To the uninitiated, salumi might look like a typo for salami. The Italian word for cured meats, salumi does mean salami, but it also encompasses so much more: soppressata, pepperoni, mortadella, pancetta, capicola and the queen of preserved meats, prosciutto di Parma. Just reading the names aloud is enough to whet your appetite, isn’t it?
Salumi takes its name from the same root as “salt,” and salt is the active ingredient in many types of salumi. When food is salted, it sheds much of its moisture. Without moisture, flavors become intensely concentrated. That’s why a slice of salami or a lardon of pancetta has such potent flavor. Great salumi makers also boost the flavor with spices; cracked peppercorns, paprika, capers and garlic are just some of the flavors you might find in certain types of salumi.
Salting originated as a way to store meats before refrigeration was available. As salt removes moisture, it preserves foods and keeps them good to eat for months or even years. In warm Mediterranean climates, having flavorful meat that didn’t spoil was vital to health. Over time, the salting that was once a necessity became an art form, evolving into brine cures and dry cures, each of which also featured unique combinations of meats and spices.
Sometimes the salt in salumi came in the form of a pickling solution. Pickled meats aren’t as common in Italian and Mediterranean culinary traditions as in northern European ones, but individual salumi makers often try their hand at brining cuts of meat. When thinking of brine-cured meat, you might think of pastrami, but although its name sounds Italian, its roots are farther east in Romania. That hasn’t stopped the popular meat from sharing space in deli counters with salami and soppressata.
Smoked meats also count as salumi, including certain varieties of bacon and ham. Hard summer sausages are often smoked, too. Like salting, smoking started as a way to keep food fresh and tasty throughout the seasons. Smoky flavors have their own deliciously complex appeal, so salumi makers experimented with smoking, too. By varying the type of wood smoke used, incorporating herbs or spices, and using a cold-smoking or hot-smoking process, artisans could create distinct regional tastes.
While salumi became more uniform for decades, recent trends toward house-made specialties has led to a new boom in creative antipasto dishes featuring unique cured meats. The juicy, wine-infused Italian sausage we make in-house at Carlino’s is a great example of the culinary creativity that transforms an ordinary meat dish into something special. Although our sausage is made fresh and not preserved, it borrows from the age-old traditions of great salumi makers throughout history.
Salumi artisans had hundreds of years in which to refine their recipes. A single bite of prosciutto represents the culmination of centuries of effort, and an Italian sandwich stacked with many types of salumi is a veritable tour of Italy on a plate. The next time you enjoy a slice of pepperoni pizza or a paper-thin slice of prosciutto di Parma, savor it as one of Italy’s most enjoyable forms of art.Tweet read more
The summer has been scorching already, and forecasters predict more of the same for weeks. When it’s this hot, let someone else do the cooking and keep your kitchen cool. Italian food is a natural choice for keeping cool on the sultriest of summer days because the cuisine evolved under the powerful Mediterranean sun. Italian cooks didn’t want to heat their kitchens either, so they devised plenty of light recipes that taste as refreshing as that first crisp day of fall.
The quintessential light summer dish is the antipasto course. The term literally means “before the meal,” but this selection of cured meats, cheeses, relishes and pickled delicacies easily fills in as a light, refreshing lunch by itself. Served hot or cold, antipasto plates satisfy you without leaving you feeling stuffed. Briny olives, cured salami and marinated artichoke hearts pack plenty of flavor into small packages. Antipasti are also a good choice if you’re not quite sure what you want; with so much variety on the plate, you’ll always find something to love.
Steamy weather can leave you feeling a little wilted, but eating a salad with crisp, cool leaves and chilled dressing is a good way to beat back summer’s heat. Salads can take center stage rather than playing a supporting role to your entree, especially when they’re big and loaded with toppings. If you love the classics, go for iceberg lettuce and slices of fresh tomato in a light Italian dressing. For a more adventurous plate, mix sweet and savory flavors by topping your salad with diced apples and orange sections, then tossing it with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Carlino’s house special fruit salad also includes slivered pears and curls of Romano cheese to add piquancy to the dish.
You may not think of a slice of pizza as summer fare, but it’s commonly served for easy summer dinners in Italy. Because its thin crust cooks so quickly, pizza doesn’t heat a home the way a slow-cooking dish like lasagna or a slow-simmered Bolognese sauce might. Italian cooks also love to take advantage of what’s fresh in the market, and the tomatoes that go into freshly made sauce are at their best in the summer. Another trick to beat the heat: Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes on your pizza. The spiciness of the pepper actually helps you cool off, which is one reason that spicy foods are so popular in hot climates.
Anything you eat instantly becomes more refreshing with the right drink beside it. Italian white wines are typically more bracing and crisp than their French counterparts, so they’re an excellent choice to pair with a slice of cheese pizza or a salad. Lemonade’s blend of tartness and sweetness makes it especially good on a hot summer day. Get the same lip-puckering effect with a little bit of a kick from a lemon drop cocktail made with the Italian liqueur limoncello.
Don’t let summer win; keep your cool with dishes and drinks that grew up under hot Mediterranean skies. Enjoy the lighter side of Italian cooking and beat the heat.
Sincerely, Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more