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.

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! 

Cocoa or vanilla daisy pastries?

daisy short pastry

Hello! We are enjoying warm Spring days, which are getting longer and longer. Sometimes, after dinner time, it might happen you want to enjoy a glass of fresh milk and perhaps a light dessert in front of a good reading. The following recipe of small daisy pastries is for those who, like me, love to bake simple genuine tastes at any time of the day. Of course children would love them too!

As for the short pastry:

  • 250 gr all purpose organic flour
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 1 pod of vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr butter
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • 2 or 3 spoons of cocoa powder
  • a sprinkle of cardamom
  • vanilla icing sugar

As for the filling:

use what you have in your pantry, or what you like best. I used some home made apricot jam for the cocoa daisy short pastries and “nutella” cream for the vanilla daisy short pastries.

First of all, make the short pastry by mixing well and very fast the ingredients all together. Only in the end, add the cocoa powder and a sprinkle of cardamom, right after you have split the mixture in two portions, in order to have two different tastes, that is vanilla and cocoa. Leave the short pastry to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Start with the vanilla short pastry. Help yourself with a rolling pin and greaseproof paper and get a thin (2-3mm) layer. Make small daisies with a mould and spread “nutella” cream on the surface of the daisy, then cover it with an other daisy. Do the same work with the cocoa version of daisies, spreading their surface with apricot jam. The daisies go in the 170°C oven for 10/12 minutes.

Out of the oven they will be deliciously fragrant with a warm melting filling inside. Serve them with vanilla icing sugar on top.

Now, can you tell which tastes you like best, vanilla or cocoa? Thank you and wishing everybody a good new week!

daisy short pastry

A warm jam apricot dessert

Hallo! It is the first Sunday of May and we want to prepare a delicious dessert for the afternoon.

Here we have some home made delicious apricot jam, a good burrata stuffed with cow milked ricotta cheese, cardamom, leaves of mint.

Heat the apricot jam in a bain marie for a couple of minutes, then spread it on a plate, add the small burrata, a sprinkle of cardamom, leaves of mint. Enjoy the dessert with a warm cup of coffee or tea.

Hallo! Es ist der erste Sonntag im Mai und wir möchten ein köstliches Dessert für den Nachmittag.

Hier haben wir hausgemachte leckere Aprikosenmarmelade, eine gute Burrata, die mit Kuhmilchen Molkenkäse gefüllt ist, Kardamom und Blätter von Minze.

Wärmen und verdünnen Sie die Aprikosenmarmelade in einem Bain marie für ein paar Minuten. Dann streichen Sie Aprikosenmarmelade auf den Teller, unter Zugabe von der kleinen Burrata, einer Prise Kardamom und Blättern von Minze. Genießen Sie das Gericht mit einem warmen Kaffee oder Tee.

The genuine habit of baking home made bread

There is a good fragrance of home made bread in the kitchen tonight. Actually, it is almost one year that this genuine habit of baking home made bread has taken place in my kitchen. More precisely, about once or twice a week, the kitchen looks like a small bakery, where I enjoy to make and bake different kinds of flavourful bread. Today, I baked some “panzerotti” or “calzoni”. It is leavened dough stuffed with fresh tomatoes sauce, a sprinkle of oregano, mozzarella and cow milk ricotta cheese. In my region, that is Apulia, in Southern Italy, you can bake this delicacy in the oven or fry it. It is an excellent snack, which both children and older children would love to bring with in a basket as an excellent snack for a picnic or for a party in the garden. I hope you will enjoy to try. Thank you!

Almond bread: an old family recipe on Easter Monday

It was a very special Easter Day, which was spent, most of it, between writing and talking to members of the family and friends. Besides, according to the culinary traditions of my family at Easter time, last night I enjoyed baking a fragrant almond bread ideal to be served at any coffee pause throughout the day or to bring with as a dessert for a picnic now that Spring has come.

The ingredients of the recipe to make the almond bread are:

  • 170 gr cake and pastry flour
  • 100 gr sugar
  • 75 gr butter
  • 3 eggs + a yolk to paint on the surface of the bread
  • 250 ml of white wine
  • a coffee cup of Alchermes liqueur
  • 100 gr peeled almonds
  • 50 gr hazelnuts
  • the peel of a lemon
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 gr baking powder
  1. Start with beating one egg and an albumen with 25 gr sugar and the Alchermes. Then, add 50 gr minced almonds and the hazelnuts, a couple of cloves and work all together until you will have a fluid creamy mixture.
  2. Prepare a second mixture made of flour, one egg and a yolk, a sprinkle of salt, the butter (at this proper, my aunt, who used to enjoy baking this bread and to deliver it to neighbours and members of the family, would have add lard instead of butter), the rest of minced almonds mixed with sugar, the peel of a lemon and the wine. Add the baking powder and work the mixture just a couple of minutes in order to have all ingredients well combined.
  3. Divide the mixture in two parts (help yourself with a rolling pin and little flour) and make two layers for your greased, floured baking tray.
  4. Place the first layer in the baking tray. Please, do not forget to make 1 cm border with the first layer all around the baking tray.
  5. Pour the cream made with the first mixture and then add the second layer on. Seal hermetically, paint some yolk on the surface of the bread, make some decors with a knife.
  6. Place the almond bread in the oven and bake it slowly and gently for about 50 minutes (160°C).
  7. Decor your almond bread for the right occasion, serve it with a couple of spoons of vanilla cream or some ice cream or enjoy it with your preferred drink.

A good Easter Monday and safe new week to everybody! Thank you 🙏💖