a trastevere favorite “frittata di spinaci,” new york style

So it appears as though I’ve been on sabbatical–from writing, not eating. Between working and traveling, I’ve had little time to sit down to write an entire blog. In fact, I haven’t even had time to go to the grocery store, which is saying something as not only is it one of my favorite past-times but there is one directly under my house. Last night, the almost-empty fridge led me to scrounge around the reserves, and I ended up making a very Roman dish (the Romans are, after all, known for there use of gli scarti, leftovers or more specifically offal).

I pulled out the egg carton, with its blaring expiration date for the following day, and set out the three remaining eggs to bring them to room temp. Then, I looked in the freezer and pulled out the lone package of frozen spinach, left over from when Giorgio’s mom restocked our kitchen in August. After heating water in the steamer, I placed the green block in the pot to speed up the thawing process (I hate boiling vegetables when not making a broth, as the nutrients remain in the water). As the ice melted, I began to grate the little parmigiano that we had left on the rind and added a bit of pecorino romano.

In a pan, I sauteed a few shallots that were hanging around (I didn’t even have a real onion!) and a few cloves of garlic. I beat the three eggs in a bowl, added s&p, the cheeses, and the spinach, after dousing it in ice water and squeezing out the liquid. All of it went into the pan together, and since there weren’t enough eggs to make a real frittata, I ended up making more of a spinach scramble. I threw a few hamburger buns under the broiler as we set the table. We sat down at the table, and after pouring the last drops of a bottle of Picco del Sole Cannonau (a miracle of a $12 Sardinian red wine that goes with everything, from fish to pork to the night’s eggs), we dug in. The meal was short, but oh-so-sweet…sometimes, as they say in Italy, the simplest things are best.

Now, I just have to go restock.

the ultimate wine tasting for beginners

My mom and dad were up this past weekend to celebrate her birthday, and as is typical of our family, we celebrated with a lot of food and even more wine. From cheese souffles to Giano’s cheesecake, from duck confit to hamburgers, we ate our way through New York.
The weekend’s highlight was a last minute wine tasting at the Italian Wine Merchants, off of Union Square. We had finished brunch with some of my friends at Veselka (heavy-duty Ukrainian fare, with round-the-clock breakfast specials) and were happy not to eat again until dinner. We decided to walk the girls up toward Union Square so they could take the train back uptown, but on the way, it began to drizzle, then to pour. They ducked underground, and we took refuge in the wine shop.
I had read about the Saturday class series because Dad had told me to check out a book “Passion on the Vine” by Sergio Esposito–who happened to be one of the owners of the shop (along with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich). The store itself is beautiful, with one bottle of each type of wine displayed alone in its wooden box along the wall. The rest of the inventory? It resides in a 180,000 bottle capacity cellar below the main level–as we found out, their primary business is wine distribution. From the door to the back of the store, the wines increase in price, from the Primitivo to the magnum bottle of Barolo. The listings, however, aren’t outrageous, as IWM deals directly with the vineyards.
At the back of the store, behind the display of wines I cannot afford but covet anyway, there is a large kitchen and entertaining space. On Saturday, it was outfitted with tables–each place set with 8 glasses–for the day’s class. (Beyond that space is the in-house salumeria, where they create their own versions of the classic salumi.)
Since we had nothing better to do in the rain, we signed up for the Introduction to Italian Wines. We had a front row table, by the map of Italy, the chefs, and Steve the speaker. As the tasting began, we began to drink–and eat. Most every glass come with a regional pairing, for Italian wine (as Steve kept repeating) is meant to be drunk with food. Round 1 was a Murgo 2004 Brut, a Sicilian bubbly made from the Nerello Mascalese grape. It was semi-dry, a good party wine across many palates, but when paired with prosciutto and melone (cubed by our personal chefs), it acquired a crisper, drier flavor. The second wine, also paired with prosciutto and melone, was rather unmentionable–a slightly sweet and fruity screwcap Tocai Friuliano, made by Joe Bastianich…no wonder it was included.
We started on the reds with the third wine, a Villa Mangiacane 2003 Chianti Classico. Chiantis tend to be very acidic to cut through Tuscany’s regional dishes, hearty fare that includes the bistecca alla fiorentina and pappa al pomodoro. Not usually my favorite, and even when paired with the delicious porcini mushroom ravioli, this Chianti didn’t bowl me over. The fourth wine came alone, and we were happy for the break. It was a Rocche dei Manzoni 2000 Barbera Sorito Mosconi. Now, the barbera grape is the most common grape of the Piedmont region (even though the nebbiolo is more famous), but only recently has it become a wine of note, having gained credibility as a more complex wine. This particular wine had been allowed to age for eight years, which is rather unusual for any barbera–the result was a smooth, rich red, completely delicious and a little too drinkable :)
With the next four wines, we moved into unknown territory for me–both in varietals and in price. But I’ll save that for another time.