In Praise of 'Slow Food'
Book Celebrates the Philosophy of Taking the Time to Eat Well
Listen to Jacki Lyden's discussion with Corby Kummer.
Get three "slow food" recipes.
Oct. 21, 2002 -- "Slow food" is more of a philosophy than a cuisine. It's not about all-day cooking in a crock pot -- slow food is defined by how it's prepared, and how it should be enjoyed. It's also the name of an international movement, founded in Italy, with more than 65,000 members across the globe.
Fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen on the vine before being harvested. Breads are made from scratch. Sea salt is raked by hand. Slow food is about local, hand-made ingredients, traditional cooking methods and the producers and chefs who follow the creed.
The term "slow food" was the brainchild of an Italian named Carlo Petrini, who feared that small, indigenous farmers and cheesemakers in his native Piedmont region of Italy were being forced out by larger food producers and chains.
Now the movement is the subject of a new book, The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes, by Corby Kummer, a senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly since 1981 and a veteran food writer. He spoke about his book recently with All Things Considered guest host Jacki Lyden.
"The idea was to combat fast food... by looking right near you for something really good, and local, and handmade," Kummer says. "It's an alternative to what you'd find in supermarkets and fast-food places." Kummer adds that putting in the effort to find quality ingredients supports those farmers and artisans who carry on time-honored traditions -- "plus you'll have something good to eat at the end of it."
Here are a two recipes from The Pleasures of Slow Food, plus a cookie recipe exclusive to npr.org:
Pesto alla Genovese
This pesto is made with the tiny-leaved basil that grows in plastic-coated greenhouses up and down the hillsides of the Liguria region of Italy.
2 large cloves garlic
Pinch of kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 bunches Genoese (small leaf) basil, about 36 leaves per bunch, or any small leaf green basil available
7 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, preferably Sardinian
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
6 tablespoons olive oil, preferably Ligurian extra-virgin, plus more as needed
In a medium stone mortar, pound the garlic and pinch of salt into a smooth paste with a pestle. Gradually add the basil leaves, continuing to pound. Add the pine nuts and both cheeses and pound into a smooth paste. Add the 6 tablespoons olive oil, drop by drop, grinding the pestle in a circular motion until the pesto is completely amalgamated. Add more olive oil to adjust the taste or texture as you like. Season with salt to taste.
Makes 1 cup, enough for 1 pound of pasta.
Note: Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of pasta water to the pesto to make it creamy before tossing with pasta.
These crisp, crunchy almond meringues are a favorite of customers at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, Calif.
1 cup ( 4 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted
2 egg whites
2/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse the almonds to a coarse grind, or use a rolling pin to break them into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla and salt. Beat until frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in the almonds until blended. Immediately put the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 6 or No. 7 plain round pastry tip. On a baking sheet, pipe out "kisses" about 1 1/4 inches at the base, with a peak about 2 inches high. Leave a 1/2-inch space between each cookie. If you don't have a pastry bag, make small rounds by dropping spoonfuls of the meringue onto the pan.
Put the rochers in the oven, leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Bake until slightly puffed but still moist inside, about 15 minutes. If the tops start to brown too much, put a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil on top.
Makes 28 to 30 cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. If kept longer, they will dry out completely, but they will still be delicious, and some people prefer them crunchy. To make "dry" rochers, reduce the oven temperature to 200F and bake for another 45 minutes.
Chocolate and Walnut Cookies
This recipe from Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is provided exclusively to visitors of npr.org. The recipe calls for both chocolate and cocoa nibs, which are actually bits of roasted cocoa bean. Substitute mini-chocolate chips if you can't find the nibs.
2 cups white pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Guanaja or Scharffen Berger 70% chocolate, chopped
2 cups (8 ounces) walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup cocoa nibs or mini-chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oats. Stir to blend. Set aside.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients. Add the chocolate, walnuts and cocoa nibs or chips, and mix until just combined.
Scoop 2 tablespoonfuls of dough into 2-by-2-inch mounds 2 inches apart on the prepared pan. Wet the palm of your hand with water and gently flatten each mound.
Bake the cookies until brown around the edges and soft in the center, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.
Makes about 30 cookies.
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Corby Kummer is a senior editor for The Atlantic Monthly.
The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes is published by Chronicle Books.