Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a demonstration at the PSU Portland Farmers’ Market with Chef David Anderson of the newly-reopened Genoa and its sister restaurant Accanto. This weekend’s weather has been a bit confusing, starting off cool and cloudy and slowly burning off to gorgeous sunshine, and our audience started a bit on the small side. Once people around the market started smelling frying pancetta and caramelizing apricots, however, we had quite the crowd. David was great, sharing stories from Genoa’s past and present and explaining how the menu has been “traveling through Italy” as the seasons change in Portland.
Every month, the restaurant features a five-course prix fixe menu highlighting the specialties of a single region in Italy, and David selects the region based on the pairing of authentic ingredients with what’s available in the markets in Portland. This month the menu features Chef David’s interpretation of dishes from Abruzzo and Molise, a region nestled at the border of Northern and Southern Italy in the highland foothills of the Apennine mountains.
David told us that he loves featuring regional cuisines because it gives him a chance to learn about the ingredients, culture, and history of a region, as well as pick up new techniques and traditional combinations. It’s great to know that even Portland’s top chefs continue to learn about food and regional cuisine long after they’ve established themselves as knowledgeable and skilled in the kitchen. There’s so much rich food tradition out there that it’d be impossible to know everything before you begin – so get out there and start some hands-on learning. You’re in good company.
Start your culinary tour of Italy via Oregon’s farm-fresh bounty with what may be the perfect summer salad: Crispy pancetta cubes, sweet and tart apricots with a perfect sear in butter and honey, peppery arugula and fresh basil leaves, and a sprinkling of the Oregon favorite, Marionberries, and fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Chef David provides a step-by-step guide for making this delicious dish, which would make a great summer meal on its own, or serve as the starter for your next five-course supper party extravaganza. Eat well, or perhaps more appropriately, buon appetito!
Caramelized Apricot Salad with Arugula, Basil, Pancetta, Marionberries, and Fresh Ricotta
Recipe courtesy of Chef David Anderson of Genoa and Accanto, 2010
Serves six as a starter or four as a light meal
For the vinaigrette:
1 pound pancetta, cut into lardoons (bite sized chunks)
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar, preferably 12 year
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Place the pancetta and the olive oil in a small sauté pan and slowly bring up the heat to render out the fat. Leave over a low flame until the pancetta starts to color.
2. Drain the pancetta reserving the fat into a separate bowl. Keep the pancetta lardoons warm or at room temperature.
3. Put the pan back over the heat and add the shallots. Sweat for a few minutes until soft then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar.
4. Whisk in the reserved fat and taste for seasoning.
For the apricots:
6 apricots, ripe but firm, cut in half vertically and pitted
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat butter slowly in a wide sauté pan. As soon as butter foam subsides add the aprictos cut side down.
2. Raise the heat and lightly caramelize the apricots. Add the honey and toss well. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
3. Cut into wedges and taste for seasoning.
For the salad:
3 bunches of fresh arugula, washed and stemmed
1 bunch of basil, stemmed, leaves roughly torn
1/4 pound fresh ricotta, crumbled
Reserved pancetta cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl toss the apricots, arugula, and basil with enough of the vinaigrette to coat. Taste for seasoning and garnish with pancetta, berries, and ricotta.