Valle D’aosta February

Gail Vilardo Frommeyer, Cuisine Editor

 

February 2021

VALLE   D’   AOSTA

Dear Readers’, We are still in the north of Italy. Our next Cuisine stop is a small mountainous region, the Valle d’ Aosta , in the northwest corner of Italy.  This region is best known as a winter tourist attraction, and in the spring the Alpine vineyards are plentiful. The spring cow pastures ( species are the  dappled red cows)  yield the milk for the creamy Fonduta, a melted fontina cheese sauce which is the flagship dish that goes well with everything from polenta to vegetables and meats. The rind of the cheese is thin, and the paste is creamy, soft, and elastic. Its color is light straw to yellow, its taste is sweet, and to be DOP (name protected) fontina, has a distinctive imprint of an Alpine peak on the wheel.

Soups are a main staple, dense and nourishing, such as the Soup with bread and Fontina Pasticciata – a layered casserole -*one of the featured recipes in this article.

The fontina cheese accompanies well with polenta, risotto, rice, kale, beans, and chestnuts. *

Soup with Bread e’ Fontina Pasticciata (a Layered Casserole)

8 cups tasty chicken broth (or clear beef or vegetable stock)

Kosher salt

1 TBS. soft butter for the baking dish

½ pound Fontina from Valle d’ Aosta ( or Italian Fontal  cheese)

1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing

18 slices Italian bread, cut into ½ inch thick from a loaf – left out overnight

*Recommended Equipment: a baking dish or oval gratin dish, 3 quart or larger; heavy aluminum foil

 

* Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat to 400 degrees. Heat the broth almost to simmer—season with salt to taste—and keep it hot. Butter the sides and bottom of the baking dish. Shred the fontina through the larger holes of a hand grater, and toss the shreds with the grana ( grated hard cheese).

* Arrange half od the bread slices in one layer in the baking dish. Ladle out 1 cup of broth, and drizzle it on the bread slices, slightly moistening them all. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the bread in an even layer. Cover the cheese with the remaining bread slices, filling the entire surface of the dish. Moisten these slices with another cup or so of stock; top the bread with all the remaining cheese, scattered evenly.

* Tent the Passticciata with a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, arching it so it does not touch the cheese topping, and pressing it against the sides of the baking dish, Set the dish in the oven, and bake until heated through, about *25 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking for* 10 minutes or more, until the top is golden-brown and bubbly. Take the dish from the oven and let it cool and set for * 5 minutes or so.

* To serve: Cut into squares and, with a spatula, transfer them to warm shallow soup or pasta bowls. Ladle a cup of hot broth over each portion and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

 

ROASTED- PEPPER e’ OLIVE  SALAD  WITH  FONTINA

6 yellow bell peppers to toast (or 3 cups jarred roasted peppers)

5 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

½ pound chunk Fontina cheese

1 cup pitted large green olives

½ cup heavy cream

3 TBS. Dijon mustard

1 TBS. cider vinegar

2 TBS. chopped Italian parsley

  • To roast peppers: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the peppers all over with 3 TBS. olive oil, season with ½ teaspoon salt, and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or so, turning the peppers occasionally, until their skins are wrinkled and slightly charred. Let the peppers cool completely. Slice them in half through the stem end, discard the stem, peel off the skin, and scrape out the seeds. Slice the (peppers into ½ inch strips and place them in a sieve to drain and dry.
  • If using the jar peppers, slice and drain the same way).
  • * Slice the fontina into ¼ inch thick slabs, then into ¼ matchsticks. Slice the olives lengthwise into ¼ inch silvers. Toss the sliced peppers, cheese, and olives together in a large bowl.
  • For the Dressing: Whisk together the cream, mustard, cider vinegar, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the remaining olive oil gradually, until the dressing is smooth and emulsified. Pour the dressing over the salad; toss and tumble to coat all the pieces. Let salad sit at room temperature, so the flavors blend, for at least 15 minutes, then sprinkle over it the chopped parsley, toss again, and serve. (You can assemble and dress the salad an hour in advance and keep it refrigerated. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before adding the parsley and serving.

 

  • *Wines: The DOC reds are the Dommas, Chabave Rosso, and Nuss Rosso, and the WHITES are Blanc de Morgex, Bianco, and sweet Nus Malvisie Fletri.

 

*** Recipes  taken from “ Lidia Cooks From The Heart of Italy.”

Happy Valentines day!