Bravo Brodo

brodoThis post is all about the pleasures of a well-made brodo. In Italy brodo means broth and in its most basic form is an icon of Italian cooking. A foundational stock that is made from bones of beef, veal or chicken or the shells/ bony skeletons of seafood infused with fresh vegetables and aromatics. The most favored being cappeletti in brodo, a classic Northern Italian comfort food traditionally served around Christmas or New Year made with caps of fresh pasta swimming in a homemade chicken broth.

Recipes for a basic broth are culinary landmarks on the Mother Road of world cuisine. Anthony Bourdain calls it a blank culinary canvas, an enchanted liquid. He refers to meat brodo as the “dark universal stock”, a broth of bones that can be magically manipulated into soups (yes there is a difference between brodo and zuppa), stews, sauces and the hydrating medium for an Italian risotto.

Brodo di manzo (beef broth) starts with the roasting of  beef bones. Slightly rub beef bones with  a little olive oil, place them in a heavy roasting pan. Roast the bones for about 20 minutes; adding in a chopped onion and continuing to roast for 30 minutes more, or until bones brown. Roasting bones vs not roasting bones is a preference although most cooks/chefs believe that the initial roasting of bones caramelizes them and deepens the flavor.

Concerns about the fat content of roasted bone marrow? It’s been noted that marrow is 69% unsaturated fat. It’s also very nutritious, containing iron, phosphorus, vitamin A, trace amounts of thiamin and niacin and contains substances that boost and maintain our body’s immune system and helps our body stay healthy.

If you are bothered by all the fatty bits found in your brodo you can skim off the fat or let the stock pot cool and remove the fat on top. Or you can serve it alla stracciatella by quickly whisking an egg into the stock. Stracciatella is Italian for “little strands” and  whisking the egg forms little tail-like strands that attract all the fatty bits and other solids, drawing them out of the liquid, “clarifying” it, and making even the cloudiest stock clear to the bottom of the bowl.

As “bone broth” is in the news today, being beneficial for improving your skin, joints, immunity, digestion etc, having a stock pot of Italian brodo brewing in your kitchen is an old world tradition for a nourishing  and restorative winter.


Traveler vs. Tourist

“a tourist arrives confused and leaves confused”

The age of the tourist is over. Anthony Bourdain’s now infamous challenge to”be a traveler not a tourist” resonates with a new generation of travelers who want to remove the word “vacant” from vacation. Time and money well spent on a trip requires it to be more than a “show and tell” tour. Travelers look for the backstory, walking into a postcard rather than buying a postcard, taking time to see and savor the country and its people. A tourist often looks at the scene, a traveler wants to be in the scene. Travel need not be far and wide, nor expensive, nor complicated but it should be imaginative. Don’t settle for the trip du jour or boxed set. That’s not to say you shouldn’t see the Coliseum in Rome or the Milan Duomo. It just means that travelers move slightly outside the box up on the roof of the Duomo or eating at a ristorante like Da Pancrazio built over the ruins of the Theatre of Pompey where Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March 44 B.C.

It may be time to re-think your travel goals and invest in a travel experience. Italy is Europe’s everyman with something for everyone. There shouldn’t be any reason to come back from a trip to Italy boasting about the most wonderful food you ate, wine you drank and what you saw.

Here are 5 ways to convert yourself from tourist to traveler to see and savor Italy.

1. Define your travel goals. An attainable travel goal can be sometimes difficult to find. We suggest choosing a main them such as food, wine, art, design with subordinate activities such as history, architecture, hiking, biking, adventure travel, horse trekking, cooking, shopping/fashion etc. You may not be able to do everything you want but that’s perfectly fine. A traveler is destined to return again with a series of reasons on what more to see and do.

2. Design your own travel playlist. It’s easier than ever to plan a customized trip to Italy. The internet is awash with posts, blogs, sites, suggestions and travel reviews (Trip Advisor). Get a feel for what you want see and do and then seek a reliable consultant who can set you in the right direction. Do your homework to find out what’s best for you and research any suggestions. The best consultants have your travel goals in mind not theirs.

3. Be realistic about your travel goals but add a dream. You cannot possibly travel through the Tuscany of Leonardo, the Florence of the Medici or the canals of Venice without being drawn into the fatal charm of Italy that can be found nowhere else. Choose a secondary travel goal that may be a little out of reach but may also be attainable and build it into your schedule. View this goal as icing on the cake; as something that heightens your travel experience.

4. Choose your travel companions wisely. Tourists most always are part of a non-specific group. Meaning they may have very little in common with each other except for the fact that they are on the same bus. This can be an opening for making new travel friends or it can prove to be stressful and distracting in both time and effort.  Travelers share a conviviality with like-minded people who share their travel personality. A certain diversity among travelers is important because everyone’s background and knowledge can enrich the total experience (think about planning the guest list for a dinner party). It’s your party decide who you want to travel with rather than just showing up.

5. Start reading about Italy. The style of a Seeing and Savoring Italy trip begins with a desire to enjoy traveling in Italy on all levels and pre-departure information shouldn’t be limited to operational activities only. It’s important to get travel tips on what type of clothes to bring and how to exchange your money but it’s also important to have a general knowledge of the history, geography, language and people. Knowing this will help you sort through all the tourist babble.

What do the Medici and Captain James T. Kirk have in common for 2012?

In his book  The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson explores the idea that in the intersection of different fields, disciplines and cultures, there’s an abundance of extraordinary new ideas to be found. During the Italian Renaissance, the Medici of Florence encouraged artisans and scientists to cross disciplines and exchange ideas and because of this the world experienced a cultural rebirth that changed the course of history.

Learn broadly, learn often and keep a curious attitude are my resolutions for the New Year. We often don’t allow ourselves the time to see if there’s anything else that we might actually enjoy doing or learning or if there are other ways of solving a problem or providing a solution. So resolve to follow the James T. Kirk Starship Enterprise style of learning. Explore areas other than your own and create your own Renaissance in 2012.

*a few years ago I experienced the Medici Effect, now I teach, I write, I travel with my own company and like Tony Bourdain I want more.