Officially it is said that the first day of Autumn is September 22nd, but to me it seems almost impossible to set such limits on the seaons. However, that is a much larger topic for another day. This weeks post is indulgently and unapologetically so, about our Autumn Menu, and how the changing season may affect our perception of flavours.
When visiting Venice during Autumn, there is a change in the movement and gestures of the people, a visible sense of purpose that perhaps had been forgotten during long summer days. The real change however, is felt in the Market.
New arrivals such as la Zucca (pumpkin), Radicchio, Broccoli, Fragola Uva, Funghi, Cavolfiore (cauliflower), finocchi (fennel), porro (leek) quickly refill the shelves.
One of the corner stones of Autumn in particular in the Veneto region, is RADICCHIO, especially Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso IGP. Along the river Po, the river that flows through the Veneto, each town has its own special variety, for the most part named after the town itself.
Radicchio di Treviso is particularly interesting because there are in fact two harvests. The first occurs at the end of July and with it arrives a slightly bitter taste with leaves similar to that of Belgian endive. However, a second crop is formulated much later after a painstainkinly (loving) manual period, known as bleaching or whitening, (Imbianchimento). The vegetables are harvested late, then put through a forced second growth immersed for 15 days in tanks filled with spring water at a temperature of 13° in a limited light. This makes the plants grow again and the result is the famous Tardivo variety, which has an unmistakably bitter flavor and majestic leaves of deep purple which curl in a theatrical manner.
Our Autumn flavours…
Chiara, Truly Venice’s chef and designer, has taken pleasure in inventing an extensive menu corresponding to the change in season and market products. Although it is possible to find the more traditional recipes within her repertoire, her specialty lies in bringing together these earthy ingredients in unconventional ways.
Currently we use radicchio as the principle flavour in two of our dishes.
Linguine with Scampi and Radicchio. This is an unusual but successful combination. The strong flavor of the radicchio against the sweetness of the Scampi can be referred to as ‘Monte e Mare’. The linguine is the perfect platform and lends a combining creaminess which makes it a comforting but elegant dish.
Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso And Tomino piemontese with hazelnuts. the Tomino Boscaiolo is a delicious cow’s milk cheese from Piemonte, when combined with grilled radicchio there is a contrast in flavours that compliments. Topped with roasted hazelnuts there is an earthy taste to this dish which really reflects the Autumn atmosphere.
- Pan Fry the Radicchio until they are slightly softened and browned but not burnt.
- Chop the Hazelnuts but don’t grind them.
- In the same pan again, grill the cheese on both sides until the centre melts (2-4minutes)
- Serve, with Olive oil, salt, pepper and Balsamic vinegar. The Hazelnuts scattered on top.
Find out more about cooking classes and private dinners
How does the colour of the food affect our taste?
An interesting psychological aspect of the changing of the seasons, is how it may change also our expectation of flavor. Expectation plays a large role in flavor perception, as proven in numerous studies carried out in recent years particularly in the sweet industry. Despite what we have seen in this article, a common misconception of Autumn is that it lacks colour. This is only reinforced by the beautiful but subdued tones of autumn fashion. This can have the knock on effect of leading us to expect less natural flavour. However, you can quite clearly see this is not the case and there is just as much natural flavour to be found in Autumn as there is in summer, so we can put away the seasonings and pressure cookers. Buy fresh, and keep it simple.