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 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 

Beetroot cream: a simple recipe for inviting appetizers. Have a try!

Hello! Sometimes, when I’m in Stockholm I enjoy to visit the Saluhall  in Östermalm, the ancient food market built in 1888. There is a nice cosy atmosphere and people may sit and have a meal or look for special food and delicacies. Since I like trying recipes, once I bought some fresh beetroots and Chèvre cheese and, at home, I prepared a light tasteful cream for appetizers. 

  • First of all, it is necessary to peel and steam the beetroots to get them softer. Then, chop and fry them very gently in extra virgin olive oil just for few minutes. In the pan, you may also add rings of red onion, scallion, very little lemon grass, salt & pepper. Right at the end, a sprinkle of parsley and some pine nuts are the perfect tasteful touch for the recipe. Perhaps you might serve a small portion of it as salad. Better if it is warm, indeed, you will find that its flavour is delicious !

  • Next step, make a cream of all ingredients with a mixer.

  • Or add crème fraîche to all ingredients and then process with the mixer.

Sourdough rye crispbread and rosemary flatbread are perfect for spreading this velvety delicacy on. 

I may suggest some pine nuts on top of one version of the appetizer and small pieces of Chèvre cheese and parsley on top of the other.

I hope you will enjoy the taste and wish buon appetito!

Have a good week.

A spiced chickpeas soup with coriander, turmeric and cumin to welcome this new September weekend

Hello! Soon a new weekend is going to start, so let’s welcome it with the spicy fragrances and healthy lightness of a warm soup made with chickpeas and zucchini. The spices in the soup remind of the inviting fragrances of the Mediterranean lands: the fruits of coriander (a plant that is very similar to parsley and coming from East Mediterranean area) have a delicate, warm aroma, a hint of nut and light citrus aftertaste. The second spice that we will add to the soup is turmeric: for Ayurvedic medicine, the natural root of turmeric is well known for its health benefits, as strong balancer, for its natural cicatrizant, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory effects. India is the main world producer of turmeric, a yellow ochre powder that reminds of the precious saffron fragrance, but, of course, it has a cheaper cost. The black cumin (nigella sativa) is very well known and appreciated in all Middle East and India for its peculiar benefits. Besides, cumin is also cultivated in Europe, North Africa and Asia, it has digestive properties, whets the appetite, prevents spasms and intestinal fermentations. It is highly recommended to use cumin with parsimony, since its flavour is very intense, spicy and it has just an acrid hint.

 Let’s have a look at the recipe now: 

we need about 50g chickpeas per person, 1 or 2 small zucchini, a small onion, some water or bouillon made with vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, tomatoes, herbs, extravirgin olive oil, a pinch of salt) coriander, turmeric and black cumin, salt and pepper, extravirgin olive oil.

 As for how to prepare chickpeas, the process takes a little bit longer, since we need to make the pulses to rest into a bowl full of water for a night: we will help to make the cooking process easier and cheackpeas will taste softer by adding also a sprinkle of salt or bicarbonate. Next morning, in a typical pot made of clay, pour some extra virgin olive oil, add rings of onion, chopped celery and carrot, a couple of small cherry tomatoes, one or two cloves, coriander, hot pepper, salt, chickpeas and water to cover them. We let chickpeas boiling very slow until they get done, tastefully little crunchy outside and soft inside. 

Once chickpeas are done, wash and dice zucchini and then fry gently some chopped onion in few drops of extravirgin olive oil for a couple of minutes, add chickpeas, zucchini and cover them with some bouillon made with vegetables. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper and let the soup boiling. You won’t need to cook it for a long time, (about 10/15min) since chickpeas are almost cooked and zucchini taste better when they are still little crunchy. Please, won’t forget to add half coffee spoon of coriander, turmeric and cumin, but only few minutes before the soup is done, in order to keep almost intact and distinct the different aromas of the spices.  Serve the soup with cubes of warm bread and cheer the arrival of the new season with a glass of rosé wine. On this occasion, I chose a rosè wine coming from Provence (Château Routas Rouvière): fresh delightful pairing with the warm flavours of the Mediterranean cuisine.

Buon Appetito and enjoy a good weekend!

Genuine Fruit Taste in the Dish: Pork Tenderloin and Plum Velouté

  It is already September and, even though Autumn season is at the door, we still keep the fragrances of Summer season. At this proper, I would like to introduce a recipe made with plums (it should be Santa Rosa variety) from a young tree that was planted no more than four years ago in our garden and, in the last couple of years, has elegantly made low bows for inviting to the crop of its pulpy deep red round fruits. Yes, and it is time to prepare something particularly delicious with them. So,  I chose a tender lean pork fillet to make this dish and the other main ingredients are: 4 plums, 2 or 3 leaves of bay, 4 or 5 juniper berries, an idea of garlic, a clove, 3 or 4 spoons of extravirgin olive oil, a spoon of sugar, less than a half glass of white wine (your choice), salt and pepper.

  As first step, make a pesto with garlic, clove, and juniper berries in a mortar. Then, rub the tenderloin with pesto you made, add drops of extravirgin olive oil, leaves of bay and let it marinate for a couple of hours. 

  For the velouté, wash the plums, peel them and make small cubes. Start frying them very gently in extravirgin olive oil, add thinely chopped onion and leaves of bay. In few moments, you’ll see how the beautiful shades of colors of the plums will get even livelier. Add some white wine and let it evaporate. It should take about 15 minutes to have a velvety compote, it depends on how much water the plums have inside. Add a coffee spoon of sugar (at this point, a good suggestion might be to taste the velouté to be sure it is right and delicate, in good balance between an acid hint and sweetness). 

  Last step is to add the pork tenderloin in the pan and keep on cooking all together before the velouté is done. The fillet will be good in few minutes and if you notice that the velouté is getting dry too fast, add a couple of soup spoons of water in order to have a moist creamy result for the recipe. Salt & pepper in the end.

  I would serve this mouthwatering dish by decorating it with slices of plum and bay leaves and I would pair it with a glass of good red wine. Any one you prefer will be the right choice for enjoying a delicious meal. 

Bon Appétit!

A Light Lasagna Stuffed With Summer Vegetables

Hey, we are in Stockholm in these days and right now, while we are in the kitchen, serving a delicious lasagna stuffed with Summer vegetables, we are enjoying the beautiful bright light of the evening. Some little birds are cheerfully playing on the branches of the tree in front of the window and its green foliage dances and shines to the swish of a soft breeze. In the distance, you can even listen to the dominant sound made by the siren of a ship. Two or three segulls on the top of a roof, in the direction of Sofia kyrka, fill the air with their singing.

If you are interested in making this lasagna, here there are some suggestions that might be useful.

As for the tomato sauce, pour some extra vergin olive oil in a pan, small stripes of fresh bacon, a sprinkle of rosemary (better if it is fresh), salt and pepper, chopped onion and garlic. After two or three minutes, add the tomato sauce and let it boiling for a while. At the end, when it is good and thicker, add a small cup of water (or two), since we are going to cook the lasagna pasta straight in the oven with all ingredients.

In the meantime, we have already diced aubergines and bell peppers and we have chopped some leeks, then placed the vegetables in the oven to grill for 10 or 15 minutes (according to your own taste)

At this point, we can start preparing our lasagna, by pouring some sauce on the surface of the baking pan. Then, let’s make some layers by alternating, lasagna pasta, vegetables, spoons of tomato sauce and mozzarella. In the end, before placing the lasagna in the oven for about 15 min/ 20 min (200°), add curls of parmigiano and a sprinkle of nutmeg on the surface.

This dish is ideal served warm, paired with a glass of rosé wine for celebrating the cheerful dress of nature and midsommar, which is almost at the door here in Sweden.

Weekend Recipe: Snails from the garden and drops of homemade garlic sauce

068 lumache e salsa all'aglio

Off the busy activities of the week, here we are to relax and enjoy one of those little things that we love to do at the weekend and, since cooking is one of my favourite, let’s do it, let’s go in the kitchen! In the meantime, the splendid voice of Ella Fitzgerald will flow like a soft wave, and the light of the day will paint of vibrant colors this Sunday afternoon. We had a bizarre weather, during the last week: how good occasion to explore the garden in the early morning and look for snails! It is an old tradition that I learnt from my family when I was very young and, since we do not use pesticides in our small orchard and on our vegetables, the only way to prevent the snails from eating our salad is to prepare a delicious dish by using them as main ingredient.

So, here we have a good handful of snails that we submit to the ‘cleaning’ process by leaving them in a covered bowl for two or three days, and then, after having sprinkled some flour on them, leave them again to rest for a couple of days more. Then, wash and strain them and add some salt. Keep on working energically with your hands (in the bowl) in order to get both foam and impurities out of the snails. Wash, strain and start cooking them.

In a pan, pour and heat some extra virgin olive oil, add rings of onion and leaves of sage and, as soon as the extra virgin olive oil starts sizzling, add the snails and keep on cooking. The fragrance of sage will melt in the air with the fruit spiced flavour of the extra virgin olive oil. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

As for the garlic sauce, which is widely prepared in all the Mediterranean area and served in different and well distinct versions, crush a couple of cloves of garlic in the mortar. Then, by using the pestle, work it, add an egg yolk (room temperature), few drops of lemon, white pepper, a pinch of salt and pour gently, drop by drop, some extra vergin olive oil. Whisk the emulsion like a mayonnaise. As for me, I prefer to do it by hand instead of using the blender for having a velvety thin sauce. In case the sauce will be thicker, you may add a teaspoon of warm water at a time.

Serve the snails by decorating the plate with few drops of garlic sauce and fragranced leaves of sage, warm crisp buttered bread and pair the dish with a glass of very good beer.

Enjoy a nice dinner!

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Cosy moments made of creamy espresso coffee to wish a nice weekend!

Höst helgen: fika!

Good morning! Welcome to my new blog: Nordic Lights and Mediterranean Landscapes. Here it is a cup of homemade espresso creamy coffee for wishing a nice weekend! If you are interested, by chance, in how to make a smooth golden cream for your daily coffee, please, click on the pic and check for the description here. Thank you!