August 26, 2006

Puglia....Tiella with mussels


Last trip we visited the more famouse towns, Lecce, Alberobello with it's trulli, Ostuni and Otranto. This year I wanted to see the other side. We headed over to Gallipoli and our trip was cut short due to my bad back..... but Egullet is talking about the cuisine of Puglia and I wanted to add my 5 cents!

I have lots of friends from Puglia and have been lucky enough to learn how to make Orecchiette, Stuffed Mussels and one of my favorite preparations for the lovely presentation and how easy it is to make is the Tiella con cozze, baked mussels.

Ceramics in Puglia are fabulous, last time we went to Grottaglie and picked up a few plates. This year I picked up a couple of simple clay cooking pots in a gas station with gift shop the first day. Good thing as I didn't have another chance to shop.

The Tiella is a clay glazed cooking dish.
I didn't have a flat one so used the bottom of my tajine.

Worked great!

Tiella con le Cozze

1 1/2 cups rice ( I used Basmati, as I like a lighter rice)
2 small red onions ( I had fresh Tropea onions from Calabria)
5 small potatoes, peeled and sliced thin ( I had Yukon gold)
2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 pound mussels, steamed open and half the shell removed
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
6 tbs fresh Italian parsley, chopped
4 tbs breadcrumbs, plain
6 tbs grated cheese, ( hard sheeps cheese or parmesan)

Soak the rice in cold water while preparing the rest of the ingredients for the Tiella.

Oil the bottom of your pan.
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Layer the sliced onions on top.
Cover with sliced potatoes.

Place the opened mussels on top.
Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes , chopped parsley and garlic slices.

Top with drained rice.

Add another layer of potatoes.
Season with more chopped tomatoes, parsley, garlic and grated cheese.
Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup if extra virgin olive oil on top.
Bake at 180 (350) for 1 hour.

When done, will absorb all the liquid and a knife will easily slide into the potatoes.

August 20, 2006

In a Pickle

I adore Pickles!
Not dill, but instant gratification Bread and Butter pickles I think we call them.

I use a recipe from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, the book I go to when I have my American cravings, it has it all!
Of course I tweek it....

Can never seem to follow a recipe as is!

Diva's Summer Pickles

2 large cucumbers
1 red onion
1 yellow bell pepper ( or half a yellow and half a red)

2 soupspoons sea salt ( or kosher salt)

2 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar

1. Slice the veggies and sprinkle with salt, toss and let sit for three hours in a bowl.
The veggies with give off their water and this makes a crisp pickle.

2. After the three hours, drain the pickles and rinse off the salt, and place back into the bowl.

3. Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil and pour over the pickles in the bowl.

4. When cook, place in clean jars.

I don't process the jars as they are in vinegar and I eat them so quickly.
I keep them in the fridge.

If I am going to save them I do process them for keeping in the pantry for some summer... later this winter!

My favorite way to eat them is on top of sliced boiled potatoes, as a light potato salad. My hubbie has started adding other boiled veggies such as string beans, beets and some fresh tomatoes. FABULOUS.
He drizzles extra virgin oil on his too!
But for me the pickles and their vinegar are so refreshing in the summer!

You can reuse the vinegar for making more pickles too.. so keep on pickleing!

The original recipe spices the vinegar, so you can add cinnamon, star anice, cloves chili or black pepper corns.

I am waiting to see what my friend Giulia in Le Marche has to say. she is quite the cook and the Italians either love or hate sweet and savory! Guilia has a organic farm and B&B in one if Italy's most beautiful areas. We have gone twice to le MArche and I can't wait to go back.. now that I have a friend!

August 19, 2006

Seasonal Update

July was killer heat and the hills show it.
August cooled off and little or no rain here in Chianti.

The grapes are small, it will be interesting to see if little water raised the sugar content and hence a fabulous year for small but high quality production.

The fear factor with the weather like this is always hail near harvest time which can ruin the crops.

The other day we took an unknown road near us, a favorite passtime, getting lost on purpose

and ended up near a castle with a fabulous view of the " Crete Senese" the soil the color that inspired Crayola!

In our garden this year.. we were gifted by a little bird with a zucchini plant. It is slowly taking over the garden.

Since I have been down and out with a bad back, I haven't bent over yet to harvest fo zucchini blossoms to fry, but am feeling better so watch out!

August 15, 2006

Don't Bogart those herbs... my friend

Recently David Lebovitz
wrote a cute entry on his blog which had me laughing again remembering our day together.

It is funny that erbe... herbs.. in Italian is slang for yeah.. that stuff.
I found a cute jar in Siena, that I keep my oregano in, that says Maryjuana.

Everyone has their own blend, I call them Erbe Toscane
and this is the basic recipe, which then we dry and can save.

When I have fresh rosemary and sage I usually make Dario's roast beef, perfect for summer to serve room temp for a party!
When I don't have access to the fresh herbs, I can use the dried herbs to make an infused oil which I like to add the chili pepper flakes to for a kick!

Go out to your garden or your neighbors garden and start chopping!
Great for Xmas presents.

August 10, 2006

La Notte di San Lorenzo

August 10th is the San Lorenzo's day.

Saint Lawrence, San Lorenzo, was martryed by being grilled to death.
The story goes that as he was being grilled, he called out to those torturing him and said, " Turn me over I'm done on this side!".

For me, San Lorenzo is the patron Saint of my cooking school located at the Mercato Centrale in Florence which is also called Mercato San Lorenzo, named for the church.
The beautiful Medici chapel is located on the backside of the San Lorenzo church with Michelanglo's famous statues Dawn and Dusk/ Night and Day, created for the Medici tombs housed in the Chapel.

For a fabulous guide to the area, stop by the site which was put together by the local mercants.

It is also the night of the falling stars,
most people leave the city lights and head out to the countryside to watch the show.
All over Italy now there is also Calice alle stelle, a night wine festival, toasting the stars! Sounds great!

In Florence a evening party is held at the church and the local vendors celebrate by feeding the crowds with Lasagna with meat sauce ( lasagna being flat noodles, not the lasagna al forno, which is the baked layered lasagna) and watermelon.

Grab some wine and some watermelon and head out to the countryside and join me in making a wish!

August 5, 2006


I adore Moreno Cedroni if you are anywhere near Senigallia in Le Marche.. go to his restaurant The Madonnina del Pescatore.

Then for lighter tastes and fun try Aniko'
located in town, his Susci bar.. not Sushi, japanese style but more like cured fish in fun ways and the Foam expresso!

I was so happy to eat at both his places that the third Clandestino was also calling me!

Sometimes there just isn't enough time... so it had to wait till this year.
I really wanted to got for dinner so we were going to hold off till the trip back up from Puglia and to start heading down.

This trip was to see new things so we decided to visit the Conero Park which I had heard was spectacular.
Following a sense of the coast and wanting to see the sea as soon as possible we ended up at Portonuovo and CLANDESTINO!

a wonderful little cove with stone beach ( not my favorite , I am a sand girl!)
the lovely beach shack...

We got there just a little before lunch time so the restaurant wasn't really opened yet, but Moreno's TINS were available.

He has created cans of gourmet fish products, we ordered two, the Monkfish liver and the Octopus and potato. The lovely waitress suggested wonderful wines by the glass to accompany our choices.

By the time we had finished, the chef was there and we could have dessert!

Chocolate mousse with orange infused olive oil and Maldon sea salt with Grissini... YES

Moreno's father-in-law actually crusjes mandarin oranges with the olives to make this fabulous oil! INCREDIBLE!
and Cappuccino mousse.

Thank you Moreno! For sharing your little bit of paradise!

(As we were getting ready to leave, Moreno and his wife and daughter arrived to enjoy their cove!)
Moreno has just released a new book ( in Italian) on his 20 years....

Località Portonuovo
Closed Tuesday
Closed in October for the season ( open for New Years)
Tel. 071 801422


Puglia is the breadbasket of Italy.
Called so as it produces most of the hard wheat as well as veggies.
Bread in Puglia is fabulous rich and chewy.

Since I am down and out with the bad back... and can't cook, at least we can talk about it I quess.

On Egullet right now, they are talking about the foods of Puglia on the Italy board so timing is great for those that want to experiment.

Puglia is exciting to me for the intense colors as much as anything.
The soil is so rich and red, the olive trees so huge.

Last trip we explored the more classic sites, Lecce, Alberobello, Otranto and Ostuni.

Throw in Baroque architecture and I am sold!

This year the goal was to hit the other side, Taranto, Gallipoli and head into Martina Franca.
The bad back got in the way, but we did see some nice places.

Getting to Puglia this year, we had fun.
I had missed going to Moreno Cedroni's Clandestino, a small bar/restaurant on a cove past Ancona. That was the starting point for the trip.

Leaving Tuscany we headed east to Le Marche and spent the night in Civitanuova.
Lovely small village, Hotel Roma ( 100 euro a night) and then headed out to the coast in the morning.

I had wanted to go to Clandestino for dinner as Moreno had said during the day it was a place for beach goers with light food and at night was the hot spot.. Rum, cigars champagne etc..
sounded like the perfect pirates cove to start a adventure.

Since we didn't make if for dinner, driving back up towards Ancona for lunch seemed silly.
We also hadn't brought the address with us.

Off we went instead to start our drive down.
We hit the Conero Park and surprise.. by randomly choosing turns there we were!

Clandestino is located in the Conero Park!