Friday, January 22, 2016

Christmas isn't Christmas without Zeppole

Well a belated, month late Buon Natale, dear reader.  It's been awhile, there is so much on the go and down time for all the extras is few and far between. 

Still, there's much to share.  One of those traditions is one of my son's favourite treats made crisp and tender on Christmas Eve - zeppole.  Just looking at these you'd assume they are sweet.  An assumption justified by a google search to find that many zeppole recipes are jam filled sugar dusted heavenly confections.  And while it's true that Southerners and i Siciliani love their sweets, the mountain dwelling lot at the doorstep of the Aspromonte equally LOVE their salt.  I used to call these Sangiorgese Surprises because of the somewhat unexpected treasure inside.  A great source of that pungent savoury goodness, and no better excuse to fill the brocca (jug) of wine again and again, are anchovies.

Nonna's back on her feet but tires easily (and would never admit it so don't tell her I said so).  Her tastebuds didn't suffer and these treats are evidence of the fact.

No sugar added: zeppole dough after the rise and ready for the fryer.

Golden and crisp zeppole, still warm.  It's beer o'clock.


About 600 g of boiled, slightly cooled russet or Yukon gold potatoes, riced (or through a food mill)
1 kg of flour
2 envelopes of active dried yeast (about 4 1/2 - 5 teaspoons)
300 mL milk or water to hydrate yeast.
1/2 teaspoon of sugar if using water (above)
tablespoon of salt or so (to taste)
4-6 L of oil for frying (grapeseed oil works well)
Savoury fillings, optional (anchovies, baccala, n'djua)

Boil or bake potatoes. I've done both, just make sure that you don't over cook if boiling and ensure they are fully cooked either way.  Let cool slightly and rice into a large bowl.

Dust flour over potatoes and mix to coat.  Make a well and add hydrated yeast that is foamy.

You may need a little more milk/water to make the dough the right consistency and also some recipes call for an egg or egg yolk to the flour/ potato mixture.  Sprinkle with salt.  An egg yolk or two, while my suocera doesn't use it, wouldn't be out of place to make a tender dough.

Mix by using a plastic dough scraper to fold the loose dough over onto itself in the bowl.

Transfer to a clean bowl and let sit, covered with a tea towel to rise. It will about double in size over a couple of hours. It could also be done overnight via a slower rise in the cantina if that timing is more suitable.

This is a sticky dough. Keep hands wet or slightly oiled to form fritters. You can form any of numerous traditional shapes the form with the hold in the middle is good for leaving them plain and the elongated shape or round works best for any of the filled varieties

So you may have noticed at this point, that there is no mention of anchovies or baccala YET. 

That's because once you start to fry the zeppole with fish, there's no going back.  The oil will take on the flavour of fish so fry off all that you'd like plain (or sweet) first, then fry the ones with filling.

Filling, a strip of oil or salt packed anchovy (oil being milder than salt packed), a strip of soaked and rinsed baccala or a nugget of n'djua will all suit the traditional Calabrese.  In our house, all fried goodies get paired with beer, but vino will do nicely too.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and 2016 is treating you well.


Monday, November 30, 2015

The table at More e Macine

Before I get into the food, I had to share the sleeping pup picture.  Not something you'd find in local Canadian restaurants (although a favourite bookshop in my hometown had a cat named Chaucer.. it isn't quite the same thing).  I was a little concerned to show the sequence of pics for those not reading the text.  See below.

This is the Osteria More e Macine in La Morra, Piemonte. I had the pleasure of visiting with Terra Madre delegates in October of 2014.  I'm posting on the 10 day countdown to Terra Madre Day 2015.

The land of Barolo is not wanting for restaurants, so narrowing down choice must have been difficult.  Luckily, it was chosen for me as part of a Taste Tripping tour I signed up for while in Torino for Terra Madre.  Terra Madre provided an overwhelming amount of information to take in, but being in Piemonte warrants at least a day trip to the Langhe, with its castles, vineyards, hazelnut treats and truffles, it is without compare.  And that is merely the tip of the world-renowned iceberg.

More e Macine was busy and at the suggestion of the waiter (we had limited time), we ordered a selection of antipasti to share.  This allowed a few tastings from the by-the-glass menu and a sampling of the local specialities.

I'm glad we did.  First, I love just about anything crudo (raw) and that's not to everyone's taste.  This battuto was special.  Local beef is something to behold and this is the best showcase for its delectable properties. If you have never tried carne crudo, this is setting the bar fairly high for future experiences.

More e Machine has a great list of 'by the glass' vino as well. Spectacular.

Grazie More e Machine!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mushroom Festival Firsts

Not the FIRST Mushroom festival in Rockwood but a first for us.  We heard about it rather last minute but not too late that we couldn't go.  Besides, we are always up for a 14km road trip.  It rained, but if that wouldn't matter to a mushroom, why should it matter to us?  Wellies on and away we went.

For the second year, held on the Village Green at St. George's Anglican Church, in the town of Rockwood, Ontario, the festival showcases local mushroom farms, foragers, local purveyors of mushroom goodies, chefs/restos and some of the local nature clubs. Local artisans had a few stalls for the art or trinket inclined and there was a main stage kept busy with a line-up of local talent.  It's a perfect blend for a family day out. 

Also present on the day were Lifford Wine agents, pouring some delicious handpicked selections to pair with mushroom fare, and Guelph's newest 'nano' brewery, Royal City.

If you're in the neighbourhood in September (or even if you're not), plan to make a day of it sampling fantastic food and demos from some of the areas best chef talent and perfectly paired bevvies.  You can even buy some local mushrooms for your own kitchen creations or register for a walk in the nearby Conservation area looking for edible wild treasures.  Don't miss out, come and discover one of Ontario's great little festivals. Also on FB.

Andiamo alla Festa di Funghi!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Le Donne (The Ladies) de Terra Madre

Handmade tortellini - mesmerising!

The Oyster Ladies from Bretagna!

Slicing Lardo di Colonato.

Torrone Queens.

Slicing the prized 38 and 42 month old Pata Negra.

Just a snapshot of a few of the exhibitors.. Watching them, I got to thinking about how many slices, oysters and pieces of tortellini these hands have made. To all of the talented women artisans, spokespeople and exhibitors at Terra Madre, Grazie! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Caciocavallo di CiminĂ 

No shortage of samples from friendly producers at Terra Madre 2014.
Caciocavallo has been made in the province of Calabria for many years and is easily recognisable by it's traditional shapes (an elongated egg shape or the form with the two knots at each end).  Techniques of manufacture of this classic are similar across the region but, as an agricultural product, show the typical diversity resulting from differences in the breeds selected, particular pastures, climate, and, of course, the cheesemaker.

In CiminĂ , kid's rennet and, frequently, a portion of goats milk are used.  The typical forms of Caciocavallo are aged for about a month but that can vary depending on a size of the forms which range from 400 grams up to three kilograms. Smaller forms are perfect for local markets but larger sizes, best suited for longer aging, allow for export, the expansion of the industry and are a great resource for the small commumes where they are made.   

Cheese from CiminĂ  is a Slowfood Presidium.  as such, this project supports quality traditional products, the small scale producers who make them, and their associated communities.
What to do with this wonderful cheese? With it's flavours of grass, buttercups and gentle nuttiness, Caciocavallo is a table cheese like no other. A bit of wine, walnuts, salami and good company.. Mangia!  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

what to do with 'ndjua

'Ndjua from Spilinga at Terra Madre

'Ndjua is an odd thing.  I've spoken to many people who mostly fall into one of two camps: they have either A) never heard of the stuff or B) they are completely infatuated with it.  Is it better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all?  Regardless of your situation, neither is the ideal because, while the fullness of flavour it imparts to dishes makes it a 'must try' in my opinion, the fact remains that 'ndjua IS notoriously difficult to find.  I've read about it being smuggled in carry on luggage, but I believe, vacuum packed (or in a jar), it's a fine souvenir to bring back to Canada, no worries.
So, say you 'know a guy', have access to 'ndjua (contraband or otherwise) or you are making your own and are wondering what to do with it.  To this end, I had the opportunity to speak to some excellent producers from the undisputed home of 'ndjua, Spilinga in Vibo Valentia, while at Terra Madre.

I was pretty thrilled to get some insider tips on the pork product du jour.  Here are some favourites, courtesy of L'Artigiano della 'ndjua:

Ziti or penne sauteed with melanzane e 'ndjua.
Squid salad with potatoes and 'ndjua
Scrambled eggs with 'ndjua

Recipes to follow.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Per Pasqua - Crostata di fichi

Corsican fig preserves
This fig and walnut jam is a favourite treat that I indulge in once, maybe twice, a year.  When the jam is in stock, I usually pick up a jar or two for the purpose of making crostate. I was inspired by this version, but have to admit to not being able to part with my modest fresh fig harvest to bake them in a crostata and do not have quite enough to make jam.  Maybe if I had the abondance as they do in Corsica (from where this jam is produced) or the abbondanza as in Italy, figs aplenty, I'd indulge more often.   

Once you have your basic (pasta frolla) pastry lined tart tin (the type with the removable edge is my preference) you can dab the bottom with Nutella for a little bit of chocolate throughout or leave it purely jam. And, while our Zia in the Valle d'Aosta mainly bakes and fries her bumper crop of the tart local apple, she also cooks them down to a deep, caramel colour and thick, spreadable consistency.  Then, she cuts some of her fig preserves with that for yet another version of this tart. 

The walnuts in this jam are an added twist, earthy and complementary to the sweet fig. You could even enhance the pastry with some walnuts if you're partial.

Mid morning pick me up.
Use of fig preserves only begins at sweet as they can provide balance to many savoury partners too: a simple accompaniment to a piece of cheese, maybe a fresh to moderately ripened goat or sheep cheese and many styles of blue, gently warmed and mixed with the slightest bit of vinegar and finely minced shallot to be drizzled over salad, or to partner with a cheese and/or onion tart.  And if you're lucky to have fresh, figs partner well with some salty prosciutto and spicy radicchio or arugula. 

This crostata goes very well with an espresso after Easter Sunday mass, is a perfect nibble to have for company and also good as a take along dessert.  With dessert covered, we're off to deliver some sgute to the kids before Sunday lunch at Nonna's house.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!