Traverso's Market is no more.|

Traverso's Market is no more. Leafing through the books I have written and browsing my pantry -- it fills several cupboards and takes up an entire hallway in my home -- I find Traverso's fingerprints everywhere. It is impossible not to think of the store and how it has shaped my cooking. In my early years as both a chef and a young writer, I turned to Traverso's for ingredients impossible to find anywhere else. I found everything from golden caviar, creme fraiche and angel-hair pasta -- all, not that long ago, were very hard to find -- to strozzapreti, cotechino, the right anchovies and the best baccala, or salt cod, at the market. Traverso's had pomegranate molasses, sun-dried tomatoes, harissa and saffron when no one else did and it was pretty much impossible to find polenta, prosciutto or pancetta anywhere else. Over the years, most of these ingredients have become increasingly available and I doubt I will have too hard a time finding most of what I need to continue cooking as I do. Those things that Traverso's had that you can't buy -- warmth, graciousness, history -- well, that's another story, a tale of irreplaceable treasures.

For now, it is time to look back to a few favorite recipes shaped by my years of shopping at Traverso's.

The best canned chickpeas I've ever had, by far, are from Strianese, an Italian brand I've always purchased at Traverso's. They are great to have on hand when you don't have time to cook dried chickpeas but want to enjoy them anyway. I've not seen this brand anywhere else; if you have, I'd be thrilled if you'd email me with the source.

Italian Chickpea

and Tuna Salad

Makes 2 to 4 servings

1 14-ounce can chickpeas, preferably Strianese brand, drained

1 5-ounce can tuna, preferably Italian, in olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 lemon

-- Extra virgin olive oil

-- Kosher salt

-- Black pepper in a mill

2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

-- Salad mix, butter lettuce or Romaine

Put the chickpeas into a mixing bowl, add the tuna and minced shallot and toss lightly with a fork. Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss again, taste and correct for acid balance and for salt and pepper. Add the parsley, toss again and set aside briefly.

Put the greens into a bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt and squeeze in a little lemon juice. Toss, drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper. Taste and correct for acid.

Divide the greens among individual plates and top with some of the salad. Serve immediately.


* Add 1 tablespoon of brined green peppercorns, rinsed, with the tuna and shallot.

* Cook 4 ounces of tubetti pasta or some other salad-sized pasta and toss with the chickpeas.

* Crumble 3 ounces of feta cheese and add to the chickpeas with the parsley. * Cut 2 stalks of celery in half lengthwise, cut in thin diagonal slices and add to the chickpeas with the tuna and shallot.

* Combine all of these ingredients -- green peppercorns, pasta, feta and celery -- with the chickpeas and tuna and be sure to taste carefully for acid balance and salt. This version will serve 4 to 6.

Whenever I've made brandada -- brandade in French -- I've gotten my salt cod from Traverso's and I'm now looking for another good source.

You can, if you prefer, combine the cod, potatoes, garlic and olive oil in a food processor, though you must transfer it to a bowl before adding the creme fraiche. I did it this way for years but I've come to prefer the texture of this version, which is just as easy to make. Be sure to taste and correct for salt.Brandada de Bacalla (Salt Cod and Potato Puree)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 pound boneless salt cod, soaked for at least 24 hours (see Note below)

1 pound russet potatoes, boiled or baked and put through a ricer

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup creme fraiche, preferably Bellwether Farms, scalded

-- Black pepper in a mill

-- Kosher salt, as needed

1/2 Sourdough baguette, sliced and toasted

Drain the salt cod, put it in a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water. Set over a medium flame and slowly bring to a boil. When the water boils, cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let the cod sit until it flakes easily, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on its thickness. Drain thoroughly and let cool slightly.

Remove the skin and any bones from the cod (even boneless cod may have a few stragglers). Crumble into very small pieces.

Put the riced potatoes into a large bowl, add the cod and the garlic, and mix vigorously.

Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, mixing all the while. When it is fully incorporated, fold in the hot creme fraiche. Taste, season with black pepper and correct for salt.

Preheat an oven broiler.

Put the brandada into an ovenproof casserole. Set under the broiler briefly, until the top just begins to color.

Serve immediately with toasted baguette slices.

Note: Put the salt cod in a large container, cover with water and soak, changing the water several times, for at least 24 hours; 48 hours is better. If you have a cool pantry, you do not need to refrigerate the soaking cod; if not, put it in the refrigerator.

The first time I purchased polenta, sometime in the late 70s, I overheard Louis Traverso describe this method to another customer standing nearby. I went home and gave it a try. It is as easy as anything can be and always turns out perfectly. This polenta is excellent alongside roasted chicken and perfect with braised sausages.

Oven Polenta

Makes 4 servings

1 cup coarse-ground polenta

-- Kosher salt

-- Black pepper in a mill

2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

2 ounces grated cheese of choice, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the polenta into a 1 1/2 to 2-quart baking dish and stir in 4 cups of water. Season generously with salt and several turns of black pepper. Add the butter, distributing it evenly.

Set the dish, uncovered, in the center of the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Open the oven, pull out the rack and stir the polenta, adding the cheese, if using. Close the oven and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove the polenta from the oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

This Sicilian recipe is a long-time favorite; I find it addictive, or nearly so. It makes the most sense as an appetizer but if you're feeling indulgent, you can enjoy it with a big salad alongside and call it dinner.

Formaggio All'Argentiera

Silversmith's Cheese

Makes 6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 pounds smoked Caciocavallo cheese (see Note below), cut into 1/2 -inch thick rounds

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 loaf of rustic hearth bread or 1 baguette, hot

Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan -- cast iron or heavy non-stick is ideal -- over medium low heat, add the garlic and saute 30 seconds. Use tongs to remove the garlic, set the cheese in the pan in a single layer and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a metal spatula to quickly turn the cheese over and cook until it is on the verge of melting completely, about 2 minutes. Working quickly, sprinkle the oregano, the vinegar and sugar over the cheese, cook 1 minute more and then transfer the cheese in the pan to the table, setting it on a trivet or a thick potholder. Serve immediately, with the hot bread alongside. Note: Caciocavallo, both smoked and unsmoked, is increasingly available in the United States, in cheese shops, Italian markets and online. Other cheeses can be prepared using this technique -- Provolone is a typical substitute -- but the dish is most authentic and delicious with Caciocavallo.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.