Monday, August 08, 2016

Pesto revisited.

This is the time of year is when the anticipation of the garden is just about fully realised.  August is here and the abundance of vegetables is well on it's way. The cucumber, zucchini flowers and pale green zucchini have been around for a few weeks now, some deep purple eggplant have been sliced for the grill and I've had the first tomatoes (showing their many colours) in a spectacular salad. 

But before all that, there's the scent of basil.  The aromatic arrival of the tender new basil crop, in all it's fragrant glory, is essential to complement all of the above mentioned vegetables, adorn pizza and provide the verde in insalata caprese.  That said, it also makes for a wonderful solo act.

-Pesto -
Large bunch of basil, trimmed of any stemmy bits.
I use a mortar and pestle and follow Jamie Oliver's recipe, more or less.

On classic, handmade trofie with a few tender green beans, filej or other spiral pasta where the basil-y goodness can gather, pesto is particularly satisfying.  However, not a total stickler for authenticity, any sturdy long or tubular penne-type or garganelli will do if you need a basil fix..

Another interesting gem I have found to coat pasta is a carrot top pesto.  It's spectacular on roasted carrots and if you've got a bit leftover from the carrot dish, it's tasty on pasta as well.

Wine: Inspired by the herbal aromas, I opened a bottle of Astrolabe Sauvignon blanc.  Classic Marlborough matches well, as would a solid RSA Chenin blanc (generally under-rated good value too).  If you favour keeping things Italian, almost all of the Italian wine regions have a food friendly white on offer.  A few immediate favourites come to mind: Soave, Pinot grigio from Friuli or Roero Arneis  - all very good.


Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the best treat and Nacatole are one of those traditional Calabrese cookies that are, in my opinion, a 'must try' whenever you are fortunate enough to visit Calabria.  I was gifted an enormous tray of these cookies by a dear family friend when visiting Calabria nearly two years ago and, most recently, a lovely bag of them appeared in Canada courtesy of my suocera's cousin.  Given the state of air travel today (and the cost of checked cases), I'd have been grateful for one cookie smuggled over in cling film.

Nacatole aren't sweet or spiced.  Rather, they let the flour, eggs and oil shine in their distinctive ladder shape.  Baked to a crunchy, espresso dunkable consistency, they are a nice way to cap off a meal or, with fruit and yoghurt, a good start to the day.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

On my summer vacation..

 I went to Eataly Chicago.

I drank some wine from the Friuli region..

And I took a pasta making class.

Where I made some agnolotti dal plin.
It was fun.
Buon appetito!

Friday, July 01, 2016

Happy Canada Day

Well, the holiday weekend isn't giving much of a good show weather-wise.. although we've had our fair share of sunshine lately, it would be good if it fronted up for a few days off.  We've got a long weekend, combining the Canada day Friday and the July 4th (USA) holiday Monday.

So there's still time for improvement.

To celebrate, we'll have the typical homemade sausage fest later on tonight paired with good friends, good vino and fireworks.  To tide us over until then, lunch is simple fare.

 In our garden, melanzane (eggplant) are still small purple flowers.  These stuffed melanzane are made from the last of those in Nonna's freezer from last years crop.  Filled with the meat, the roasted eggplant flesh, cheese and herbs and then fried, they are a savoury treat.  Along with a good breadroll, a few preserved olives and a glass of vino, we'll make it to dinner.

Mangia! and a Happy Canada Day to all!

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!