Along the Summer route

The small boat continued its journey, gliding smoothly, light and rapid on small waves that played chasing each other along the summer route.

A warm, soft heart of mushrooms, Swiss chard and pecorino cheese dipped in a sweet pepper sauce

Hello, welcome March! Is there any party on, by chance? Well, in that case, follow the rhythm of music and prepare these appetizing, golden balls made of a warm, soft heart of mushrooms, Swiss chard and pecorino cheese. Then, dip them in a sweet pepper sauce. Your guests will love them!

For the vegetable balls you need:

500gr Swiss chards, 300 gr Champignon, 1 egg, 3 spoons of pecorino cheese, garlic, 3 spoons extra virgin olive oil, nutmeg, salt.

  • Steam the Swiss chards, add little salt in the end and strain very well. Then, mince the vegetables and mix all together with an egg and pecorino cheese in a bowl. Please, do not add flour.
  • Fry the mushrooms in extravirgin olive oil, add a hint of garlic, little salt, some white wine and cook for about 10 minutes (in the end, the wine must be well dried out). Also in this case, like for the Swiss chards, mince the champignon.
  • Mix all ingredients, champignon and Swiss chard, make small balls, prepare a good coating with breadcrumbs and egg and fry them.  

 For the sweet pepper sauce you need:

a couple of peppers (you can choose between a sweet or hot pepper sauce), onion, garlic, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil. Sauté the peppers, add little wine and then make a sauce.

Finally, serve your vegetable balls very warm, dip them in the pepper sauce and Buon Appetito!

 

 

Home-made ravioli and the vegetable garden in the wintertime

   It is the third Advent week, and it is less than ten days for Christmas day. Outside, in the garden, the air is crisp and invites to have a cup of warm coffe in your hands. Three small candles brings light into the darkness of the early morning. Soon, the sunrise will fill the sky with its golden pink brightness. Winter season is just behind the corner and, according to the good agricultural practice, fruit trees need to be pruned in order to be prepared for the new Springtime. Since every season has its own crops, now it is time for beautiful plants of cardoon in our vegetable garden, they are ideals for warm tasteful soups and, at this proper, in Apulia, Southern Italy, it is common to cook cardoons in many different ways. The recipe, I am going to make today, combines, calling to a culinary harmony, savours and food products of the Northern regions with those coming from the South. Step by step, we are going to build the dish, by adding the ingredients it needs.

   First of all, let’s work a mixture made of good ecological flour and water and make sheets of pasta for ravioli. I have used 200/ 250 gr of Senatore Cappelli flour and about a glass of water. You can help yourself by using a manual Nonna Papera machine for home-made fresh pasta at first, then choose to use a fan-shaped mould for ravioli or simply use a glass to make discs and, in the end, once the filling is in the center of the disc, press the tips of a fork to seal along the border of ravioli. 

DSC_2932 sfoglia

As for the filling, make a mixture made with mashed local potatoes (at this proper, I steamed  Sieglinde potatoes, a variety that is firm on cooking and has high nutritional values), add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, chopped onion lightly fried into extravirgin olive oil, a couple of soup spoons of grated local ‘pecorino’ (sheep milk) cheese, small cubes of Speck from Alto Adige and raclette cheese, rosemary. Fill the center of the raviolo disc and close it in the way suggested above.

DSC_2940 ravioli

   The third step is to prepare the cardoon cream. Sauté the cardoons and some cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil and then add vegetable bouillon. Keep on cooking the cardoons until they are tender and then make a cream with them, by adding a couple of spoons of crème fraîche and tasteful pecorino cheese.

   Cook ravioli in salted boiling water, strain and serve them very warm on a plate with the smooth cardoon cream. Decor the dish with some fresh rosemary and ‘buon appetito’, bon appétit, smaklig måltid!

Wishing everybody a good third Advent week

Taraxacum potato gnocchi on a velvet Taleggio cheese cream

   Hello and welcome to a new Autumn week-end, which will bring a new good recipe to try for those of you, who love cooking! The morning crisp November air is an inviting call for a relaxing walk through narrow paths in the countryside, where, perhaps, it is possible to find out and picking wild (safe) vegetables, mostly known as excellent ingredients for a tasteful kitchen. So, taking inspiration from a simple, seasonal soup, made with taraxacum, which is pretty popular in Apulia, in Southern Italy, and that my Mom keeps on preparing quite often at this time of the year, on this Sunday, we are going to make taraxacum potato gnocchi on a velvet Taleggio cream. In my opinion, this delicious dish seems to be an ideal junction  among genuine ingredients, which, coming from different places from North to South, have both benefit healthy qualities and peculiar tastes that can be clearly perceived from gourmets.

   We will start 1.steaming potatoes and then replacing them in the fridge for a night. (At this proper, I would like to add that I found some good local potatoes at the food market, which still had the earth on the thin peel and looked compact inside in the middle, ideal for preparing gnocchi). The next day, before lunch time, we will keep on preparing the dish, by 2.mashing the potatoes and 3.boiling the taraxacum for few minutes. Then, after 4.straining the vegetable, we will keep on 5.cooking it in a pan with some extra-virgin olive oil, an idea of garlic, little chopped onion, salt and pepper, few fresh tomatoes, a sprinkle of goat cheese. Since we will 7.add the minced taraxacum to the mashed potatoes and 8.work both the ingredients together for making a mixture, it is highly recommended to 6.’dry’ the taraxacum from the juice during the cooking process, in order to have a solid mixture. The proportion of ingredients I used and I may suggest for potatoes and taraxacum mixture is about 200/250gr potatoes : 100/150gr cooked taraxacum. Of course, it depends on the type of potatoes used, the cooking process of the taraxacum and the number of guests at your table. As for the mixture, I added an egg and some organic durum wheat flour (not too much, since I prefer to feel the potato taste rather then the flour’s that has the task to bind the main ingredients) during the working process. Once the 9.mixture looks compact, we will 10.make a long thin cylinder and then 11.cut it in small gnocchi. For 12.preparing a smooth taleggio cream, it is necessary to melt a couple of generous pieces of Taleggio cheese, a knob of butter into some crème fraîche and to add a sprinkle pepper in it. Then, we will 3.pour the gnocchi in boiling salted water and wait for a couple of minutes until they will come out on the surface of the water. In the end, 14.strain accurately and serve them on a dish with some velvet Taleggio cream and parsley. 

I hope you will enjoy the recipe some time and wish everybody a good new week!

Buon appetito, bon appétit, smaklig måltid!

Appetizing croquettes made of vegetables and sweet yellow tomatoes for a smooth sauce

   The new week started with its usual rhythmic step but then, in the middle of the day or when activities allow a break, that is the time for turning your sight, looking at nature and enjoying the splendid work of art the Autumn season is making of it. Since it is almost lunch time, I will prepare some light croquettes made of wild chicories I bought from an old friendly peasant that knows where to find them along the stony paths in the countryside.

   The thought run to the past, to a family tradition we had when I was a little child and it was right at this time of the year: indeed, my aunt, during the week-end, visit us for a cup of warm coffee and then, all together, her sister and my Mom used to have a drive to her plot of land in the countryside, where, in the soft light of a mild afternoon, we enjoyed picking wild chicories and other vegetables, which then were prepared as the local gastronomy suggested.

   Back to the recipe of the day I have in mind, first of all, it is necessary to check the wild chicories, washing accurately and boil them for few minutes, in order to remove the bitter taste. After that, the chicories go in a pan with some extra-virgin olive oil and, as soon as they start hissing, it is necessary to add some bouillon made with vegetables to enrich their taste. Next step, far from the cooker, is to strain and chop the wild chicories up. So, in a big bowl, I prepare an homogeneous mixture made of wild chicories, an egg, grated goat cheese, breadcrumbs, some milk, a sprinkle of pepper. Working with hands the mixture, I make small croquettes stuffed with tiny cubes of provolone fiaschetto cheese (I chose this kind of cheese because of its light spicy taste that matches so well both with the mixture of vegetables and the sweet sauce made of winter yellow tomatoes, I am going to prepare for the croquettes). After breading, the croquettes go in the oven with few drops of extra virgin olive oil for about 15 min 220°C until their surface will become gold and the cheese will start melting inside.

  In the meanwhile, as already mentioned, let’s prepare a velvety sauce with those typical winter yellow tomatoes. It is simple: it is necessary to have some extra-virgin olive oil in a pan, onion, an idea of garlic, a piece of carrot and celery and then add the tomatoes, hot pepper, a sprinkle of salt. It will take only  few minutes to prepare a smooth sauce.

   Serve the croquettes very warm and with the sweet yellow tomatoes sauce and some parsley as decoration for the dish and ‘buon appetito’!

 

 

 

Orecchiette and Chanterelles: season ingredients for an appetizing Sunday meal

   Last Sunday morning, the sky was clear and temperature was mild: it was the promise for a good walk into nature soon. After sipping a cup of warm coffee in front of the kitchen window, I thought it was time for making orecchiette, as typical among the Sunday meals, according to Apulia gastronomy suggestions and traditional old habits of my family. As for the home-made pasta dough, ingredients are very simple, only water and good flour (I used organic Senatore Cappelli flour as usual for its excellent qualities and ancient genuine taste).

   For the dish I had in mind, there were some flavoured chanterelles in the fridge that I bought the day before at the local food market. Since, it was not my intention to use the mixer for making a sauce, I did prefer to chop the chanterelles in very small pieces. So, in a pan, I poured some extra-virgin olive oil, small cubes of fresh bacon, which soon started to ‘sweat’, giving a very tasteful smell, then I added an idea of garlic, little chopped onion, some white wine and the chanterelles. Sprinkle of thyme, rosemary and hot pepper were added to make a more intense flavour, while a couple of spoons of crème fraîche was for amalgamating the ingredients in a smooth homogeneous sauce; salt went right at the end, in order to preserve the chanterelles from loosing their own water during the cooking process.

   Once the orecchiette were cooked and tasted ‘al dente’, they were added in the pan with the chanterelles sauce and a sprinkle of small parmigiano flakes just for a couple of minutes and then, the dish was ready to be served with a simple parsley decoration.

   Hoping you are going to try and enjoy this dish, I wish everybody a good week and ‘Buon Appetito’.

 

Rice au gratin, an old family recipe that children love

   It was wonderful to spend some time with my Swedish friend Katarina and her beautiful family last week-end. We arranged to meet for going to the food store together and choose some ingredient for preparing an old recipe my grandmother used to make at Christmastime, when the whole family was finally together at home.

   Children agreed with us for the choice, indeed they welcomed the idea of rice au gratin with a cheerful ‘wow!’ and, on the other hand, they had the task to prepare a special dessert for all of us.

   At home, Katarina and I started to peel carrots, chopping them with celery, onion and garlic and, once everything was done, all ingredients went in a big sauce pan, on a stove. We poured some extra-virgin olive oil and the vegetables started frying lightly. Then, it was the turn for the veal minced meat and a sprinkle of thyme and, after the lumps of meat were all melt with a wooden spoon, we added the tomato sauce, some salt and kept on steering, being careful the sauce did not stick on the surface of the sauce pan. Besides, some water was added in order the sauce be not too much thick.

   In the meanwhile, the rice was prepared in an other big pan (boiling salt water) and when it was done and the rice was strained, few roses of butter and grated parmigiano reggiano were added for ‘mantecare’ it. Then, off from the stove, the tomato sauce was poured in the pan, where the rice was, and Katarina kept on working on it with great energy until it was all homogeneous.

   At last, we made layers of  rice in a casserole (greased with few drops of extra virgin olive oil), alternating them with layers of mozzarella and placed it in the oven at a temperature between 200° – 250° C for about 20 minutes in order to have a golden surface on the rice. In this case, we didn’t add breadcrumbs nor eggs, since the rice was well ‘mantecato’, having a similar ‘gratin’ effect as well in the end and, what is more, it is a gluten free recipe.

   All the family liked this delicious and simple dish very much and, in the end, we did enjoyed the presentation of a fantastic dessert our little pâtissiers made with meringues, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate for decorations (worth a couple of spoons  for taste and some more).

   Wishing everybody a good week!

 

 

 

Autumn and its culinary poetry: the light taste and seasonal ingredients for a homemade lasagna

   It is time to welcome the Autumn season and its very distinctive fragrances, its amazing natural landscapes made of warm shades and golden foliage! There is a world filled with inspiration in Albert Camus’s quotation, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”, which makes you long to wander, at the week-end, through the woods and countryside paths of Apulia, for rediscovering those familiar places, where you know you can find those peculiar, seasonal ingredients for your kitchen. September mild temperatures, a bit more of humidity and little rain, from time to time, become the elements for the growing of new little plants of wild chicory, for example, that is one of the main ingredients of the homemade lasagna I’m going to prepare. It was a long time ago when I made this recipe for the first time and every year, by the arrival of the Autumn season, I enjoy to make it again and again.

   So, I start with making lasagna pasta, by using local organic Senatore Cappelli durum wheat (it is excellent for homemade cooked ‘al dente’ pasta). For about 4 portions, you will need about 250 gr of flour and some water for making into a mixture that you need to work very well by hands, in order to be compact and not sticky. Perhaps, you may help yourself, by adding a sprinkle of flour on the surface of it. What is more, in Apulia, we do not use eggs in the pasta mixture, since it does not belong to our local culinary tradition of ‘cucina povera’; on the other hand, dishes are lighter and more digestible when using only water. Once the pasta mixture is well done, you can use your traditional nonna papera pasta machine for making thin layers of pasta; then, leave them to get dried.

   In the meanwhile, boil some water in a pan, add and cook the cleaned wild chicories (about 500 gr) for few minutes. Strain the chicories very well and add them in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, small cubes of bacon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

   Prepare your béchamel sauce, firstly by working a couple of spoons of (semola) flour and some cold milk (between 250 ml and 350 ml – it depends on the consistency you prefer for the sauce) together in a saucepan, by melting all the lumps, add a sprinkle of salt, an idea of hot pepper, grated nutmeg. Secondly, put the saucepan on a small stove and a very moderate heat and start steering the spoon in order the flour does not stick on the surface of the saucepan. Then, as soon as the sauce starts slowly boiling, keep on steering just for little while more until it is well done but not too much thick, since the lasagna requires it be not too much thick. In the end, melt a knob of butter in the saucepan and some grated goat cheese.

   Now, before starting to prepare lasagna, it is necessary to cook the layers of pasta for very little moments, perhaps a couple of minutes, into boiling salt water. Strain the layers and make them dry on a cotton napkin, then, grease a baking pan with butter or few drops of extra virgin olive oil. Start fixing layers of pasta, then add small spoons of béchamel, a layer of chicories and bacon, one more of fresh mozzarella and then keep on doing again with a layer of pasta etc, until you have filled the bakery pan. A sprinkle of goat cheese on top and then place it in the oven 250° C for about ten minutes. When the mozzarella is melt and the surface of pasta appears little grilled, you can remove the lasagna from the oven and wait only few moments before making portions and serving them in the plates. 

   Pair the lasagna with your preferred wine and ‘buon appetito’!

 

 

Garlic, a natural healthy ingredient for a very simple and tasty Italian recipe, ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’

   Hello! There is a soft breeze in the air that gently touches flowers, trees, foliage in the garden today and nature is in a mesmerizing dance of light. Small pink flowers of wild garlic (allium), resembling tiny bright cups among lush backgrounds of artichokes plants, softly move and humbly bend on their own thin long stalk in a gracious bow. Inspiration! I just came up with the idea of making an old recipe belonging to Southern Italy culinary tradition: ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’.

   As well as being one of the main and mostly used ingredients in gastronomy, garlic has also been known for centuries for its therapeutic benefits. Indeed, in the past, its intense taste was wonderfully much appreciated both as remedy and in the kitchen. Actually, it seems that in the old Egypt, the slaves, who built the pyramids, used to have garlic in plentiful quantities, in order to feel themselves stronger and healthier. What is more, it was found out that in the tomb of Tutankhamen, bulbs of garlic were there, perhaps in order to keep evil spirits far away.  Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine highly recommended garlic for its medicine benefits. Pliny the Elder in his well known Historia Naturalis made references to the garlic for its therapeutic qualities. In the Middle Age, physicians used masks stuffed with garlic to protect themselves from diseases. During the First World War, the garlic was widely used for disinfecting wounds carefully, when there was lack of conventional antiseptics. In addiction to all this, garlic is an excellent vasodilatator, since it lowers the blood pressure and it helps to prevent heart illnesses.

   If in the Chinese cuisine, garlic and ginger are considered the most important fragrances, both for the Indian and West cuisine, garlic adds taste to all different kinds of meat, fish and vegetables dishes. It is a privileged ingredient for the Mexican and South-American cuisine and also for the French cuisine, where it is possible to enjoy garlic fragranced butter, mayonnaise and soup.

 

spaghetti alla carrettiera

   As for the Italian dish, ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’, the traditional recipe specifically coming from Eastern Sicily and widely spread everywhere in Southern Italy with all its own variations, we can point at it as representative of simplicity, since, it is very easy to make and based on very few ingredients that mostly we have in our kitchens. At this proper, garlic is one of those ingredients that we use quite every day.

  First of all, chop fresh parsley and garlic and fry gently in some extra-virgin olive oil. Add rings of onion, hot pepper and a sprinkle of oregano. In the meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water. Even though it is a very simple recipe, the ingredients have been carefully chosen, for keeping the high quality of the dish. So, here we have artisan ‘spaghetti alla chitarra trafilati al bronzo’, which are excellent for their rough surface that holds all different kinds of condiments and they taste perfect when ‘al dente’. Drain the water (save just a little of it, in case you have to add later on in the cooking process) and pour spaghetti in the pan, where you fried chopped parsley and garlic. If spaghetti look dried, then add little of that water you saved before and keep on cooking shortly on high flame. In the end, after removing from the stove, serve spaghetti very warm with a sprinkle of fried golden breadcrumb and ‘buon appetito’!

 

A sinergy of events for celebrating Salento, as UNESCO candidate through an art conference in Galatina, historical corteges and dishes evoking tastes of an ancient gastronomy

Just few days ago, on Saturday April 1st, we had a cultural dip into the historical and art atmospheres of Salento, attending an interesting conference that took place by the ‘Gallerie Teatro Tartaro’ in Galatina, organized by the local Club for UNESCO. In details, the round table was about the precious ‘Orsiniani’ frescos situated in one of the most important Romanesque and Gotic art monuments in Apulia, the Santa Caterina d’Alessandria Basilica.

Galatina - Santa Caterina d'Alessandria

DSC_0596 at the conference

The architectural structure of the basilica was built during the second half of the 14th century on a preexisting church, which dated back to the 9th – 10th century, according to the will of Raimondello Orsini Del Balzo, prince of Taranto and Count of Soleto. The legend tells that the prince, back from the crusades, headed for a pilgrimage to Mount Sinai and, after stopping by the monstery for paying homage to the body of Santa Caterina D’Alessandria, in a daring way, brought one of her mummified fingers in Italy. The relic was mounted in a reliquary made of silver and nowadays it is still kept among the tresaures of the basilica. After Raimondello’s death, at the beginning of the 15th century,  his wife, Maria D’Enghien, Countess in Lecce, and her son, Giovanni Antonio, continued the works of patronage for the basilica in Galatina and for the magnificent three architectural ordered spire in Soleto, by calling together artists from different painting schools in Italy and expert workers.

DSC_0613 raimondello's tower

The audience at the conference welcomed with great attention the magistral lesson of eminent art experts and researchers in an almost mystic silence and sometimes with expressions of dilightful astonishment. Among the speakers: prof. Maria Stella Calò Mariani (University of Bari), Antonella Cucciniello (director of the Royal Palace in Naples), prof. Anna Trono (politic-economic geography – Unisalento), prof. Luigi Manni (researcher), prof. Rosario Coluccia (linguist and academician from ‘Accademia della Crusca’)

DSC_0602 at the conference

On Sunday morning, April 2nd, a historical cortege took place in Soleto, a small center that is only few kilometers far from Galatina, where it is possible to contemplate both the beautiful spire of Raimondello and sometimes you have also the chance to visit the tiny precious church of Santo Stefano, an authentic work of art for its decorated walls with sacred scenes.

DSC_0656 historical dress up

DSC_0661_1 historical dress up

The historical cortege of Maria D’Enghien advanced slowly along the narrow paved streets of the old center to the roll of the drums and both the local people and the visitors from the neighbouring towns and villages could admire the refinement of the dresses, worn with elegance and style. Attending the event was an invitation to read a bit more about the local history and its characters.

DSC_0628 historical dress up

DSC_0634_1 historical dress up

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Grown-ups and children showed great care in performing the historical cortege of Maria d’Enghien and later on, it was amusing to watch all of them playing and having fun, cheered on by families and friends. In the end, even some parents joined the games.

DSC_0747 historical dress up

In the afternoon, the cortege was in Galatina, where a lot of people gathered by the door of the old town hall and most of them followed the sumptuously dressed characters in a sort of procession that ended in Piazza San Pietro, the main square, where more games, a banquet reserved to the cortege, music and dances took place.

DSC_0760 historical dress up

DSC_0866_1 historical dress up

Along the way, people could stop by a banquet accurately prepared by some students of the Istituto Alberghiero ‘Aldo Moro’ from Santa Cesarea Terme (Ascalone Giorgia, Rizzo Pierpaolo, Scrimieri Luca, Pagliara Chiara, Murrone Angelo) and their teacher (prof. Piero D’Urso) and try delicacies that had tastes and fragrances of the Middle Ages cuisine. (Both of the two pictures have been kindly provided by Club for Unesco – Galatina)

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Many thanks for the remarkable commitment and all we can wish for this amazing cultural initiative is to be performed again at Summertime, when more and more people, both locals and those coming from abroad on holiday, will be glad to attend it.