14 March 2013

AUNTIE PASTA: Q.B. How Much is Enough?

CHIAVARI, Italy – When I was in Genova on Saturday, one of my first stops was the COIN department store on the Via XX Settembre. It’s a nice store with a pretty good house wares department, and I still have quite a few things that I bought there the last time I lived in Liguria almost 15 years ago.
 Coin Department Store, Via XX Settembre, Genova, Italy
When Eatatly was launched in Torino and became an almost instant gastronomic success, a small version of the food emporium opened in the lower level of the COIN store in Milan, in Piazza 5 Giornate.  And even with all the bars and restaurants in the area, the small restaurant in COIN’s Eataly did a brisk business during the day, especially at lunch.

So when I went to the COIN store in Genova, one of the things I was looking for was another small version of Eataly, which big or small, is like culinary heaven for any foodie. What I found was not Eataly, but Q.B., a fairly good size self-service restaurant with an interesting selection of local products to sell. In other words, an Eataly knockoff.  Sort of.

 Q.B. Food Bar
Most large department stores have restaurants where foot sore shoppers can relax and have something to eat, but the difference between Eataly and Q.B. is that the products they sell come from either local producers, which is the case with Q.B., and/or from small producers not found in the distribution chain of the major grocery stores, which is the case with Eataly.   

In looking over Q.B.’s selection of products, It brought back that feeling of amazement of how much I still don’t know about Italian food –  or even ever heard of, like fave pesto. A pesto of fave or broad beans,  it turns out,  is a very old Ligurian recipe with humble beginnings. It dates back to the days when peasant families prepared ‘pestun de beans’ also known as ‘maro’ to add flavor to their meal of dry bread.

Fave Pesto at Q.B.
The ingredients are as simple as the recipe, fresh fave beans, pecorino cheese, salt, a clove of garlic, a few mint leaves and Ligurian olive oil, and it is prepared just like basil pesto. This fresh and delicate spring dish is also good on pasta. Maybe even on the straccetti or mandilli, two pasta shapes I had never heard of before either.

Lotsa Pasta
Another surprise were the packages of roasted figs. I’ve seen a lot of fig recipes in my day, but never roasted figs. Turns out it’s as easy as can be to make. The easiest of the easy recipes calls for cutting ripe figs in half, arranging them on a baking sheet lined with cooking paper and roasting them in a low oven of 60-70 degrees C (140-160 degrees F) for two hours.

 Roasted Figs at Q.B.
Then turn the oven off and leave the figs in the oven overnight. The next day they will be dry, sticky and sweet. Serve with a good, sharp cheese, like pecorino, and a wonderful desert wine and it has to be lip smacking good, don’t you think?

 Bianca, Blonde and Ambra Beer by Maltus Faber, Genova
Then, just as I had photographed two other interesting items, a selection of beer brewed by Maltus Farbur, a local Genovese brewery and the elegantly packaged Cellini Coffee, I was stopped by a very large store  security guard, who evidently had been called by the guys working behind the counter. Now why they called security is still a mystery to me as I had already spoken to them earlier when I ordered a coffee and a croissant so they could tell from my accent that I wasn’t a local.

And obviously I was not on some nefarious mission; I wasn’t skulking around trying to take photos without being seen. Every photo I took was out in the open for everyone to see, and if there were gastronomic secrets hidden behind the roasted figs, or anywhere else, that were in danger of being exposed, I didn’t see them. 

 What's He Looking At? He Should be Checked Out
So the photo expedition at Q.B. ended there – tossed out like yesterday’s newspaper, and I’m sorry for that. There were other very interesting food items that I would have liked to photograph, but I guess now that there’s a ‘Be On the Lookout For” notice out on me at COIN, that will never happen.   

Oh, and one more thing, Q.B. stands for Quanto Basta, which in Italian recipes means ‘to taste’ – as in put in as much as you think is needed or you like. In this case, I think one trip to Q.B. is all that is needed.

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