It is well and truly full on autumn now. If I really admitted it I would say we are well and truly on our way to early winter. Sigh. I love all of the seasons, but I always am reluctant to see summer and autumn leave us as the color of those seasons slip away for another year.
I took this photo on Sunday November 2, Oggisanti, All Saints day. It was quite stunning and lasted a long time. One of our friends across the valley from us said he saw a double that day too. Must have been a blessing from all of our loved ones.
Anyway, the wind kicked up good and fierce and blew all the color away. Double sigh. What to do?
Well, one of the perfect antidotes for Piemontese mountain people to chase the blues away, is to make Bagna Cauda. This means hot sauce in local dialect. If it doesn't chase away your blues it will certainly scare away any errant vampires that might still be lurking around, as it has a pretty healthy dose of garlic, and anchovies too for that matter. I know a lot of people don't like anchovies, and I didn't either growing up, as I never really had it well presented. Once I came to Italy, I have become rather fond of the little darling fishes. I've always been intrigued as to why they are such a big part of mountainous and land locked Piemonte. One story goes that back in the day when salt was in high demand and extremely expensive because it was such a precious mineral, it was common to buy salted fish to have a little change ones diet and have some salt as well. When the main diet in the mountains consisted of what you could grow, you ate a lot of dishes with potatoes, cabbage, onions, leeks, eggs and cheese, repeat. Add salty anchovies and your routine diet is lifted to the next level or two. It helps too that they will sit in the pantry for quite a while till needed and it was a great way to obtain expensive salt as a more reasonably priced staple.
Anyway, we have been enjoying a round or two of this local specialty with friends and guests lately. It's kind of festive to have a large platter of all sorts of seasonal vegetables, cooked and raw, laid out ready to be dipped or drizzled. It's gone over well, so I though I might as well share the local valley version here.
Enjoy with a friend or two while chasing those harbingers of the blues far, far away. We certainly have been.
Bagna Cauda Val Chisone
Enough for 6
2 T olive oil (27 g)
6 anchovies, salted variety preferred, (12 fillets)
6 garlic cloves medium (crushed)
7 T cream (100 g) (optional )
2 T plain flour (12 g)
½ cup milk (118g)
- Wash the anchovies removing salt and scales.
- In a small to medium saucepan, add olive oil, cleaned anchovies and crushed garlic.
- Cook on low heat until the anchovies have melted and all is combined.
- Add the cream, whisk together.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and flour.
- Whisk in the flour mixture with the anchovy mix, in a steady stream.
- Bring to a boil and gently simmer until the mix begins to thicken, being careful not to boil hard.
- Remove from heat and keep warm until you are ready to serve.
Serve with grilled eggplant/aubergine, peppers, and zucchini.
- Prepare the peppers by roasting in the oven or on the stovetop burner.
- Peel the skin off and cut into serving pieces.
- Peel the eggplant/aubergine and slice into lengths or rounds, medium thickness.
- Slice the unpeeled zucchini into long slices, medium thickness.
- Lightly salt the vegetables drizzle with a bit of olive oil
- Grill on a stovetop pan or an electric or outdoor grill.
Arrange prepared vegetables on a serving dish and drizzle warm bagna cauda sauce on top.
Other vegetables that can be included, boiled sliced potato, steamed cauliflower, baked onions, Cooked beets, raw cabbage, cardoons, fennel, turnips, radicchio, and Jerusalem artichoke.
A little history
Traditionally bagna cauda dipping sauce, is garlic, anchovies, and olive oil only, served in a small ceramic pot heated by a votive candle, accompanied by with a great variety of vegetables. This version is a more luxurious variety, popular in our valley. It was a specialty of Fabrizio’s family’s restaurant, “La Baita” , and was served as an occasional special evening. It was the main and only offering, as was the tradition, for those special “Bagna Cauda” evenings.