So many thoughts filled my head as I said my final goodbyes to family and friends after my recent visit home to Italy for my father’s 80th birthday. One thought stood out: family and food – how intrinsically connected they are. We celebrated for 3 days, barely leaving the table, as we tasted the famous Pecorino di Pienza or an incredibly flavorful 24-month-old Prosciutto. My Mother’s Cherry and Merengue Semifreddo was to die for and we enjoyed the classic Pisarei and Faso (from my hometown of Piacenza) immensely. All thanks go to the art and the skills of the magical culinary architect of the evening: my Mother Maria Pia.
My mother has been an inspiration in my life since the very beginning, unknowingly at first, as I used to walk in the kitchen while she cooked and tasted everything.
Raw or cooked, ready or not, I would stick it in my mouth before she could stop me. I had no idea, back then, that one day I would use these memories (more than a recipe) to cook and make a career out of it. She has the ability to create from nothing something special. And to watch her cook is magic at work in the kitchen.
Her philosophy: simple flavors skillfully highlighted and allowed to shine. Never covered or intrusive, they simply work beautifully, as the taste test will prove unmistakably. This is one of the most amazing soups I have tried in a long time. The smells of the raw olive oil she drizzles on top reaches my nostrils first, than the first spoonful does the rest. It’s simply magic. And as I remember all of this, it takes me back to into my Mother’s kitchen and to its smells. And this too is the magic of food.
Escarole & Cannellini Bean Soup
2 cups canned cannellini beans
1 clove garlic
Pinch chilli flakes
1 head Escarole lettuce
This is as simple and beautiful as it sounds.
You start off with sautéing the beans with olive oil, a pinch of chilies, the crushed garlic clove (leave it whole so you can easily remove it) and a generous pinch of salt.
While the beans are cooking, chop the head of Escarole in 1/2-inch strips or rather 1 cm (I am still not sure how much an inch really is) add it to a pot and barely cover it with water. Cook for 7-8 minutes. The water will reduce and its flavor will intensify.
Combine the Escarole with the beans and allow to reduce for 5 more minutes to develop the flavors.
Drizzle with a generous amount of extra virgin Olive Oil before serving as the finishing touch.
*Chef recommends purchasing the high quality extra virgin olive oil imported by The Olive Oil Merchant www.oliveoilmerchant.com
Giulio Piccioli is an Italian born chef that found his true home in the Okanagan Valley. Promoter of Culinary identity, you can find him at www.onebigtable.ca