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Reggio Calabria is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. It is the southernmost province in mainland Italy and is separated from the island of Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The Aspromonte mountain range dominates the western part and, with its long coastline, the province is a popular tourist destination during the summer. In 2018, the province will become the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria.

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The province features three types of terrain. The west is mountainous with creeks and rivers flowing through the area. The lower hills are terraced for the cultivation of citrus fruits, olives and vines and the wooded areas are covered with chestnuts, beeches, holm oaks, pines and Sicilian firs. The southern part of the province has a coastal plain that extends from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ionian Sea.

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Eggplant is a favorite vegetable crop and it is prepared in a variety of ways: sautéed in olive oil with garlic and parsley; coated in egg and breadcrumbs and fried or and stuffed with salted anchovies and breadcrumbs. Sweet peppers, artichokes, zucchini, onions and mushrooms are all abundant.

Coastal waters are rich in tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies and in the mountain areas pork is the main meat of this area. There are countless salamis and sausages, as well as all types of homemade pastas. Pecorino is made by every family that owns sheep. The luxury of sweets is usually reserved for holidays.

The food is simple: pastas and vegetables, complemented by olive oil and sausages. Think of various shapes of dried pasta like spaghetti or penne topped with colorful sauces made with combinations of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. All these ingredients frequently make their way into hearty soups.

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The province was devastated by the 1908 Messina earthquake. This was followed by a series of tsunamis that brought further damage. In the 1950s there was a mass migration of rural people from Reggio Calabria and other provinces in southern Italy to the cities of Rome, Milan and Turin in the north. They were driven by poverty, the poor soil of the region and the chronic lack of employment opportunities. The Italian government responded by making Catanzaro the regional capital and arranging for the regional assembly to be held at Reggio. A new port was built and it has become a busy container terminal that processes more than three million shipping containers each year. New roads have been built to handle the resulting increase in traffic.

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The region is famous for the production of the Bergamot orange. The bergamot orange (pronounced /ˈbɜːrɡəˌmɒt/) is a fragrant fruit the size of an orange, with a yellow color similar to a lemon. Citrus bergamot is commercially grown in southern  Reggio), where more than 80% is produced. Bergamot peel is used in perfume for its ability to combine with an array of scents to form a bouquet of aromas which complement each other. About one-third of all men’s and about half of women’s perfumes contain bergamot essential oil. Bergamot essential oil is popular in aromatherapy. Bergamot is also used in many skin care creams.

An essence extracted from the aromatic skin of this sour fruit is used to flavor Earl Grey tea. It is often used to make marmalade, particularly in Italy. Carpentierbe, a company based in San Giorgio Morgeto, near Reggio Calabria, makes a digestive liqueur derived from bergamot marketed under the name Liquore al Bergamotto.

The juice and zest can be used to flavor cookies, cakes, yogurt and custard. Bergamot oranges pair well with other citrus fruits, seafood, ricotta, mild salad greens, avocado and fresh herbs such as dill, basil and tarragon. Bergamot oranges will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Bergamot Marmalade

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Makes 2  (450 g/1 lb) jars

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (500 g) bergamot oranges (about 3 medium)
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) water

Directions

Separate all the seeds from the fruit and place in a muslin bag or in cheesecloth and tie closed.

Puree fruit, skin included (but not the seeds), in a food processor.

In a large heavy bottom pot, add the citrus fruit mixture, juice, bag with seeds and water.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until the peels are translucent, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 hours. (It helps to release the pectin and essential oils from the rinds).

Add the sugar to the citrus fruit mixture, bring it to a boil again and reduce to slow simmer. Stir from time to time to make sure that the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

The marmalade will take about 15-20 minutes. Scoop out the muslin bag, squeeze any liquid out of it and give the marmalade a good stir. Remove from the heat and check if it is set.

To test, spoon a teaspoon of hot marmalade onto a small plate. Transfer it to a freezer for 1 minute. Then, tilt the plate to see if the jam “wrinkles.” If so, it’s done.

(If you use a candy thermometer, the temperature should be around 221 F/105 C).

Once the marmalade is cooked, ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids tightly. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Bergamot Orange Custard Cups

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Serves 6

Directions

  • 4 ounces sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated Bergamot orange zest, plus extra for garnish
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 ounces freshly squeezed Bergamot orange juice
  • 10 ounces heavy cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugar and orange zest on low until thoroughly mixed.

Add the eggs, then the orange juice and then the cream, mixing on low for several seconds after each addition until just combined.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Divide the mixture among 6 ramekins and place them into a roasting pan.

Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until just set.

You can tell that the custards are done when they jiggle like gelatin.

Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until firm. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream garnished with orange zest.

Orange Roasted Chicken

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Ingredients

  • Zest of 5 bergamot oranges
  • 1 cup bergamot orange juice
  • 3 finely minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped herb mixture (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, bone-in, skin-on
  • ¼ cup butter, softened and room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bergamot orange, cut into thick slices for garnish
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Herb sprigs for garnish

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine half of the orange zest with the orange juice, garlic, herbs and olive oil. (Set aside the remaining zest for later.)

Stir to combine and pour into a very large zip-lock bag. Add the chicken pieces and move them around to ensure they’re all coated with the marinade.

Seal the bag and place into a bowl (in case it leaks) and then into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the softened butter with the paprika and the remaining orange zest.

Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them in a  9 X 13 X 2-inch baking dish. (Set aside the marinade in the bag.)

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and then using your hands rub the butter mixture under the skin of each chicken piece and on top of the skin.

Pour the marinade over the chicken and add the orange slices. Place the baking dish in the oven and roast the chicken until it’s cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Baste the chicken several times during cooking.

Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.

Fresh Fruit Salad

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Use additional in season fruits, if you would like to add them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bergamot orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh bergamot orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 cups fresh bergamot orange segments
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, optional

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, orange zest, orange juice and water.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

Remove the pan from the heat, strain through a sieve into a small bowl.  Let cool completely.

In a large serving bowl, combine the fruit and mint.  Add the orange syrup, stirring to combine.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Sprinkle with almonds, if using, before serving.

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