Photo by Emiko Davies
It is difficult to feel indifferent about tripe: either you love it or you hate it. Consider, after all, that tripe is not one of the prettiest or appetising things you might choose to eat. Trippa usually comes from one of the first three stomachs of a cow, the rumen, or first stomach, the honeycomb-like reticolo or reticulum and the poetically named bible or leaf tripe, in Italian known as centopelli. The fourth stomach is lampredotto, that fabulously Florentine thing that, curiously, is rarely used in other cuisines.
lthough it has seemingly humble origins, offal has been a centuries-long favourite of not only Florentine peasants but also nobility. It is well known that Catherine de' Medici was a fan of cibreo, a Florentine dish made with chicken crests and offal. Tripe itself continues to be one of the ingredients that defines Florentine cuisine.
Offal is not only tasty but highly nutritious and low in fat. With offal, you also know exactly what it is you are getting-unlike processed ham and other industrially made meat products that many people seem to eat without batting an eyelid. So, if you have never tried tripe before, do not be discouraged by what your brain tells you-let your tastebuds do the judging. Besides, the Florentines do tripe very well.
Tripe has quite a delicate taste, with a soft but resistant bite, reminiscent of squid or calamari. It is first boiled for some time until it softens, often with a trusty carrot, celery or onion. Because of tripe's delicate flavour, thrifty hands can easily transform it into all sorts of dishes: meat sauce, meatballs, stewed in tomato sauce or thrown onto a bun, sloppy joe style.
In the summer, there's no better way to serve tripe than cold, in a salad: insalata di trippa (see recipe). As a plus, if you buy your tripe straight from a trippaio (a tripe and lampredotto seller usually serving from unmistakeable food vans), you won't even have to turn your stove on. My local trippaio sells tripe boiled to perfection and ready for preparing in favourite dishes for about 9 euro a kilo, a little more than double the cost if you buy it raw in the supermarket to boil yourself at home. He also happens to prepare his ready made insalata di trippa with some additions: tomatoes and capers.
Insalata di trippa serves 4
400 grams tripe (the rumen/rumine part), cooked or uncooked
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
½ celery stalk, thinly sliced
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 small chilli, finely chopped
A handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
(If you have bought your tripe uncooked, place it in a pot of water with a white onion and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 hour or until soft. You may need to add more water to keep the tripe sufficiently covered. Remove the tripe from the water, rinse it gently and allow to cool.)
Cut the cooked tripe into thin strips, like fettucine. Place in a bowl and add the thinly sliced red onion, carrot and celery, all as fresh and crunchy as you can possibly find them (straight from the refrigerator helps).
Dress with either lemon juice or red wine vinegar (both are great, this is a taste preference), olive oil, chilli, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Some like to add finely chopped garlic to this dressing, or even drizzle with salsa verde, a traditional parsley-based sauce (see TF 22 for a recipe). As it is a salad, feel free to put your favourite items in it, but here is the thing: keep it simple.
Divide between plates and enjoy with a glass of young Sangiovese. This could also be made into smaller portions to serve as part of an antipasto.
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