One of many Italian salumi, bresaola originated in Lombardy, on the border between Italy and Switzerland.
It is made by taking a beef eye of round (round steak section from a beef hind quarter) and then salting it and leaving it to air-dry for a few months. Sounds a bit risky, but I’m sure the cold mountain air meant there wasn’t much danger.
Bresaola with rocket is one of my favourite snacks and is also the perfect starter for a dinner party since it doesn't involve cooking. You can mix the dressing before hand then just plate it when you want to eat.
Bresaola also a good alternative to prosciutto for those who don’t eat pork.
When I lived in Rome, Paola would serve this at least once a week and I became an absolute addict. The saltiness of the bresaola and parmigiano combined with the acidity of the lemon juice and the nuttiness of the rocket: magic! Each night I would increase my levels of cheese and lemon juice as I grew immune to the effects of this intoxicating drug.
When we relocated to New York we still ate bresaola but it wasn’t as good as the Italian versions. It seemed drier and a lot of the delis sold square bresaola rather than round, leading me to believe it was processed more.
In Australia, where quarantine laws wouldn’t allow imported cured meats until just recently, I stumbled across a local brand that was round, tender and almost as good as the Italian versions. Almost.
When you buy bresaola ensure they slice it paper thin and that they put grease proof paper between every layer, otherwise it all gets stuck together and tears. Also, make sure you eat bresaola a day or two after buying it (preferably on the day) as it dries out fast and should be eaten moist.
Bresaola e Rucola
Common Italian way to eat bresaola. Serves 1 as starter.
10 slices of bresaola
1 cup loosely packed baby rocket leaves, washed
2 tablespoons parmigiano, freshly grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice (2T if you’re a sour fiend like me)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Lay your bresaola on a plate, slightly overlapping
2. In a bowl, dress the rocket with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper
3. Sprinkle parmigiano over bresaola
4. Arrange rocket over bresaola
5. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the bresaola and serve, preferably with a lemon wedge
Rocket is excellent combined with bresaola but it also works well with sfilacci di cavallo, a dish from the Veneto region consisting of cured horse meat shredded and served over rocket in much the same way. I tried it when I was in Verona and it was wonderful.
Rocket (Eruca vesicaria) is also known as arugula, garden rocket, rocket salad, rugola, rucola, roquette and rughetta. It has a peppery flavour so it’s not surprising that it’s a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae: Cruciferae).
Rich in iron and vitamin C, rocket has only 4 calories per cup. It's used as a salad leaf or to flavour oils, is wilted onto pizzas, blended in pestos and cooked with meats, as it is in one of my favourite dinners: strachetti con rughetta (thinly sliced pieces of beef cooked with wilted rocket and parmigiano).
Rocket is well known in the Mediterranean, especially in Italy where it has been used since Ancient Rome and was considered an aphrodisiac that could increase semen levels.
It was usually collected from the wild and it wasn’t until as late as the 1990s that large scale cultivation was undertaken. Now it is grown worldwide, although the Italian region of Veneto is still a mass producer.
Apart from Italy, there are many Biblical references to rocket, where it was known in the Bible as oroth and in the Talmud as gargir. It seemed to be found wild in the Jordan Valley where Bedouins grew it in pots.
Pliny, physician and botanist from the 1st century, claimed that tea made from rocket seeds could get rid of intestinal worms and ancient Jews used it to treat eye infections.
The Medieval physician, Maimonides, believed rocket seeds increased saliva levels while his counterpart, Asaph Haropheh, used rocket to treat liver and stomach problems, kidney stones and to increase milk levels in new mothers.
Wild rocket was also used as a traditional medicine in Portugal for digestive ailments and as a cough syrup, diuretic, tonic, stimulant, laxative and anti-inflammatory. It also, of all things, was used to treat greasy scalps and hair loss.
In Turkey, rocket is served as a side salad with pide (Turkish pizza) or as a snack to accompany raki (a fiery alcohol).
This week Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Zorra from Kochtopf so head on over to Swiss Food Goddess in Spain for the full story.
Tags: morsels and musings food blog food and drink australia recipes weekend herb blogging whb entrée starter snack arugula rocket bresaola beef recipes rocket recipes arugula recipes bresaola recipes italian recipes italian food italian cuisine