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Gorizia's Chiesa di Sant'IgnazioI awoke around 3:00 in the morning to the harsh sound of wind rattling the window panes. Even with ear plugs the noise was so jarring I couldn’t go back to sleep. This was the bora wind I had read so much about, the cold northeast wind that is particularly strong along the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, from Trieste to the Albanian border.

Despite my grogginess, I decided to get up early and head out to the train station. The weather in Trieste had taken a dramatic turn toward winter. The mostly clear sky was streaked with feathery brushstrokes tinted sunrise pink. The gusty bora had not let up, and I shivered as the winds tore through my light fall jacket.

I took the train to Gorizia, with no plans but to check out restaurant menus and bakeries and eventually find somewhere to eat lunch. It was a Monday, when many restaurants were closed, but I had a list culled from my library of travel books (particularly my favorite, Osterie e Frasche del Friuli-Venezia Giulia by Ermanno Torossi) of places that should be open. Two of them were a mile or so away from the city center in opposite directions, so I ended up spending about 2-1/2 hours trudging along the city’s many tree-lined streets, the sidewalks blanketed with fallen leaves and chestnuts.

To my dismay, every single restaurant on my list turned out to be closed. Feeling defeated, I headed back toward the train station to return to Trieste, but on the way, I stumbled upon a small trattoria that was packed with diners. Trattoria Al Piròn had the distinct vibe of the blue-collar working man. Aside from the waitresses, I was the only woman in the whole place. There was no menu, just a few prix fixe selections. For my primo piatto, I had the pasticcio: a lasagna layered with artichokes and bechamel sauce. My secondo piatto was goulasch: two large hunks of beef in a spicy paprika gravy. For a side dish, they served a plate of peas sautéed with bits of smoked pork.

piselli in teciaIn the provinces of Trieste and Gorizia, vegetables are often cooked “in tecia,” a term that refers to the cast-iron skillet traditionally used. Here is my version of piselli in tecia:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 pound shelled fresh or frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta; cook and stir until the onion softens and the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the peas. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the peas are tender, about 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Season to taste with salt.

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