The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.
The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.
The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.
For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,
Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.
Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.
Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.
Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.
Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.
Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.
1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Red Pepper Hummus
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.
Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.
Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.
Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Peppers and Onions
6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.
Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.
Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).
Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper
Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.
3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.
Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.
Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.
Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.
Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Any seasonal fruit will work in this muffin recipe. These muffins are perfect for a quick breakfast or take along to work.
12 -18 muffins depending on the size of your pans.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts for the top of the muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 -18 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Whisk in the sugar and oil.
Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the blueberries.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. Press them down lightly.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly.
Store the muffins in a covered container for up to 1 day at room temperature or up to 1 month in the freezer.
Honey Oatmeal Bread
This bread is delicious toasted and it make wonderful French Toast.
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm milk
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a dough that holds together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes or until it is smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it’ll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log.
Place the log in a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it crests 1″ over the top rim of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F.
If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.
Yield: 1 loaf.
Blackberry Buckwheat Pancakes
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass or a cereal. Buckwheat is actually the seed of a flowering fruit that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. It’s completely gluten-free and unrelated to wheat and all the grasses in the wheat family. So it’s a popular substitute for wheat for those who are gluten-intolerant. When ground into flour, the flour makes delicious pancakes and waffles. If you find the taste too strong, you can use all-purpose flour for half of the recipe amount. I store the flour in my freezer to keep it from spoiling. For more information on the health benefits of buckwheat visit the World’s Healthiest Food site.
¾ cup fresh or frozen and thawed blackberries
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
Heat a well-seasoned griddle, cast iron skillet or nonstick pan on medium heat.
Whisk together the dry ingredients—the flour, baking powder and baking soda—in a mixing bowl. In Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and start stirring.
Beat the egg and honey into the buttermilk with a fork. Add in the buttermilk/egg mixture and melted butter into the dry ingredients and stir only until everything is combined.
Stir in blackberries.
For each pancake, pour a scant 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Spread the batter into a circle that’s about 4 inches in diameter.
Cook over medium heat until the pancakes are brown, turning to cook the second side when bubbles appear on the pancake surface and the edges are slightly dry for 1 to 2 minutes more.
Serve with Maple Syrup.
Sunday Breakfast-Huevos Rancheros
See directions below on how to cook dried beans and how to make refried beans.
For 2 servings
¼ of a medium onion, chopped
2 cups of your favorite salsa
2 tablespoons jarred chopped jalapenos
½ teaspoon chili powder,
2 corn tortillas
4 large eggs
2 ounces queso fresco cheese, crumbled
1 cup refried beans, see recipe below
Prepare the refried beans according to the directions below.
Heat the oven to 150°F, and place two serving plates in the oven to keep warm.
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil as it heats.
Add one tortilla to the pan, and cook until crispy on one side, turn over and cook the second side. Place the tortilla on a plate in the oven. Repeat with the second tortilla.
Using the same skillet that was used for the tortillas, add the salsa, jalapenos, chili powder and onion. Bring to a boil and reduce to a bubbling simmer.
Crack 4 eggs into the skillet with the sauce and cook for 4 – 5 minutes for runny yolks, more for firmer eggs.
To serve: spread a ½ cup of the refried beans over the tortilla. Top 2 fried eggs, half of the salsa mixture and half of the cheese.
Repeat with the second tortilla. Serve immediately.
This recipe can be prepared ahead and reheated in the microwave while you cook the eggs.
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ of a medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups cooked pinto or black beans or 1 (15-ounce) can, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or bean cooking water
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more.
Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
How To Cook Dried Beans
1 pound dried beans
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
Place the beans in a bowl or pot with the baking soda, cover with cold water and allow to soak overnight. Drain and rinse before proceeding.
In a medium pot, add the soaked beans, chicken broth, 2 cups water, the garlic and onion. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Then add the salt and stir. Cover and continue simmering until the beans are tender, about 30-45 minutes Taste for seasoning.
Set aside 2 cups for the refried beans and save the remainder for another recipe.
Cosenza is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. The province, one of the very few in Italy with coastlines along two different seas, includes the beautiful Sila mountains with their 3 lakes, Cecita-Mucone, Arvo and Ampollino and the Pollino National Park, founded in 1993.
Cosenza’s roots go back to early man. The province was conquered by the Normans, Saracens, Byzantines and the Spanish. The rich history is reflected in their architecture and their culture. Roman ruins, ancient castles, Norman towers and festivals, like the Montalto Uffugo’s Saracen Festival, mesh the past with the present.
An ancient legend exists in the province dating back to 410 AD about King Alaric, King of the conquering Visigoths. The legend states that once the King conquered Rome, he headed south, conquering and collecting treasures. Once he reached where the Crati river and the Bucenta river met, he died suddenly. These rivers meet in the heart of Cosenza. It is said that his soldiers, along with the help of slaves, buried the King under the river, along with his horse and the treasures, by redirecting the river long enough to build the tomb. His troops then killed all the slaves so no one would know where the treasure was buried.
In the centuries after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, several towns in the Cosenza province refused to acknowledge the new government of the Visigoths. Instead, they built strong city walls and small garrisons to hold out for centuries as semi-independent enclaves until the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the 560s. In 1500, in spite of resistance, Cosenza was occupied by the Spanish army. In 1707 the Austrians succeeded the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, followed by occupation by the Bourbons. From 1806 to 1815, Cosenza fought hard against French domination. In 1860, Calabria became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.
The province contains the Cosentian Academy, the second academy of philosophical and literary studies to be founded in the Kingdom of Naples (1511) and one of the oldest in Europe. To this day, the area remains a cultural hub with several museums, theaters, libraries and the University of Calabria.
The cuisine has been greatly influenced by past conquerors. The Arabs brought oranges, lemons, raisins, artichokes and eggplant and the Cistercian monks introduced new agricultural practices and dairy products.
Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and eggplant are packed into jars of oil and vinegar.
The chili pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chili was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.
The cuisine is a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish. Pasta (as in Central Italy and the rest of Southern Italy) is also very important.
Some specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice, Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Sheep’s milk cheese) and Pignolata (a soft pastry covered in chocolate and lemon flavored icing).
Recipes To Make From Cosenza
Serve with Calabrian Bread
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
1/8 cup of salt
2 roasted oil-packed Calabrian chilies, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, minced or 1 teaspoon dried
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Salt the cut eggplant and let it set for 1 hour.
Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender.
Lay the slices out on a towel to dry.
In a medium size bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.
Place one layer of the eggplant on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.
Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used up.
Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hour and serve chilled.
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast with a quarter cup of the lukewarm water. Pour into a large bowl.
Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, and remaining lukewarm water and mix in until a dough starts to form. If too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Turn out onto a flat surface and knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with a thick towel, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide in half and shape into 2 oblong loaves about a foot long each. The bread can also be shaped into a ring.
Put the loaves on cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise again for 40 minutes. Loaves will double in width.
In a small dish, beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water. Make 3 slits in the top of the risen bread, a quarter of an inch deep. Brush with the egg wash and put the cookie sheets in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F Then lower the heat to 400 degrees F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes, until golden and baked through.
Lagane E Cicciari
Lagane is a flat, wide, fettuccine-like fresh pasta
2 cups all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup of water
Add the salt to the flour and mix well.
Slowly add the water and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the dough on a floured surface, using a rolling-pin to form a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
Continue to roll and thin the pasta. (Cutting the circle in half will make it easier to handle.)
Roll the dough to form a long log
With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4 inch strips.
Unroll the strips and lay them on a clean, flat surface.
Cook as directed below.
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
One 15 ounce can chickpeas, undrained
One 14 oz can chopped Italian tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces lagane (recipe above) or broken lasagna noodles
In a small saucepan, combine the garlic, oil, red pepper flakes and rosemary.
Over low heat, cook the garlic until it begins to brown.
Add the chickpeas with all of their liquid and the tomatoes.
Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Boil the pasta in at least 3 quarts of water with 1 heaping tablespoon of salt for 2-3 minutes if fresh pasta or longer for dried.
Just before the pasta is done, remove about half the chickpeas to a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or with an immersion blender. Return the mashed chickpeas to the sauce
When the pasta is done. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Combine the pasta with the chickpea sauce in a large serving bowl. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too dry. (It should not be soupy, however.)
Serve very hot with either olio santo (hot pepper oil) or extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top.
Galletto alla Diavola (Devil’s Chicken)
1 whole chicken, cut up
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard
1 carrot, minced
1 red onion, minced
1 3/4 oz uncooked ham (capocollo), finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup dry Marsala wine
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix the eggs with the salt and pepper and mustard.
Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture, then coat with breadcrumbs.
Grease a baking dish with a little olive oil and then add the chicken pieces.
Pour a little bit of olive oil over the chicken pieces and bake for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the thickest piece reaches 165 degrees.
In a skillet cook the carrot in oil with the onion and ham.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the white wine and Marsala.
Reduce the heat and let simmer until thickened.
Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then pour the sauce over and serve.
It is a gray and rainy day here – just perfect for a soup dinner. I also know I have a turkey carcass in the freezer that was leftover from the holidays and it is time to put it to good use.
I also save small amounts of leftover vegetables in the freezer in little ziplock bags. These little bags are perfect for adding to soup recipes and they don’t require additional cooking.
Of course, almost any ingredient that you like can go into a soup pot, but I usually try to vary them, so that it doesn’t seem like the same old soup. In this soup recipe, I used farro instead of rice or pasta. Farro is hulled wheat that has been used in the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. It is often used as a substitute for pasta or rice in Italian recipes.
Hearty Italian Turkey Soup
For the stock
1 roasted turkey carcass, broken in pieces, plus any additional bones
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 celery stalk tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Place the turkey carcass in a very large soup pot. Add the other ingredients and add enough water to just cover the turkey bones.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a bubbling simmer, partially cover the pot and let the stock cook for two hours.
Remove the pot from the heat. With tongs take the turkey bones out of the stock and place them in a wide bowl to cool. Strain the stock in a colander covered with cheesecloth.
This recipe makes about 12 cups of stock. I also had about 2 cups of meat from the bones that I chopped and set aside.
For the soup
12 cups turkey stock
4 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes or 2 cups canned
3 large carrots, diced
1 cup farro
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup pearl onions (frozen are great-no peeling)
1 cup cooked, diced asparagus
2 cups cooked, diced green beans
2 cups cooked baby lima beans
2 cups cooked peas
2 cups diced, cooked turkey meat
Rinse the soup pot out and pour the strained stock into the pot. Add the water, salt, carrots, tomatoes and farro.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook the ingredients for about 15 minutes or until the farro is tender. Taste one of the grains to be sure.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the soup and add more salt, if needed.
The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy. The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.
The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.
Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.
The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.
L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.
The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.
The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.
Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.
Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.
Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.
Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.
The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.
Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.
Prosciutto and Fichi
The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.
Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..
Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)
2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock
Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.
Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.
Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.
Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.
Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.
Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.
Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.
Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.
Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.
Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.
Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.
Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.
Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.
This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.
Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.
Makes about 36 pizzelle
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)
Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.
Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).
Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.
Serve with your favorite toppings.
Genoa is located in the region of Liguria and it is a historical port city in northern Italy. Today, it is often overshadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade center. The birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus with its multitude of architectural gems, excellent cuisine, renovated old port, beautiful sights and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made this an interesting area to visit.
The main features of central Genoa include the Piazza De Ferrari, the Opera House and the Palace of the Doges. There is also a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Much of the city’s art is found in its churches and palaces, where there are numerous Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo frescoes. The Palazzo di San Giorgio was once the headquarters of the Bank of Saint George and it is in this area that Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa composed, The Travels of Marco Polo.
The city is spread out geographically along a section of the Liguria coast, which makes trading by ship possible. Before the invention of the car, train and airplane, the main outside access for the city was the sea, as the surrounding mountains made trade north by land more difficult than coastal trade. Trade routes have always connected Genoa on an international scale and the harbor was important to the merchants for their own economic success. The port of Genoa also contains an ancient Lighthouse called “La Lanterna”.
Recently, Renzo Piano redeveloped the port for public access, restoring the historical buildings and creating new landmarks like the Aquarium, the Bigo and the “Bolla” (the Sphere). The main touristic attractions of this area are the famous Aquarium and the Museum of the Sea (MuMA). In 2007 these attracted almost 1.7 million visitors.The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest aquarium in Italy and amongst the largest in Europe. Built for the Genoa Expo ’92, it is an educational, scientific and cultural center. Its mission is to educate and raise public awareness as about conservation, management and responsible use of aquatic environments.
Popular foods in the Genoese cuisine include Pesto sauce, garlic sauce called “Agliata” and walnut sauce called “Salsa di Noci”. There are many varieties of pasta, such as Trenette, Corzetti, Trofie, Pansotti, Croxetti and Testaroli.
Fresh pasta (usually trofie) or trenette with pesto sauce is probably the most well-known among Genoese dishes. Pesto sauce is prepared with fresh basil, pine nuts, grated parmesan, garlic and olive oil pounded together.
Typical pizzas include pizza with potatoes or onions, “Farinata” and Focaccia with cheese also called “Focaccia di Recco”.
Fish is a key ingredients in the Genoese cuisine and the many varieties include, Sardines, Anchovies, Garfish, Swordfish, Tuna, Octopus, Squid, Mussels and stoccafisso (Stockfish).
Other popular dishes of Genoese tradition are tripe cooked in various sauces and Minestrone alla Genovese, a thick soup made out of several vegetables and legumes, such as potatoes, beans, green beans, cabbages, pumpkins and zucchini. Important and popular soup dishes which are common to the area include: Bagnun – anchovy soup, Ciuppin (the precursor to San Francisco’s Cioppino, Buridda – another tomato based fish soup, Zemin (a soup with garbanzo beans), Sbira, tripe soup and Preboggion, rice soup. Other specialties are “Ravioli al sugo”, Gianchetti that is sardine and anchovy based, “Tomaxelle” or stuffed veal rolls, Cappon magro – a seafood and vegetable salad, the famous “Cima alla Genovese” a pork roll, “Torta Pasqualina” a spinach torte very similar to Spanakopita, “Pandolce” a Christmas sweet bread and “Sacripantina” a Genovese Butter Cake.
Genoa Recipes To Make At Home
Minestrone alla Genovese
1/4 pound cannellini or borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 leeks, washed and chopped, white part only
1 medium eggplant (1 pound), peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups hot chicken broth
4 cups hot water, plus extra if needed
1 cup chopped raw spinach
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1/4 pound vermicelli or stelline pasta
3 tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Drain the beans from the overnight soaking water, place them in a pot, cover with water, cook about 30 minutes or until still quite al dente, and set aside.
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks, eggplant, carrots, celery and potatoes and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables just begin to exude their juices.
Add the tomatoes, hot broth, hot water, beans and additional hot water to just cover the mixture. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.
Add the spinach, zucchini, cabbage and pasta and cook another 20 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubes day-old rustic bread plus milk to cover
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove,
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
A generous handful of fresh Marjoram
1/4 cup of heavy cream (or Greek Yogurt)
1 lb Pansotti or store-bought vegetable and cheese ravioli or dried pasta
Soak the bread in milk to cover until soft, then drain.
In a kitchen blender, combine nuts, the soaked bread, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and the fresh marjoram. Add garlic and process until the mixture is smooth and almost becoming a paste but not too fine. Working with 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, drizzle in all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil, processing and mixing to incorporate as you go. Once the mixture is smooth, transfer to a bowl and add the ricotta cheese mixing well. Then add the cream and remaining oil. Mix well until the sauce is combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Bring a large wide pot of salted water to a boil. Boil pansotti, ravioli or pasta until al dente. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander to drain, then transfer to a large bowl; reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Once all of the pansotti are cooked, add the walnut sauce and pasta cooking liquid; gently toss to combine. Serve immediately with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Sea Bass Genoa Style
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 pound tomatoes, cut into large chunks
3/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two 3-pound whole sea bass or red snapper, or cut into fillets
1/2 cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 425° F. In a very large roasting pan, toss the potatoes, tomatoes, olives and basil with 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Rub each fish or the fillets with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the fish in the roasting pan with the vegetables. Roast for about 30 minutes for the fillets or 40 minutes for the whole fish, until the vegetables are tender and the fish are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Spoon the pine nuts over the fish and vegetables in the roasting pan and serve right away.
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
½ cup butter, softened, plus additional for greasing
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons orange flower water
3½ cups flour
1/2 cup dried currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped candied orange rind
1/3 cup pine nuts
Dissolve the yeast in the milk in a small bowl. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter in an electric mixer and gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the fennel seeds and coriander, then add the egg, vanilla and orange flower water; mix thoroughly. Add milk and dissolved yeast and mix. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.)
Gradually add flour, mixing thoroughly. When the dough is smooth, mix in the currants, raisins, orange rind and pine nuts (dough will be moist). Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for 3–4 hours. (Dough may only rise a little; this is a dense bread.)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Wet hands (dough will be sticky) and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Shape into a 6″ round and bake until golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely. To serve, cut or break into small pieces and serve with sweet wine, if desired. (Store in an airtight container.)