Seasonal foods in Rome/Napoli
My husband and I will be visiting Rome and Napoli and surrounding areas in late January, and I'd like to get a feel for what types of food and dishes are seasonal then. Guidebooks seem to concentrate more on summery foods, when there are more tourists.
And any recommendations for good dishes for very non squeamish eaters? I love organ meats and the odder bits of the animal when they're cooked well, but am more familiar with Asian and North American methods of preparation.
You might find this helpful in general
But I also encourage you ask the locals what's good this year (it has been a very mild, dry season), and to take time to peruse fresh food markets and produce stands, looking for signs that say "nostrano" (local, indigenous).
Also, do realize that along the Mediterranean, citrus fruits are almost year-round, and often at their peak in winter. So dishes that might get labeled "summery" elsewhere, that have lots of lemon, or say, fennel and clementines and olives, are delicious in winter near the western coast.
Roman cooking has a long tradition of using organ meats, so if no one stops by here to answer your question, a google search should turn up lots of leads. I hope your non-squeamishness extends to anchovies and local sea foods in Napoli and points south. I also highly recommend that you invest in a copy of Fred Plotkin's classic "Italy for the Gourment Traveler," which gives you a comprehensive feel for the best of regional dishes and markets and food traditions.
Thanks. I'm used to oranges in winter (there's a guy with a truck full of local oranges and a juicer parked at the corner near our apartment, selling fresh squeezed juice.
I love fennel and artichokes and olives, and the first two I simply can't get locally, and the olive selection is mainly limited to the jars of green olives with pimento. And I like anchovies too, and pretty much all seafood - I regularly cooking thinks like squid at home.
We eat pretty much anything. I used to say I'd try anything, but have since developed a won't eat list that consists of things like endangered species, things where they chop bits off live animals, fertilized duck eggs, night market sushi, and un-cooked blood.
In Rome, artichokes, broccoli, broccoletti, broccolo romanesco, puntarelle, cauliflower, spinach, cipolline in agrodolce, dried beans, lentils, and chickpeas. The best oranges, which are from southeastern Sicily, have their season between December and March. Late January should be peak. It's a very good time of year to visit.
similar dishes in napoli too - brocoletti/friarelli and other greens, artichokes etc., citrus, local and sicilian (keep an eye out for the lemons of Ischia and Amalfi, for example). Dishes with cirtrus leaves Also, there are special slightly dried small tomatoes on the vine that are sold in whole strings/branches and used in the winter cuisine of naples, very flavorful. Lots of good cheeses including the smoked provola, fried in slices and served as a main course, bufala, fior di latte, etc.. fisheries may be more limited in winter than warmer seasons depending on the weather, but the local seafood is always a fave in napoli, dried bean/chickpea dishes also commonly found.. Read up on the regional cuisine - in addition to Fred Plotkin's book, Carla Capalbo's book on the food of Naples and Campania is very useful in getting oriented.
If you want to understand what is likely to show up on your plate, walking through one of the Neapolitan street markets, is useful if you want more info. post back.
re: jen kalb
It can also be a chance to taste fresh, new olive oil, from a good gastronomia, but consumer care should be taken here. I'm not sure if January's too early for the year's first young pecorino. In New York markets at least, Sicilian primo sale begins showing up not long into the new year.
In Rome, artichokes! Have them alla giudia (deep-fried) and alla romana (braised). Puntarelle are uniquely Roman.
Roman cooking uses a lot of organ meats. Trippa (tripe), pajata (intestines of milk-fed lamb; most often in a pasta sauce, in a very few places grilled on a spit), coratella (heart, lung and liver, generally of lamb, with artichokes) are local Roman dishes. Not an organ meat but very important in Roman cooking: oxtail (coda alla vaccinara, as a stew or a pasta sauce).
in addition to all the excellent advice here, the farmers' markets have started offering the slow food cheese marzolino. As the name implies, it is actually a cheese that is produced in march, but this year production started around christmas bcs some goats already foaled bcs it is so warm (explained one producer to me). the cheese is made from the "right after the birth" milk. I am sure I am not using the right terms here, but you get my drift.
As an update - just got back from Italy and had a great time. Our approach for restaurants was to walk a few blocks in a random direction from the tourist site, and look for a restaurant with no tourist menu, which seemed to work pretty well.
Our only real problem was capacity - we eventually settled on splitting a three course meal between the two of us at lunch, as we couldn't do it alone. Our B&B had a small kitchen, so at night, we enjoyed bread, cheese, olives, cured meat, and various vegetables from the markets.