We are still suffering from the heat wave but at least it is good for the figs that are ripening in our garden (on the picture, the boys have picked them up and arranged them nicely on the plate). We can’t complain because we have so many that we have had enough from them. But meanwhile I was cooking some fig jam on the other day I recalled a super good veal dish what I ate in Venice, in Italy. It was called Fegato alla Veneziana. Lots of people dislike liver but if you try this recipe you won’t understand them why.
Historically liver belongs to the Italian culinary tradition and is the most eaten of the offal. There are references to the use of liver as early as in the roman period, in Apicius’ work: De re Coquinaria. In his book the liver was called iecur and Apicius, in order to obtain a very fat liver, used to feed the animals (mainly cows and gooses) with figs (ficus in Latin): hence the name iecur ficatum (liver with figs), then abbreviated as ficatum and adapted as fegato (liver).
But why this dish is so popular?-we can ask. The answer is because the fegato alla veneziana recipe is based on only two ingredients. The strength of the dish is given by the perfect combination of two opposite ingredients: liver and onions. Traditionally it is made with pork liver, even if today the calf or steer livers are preferred for their more delicate flavour. Onions, on the contrary, are undisputed: when you talk about onions in Venice and in the Veneto region you are referring to the one and only white Chioggia onion. It is the ingredient that gives the dish that sweet hint that must be present when an onion which meets a strong flavour as liver’s. And finally there are the complementary ingredients: butter and a good extra-virgin olive oil used to sauté the onions, vinegar (optional) and parsley. Some may use white wine or lemon instead of vinegar: they are variations that may outrage purists, but they derive nonetheless from family traditions and are more than acceptable.
Add onions and cook over moderate heat, for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sage, cook 2-3 minutes longer, until the onions are limp and lightly colored. Set aside, off heat. Pat the liver strips dry with paper towels and season them with salt and a few grindings of pepper. In another large heavy skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until a light haze forms over it. Drop in the liver strips and sauté them, turning frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on all sides. Stir in the onions and cook with the liver for 1 or 2 minutes. Add figs and cook them for 2 minutes. Transfer the liver and onions to a heated platter. Immediately pour the white wine vinegar into the skillet and deglaze. Pour the sauce over the liver and onions and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately with the figs.