Archive for ‘Italy’

August 14, 2011

Travel: Sassi di Matera, Italy

Sassi di Matera, Italy

 

When I started writing The Wonderingchef, just a little a year ago, I wanted to create a travel-food-recipe-restaurant blog, but lately I`ve been concentrating more on the recipe part of the blogging. Even thou I did travel (cruise ship, holiday etc) I have been taking the pictures, collecting information, just the posts never happened. This one i been planning to send just about a year ago, and a few months ago, when i finished the whole editing, writing, wordpress played a cruel joke with me and deleted my draft. So Matera Sassi post Volume 2 here I go again and hopefully will make it this time!

Italy, this amazing country, struggles with weird politics and leaders, constant financial crisis and unemployment, with its problems could be anywhere in the world. Still it`s tourism is glowing like always, I mean a country which can call the cities Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice their own, must be proud..even if their are not. I listed the most popular tourist sites, but still it has much more to offer. Much much more! It would be difficult to name a region, or a small city that has nothing unique to offer, like making the best bread, or balsamic vinegar, or have amazing views, castles or churches. Some of them are right on the map, some of them are a bit more isolated and hidden from the masses, some of them have not much more inhabitants then a few hundred people, still when you arrive will be treated with friendly, welcoming hospitality.

Only recently I started discovering south of Italy, and just cant wait to go back and learn more. One of the most favorite places I found was Matera Sassi, in Puglia. As you can see from the pictures the view is magnificent, the atmosphere is just peaceful. Now I could give you a short history lesson about the place, but you will find the background in Lonely Planet or on Wikipedia. The city is most lilley to be one of the first human settlements in Italy, the houses are dug in the stones, which is characteristic for Basilicata and Apulia regions. When you walk around…and you should take this one seriously..try to avoid the siesta, as it will be completely empty and very very very hot! Of course I mean summertime.. if still you pick the 12-16.00 hour time, bring a hat and plenty of water with you.

When you are here make no plans, its easy to spend hours around the little hills/streets/houses, getting lost finding better and better views for photography. Some people still live here, there are coffee shops, churches  (of course), restaurants, galleries everything a tourist needs.  Still the strange thing for me was, there were no tourists, I was wondering did no one ever heard about this place? Is it really so isolated? And people apparently did hear about it, and to be honest it is easy to reach. You either sign up for a day tour at a travel agency, or rent a car and on the way you can visit other fantastic places as well.

For movie geeks just like me, its a big treat as Mel Gibson`s “Passion of the Christ” was shot here, among a few other films.

In case you were wondering which region to visit again in Italy, Puglia and Basilicata is highly recommended!

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April 3, 2011

Recipe: Mini Tomato foccacia bites

Well, I never kept my foccacia obsession a secret, and I guess soon i will need to seek therapy, because I`m just hooked on the amazing tomato bread. The whole thing is just brilliant. It`s cheap, it`s easy, it`s fast, and just soooo yummy!  And not to forget FUN! Soon it`s BBQ season, also perfect timing for parties, and picnic, outdoor fun, and having friends and family over. And good hosts give good food:) Smart good hosts try not to make this not too difficult for themselves:) So foccacia is highly recommended. Especially these little bites.


To be honest there’s absolutely no difference between these and a normal oven foccacia. They just have a fun shape, and easy access at a party. If you wan`t to make them even more fun, you add different colourful toppings, like red bell peppers or zucchini, or just simple herbs, maybe even pesto?

The basic dough is easy peasy. And 1 kg of flour makes plenty. And I mean plenty!  Also don`t forget, they disapear kinda fast. My motto is you can never have enough foccacia:)


Ingredients

1kg of flour

2 spoons of dry yeast

4 spoons of sugar

4 spoons of salt

600ml of luke warm water.

Tomato slices, olive oil, salt, white pepper, crushed garlic, mixed together in a bowl.

In a medium big bowl, sift in flour. Make a hole n the middle, add yeast, sugar and salt. Mix well together

Add water, only a little at the time, and mix with wooden spoon. When flour takes up enough water, transfer on a clean table, and start kneading. Add more flour or water if needed. The dough needs to be medium hard, a bit elastic, easy to knead.

Oil up  medium bowl, put in dough mix, cover and let ir rise at a warm place. It usually needs an hour. Really depending on the quality of the ingredients. Sometimes it triples it`s size within an hour, sometimes it needs more time and patience.

Preheat your oven to 220C.

Roll the dough out, to about 2 cm thickness. With a small glass, or pastry cut, make small rounds. Put them on an oiled baking tray. (Foccacia loves oil, so depending on your taste you can use plenty of olive oil if you like). Make sue you don`t put the rounds too close to each other. place a slice of tomato on top of each, push them into the dough a little bit, so they stay.

Put them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or untill golden brown. leave on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy the tasty tomato bread goodness!

February 5, 2011

Recipe: Pizza Rustica with spinach, mozzarella and ham!

Pizza Rustica is fun and easy, you need a good dough, some fillings and you are ready! If you have guests coming over it`s a bit more interesting than a normal pizza nd you can gather many many nice compliments from your friends and family. I first noticed them in Puglia, where the cheese and ham filing is the most common. To be honest i wasn`t really impressed with the one I had there as it was a bit dry for my taste. But I liked the general idea and wanted to come up with my own version.

The dough is a basic bread and foccacia dough, which is very very easy to make. Note to self when you choose the filling for pizza rustica is that the dough needs a very warm 230C oven, so if you pick same raw ingredients like meat etc., most likely not going to cook within 10 minutes. So make sure the stuffing is already ready to eat. Besamel sauce -not a lot just a little- can prevent the dough getting too dry, and even a day after making it will be nice and soft.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1,5 Kg. bread flour
  • 4 tbs dried yeast
  • 2tbs sugar
  • 3tbs salt
  • 600ml luke warm water

Filling

  • 10 slices of ham
  • 1kg of fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • bit of oil
  • 1 big mozzarella sliced
  • bechamel sauce – butter, milk, flour, nutmeg, salt,white pepper

Sift the flour in a big bowl, make a hole in the middle, add the yeast, the sugar and the salt, and mix it together. gradually add the water, and mix it with a wooden spoon, make sure your dough isn`t too wet, otherwise you`ll need to add more flour. Take it out from the bowl, to a clean lightly floured surface, and mix it well together. Add more flour or water if needed. Put it in a clean bowl with some oil, and cover it with a clean cloth. Leave it at a warm place, so it can rise.

Note: Usually the dough doubles its size in about 1 hour. Depending on your flour or yeast it can take up to a little more time so don`t worry. Don`t touch it or start making it if the dough didn`t rise!

Meanwhile, if you use fresh spinach, wash it at least 2-3 times, and make sure its clean. Chop it up a little, and saute it with some oil, garlic, salt and pepper. If you use frozen spinach leafs, make sure you get rid of as much excess water as possible. Make some bechamel, not much, if you don`t want to mess around with it, as you need only a little, you can use sour creme or creme fraische as a substitute. Get the rest of the ingredient`s ready, and heat up your oven to 230C.

When your dough is ready, take it out of the bowl, and mix it a little bit more. Cut in half. Knead the first half to the shape of your baking tray. Make sure your tray is well oiled. Put the dough in and add the ingredients. First some bechamel (not much just lightly, to cover, the ham, spinach, and the cheese on top. Knead the rest of the dough and cover. With a fork make some holes on the top, and put it in your oven. It usually needs not more than 15 minutes to be ready! Put it on a wire rack to cool. And enjoy the heavenly pizza!

January 31, 2011

Bari: Di Cosimo Pizzeria, picture expension.

I think Pizzeria di Cosimo, from Bari was one of my first posts on the blog, and since it`s been one of the most popular ones. Especially in the recent weeks, it was one of the most googled article from Wonderingchef. I decided to add some more photos, for the ones who are interested. Puglia is an up and coming travel points among bloggers and food lovers, the recent year has really done well for it`s popularity. And if you trust me, you`ll belive me it is worth to visit! Nothing is better than picking up some fresh giant green olives from one of the local markets, and pretty much eat your way trough the whole day! Also, after visiting New York, I have to say, Bari is one of the most cheapest places to eat around Europe, or pretty much anywhere!

So…. 3 pictures from Di Cosimo!

Picture 1: Since my first visit to Bari I`m addivted to Panzerotto. Small big, I don’t care as long as It`s fried! I’m not really a big fan of it`s ovenbaked version. I don`t know why , it`s just nothing special.  The fried version however, just had me at hello! It`s very similar to a hungarian langos – fried dough, but most of the time we eat it with sour creme and cheese. Well let me say the tomato sauce-mozarella cheese combo is even better. On this picture you can see a fried and an al forno panzerotto.

Picture 2: My latest discovery is pizza pana. It was fantastic! Also very simple, and I can`t believ I havent thought about it myself. This is pretty much, a simple pizza, with the tomato sauce basic, on top with fresh cooking creme. We have creme based pizzas here but that`s it, it`s never mixed with the tomato sauce, but it damn right should be! Try at home if you want, or at Cosimo, it`s even better:)

Picture 3; Pizza nd pizzella. Pizzella is a pizza, it`s just a small version. The food prices here are relatively small, price for a pizza is about 5 Euros, for a pizzella is 4 as far as I remember. I would suggest, if you are hungry order a panzerotto and a pizzella, so you can try as many things as possible. Also I pretty much described what Di Cosimo sells, These are the 2 items on the menu. Try and go early, otherwise you’ll be fighting for your food with the locals!

January 19, 2011

Recipe: Pappardelle in Yellow tomato sauce with grilled cherry tomatoes.

To be perfectly honest, there`s nothing new or interesting in this recipe, only I used yellow tomatoes for the sauce. I really like tomatoes, and when their colourful friends appear in stores and markets I just go crazy, because they just look cool. Of course their price isn`t really friendly most of the time, but I can tell people love them as despite their price they disappear from the shelves pretty fast.

I find that using the orange or the zebra or the yellow tomatoes in salad and sauces can really spice up the look of some old favourites, and make the lunch or dinner a bit more fun. Only the yellow tomatoes are a bit sweeter then their red version, and they are incredibly tasty with some extra garlic and parmesan cheese.  As much for italian traditions, they just go mental when they see people eating pasta with the salad, in their eyes it is just WRONG! But, I found that this version of tomato sauce goes very well, with some dried-fruity salad.

It is an easy and fast meal. If you are not a professional and experienced cook, you can still make f un dinners and surprise your guests.

Recipe (2-3 people)

  • half a package of pappardelle
  • 1 big onion (brunoise)
  • 3 cloves of garlic ( finely chopped)
  • 5 big yellow tomatoes.
  • 2 spoons of butter
  • olive oil
  • a couple offresh rosemary leafs
  • Couple of cherry tomatoes for decoration.
  • salt, white pepper, nutmeg

Boil some water add the pasta, and some salt. If you added oil into the water so far, please don`t do it, it is just the waste of oil, you don`t need it! Stir it occasionally, don`t overcook it!

Put the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or 2 so you can easily get rid of the skin. After that slice them up into small cubes, and mix it with the finely chopped garlic, and the rosemary leafs.

Heat the oil and the butter, in a small saucepan, untill the butter melts. Get a spoonful of this mixture out and put it in a frying pan, this is for frying the cherry tomatoes. Add the onion, and  sweat it,while stirring occasionally, make sure the onion doesn`t get brown! Add the tomato, garlic, and rosemary mix, and cook for 10 or so minutes or untill sauce is ready. If your sauce is a bit thick you can add some water, but make sure, you bring it to boil and reduce the liquid! Before you finish add salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg. Serve it with the fried cherry tomatoes and some fresh parmesan, and maybe a glass of dry rose wine!

August 31, 2010

The Basil Bomb

I have to admit I do have a minor addiction to Arancini balls. This Italian rice treat is very easy, and tasty, and as reading some other blogs, looks like it’s slowly takeing over the world:) Also, it can be the solution for the left over risotto you might have in your fridge.  With adding some cheese and seasoning, rolling it into bread crumbs, it can be a popular snack on kids parties or for a nice wine tasting night with your friends. Rice has never tasted so nice!:)

I came up with the pesto-arancini idea,, for a recipe contest about a month ago. To be honest I don’t know why I never ended up sending this recipe. I was afraid it will look too simple for the judges. Now I know i was wrong, but anyway, its at least something new in my book. For it you can use fresh pesto, or ones from the supermarket. While cooking, I used home-made basil-olive oil for some extra basil kick.  Instead of mozzarella, you can use any easily melting cheese, for a richer taste even gorgonzola would be a nice try. The arancini is great for experimenting. The only thing you need to be care of is, make sure your rice mix isn’t too runny, otherwise the breadcrumbs wont hold them together. Enjoy!

Ingredients

risotto rice base

Basil oil

Green pesto

egg yolks (depending on the quantity, for about 10-15 balls 2 is usually enough)

mozzarella cheese

Breadcrumbs

Oil for cooking

While still warm mix the pesto, cheese, basil oil with the rice base and set aside to cool. When semi warm add the egg yolks watch out you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs in your arancini. When a bit cook, sticky and easy to form. Form small balls from the mix. Roll them in breadcrumbs, and deep fry in hot oil! Enjoy!


Rosemary on Foodista

August 28, 2010

Recipe: Rosemary addiction

Polenta is fun. It can be used as a side dish or a starter or as a snack. It goes well with almost anything. It`s cheap and easy to make.  If you ran out of food at home and u find a cup of polenta you can easily make a nice dish within no time.  Also it doesn`t need any hardcore cooking knowledge and with a bit of creativity you have the snack for the next wine tasting night.

In this recipe you can learn how to make crunchy olive polenta fingers with garlic aioli. You will see, the rosemary is just as dominating in this dish as the polenta. The herb goes well with it and with the aioli to. I learned this combination from the tapas bar I used to work in Sydney. Since then I always mix the herb in, it gives the aioli a fresher taste.


Ingredients

3 cups of chicken stock

50g unsalted butter

1 cup polenta

a handful of chopped kalamata olives

a bit of extra polenta for brushing

a handful of rosemary leaves

garlic-rosemary aioli

1/2 cups egg mayonnaise

1 clove garlic crushed

1 teaspoon lemon juice

sea salt

a bit of fresh rosemary leaves

To make the aioli, place the mayo, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary and the sea salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. set aside.

Preheat the oven for 200C.

Place the stock and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the polenta. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives. Spoon the mixture into a well-greased 6-cup capacity ceramic dish and allow to cool completely. Turn the polenta out onto a flat surface lightly dusted with the extra polenta and cut into pieces.Place the polenta fingers and rosemary onto a lightly greased baking tray and bake for 25 minutes or until crunchy. Sprinkle with salt and serve it with the aioli.

Rosemary on Foodista

August 17, 2010

Recipe: Italian Tomato and Bread soup

This recipe is very simple, and surprisingly delicious. I found it in Donna Hay`s “Modern Classics” cookbook and had to try it. To be honest unlike the Italians, I`m not a big fan of using bread in soups and salads. This version however made me interested.  It`s somewhere between a gazpacho and a liquid bruschetta. Fresh ingredient are must have, even thou I used my grandmothers own tomato pure instead of fresh tomatoes. The supermarket pures just wont do for this one. You need the fresh taste of tomatoes and fresh basil for this soup, and garlic, plenty of garlic!

Donna`s Recipe is the following:

  • 2kg very ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3cloves of garlic, sliced (I found that the more the merrier in this case)
  • 200g wood-fried bread
  • a handful of torn basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • cracked black pepper

To peel the tomatoes, score a cross on the skin on the base and place in a large saucepan of boiling water, leaving them there for 3 minutes. Drain, then peel.

Place the oil and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes. (If you use good quality tomato pure, you only need to bring it to boiling point, it happens very fast, also pay attention not to burn it. I also found that adding a bit of white wine is a good idea, gives it even a bit more sour taste.) Stir the tomatoes occasionally to break them up.

Remove the crust from the bread and tear the centre into chunks (I found, if you put the bread in the oven to dry over high heat, it will b chunkier in the soup)

Add the bread, stock, basil and sugar to the tomatoes and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with extra olive oil and sprinkle plenty of cracked pepper. Serves 4-6 ( I added some extra fresh parmesan cheese and some fresh onions for the taste)

It`s ready in no time, filling and tasty, and the ingredients are simple and easy to find as well. If you want to impress your guests with something special and interesting this soup is the way to go! Enjoy!

Rosemary on Foodista

July 28, 2010

Eggplant, Parmesan and Mushroom Cannelloni in Tomato sauce

It`s been a while since I was planning to use the pack of cannelloni tubes hiding in my kitchen since a nice Roman holiday. Many times, I had the plan in my mind, what sort of exciting things I`m going to try for the fillings. Had a few ideas (I still have them, soon will try them out as well), but something always came up, and we never had the cannelloni dinner. Today, before a few days holiday, my dad asked me to use up the remaining stuff from the fridge. Well, I wasn`t really spoiled whit choices, all we had was half of an eggplant and few mushroom cups. Luckily, there was still some milk (good thing we have cats), and some remainings of the puglian parmesan cheese, which made the British boarder control incredibly excited at the security check-in. Because of the recent Italian influence on my cooking, pasta it is I thought. And while digging for the last small can of tomato pure, I found the cannolli tubes on the shelf. The day has come, I thought. Cannolli dinner it is!

The recipe is easy, but there`s a bit of hustle with it, especially with the washing up. If you try it, you need to make tomato sauce, besamel, and fry the vegetables.

Ingredients (4-5 persons) usually about 4 cannolli tubes/person

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 4 medium mushroom cups
  • 15g of butter
  • 20g flour
  • 400ml milk
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small can of tomato pure
  • herbs (preferably fresh)
  • 2 spoons of sugar
  • salt, pepper
  • cannolli tubes
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  1. Preheat the oven for 180C.
  2. Slice up the eggplant and the mushroom for small cubes. Make sure they going to fit in the cannolli tubes
  3. Fry the vegetables in some olive oil, in a frying pan. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan mix the tomato-pure with some water, the sugar, salt, pepper and herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary), cook over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
  5. Make besamel sauce, using the butter, flour and the milk. Take it off the heat, mix with the vegetables, parmesan cheese, ad some salt and the nutmeg.
  6. Using a piping bag, or a small spoon fill the canolli tubes.
  7. Butter the sides of your oven tray, put the tubes firmly close to each other.
  8. Poor over the sauce, make sure the cannollis are covered with it.
  9. Put some grinded cheese on top and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  10. Serve it with some side salad.

July 28, 2010

Bari, Italy-Market Photography

Firts time ever, during the World Cup, when Italy was still in, I visited Bari. Ive been to Italy before, many many times, but this was the firts time I saw a place which is not crowded with tourists, and You can see the local side of the citizens. Bari itself isnt really interesting, its a port and university town, with a beautiful old-town area, and of course a seaside. But if You are a chef like me, or just like to eat and enjoy food, and You want to learn a lot, its almost perfect. Puglian cooking is nice, also very healthy. All around the city theres plenty  olive-farms, and fisherman`s huts, and daily markets in the city center. There are panetterias, cafes, restaurants on every step, You can easily tell, these people like their food.

Now well, my boyfriend took me to one of these markets, which is walking distance from their apartment, and conveniently closed down one whole street in the city. I love markets, I love their vibe, how people argue, and shout, and make fun out of each other. Also I like the look of the goods, going to a market for me is very inspirational, also sometimes I get a littlebit crazy, and I want to try everything at the same time, and I just keep running around the isles. This time, Im a bit extra excited, I havent been to a nice market since ages. After spending way too much time in an industrial city, where the only available food was the ready made microvawe stuff in the supermarkets, with “fresh” fruit and vegetables only known from fairy tales.

Ok, I have to admit. I think Im the first tourist these people saw in a long time. They dont understand why Im taking photos, am I from the goverment? Or the maffia? They keep talking to me, and I dont understand a word. I dont know whats going on, what have I done wrong? My boyfriend tells me, its not really common to have foreigners here with a camera, and barese people are not really trustworthy, as somebody always wants to screw the other. Ok, well we are in Southern-Italy anyway.  I keep taking photos, some people pose for me, and want to be in the picture, some people tell me off. Either way, its fun.

The goods here are fantastic. Some things are just so mediterranean, the figs, the zucchini flowres, the fresh mussles from the sea, and the big green olives. From where I`m from these things cost a fortune, and we re lucky if they are available. I wish I had a kitchen to cook at, I could feed an army with these.  At some things I just stop and stare, like the massive basils, that the guy is just throwing down the ground from his truck, or the massive fresh mussles from a very generous 2Euros/kg price. Also at this moment there are about 30 people making fun out of me or staring at me. Luckily I`m not alone.