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04 October 2012

Prunes and Walnuts Wrapped with Lardo di Colonnata


I found this appetizer a bit strange when I first encountered it at a trattoria during a friend's birthday. There was an array of appetizers that could have already been a full dinner. I was enjoying every single antipasto. They were all the usual appetizers presented in more innovative ways until this tray was passed to me.  I had to take a good look at it and tried to imagine the taste of lardo, walnut & prune together.  It was coying to tickle my taste buds.

As soon as I popped it in my mouth, the saltiness of the lardo was prominent. Then as I bit into the prune, it became more interesting. Salty, slightly sweet, slightly sour and finally, the walnut flattened everything out to a nutty taste.  It was good.  I had a few and finally pushed away the tray in front of me, scared that I would finish the whole thing. My husband gave me a knowing look.  It won't be long until I make my own version at home.  


For the lardo, I used Lardo di Colonnata, from the small town of Colonnata in the Apuan Alps, above the town of Carrara, notable for the white marble quarries which have been first opened in the 1st century B.C. I have been there some years ago and I wish I can share with you some pictures of the surprisingly small town. With a cold, rainy day in winter and a baby to shelter from these elements, you can imagine that I came out empty-handed with the photo side of visiting the place.  

What's more valuable than any picture is the memory of meeting one of the people who make the lardo for a living. There are not so many residents in that town and the lardo producers are not so many.  The producer we spoke with was a mother of two grown children. She inherited the knowledge from the generations before her but her children were not showing any signs of interest in continuing the tradition. They were leaving the town to follow other career paths.  We were affected by her worries too. With just a small number of the producers left and the town population not growing, what will happen to its future? 


The blocks of fat, covered with salt and different kinds of spices, are placed in marble tubs or basins.  They are left inside to cure for about 6 months.  This process has been used for ages.

Lardo di Colonnata is best enjoyed when eaten on a slightly warm slice of bread.  This appetizer though, gives it interesting flavors to blend with.

Have a good week!
 


Prunes and Walnuts Wrapped with Lardo di Colonnata


Ingredients:
  • seedless dried prunes
  • whole walnuts
  • thin slices of Lardo di Colonnata (Closest English translation I can find is fatback.)  If you cannot find lardo di Colonnata, you can substitute it with thin slices of pancetta.
 Directions:

  1. Push a whole walnut (or half if one whole doesn't fit) inside the prune.
  2. Wrap with one thin slice of lardo di colonnata.
  3. The quantity you make depends on how many people are eating and how much one person can eat. 
  4. Bake for about 5 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 140°C.  Just enough to warm them up.  If you are using pancetta, put up the temperature to 200°C and bake for about 8 minutes.
  5. Serve warm, not hot.