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The Province of Bari is in the Puglia region of Italy. It is attractive to tourists and has a large commercial harbor and airport and an excellent university. It is also the second most important economic center in Southern Italy after Naples.

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

Piazza del Ferrarese, Bari

The large, fertile plains of Bari stretch inland from the coast where olives, grapes and almonds are grown. Bari is among the largest and most populated province in Italy. Apart from the plains area around the city of Bari, the territory is mainly high hills, called “murge” that is partly occupied by the recently established National Park of Alta Murgia.

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The old houses in this region are interesting, ranging from the ancient masserie (old fortified farmhouses) and the very popular, much photographed conical houses called trulli.

The area is famous for its olive oil. Italy is the second biggest producer, after Spain, and Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance here and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘orecchiette’ (meaning little ears). The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in a traditional wood burning.

Vegetables grow well in the warm climate and are used frequently in Bari’s cuisine. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and eggplant, peppers and squash are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The province is a good area to raise sheep and goats. They are bred for their meat, as well as their milk, which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Local cheeses include, Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream, Cacioricotta – a seasonal ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk and Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine because the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

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The daily cuisine, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and unprocessed with most locals growing, rearing and making enough food for their individual needs.

Eggplant Rollatini

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Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 8 lengthwise slices (You may also choose to leave the skin on)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh oregano, thyme and basil ( or ¼ teaspoon each of dried herbs)
  • ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce

Directions

Combine the ricotta, mozzarella cheese, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the eggplant.

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Heat a grill pan or the broiler. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil. Grill or broil eggplant slices three minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the filling on each eggplant slice.  Roll up tightly, jelly roll style. Place the eggplant rolls in an oiled baking dish and cover with the marinara sauce.

Bake in a 400-degree F oven for about 20 minutes.  Makes 8 appetizer or 4 main dish servings.

Focaccia Bari Style

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 grams) 00-type flour {substitute all-purpose if you don’t have the Italian flour}
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiled until fork tender, drained and cooled.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (1/2 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 10 kalamata olives, halves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk in the yeast. Using a ricer, add the cooked potatoes.

Add the water and a small pinch of salt to the flour and begin kneading to obtain a sticky, firm ball.

You can also make the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with olive oil. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in a warm, dry place. About 1 hour — depending on the warmth of your kitchen it may take longer.

Preheat oven to 430 degrees F.

Use olive oil to generously grease a large baking pan (about 12 inches). Don’t use anything smaller or the dough will creep over the edge. Stretch the dough to evenly fill the pan.

Press the halved tomatoes into the dough, cut side down and do the same with the olives. Sprinkle with oregano and sea salt.

Drizzle the surface with more olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the surface appears evenly browned and the tomatoes are caramelized.

Lightly dust with Parmesan cheese when the focaccia is finished baking. Let cool on a cooling rack before cutting.

Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

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Serves 4

  • 1 lb (500 grams) spicy Italian sausage links
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (sometimes called turnip greens in Italy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 oz.(100 ml) white wine
  • 1 hot pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

To prepare the broccoli rabe:

Wash the broccoli rabe well and cut off the bottom tough part of the stem. Cut the stalks into one inch pieces.

Blanch the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes in boiling salted water and drain well.

Place the garlic, oil, chopped chili and bay leaves in a large skillet with a cover; heat and saute for a few minutes.

Add the sausage links and cook until brown, about 5 minutes, add the white wine and allow it to evaporate. Add the blanched broccoli and season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat for about 30 minutes . Uncover and cook for 5 minutes to allow the liquids to evaporate. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot.

Cartellate (Honey Pinwheels)

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup honey or fig syrup

Directions:

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, oil, salt and cinnamon.

Slowly add the water and beat until the dough comes together.

Add additional water, if necessary, so the dough holds together.

Shape the dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Dust each piece with flour.

Pass the dough through a pasta machine set at the widest opening.

Pass each piece through successive settings until thin.

On a manual pasta machine, stop at setting #6.

Place each pasta strip on a lightly floured surface.

With a fluted pastry cutter, cut the dough into strips 10 x 1-1/4 inches.

Fold each strip in half lengthwise but do not press it together.

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With the wavy edges pointing up, roll the strips into loose spirals about 2 inches wide.

Pinch the edges to seal. Place on an oiled baking sheet.

Let the pinwheels dry at room temperature for 2 hours.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven to 370 degrees F.

Carefully add a few pinwheels at a time to the oil.

Fry until evenly golden, about 1 minute.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Heat honey in a small saucepan until it thins.

Arrange the cartellate on a large platter. Drizzle with the warm honey.

Best served immediately or within a few hours.

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