Shopping and dinner: 10.06.08.

In his book I’m Just Here for the Food, Alton Brown suggests cooking in other people’s kitchens from time to time:

It’s kind of like a culinary Outward Bound:  it forces you to focus, to improvise, to think.

When we learned that cooking at the B&B we stayed at on our honeymoon in Acqui Terme, Italy was a possiblity, you better believe that we were planning on taking advantage of the possibilities.  Every Tuesday the entire city turned into an open-air market that sold everything from fennel bulbs to tractors to skeins of yarn, and we intended to take advantage of the bounty before us.  Except for the tractors, of course–those are hard to pack in even the largest of suitcases.

I originally posted this on my other blog, but I wanted to share it here because it exemplifies what AB, and consequently we, are all about when it comes to food:  taking advantage of the best you can find and devising a meal using what you have available.

Our innkeeper instructed us to look for fish since our location in Piemonte was not at all far from Liguria (which borders the coast), and we eventually found the fishmonger she frequents:

Fishmonger in Acqui Terme

Fishmonger in Acqui Terme

Since the EU has such stringent COOL (Country of origin labeling) laws, we were able to find out exactly where any of the fish were caught.  We decided on a mezzo kilo of Italian salmon, which equates to about a pound, and was pretty intimidating in size:

Fresh Italian Salmon Fillet

Fresh Italian Salmon Fillet

Making a quick stop to the local ipermercato (hypermarket) Galassia, we picked up the handful of ingredients we’d need to make a favorite dish:  Giada DeLaurentiis’ mustard salmon from her Family Dinners cookbook.

Sauteed Fennel in Pan

Sauteed Fennel in Pan

We also purchased a beautiful bulb of fennel (one of my favorite veggies) from a local farmer that only needed a light saute (really–all you do is saute it in a little olive oil until you reach your desired consistency, which for me is still a little crisp):

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Sauteed Fennel with Fronds

Sauteed Fennel with Fronds

When it comes to pasta in northern Italy, filled is the norm, and fresh filled pasta is their version of fast food.  We purchased some delicious tortellini di proscuitto crudo (what we here know as proscuitto as it is dry-aged) and tossed it with a sage brown butter sauce:

Fresh Tortellini di Proscuitto Crudo

Fresh Tortellini di Proscuitto Crudo

Serving it the authentic way–pasta as the primi then the salmon and fennel as the secondi, we were stuffed after spending the day wandering around town.

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