The market is getting so colorful, and all the ingredients for the famous Venetian soul food dishes are now in season! This post shows you what the market has to offer, a few days before Halloween and the beginning of the Agricultural Year in the Veneto, on 1 November.
The soul food soups are back at the Rialto Market, and the breezy October weather is their perfect background: Finally, cool enough to taste them: Le creme = le vellutate, velvet cream soups mentioned on the “menu” above: Crema di funghi means fresh mushroom cream soup, crema di zucca is THE favorite soup of the Halloween week – squash cream soup, of course! And crema di fagioli is a creamy soup made from white fagioli di Lamon beans. This soup is one of my favorites, flavored with chili, olive oil, white pepper and rosemary.
The second variant of soul food soups here in Venice are the favorites of our grandparents’ generation: Hearty meat soups and stew, musetto caldo and purea di patate – potato puree. If you would like to taste these local flavors, le zuppe contadine, the bacari around the Rialto are the best place to go to now.
As you will notice in a moment, the color of the market in October and early November is RED. We get the first pomegranates and la zucca – squash, which will play the most important role in the upcoming week!
Funghi, Zucca e Fagioli. The ingredients for our Venetian soul food soups! The beans aren’t always white but striped red and white. And there are green beans called spadoni or fagiolini piattoni, which we love as cream soup in August and September. Later in autumn, they are used as side dish flavored with dill, mustard seeds and olive oil. And there are the autumn tomatoes from the Lagoon, the last of the cuore di bue and a few cherry tomatoes (datterini, pomodori Piccadilly).
Marroni, pere e mele: Early October and the Halloween week are the main season to taste marroni dolci (sweet chestnuts) which are grilled with rosemary leaves: While chestnuts are harvested in the Toscana and Lazio, those arriving at the Rialto market grow the Asolo hills in the Veneto. And I can also make out the first of our noci (walnuts) growing around Treviso and Belluno.
The pears growing in the Veneto are mostly pere Abate, soft and sweet and perfect for the la torta di pere allo zafferano, the saffron-pear cake we love to eat on the first and on 21 November (in addition to le fave, the traditional sweets eaten in Venice on All Saints Day). Le fave are tiny egg-shaped pastries made from pine nut flour, flavored with vanilla, cocoa powder or Alchermes liquor.
Other pears now available at the Rialto market are pere cannellini, tasting slightly of cinnamon. Another good choice for pear cake and wonderful for a hearty soul warming breakfast consisting of cinnamon-cream-coffee and cinnamon-pear pancakes with mulberry jam.
This colorful fruit and unique spice flavors were favorites of the late-autumn garden feasts of the past, loved by the large Venetian artist community around Titian and Tintoretto (see more at the bottom of this post).
Mele annurche is the local apple variant tasting refreshing yet mild, which makes them the main ingredient for Lina’s sweet apple pastries – tortine alle mele. Just make a soft dough (pasta frolla), cover it with apple slices and sultanas, and fill in the gaps with home-made cinnamon-cardamom cream. Bake the cake and garnish it with miele alla liquirizia – liquorice root-flavored honey (historical recipe from Venice).
Le zucche e le melograne. As we said above, red is the color in our kitchen now. This special love for pomegranates of the Venetians goes back to the times when Venice was the premier marketplace for spices in Europe. One could write a book about the pomegranates of Venice, the favorite ingredient and staple flavor going into cream soups, cakes, tarts.
500 years ago, pomegranate juice was used to flavor rice, potato cream soups, and even oca en onto, the traditional goose dish eaten for San Martino.
We even have a squash cream recipe flavored with pomegranate juice called crema di zucca alla melograna, lots of white pepper, lovage and cinnamon. This is a historical recipe eaten in Venice in the 14th century, as both squashes and pomegranates were favorites in the Lagoon. Squashes were brought here from Damascus in the 11th century and grown in the estuary. They still thrive on the fields south of Chioggia. And the pomegranates also arrived in Venice from Damascus!
Finally, take a look at suca dolse de Sant’Erasmo (zucca dolce di Sant’Erasmo). Sant’Erasmo is the largest vegetable island in the Lagoon, almost as large as Venice! There are large vegetable fields, producing carciofi (artichokes), zucche (squashes) and finocchio (fennel), crauti, etc.
La cicoria. When we see this salad green at the market, we know that mezzastagione has arrived: Mid-autumn. The last greens, zucchini and tomatoes of the season are harvested in the vegetable gardens in Venice. Afterwards, we’ll rely on salads like cicoria, arugula, rosolia, and more, we’ll show them to you in the November – January episodes of this blog series.
Primavera in autunno – i carciofi. You’d expect to find artichokes from the Lagoon in March only?? We love the castraúre – soft young artichokes in spring but actually, we eat artichokes all year long! Especially late September and October look like second spring on the fields of the Lagoon, on Sant’Erasmo and Le Vignole. By late October, you can also taste the first radicchio leaves of the season. It tastes sweeter than the salad offered in December and January, which needs morning frost before it is harvested. We eat the greenish radicchio leaves as salad garnished with egg-turmeric sauce and red pepper corns.
The artichokes harvested in autumn taste differently: Their leaves are less soft and we only use their inner parts to make crema di carciofi – artichoke cream soup, flavored with water mint and garnished with violet potato chips.
There’s more about autumn in Venice for you: We’ve collected a number of favorite Venetian recipes, city discoveries and Lagoon walks in a new resource for you: Autumn and Harvest Time in Venice. This is our new virtual retreat, open from 26 October 2019!
Autumn was the favorite season of the famous community of painters in Venice, working with Titian and Tintoretto. This artist community of the 16th century were living on Le Sette Isole, the Seven Islands, urbanized by the monks of San Francesco della Vigna. We take you there to taste the recipes of the past, explore wine country in the Lagoon, the new prosecco and lavender-flavored grappa mousse, the scirocco spice mix and much more!