Mamma’s recipe and my rant
I went to visit my parents in Arizona, where they had come from Italy to see my brother who is doing some post-graduate studies. As a quick premise, you should know that unfortunately my family is not on the same “dietary” page as me. Quite the opposite.
As most Italian girls, I learned my cooking early and mostly from my mother. My family had been in the hospitality business for many years, and she had been lucky enough to learn from brilliant chefs. As you can imagine the kind of cooking I learned was traditional Italian: Lots of pastas, meats, rice, breads.
Through the years, and my personal health journey, I left behind many foods I once considered acceptable:sugar, grains, dairy, any processed foods, fast foods etc. My family did not.
Now we stand on quite opposite grounds when it comes to eating choices. It makes me really sad, as I see all their unnecessary health problems, and I think “Why do you have to suffer like this? Is a plate of pasta or an ice cream really worth it? Is taking 4 different medications worth the “freedom” to eat all the junk you want?”
But as many of us know, family is always your most difficult customer, so I learned to keep my mouth shut and try to keep a cheerful face during our shared meals (of non-shared foods).
Acceptance is a big part of any relationship. Judgment does not help anybody. Just as I accept and understand my patients’ choices and challenges, so I have to accept my family’s.
Lucky for me during this visit my mom made a dish I love and I also CAN eat! One of her classic recipes, from my childhood. (yes, in Italy children eat peppers and anchovies, or at least they did 40 years ago!)
Bagna Cauda and the humble but amazing anchovy!
Bagna Cauda is a dip original form Piemonte (Piedmont) where I spent my first 6 years of life, and I still remember a small restaurant, smoky form a wood fire, where they served it in cute little clay pots (Fujot), which kept it warm, as you were dipping raw sunchoke sticks in it. That for sure lead to the creation of an acquired taste for the humble salty, anchovy. Here in the US, anchovies are not as well-loved, but the creamy, galicky Bagna Cauda might just change your mind on that. Here are 4 more reasons to consider anchovies:
- Good source of polynsaturated fatty acids
- One serving of anchovies, 100 g, provides the body with about 50,000 international units, or IU, of vitamin A
- A 100-g serving of anchovies can provide up to 147 mg of calcium.
- Anchovies are rich in selenium with about 36 mcg per serving
- Also rich in Iron, phosphorus and zinc
I recommend using a good quality anchovy, like this Italian ones, as they give the main flavor to the dish.
- 5 or 6 organic bell peppers, in all colors.
- 1 head of organic garlic
- 10 anchovies filets (Italian Anchovies are the best quality)
- 10 -15 walnuts
- 1 stick organic butter
- Wash the bell peppers and place them whole on a cookie sheet under the oven's broiler. They should slowly roast and the skin should char, without burning the flesh.
- Turn the peppers every few minutes, until they are evenly charred on all sides. About 20 min.
- Remove the peppers for the oven and let cool.
- In the meantime peel the all the garlic and slice it in thin slices.
- Melt butter in a small sauce pan on very low heat.
- Add the garlic and let cook on the lowest possible flame for about 10 minutes, or until soft and easily smashed with a fork.
- Grind ¾ walnuts in a coffee grinder (or small food processor) until reduced to powder and add to the butter.
- Add the anchovy filets and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Whisk the contents of the saucepan together with a small whisk or a fork until very well blended.
- Once the peppers are cool peel off the burnt skin with the help of a paper towel.
- Remove the tops, cut the peppers in half, then remove the seeds.
- Do not wash or rinse the peppers, it will spoil the delicate flavor!
- Lay out the peppers on a flat serving plate.
- Spoon ¾ spoonfuls of the warm bagna cauda on top. (or more to taste)
- Garnish with a ½ walnut for each pepper half.
- Serve immediately