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!

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!

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!

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! 

Curly ribbons of home made fresh nettle pasta

Hello! We’re almost in the middle of February and for those, who enjoy gardening, it is time to help nature, starting to prepare the soil for the new Spring dress. On the ground, in the garden, among sleeping plants and trees, it is pretty common to find some growing plants of nettle to uproot. The nettle is a wild stingy herb, well known since ancient times, for its peculiar texture, the production of natural fibre and healthy benefits. Often, it is also used in the kitchen for making home made pasta, which turns to be a delicate dish worth to try.

Portions provided here can be for a couple of people. First of all, wash the tender stingy leaves of nettle in cold water thoroughly (be careful, use gloves!). Secondly, cook the nettles into boiling water for few minutes. Add a sprinkle of salt in the end. Thirdly, strain from the water and work the nettles in a food processor to have a thick mixture. Fouthly, mix 160 gr of processed nettles with 70gr of organic wholemeal flour (I used local ground stoned Senatore Cappelli quality) and 80 gr of yellow semolina. Since the nettles have water in their own texture, it shouldn’t be necessary to add more water for the kneading process. No eggs are necessary, since, according to Apulia culinary traditions, we do not use eggs in home made pasta making. Besides, we like to have a very light pasta dish. Add little more flour, if necessary, for a well compact mixture. Fifthly, make sheets of pastry (help yourself with a nonna papera machine, positions n. 3 or 4 for thickness) and then long stripes of nettle pasta, which you will roll up around your finger for having curly ribbons like I did in the picture. Then, leave the nettle pasta to rest for 5/6 hours or for a night.

At lunch or dinner time, the curly ribbons will take only 2/3 minutes into boiling salt water to be cooked “al dente”. I served them warm with a fresh moist tomato sauce and a sprinkle of pecorino di Pienza cheese. Of course you may serve with a different sauce you prefer.

Wishing everybody to enjoy this delicate dish, which perhaps might be an inviting, very simple, romantic idea to prepare by yourself for your loved one on Valentine’s day.

Bread rolls, focaccia and green vegetables: are you hungry?

Just few days more and soon, January will fly away. It is pretty cold outside, but now, more than ever, it is beautiful to have a walk in the middle of a silent nature. On the one hand, the earth is having a little rest, on the other hand, it is also preparing, in its own precious case, the new gems to wear at Springtime.

At this proper, even in Winter season, of course, it is possible to choose among a plenty of good vegetables for making inviting meals. Here there are a couple of easy culinary ideas you might like to try and develop if you want to have something appetizing throughout the day, perhaps for your coffee pause or as a tasteful snack or appetizer, just before dinner.

First of all, prepare a dough mixing 250gr of flour (125gr all purpose flour+125gr wholemeal bread flour), about 10/12gr yeast, a sprinkle of salt, a sprinkle of sugar (to help the ricing process) and the necessary warm water to make a thick and very soft dough. Then, cover the dough with a clingfilm and leave it to rest for about 6 hours.

As vegetables for the filling of the focaccia, I chose leaves of chard and cabbage. In a pan, cook gently and only for few minutes, in extra virgin olive oil with rings of leek and an idea of garlic, the chopped chard (please, remove the hard stem), the cabbage and, right in the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and cubes of smoked bacon. The vegetables must be crisp.

Once the dough is ready, you can bake for example some simple bread rolls in the oven (250°C) until you see their golden puffy surface. (I used a baking tray for muffins, helped myself with a soup spoon and little water in order to dip it in and then fill the moulds with the dough). Stuff your bread rolls with the ingredients you like best.

If you prefer to try a tasteful focaccia, pour a layer of dough in a buttered baking tin, add the filling of vegetables, smoked bacon and some cubes of Emmenthal cheese. Make a second layer of dough for covering the filling, drops of extravirgin olive oil on the surface and in the oven for about 20 minutes (220°C). Serve the focaccia fluffy and warm, enjoy the taste and a good weekend to everybody!

Fast and easy: lamb chops in pistachio crumble

Hello, a new week on this Monday, October 12th, starts with a succulent dish made with delicious tender lamb chops in pistacchio crumble. The progress of the recipe will take less than an hour.

First of all, marinate the chops of lamb for about 20 minutes in some white wine (I used Chardonnay), adding a hint of garlic, drops of extra virgin olive oil, some pepper, rosemary, few juniper berries. (No salt)

In the meanwhile, steam fresh asparagus for few minutes and leave them crisp. You will add a sprinkle of salt and good extra virgin olive oil only in the end, when you are going to serve the dish on the table.

Prepare a simple decoration of small tomatoes for the plate you are going to use for serving the lamb chops.

Sprinkle the lamb chops with pistacchio crumble and sea salt, fry them well in good olive oil or peanut oil until they will have a golden surface and the meat inside will be rose-colored and juicy.

Serve the dish very warm with tomatoes and asparagus or add some other vegetables you prefer.

Enjoy the dish, stay safe and wishing a good new week to everybody. Thank you!

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!