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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Calabria

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Calabria is a region in southern Italy, forming the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula. Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence dating as far back as 700,000 BC. It was the Greeks who occupied the shores of Calabria and Eastern Sicily forming Magna Grecia or Great Greece. The area was home to the poet Theocritus and mathematician and inventor Archimedes, and it remained part of the Greek Empire until the Romans annexed it in the 3rd century B.C.

The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The most populated city and the seat of the Calabrian Regional Council, however, is Reggio. It is bordered to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 5,822 sq mi and has a population of just under 2 million. The area is seismically and volcanically active.

Calabria

The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine and are included in the Pollino National Park. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests.

In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and exhibits natural scrub land as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and olive and chestnut trees. The region boasts the second highest number of organic farmers only after Sicily. The region is the second-highest for olive oil production   The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since the 18th century, exclusively the in coastal area of Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions.

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Along the coastlines, the climate is Mediterranean with average low temperatures of 8 °C (46 °F) in the winter months and average high temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months. Along the Apennines and in the inland areas, the climate is mountainous (continental) with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms.

Calabria is one of the least developed regions in Italy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is represented by service industries (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%).

The 485 miles of its coast make Calabria a popular tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of large cities in much of its territory have allowed maintaining low levels of marine pollution. In fact, the region is considered by many a natural paradise, which attracts a number of tourists from all over Italy. The most popular seaside destinations are: Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo, Scilla, Diamante, Amantea and Soverato.

The interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture that attract a number of tourists. Fortresses, castles, churches, historic centers and cemeteries are common elements in the interior of Calabria.

Some mountain locations attract tourists even in winter. Sila and Aspromonte are two national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello, Lorica and Gambarie.

The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish.

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Pasta  is also very important in Calabria. Pasta dishes that include peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage mixed into the eggs are also prevalent.

Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, ‘Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and aubergines packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The chilli pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chilli was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as ‘nzudda) served during holidays. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons,particularly watermelons, are abundant in Calabria

Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.

Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

This particular recipe is Calabrian; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes, as many as you want
  • Oregano
  • Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
  • Basil
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack, dust them with salt, put them out where the sun will shine on them all day (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting).

Leave them in the sun until dusk and then bring them inside.

Continue putting them out in the morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.

When they have dried, rinse them with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your taste, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press down well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread or sliced and served as a garnish for main dishes and vegetables.

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Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

At times, Calabrians add seafood to this dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, cut thin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 hot pepper
  • A bunch of parsley,finely  chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons of oil the tomatoes were packed in
  • Salt

Directions

Chop the tomatoes and heat them for 3-5 minutes in a skillet with the oil, the garlic, the basil, the hot pepper and a pinch of salt. Don’t overcook or the tomatoes will dry and toughen. Turn off the heat and keep warm.

Cook the pasta in abundant salted water. Drain it’s al dente, transfer it to a bowl, pour the tomato mixture over it. Mix well. Garnish with the minced parsley and oregano.

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Calabrian Marinated Tuna

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh tuna, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
  • 8 ounces (200 g) pitted black olives
  • One lemon
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh hot pepper (chili flakes)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Pat the fish dry and grill it, basting it lightly with olive oil; turning it once. Figure a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.

In the mean time blend the remaining ingredients with more oil to make a sauce. Marinate the fish in the sauce for at least an hour before serving it.

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Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 6 pork chops with bone
  • Crushed or powdered hot pepper to taste (Calabrians like things hot)
  • Fennel seeds
  • Salt

Directions

Lightly pound the chops to flatten them out, sprinkle them with salt and then rub fennel seeds and hot pepper into them.

Grill them over medium hot coals or medium high on a gas grill, turning once, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes.

Transfer chops to a platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 

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Cliff_at_Tropea,_Italy,_Sep_2005

Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy – lapped by the crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, the classic flavors of local foods and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place in both winter and summer. The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.

With farmland sparse in Calabria, every viable plot is cultivated to its greatest advantage. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, beans, onions, peppers, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, grapes, olives, almonds, figs and mountain-loving herbs grow well in the area. Calabrians tend to focus on the high quality of their ingredients, so that virtually everything picked from a garden is useable and worthy of praise.

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Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking.

Fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod and sardines and shrimp and lobster are common on their tables. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation has become a fine art in Calabria. Oiling, salting, curing, smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce and the local pancetta pairs perfectly with plump melons in summer.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal, so the fact that the organ meats are so prized by locals comes as no great surprise. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is both a complex and singularly unusual flavor. Made from pig’s fat and organ meats mixed with liberal local pepperoncinis, this salami-style delicacy is a testament to the Calabrian patience in waiting until foods have reached their perfection. In this case, waiting for the salami to cure for an entire year. Other salamis such as capicola calabrese and soppressata di calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads, cheeses and Calabrian wines.

Spelinga_Nduja

Nduja

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking. Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Pane del pescatore (“fisherman’s bread”) is a local specialty rich with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, due to Greek and Arabic influences. Greek influence still pervades in eggplant, swordfish and sweets by incorporating figs, almonds and honey into the preparations. Similarly, special pastries and desserts take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts, like ricci di donna (or “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (or “hairs of the priest”), belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are scilateddri, lagane, cavateddri and maccheroni.

Wine is not produced in huge quantities in the region, though the small batches are excellent in flavor and heavily influenced by Greek varieties. Ciró wines are produced using the same ancient varieties of grapes, as wines produced in antiquity for local heroes of the Olympic games. The grapes are still grown primarily in the Cosenza province of Calabria and Ciró wines often take up to four years to reach maturity. Calabria also turns out sweet whites, such as Greco di Bianco.

hot peppers

Calabrian hot pepper is found in many Calabrian dishes – toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines, pork sausages, pasta sauces and fish dishes will have hot pepper added.  A fondness for spicy food shows in the popularity of all types of peppers and, unusual for Italy, the use of ginger (zenzero), which is added to spice up sauces (along with hot pepper). Some Calabrian chicken and fish recipes also include ginger.

Antipasto

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Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

  • One dozen mushroom caps
  • 1 cup well-drained skim milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for garnishing

Directions

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and set the caps side. Use the stems for soup or other recipes.

Thoroughly combine the next five ingredients -ricotta through pepper- in a mixing bowl.

Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the 12 mushrooms with olive oil cooking spray.

Stuff each cap with ricotta filling. Sprinkle the tops lightly with breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees F  20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

First Course

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Calabrian Sugo – Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

This is a basic Calabrian sauce that is the foundation of many dishes. It can be served on its own with any pasta shape. It can also be the starting point for the addition of many other ingredients. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned.

Ingredients:

  • 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in their juice or 3 ½ cups of peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh or dried hot red pepper or a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound rigatoni

Directions:

If you are using canned tomatoes, break them up by hand. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Second Course

tuna

Trance di Tonno alla Calabrese (Tuna Steaks Calabrese Style)

Ingredients

  • 4 tuna steaks (about 2 pounds and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Place the tuna in a large large dish in a single layer, sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours, occasionally turning the tuna.

Remove the tuna from the marinade.

Heat a large skillet until very hot and cook the tuna together with the lemon wedges, for approximately six minutes depending on thickness of the fillets or until the fish done to your likeness.

Sprinkle with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil before serving.

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Sautéed Escarole

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • One head of fresh escarole, washed thoroughly
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.

Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt or more hot pepper.

Dessert

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Devil’s Tart (Crostata del Diavolo)

Sweet and hot are popular combinations in southern Italy, as evidenced by this tart. Chile jam is readily available from mail order sources. You can also roll the top crust out and fit it over the filling instead of making a lattice top.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces soft butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 11 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 4 ounces red chile jam (Marmellata di Peperoncino)
  • 4 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, egg and lemon peel.

In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the butter-sugar-egg-mixture.

Divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough on a floured surface to fit a tart or pie pan and fit the dough into the pan.

Spread the fruit jam evenly over the dough in the pie dish and, then, spread the chile jam evenly on top of the orange jam. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Roll the other half of the dough to the size of the top of the tart pan on a floured surface. Cut the dough into one inch strips and lay the strips on top of the filling in a lattice pattern.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

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Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes (frombootlewithlove.wordpress.com)
Mangia! Mangia! (mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com)
Calabria: An Ideal Holiday Spot (gateawayblog.wordpress.com)
A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/11/11/plan-a-venetian-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/09/23/a-fall-neapolitan-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/10/22/a-fall-bolognese-style-dinner/
https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/01/09/make-a-roman-inspired-winter-dinner/

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One of the most beautiful colors of summer in southern Italy is the deep red of chili peppers, strung together and hung out to dry—especially in Calabria. This region, located at the tip of the boot of Italy, is the main producer and consumer of chili pepper, or peperoncino as it is called in Italian.

The chili pepper plant belongs to the Capsicum genus and there are 85 varieties of this species of spicy chili that in Italy goes by the name peperoncino, an ingredient that gives spice to dishes throughout the world. The different types of peperoncino can be distinguished based on their level of sweetness. On the Scoville scale, which measures the “heat” of peppers, peperoncino ranges in the middle. The heat or spice of the peperoncino comes from capsaicin, a substance present in the peppers. There are several varieties of peperoncini grown in Calabria; varieties, such as the Italian Cayenne pepper, the Naso di Cane, or “the nose”. The Ciliegia (cherry), Amando (loving), and Sigarette (cigarette). In southern Italy, these little red peppers are often called diavoletti (little devils); in Calabria and Molise regions, they are called diavulillu; and in the region of Basilicata, they are called diavulicchiu.

Typically, hot countries develop hot, spicy cuisines as a natural means of cooling down the body through perspiration. All hot peppers contain a natural substance that produce a burning sensation in the mouth that can cause watery eyes, a runny nose and perspiration. This is all a plus in the hot climates where perspiration helps to cool the body. The chili pepper has no flavor or odor, but acts directly on the pain receptors in the mouth, throat and eyes.

Chili peppers were grown as a food crop as early as 4000 BC in Central America; but it wasn’t until the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-16th century that the plant was introduced to the rest of the world. Very quickly, trade routes began carrying chili peppers to Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and Asia. In the Americas, it held great value as a bartering tool in the spice markets.

Dried Chilies

Chilies in Olive Oil

Today, this spice seems to be growing in popularity around the globe. In northern Italy, where chili pepper was virtually unknown just a couple of generations ago, peperoncino is now more and more appreciated and incorporated into Italian cuisine. Spicy food lovers add it to virtually everything – fish, vegetable pasta sauces, soups, stews, pizza, as well as egg dishes. As a general rule of thumb, peperoncino is not recommended for delicate and creamy preparations, but is more suitable for robust sauces and recipes. In southern Italy, ground chili peppers are sometimes added to salumi and cheese. Crushed red pepper that one finds on the table in an Italian restaurant is made from dried hot chili peppers. Also, hot peppers can be preserved in oil to produce a flavorful, spicy oil

A few of the traditional Italian dishes used with these fiery devils are:

  • Ciambotta, – Stew of eggplant, peppers, potatoes, onions and tomatoes
  • Fusilli alla Calabrese con Braciole di Maiale – Homemade pasta rolled around a knitting needle
  • Capocollo – salami made from pork shoulder, marinated in wine or vinegar, smoked and sometimes spiced with hot pepper
  • Soppressata, dry-cured salami, may include hot pepper
  • Chocolate ice cream with chilies

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

“Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil” is a traditional Italian pasta dish, said to have originated from the region of Abruzzo, although it is popular across the country. This is a classic Roman dish, one that most Italian men know how to make. It’s also quite popular as a late night snack among friends, for example, after a night out at the theater.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 1/2 of a dried chili pepper, crumbled,
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • Parsley, chopped

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil in a large skillet until the garlic begins to brown. Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to overbrown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and transfer it to the skillet. Mix well. Garnish with parsley.

Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side. Some people like it, whereas others, especially the traditionalists , shudder at the idea.

Fra Diavolo Sauce for Seafood

This is another well-known Italian American spicy, tomato based sauce used for seafood pasta dishes or over steamed mussels. It is not served in Italy.

Ingredients

  • 2 (26-28-ounce) cans plum tomatoes in juice
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 medium cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions (about 12 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 medium carrots (about 8 ounces), cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water, white wine or clam broth

Directions

Place the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and with clean hands crush the tomatoes, so they break up into small pieces.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking, about 40 seconds. Add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil for about 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute until it starts to turn golden, then add the onions, carrots and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are very brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, just enough to prevent them from burning.

Add the crushed tomatoes with their juice, the tomato paste, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and water (white wine or clam juice can be added depending on the intended use) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce level has reduced by 2 or 3 inches and the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

To Make Ahead:

Remove pan from heat and when the sauce cools to room temperature, transfer to a sealed plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. This sauce will keep 10 days in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 2 quarts

Italian Pickled Hot Peppers

Pickled hot peppers are extremely versatile. They can be a great snack, with some cheese and they’re a wonderful addition to a mixed antipasto. They also are excellent at spicing up bland foods, especially boiled meats. It’s easy to pickle hot peppers at home and, if you do, you can make them just the way you want, with none of the additions commercial producers make. You can also use them in the chicken recipe below.

Makes several jars: To judge how many jars I will need, I arrage the peppers in jars until all the peppers are used. I then wash and sterilize the jars.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh, blemish-free hot peppers (e.g. Southern Italian Diavolicchio)
  • Gloves
  • 3-4 cups white wine vinegar that’s 5-6% acetic acid (fruit vinegar will discolor the peppers) 
  • Kosher salt
  • Enough fairly small jars (250 ml or half pint) with lids, cleaned and sterilized

Directions

All peppers, and especially hot peppers, have oils that are extremely irritating and don’t wash off easily, so it is best to wear gloves. If you don’t use gloves, rubbing an eye, even hours later, could be excruciating.

Wash the peppers and pat them dry. Remove any that look blemished. Next, puncture the skins of the peppers with the tines of a fork to allow the vineagr to penetrate.

Pack the jars with the peppers, adding a sprinkling of salt between layers.

Pour the vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to a brief boil (2-3 minutes). Use it to fill the jars, tapping them and gently shaking them to dislodge air bubbles.

Put the lids on the jars and put them on a rack in a sterilizer (or a large pot) with cold water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer the peppers for 20 minutes to sterilize them.

Let the pot cool and when you can safely dip a hand into the water remove the jars. Check the seals of the lids and put the jars in a cool dark place. They’ll be ready in a couple of weeks and will keep for a year.

Italian Chicken with Hot Peppers

You can add a half pound of Italian sausage to this dish when browning the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 breasts, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3-4 sprigs rosemary, stripped and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 pickled hot peppers, chopped
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Crusty Italian bread, warmed

Directions

Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute in a skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil for 5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add garlic and onion and saute another 5 minutes. Put chicken back in skillet and add broth, lemon juice, tomato paste, herbs and peppers.

Simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until sauce has reduced a bit and chicken is fully cooked.

Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Serves 2–4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili and cook 2 minutes more. Season with salt to taste.

Pork Chops and Peppers

Ingredients

  • 2 center cut pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • 4 hot peppers, plus some of the vinegar from the jar
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Chop garlic and slice bell peppers into long strips.

Chop hot peppers into small pieces

Season chops with salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge pork chops in the flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil In a medium skillet.

Cook pork chops 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil.

In the same pan add the garlic and saute for i minute, then add the bell peppers. After 6 minutes add the chopped hot peppers.

Add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar brine mixture from the peppers and continue to heat the peppers.

Return the pork chops to the skillet and cover cook for about 6 minutes. Serve pork chops with the peppers on top.

Chili Pepper Jam

Italians like to serve this jam with cheese as an appetizer.

Yield: 4 (14-ounce) jars

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces hot chili peppers, halved and seeded
  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed yellow and red bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar

Directions

In a large saucepan combine the chili peppers, bell peppers and apple cider vinegar. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes or until the peppers have softened. In a colander, drain the pepper mixture and with the back of a wooden spoon, press on the peppers to extract any excess liquid.

Transfer the peppers to a food mill or a blender and puree. Press the puree through a sieve to remove the pepper skin. Discard the skin.

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the pepper puree. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and mix until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook the mixture for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when the mixture resembles a jam texture.

Quickly ladle jam into sterile jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Cover with flat lids and screw on bands tightly.

Place jars on a rack and slowly lower jars into a canner. The water should cover the jars completely and should be hot but not boiling. Bring water to a boil and process for 5 minutes.

Or, you can seal the jars tightly, cool overnight in the refrigerator and freeze any that you will not be using immediately.


Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence in the region dating as far back as 700,000 years BC. Around 3,500 BC, the first villages in Calabria were settled. By the eighth century BC, the Greeks had control over the region and, in the second century BC, Calabria was conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire the region was conquered by the Goths, the Byzantines and later the Longobards. It wouldn’t be until 1860 that Calabria would consolidate and became part of the larger region of Italy.

Medieval Ruins

Calabria’s economy is based mainly on agriculture. Chief agricultural products include olive oil, onions, mushrooms, wheat and other cereal grains, wine, eggplant, figs, chestnuts and citrus fruit. Calabria is the largest producer of bergamot oranges in Italy. The rinds of bergamot oranges are used to manufacture perfumes, teas, and other aromatic creations. Despite its small size and low population, Calabria is responsible for producing a third of all the olive oil produced in Italy.

Calabrian Hillsides

Calabria is fortunate to have a great deal of forested land and, as a result, most industry is developed around construction and building. Textile, clothing and chemical industries are also present in the region. A substantial portion of the region’s economic resources stem from the production and sale of handicrafts by individuals and very small family businesses. Tourism, which is increasing, also plays a major part in the Calabrian economy and is the motive behind some of the region’s most recent technological advancements.

Reggio Calabria in Italian spring

It is a place of contrasts, with high mountain villages seemingly built on the sides of mountains in the interior to red roofed villas on the coast, clustered around an ancient castle or church. Calabria hosts several world class seaside resorts, as well as, mountaintop resorts dedicated to winter sports. Tourists also enjoy watching local artisans produce any number of handicrafts, with pottery and ceramics being the most common.

The Food of Calabria

Bergamot Fruits From Calabria

Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise hill-loving pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking. Adventurous fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod, sardines, and shellfish. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Most of the cuisine of Calabria is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean and is often spicy. Pasta dishes with peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage are also prevalent. Eggplant is a favorite dish in the region and is served in a variety of ways.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation is important. Oiling, salting, curing and smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce. The local pancetta pairs perfectly with summer melons.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal letting nothing go to waste. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is a singularly unusual flavor, made from pig’s fat and organ meats and mixed with liberal amounts of pepperoncinis. This salami-style delicacy (left alone to cure for an entire year) is a testament to the Calabrian patience of waiting until foods have reached their perfection before eating. Other salamis such as Capicola Calabrese and Sopressata di Calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads and cheeses.

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking.

Pane del Pescatore is a local bread specialty made with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, reflecting the Greek and Arabic flatbread influences. Similarly, special pastries and dessert breads take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Sciungata (a sheep’s milk cheese similar to ricotta), ricotta calabrese (a ricotta with the addition of  milk and salt), butirro (a buttery cow’s milk cheese) and the prized, caciocavallo silano, a cow’s milk cheese hung to dry thus developing its signature teardrop shape, are just a few of the cheeses found on the Calabrian table.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts like ricci di donna ( “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti ( “hairs of the priest”) belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are Scilateddri, Lagane, Cavateddri and Maccheroni.

Make Some Calabrian Inspired Recipes At Home

Antipasto Course

Calabrian Eggplant

Serve with Italian Bread                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Serves 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 roasted chili peppers, packed in oil, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh oregano, minced or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the eggplant slices into one inch strips and place in a bowl.

Salt the fresh cut eggplant and let it set for an 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. Drain.

Lay the eggplant out on a towel to dry.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Lay the eggplant out 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.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours and serve chilled.

First Course

Pasta with Sardines

4-6 servings 

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long, thick pasta, like perciatelli or bucatini
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cans of sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil, undrained, (or 1/2 pound fresh, boned)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove.

Add the remaining oil and the onion and garlic to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines with the oil the fish was packed in; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and the reserved pasta water to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and remaining bread crumbs.

Second Course

Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Olives

Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Olives

Serves 4

  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 8 lamb chops, each about 1″ thick
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups Italian chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
  • 3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green olives in brine, pitted and coarsely cut up
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cut each pepper lengthwise, remove the stem, seeds, and core. Cut into approximately 1 1/2″ squares.

Salt lamb chops on both sides. Pour olive oil into a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add lamb chops. Brown thoroughly on one side, turn, and brown thoroughly on the other side (cook to your liking). Remove from the pan to a plate (cover with foil).

Add chopped onion to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes soft and golden. Add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, parsley, olives, salt and black pepper.  

Turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the peppers are tender but firm.

Sprinkle the chops with freshly ground pepper and put them into the pan with the sauce. Turn the chops over several times to coat them well and after a minute or so turn the full contents of the skillet onto a warm platter and serve.


Cosenza

TOWN CENTER

Cosenza is one of the most highly populated provinces of Italy and occupies about 44% of the Calabrian region, basically the whole northern and central parts of the area. The landscape is unique and characterized by mountains,  hills, plains and deep valleys bounded by the Busento and the Crathis rivers. Cosenza is one of the most ancient cities in Calabria and is situated on seven hills in the valley of Crati. The area in and around Cosenza exhibits signs of historic transitions since the prehistoric period with sites in the area attesting to human presence during those prehistoric times.

The fortress, Rocca Imperiale, overlooks the Ionian Sea, and was built by Frederick II.

Important water travel routes have existed here since the Magna Graecia and Roman periods. In 204 BC, the region was conquered by the Romans, and became an important route along the Via Popilia, connecting Rome to Sicily. In the Middle Ages this land was conquered by the Byzantines, who brought economic benefits to the territory with the introduction of new agricultural techniques and architectural design. Byzantine influences are still present in the elegant architecture of the city, as well as the influences of the Normans, the Angevins, the Aragonese and the Spaniards, who all left their traces in the centuries that followed.

Cosenza Church of San Domenico

CHURCH OF SAN DOMENICO, COSENZA

Due to its cultural past, it was known as the Athens of Italy and today it houses the largest university campus of the nation. The city of Cosenza is rich in art and culture and officially recognized as a “City of Art” in the Calabria region. Cosenza is also called the capital of the Bruzi. The Bruzi were an ancient population who lived in southern Italy and they settled in the area of land that lies between the woods of the Sila plateau and the Crati Rivers. They took economic and social control of these areas following the decline of the Greek dominance and, in the 4th. century BC, they attained independence forming their capital Cosenza, formerly called Cosentia.

The old city is characterized by steep and narrow alleys and, during the few last years, this area has experienced a renewed vibrancy. This section is one of the most beautiful and ancient city centers in Italy, where one can find historical buildings, manor houses, an urban plan, and a labyrinth of streets around the old buildings and churches that have existed for centuries.

The cultural activity of the city centers around theater and opera events held in the Rendano Theater, the historical Cinemateatro Italia and the Teatro Stabile d’Innovazione of Calabria. The Accademia Cosentina promotes culture, artists and scientists.The Brettii Museum, officially opened in 2009, in the 15th. century complex of St. Agostino and is located in the center of the city. The Museum of the Rimembranze and the Open-Air Museum Bilotti can also be found there.

RENDANO THEATER

The variety in the landscape here makes the province of Cosenza an ideal place for long outdoor excursions. The trekking routes will lead you to the discovery of small churches and a beautiful countryside that you can admire from charming wooden bridges. The flat, hilly areas are usually used for horse riding. Photography enthusiasts will draw plenty of inspiration for their picture taking. During wintertime, organized snowshoe excursions in the mountains are popular, while ski establishments can be found in the highest areas of the Sila Mountains.

The National Park of Pollino offers opportunities to practice rafting and canoeing, especially on the river Lao, among the canyons and gorges. During recent years, Nordic walking has become more widespread, as it is a gentle sport, suitable for everybody. Water parks can be found along the coast, like Odissea 2000, in Zolfara. The area is well equipped for water sports, from windsurfing to water skiing, as well as beach volleyball.

Inland, many fairs and festivals offer opportunities to taste local dishes and discover local traditions.The culinary specialties of Cosenza are based on local, simple foods. Such specialities, as the Cuddrurieddri, are salted doughnuts prepared for the Immacolata Feast or for Christmas time. The Turididdri are fried Christmas pastries covered with figs and honey, while the Scaliddre are sugar-glazed.

First courses offer fresh fusilli pasta with potatoes, sauteed potatoes, onions and peppers, broccoli with sausages, thick tagliatelle pasta with chickpeas and fresh pasta with mushrooms. Among the fish dishes, the most famous are fried cod and spaghetti with anchovies and breadcrumbs.

Pitta ‘mpigliata, a traditional Christmas dessert pastry,  Mostaccioli, pastries prepared for the Feast of Saint Joseph and focaccia bread made with honey or figs, mulled wine, flour and almonds and formed into different religious shapes are popular dessertsThe area is well known for its anise liqueur.

Make Some Cosenza Inspired Recipes At Home:

First Course

Italian Peppers, Onions and Potatoes

Serve with Italian bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon. salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 lbs. sweet long Italian frying peppers or red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips 
  • 1 lb. long hot Italian peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic, onion, potatoes, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Add sweet and hot peppers, crushed red pepper and oregano.

Cook until peppers and potatoes are tender, stirring often. Stir in vinegar.

Second Course

Simmered Tuna Steaks

Ingredients:                                                                                                                               

  • 1 ½ lbs. fresh tuna cut into 4 even sized steaks
  • 2 oz pancetta
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 boned anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian canned chopped tomatoes or equivalent fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 hot dried red chili pepper, chopped or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop the pancetta finely and set aside.
  2. Chop the garlic and onion together and set aside.
  3. Pat the tuna dry with paper towels.
  4. Season the dry tuna steaks thoroughly on both sides with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the oil in a wide skillet.
  6. Coat the tuna lightly on either side in flour and cook the steaks for 3 minutes on either side in the hot oil.
  7. Sprinkle with the wine and allow the alcohol to boil off for 1 minute.
  8. Remove the fish to a plate.
  9. Put the pancetta, garlic and onion and half the parsley in the skillet.
  10. Saute gently for about 5 minutes, then add the anchovy fillets and mash them into the ingredients in the skillet with a fork.
  11. After a minute or so, add the tomatoes and stir together thoroughly.
  12. Add the chilli and simmer slowly for about 15 minutes, then slide in the fish. Heat through thoroughly for about 8 minutes, turning them over gently once.
  13. Arrange the tuna on a warmed serving dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with remaining parsley just before serving.

Dessert Course

Chocolate-Dipped Figs with Almonds                                                                                                                           

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped unsalted toasted almonds
  • 24 plump dried figs, such as Calimyrna

Directions

Line a large baking sheet or tray with parchment paper.

Place almonds into a wide, shallow dish.

Put chocolate into a small pot and heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Working with one at a time, hold a fig by the stem and carefully dip it into the chocolate, coating it about halfway up. Shake off any excess chocolate, roll the bottom in almonds and transfer to the paper lined tray.

(If chocolate becomes too stiff, reheat it briefly over medium low heat.)

Set figs aside in a cool spot until chocolate is set, about 2 hours. Alternately, chill the figs in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and then return them to room temperature.



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