We’re going back to Italy this week and making an Italian white bean salad topped with Parmigiano Reggiano that’s aged for 36 months. Not just any cheese, but cheese that has the coveted D.O.P. stamp! Never heard of D.O.P.? Keep reading–you’ll learn all about it and Alessandro’s Food Tours.
This bean salad is really simple, but make it a day ahead so the flavors can blend. I like to serve it at room temperature like they do in Italy as an antipasto.
(This serves about 4 but can be doubled or tripled)
- 1 15oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 TBS freshly chopped parsley
- 1 TBS chopped basil
- 2-3 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 large lemon, juiced
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 TBS. olive oil
- pinch of Italian seasoning
- salt & pepper to taste
Chop the parsley and basil.
Thinly slice the onion.
Mix beans, onion, parsley, basil in large bowl. Squeeze lemon over beans, add vinegar and oil. Gently stir. At this point it’s best if it can sit, covered, overnight in the fridge so all the flavors can marry.
Here’s the block of Parmigiano Reggiano I bought at the cheese factory and brought home with me. It’s so good!
Bring to room temperature before serving. Top with freshly grated D.O.P. Parmigiano and Enjoy!
Now…for the story behind this Parmesan Cheese…and a very fun day a group of us had with Alessandro and his Italian Days Food Experience.
What is D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)? As Alessandro reminded us throughout the day, only products whose ingredients are certified as locally grown and produced and have passed strict testing guidelines, are awarded the Italian high honor and distinction of D.O.P. This cheese made the grade.
Alessandro’s “tour” is in Emilia Romagna, a region in Italy famous for food, Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar and Prosciutto. We left Bologna at 6 am and our first stop was at this Parmesan Cheese “factory” near Modena. Here’s a very brief look at how it’s made.
The fresh whole cow milk is delivered every morning and mixed with skim milk. It’s poured into copper-lined vats and mixed with a starter whey. Rennet is added and then it’s heated to about 95 degrees.
Once the curds settle, two men use a cheesecloth (hence the name) to lift out the very heavy “ball” of cheese and cut it into two parts. (At this point I thought it looked a lot like mozzarella). It’s formed into the round containers, labeled with the factory code on the side and then it gets a 20 day salt water bath with salt from Sicily. The “leftover” cheese is ricotta–which loosely translated means “re-cooked” cheese.
This is how it’s stored while it ages for 12-36 months until it’s pronounced authentic Parmigiano Reggiano by D.O.P., the strict Italian board. And I should mention, this is the region the big earthquake hit a couple years ago–that was a big cheese disaster!
This was my cheese maker, number 2552. So in about 36 months when you buy good Parmesan look on the rind for that number–you might just have some that I watched being made.
Next we toured a family-owned balsamic vinegar estate. It can take 18 to 25 years to get your first small batch with the gold label. This isn’t the balsamic you use on your salad. This balsamico tradizionale is served in small drops on Parmigiana, a Bistecca Fiorentina…
…or like we tasted it–on vanilla gelato! It was unbelievably good! Try it at home, but you have to use real balsamic–Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.
At our last stop before lunch we saw 22,000 (yes, thousand) hams curing as they became Prosciutto.
We ended the “tour” with a multi-course lunch at an agriturismo.
Here’s Alessandro enjoying the first of FOUR pasta courses during our meal. If you’re going to Bologna and want to spend a really fun day in a great food region, contact Alessandro! Just one warning–you’ll slip into a wonderful food coma at the end of the day. Oh…and then there was gelato!
And as I always like to say, welcome to my new readers in Panama. You can read all about my town at Stu News.
Categories: Everything Italian