There is a phrase in Italian: “Non Esiste.” This is usually said in response to, “Excuse me, do these pants come in navy blue?” Customer service in Italy is a holy rarity, especially now that Silvio and infotainment have ruined what was once a promising socialist democracy. Some might argue this quality in Italian culture dates back to the Romans. The Gracchi, of the late 2nd century BC, were plebeian brothers whose fatal mistake was to believe in land reform in favor of poor agrarians. They were both assassinated. Apparently the idealistic Gaius and Tiberius were fated to prove the phrase, “It does not exist.”
What does any of this have to do with grass-fed steak, or even food? On my most recent trip to Italy, I came across what should be considered a Roman, if not Italian, treasure called Gelateria dei Gracchi. A small chain of 2 ice cream parlors, Gelateria dei Gracchi was begun by a former lute maker. This sentence alone practically vindicates Gaius and Tiberius, while also disproving the phrase Non Esiste. Of course a former lute maker might retire from his profession to become a profitable master ice cream maker. With flavors like pistachio nougat and pear almond, how could he not be radically successful? If you don’t believe it, the guilty smiles of modern, street hardened Romans, if not the 479 positive reviews on Trip Advisor, should prove how incredibly delicious and amazing this ice cream must be.
You’re reading this blog for a steak recipe, right? Hold on.
At farmers’ market I am often asked, “What do I do with this? Do you have a recipe?” Not to toot my own horn, but I recently had three customers standing in line with scraps of paper, quickly jotting down a recipe spouted half from memory, and half from invention. It was for a breakfast sausage and egg casserole. It’s a delightful dish served at Smithfield Farm B&B, and definitely something one should make with our sausage and eggs. With fresh spinach, mushrooms, herbs and cheese from farmers’ market, you can eat breakfast like a queen for a week. I cannot take credit for this recipe, as Betsy and Ruth are the ones who acquired and modified this into a requested favorite for returning guests. I did, however, retrieve it from my mental rolodex when asked what to make with our sausage.
There is another phrase worth mentioning here: Necessity is the mother of invention. My nonna uses a version of this phrase: When water reaches your butt, learn how to swim. Wading through the often overwhelming tables of produce, artisanal cheeses, yogurt, meats and other ingredients from local farms at market can be disorienting. My advice to customers is to think like the lute maker. That’s what I did when I came up with Blue Cheese Pecan Ravioli, and many other delicacies our customers buy repeatedly. The lute maker didn’t invent pistachio ice cream. He made a really tasty version of his own that makes him stand out among all the other Italian master ice cream makers.
I didn’t invent the grill, the broiler, or grass-fed meat either. I do, however, come to my kitchen constantly looking to improve on the past. I used to tell customers about my oven baked steak recipe. After recent experimentation, I have a modified steak recipe I’d like to share, where you broil instead of bake. The important part is to let the meat rest under cover after you take it out of the oven. As for Betsy and Ruth’s egg and sausage crustless quiche/frittata, make like the lute maker and invent your own version. You could also visit us at farmers’ market or the farm to hear the recipe, or taste it in person.
Delightful article. You write as well as Forest!! I can’t wait to get back to Italy and try the lutemaker’s geltato.
Marian, Thank you! I definitely recommend the Pistachio Nougat. I stood in line to get a second ice cream cone before I had finished the first one.
Two language notes:
The baked steak recipe is really a pan seared braise. Sam recipe, sounds fancy. And exact.
Come se dice “When water reaches your butt, learn how to swim” en Italiano? Io ho besegnio sapere.
Quando l’acqua tocca il culo, impara a nuotare.