Apr 132014
 

With spring in the air, my thoughts turn to the Italian Easter pie, torta pasqualina, a festive puff pastry dish customarily prepared for consumption on Easter Monday for marauding guests. The tart is more often than not stuffed with ricotta and spinach or chard—the classic greens used for ravioli and such. Emilia-Romagna and Liguria take credit for having invented it (though it seems plausible that country people anywhere would think to put spring greens, foraged or cultivated, into a pastry casing). The torta has been an anticipated ritual for me every season, but this year, I’m making it with a traditional American-style pie crust.

A new take on Italian torta pasqualina—rapini pie. | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

A new take on Italian torta pasqualina—rapini pie. | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

The idea to use rapini in a pie came to me when a big styrofoam chest filled with those freshly harvested greens (aka broccoli rabe in America) on ice arrived at my doorstep, courtesy of the D’Arrigo Brothers (Andy Boy) growers, with whom I have partnered recently to figure out ways of getting Americans to eat more of this astonishingly nutritious (and tasty) vegetable.

Andy Boy rapini fields in Salinas, California. | Photo: Courtesy D'Arrigo Brothers/Andy Boy

April fields of rapini, or broccoli rabe, on the D’Arrigo farm in Salinas, California. | Photo: Courtesy D’Arrigo Brothers/Andy Boy

With a prodigious supply of rapini at hand, my dreams of Easter pie were realized. Four of us gobbled one in no time two days later (it keeps well, covered, in a refrigerator for up to five—just warm it in a medium oven  for twenty minutes or so, cover off, before you are ready to eat). I’m going away to visit my children for the holiday and I had better bake two pies to take with me. One never knows when unexpected guests will arrive. How lovely to eat it for brunch the day after the big feast. We’ll have a glass of wine, perhaps a rustic red Negroamaro from Puglia or a minerally Greco di Tufo from Campania. Continue here for Easter pie details, and the step-by-step recipe in my new article for Zester Daily.

Slice of rapini pie. | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

A slice of rapini pie. | Photo: Nathan Hoyt

Mar 242014
 
You asked for it—Francine Segan's Bucatini Cupola

My last post featured cupola di bucatini, bucatini dome, a recreation of a historic timballo (aka timpano). It was created by Francine Segan, a food historian and author of Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), to celebrate the appointment of the new Italian Trade Commissioner, Pier Paolo Celeste. ”This recipe dates to 18th century Naples, and was rediscovered and modernized by Giorgia Chiatto and Carmela Caputo, who run Naples’ first…cooking school, Cucinamica,” she says. She learned how to make it on site from Garofalo, one of the city’s oldest and most famous pastificci, headquartered in Gragnano, home of some of the best dried [...more...]

Mar 212014
 
A Tipple, a Tid-Bit, and Delights Discovered at the Italian Trade Commission

Spring is in the air everywhere, not least at the Italian Trade Commission in New York City, the Italian government agency charged with promoting and educating about Italian products abroad. Always on the job, at a special reception this week for the newly appointed Commissioner and Executive Director, Pier Paolo Celeste, I turned up some discoveries, old and new. One, panettone gastronomico, or unsweetened panettone, a fairly recent phenomenon in Italy for making little bar sandwiches, and new to most Americans. It was carved up into a layered tower of delicious “tramezzini,” triangular sandwiches with various fillings of genuine Italian products. Francine Segan, a [...more...]

Mar 192014
 
St. Patrick Had His Day, Today is St. Joseph's!

  Did you know that today is St. Joseph’s Day, or la Festa di San Giuseppe, Fathers Day for the Italians? Because my paternal grandfather’s name was Giuseppe, Joseph, there was always a celebration with special foods, and a favorite pasta dish of their region, orecchiette with rapini (rapine in Italian). Just as Irish immigrants changed the recipe for their storied St. Patrick’s Day soda bread, so my grandparents, once in America, were forced to adapt the pasta dish using broccoli. Cime di rapa, or rapini (“broccoli rabe” as it has come to be known here) were not grown in the United [...more...]

Mar 172014
 
 Teaching the Irish (Immigrants) How to Make Soda Bread

If you think you’ve eaten real Irish soda bread, you probably haven’t. So says Darina Allen, queen of Irish cooking. “Real Irish soda bread doesn’t have any sugar or caraway seeds in it,” she said, “That’s the emigrant version.” She ought to know. Her dominion is the world-class Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, but her pupils are scattered the world over. If they haven’t been initiated into fine Irish cooking under her personal tutelage, they have learned what she calls “the forgotten skills of cooking” by virtue of her knowledgable books (her last one, Irish Traditional Cooking, when re-issued two years ago, [...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...]

Feb 272014
 
Cooking with Julia: Master Class on Rapini at Eataly - April 25th

Here’s an announcement for my next class: Chef’s Kitchen: Cime di Rapa: One Ingredient, Infinite Recipes with Julia della Croce Friday, April 25, 2014 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (Eastern Time) La Scuola Grande at Eataly 200 Fifth Avenue – New York, New York 10010 (212) 539-0204 ext.304 $110 Class Description Cime di rapa; broccoletti; rapini, rape, friarielli…here is a vegetable dear to the hearts of the southern and central Italians. Loved for its pungent and spicy character, its brilliant pairing with pork or lamb; its affinity for pasta, potatoes, polenta, and egg dishes; or solo, sauteed simply in garlic [...more...]

Feb 242014
 
The Magical Gluten-Free Cookie: A Rosquilla Lesson, Step-by-Step

Following up on my recent story in Zester Daily about delicious corn masa cookies I discovered in Nicaragua, we took photographs of the method in hopes that you’ll find them as easy to make as I did. Sweet rosquillas are Nicaragua’s answer to shortbread, but wheat-free. Both sweet and savory versions of mass-produced rosquillas are ubiquitous in the markets and on street corners all around the country. Peddlars hawked them at the bus terminal where we started our journey but they are not the same as those I learned to make in El Lagartillo. I have no doubt that the national obsession with this [...more...]