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I love salami

"A kitchen seems a bit naked without a salami in the fridge. Just the way it does when you forget to get lemons." Nigel Slater

Technically this photograph, that I took somewhere in the Ardèche region of France, is of saucisson (and cheese) because it's France. And it has to be said that saucisson is indeed different to salami. Somehow or other, even though it's basically the same product it tastes different. The French eat it differently too - with a dab of butter on it. Fat on fat. Well that's the French for you.

I started on this through my daily musing on what's for dinner, and I settled in my head on pasta - I was feeling like comfort food - now when did pasta become comfort food? Quiche too. My last night's attempt at a tasty cauliflower quiche was one of those OK, but not that wonderful meals. So not a huge amount of satisfaction at the end product although there was some in the preparation and the pastry was pretty good, though I say it myself. But for the finished product, there was indeed a slight undertow of actually not that nice, and I have a very gurgly tummy today. So maybe I shall be really dreadful and compost the remains. The ricotta may be the culprit.

All that aside I wanted something simple for dinner and pasta fits that bill, and I don't have a lot of vegetables in the crisper. I could of course do a primavera type with carrots and peas, but I also thought of ham - with those frozen peas perhaps. Plus a bit of tomato? Something simple anyway. Then I thought of salami. So much tastier than ham, particularly when cooked, although I could of course mix it with ham.

However, it's not a very inspired way of using salami in cooking, so I decided to see if there were any slightly less obvious ways it can be used, other than in salads, sandwiches, omelettes and pizza. Not that I would knock any of those options - they are all wonderful. Especially perhaps the pizza and the pizza lookalikes - stromboli, calzone, scrolls, focaccia ... A sandwich type called Muffaletta seemed to be a favourite but I'll also ignore that for now.

No perhaps I'll just feature one pizza because it looked so great and because it's slightly different to your normal pizza - Alpine pizza from Jamie's Italian pals Antonio Carlucci and Gennaro Contaldo - from one of the Alpine regions - I'm not sure which one, and not a tomato in sight, but lots of salami and lots of onions, plus cheese and cream. yes cream - well crème fraïche.

Before we leave pizza altogether - what about this strata - which is a savoury bread pudding. I'm looking to make one of these - a strata I mean, because David accidentally took a parmesan and onion loaf out of the freezer, which I was keeping for just this purpose. I have been wondering what kind of strata to make, and I think it will be this one - Antipasto strata with dill gremolata which is from Amira Georgy of Taste. And yes it is a bit pizza like, and has most of the pizza kind of flavourings, but not all, and the salami will be the real flavour maker I think. Yes, I think this is going to be my 'new' recipe of the week next week.

Let's stay with those crispy sort of fried bits of salami. You can of course, in very trendy ways, scatter bits of crispy fried salami over all sorts of things - crispy toppings for salads, scones, soup, quiches ... but did you know that they could be pre-dinner snacks with drinks - almost all on their own? These two recipes - both of which came from the American online foodie magazine Bon Appétit look wonderful, are very simple and yes, they are different - Rosemary-sizzled salami, dates and pecans from Kendra Vaculin, who describes this as: "salty, crunchy, sweet, and meaty— an ideal drinking snack straight from the pan" and Lemon pepper salami bites from Andy Baraghini.

Still on snacks although somewhat more substantial than the above I have three things to offer - all of which you could vary endlessly I think. Potato, Parmesan and salami cakes with watercress from Rachel Roddy who was waxing lyrical about English watercress which is apparently hard to come by in Italy where she now lives. However, the watercress is really just an accompaniment in this recipe. Then there are Salami cheese bombs from Primo, one of Australia's major salami producers whom I should look into some time, and finally Spaghetti fritters with salami and zucchini from Warren Mendes, who was Valli Little's successor at delicious. A somewhat intriguing one this one. And of course, there are scones and muffins galore.

Then we come to Nigel Slater who loves salami and who has good advice:

"Cured meats of any kind give a depth of flavour to any slow-cooked casserole-type recipe ... And while winter is still upon us, I should remind you just how good a scrag end of a salami or Parma ham bone is in a pot of bean soup. Just drop it in as you bring the liquid up to the boil, then let it simmer until it has imparted its salty savour to your supper." Nigel Slater

All of which is very pertinent for his recipe for Sausages with salami and lentils which lots of people seem to have made, although mostly without photos. But then one of them said that such stews are not very photogenic, being rather brown and featureless, but nevertheless extremely tasty and very comforting. As well as much quicker to cook than slow cooked chunks of meat.

I must admit I don't use salami a lot in stews or soups, although, yes, I have added the odd dry end of a chorizo or something similar one. Chopped into chunks usually. Or a ham hock - but they are getting expensive for something that used to be hardly used at all.

One last oddment - Green beans with salumi vinaigrette which was featured in Bon Appétit but is from a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina called The Two Boroughs. I think you add finely chopped salami to a vinaigrette that includes paprika and ground coriander as well as lemon juice. And it looks like the beans have been grilled.

I guess you could also just grill any kind of vegetable and give it the same dressing, or simply scatter with crispy bits of salami.

There is also something that looks a tiny bit like a large English pork pie, but with an Italian name, although I suspect it's the invention of an Australian, because I can only find it on Taste - Salami and cheese torta. It consists of layers of salami, cheese, pesto, hard-boiled eggs, olives and eggplant encased in a cheesy pastry. You serve it with a tomato and onion cooked relish - well it could be chutney. Picnic food from the deli only all mixed together.

However, I shall finish almost where I began, with a Piedmontese dish and Jamie - a very thick and substantial kind of risotto which is made with borlotti beans, salami and red wine. It's cold up there in the mountains.

Before I come to Jamie and his recipe, let me refer you to an interesting article on the website Italian delights, which gives you the background on the kind of salami that you are supposed to use for this dish - salame d'la duja which is a softish, moist kind of salami.

The dish is called Panissa rice, and really there's not much more to say about it other than it looks just the thing for a cold winter's night.

So there you go - salami. I do usually have some in the fridge. Well you never know when unexpected visitors drop by for lunch and besides, as we have now demonstrated you can use it for that extra bit of oomph in all sorts of things. And of course, you could use any kind of bacon from the dead ordinary to pancetta, and/or ham as well.

Tonight, as I said, it will just be pasta - and I think I will use some of that cauliflower too. Now salami - of the crispy kind - is wonderful with cauliflower - perhaps mixed with some ham - and tomatoes.

Or you can just eat it - salami I mean. Perhaps I should say that salami is not good for you though. Never mind. All things in moderation. Aren't they beautiful?


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