Food Shopping in Via Garibaldi: choosing my greens from a boat!
As some of you may know, before becoming so Venice-centered, this blog had started as a cooking blog, but then I realised that I eat very simple food and, as I state in my about page, for me cooking starts at the market, in fact often I don't even cook, I simply assemble delicious ingredients. I am a firm believer that if the raw material is good, 90% of the job is done, so today I'm taking you to do some food shopping with me in Via Garibaldi, while suggesting a couple of super easy recipes.
I don't know if I have ever told you, but Castello is by far my favourite sestiere in Venice; it offers lots of lovely and quiet corners as well as more lively areas, particularly Via Gribaldi. This street is studded with bakeries, groceries, greengrocers, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. A food heaven!
Right now I need to buy some veggies and fruit, so we're going to my greengrocer, where we'll select our greens from their boat. Yes, these greengrocers serve their customers on a boat -both in hot and cold weather- and have really excellent produce. I have known them for ages (I was in elementary school with the daughter of the older of the two) and when I lived nearby I used to come a lot more often.
Everything looks so very inviting... a lot of things come from local islands, like Sant'Erasmo and Vignole, or nearby areas, like Cavallino. My eyes immediately fall on the zucchini flowers. Okay, these are coming home with me. Lots of people stuff and fry them, I generally slice them and add them to a salad, or cook them in the pan with their zucchini, a clove of garlic and half anchovy (first I cook the zucchini, sliced for long,, and add the flowers towards the end, not to overcook them). I'm also going to buy some datterini tomatoes, some fondi di carciofo (the heart of the artichoke), a real local delicacy, and some cuore di bue tomatoes (local beefsteak tomatoes). With datterini you can do anything, they're delicious raw in a salad (my favourite: sliced and dressed with fresh homemade pesto) or grilled in the oven, possibly with garlic, chilly and breadcrumbs. While beefsteak tomatoes are amazing simply sliced and dressed with some pepper, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Fondi di carciofo are a quintessential food in Venice, quite expensive but absolutely worth trying.
Now let's have a look at the fruit. Oh yum...flat peaches, called pesche tabacchine in Italy, one of my favourite summer treats! I like them peeled and sliced, served in a glass bowl with a juice made with half squeezed lemon and a tea spoon of honey or, when I feel bold, I mix them, pour their succulent and sweet juice in a flûte and add some good quality prosecco (a variation of the local Bellini). While normal peaches (pesche and pesche noci, the ones with no hair on the skin) normally end up cut in half and baked in the oven with some butter and cocoa powder.... delicious and super easy!
And here are the San Pietro pears, small and firm. I don't really bother to peel them, I just slice them, remove the core, and eat them with some Parmesan cheese. You can't always find these pears, they are available only in this period of the year. Just look at these cherries, they are literally calling me, asking me to take them home... so I guess I'll just have to rescue them! Half a kilo will have to be enough though, they are very expensive ( 9 euros a kilo). Anyway, it's money worth spending because the one time I bought some cherries at the supermarket at a dirty cheap price, they were tasteless, while these ones are nice and soft, lovely and sweet. My recipe? Rinse them well and eat them!
Luckily, before saying goodbye to the owner, I remembered to buy the eggs (they provide local organic eggs) for tonight's frittata. It was still early in the morning, so I finished my shopping stopping in some small stores and seized the occasion to relax in front of a coffee and a book. I went to the Hopera Cafe (of which I'll tell you more soon), but there are lots of places where you can enjoy a drink and a snack in Via Garibaldi.
I love this area and I strongly suggest you to come here for a whole day and wander around the different external pavilions, reach the San Pietro di Castello Square, enjoy an easy going meal in Via Garibaldi and go for a walk to Sant'Elena. I don't know how many summer afternoons I've spent like this. With Vito, we usually go to San Pietro di Castello on a Sunday morning to read the papers sitting on a red bench, getting the most of the morning light and incredible peaceful atmosphere. Sant'Elena too is lovely for a walk. It's not part of the Castello neighbourhood, it's actually an island attached to the rest of Venice by two bridges. We lived there for almost two years and, as a joke, we used to say we lived in the independent Republic of Sant'Elena...
Anyway, I recommend spending a day in this area. What you'll find is a mix of relaxation, buzzing local life, international culture, street food and fancy restaurants. Perfect for everybody!