Sunday 19 August 2007

bresaola e rucola

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.





  1. Wow, you are so lucky to have lived in all those places. No wonder you know about interesting dishes like this. Wow. Great post and it does sound like it would taste amazing.

  2. Can you tell I was impressed. I just noticed I said wow twice. Yikes.

  3. This is one of my most favorite dishes...and I haven't even tasted it in Italy. The combo bresaola, rucola and parmesan is great on pizza too!

  4. kalyn, i was a nanny in italy almost straight out of high school. it was a fantastic experience and the family took me to new york when they moved there.

    linda, i know. it's such a good combo.

  5. Rocket I have in the garden, now I just need to find the meat! Thank you for reminding me this delicious recipe.

  6. I love this dish... so simple and so good. I have never tried with lemon juice... but it is a nice variant...

  7. I've had bresaolo in Switzerland (the Italian part) and absolutely loved it. I've never seen it for sale here. Your photo makes me want to travel just to get some....

  8. I miss this! Pretty pleeeeease let me know where you bought the sliced bresaola from in Sydney?

  9. nora, i buy bresaola from norton street grocer in leichhardt's norton plaza. they also have another store at westfield in bondi junction but they stock slightly different things so i'd called ahead to make sure. you have to eat these ones pretty quickly because they tend to dry out very fast.

  10. Hi Anna!
    So, I'm wandering around on-line looking up "jamu" since I just heard this term for the first time today, and found your blog from July titled Jamu Kunyit. I was enthralled...I felt like I journeyed out of my cubicle and into another world. I am an American with big dreams of moving to Australia and small dreams of studying Indonesian medicine (not necessarily in that order, mind you). Anyway, can you tell me if the Jamu drink cured you and Jonas of your flu?
    P.S. Your pictures of Indonesia were beautiful. Oh, and sorry that this comment has nothing to do with today's blog. :-(

  11. kara - unfortunately for us we drank the jamu while we were in bali, weeks before we got the flu so i can't vouch for its resorative values. having said that, i always feel so much better after drinking ginger juice and tumeric juice did seem to have the same kind of effect.
    for those wondering what the heck a jamu is:

  12. I just love Rocket salad, not only because it is low in calories but also very good for health. Prior to reading this article, I have no idea why they called this Rocket Salad, now I know as in the Middles East, these green leaves are called 'gargir'. Now, I am also aware of the health benefits I could get from eating these leaves. I always eat it at lunchtime before having my main course, and I feel already full once I finished a bowl of it. I hope I am not overdoing it as I eat Rocket Salad everyday, my day is not complete without having at least a bowl of it. Preparation is so simple: Gargir leaves with walnuts, slices of green apples, sprinkles of parmessan cheese and promegranate sauce mixed together - healthy and yummy!


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