October Summer in Venice, and A Favorite Venetian Autumn Dish: Zucca e Pesce al Cartoccio

  Judging by the weather Venice was blessed with last weekend #octobersummer, it’s hard to imagine that we are already in the midst of autumn. We’re in for change ..

By now, you can see the first leaves of vite americana (Virginia creeper vine) in Venice turn red, a sure sign that temperature changes in the morning, with the cold breeze meeting the warmth stored during the summer months in the shallow water of the Venetian canals. Above you can see what I see, when I step out from the house and walk thirty steps, towards Rio de l’Osmarin. I took this image in the afternoon, when the sun had disappeared behind the buildings, leaving behind the warmth of a perfect summer noon.

Yet, the change in season is clearly visible at the markets in Venice as well, and of course, in the garden! We can now harvest the last of the lavender, while thyme, mint, and rucola are in bloom.

Autumn has always been nonna’s favorite, she just loves the calm weather and the harvesting season! Ever since, for farmers in the Veneto, in rural parts and in the Lagoon, on the first day of November, a new year starts in the farming and agricultural cycles. In Venice, we live with the seasons, getting ready for this change by harvesting and drying herbs, as you can see above.

The autumn varieties of antipasti in the Venetian bacari and osterie take the culinary stage. It’s so colorful around the bacari right now, so we just have to present to you two favorite cicheti (antipasti = starters) made from pumpkins. Recipes that usually don’t make it into cook books.

Those colorful reds and glowing orange comes from the pumpkins, abounding at the markets and in the dishes served in Venice these days. Pumpkins have always been a favorite autumn vegetable growing south of Chioggia and the province of Rovigo. Seasonal produce now reflects the red leaves of the vite americana (Virgina creeper), which you can find so often in Venice. Below, you can see a nice one, growing on Campo San Polo

Image by Simone Granata, shared on Facebook.
L'immagine può contenere: una o più persone, pianta, albero e spazio all'aperto

As the herbs still look lush in the kitchen garden, we’ll use plenty of them to enrich autumn dishes in a colorful way! For example, Venetians love cibo al cartoccio, baking fish, herbs, vegetables, and even fruit, in the oven. I added parsley, cicoria (chicory leaves), sweet potatoes, and a selection of mild spices whose effect it is to enhance the sweet-sour flavor of the pumpkin slices and the chicory. By the way, did you know that patate americane, as sweet potatoes are called here, grow in the Veneto near Vicenza?

So here’s a favorite dish, made from ingredients from our garden kitchen that reflect the colors of the season.

If you prefer a vegetarian / vegan recipe, add pieces of walnuts instead of the fish, and add some chili-flavored olive oil before eating. In our next blog post, we are sharing a special Venetian autumn spice cake, a historical recipe!

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