The right time for the Piennolo tomato harvesting

Good news from the kitchen garden! Finally the time for harvesting the cherry “ciliegino” and the small heart-shaped “piennolo” tomatoes arrived. To have 826 gr tomatoes all together in a boat plate in the same morning was like a welcome gift.

Both of the two varieties have a sweet taste and they offer a number of possibilities to use in the cookery. What is more, thinking about the new tomatoes season, I already dried their seeds to collect and keep for next year. Besides, since in the winter season a good supply of tomatoes is also required for our kitchen, it will be necessary to wash and dry accurately and put them in few small bags to store in the freezer.

At this proper, in detail, the excellent “pomodorino del piennolo” variety, which has a time-honoured tradition in the history of gastronomy and in the South of Italy in particular way, is very small, its weight is around 20-25 gr and has a tough skin. So, with respect of old customs, it is common to see this kind of tomato in small bunches typically hanging from the ceiling or on the walls of old rural rooms, where they can stand up to six months and ready to use.

Now, can you tell all the good dishes can be prepared with tomatoes as ingredient throughout the year because of the several varieties and versatility?

Wishing a good new week and be safe everybody!

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! 

Spring in the kitchen

A dish has to talk to you. Indeed, all senses have to be activated to feel its vibrations. Even though you are not a chef, but, of course, you love cooking, it is a full experience around the dish, first of all as executor of the dish, by choosing ingredients properly at the food market and in the elaboration of the recipe, secondly as gourmet, by tasting the dish. What is more, small variations in the way you cook a dish, make you feel like an artist painting a canvas each time in a different way, in order to express creativity and going little further with culinary experiences.

For the Sunday lunch, I chose to cook big sized, bronze drawn “paccheri” pasta prepared with two different sauces and the following ingredients:

sweet cherry tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, leeck, onion, crème fraîche, minced pork and veal, nutmeg and black peppar, local baked black olives, basil.

  • As for the execution of the recipe, first of all, let rings of leeck hiss in extra virgin olive oil, then add the minced pork and veal in the pan. Pour the crème fraîche after a couple of minutes and keep on cooking until it boils and the sauce becomes thicker. A sprinkle of salt and nutmeg at the end.
  • Then, it is the turn of a light tomato sauce prepared with fresh tomatoes. At the food market, I chose cherry tomatoes because of their sweetness, which is a good pairing with the white sauce just described above. Help yourself with a needle and pierce every tomato you are going to put in the pan. Once they will start to fry lightly in some extra virgin olive oil and chopped onion, they will cook gently for few minutes in their own juice. Add a sprinkle of sea salt in the end.
  • Cook paccheri pasta into boiling water for 14/15 minutes or at least for the time suggested on the package and, please, do not forget to add a sprinkle of sea salt.
  • Before serving the dish, add some baked black olives, few leaves of basil, cherry tomatoes and black peppar powder on top.

The dish will taste very good. Thank you and wishing everybody a good new week! 🌸✨🌸✨🌸✨

Vegetables soup at Summertime: a delightful refreshment

At the end of August it is pretty hot in Apulia, Southern Italy (some days temperature is around 40°C). Then, having more vegetables and fruit might turn to be a daily healthy habit in order to help feeling well. What is more, at the food market there is a rich colorful triumph among season vegetables and fruit to choose for preparing appetizing dishes. One of the simplest lightest dishes for these hot days is the soup of vegetables, which you can serve fresh. Down here I’m going to provide a short note with the ingredients you need and the description to make it. You are very welcome to try it, if it meets your personal tastes. Enjoy it!

A blueberry jam tart for your coffee pause

While it was and still it is pretty hot outside, we took our own time for preparing a tart with home made blueberry jam this afternoon. It will be an excellent dessert served as a snack in the middle of the day, even better with a cup of coffee or tea, or after dinner, or perhaps for the morning breakfast. The recipe has few ingredients and it is easy to make it.

Ingredients for preparing the tart: 300 gr all-purpose flour, 120 gr butter, 120 gr sugar, 2 eggs, about 9 gr baking powder, a sprinkle of salt, the grated peel of a lemon.

In a bowl, mix well flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, the grated peel of lemon. Add the butter in small pieces in the bowl, work it until it is homogeneously melted with the other ingredients. In the end, add the eggs and keep on working with your hands until you have a well done compact mixture. Save it to rest in the fridge for an hour.

Prepare a couple of sheets of greaseproof paper the size of the baking tray you are going to use for baking the tart. Out from the fridge, place more than half of the solid short pastry in the middle, between the two sheets and, helping yourself with a rolling pin, make a disk a bit larger than the size/diameter of the baking tray. Remove the upper sheet and fix the disk of short pastry in the baking tray. Spread the blueberry jam on the surface of the disk. Make long ribbons (about 5 mm high) using the rest of the short pastry and decor the tart. Bake the tart in the oven for 35/40 minutes 180°C. Serve the tart with some vanilla cream if you prefer or the way you like it. Many thanks and enjoy the weekend, everybody ❤

Blueberry tart to bake