Afterwork: Time for Amaretto Cream

It is time for the week-end and today I have prepared a velvet cream, which has Amaretti pastries as main ingredient and fragrance. The recipe is very easy and it is a delicious idea to serve the cream cool to your guests.

Ingredients:

2 eggs, 2 spoons of sugar, 100gr mascarpone cheese, 50gr amaretti, few amaretti for decoration.

  1. Separate the yolks from the whites of eggs and work the yolks with sugar until the cream will have a very light color.
  2. Add mascarpone cheese and amaretti crumbs and work the ingredients all together in order to have a well mixed cream.
  3. Beat the egg whites till stiff, add them to the cream, mix slowly and gently: your wrist has to rotate in a movement that goes down and up.
  4. Serve the cream cool in a dessert glass and decor it with a sprinkle of coffee powder, almonds crumbs on the surface and a couple of amaretti pastries or as your creativity suggests.

Wishing everybody a good week-end!

Almond pastries for Easter Season, tradition and creativity

almond pastries

At Easter season, according to local and family traditions, we love to prepare these fragranced home-made almond pastries and it is always a pleasure to offer them to family and friends. It is a delicious dessert after lunch and in good company of a cup of warm coffee or tee. Neither eggs nor flour are inside, indeed these pastries melts like butter in your mouth, call it sublime patisserie! Like for high quality chocolate that has to be always stored in cool places, less than 18° C temperature, I wouldn’t recommend to make almond pastries at Summer time.

Ingredients: almonds, sugar, water and, for those who appreciate, rose water or only few drops of anise-flavored liqueur or seeds of anise.  

Once you have prepared the almond paste, you can use it also as filling for little pastries made of pâte sablée. Children will love them 💚 ✨

Wishing everybody a good Sunday!

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’!

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Time for a genuine Spring appetizer

It is the last week-end of March, the temperatures are getting milder and we do enjoy the pleasure of preparing season food, which tastes even better when it is light and genuine. At this proper, I would like to suggest a culinary idea that has its roots by our local tradition in Apulia, Southern Italy. It could be a delicious appetizer, which would take you only 20/30 minutes to make it ready. Well, let’s do it! 

First of all, fry some cherry tomatoes (please, remember to prick each of them with a toothpick) and rings of onion in extravergin olive oil (not so much). Be careful, it is necessary to cover the pan, since the tomato juice could splash when in contact with the hot oil. In the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and origan.

Secondly, peel the green fava beans and fry them gently with fresh bacon and a hint of garlic. Add little white wine and let evaporate. In the end, add a sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh mint. You will smell the fresh fragrance!

Then, it will be bread’s turn. Place some small slices of homemade bread in the oven, just for few minutes, to make them warm and slightly crisp(200°). The next step is to rub some garlic on the surface of bread: this is something that goes according to your personal taste, indeed not everybody can appreciate the fragrance of garlic.

In the end, prepare the slices of bread on a plate, pour on their surface some drops of extravrgin olive oil, the juice of tomatoes that is in the pan and distribute fried tomatoes, fava beans and tiny peaces of bacon. Besides, for this dish, which has the flavours of our local Mediterranean culinary tradition, I chose a local fresh sheep milk cheese to pair with and I decorated the plate with some mint. You can add drops of balsamic vinegar if you like it.

As always, the choice of wine is yours: I would have a glass of prosecco wine to thanks and for wishing everybody a good weekend!

Mediterranean taste: Veal and pork chops and fresh herbs from the garden for a bouquet garni

It is Sunday afternoon, the sky is painted with golden, orange shades of light and from the garden you can listen to little birds chirping in a choir and chasing each other, joyfully flying from a branch to an other of the fruit trees in blossom. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the fragrance of fresh herbs straight from the garden invites to prepare a bouquet garni for something appetizing at dinner time.  During the week-end, I had the chance to choose some chops of veal and pork for the stew by the local food market: indeed, the meat has some hints of fat, it looks very tender and juicy so, it would be nice to cook it by providing a delicious Mediterranean taste. 

Here the suggested quantities can vary because of the presence of salt in some ingredients, thus it is necessary  a more accurate control for balance with salt:

  • 600 gr veal and pork
  • 3 or 4 anchovies in extra virgin olive oil
  • 20/30 gr capers in salt
  • fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) for a bouquet garni
  • 1 lemon
  • extravirgin olive oil and white wine
  • a clove or two of garlic
  • parsley
  • wheat flour
  • salt and pepper

Flour the chops of veal and pork and fry them golden in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, a clove of garlic and the bouquet garni. As soon as the surface of the meat will be lightly crisp and golden, add half glass of white wine (the one you prefer) and let it evaporate. Then, cover the pan and cook the stew (lower flame) for about half an hour. Remove the bouquet garni. 

In the meanwhile, mix together anchovies with previously washed capers (both of the two ingredients are thinely minced), some garlic, chopped parsley, the grated peel of lemon and few drops of its juice. Keep on mixing the sauce until it becomes homogeneous, add a sprinkle of flour if it is necessary to make it thicker, cover and keep on cooking for five minutes more. Serve the stew of veal and pork very warm and the fragrance of a Mediterranean taste will be exalted and melt in your mouth.

I hope you will have the pleasure to try the recipe and enjoy the dish with family and friends and since the week is going to start soon, I wish everybody a good new one! 

 

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!

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