On New Year’s Day, instead of our black eyed peas, Italians serve lentils (round like coins) and an interesting side dish made from pig’s trotters: Zampone, or Cotechino, the sausage made from the same. Click here for a picture and interesting insights from Kyle Phillips. Seems the Pope beseiged the good people of Modena for aligning with the Venetians, and Italian ingenuity provided this tasty dish made from the foreleg of a pig. As with many unfamiliar delicacies, this one’s form follows a little too closely it’s previous function, but it’s on the list of “should-try” local food if ever you find yourself in Italy on New Year’s!
Archive for December, 2007
New Year’s Eve runs the gamut from exquisite night out to a relaxed evening with friends. Don’t let the ball drop; here are five simple ideas for easy, elegant entertaining.
- Start with Bellinis: Peach and Prosecco. Get our Bellini Mix here $2.99 (Cipriani family recipe). Then get a good Prosecco at Central Market or Jimmy’s.
- Fill Pastry Party Cups ($4.99 and $9.49) with fresh chevre/cream cheese, then top with Cranberry Fool ($8.99) and a twist of black pepper.
- Main Course? Try King Ranch Casserole with a twist: Alfredo sauce!
- Dolce? Desperate (and Delightful) Tres Leches Cake
- Morning After - Try Black Eyed Peas with Kielbasa or Lentils for Italian Flair!
Christmas observances in Italy take, well, awhile. The celebrations begin on December 6, birthday of St. Nick, escalate on the novena, or 9 days before Christmas, crescendo on Christmas Eve with the dinners of fish, and swell through the 12 days of Christmas, with the exchange of gifts taking place on Epiphany, January 6th.
Possibly the strangest tradition, from the perspective of American culture, is the tradition of the multi-course fish dinner. More popular in the south, it originated due to the religious restriction agains eating meat before a holy day. Italians found a way to celebrate, and indulge in Christmas Eve dishes consisting of from 7 – 20 varieties of fish (I’ve found none for the Christmas Tree Worm, featured above.) (more…)
Cerignola Olives are on their way to Flavors From Afar (see above). Often described as “meaty” , they are huge, a lovely jade green, with a fruity, clean, mild taste. The city of Cerignola in Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, is named after the olives of the same region.
Puglia produces the most olives in all of Italy; there are 15 million olive trees in that region alone. It is illegal to cut down a producing olive tree, due to laws protecting Puglia’s main resource; but illegal tree traffickers are cutting down old trees and transporting them to homes in northern Italy and across Europe for high- priced garden accents. Sadly, the trees often die within the first year of planting, due to the colder cliimates. (more…)
“Hand”-made takes on a new meaning in Calabria.Â Here, golden late-season figs are slowly roasted and caramelized, molded into fist-shaped balls, wrapped in fig leaves (for modesty?) and tied for safekeeping.Â Sort of like theÂ surprise balls we enjoyed as children, the unwrapped packet spills forth sweet, juicy figs just perfect for sidling up to gorgonzola, chopping and mixing with honey for a breakfast spread, or all by themselves as a special treat.Â
This fall, we visited the good folks at Dolci Pensieri di CalabriaÂ (Sweet Thoughts of Calabria) and owner Franco Rao showed us how it’s done.Â The picture on the left shows a co-worker at the bottom of the picture forming the roasted figs into balls, while Franco rolls the fragrant leaves like a cocoon around the fruit.Â On the right, Franco appears ready to juggle a handful of the fruit of his labors.Â Ecco Fatto!
$15.99Â Available at Flavors From Afar beginning 12/22/07 .
Torrone, or nougat as it is called elsewhere in the Mediterranean, is a simple mixture of egg whites, sugar, and honey. Based on how it’s made, it’s either a tooth-torturing nightmare or a perfect blend of texture and taste.Barbero is the last torrone factory still operating in downtown Asti, in the Piedmont area of Italy. It’s a little crazy; we took a tour and went from building to building, floor to floor; one floor might be a florist, and on the other the Barbero artists are hoisting torrone out of vats and shaping it into giant rectangles from which the candy will be cut and formed in molds. (more…)
Our “Fend off Frostbite” supper is one that we enjoy after a long day on our feet at our store. It’s full of comforting touches, and many of the components can stand alone as appetizers (Pesto Torte, White Bean Bites, Egg and Bacon Salad) or even as a vegetarian entree (just add cheese to the Navy Bean Balsamic Surprise). We keep it in our back pocket for an easy, prep- ahead, satisfying meal. We find many of the components at our store (of course!). Here’s the lineup:
- Pesto Torte
- White Bean, Semi-Dried Tomato and Basil Bites
- Egg and Bacon Salad with Truffle Salt
- Gary’s Truffled Mashed Potatoes
- Nancy’s Navy Bean Balsamic East Texas Surprise
- Walnut Sage Filet
- Easy dessert of store-bought cheesecake and Cranberry Fool topping
For recipes and more information, click here