Monday, 28 April 2008

Venetian ways with vegetables

Looking back on my Venice trip the best value dishes have been the vegetable side dishes called contorni. The best selection was in a small veggie-focussed (rather than strictly vegetarian) restaurant called La Zucca where there's a large menu of them, mostly at 5 euros a dish. A selection of four or five made a great tapas-style meal for two. There's also no reason why you couldn't adapt the idea to entertaining at home.

Here are some of the dishes we ate there

Sauteed zucchini (courgettes) with thyme
Boiled fennel with an arrabiatta (tomato and chili) sauce with olives (above)
Stir fried carrots with soy and sesame seeds
Broccoli all' aglio, olio e peperoncino (with garlic, oil and chili)
Potato 'tortino' with courgettes, peppers and aubergines and basil oil (a bit like a roast veggie lasagne)
Rucola (rocket) rocket salad with mushrooms and parmesan (the mushrooms were sliced on a mandolin which made them look fabulous)

What's great about these dishes (apart from being economical) were how easy they were to throw together. The most complicated dish was the potato tortino which needed to be served hot - but no more difficult than a veggie lasagne. You could serve the other dishes at room temperature and they can be (and were) dressed with oil and vinegar at table.

I can't wait to get back and try them out. (Actually I probably can, given it's blazing hot here and forecast to be pouring with rain when we arrive back in Bristol tomorrow!)


Celine Asril of Black.Salt said...

Hi Fiona, I came upon one of your old recipes in Sainsbury's Magazine. I made your Kerala-style Curry and absolutely loved it! Thank you!

Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks, Celine. Long time since I made it but having been away I find I'm craving something spicy so it might just do the trick!

Rhubarb Fool said...

This is interesting. I was discussing Italian food with my husband and mother-in-law recently (both big travellers) and they were insisting it's hard to get enough vegetables in your when you're eating out in Italy. Sounds like the trick is to actively opt for lots of contorni.

Fiona Beckett said...

Unfortunately I don't think that everyone's contorni are as imaginative as La Zucca's but on the whole I was impressed with the quality of vegetarian options in Venice. They certainly have some great produce.