From a crisp rosemary schiacciata to a millefoglie made of green

After a long very hot Summer, which made us long for appetizing fresh salads, thirst-quenching drinks and creamy fruit ice creams, now it is time again for delicious dishes that make us feel the warm, cosy welcome of the Autumn season.

For those, who love the good fragrance of a just home-baked potato focaccia or “schiacciata” (a kind of flat bread), here it follows the list of ingredients, quantities and description to make it: 175 gr all purpose flour, 100 ml water, 50 gr potatoes, 6,25 gr yeast, 2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil, a coffee spoon sugar, rosemary, sea salt.

First of all, boil the potatoes and then let them get cool. Peel and mash them.

Secondly, melt the yeast in warm water, add extra virgin olive oil, sugar and then pour and mix alltogether with the flour on the table. Add a sprinkle of salt and work on the dough.

Thirdly, add the mashed potatoes and work the dough with the tips of your fingers. Then cover the dough with a napkin made of cotton and leave it to rest for the whole morning (five or six hours) in a fresh and dry place.

Fourthly, work the dough again and, by helping yourself with a rolling pin, place the schiacciata dough on a oiled baking tray. Make the schiacciata dough thick if you like it softer or make it thinner if you prefer a crisp schiacciata. Give small pinches to the surface of the dough, paint it with some extra virgin olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt flakes and leaves of rosemary on it. Leave the schiacciata dough to rest for one more hour in a warm place.

Fiftly, bake the schiacciata for a about 20/30 minutes in the oven at 200°C and then serve it fragrant and very warm.

How do you like your schiacciata bread, crisp or softer? How would you like to serve it?

Now, for enjoying a cosy Autumn dinner, let’s prepare few simple ingredients for a “millefoglie” made of green. For this dish, we need some potatoes, zucchini, carrots, salt and pepper, some butter, brie cheese, leaves of basil, pine kernels, extra virgin olive oil.

As first step, it is necessary to peel both potatoes and carrots and then to make thin slices of them and of zucchini. Place accurately the vegetables in a steam basket, add a sprinkle of salt and steam them for few minutes to soft. Then, let them to get a little cooler.

As second step, wash and dry the leaves of basil (about 20 leaves), work them a little in a mortar with pine kernels and extra virgin olive oil.

The third step is to butter a roasting pan, make layers, alternating potatoes to carrots and zucchini. Add some brie cheese and few drops of extra virgin olive oil between one layer and an other. Some more little pieces of butter and a sprinkle of black pepper on top.

As fourth step, the roasting pan goes in the oven for about 15 minutes at 220°C or until the “millefoglie” gets a golden surface, but it is still soft inside and the brie cheese melts.

In the end, add a delicate taste to your millefoglie, serving the dish with some basil cream on top.

Thank you, enjoy a beautiful evening and good week to everybody!

A new page: In the garden – flowers, vegetables and quotes

Good morning!

At Nordic Lights & Mediterranean Landscapes we just opened a new page dedicated to our works in progress in the garden.

We love spending our spare time being in contact with nature, wondering at its beauty and magnificence as seasons change throughout the year.

While gardening, we will take pictures of the progress in the garden, by choosing and adding quotes from time to time, which will seem to be more suitable to the season or the circumstances.

Would you like to join us?
Welcome and enjoy the trip!

Work in progress in the kitchen garden, puntarelle chicory and grilled tomatoes.

It was a very long, hot week. In Italy, people just celebrated “Ferragosto” and are still enjoying their holidays. In the meanwhile, the kitchen garden calls for some work in progress.

Last Spring, an area for dining was created in the open air under a big bright umbrella, and, during this last week, in the very early mornings, I took the chance to work on a footpath made of old typical local large tiles that are commonly used in Apulia, up on the terraces, for covering the roofs. Years ago, those wide tiles were put away after some works and then well kept. Now, I found it was a good idea to use them again, so they have been accurately set and levelled among the small crushed stones, in order to have a safer path to go across the area.

Besides, it was time also for recycling an old large washtub. At Summertime, when I was a child, my aunt used to place that washtub under a big magnolia tree, and, after filling it with fresh water, around midday, she let me have the best of fun by taking a bath in it like a small duck. Back to our days, that large washtub has been filled with 70 L of good soil and sowed with puntarelle chicory.

Time is flying for the tomatoes plants, which are daily receiving generous rations of water and are keeping on growing and producing excellent small, sweet, heart-shaped tomatoes. This particular variety of tomatoes, called ‘principe borghese’, is pretty vigorous and versatile to be grilled and dried. Indeed, here I grilled some of them in the oven twice (first time 180° C, second time 160° C), after flavouring them with an idea of garlic and fresh herbs like chopped bay, chive, lemon thymus. In the end, I served the grilled tomatoes on slices of home made bread with fresh soft cheese, rucola and drops of extra virgin olive oil. A real delicacy I recommend to try!

Thank you and wishing a beautiful Summer weekend to everybody!

A bouquet of Zinnia flowers in bloom for our fresh Summer tastes

It keeps on being so hot in these Summer days and, in the garden, now it is the turn for a bouquet of beautiful zinnias to bloom one after an other. When, in the early morning, zinnias showed their spectacular palette of colors up to the sky, to take pictures of their smooth, shining beauty was full delight. It reminded me of a few, well known William Blakes lines:

“To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.”

Leaves and petals of Zinnia flowers in their moist, bright light was the mesmerizing frame for a fresh, delicate dish prepared with figs from the kitchen garden, sweet Parma ham, leaves of mint, cantaloupe melon, chive. The main ingredient for this dish is a rhytmical dialogue determined by salt, sweet, spicy, fresh tastes according to ones own preferences.

First of all, make small cubes of the cataloupe melon. Use a blender to centrifuge them with little cold water and leaves of mint. Then, peel the figs, make thin slices and put them in the center of a plate. Add some sweet Parma ham, a spoon or two of the fresh melon purée you made, decor with more leaves of mint and chive. Add few drops of glaze made with grapes must if you like it.

Enjoy a good weekend, everybody!

Summer, the kitchen garden, home produces and small fresh delicacies

Hello, welcome in August! Despite the very high temperatures, I keep on taking care of my kitchen garden early in the morning.

At this proper, it is about the same place where I used to play as a little child. At that time, the garden seemed so big to me, it was characterized by green frames of tall cypresses, bushes of roses, several cycas and a small citrus orchard. Later on in the years and more recently, I looked at the garden with new eyes and inspiration for a new natural dress. Indeed, because of the instability of temperatures and the rapid change of seasons nowadays, the garden called for a new organization of spaces and the creative planning with new thriving fruit trees, essence bushes, flowers and even vegetables. So, it started again with new life.

Last Monday, I finally had the pleasure to pick the first basket for this season of excellent green figs up from the tree, served some of them for breakfast and, what is more, I prepared some appetizers made of figs, bresaola and fresh creamy cheese for lunch time.

This dish didn’t take too long to prepare. For the green three figs in the picture above, since they were pretty big, I used about 60 gr fresh creamy cheese, a couple of table spoons of crème fraîche, a thin petal of bresaola for each fruit, parsley, a sprinkle of salt.

In a bowl, mix and whip gently the fresh cheese and the crème fraîche, add very little sea salt in it. Wash and dry accurately the green figs and make four slices of each of them as if you are creating flowers. Roll the petal of bresaola up and make a cup to fix around the center of the fig. Fill it with some creamy cheese (help yourself to decor with a poche à douille) and, in the end, add some parsley on top.

Dedicate a toast with a glass of your preferred wine to your family, friends and keep on enjoying Summertime!

A soft fragrant cake as Summer dessert!

Hello! We are in the heart of Summer and at this time of the year, by visiting our food stores and markets, it is possible to find gorgeous fragrant Williams pears there. This ancient variety is widely known to be excellent for canned or processed uses. So, let’s bake a cake, which has the fresh taste of Summer and the soft intense spiced fragrance of cocoa and cardamom.

The ingredients we need are: 250 gr ricotta cow milk cheese, 2 eggs, 50 gr organic whole wheat flour, 125 gr sugar, 1 Williams pear, 2 tablespoons of dark (no sugar) cocoa powder, 4 gr baking powder, icing sugar.

Whisk yolks and sugar as first step, then add the ricotta cheese and keep on working the mixture. Secondly, add the flour and the baking powder. Thirdly, peel the pear, make small pieces of it and add them to the smooth mixture. As fourth step, beat the egg whites in an other bowl and then add them to the mixture. Your wrist has to make a flexible rotating movement by going from the bottom up in order to have an airy bubbly mixture.

Pour half of the mixture in an other bowl, then add the cocoa powder and a sprinkle of cardamom in it and whisk.

Finally, grease a baking tin with butter, pour the white mixture first and then the dark chocolate mixture on top of it, in the center. Bake the cake in the oven for about 45/50 minutes 180°C. Leave it to get cool slowly and then serve it to your guests as excellent dessert, perhaps with a glass of fresh home made limoncello.

Enjoy a beautiful weekend everybody and please, keep on staying safe!

What’s in the picnic basket for your Summer hiking?

Hello! It is getting really hot in these days and finally, after a long period of “staying at home”, there is a plenty of opportunities to catch and go hiking. Of course we have to choose also among nice cozy places in the middle of nature, where to sit and enjoy our “déjeuner sur l’herbe”.

At this proper, we have to think about the food to take there. For the occasion, I thought about a variety of green tastes to choose and made up my mind for a many-layers-sandwich with fresh steamed vegetables, like broccoli, yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, little shrimps and some turkey. All of them taste so good with some delicate mayonnaise and creamy stracchino cheese.

Enjoy the picnic and all the best to everybody for the Midsummer celebration.

Spaghetti dish, the European football championship and Summer season

Hello! Summer season is at the door, we enjoy the European football championship and we love pasta.

These are the three main ingredients for our special dish made with spaghetti and a convivial “al fresco”dining.

Let’s start with frying some fresh bacon or speck in a pan without using oil. Leave the fat to heat and melt in the pan until the bacon or the speck will have a crisp surface. Then, remove it from the cooker.

Grate some “pecorino” sheep milk cheese. I have tried a different taste by using smoked caciocavallo cheese from Calabria.

Peel some fresh fava beans.

Boil some salt water, then add spaghetti and cook them.

In the meanwhile, pour some boiling water from spaghetti cooking in a sauce pan, add some grated cheese in it and work to melt it. Help yourself with a fork or a whisk in order to have a light creamy cheese sauce.

Drain the spaghetti a couple of minutes before they are done, saving some water, which you will pour in a pan with some hot extra virgin olive oil. Add a pinch of black pepper powder and keep on cooking spaghetti in the pan.

Add the light cream made with cheese and “manteca”, that is, whisk all well.

Serve spaghetti warm with some fresh faba beans and crisp pancetta or speck, a pich of black pepper and a sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Wishing everybody “buon appetito”, bon appétit and enjoy a fantastic “al fresco” dining with the European football championship!

Shall we make a zucchini tart?

Hello! On this second week of June we are going to bake a tasteful zucchini tart, which perhaps would turn to be a delightful appetizer for our Summer “al fresco” dinners in the verandah with family and friends or a fantastic snack for the children. Let’s do it!

As for the ingredients to make the tart, we need: 250 gr all purpose flour, 100 gr hot water, 100 gr extra virgin olive oil, a coffee spoon of sea salt, a coffee spoon of baking powder.

Let’s mix and work the ingredients all together, until we have a homogeneous mixture, which we leave to rest just for the time we will slice and steam (for about 10 minutes, or less) a couple of fresh zucchini.

Once zucchini are lightly soften but still “al dente”, let’s season them in a dish with an emulsion based on extra virgin olive oil, few drops of apple cider vinegar, hints of garlic, black pepper powder, citrus thyme and mentha leaves.

Back to the tart mixture. Make a disk of it. Help yourself with greaseproof paper and a rolling pin. Place the disk in a baking tray and make a layer with zucchini.

Add sweet rings of red onion (I used Tropea onion) and bake the tart for 45 minutes in the oven (200°C).

About 10 minutes before the tart is done, let’s add some cheese. I had some smoked caciocavallo cheese on top, which tastes very good with the sweetness of the onion and the zucchini.

Serve the crisp tart warm or cold. Any way it is a delightful dish for the Summer season.

A variation for the filling of the tart might be this gorgeous velouté sauce prepared with 200 gr robiola cheese, 100 gr spinach leaves, 4 small zucchini, a scallion, 800 ml broth, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

Chop scallion and stew it in extra virgin olive oil. Add chopped zucchini, spinach, broth. Cook zucchini until they will be soft. Work all ingredients and the robiola cheese in a food mixer and make a velvet cream. Use the cream as the filling of the tart and .. bon appétit! 

Crisp single crust polenta pie topped with broccoli, sausage and sweet Tropea onion. It tastes so good!

Hello, it’s a new week and it is time for a new recipe! Cooking polenta does not belong to the culinary tradition of Apulia, in Southern Italy, the region where I live. However, this ingredient, which is very much used in the North of Italy, pairs very well with home fresh produces and products from my area and with those that I chose yesterday at the food market. So, let’s try it!

In the kitchen, last night, I enjoyed cooking a delicious meal, which is pretty simple to prepare, even though it takes between 90 and 120 minutes of your time to be ready and to serve to your guests.

Starting with a good frying pan, where to pour some extra virgin olive oil to heat, then add sweet rings of onion (on the occasion, I chose gorgeous red onions of Tropea), small cherry tomatoes, pieces of a good local sausage made of minced pork and veal.

As soon as the oil starts hissing in the pan, add a hint of garlic and a pinch of oregano. By the flavoury taste of each ingredient present in the pan, your mouth will start watering.

Then, it is the turn for steamed broccoli.

You can watch the video I made to see how gently they cook with the other ingredients. All of them must have a very short cooking time in order to save their “crispness” for the palate. Once the ingredients that go on top are done, let’s work on with polenta, which will be the crisp base for the single crust pie.

Boil some salted water and, out of the cooker, pour gently the necessary polenta flour for making a smooth, soft, creamy mixture.

Help yourself with a whisk to crush every crumble of polenta and make it like velvet.

Pour the polenta in the frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil (not too much!) and, with a wooden spatule, prepare the base for the pie.

While the polenta base cooks, its surface will start coming solid.

After 30 minutes, turn the polenta base upside down, in order to fry also the other side and have it homogeneously golden and crisp.

Almost in the end, add all ingredients on the polenta pie crust and some grated smoked caciocavallo cheese on top. Cover the pie with a lid for few minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve the polenta pie warm.

Enjoy the dish with a glass of your preferred wine and “bon appétit”.

Thank you and until next recipe!

🌱🌼🌱🌼🌱