A homemade green lasagna: layers of lightness in the dish

   A white tablecloth is the fine simple way to dress the table for the Christmas holiday season and it is also the best way to highlight your delicious dishes. In a couple of days, we are going to celebrate the arrival of the new year and, for the special event, we take care of our guests by preparing a light green lasagna that both children and grown up would love to eat.

Apulia, its unusual white dress of fluffy snow and a warm vegetable soup that tastes of simple life!

The Epiphany weekend is already behind us and Apulia region, mostly characterized by mild temperatures, even at winter time, like other places in Southern Italy, is extraordinarily wearing a white dress of fluffy snow in these days. Indeed, it is almost unusual to taste arctic weather and contemplate snowy landscapes, which are more typical of Northern European Countries, right in the small baroque styled towns and Mediterranean countrysides that cover the South of Apulia. There, the presence of the snow is attested only in very rare occasions in the years. Perhaps, according to the perspective of a very young child, who has never seen the snow before and watches it with amazed eyes for the first time, it represents a small gift under the Christmas tree: ‘NEVE’, that is the Italian noun for ‘SNOW’ and it will be associated by the child to the cold, light, white, tiny ‘thing’ from the first moment in his life he experienced it on. The silent snowing in the night, the bright sky and view during the day, the sound of walking steps deeping in the cold soft carpet along the narrow, winding streets of small centers, everything calls for new explorations of ancient corners forged in the tender honey shaded stones and snow.  After taking a long walk and wondering about the amazing beauty of nature, seen in tiny snowflakes, perhaps a good soup, to warm our bones, would be very welcome! The cosy space by the fireplace looks very inviting in these days and it reminds of older ages, when the ladies of the family daily cooked simple meals in those typical local pots on embers. So, I took homegrown peas from the freeze, (a taste of Spring season even at Winter time is an authentic bliss!) and prepared a cream for warm bruschettas as appetizer and a spicy cauliflower and barley soup (of course you may opt for spelt or rice, for example) as main dish. Here there are some suggestions:

  • Fry gently peas in extra virgin olive oil with onion, a hint of garlic, tiny cubes of speck (from Alto Adige), salt and pepper. Add little vegetable bouillon, keep on cooking by letting the bouillon to evaporate a little and add leaves of mint when peas are soft. Make a smooth cream by using a hand blender and serve it on slices of warm bread and goat cheese.
  • As for the soup, cut the cauliflower in small pieces and make it slightly golden in extra virgin olive oil with rings of onion. Add tomatoes, a hint of garlic, a mashed boiled potato (of course it depends on the proportions of your soup) and then let simmer gently in vegetable bouillon until it will be a bit creamy. Right at the end, add the barley (already boiled) and a tea spoon of a typical spicy ricotta cheese (made of sheep milk and with a very strong spicy taste), which represents a delicacy and very ancient tradition for ‘poor’ gastronomy in Apulia region. Cook for little while more in order to combine and get flavour. Serve the soup in a bowl and a sprinkle of chopped parsley on its surface. Choose your wine and … Buon Appetito!

children-and-snow

A small plant of basil in the kitchen

5.30 in the morning and the bells announce the new day, it is Friday and soon it will be Christmas, they sing. In the kitchen, the moka machine gurgles and the fragrance of coffee expands everywhere. It is sunrise and out of the window the sky is becoming brighter and brighter. I sip slowly my cup of coffee and look at a small gift I have received last night, when I went for food supplies: it is a small plant of basil, the only one they had in the store, which the seller gave me as present. I noticed that they had recently given it some water, since there were few drops on the leaves. So, once at home, I delicately tamponed and wiped away that water from the leaves with a paper napking and poured some drops of water under the vase. In this way, I hope the plant will grow up a little stronger by getting its nutriment spontaneously in its own more balanced natural environment. To me, the presence of a little plant of basil, at hand, in a corner of the kitchen, perhaps to place where it can daily enjoy the day light, is always very welcome. I can smell its fragrance and, of course, as Italian, I love to add little fresh leaves on top of the dish when I prepare my pasta al pomodoro. Now, it is time to wish a good day to you all!

A small timballo of aubergines for this first October weekend

   Hello, a nice weekend to you all! October was announced this morning by good weather and mild temperatures. On this occasion, I would like to introduce a recipe that my mother taught me when I was a child; indeed, it comes from my culinary memories at Summer holidays, best time for learning how to cook! So, today, the recipe to dedicate to the first weekend of the new month will be a small ‘timballo’ made with aubergines.

   Looking back very briefly at history and at the long tradition of this amazing vegetable, which has its origins in India and perhaps is 4000 years old, ancient docs attest its arrival in Italy during the Middle Age, but it is only in the 17th century, through the great work of spreading and promotion of the religious Carmelite Order that the aubergine is finally appreciated in Southern Italy at first and then all over Europe. From then on, the aubergine has come one of the main ingredients of the Italian cuisine. During the WWII, it is common among shepherds and peasants to use even the leaves of the aubergines, by drying them in the sun for making cigarettes and sigars to smoke instead of tobacco, since this latter was not available by that time of history.

   Back to our recipe, dice an oval black skinned aubergine in small cubes (please, do not peel it, since its skin has relevant healthy benefits for pancreas and guts, whereas the pulp is rich in fibers, potassium, phosphor and calcium, vitamin A and C). Then, in a large pan on the stove (medium temperature), pour some extravirgin olive oil and let it to get warm. As soon as the oil starts lightly hissing, add chopped onion, scallion, a tiny idea of garlic, three or four cherry tomatoes, a couple of pieces of lemongrass and mix all together. In the end, add the diced aubergine and keep on cooking all ingredients together. Pour little white wine and a sprinkle of thyme, majoram, bay, hot pepper. Since the aubergine has a spongy pulp, I would suggest to add more extravergin olive oil in case the aubergine seems too dry. Any way, by adding a sprinkle of salt, the aubergine will release some water since this vegetable is made 90% of water. Keep on cooking until it becomes smooth and almost creamy. Then, out of the stove, pour the mixture in a bowl and leave it for some minutes to get cooler. Add one egg, grated parmigiano, some breadcrumb to make the mixture thicker, parsley and small pieces of speck from Alto Adige  (the fragrance of it will be particularly tasteful with the aubergine).

   Next step is to grease a terracotta mould for timballo with few drops of extravirgin olive oil and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture in it and bake for about 15 mins (moderate temperature, about 200° C) until the surface becomes golden and crispy.

    Serve it warm, perhaps with some julienne vegetables, or, even better, add a couple of spoons of warm tomato sauce, it will taste delicious!

Buon Appetito 

Appetizing Pumpkin Cream Snack, a Glass of Campari and.. in the Mood for the Weekend!

Hey, it’s Friday afternoon and the new weekend is on arrival! Turn the radio up, let’s go dancing straight to the kitchen and start preparing a small snack to enjoy with a glass of clinking Campari (I may suggest Orange Passion). We need half pumpkin, a quarter of savoy, onion, extravirgin olive oil, nutmeg, half liter of vegetable b0uillon, thyme, salt & pepper. Sauter chopped onion and pumpkin cubes in few drops of extra-virgin olive oil for little less than 5 minutes. Chop the savoy finely and mix it in the pan with onion and pumpkin. Salt & pepper and a sprinkle of thyme. Add little bouillon and let it evaporate slowly in about 15 minutes (please, remember to cover the pan with a lid). When it is cooked, let the mixture of pumpkin and savoy to get cooler, add some grated nutmeg and then work with a minipimer for having a homogeneous cream. Serve the pumpkin cream on warm squares of bread, your Campari and cheers..enjoy a beautiful weekend!

Familiar Culinary Tastes and Flavours of This Time of the Year

Christmas recipes - Polpettone

Good morning,

the first light of a new day is slowly rising on the beginning of a November week. Everything is soft, calm outside of the window, leaves timidly tremble and gently swish on the tree making glowing a myriad of little stars all around, everything is the promise of new things to do that will bring us in the usual working activities. Looking around, some balconies are already decorated with Christmas lights, indeed also visiting some shops you can feel that warm cosy Christmassy atmosphere. So, why not starting  with familiar culinary tastes and flavours of this time of the year? How about those traditional meals, prepared with heart and simplicity that once and still make together different ages in a family tree?

Let’s prepare one of the most popular, cheap meals that children and growns up cheerfully welcome during Christmas celebrations: today we’re going to make a ‘polpettone’ (meatloaf) according to my family recipes notebook. First of all, it is neccessary to say that if you have little time to prepare it, perhaps it is better to make more than one and smaller ‘polpettoni’, since it is easier and faster to cook them. The ingredients are: minced beef and pork (500g should be ok for four meatloaves), 1 or 2 eggs, a sprinkle of salt, marjoram, thyme, chili pepper powder, fresh parsley, bread crumbs, grated parmigiano, and little red wine (I have used half glass of a full-bodied, ruby fruity Primitivo from my land, Apulia). Next step is to mx all together, make a meatball and stuff in the middle some thin slices of ‘Mortadella Bologna IGP’ and small cubes of spicy ‘Provola Auricchio’. Work the meat loaves with your hands and fry them in extra virgin olive oil for few minutes until they will have a golden brown surface. Place gently the meatloaves in a sauce pan, where you have already prepared a smooth bell peppers cream (red onion, extravirgin olive oil, bell peppers, small cherry tomatoes, red wine, salt and pepper, vegetable bouillon. Cook it for about 15 min and then use the minipimer to make a cream) and keep on cooking the meatloaves until they will be well done, avoiding the melted cheese to come all out (let’s say about ten minutes more). Serve very warm with the bell peppers cream, good farmer’s bread and a glass of intense red wine. Wish everybody bon appétit and have a good week!