LA CUCINA POVERA – a way of cooking traditional to Southern Italy, understanding the value of a mostly plant-based diet using locally grown grains, stretching animal protein as far as possible
Chef Cathy Whims, of Portland, Oregon’s Italian restaurant Nostrana restaurant and Anthony Boutard, owner of Ayers Creek Farm and author of Beautiful Corn worked in tandem, combining Boutard’s ingredients and food history knowledge with Whims cooking know-how to demo the traditions of La Cucina Povera.
Whims chatted with us about a recent trip to Puglia; she was amazed how the idea of la cucina povera stretched from the most casual to the fanciest fine dining restaurant during her trip. She demonstrated several dishes using Ayers Creek Farm products to show what she meant by La Cucina Povera.
Using a mixture of foraged greens from Ayers Creek Farm – called misticanza in Italian – she made Fava Beans with Potato, Sow Thistle, Dandelion. It’s a very traditional dish in Puglia, but one that’s popped up on a bunch of fine dining menus in the past 15 years.
Here are some of the greens foraged from Boutard’s property for this dish:
Another example of the sort of frugality that’s a big part of La Cucina Povera – Alimentari in Italy sell dried pasta in large bins, and typically take the broken pieces at the bottom of the bin, combine them and sell them at a discount. Whims made a pasta dish of this mixture, together with some mussels, chickpeas, tomatoes and fresh basil. The mixture of different shapes that cook at different rates meant that this dish contained pasta at different levels of al dente.
Finally, we sampled a deliciously cheesy polenta that Whims cooked for the entire 2 hours of the class, using Boutard’s dried polenta. Since the polenta was made using a dark heirloom corn, flecks of the dark outside of the corn made the dried mixture have a speckled appearance, but it had a real depth of flavor.
The polenta was cooked in a traditional copper polenta pot. The narrow bottom prevents burning.