Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Torta di Verza

Savoy Cabbage Pie

The Savoy Cabbage is a  flavorful crinkled leaf cabbage, which I've been told is one of the best varieties for cooking. Its head consists of loose leaves, which vary in color from dark green to light green containing lacy patterned veins.  I am still experimenting with recipes, but have found a real crowd pleaser with this pie. 

Being that we are away from home, and away from the home grown produce, we appreciate  COOP.  They have such a great selection of biological products, from fruits and vegetables to household products.  I am hooked!   I can happily say that my house is stocked with either biological, DOP or IGP products. (denominazione di origine protetta e indicazione geografica protetta) 

This is the time of lent, Quaresima, so I would omit the speck. The pie tastes just as good without!

Crust: a bit unusual, but a nice crunchy change
300 g Durum wheat flour (flour for pasta)
100 g beer
40 g evo oil

Just mix the ingredients and line a pie pan. I place a sheet of baking paper over the pasta to roll out evenly. It is a bit sticky.

Half of a large head of cabbage
one onion
50g speck (or prosciutto, ham)
Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP half cup, or more for your taste
3 eggs
bay leaf, salt and pepper

In a pot of boiling water, cook the cabbage cut up into small pieces. In a separate large pan cook down an onion in a small amount of water. Once cooked add the speck and the bay leaf. Add boiled cabbage to the pan and simmer. (If you omit the meat, a tsp of olive oil would be a nice addition.) Remove the bay leaf.

In a bowl, scramble the eggs with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Transfer filling to prepared crust and top with egg mixture. Place in oven at 180.  When egg is cooked and the crust is golden you are set! 

The painted Ladies of Cogoleto

While walking the many streets of Liguria, we find ourselves looking up in amazement at the extremely realistic imagery panted on the many houses that we pass.   Was it lack of money, lack of architectural space or just pure joyful creativity?

There are many theories to why the elegantly dressed houses of Liguria started. It is said that in Liguria at one time existed a tax for every window that faced the road. From this it seems the custom to paint false windows was born. You can now find windows, balconies, cats with sly glances, geraniums, well the list goes on... 
{They are inevitable facsimiles, exercises in illusionism in ochre, grey, old-fashioned pink, green and yellow, “that balance the otherwise dissymmetrical aspect of the houses, whose lack of harmony is the result of alterations and superpositioned elevations which the seamen carried out with excessive parsimony”, says Fortunato Lavarello of Camogli, one of the eight master decorators still working in the Liguria. “When the seamen returned home from long voyages,” Fortunato continued, “they added one floor after another to the existing houses, ruining the symmetry of the facades, and camouflaging the improvised and tight-fisted structural alterations with illusionistic paintings of shutters, balconies, portals and other trompe-l’oeil. Besides, the Ligurians are more mountain folk than seamen and, in the absence of inaccessible rock-faces, they have always taken delight even in climbing their houses in order to paint them.” } -Taken from Andrea Battaglini

Stop by Andrea Battaglini site, a travel writer and photographer.
Finestre di Liguria has more pictures of these painted ladies...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Chestnut-Chocolate-Coconut Cake

When chestnuts were in season, I made a point to prepare individual freezer bags of unsweetened chestnut puree to have on hand for the future months. The naturally sweet chestnuts add a special touch to a bean soup, marry beautifully with a mashed potato side dish, and an endless list of sweet treats. Most importantly, one of my 500g freezer bags was dedicated to a very special chestnut cake! Light and airy and oh so good... 

Given the fact that I am far away from my freezer back home, I picked up a small 250g bag of dried chestnuts. Not the same thing, but will make a nice substitute. Place the dried chestnuts in a large pot with plenty of water, and boil them until they become soft (it will take about 2-3 hours). Once soft, simply pass them through a vegetable press, or potato masher. (You will end up with 500g.)
Chestnut-Chocolate-Coconut Cake
500g unsweetened chestnut puree
130g ricotta (you can substitute with any soft light cheese)
100g dark chocolate
2 eggs
150g brown sugar
75g butter
100g coconut
This is a very simple recipe. Start by melting the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Once melted, add all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix.  Fold into a buttered and floured baking pan and bake for 40 minutes at 180°C.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Carnevale Cogoleto-Arenzano

Who can ask for a prettier Sunday?  The sun's rays brought everyone of Cogoleto out to the Lungomare to enjoy a stroll by the sea. 

Today, there just happened to be a Gran Prix Uisp 2010 Race in Cogoleto, which was part competition race and part leisure walk . The Athletic League Uisp (Unione Italiana Sport Per tutti) is an athletic association with an objective to offer sporting activities to all the citizens. If you are here in Italy, look them up and see what activity is being held in your area!

While out, we also met up with a few characters along the way...  It was afterall Carnivale, and these little guys were ready for the celebration! 

However, we had other places to get to...  Quick change, and then we were off to the Carnevale taking place in Arenzano...    

We all had a ball...

Savona- paesi e sapori

Savona is full of surprises! Saturday night we decided to spend the evening strolling and enjoying its caruggi (typical narrow streets).  Walking up Corso Italia, we were greeted by the lights and bustle of the paesiesapori market.

Paesiesapori is a market of Italian food and wine dedicated to the regional products and their territories of origin. It is a meeting between the public and the producers, in the heart of the most attractive Italian towns, where it transforms the square into a rich arcade of colors and perfumes.

Paesiesapori is one of the many events within the La Compagnia dei Sapori association. An association dedicated to promote the work of people who produce and value quality foods, such as farmers and craftsmen. This association is very active, check out their site and see what is happening in your area...

Thanks to all the samplings of new products, we purchased a tasty selection of meets and cheeses from the area.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

il couscous alla Trapanese

Gabriella's mother-in-law is in town for a few weeks from Trapani. I was thrilled when they invited me over to make couscous, as her mother-in-law brought semolina from Sicily. I jumped at the chance to see how it was made.  I have only eaten the pre-cooked version, never the traditional couscous.  (Semolina for couscous is a coarsely ground durum wheat, difficult to find here in Genova.)
"The couscous that is served today in the homes and the restaurants of the Trapani area has evolved in its own particular fashion. In the first place, it is almost always served with fish, as opposed to the meat or vegetable versions characteristic of the Maghreb, and the rituals of preparation differ as well.

The proper Trapanese housewife disdains the precooked variety for the unprocessed, and sets great store by her ability to execute the 'ncocciata: swirling the rough-ground semolina grains around with one hand in a wide ceramic basin called a mafaradda, she uses the other hand to sprinkle it with just enough water so the individual grains gather into loose but not lumpy clusters." -Mary Taylor Simeti, New Your Times

For every handful of semolina, one spoon of salted water is added.

The couscous is set out onto a cloth to dry.

A pesto of garlic,parsley, blanched almonds, salt, and oil is added to the fish broth as it simmers.  It is essential for an authentic couscous. 
Then a mixture of ground garlic and onion (half onion and 4 garlic cloves) is mixed into the couscous that is now seasoned with a little olive oil, bay leaves, salt and pepper. (We also added shrimp.)  Completely mixed, it is placed into an aluminum couscoussiera, a double boiler in which the tight-fitting upper pot is perforated like a colander. Some people still seals the two layers of the couscoussiera with a flour-and-water paste so the steam will not escape. The couscous is then steamed over water for two hours. Once vapors begin to pass through the couscous, cooking has begun.  Stir from time to time...
Once cooked, the couscous is turned out into a large bowl, and the fish broth is ladled over it. (Making sure  use a strainer to strain out the fish bones.) The bowl is then wrapped in blankets and left to stand for half an hour, while the grains absorb the broth.

Check out another family from Trapani and see how they make il couscous alla Trapanese on YOUTUBE.

SugoFry an onion in a large pot with olive oil.  Once tender, add tomato sauce, simmer and season to taste. Once sauce is "ready to serve with pasta" add a liter of water and salt.  Simmer and bring back to a boil.  Add the pesto of garlic, parsley, blanched almonds, salt, and oil. Simmer and bring back to a boil. At this time, add the fish, the smaller the better. These little fish will boil away into the broth.  Later you will add the larger fish that can be served as a second.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Living in the past, Colletta di Castelbianco

Imagine going back in time and walking through the intimate pathways of an active 13th-century medieval village. Well, one doesn't need a time machine to visit Colletta, a modern day mix of past, present, and future…

There is a feeling of small town charm when you visit. We were greeted warmly when we walked into the Bar with the sweet smell of hot chocolate on the stove. We then pulled up a chair, sat down, and chatted away with one of the year round homeowners. She told us stories of the place and activities that were coming up in the near future. With a heartfelt smile, she described the warmth of the other towns people. For example, if one person happens to be leaving the town on errands, they ask the others if they need anything while they are out, using their ISDN telephones that are connected to one another throughout the town. Although it is not a genuine community as of yet, as most apartments are used as summer rentals, the hope is that one day people will embraced the concept of the village and stay year round, making it their home.

I would not have known of this little gem of a place had it not have been for Anne over in Anne in Oxfordshire. She mentioned that she had spent some time in Liguria and stayed in Colletta. So, after a bit of searching on the internet, yesterday we set out to discover this unique Borgo.
An article in Fast Company, Dolce Vita, Internet Style, Ian Wylie writes of the development and concept of this cybervillaggio.

Visit Colletta di Castelbianco and see for yourself if this is your next adventure. Houses are still available…