Sunday, August 30, 2009

Interview with...an Expat, (and that would be me and no, not a vampire)

In case you were wondering what it's like to run a B&B, or if you were a wee bit curious about how Bella Baita came about, check out my interview over at My Bella Vita. Expat, Cherrye Moore, who is also a talented free lance writer and B&B owner (Il Cedro) in Calabria, has started a new series on her blog, My Bella Vita about expat owned businesses in Italy. She very generously launched it with an interview with little ole me. I'm honored. Cherrye and I have very similar stories, starting with falling in love with an Italian man and moving to his home town to discover "la dolce vita". So if you get a chance head on over to her site as she also has a lot of interesting travel tips on Tuesdays and lots of other helpful information for those of you contemplating the expat life. Thanks Cherrye.
Oh yeah, I forgot to say, you need to go and stay with her at here B&B in the south and with us in the north!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gofri and Il Mercatino delle Pulci


Everyone loves a bargain and Italians are no different. Towards the end of the Italian holidays in August, our neighbors in Perosa Argentina host an annual flea market every year. It's quite a large collection of vendors that meander through the town park and the town's side streets.


Everybody has something to sell of value or not, but certainly plenty to keep you interested and entertained for the day.

Something for all members of the family.

and budgets.


In a beautiful mountain setting it's hard to go wrong. They set up a large area for the kids to finger paint. If you wanted you could even work on your tan as well, just in case you didn't quite make it to the seaside, you don't have to be deprived while you are on your mountain holiday, especially this summer. It's been quite a scorcher a good portion of the summer. For those of you not in the know getting bronze is one of the favorite Italian past times of the summer and your Italian-ness and worth is totally measure by your bronze-ness factor. Woe is me, of the fair Irish coloring variety. I stick out like a...., yes you can fill in the rest of the saying.



And like any type of town celebration, it wouldn't be complete with out some type of festival fare, with the men folk showing off their cooking prowess like this good looking bunch shown here. (They asked me what television channel they were going to be on that night, little did they realize that they would go round the world, not merely the local nightly news!)
Our Chisone valley specialty is called Gofri (pronounced go-free). It's a crispy thin style waffle that is served hot off the irons, savory or sweet. The savory varieties usually include ham of the cooked or cured persuasion or local Toma cheeses and the sweet ones are slathered with marmalade or the perennial hands down favorite, Nutella. It is a delight not to be missed.
Recipe to follow shortly with a few more photos.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sizzling Summer Cooler.. Gazpacho Soup

August 15th was Ferragosto here in Italy.
It is a sacred holiday to Italians, one that has pagan origins and later was all about the religious aspects of the Virgin Mary being assumed into heaven, but then fell out of favor with the Vatican and has come to be the secular holiday of the summer.
According to Wikipedia... "Before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence, however, this holiday was celebrated in the Roman Empire to honor the gods—in particular Diana—and the cycle of fertility and ripening. In fact, the present Italian name of the holiday derives from its original Latin name, Feriae Augusti ("Festivals [Holidays] of the Emperor Augustus") [1]. Almost the entire month of August was taken as a holiday and leisure time in Italy in honor of this feast day."

Most Italians go out of their way to go somewhere for the day for a big restaurant meal in the mountains, the seaside, a bar-b-que with friends or a picnic out in the country somewhere. Here we had grid lock going up to our Fortezza di Fenestrelle this year to climb the almost 4,ooo covered stairs and walk across to the meadow in the Orsiera Rocciavre' park, where there was a free open air classical concert in what was a glorious summer day. We had guests that were clever enough to get up early and make the climb in the cool of the morning and before the roads became a parking lot. A fitting celebration to summer.
Another fitting celebration of the season bounty of tomatoes is refreshing Gazpacho soup.
I try to keep to the Italian theme here, but I don't think Gazpacho is too much of a stretch from our friends over in Spain, as I find it on the menu here now and then. It is a perfect summer treat that highlights the intense flavor juicy, luscious tomatoes. This dish just isn't the same any other time of the year. It has all the elements that are so beloved in Italian cooking, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, red onions, and peppers if you like, all of which are in their zenith of abundance and flavor at the moment here in northern Italy.
I find that I tend to make it a little different every time depending on what is on hand and what suits me at the moment. I based this recipe on a few I found on line, but Elise's of Simply Recipes version I found the most helpful for me. You'll find a wealth of recipes there if you haven't found her site before.

Gazpacho Recipe

Ingredients

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and large chopped a mixture of cherry tomatoes and heirlooms are a nice combination about 700 g or 1 1/2 lb of tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, large chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped, (optional)
1-2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh chives
2 T any combination of your favorite herbs I like to use basil or mint
1 clove garlic, minced, optional
2 T raspberry or white wine vinegar or lemon or lime juice
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper or to taste
1 c tomato juice, I actually used water as I didn’t have any and it was still incredibly flavorful due to the tomatoes being so wonderful
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Method

Drop your tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for about 1-2 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to make them cool enough to handle. Peel.
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
Pulse and blend slightly, to desired consistency.
Adjust seasonings.
Chill for maybe an hour and serve with garlicky oily croutons or crumbled grissini on top. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on top.
You can refrigerate over night in a non-metal storage container. I find that the flavor changes completely, so keep that in mind.

Serves 4-6

And Buon Appetito!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Molise another hidden treasure

Molisane Cart

Not so very long ago, I stumbled upon Michele Vitale on a Slow Food forum on LinkedIn, a social business network. I recognized right away that being from the little known region of Molise and his keen interest in trying to promote their local cuisine and culture to a broader audience, that we had a lot in common and we do. His blog, "Taste of Italy-il Gusto dell' Italia" written in a combination of English and Italian posts, and is a real celebration of this beautiful, "off the beaten path" region of Italy. It is a good site for those of us trying to improve our Italian as well. Michele's passion for his homeland is quite contagious and he pulls together some great videos and posts about Molise and it's people. Second to the smallest region and surrounded by Abruzzo, Apulia, Campania, Lazio and the Adriatic sea, one can see why Molisese might feel overshadowed by their larger neighbors. Michele is trying to change all of that by promoting this areas culture and cuisine in all sorts of endeavors. When I first made contact with him he was off to Holland to put on a food exhibit and has been back again more recently. Apparently there are quite a few Dutch people that have been coming there for ages and so there is a fair amount of demand for the Molisano food and wines back in the Netherlands. Good to always try and build upon that interest. I highly recommend discovering this small slice of heaven, Molise and let Michele guide you on your way. One of the regions colorful festivals is posted here and typical festival breads here. Don' t waste another moment and have a good wander around Michele's blog and discover yet another reason to love and visit Italy.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Friggitello Incrosta


Perhaps you're melting with high temperatures these days and couldn't possibly think about turning on the oven, or perhaps it is a tad cooler than most summers in recent memory, or maybe you need to bake some bread or cake or something. Whatever the case may be, here's a simple satisfying idea for using up some of the bountiful peppers you might be encountering from your garden at the moment. These filled peppers baked in a light foamy souffle casserole, is an appealing proposition. Friggitelli are a mild green pepper and usually make their appearance early in the summer season here. It's similar to an Anaheim pepper in that it really doesn't have much bite to it. Fill them unroasted with your favorite flavorful filling. I used a mixture of Toma, which is a mild, mountain cheese and Cevrin, a very aromatic local goat cheese that you won't soon forget, after leaving it in your car on a warm summers day.
This recipe lends itself to many variations on the fillings, like spicy or mild sausage and cheese, beans, rice and on and on. It also works very well with zucchini blossoms as well without all that tasty but heavy grease. Have at it and enjoy a light puffy dish with a substantial filling that paired with a marinated vegetable or green salad, makes for a satisfying meal.

Friggitello Incrosta
Yields enough for 2 main courses or 4 antipasti
This is easily scaled up

8 small Friggitello peppers, or any mild green peppers
8 oz (226g)or about 3 Tb of filling per pepper, grated cheese mixture,
mild, sharp and Parmesan your choice
2 room temperature eggs, separated
2 Table spoon of flour or cornstarch
pinch salt

Clean your peppers, if you like you can always roast them and peel them if their skin is to tough. Otherwise remove the stem and seeds and slice down one side and set aside.
Grate your cheeses of choice and mix together.
Fill the cavity of your peppers and set aside
Whisk your whites with a pinch of salt added to them in a bowl that will allow them to expand. Whisk till they are as quite firm as they can be without anything being added to them.
Very gingerly add your yolks and sprinkle the flour over the whites, distributing them over the entire area of the whites so you handle as little as possible.
Hand whisk or fold the yolks and flour into the whites, making sure all is blended, but preserving as much volume as possible.

Grease your baking dish, and cover the bottom with 1/3 of the batter. Place your peppers on the mixture. Cover with the rest of the mixture. Pop into a preheated 350* (190*) oven and bake until the mixture is lightly brown and set with the inside are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Baking time can vary.

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