19 February 2008

"Lâ Calhëtta dë Prâl" a Valdesian Soup

Back to the Valdesians and eventually a soup recipe.
Our valleys have been referred to as the Waldensen valleys because at one point 97% of all Protestants of Italy ( they say it's about 70% now) resided in Pellice, Germansca and Chisone valleys with Val Pellice being the home of the governing body of the church and site of their university for many years before moving to Rome. The Chisone valley was divided by the river, with Protestants on one side which leads into the Germansca valley and Catholics on the other side of the valley and never the twain shall meet. Fortunately, time heals all wounds(at least so they say) and there really is peace in the valley today. Michelle of "Bleeding Espresso" left me a message about a village down in Calabria named "Guardia Piemontese" which is part of the same Protestant movement of the 12th century. Valdese, North Carolina, USA was founded in 1893, by a group of 11 Valdesian families who emigrated from the foothills here in the Cottian Alps to settle in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, when this area could no longer support the growing numbers of people. Historic Valdese, NC, has built upon their rich heritage and offer not only a wide variety of activities the have painstakingly reconstructed 15 buildings from Val Pellice in what they call "trail of Faith"
Others emigrated throughout Europe, South America, and other parts of the United States. We, in fact, hosted guests here at our Bella Baita Inn, this summer from Utah who were in quest of their family roots. They stayed with us during their exploration of the town of San Germano where Ronda Bonous's family had originated. San Germano is just a couple of villages down the valley from us and Fabrizio was able to facilitate them meeting with the mayor of San Germano and subsequently they met many helpful people in their quest for ancestry discovery. It was a fun adventure for everyone involved and lots of phone calls, translation, and running around the hills trying to locate towns, house, graveyards and distant cousins. We had fascinating daily updates of their progress. One other fun fact, was that Ronda's Uncle Junior Bonous, who had visited here years before is a world class skier and ski instructor. He was also an Olympic torch bearer for the Salt Lake City Olympics. They brought a fantastic DVD showcasing his skiing accomplishments and donated it to San Germano's Ski museum.

It was an interesting connection, since, we had the 2006 Winter Olympics here in our valley, of course. This past week we received a visit from the cousin of San Germano's mayor, who very kindly brought us a copy of a pictorial book of the Bonous-Crockett, summertime adventures in search of Ronda's heritage here and about the Waldensen history. What a delightful surprise. They certainly put a lot of effort into it and thoughtfully sent us a copy. I think they distributed a number of copies to their family and friends and very kindly recommended staying with us. A heartfelt thank you goes out to Ronda and Charles. We have so many interesting guests leading intriguing lives, that I could tell some tales, but I refrain form writing about our guests as I want to consider their privacy and would not mean to offend any one by admission or omission. I do think the Crocketts are happy for me to share their story and proud of their Waldensen/Valdesian heritage from Val Chisone.

The painted stones in the photo above are Valdesian women in traditional costume painted by a local Valdesian painter, Loredana Micol. Her depictions of village life and local costumes are charming and capture some of the local flavor.
Lâ Calhëtta dë Prâl recipe, (Patois dialect, which is different from Piemontese) is from a local collection of valley specialties. A flavorful broth with cabbage bundles, uses all the things you would find mid winter in your kitchen cupboard, sausage, farmers cheese, and savoy cabbage, ingredients most farmers would have put up for the winter. Add some crumbled grissini bread sticks, a Torino original creation, and found on most tables in this area and you have the makings of a simple filling meal. Perhaps many years ago they used hard bread instead of grissini, but I like the texture the grissini gives. The savoy cabbage is out of my little garden patch that is still under snow in spite of spring like weather, and always occupies a row in the family garden all winter for us and the chickens to make sure we have something green on the table.

Lâ Calhëtta dë Prâl

  • 250 g grissini or other type of dry hard bread stick
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 75 g grated Toma, (staginata, aged) cheese (Parmesan or some other type of firm cheese)
  • 1/2 - 1 cooked sausage, a mild and flavorful Italian style sausage
  • Medium large Savoy cabbage or Swiss chard leaves, remove the hard stem, cutting up into the green leaving a v when removed.
  • Good quality chicken or beef broth
  • Makes about 8- 10 bundles depending on the size of leaves and amount of filling used.

Crumble the bread sticks, I did it by hand with a bit of pounding as I wanted some texture Add the crumbled cooked sausage. Then the beaten egg and mix thoroughly. Add a small amount of stock to moisten. Mix in the grated cheese. Let set for a while so the liquid absorbs and the bread sticks soften. Take several tablespoons of filling and squeeze into a oval. Place the filling towards the v at the bottom of the cabbage or chard leaf. Fold bottom up and roll slightly, fold both outer edges in and continue rolling up till it is a compact bundle. If you have some flexible long leek pieces, use them to tie up the bundle, otherwise use lengths of string. Simmer in your broth for about 1/2 hour. Serve with a grating or two of Parmesan on top. 
"*Encore Performance" I had several bundles left over and not enough broth. I removed the string and placed a bundle in a pounded flat turkey breast and rolled them up together. Secure with a toothpick this time. Lightly flour and saute the rolls in olive oil, onion, garlic and finish it off with white wine Simmer till the meat is cooked through and cook till the sauce reduces down and thickens. It doesn't take too long as your filling is already cooked. Serve whole or remove toothpick, slice into decorative rounds or halves. It was a wonderful "encore" performance. *Fun name for leftovers*


Rowena said...

Simple recipes like these are just a few of the things that I appreciate about the no-fuss attitude towards food here. There is no such thing as "nothing in the fridge" (as I would most definitely say in the states!).

Thanks for sharing a bit about the history of the valleys--always an interesting read!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning the choice of grated cheese on top. I think that just makes it. A lot of people are not familiar with that, believe it or not.
Wonderful soup :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

I love reading about all the history of that gorgeous place where you live! Not to mention all the interesting people you get to meet!Your soup sounds very flavorful and comforting, as well as your encore meal!

Anonymous said...

That looks really tasty. I love pretty much anything featuring sausage.

Ann and I just tried the chocolate liqueurs you gave us. Delicious! Thanks again!

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