Aug 102014

The recipe in my last post for a quick and easy steak and potato dish (read here) seemed to be especially popular, and some of you sent me comments and variations. I’m passing some of them along here. One more thing…do wash it all down with a nice Pugliese red. Salute!

A Pugliese red wine with taralli, bread knots. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

A Pugliese red wine with taralli, bread knots. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Great recipe, Julia–reminds me of Tuscan tagliata di bistecca. And perfect for a no-nonsense meal on a hot summer night. You reminded me that the great teaching chef Bill Briwa from the CIA (you know which one of those I mean) experimented with beef and olive oil and found that rare beef, whether roasted or a grilled steak, has a calming, taming effect on those gutsy peppery olive oils we oliophiles love so much, suppressing some of their fieriness and bringing out the natural sweetness of olives. —Nancy Harmon Jenkins, Cortona, Italy


Dear Julia, I realize I never did write and say that the meal was spectacular. In fact, as I was preparing it, I realized I couldn’t eat it by myself, so I called my friend Toby in Nyack and she was free for dinner so I had her come to eat.  The olive oil dressing was PERFECT.  Thank you more than I can say for sharing your precious oil with me.  I had some dressing left over and had left-over everything last night, except I didn’t pick more arugula but used finely cut Siberian kale which is very mild.  Delicious.  I love the combination which I would never have thought of making–Toby thought it would have been just as good without the steak!!!—Joan Dye Gussow, Piermont, NY


Hi Julia, Did your recipe for steak last night. Added a few things like a variety of sliced cherry tomatoes on the side, shaved sweet white onion under the steak and of course a nice French red to go with it. Delicious! —John F. Carafoli, Cape Cod, MA

I wrote:

 Dear John F. Carofoli, A nice FRENCH red? Really???


Julia della Croce's Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Julia della Croce’s Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad | Photo: Nathan Hoyt


Aug 022014

After my recent travels to Puglia, Italy’s southernmost region, I’ve had its big, bold olive oils on my mind. The province of Bari, founded well before the 8th century BC when it was absorbed by Magna Graecia, has lived on olive oil for millennia. Today the area still makes most of Italy’s olive oils. Drive past places with names like Cassano delle Murge, Bitetto, Bitonto, Bitritto, and Binetto, and you see nothing but forests of olive trees and billows of sky, interrupted now and then by towns undisturbed by tourism. But where once, production was geared toward quantity to meet Europe’s demand for lamp oil, today these fertile flatlands, dotted with small olive farms, are producing some of Italy’s most intriguing olive oils.

Olive groves, Puglia. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Olive groves, Puglia. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

One in particular that came to my attention is Crudo, meaning “raw” in Italian, an estate-bottled extra-virgin olive oil from a small producer in Bitetto, a town so rustic that a traveler cannot find one single restaurant there—or in other towns for miles around, for that matter. The oil’s fresh and potent herbaceous aromas and spiciness lifts everything from fish to red meats, especially when they are grilled, and especially when they are peppery.

Ingredients for Peppery Steak Salad. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

The necessary ingredients for Peppery Steak, Potato and Arugula Salad. Photo: Nathan Hoyt

With summer in full swing, I came up with this recipe for a peppery steak and potato salad layered over arugula for those evenings when nothing appeals as much as a barbecue.  It’s a re-make of the old-fashioned steak au poivre, but lighter, sleeker, and healthier. The tasty flank steak is coated in smashed peppercorns, seared over hot coals, and layered over arugula with its natural bold spiciness, and boiled sweet fingerling potatoes. I couldn’t think of a better dressing than that beautiful and succulent greengold Crudo.

Continue here to my article in Zester Daily for the full story, the recipe, and sources for buying Crudo.


Jun 152014
Toritto, Puglia: An Afternoon in My Father's Land

My father left his native Toritto as an infant in his mother’s arms in 1909. With his young parents and grandmother, he sailed for Ellis Island in steerage. The family said that in those bleak times in Puglia, they had survived by eating the wild greens that grew in the fields where they had toiled. Although he returned to Italy many times as an adult, especially to the Carrara quarries to buy marble for his shop in America, my father never went back to where he was born. What kindled his memory was the food he was raised on. His [...more...]

May 192014
A 3,000-Year Tradition Makes for Sublime Italian Prosciutto

If you’ve been following my posts this month, you know that I’ve been in Italy at the invitation of the Italian Trade Commission exploring the products of food artisans working in the country’s twenty regions. Throughout May, I’ll be publishing vignettes on some of the food producers I met, both at the 78th annual artisans expo in Florence in April, and subsequently traveling throughout the country. Italian artisans have been making air-cured hams as far back as Etruscan times some 3,000 years ago, originally from the haunches of wild boar. Eventually, pigs were bred and pampered specially for producing prosciutto crudo, [...more...]

May 162014
Miggiano, Puglia: A Sighting of an Olive Wood Nymph

Meandering through the ancient olive groves owned by producers Marta Consiglia and her brother, Vito Lisi in Miggiano, Puglia, I came upon an olive wood nymph. If we hadn’t captured her on camera, you wouldn’t have believed me. The tree from which she emerged is 500 years old and still producing olives for oil, the lifeblood of a region has been cultivating olives for oil for over 5000 years. Until modern times, much of the oil was crude and inedible, destined for lampante, lamp oil that lit the streets, homes, and churches of Europe. Today, the family produces organic, high quality [...more...]

Mar 292014
To Italy with Julia: Venice by Lagoon

Almost in the very middle of this little sea, enclosed between the water and the sky, lies Venice, a fairy vision, risen as if by miracle out of the water that surrounds it and like green shining ribbons, cuts through its beautiful body. So wrote Giulio Lorenzetti, in his famous 1926 guidebook, Venice and its Lagoon: A Historical and Artistic Guide (updated in 1994 and still the most authoritative guide). Yet there it is, the ancient “Serenissima,” a glittering city decorated with gold, arising out of the lagoon, firm and fixed. We can barely grasp how architects could have imagined its plan and how [...more...]

Mar 052014
Upcoming Culinary Tours to Italy with Stars as Your Guides

Many a tourist has been hustled along the deep-rutted routes of Venice-Florence-Rome-home, yet some travelers got off the highways and criss-crossed the countryside, writing about the cities, small towns and byways. One such traveler is former New York Times staff writer, Zester Daily contributor, author, and Tuscany resident, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who has savored Italy with great learning and a deep and abiding love. Today, previously overlooked regions that she has captured masterfully in her writings are popular destinations for the American traveler interested in the glorious food of Italy, and there is hardly a better guide. Nancy has announced two upcoming tours to [...more...]

Mar 042014
Heart of Nicaragua: Grace and Magic in a Corn Masa Cookie

Travels with Julia || Nicaragua Maybe because growing up in a family that endured the last world war in Italy, often hungry, my journey as a writer is concerned with food. For me, everything about it fascinates—growing it, harvesting it, cooking it, understanding its cultural trajectory. The recipes are metaphors, albeit edible ones. When I traveled to Nicaragua recently to meet up with my daughter and make our way together to a remote village in the country’s highlands, I learned such a recipe, one that has come to have meaning for me far beyond the discovery of a new dish. [...more...]