Tag Archives: abruzzo food

Lentil Tales of Autumn (And Sausage Sunsets)

Salsiccia con Lenticchie (Sausage with lentils), a guest post by Gillian Nevers

I used to wonder why I started to crave sausages and lentils in the fall, just as the leaves on the trees began to change color. For a while I thought it was because of their palate – lentils range in colors from yellow to red-orange to green to brown and, even black – or their earthy taste. Then, one day while looking through photos taken on one of many trips to the Abruzzo, I came upon several taken at an autumn picnic next to a small, wetland refuge near Capestrano. I think it was the day after Emily’s birthday, but I’m not sure. However, I am sure that among all the wonderful things we ate that day, my favorite was the salsiccia con lenticchie, prepared by my dear friend, the late Linda Mantini.

Linda and Dan near Capestrano, 2010 picnic

We worked off a wonderful lunch of party left-overs, with a stroll around a little lake, attempting to identify a variety of water birds. Then we drove into Capestrano for cafe and gelato. While the rest of the family sat outside the bar soaking up what was left of the afternoon sun, Silvia and I walked across the square to a small shop. It was one of those dark little places you enter through a swinging tile curtain. An unmemorable place, except for the calendar of Mussolini displayed along with pope and kitten calendars, and a bushel of brown lentils on the floor in front of the counter. Silvia insisted on buying five kilos of the lentils for me. Knowing I was flying home in a few days, and worried about luggage weight restrictions, I protested. When Silvia said she would keep half, I agreed. Now, I regret not having taking all five kilos, as those lentils were some of the best I’ve every eaten and would have been worth the extra baggage charge!

Emily below CapestranoBack home, I searched through my Italian cookbooks for a recipe that came close to Linda’s. Everywhere I looked, the ingredients were things I could source locally, except for the sausage—it’s hard to find a coil of luganega, especially on short-notice, in Madison, Wisconsin. So, I substituted Italian sausage—a mix of hot and mild—from Fraboni’s, a family-owned Italian deli that’s been in Madison as long as I can remember (when I gave birth to Joshua forty-plus years ago, my friend Kathy smuggled prosciutto, crusty bread and gorgonzola into my hospital room, so I wouldn’t starve)! I served my version of salsiccia con lenticchie to friends who would later join us on a hiking and cooking trip in the Abruzzo.

Linda-inspired pasta & lentils

Every fall, when I get the urge to make salsiccia con lenticchie, it seems to strike me on the day I MUST eat it. So, I have to use what sausage is close at hand. In addition to Italian sausage, I’ve tried American brats, local pork sausage, and Spanish Chorizo. All add their own character to the dish, but no matter the sausage I use, my version never comes close to Linda’s.

Here’s my improvised version:

  • 3/4 pound brown lentils
  • 2 ounces chopped pancetta or smoked bacon
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finally chopped
  • 4 to 8 pure pork sausages – If you can find luganega, that’s the best.
Soffritto

Soffritto

Soak the lentils for about an hour. Fry pancetta or bacon until the fat melts. Add onion, garlic and celery and cook until soft. Add the drained lentils and cover with water. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until tender. In the meantime, roast, fry or grill the sausage.

Serve the sausages on a bed of lentils.

(Editor’s note…if you want it spicy, add hot peppers, and if you want to prepare long before serving, cut the sausage into inch-long chunks and mix into the pot of lentils, cover and keep warm until serving).

Carbonara and Muse

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts

Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/JoshuaLawrence

Oh, by the way, hospital food is not good the world over, Silvia and I snuck prosciutto, good bread and gorgonzola into the hospital when Sofia and Emily were born, it’s still my ultimate comfort food, 42 years on. – Joshua

Lentils, Sausage, Fall Sun and Abruzzo Mountain Air Are Good For You

A Plate of Salsiccie e Lenticchi and il Gran Sasso

Carbonara and Muse

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Pizzette in the Land of Pizzelle

What to do in Pescara when it’s a sunny Saturday in November and you don’t want to get the dishes dirty

I’ve been spending most of the last few months in Naples, the city that gave pizza it’s name and fame, so it would appear odd that I’m writing about Pescara’s pizzette first.
The reason is simple, pizzette on the Adriatic coast are a part of the landscape, and at least from Vasto to Pescara, Numana, and Rimini a couple of oven-fresh pizzette have been part of my life for at least 20 years. And my main focus here is not cooking, or food, but life in Italy through an edible lense.
Pescara’s pizza are very different from their bigger neapolitan cousins – they are breadier, crunchier, oilier, they come out of modern (not wood) ovens in individual pans fused together by the dozen like a primordial cupcake pan. What they have in common is an unspiced tomatoe sauce in which you can still taste the sun, and dashes of mozzarella in which you can savour traces of fresh cream.

Pizzette in Pescara!

Pizzette in Pescara!


Until Pescara became our home, and not just a summer day-trip from L’Aquila, it’s unique pizzette were just a special prize after a relaxing post-afternoon swim.
The Trieste beach concession is by far the town’s most famous pizzetteria in town and they seem to excel in keeping summer alive in our tummies and our minds as we pass from one season to another. At least three times in the last month, if the sun is shining on our faces as we were leaving Sunday mass or picking up the girls after school on Saturday* we would magically forget that lunch was waiting for us at home and we would instead steer our bikes down the beach to the river that cuts this city in two. Like donkeys insisting on a rest they would brake in front of Trieste.

If it wasn’t for the long pants, coats and scarves it feels like it’s still Summer; the tables in front are full of people in sunglasses nibbling pizzette and watching their neighbors stroll by. In back it’s even more laid back, same sunglasses but they’re there to soak up what’s left of the afternoon sun. The plastic castles and mazes and swings are still mounted in the sand just behind, and the smaller clients are enjoying the giant plastic toys so much it makes me jealous.
One word of warning, I suspect that one of the secrets to Trieste’s pizzette is that they adhere to Henry Ford’s idea of customer satisfaction: you can have any pizzetta you want as long as it’s a margherita.** The menu does give other choices, basic white (foccaccia), white with sausage, anchovies, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, etc. Only the first two are real possibilities, but mostly in their inland evening joint in the Portanova dining and pub district..
If you really do insiste on anchovies they will make it for you but be willing to wait a while. Except, of course,during the summer; when the beach umbrellas are in full bloom they will look at you like you’re from Mars as they prepare racks and racks of margheritas for the throngs in sunscreen and flip-flops.
Trieste, however, is not about choice, it’s about instant gratification. If you want variety you can choose between wine or beer, Fanta or Coke, still water or bubbly water.
And trust me, the only real choice you will want to make as November’s last rays beat upon your brow, is if you will be eating two, or three, or four……

*In much of provincial Italy school goes from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
** Margheria = mozzarella and tomato sauce. Mr. Ford is famous for saying that his clients can have any color car they want as long as it was black.

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts


Pizza

Pizza Margherita on FoodistaPizza Margherita

Tomato on FoodistaTomato

Navelli, The Town That Saffron Built

Red gold, yellow joy, and what makes Milan’s most famous rice dish so special


Or Saffron Seduction

If you drive from Sulmona to L’Aquila, chances are you’ll pass through the town of Navelli, the historic heart of saffron country in the high rising around the Appennines largest mountain: Gran Sasso. Centuries as the source of some of Europe’s most prized saffron helped build L’Aquila into one of Italy most beautiful but lesser known art cities. L’Aquila is still beautiful today, although devastated and off-limits from the earthquake 18 months ago. Despite this tradition, the hair-thin red threads (the colour changes to yellow in food and dies) have only recently made it into the local culinary culture because it was too expensive for its’ growers to eat – you didn’t eat your livelyhood in these breathtaking but cold mountain valleys.

Some experts say that the variety of bulbs used, soil and specific climate help produce some of the best saffron in the world. At least everyone in Abruzzo says will tell you that – and so would Remy, the mouse chef from the movie Ratatouille if he wasn’t a fictional cartoon character.

Lo Zafferano is still probably the world’s most expensive spice, but it’s now within reach of most of our pocketbooks; the tenth of a gram (a tenth the weight of a paperclip) of powdered Navelli saffron needed for the recipe below can be yours for around ten euros if bought in locally here in L’Aquila or the surrounding midieval castle towns. If it costs much less than that, you know it’s fake.

Given this historical importance the town of Navelli – were my mother-in-law is from and where we still spend much of our summers – it’s not surprising that it’s one of the two local products featured in Navelli’s sagra (local agricultural feast). The other food is the town’s tiny but delicous mountain ceci (chick peas).

Navelli’s Pro Loco association (http://www.prolocodinavelli.it/ ) has been putting on the Sagra dei Ceci e dello Zafferano one the first weekend after Ferragosto (August 15th) for 33 years, even in the aftermath of earthquakes. And the Palio dei Asini, a send-up of Siena’s Palio where untrained donkeys run instead of trained racehorses has been a natural satirical draw for thirty years. My niece was part of the trio – boy, girl and donkey – that won this year.

While saffron helped build L’Aquila and many of internal Abruzzo’s most beautiful cities and towns, the locals never dreamt of eating it. So Italy’s the most famous saffron dish comes from the northern city of Milan. The following recipe, the one used at the Navelli’s “sagra”, is a gem for it’s simplicity and how it draws out the best from it’s ingredients.

Risotto alla Milanese – Risotto allo zafferano.

Ingredients

Risotto allo zafferano (otherwise know as Risotto alla Milanese)
500 g of rice (a little less than half a pound)
100 g of butter (about a quarter pound
1-fifth of a white onion.
50 g parmigiano reggiano, grano padano or another classic Italian grated cheese
1 envelope of saffron from L’Aquila (with a tenth of a gram of pure saffron)
a half pot of broth broth

Instructions
Dice the onion and simmer in a spoonful of butter until lightly golden, then add the rise and stir continuously as you slowly add broth. In the meantime mix the saffron in a small cup of broth. When the rice is almost done (that is, the broth is almost entirely absorbed by the rice), add the remaining butter and pour in the saffron-broth mix. Sprinkle the parmesan on top just before serving. My wife Silvia’s trick is to add a tablespoon full of the saffron liquor that Navelli’s saffron cooperative sells.

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on carbonara.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Carbonara-by-Joshua-Lawrence/291542554139?ref=ts

This recipe was also included with four others on a guest post promoting George Clooney’s recent move “The American”, set mostly in some of the most beautiful corners of Abruzzo.
http://www.focusfeatures.com/article/the_cuisine_of_abruzzo?pageref=5

Saffron on FoodistaSaffron


Arborio Rice


Risotto

Soggy Noodles?

My daughter likes her breakfast cereal soggy. I think that’s gross and hope her tastes will change as she grows up; thankfully she already is food-curious for an eleven year old. Breakfast cereals are slowly becoming popular here after years of marketing by multinationals, which can even be a good thing – corn flakes are not evil. Breakfast cereals are part of our half-american household but we still usually go for dipping Italian breakfast cookies in warm milk, colored with chocolate or espresso shots according to the age of who’s dunking. But most of us would rather our cornflakes are still crunchy when we eat it. It’s the same with pasta. Think about it. It’s just more pleasurable to have something to bite into than something squishy that falls apart under your tongue. It’s called “al dente” – literally “to the tooth” because your teeth still have to deal with eating it – but Ricciolidoro (Goldilocks) would have called it “just right”. How do you tell when Ricciolidoro will finish her whole plate? Folk legend has it that you throw a strand of spaghetti on a vertical wooden cupboard and when it starts to stick it’s ready. I have tried this so you don’t have to at home. First, it has to be a simple wood surface, or it will just slide off anyway. Second, it’s really quite disgusting. When was the cupboard last cleaned? How much pasta material will stay up there and for how long? And trust the insights of the rocket scientist who tested the theory (me) that the taste of wood finish and traces of cleaning liquids and wax were not enjoyable when I was 19, and there’s no way I’m going to verify if they have gotten any better today. I mean, who dreamt that up? Gross. Basically the pasta is al dente the minute the center is cooked, and the exterior is just becoming soft enough to make the sauce stick but not so soft that it absorbs the sauce. You can actually see this moment happen. As your spaghetti boils try taking a piece out and biting into it a few minutes before the cooking time indicated on the package and look at the subtle color difference like you would count the rings of a wooden stump to identify the age of a tree. When the inside yellow disappears, it should be ready. I prefer it a bit rawer, when there’s still a pinprick sized darker core. If you’ve been eating soggy spaghetti for most of you life, try eating it the hard way.

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