Slow Food, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting food enjoyment, biodiversity and sustainability, was founded in Piedmont in 1989. Carlo Petrini, an editor, writer and intellectual, took action in response to the first McDonald’s restaurant opening in Rome. The grassroots association has since blossomed into a global movement that spans 150 countries and counts 100,000 members. Boil Slow Food’s principles to their purest form and you have a pretty clear window onto Piedmont’s food beliefs.
Slow Food, Eataly (a popular gourmet retailer also founded in Piedmont) and the many Michelin-star restaurants scattered about the region have established it as the most culinarily progressive in Italy. It is the corner of Italy that most aspires to competing with the avant-garde chefs of Spain, France and the United States.
Indeed, Piedmont offers an excellent model in which the lifestyle of wine rests on amazing synergy with food. Barolo and Barbaresco are ambassadors to local gastronomy, and local dishes promote Piedmont’s ageworthy wines.
Influenced by the cuisine of neighboring France, Piedmont boasts one of Italy’s richest selections of cheese. Appetizers include raw meat (carne cruda), vitello tonnato (thinly cut veal with tuna gravy) and bagna càuda, similar to fondue, with roasted vegetables dipped into a sauce made of garlic, anchovies and olive oil. First courses are plentiful, but one of the most delicious is agnolotti al plin. These are very small, hand-made ravioli stuffed with minced meat and topped with butter, sage and nutmeg. Second courses include bollito misto (“boiled meats”) with spicy sauces, beef, pork and fried eggs with shaved white truffle. Desserts include zabaione, panna cotta and bunet (chocolate pudding).
Aromatic Herbs Tagliata and Flank Steak
For the flank steak
1½ pounds flank steak
⅓ cup Italian extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, skin removed, sliced paper thin
1 sprig rosemary
½ pound arugula (200g)
3-4 red onion slices, sliced paper thin
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
For the rosemary-flavored olive oil
1½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic skin removed and sliced paper thin
1 cup Italian extra virgin olive oil
Wash and dry the arugula. Keep crisp and chilled until ready to serve.
Mix olive oil, garlic and rosemary and marinate meat in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Prepare your grill. If you are cooking indoors, heat a heavy pan or skillet over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium, place the flank steak on the grill or pan and cook 2 minutes.
To make a cross-hatch pattern, pick up the steak with tongs and return it to the pan at a 45 angle. Cook an additional minute for a total of 3 minutes on the first side.
Flip the steak over and cook another 4 minutes. Flank steak is best served rare to medium rare; past that temperature, the meat starts to get tough.
When the meat is done, let it sit for 5 minutes, then slice thinly across the grain.
While meat is resting, heat olive oil in a pan over low heat until barely warm. Add garlic and rosemary. Heat one more minute, remove from heat, and set aside.
Spread arugula on a platter. Place sliced meat on top of arugula. Place onions on top of meat and drizzle with rosemary-flavored oil. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper to taste and serve. Serves 6.