Gianluca, our Italian friend, cooked for nine of us a casa con Nicola e Maha, yesterday evening, and it wasn't just a snack supper. We arrived at 6pm and left well after midnight, after six courses which I'll describe below. By 10pm, we hadn't reached the main course yet, and though I don't normally make a habit of eating so late, this meal was taken at such a leisurely pace that it was thoroughly digestible and Chris and I slept very well afterwards (after a brisk walk home at -20ºC under a starry sky... maybe that helped too).
Gianluca, with Maha's help, had been planning the menu and shopping for the ingredients all week. In the kitchen he was assisted by Dan and Nicola. It was such a noble production that I kept thinking of the film Babette's Feast!
We guests, Chris and I, Michael, Steve and Mary, were settled into the living room to snack on olives, walnuts and crackers, washed down with glasses of wine, while the preparations took place in the kitchen. The three cats and the turtle in its tank kept us company. Then we were summoned to the table for the four antipasti:
Bruschetta with strips of roasted peppers.
Quails' eggs garnished with truffles.
Prosciutto crudo with slices of pear.
Deep fried strips of zucchini rolled in flour.
After a decent interval we went on to the most filling (perhaps I ought to say sustaining) part of the meal, the risotto. I'm not certain of my Italian here but I think I ought to write risotti, because there were five different sorts, arranged on one plate, in balls:
A green risotto flavoured with asparagus.
A mushroom risotto, brown.
A pale yellow, saffron risotto.
A pink risotto flavoured with strawberries and onions, tasting quite sweet!
A white risotto with pink peppercorns.
Then came the main course, the veal in a white sauce containing tuna and anchovies, decorated with capers. This came with slices of potato garnished with parsley. In between courses, by the way, we talked about poetry and kitsch, but not at the same time. Steve and Mary had given Nicola a glow-in-the-dark Madonna after their visit to Spain, and to much merriment, she was brought out for a "show and tell." I was disappointed that she didn't walk across the table, though. We browsed through some of Nicola's books that lined three walls of the dining room and Mary wanted us to try making shadow puppets with our fingers, but none of us was up to it. We "found Waldo" in the children's book, from time to time.
A salad followed, a delicious combination of arugula leaves, fresh heart of artichoke petals, and cherry tomatoes in a balsamic dressing. I liked the texture of the artichokes––I thought they were sliced almonds.
We had two desserts! The first was a generous slice of tiramisu, cooked in a huge, rectangular baking pan and sprinkled all over with cinnamon. The final course, our second dessert, was a tall glass of asti spumanti with a dollop of lemon sorbet within.
Compliments to the master chef, and thanks to all the company for a super evening!