AUTUMN VEGETABLE SALAD WITH FRICO
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region of Italy that lies between two worlds. To most Americans, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is simply "that place north of Venice." But Chef Mario Batali believes times are changing. Friuli has been discovered, and as more intrepid travelers venture into its pre-Alpine hills and Adriatic shore towns, they are discovering one of the most diverse regional cultures (and cuisines) of Italy.
Friuli is an amalgam of Italian, Slavic and Austrian influences, evidenced most dramatically in its cosmopolitan capital, Trieste, but also evidenced by the bucolic wine towns of its pre-Alpine hills. It is an unassuming region of thundering importance, offering an abundance of gastronomic treasures and stunning natural beauty, where all that is Italian collides with Central and Eastern Europe.
Latin and Roman traditions meet and mingle with Austrian and Slovenian customs and cultures, and from this heady mix come some of Italy's finest and most precious products: incredible wines, the sweetest Prosciutto, and the noble, elder statesman of cheeses, Montasio.
Montasio is a wonderful table cheese, perfect for enjoying with one of Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s excellent white wines, a savory mostarda or one of the luscious stone fruits that are grown in Friuli, such as peaches, plums and cherries. Try grating some Montasio over hot pasta or potato gnocchi in a simple butter sauce with a sprinkling of poppy seeds, or melting it over roasted wild mushrooms. Montasio is the also the cheese that is used to make frico, a beloved dish that is relatively unknown outside of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, but somewhat of an icon of Friulian cuisine. A frico is a thin “cake” of grated Montasio, cooked in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil. An aged Montasio will result in a crispy frico, while a younger cheese will make a frico that is soft and melting in the center.
Autumn Vegetable Salad with Frico
Makes 4 Servings | Regional Origin: Friuli-Venezia Giulia | Book: Molto Italiano (Ecco 2005)
• ½ pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
• 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and sliced into 1/8 inch disks
• 2 parsnips, scrubbed and sliced into ¼ inch disks
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 leek, white part only, cut into 3 inch julienne
• ½ celery root, peeled and cut into julienne
• ½ cup sliced kohlrabi
• ¼ pound mizuna, watercress or frisée
• 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 2 tablespoons pumpkinseed oil
Preheat the oven to 475 F.
Place the butternut cubes and chopped sage on a cookie sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and roast until light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside in a large salad bowl to cool.
Place the Jerusalem artichokes on the same cookie sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside with the squash.
Place the parsnips and the mushrooms on the cookie sheet and toss with the cumin and one more tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast for 6 to 7 minutes, and then set aside with the other vegetables.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and set up an ice bath near the stove. Plunge the leeks into the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the leeks from the boiling water and submerge them in the ice bath until cool. Remove the leeks from the ice bath, pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
Add the leeks, celery root and mizuna to the salad bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, the sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and toss gently to coat well.
Divide the mixture evenly among four chilled dinner plates, mounding it like a haystack.
Gently place the frico on the salad.
For the Frico:
Place 3 tablespoons grated Montasio cheese in a mound on a silpat. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and begins to brown. Carefully remove the cheese with a spatula and shape as desired.
Get more of THE DETAILS - October 2008: