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 […more…]
Summer Fancy Food Show, New York, 2014. The Italians always come bearing cheeses and prosciutto, impeccably dressed and wearing the latest eyeglass styles. If you want to sample some truffles or condimento, they’d rather huddle together in the back corner of their little booths and sip espresso than give you any. You have to wait until they’re good and ready to sell you something, or for those without importers yet, to promote something. That’s the the idea, isn’t it?—To sell you something? Even my “Press” badge doesn’t budge them. Still, the Italian pavilion is always my first stop. I like […more…]
Every now and then someone sends me a message that’s a real charmer. Here’s one I received at the end of last summer about a recipe that appears in my very first cookbook, Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking. The writer, Dr. John Brownlee, raved over it, as have so many other readers over three decades, so I’m sharing the message and recipe here. I am preparing to make lo Stracotto for the second time from your book Pasta Classica, which I purchased in 1988 in New Orleans. It taught me to make pasta, a gift which I have […more…]
There’s thunder and lightening from where I’m sitting looking out my kitchen window, with no sign of let-up for July 4th. If that means a change of plans for you from an all-American barbecue, consider the Independence Day tradition of the American South: fried chicken. While I grew up in an Italian household, fried chicken was always a special dish and it fit in just fine with potato salad and all the other American trimmings. Whether it’s Kentucky-fried, Georgia-fried, or Italian-fried, it’s as American as grilling on the Fourth of July. Here’s my recipe, sprinkled with some fried chicken history. […more…]
Besides home-grown tomatoes, green beans from my garden are the vegetable I most look forward to in summer. Right after my beans seeds went into the ground and my thoughts turned to eating them, it occurred to me to write Love Me Tender, a story for Zester Daily, about how I like them best. You may want to know my favorite way to cook them if you love them as much as I do, and if you don’t, you might change your mind after you read here.
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…]
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…]
Once, Italian merchants were on their own looking for markets to sell their goods. Today, the Italian Trade Commission facilitates commerce between Italian businesses and the U.S., among other countries, sending buyers, and journalists like myself throughout its twenty regions to explore products for export to an American public that is dazzled by the stroke of that fine Italian hand. My mission on a recent trip to the Mostra Internazionale dell’Artigianato (78th International Handicrafts Trade Fair) in Florence, sponsored by the I.T.C., was to ply the stalls of Italian food and wine producers coming from all over Italy for exceptional […more…]