This is my signature dish. The simplicity of it represents everything that I value about good Italian food.
At the Circle of Misse I use this dish to demonstrate recipe deconstruction. Once we have tasted the simplified dish, we then experiment with additional ingredients to identify and assess their contribution. With a small list of additions, this dish can be turned into three very different pasta 'classics'.
After curing the pancetta below, I took a slab of it to the market for Wes and Charlotte who supplied the raw ingredient. Charlotte, who was heavily pregnant at the time, was delighted. She cut off a slice and much to the horror of her customers tucked into it. 'Hey, this is from my pigs and I know what they ate,' was her response.
If you like this recipe visit lapasta.com for more pasta recipes. The site contains a collection of recipes that I began writing and publishing several years ago.
We have started experimenting with some of the classic French hors-d'oeuvre. We covered Tapenade last week as it is popular in summer, but celeri remoulade, champignons à la Grecque and grated carrot salad are ubiquitous, available mass-produced in every French supermarket, and most taste as boring and predictable as store-bought coleslaw.
Our starting point has been the notion that something becomes popular and enters the realm of 'classic' because it is or was good, likely very good. As time moves on and once industrial manufacturing gets involved, there may be little of the original 'classic' left.
When we lived in Atlanta, I was a devotee of Morningside organic farmer's market. I still miss Wes and Charlotte's Berkshire pork which is amongst the best in the world. I made several sides of pancetta and bacon from their pork bellies, guanciale from the cheeks and fresh and fermented sausages from a mixture of pork cuts. I posted many of these early curing experiments on egullet.
Right opposite the farmer's market is the original Alon's Bakery. After the 30 minute cycle, mostly uphill I might add, we felt deserving of a treat. My favourite: a slice or two (ahem) of Alon's flatbread. I decided to recreate them here.
There are variations on this recipe from the Mediterranean to Indonesia, but it is essentially a wonderfully cool combination of cucumber and yoghurt.
The difference between cacik and tzatziki is in the yoghurt. Greeks favour a strained sheep's milk yoghurt, which like Camembert or Champagne, should have its own AOC, as there is nothing quite like it. In Turkey, where you will find cacik served throughout the meal, a natural runny yoghurt is used, which can be very refreshing. The Turks also produce an iced yoghurt and cucumber soup of the same name.
There have been olive pastes and concoctions around the mediterranean for centuries, but this dish is relatively recent. It was the invention of Chef Meynier of 'La Maison Dorée' in Marseilles and dates from the 1880s. My version uses a higher proportion of olives and includes lemon zest for added zing.
Beets are easy to grow in the garden. We initially grew them for their greens as most of the markets and shops dispense with them. The Greeks often use beet greens in one of my favourite dishes 'Horta', I'll post a recipe soon.
Few dishes capture the smells and earthiness of the region as well as this. We serve it with a young local red such as a Chinon, Saumur Champigny or St. Nicholas de Bourgeueil, served slightly chilled.
This version serves four as a first course or accompaniment. It's good with grilled chicken or lamb.
We're growing several varieties with different hues at the moment, including small plum tomatoes, which we cut in half for this dish. Use whatever small tomatoes you can get your hands on. The fresher the better, and you should aim for cherry tomato-size. Like the name suggests, this is an upside-down tart. The pastry goes on top then you flip it over (carefully) when ready to serve.