As I am sure is the case with many other travelers out there, I frequently find myself nostalgic for a country, city, or day from past travels. Running at dusk along rows of nebbiolo grapes on Via Strada Bozzola in Quargnento with a little scruffy dog pushing me along. Walking switchback roads in Canale, eating fresh figs and persimmons right off the neighbors trees, again with a dog, but this one MUCH larger. Hiking Valle d’Aosta. Axe-picking the earth in Ponce with Angelo – forming terraced beds in the dry season heat. Exploring the cliff walk along the Old Nice Harbor. Wandering the cafe shops of Berlin in search of the perfect cold cure.
I have been to so many places in the last few years, and I truly miss so many of them that sometimes it hurts a little bit to know that I may never make it back to these places or see the people I lived with. After all, there are so many things I want to see in this world. So to take the edge off, I’ve come up with a few meals that I had in many of these places. Some are as simple as four ingredients. I usually only cook for two, so that’s what these serving sizes will be.
Strada Bozzola – WWOOFing in Quargnento, Italy
Classic lunch meal after a hard morning’s work.
4 oz. rotini dried pasta
1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets
4 tbsp. pesto
Cook pasta until al dente, in salted water. During the last minute, drop broccoli florets into the boiling water. Strain pasta and broccoli, reserving a tbsp. of the starchy water. Mix this tbsp. with pesto and spoon on top of pasta. Mix with a fork until pesto has coated pasta, and season to taste. Serve.
Canale, Italy – Walking the hills with Arsenico
Cure: Spicy Garlic Spaghetti
4 oz. dry spaghetti
1/4 c. olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1 chili pepper, seeded and minced
Parmagiano reggianno or similar table cheese
Cook spaghetti to al dente in salted water. While the spaghetti is cooking, mash garlic with the bottom of a jar or glass. Heat garlic, olive oil, and minced chili (peperoncino) in a non-stick skillet, over low heat. Olive oil and garlic can burn quickly so keep an eye on it. In only a few minutes, you’ll start to see that the olive oil carries a red tint, from the peperoncino. It’s ready! When the spaghetti is done, drain it and toss it with the olive oil, in the skillet. Grate parmagiano overtop and serve. You’re going to want bread with this one, to soak up whatever spicy olive oil there is left on your plate.
Gardening and Living on the Finca – Ponce
Cure: Plantain and Yam Stew
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced into medium chunks
3 green or deep yellow plantains, rinsed and sliced into 3/4 ince pieces, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. adobo seasoning
1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 avocado, sliced
In a medium sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil, just enough to cover the yams and plantains. When water is at a rolling boil add yams and plantains. Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes minutes at a simmer until tender (can be pierced easily with a fork). Drain most of the water, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, adobo seasoning, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until onions are desired softness. Spoon into bowls, mash with a fork, and top with olive oil and sliced avocado.
Angelo dug up all of the yams from the Finca, traded a friend for an avocado, and foraged plantains from the forest to feed us this meal. It was so filling – a good thing as it had to feed three grown men, including Michael who is a notorious nommer.
Cliff Walk, Nice
I’m going to be a cheat and just link you to a Socca recipe. It’s simple enough, one part water to one part garbanzo flour, with a titch of olive oil. I follow the recipe, but I start it on the stove top in an iron skillet, and then finish it under the broiler. When I was in Nice, Socca paired with a beer was the perfect street food meal – cheap, salty, and filling. Don’t get me wrong, I ate a lot of fancy food in Nice – but the moment I’m most nostalgic for is the one where I was sitting under gray skies, eating Socca so hot it burnt my fingers with cracked black pepper piled on top. I had a whole afternoon to do with what I wanted, and no one to report back to. Total fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants solo traveling moment indeed.
Definitely put black pepper on top, some salt, and parmigiano cheese. Eat it with olives or some arugula or both. I added tomato jam to mine too, but I’m a tomato fiend and work at a place that is willing to send me home with products to test. Like jam, made of plump plum tomatoes. LUCKY!
So that’s it for now. I have a few more meals to add to cure my nostalgia, so this can be part one in the series. Part Deux will include: Marrakesh, Berlin, Puerto Jimenez, and Mondaino.