Brindisi, a province in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy, is dominated by vineyards, artichoke groves and olive trees. The province is also a major sailing port for the southern part of Italy and seafood plays a big role in its cuisine. In dining tn the area’s restaurants, you will notice an abundance of dishes from the sea. Mussels, white fish, prawns and octopus are just some of the items you can expect to find on the menu.
The region is well-known for orecchiette. A type of pasta whose name comes from its shape which resembles that of a small ear and is usually served with a simple (often spicy) red sauce. Fresh vegetables, tomatoes and peppery olive oil are easily the most common local ingredients. Fava beans, eggplants and bell peppers all find their way into pastas, gratins and stews. Stuffed aubergines, lamb and pea stew and turnip greens are a few popular dishes.
Great produce markets are plentiful and you will find, daily, fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood just waiting to be cooked. Olives are another essential food in the Brindisi area. You see them everywhere. Running wild along the dry countryside roads, the olive trees grow to massive sizes.
Some of the best values in Italian wine come from this sunny, dry region. Most of the wine is red, full-bodied and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Producers have focused on making great red wines from local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Bombino Nero. The two most popular and widely available wines from the province are Salice Salentino and Primitivo.
Half of Italy’s olive oil is produced in the dry heat of the area. The warm climate and fertile soil make it easy to grow almost anything. It is surrounded by water on three sides allowing cool breezes off the Mediterranean to moderate vineyard temperatures.
Located in the province is Torre Canne, a famous health spa. Several streams feed into a small lake that, over the ages, has deposited mud that is now used for therapeutic purposes. Its water springs are touted to be good for kidney and liver illnesses While you enjoy the spa treatment, you can stay in a luxury hotel and visit the stunning local beaches.
Brindisi Fish Soup
- 1 1/2 lbs whole fish, large bones removed
- 3/4 lb squid
- 1/2 lb cuttlefish or octopus
- 1/2 lb mussels
- 8 oz clams
- 1/2 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- Chili pepper, diced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices rustic bread, stale
- Parsley, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
Thoroughly wash all the fish and seafood. Cut the fish into large pieces and the squid and cuttlefish into small pieces.
In a large soup pot, saute the onion and celery in a few tablespoons of oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cuttlefish and squid and, after 10 minutes, the remaining fish and shellfish.
Add the chili pepper, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle a handful of parsley and finely chopped garlic onto each serving.
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely minced, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 small eggplant
- 3/4 cup burrata cheese, cut into small pieces
In a small bowl, combine the oil, basil, shallots and vinegar.
In another small bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the basil mixture. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Trim the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place them on a tray or a plate. Brush both sides of the eggplants with the remaining basil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Place the eggplant on the grill. Cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn.
Using a metal spatula, carefully transfer the eggplant to warmed plates. Divide the cheese among the eggplant halves and spoon the tomato mixture over each. Garnish with extra basil leaves
Cardoons are members of the thistle family, as are artichokes, and bear a strikingly similar taste to them. Cardoons are quite fibrous and the fibers run lengthwise, like those in celery stalks, and must be stripped off. Once they have been cut, they darken quickly (like artichokes) unless put in water with added lemon juice.
- 2 pounds cardoons
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped oil cured black olives
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- 2 tablespoons capers in salt, well rinsed
- 3 anchovies packed in oil, minced
- Grated Pecorino cheese
- Bread crumbs
- Salt to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
Wash and peel the outer layer of the cardoons, then cut them into 5 inch lengths. Cook them in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the olives, parsley, capers and anchovies.
Place the cardoons in an oiled casserole baking dish and top with the olive and parsley mixture. Sprinkle enough grated cheese and bread crumbs over the top to cover.
Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.
- 12 oz (350 gr) orecchiette pasta
- 1 lb (500 gr) plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 hot chili peppers, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
- Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the garlic and chili peppers for one minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with two tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until a sauce consistency is reached.
Add the chopped oregano with salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for a few minutes more.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.
Turin is in the northwest section of the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. The city is famous for the Shroud of Turin, Fiat auto plants, Baroque cafes and architecture and its shopping arcades, promenades and museums. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics because the nearby mountains and valleys are ideal for winter sports.
The Piedmont region has some of the best food in Italy. Over 160 types of cheese and famous wines like Barolo and Barbaresco come from here as do truffles. The hilly region bordering France and Switzerland is perfect for growing grapes. Turin has some outstanding pastries, especially chocolate ones. Chocolate bars originated in Turin. The chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, is a specialty of Turin. In addition, an enormous array of artisanal cheeses, the white truffle of Alba, cured meats and a vast assortment of herb products are all part of the Piedmont table.
The cuisine of Turin is unlike the food you expect to find in Italy. Local dishes incorporate a much larger variety of savory sauces which are more traditional in French cuisine than in Italian. Chefs tend to cook with butter and lard rather than olive oil, which is also more French than Italian. Another difference is that appetizers play a much larger role on the menu in Turin than in other parts of Italy. The city’s signature dish is bollito misto, a mix of boiled meats served with three sauces: bagnet verd, a green sauce made from parsley, anchovies, garlic and olive oil; bagnet ross, a red sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers and sausa d’avije, a yellow mustard sauce sweetened with honey and crushed nuts. Other classic dishes include brasato al Barolo, locally raised beef slowly braised in Barolo wine and finanziera, a stew of cock’s crests, chicken livers, veal, peas and porcini mushrooms. In the fall and winter you’ll find slices of reindeer meat, on some menus along with beef and veal, free range poultry and freshly caught fish.
The dinner menu below serves 4-6 and is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Turin, Italy.
Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. The dish is eaten by dipping raw, boiled or roasted vegetables, especially cardoons, carrots, peppers, fennel, celery, cauliflower, artichokes and onions in the hot sauce. It is traditionally eaten during the autumn and winter months and must be served hot, as the name suggests. Originally, the Bagna Càuda was placed in a big pan (peila) in the center of the table for communal sharing. Now, it is usually served in individual pots, called a fojòt, a type of fondue pot traditionally made of terra-cotta.
It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
- 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
- Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
- Italian bread – sliced
Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, an electric skillet or a wok.
To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.
Brasato Al Barolo
“Braised in Barolo”, a classic Italian beef dish from this region uses a simple slow cooking technique to tenderize the meat. In Italy, Piedmontese is a dual-purpose breed of cattle that are raised for their milk, which is used in the production of several traditional cheeses of the region, including Castelmagno, Bra, Raschera and Toma Piemontese; and are also raised for meat. Beef from Piedmontese cattle is seen as a premium product. The unique genetics of the breed combine to create cattle that is more muscled than conventional cattle, so the yield of lean meat is greater than with other breeds. All cuts of beef are lean because as they grow, the cattle add more muscle but less fat. In addition, Piedmontese cattle produce shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue, so the meat remains tender in spite of its minimal fat.
Serve this dish the traditional way, with polenta, or if you prefer, mashed potatoes.
- 3 lb Piedmontese brisket flat
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 to 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 to 5 juniper berries
- 1 bottle Barolo red wine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- ½ cup dry Marsala wine
- 2 tablespoons flour
Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the beef and cover with the wine. Refrigerate overnight, or a minimum of 10 hours.
Heat a heavy-bottom pot, large enough to hold the beef and wine, over medium-high heat. Melt half of the butter with all of the oil. Take the beef out of the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, and brown it in the hot-pot on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables from the wine and add them to the beef, stirring until they color a bit.
Add the wine to the pan, turn the heat down and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning the beef.
Pour the Marsala into the stew and let cook a few more minutes. Take the beef out of the pan and set it on a carving board.
Remove and discard the bay leaves and juniper berries.
To make the sauce:
Put the wine and vegetables in a food mill or pour through a fine mesh sieve, applying pressure to the vegetables to extract all the juice. Reserve the juice and the vegetable puree.
In a saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown the mixture. Add the wine and vegetable puree and cook for a bit longer, until the sauce thickens slightly.
Slice the meat against the grain, arrange it on a serving plate and pour the very hot wine sauce on top.
Cardoons are closely related to the artichoke. They look like very large hearts of celery and have thorns in the stalks. The stalks are not solid like celery, but are semi-hollow and stringy.
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lb. cardoons
- 1 cup grated Italian fontina cheese
Place cream, stock and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½”–2″ pieces, placing them immediately into the cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cardoon pieces to a 1-quart baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and pour the sauce over the cardoons in the baking dish, sprinkle cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and add sugar and vanilla, stirring until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add flour and mix together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Press the dough into an ungreased, 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes. Set crust aside to cool.
- ½ cup hazelnuts (also called filberts)
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
Boil 2 cups water; add baking soda. The water will foam up a bit. Add the nuts to the boiling soda water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts and rinse with cold water. Peel the skins away from the nuts and place on a kitchen towel to dry.
When the nuts are dry, toast them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 7 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate pieces, whisking until chocolate is melted and smooth. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk until smooth.
Pour filling into the cooled crust and sprinkle toasted hazelnuts on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours to set. When ready to serve, cut into small wedges and garnish with fresh fruit.