Have you ever had to wake up late and not have more time to organize something with friends? Or to have friends over but an almost empty fridge? Sometimes it happens to me too, but I always have a good foodie solution! For example…
A couple of Sundays ago, I woke up late, eventually. The day was beautiful, the children were full of energy, and I wanted to spend a few hours thoughtless.
It was too late, however, to organize a trip out of town or to book an alfresco restaurant. Going down to the beach with my family was an option, but I also wanted to have a chat with friends.
So I called my best friend, who lives in a village just behind Genoa and has a beautiful garden, and I invited myself to lunch.
Of course, I’m not so cocky as to think that our presence was enough to make a Sunday last-minute self-invitation tempting, so I added “don’t worry, I’ll take care of lunch.” She accepted the offer immediately!
But I reckoned without the innkeeper, the fridge, which after a long working week, was practically empty. What to bring?
Think, think, think.
Of course! A nice apéritif! One of those that when you finish them you don’t want to even taste the first course (which in our case, however, there wouldn’t have been). For the children: pasta with butter, they are happy with nothing, what matters is playing.
And so I collected in the pantry and in the fridge everything that I would need to organize a nice Ligurian spring apéritif.
The day ended up to be perfect. We had fun plating foods, picking flowers in the meadow, setting the table. I brought enough food to feed us all.
However, I couldn’t resist and I cooked something quick at the very last minute! Indeed, when I walked into her garden, a large and luxuriant bush of sage welcomed me and I couldn’t resist. I picked the biggest leaves and I fried them. Good thing my friend had in the pantry some peanut oil for frying! (description and recipes further in the post)
Now I’ll tell you what’s typical in a Ligurian apéritif- in case you also want to organize an light lunch or an “apericena”(Italian word meaning something in between apéritif and dinner) inspired to the Italian Riviera to enjoy the beautiful company of friends, maybe alfresco during a summer day.
What are the foods in a traditional Ligurian apéritif?
What we eat:
Focaccia. The first ingredient for a respectable Ligurian apéritif is Genoese focaccia. You can freshly bake it or even prepare it some days in advance and freeze it. You will just have to defrost it in a hot oven for a few minutes and it will be as freshly baked. Here in the blog you will find both the recipe for Genovese focaccia with direct method, which is done in about 4 hours, and Genovese focaccia with the indirect method that involves the preparation of a sponge the night before.
Taggiasca olives. A bowl of small, colorful Taggiasca olives in brine is always present in a Ligurian apéritif. They are kind of symbol of our land, the source of our extra-virgin olive oil, our “liquid gold”. I always have a large jar in the fridge to cook but also for these last-minute occasions. Also, we frequently offer Taggiasca olive tapenade, simply spread on crunchy croutons, perhaps with cubed fresh tomatoes on top and a fresh basil leaf.
Salted anchovies. Give me a salted anchovy fillet and I’ll be yours! The intense, marine, enveloping taste of salted anchovy is a genuine delight for the palate. However, eaten alone it is a little too strong, you should dilute it and why not enrich it? Usually I clean salted anchovy fillets under running tap water. Then I put them next to each other in a small serving dish, cover them with excellent extra-virgin olive oil and season with a few very thin slices of fresh garlic and a sprinkling of dried oregano or freshly chopped marjoram. I always serve it with toast and butter. I confess: bread, butter and anchovy, is one of my favorite foods.
Salame di Sant’Olcese. In Italy gourmands as I always have at least a piece of salami hanging in the pantry. Together with a sip of excellent wine, it is an invincible weapon to raise your spirits after a long working day. In Liguria we eat Sant’Olcese salami, the real Genoese salami, as it is the traditional one produces since centuries in the back country of Genova, in the Sant’Olcese village actually. It’s made from a mixture of pork and beef meat with rather large pieces of fat. The characteristic aromas are garlic and white wine. Another characteristic is that they smoked it for a few days before being sold. We cut it with the knife and in not too thin slices.
Fava beans and pecorino cheese. In spring baskets full of fresh fava beans fill Ligurian markets. Fava beans are perfect to munch on during an apéritif: they take time to be shelled and should be enjoyed little by little, so they keep your hands busy and let the conversation flow. Here in Liguria we eat fava beans with pecorino cheese, actually fresh Sardinian pecorino cheese. Fava beans + salami + pecorino cheese is the magic trio, eternal protagonist of Italian Easter Monday and first May traditional picnic. There is a precise way to eat these three together: you take a slice of salami with your hands, place on 2/3 fava beans, a small piece of pecorino cheese, bend like a crepes and then puts everything in your mouth. It’s not the easiest thing to chew, but when the flavors in your mouth blend, this is the least of your worries!
Potato chips and salted peanuts. Yes, also here in Italy, where raw, almost healthy food is a must, we eat potato chips and peanuts! They are of course nothing traditional, but nowadays there is no aperitivo, at home or in bars and café that some bowls of international potato chips and peanuts do not accompany a. Especially kids get crazy for them and adults’ aperitifs are the perfect occasion to have some.
Frisceu. They are fritters make of leavened bread dough. Frisceu are the apéritif par excellence, after focaccia. And they are indeed quicker and easier to prepare. You prepare them just by mixing flour, water, yeast and salt. You can then add to the batter chopped marjoram, chopped chives, striped lettuce, baby fishes or even cod in small pieces. Let the batter rest for half an hour and then fry by dropping teaspoons of batter in hot oil. In a moment they inflate like balls and are ready as soon as they get pale yellow. For the batter, you can refer to my recipe of cod fritters. You should serve them hot, sprinkled with a little salt.
Fried sage. And then there’s fried sage. When I make fried sage, it’s almost disappearing before getting to the table. Children interrupt their games and rush to plunder the dish, free of any prudence of the adults. But also adults do their best to grab some hot and perfumed leaves. Fried sage is an explosion of flavor. It tastes of meadow, summer, nature. To prepare it, you need just large pulpy fresh and some flour. It’s a dish so simply good that at the bottom of the post I leave you the recipe to prepare it!
What I offer to drink:
White wine: in Liguria the apéritif traditionally is with white wine, preferably light and sparkling. The “minimalist” apéritif par excellence? “Vinello e focaccia”, white wine and focaccia.
In Genoa it is very common to drink bianchetta wine, a wine produces since centuries in the back country of the city. Or a vermentino, which is slightly sparkling. If you want to discover which are the Ligurian white wines, you can have a look at my post: “Liguria food guide: Italian Riviera wines”.
Aperitivo Fabbrizii. Last summer, I rented a house in Val d’Aveto for a month. During my “food adventures” in the area, I discovered the Aperitivo Fabbrizii. I fell in love with it at the first sip and that summer I offered it to all my friends who came to visit us.
That fortuitous encounter brought to my present happy collaboration with Nuovo Liquirificio Fabbrizii in Val d’Aveto, a family run spirits business in Val d’Aveto.
Aperitivo Fabbrizii produced according to an ancient recipe, is a liqueur with a low alcohol content (15 strong), made with the method of cold infusion of plants and essential oils, with a fresh taste of orange and spices, slightly bitter, very thirst-quenching.
You can drink it alone on ice cubes, diluted with sparkling water to make it lighter or you can mix it to give an aromatic note to your cocktails.
Here are three recipes I recommend to appreciate it to the fullest:
Fabbrizii & Orange: a part of Aperitivo Fabbrizii and a part of fresh orange juice, served in a glass full of ice.
Spritzii: three parts of Aperitivo Fabbrizii, a part of Prosecco, a slice of fresh orange.
Fabbrizii cocktail: a part Aperitivo Fabbrizii, a part of Prosecco, a part of tonic water “Fever-tree Mediterranean” and a slice of fresh orange.
I have made this post in collaboration with Nuovo Liquorificio Fabbrizii in Val d’Aveto, which has a deep bond with Liguria and, for this reason, promotes its food and wine traditions.