A walk in Mazzorbo and a roasted cauliflower recipe
Before leaving for my holidays, I spent a full week waking up early and heading to the different islands of the lagoon to take pictures and chat with both some farmers and some very normal inhabitants, but then I didn't have the time to write down a proper post. One of those mornings, of course, I went to Burano and Mazzorbo, two different islands connected by a wooden bridge, in the north lagoon.
The vaporetto is number 12 from Fondamenta Nove (see timetable) and, because in summer it can get over-crowded with visitors, I moved quite early. Burano was deserted when I arrived, life starts at around 10 am and finishes around 4/5 pm, when the big crowds of tourists leave. The best time to enjoy Burano, in fact, is in the afternoon and in the evening, when dining at Trattoria al Gatto Nero da Ruggero becomes more than magical. Anyway, today's post is really more about Mazzorbo, much less visited although only at abridge's distance.
Mazzorbo is wilder, studded with vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards. It's a place for those who like silence and total simplicity. From the bridge you can see the tower bell and the vines of Bisol, owner of the restaurant Venissa and producer of the wine with the same name, made with the native grape of the lagoon Durona. The small village features bright and colourful houses like the ones in Burano, and the names of the calli and campi are often the ones of the painters of the so-called Scuola di Burano (you can see some works at Ca' Pesaro), group of artists that in the first half of the 1900s spent long periods on Burano and Mazzorbo, fascinated by their unspoilt life.
Walk the long boulevard sided by tall trees, at the end of which a cemetery, and turn right at the end and left again. Don't cross the bridge, but turn left and stop at the church of Santa Caterina, the only church left of the 10 there were once. Apparently (reference enricodavenezia.it) it was built in 783, but obviously nothing of that time can be seen today. The church has a very simple aspect and it merges perfectly with the surrounding houses. When you step in, there is a small portico and at its right a small garden with a sober yet beautiful statue of the Virgin. Inside only one nave, a soft light and a special feel of stillness.
Next to the church and on the opposite fondamenta there are more vines, some of which are cultivated by Michele Savorgnano and his team. Michele is the person that recovered the Zittelle garden on Giudecca and started a series of educational and cultural projects revolving around permaculture.
I'd say it takes about 2 hours to enjoy a good walk on Mazzorbo and if I were to stay all day, I would enjoy a nice lunch there and go back to Burano only for my aperitif and dinner. Most houses on Mazzorbo have a front and back garden, some look like elegant villas, while others look more like rustic country houses. The daily life is very simple and, exactly like in Burano, many houses are for sale, as there aren't many prospectives for the younger generations. While walking, I couldn't help peeping into the various gardens and notice all the cabbages. One would think that cabbages are a winter green, but here they seem to grow all year round!
I didn't get the cabbage on the island, though. Instead, when I returned to Venice, off the boat I went towards Strada Nuova and stopped at the (kind of) new shop opened by the organic i&s farm from Sant'Erasmo. The shop is located in Corte dei Pali (Cannaregio 3818), just in front of the Irish pub, and is a great addition to the city. Lately we Venetians are seeing way to many candy and take-away pasta stores open and I'm not sure you can understand how glad I am to see a very normal shop, addressed to normal people and furthermore offering delicious local veg! Plus, it's also open in the afternoon and is a perfect solution for all those that work during the day. I also got some fennels and other greens, while I contained myself and didn't buy the sottoli (oil preserved veg) and the artichoke and asparagus spreads, although I highly suggest you to try them!
The recipe I'm sharing is very simple: baked cauliflower and fennel dressed with yogurt and a parsley, garlic and walnut sauce. I ate it in the evening with Vittorio, so the veg was at room temperature while the sauce was nice and cool from the fridge (it's really hot in Venice, you have no idea...), but it's lovely also served warm. Hope you'll like it!
ROASTED CAULIFLOWERS AND FENNELS
VEGETARIAN SALSA VERDE
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 40'
Yields: 2 full meals, 4 as side dish
1 medium size cauliflower
a batch of parsley
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 cup yogurt
extra virgin olive oil
1) Pre-heat oven at 180/200°
2) Wash the vegetables and chop grossly. Put in a baking pan, add a crushed clove of garlic, some olive oil and bake for about 30/40 minutes (depending on your oven).
3) In the meantime, remove skin from fresh garlic, slice a clove in half and remove germ. For me 1/4 of a clove is enough (but feel free to add more if you's like it super garlicky). Slice thinly, then continue chopping together with the parsley and finally add about 4 walnuts. Use mortar and pestle to grind and amalgamate all the ingredients well.
4) In a separate cup, combine about three spoons of yogurt with the same amount of green sauce and a few drops of olive oil. Mix well and keep aside.
5) When the cauliflower and the fennel are ready, let cool five minutes outside of the oven, then dress with your condiment and serve.
Delicious both warm or cold.