Aug 31, 2013

Looking forward to Fall

It's the end of summer, or so says the calendar.

After the hot and quiet slumber of the Italian August, normality gradually returns (most schools reopen the second week of the month). Sandy towels are washed and stowed; brown shoulders tucked under cotton blouses; and back-to-school checklists become the norm.

But September doesn't just mean catching up on unpaid bills and getting back to the office humdrum, at least not to me. Finding novel places and writing up new and exciting Rome restaurants has become my profession, and it’s safe to say I’m looking forward to going back to work.

Here are a few interesting newly opened Rome eateries we should keep under close observation in the coming season.

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Aug 23, 2013

Cozze fritte – Fried mussels

Eating piping hot fried mussels from a paper cone, while strolling down the street. You can't make this stuff up, it actually happens in the summer in Taranto, and in other parts of Apulia, the heel of the boot. We are talking street food to the nth degree which employs fresh, local ingredients and pure regional knowledge, applied to daily life.

The fantastically crunchy on the outside, marine salty, sexy and velvety aromatic on the inside cozze fritte are true morsels of foodporn. Not the photographic, shallow depth of field foodie kind: I’m talking about the actual hands on, hard-core, triple-X, foodgasm-inducing mangia; the kind that will have you reminiscing for days, giving you sensual memory-triggered butterflies and shivers.

What was that about shellfish not being aphrodisiac? I dare you to try these, and resists the temptation. You'll look back on oysters like a second grader regards his training wheels.

1 egg + 1 egg white
100 g (3 oz) flour, sifted
500 g (1.1 lb) medium-large mussels (summer’s the right season for these, so get them while you can, northern hemisphere friends!)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, the white part only and minced
A sprig of fresh thyme, finely chopped
The juice of 1 lemon
1 glass of dry, white wine
180 ml (6 fl oz) lager (don’t use light beer)
Extra virgin olive oil for marinade, plus more for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, beat and season the egg with a pinch of salt. Beat the egg white separately until peaks form.

Sift the flour and add it with the minced leek, fluffy egg white and the beer to the egg, mixing well. This is your batter. Cover it up with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Wash, brush and clean your mussels, carefully removing the byssus and barnacles from the valves, rinsing them in a salt-water solution, and then draining them well.

Steam the mussels in a large covered pan with chopped shallots, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and the wine, simmering over a vivacious flame to make the valves open, about 4-5 minutes. Discard any that fail to open.

When cool enough to manage with your bare hands, remove the mussels from their shells and marinade them in a bowl with lemon juice, 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large enough frying pan.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, fish your mussels out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and dunk them in the chilled leek-flavored batter.
Plunge them immediately in the boiling hot oil and fry in small batches for a few minutes, or until golden and crisp. The temperature shock from the chilled, airy batter hitting the scalding oil guarantees the best results.

Park briefly on a paper towel and serve hot-hot-hot with a curry or ginger–flavored mayo dip. Conversely, the bottle of sparkling Frenciacorta Satén must be cold-cold-cold.

Images courtesy of - corrierecucina