Vegetarians and vegans, avert your eyes: this month’s Feast ingredient is definitely not for you.
A little peek inside the inner workings of this column: I have zero idea what I’m doing. It’s one of precious few areas in my life where I fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t pick these ingredients based on some vast, specialized knowledge of food, no no: I pick them because they look or sound interesting, or totally strange, and I want to know more about them.
We’ve all seen ingredients we’re curious about at the store, or seen them on the internet perhaps, and only gotten that far. Me too! We’re all the same there. I feel like there’s some purity in that I’m starting at the same point as most of you would be starting at – were you to pick up one of these ingredients – because then the recipes which come out of it come from the same place: curiosity. Wonder. Fascination with trying new things. A willingness to dive right in and try something you don’t know anything about.
And then I dive right into something like ‘nduja, and I know that this serves me well; sometimes better than imagined. I knew the general idea: it was some sort of spicy, spreadable salami, but that’s about it. Packed with red peppers, it was. An intriguing addition to charcuterie, or snuggled up alongside a cheese platter; fabulous. So I tasted it, it was interesting and I liked it, and I researched it so I could create a recipe and write an article about it.
Then I learned what it was. Like what it specifically was, inside that small little sausage-shaped package holding it all together. In fact, I saw a fellow blogger refer to ‘nduja as a “spicy proccuito spread” the other day and I LAUGHED AND LAUGHED, because here’s what: this is offal, people. If you don’t know what “offal” is, look it up and enjoy. Hint: this is the thing that old-school Italian pig farmers make when pig harvest is finished and they’re trying to make the most of what’s left, just saying. Now, I would have normally been scared of this, or at the very least, hesitant to try it. But truly, it’s pretty amazing, and it’s maybe scooted my line a little bit further forward. You know the line: that clear-cut place where you go from being adventurous o being like “Nope! Noooo thank you” with new foods. I still have a line, don’t worry: A line which appeared when I perused the fresh meat section the other day at the international market. I won’t go into the (somewhat gory) details, but rest assured: my line remains intact, and it is clearly marked.
If you want to toe the line with your line, then I suggest trying ‘nduja. Not nearly as scary as it should be, and it’s surprisingly flexible: do the things I suggested above, or add it to things like pizza, or make it into a vinaigrette. Or make my potato salad: it’s a warm one, and it was delicious: a nice, safe way to try out the very unique flavor of this spicy weirdo salami. And I mean “weirdo” in a good way. If you want to know more about it, read my little article here, or pick up a copy of the February 2015 edition of Feast Magazine (which I do not have yet because I can’t find one where is my Feast?) To be fair, it’s got a big fat swipe of melted chocolate on the front so it may have flown off the shelves. I’m going to check out the digital copy and get back to you on my favorite things inside in this month, which will be plentiful; of this I am certain.
As you were.