cucina bene; mangia bene (bagna cauda)
We continue our exploration of sauces made with olive oil. Bagna Cauda (means hot bath in Italian) is really more of a dip than a sauce, but it is delicious and deserves attention. It’s history dates back to the 16th century in Piemonte, a northern Italian region, where it was tradition to eat it after the grape harvest in the fall. The odd ingredient in this sauce is anchovy, and why is it odd? Because Piemonte is a landlocked region; however, the people of that region traded garlic and vegetables for preserved anchovies from the Ligurians and Bagna Cauda was born!
The Italian custom is to serve bagna cauda in a terra cotta bowl that kept warm by using a small candle. Assorted raw and cooked vegetables are served along with bread and grissini (bread sticks). Scrambled eggs and shaved truffles are traditionally added when most of the dip is gone to ensure nothing is wasted. Since the garlic and anchovy are quite strong in flavor, it is recommended to use a good oil that is reasonably priced. Serve as an appetizer or as part of an antipasti course.
Some suggestions for vegetables are as follows:
Cooked: artichoke hearts, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, potatoes, leeks, green beans
Raw: peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, fennel, radicchio, celeriac, cucumber, tomatoes
1 bulb garlic
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
20 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
Fresh ground pepper
Peel and finely chop the garlic and add to olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat until the garlic is translucent, 30-45 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic brown as it will make the oil bitter.
Add the anchovies and stir to break up with a wooden spoon; simmer about 15 minutes or until the anchovies have melted. Add pepper to taste. Remove from heat and transfer to a warmed pot such as a fondue pot or other vessel. The sauce should remain hot while serving, but be careful not to boil. Serve with vegetables, bread sticks and bread and enjoy!