ are parsely stems.
And here on the plate is the regal sausage with artichokes and a spoon of horseradish for an extra bit of vim. What could be better than sausages cooked in red wine served with Le Cupole? The wine tasted lovely even 48 hours later,by the way.
All that remained the following day was one measely martini-glass amount of the wine.
I had read about a recipe cooking cauliflower with olive oil, red wine, onion, black olives, anchovies, and pecorino romano cheese. I thought I’d give it a try.
Here are the ingredients, all of them except for the pecorino romano.
Start chopping up the onion and laying it as one single layer in the saucepan; then cut up the cauliflower into florets; douse with plenty of olive oil.
Add the fillets of anchovy, the black olives and a shower of freshly grated pecorino cheese.
Take one last tiny sip of the red wine … and make a love filled libation to the person you fancy the most or in gratitude to your destiny.
Spread out the cauliflower florets so as to make a hole in the middle of the pan and pour the red wine right in. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and white pepper. Cover with a lid and cook over a modest heat for about 20-30 minutes.
And here it is served on a nice platter. The platter is very lovely indeed, the creation of a friend of mine, artist Cassandra Wainhouse who had made San Gimignano her home for many years.
And here is a close up.
Now … I ask you. Does this dish look tempting? Does it make you think, Golly I can’t wait to try it! No. And that’s because the red wine has turned the white of the cauliflower into a slush colour.
Again, do these sausages and the artichokes look particularly enticing? Let’s face it they don’t.
All this to say that colour, i.e. the colour of the foods we are about to eat, is not always the best indication of how tasty or appealing a dish is going to be. Those sausages were fab and the cauliflower was very interesting and I am going to make it again this way (perhaps not cook it quite as much).
May this new year be colourful in the best of ways for us all! Happy New Year everyone.