August Newsletter 2011
Fresh Recipes, New Kitchen Ideas, Food News & Fun Things To Do In Sunny Italy
Agosto, the month in the year where days on the beach end under smoldering sunsets that turn to star studded skies, where a gelato a day is a must, and where outdoor events of every kind spill into piazzas, gardens and outside theatres. In fact, everything in Italy is outside in August! Late nights under the starry summer skies mean San Lorenzo is almost here, – August 10, just another reason to celebrate and wish upon a shooting star.
August was originally called Sextilis in Latin when it fell under the Roman Calendar of Romulus, and it was renamed Augustus after the Roman Emperor Augustus around 8BC.
August brings us 31 glorious days of summer in Italy! It may be sizzling outside, but our kitchen is filled with delicious summer recipes to keep you cool and healthy!
To most Italians, August means holidays – time spent in the company of family and friends, and people tend to fall into one of two categories – those who love the mountains and those who can’t wait to stretch out on a beach or the deck of a boat and soak up the sun. The cool air of the mountains is always tempting during the hotter months, with ample opportunity for hikes through nature, a walk around an Alpine lakes perhaps, or a simple ramble to forage for wild brambles and raspberries. But the lure of the sea is strong – that instant feel good factor of the heat and salt on your skin, the briny air, the calming shush of the waves all difficult to resist. Here on the Amalfi coast there are a few deserted beaches that can only be reached by boat, and these beaches are often colonized by groups of youngsters who arrive via sea, build a huge makeshift tent and camp out for a week or so. It’s difficult not to envy them – there they are, nut brown and a little wild looking, each day spent swimming and sunbathing, evenings spent cooking something over a campfire and having a good laugh, no adults around to bother them. Tough life…
And of course, August brings Ferragosto, the national holiday that falls on the 15th. Often on Ferragosto we’ll meet up with a bunch of friends we only ever see this one day each year, down at the same old fisherman’s restaurant right by the sea, our table almost longer than the restaurant itself. Some friends are down from northern Italy, others up from Sicily, the kids growing so fast you hardly recognize them from the year before. Normally we arrive by boat when it’s already dark, but sometimes we’ll tackle the hundreds of stone steps that lead down from the road down to the beach. And there we’ll sit eating more fish than seems humanly possible; mixed antipasti, a couple of pasta dishes (maybe even local lobster if they have any), and platters of grilled and fried fish that just never stop coming. From the restaurant you can see the firework display way down the coast in Maiori, which is the sign that there’s just enough time for a quick slice of ricotta and pear tart before rounding up the children who are either rock climbing, swimming in the moonlight or have dozed off under the table, piling back onto the boat and scooting along to watch the next display at Positano.
We hope your August is just as enjoyable, and don’t forget relax, enjoy your family and make a wish on the night of San Lorenzo, the 10th, the night of shooting stars. You never know. San Lorenzo might hear you…
There’s no beating August for fresh produce, no excuses for not making the best of it, with mountains of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, sweetcorn, tomatoes, melons and plums just about everywhere you look. But perhaps the best of them all are the tomatoes. It’s difficult to think of anything as versatile, healthful and delicious as good vine ripened tomatoes, whether you intend to cook them in some way or serve them raw.
Native to south America, tomatoes arrived in Italy in the early 1500s, and although they were widely grown for decoration, for many years no one ate them as they were believed to be poisonous. (All parts of the plant bar the fruit actually are poisonous, so not so far off the mark perhaps.) Thankfully they soon made their way into the kitchen however, and what was once viewed as a precarious interloper has now become a staple of Italian cuisine. Large, small, circular, long, oval, short, red, yellow, green, brown or striped, it never ceases to surprise that such a tired looking plant as the tomato vine can offer up such delicious fruit. Picking them it’s impossible not to pop a few in your mouth, and back in the kitchen the only problem is deciding how to use them. The obvious choices are to sauté them with olive oil, garlic and basil for a fresh pasta sauce or make a quick tomato salad (especially beautiful if you mix together different heirloom varieties for a multi-colored effect), but with very little effort, you can create a wealth of different dishes. Stuff them with some rice and herbs and oven bake; cut them in half, scatter with garlic, breadcrumbs and parsley and bake with a final drizzling of olive oil as a side dish; slice them and pair with mozzarella and basil for a Caprese salad; create a tomato sauce that will keep for days in the refrigerator ready to be added to stews, soups, bakes, or act as a pizza topping or a last minute addition for risottos; create garlicky bruschette with a chopped tomato and basil topping; whip up a caponata – a Neapolitan salad that uses up stale bread, tomatoes, basil, olives and sometimes even capers and tuna; or preserve them skinned, as passata, dried, or even oven roasted so you can enjoy them all year long.
Cooking Vacations has cooked up great recipes for the summer months, we hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Recipes From Our Kitchen
Peperoni Ripieni ~ Stuffed Peppers
Courtesy of Da Vincenzo
Number of servings (yield): 10
- 10 Peppers, whole + 3 peppers, cleaned and chopped for filling
- 6 Eggplant, chopped
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 180 g Tuna, canned/jarred
- 300 g Stale bread, chopped and toasted lightly in the oven
- 2 Eggs
- 200 g Parmesan cheese, grated
- 100 g Capers, rinsed
- 200 g Green or Black Olives, to taste
- Several leaves fresh basil, ripped by hand
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- In separate frying pans, heat a little olive oil and sauté chopped eggplant and peppers until tender.
- Set aside and allow to cool.
- Cut off the top of the peppers, like a pumpkin and set aside top.
- Core the inside removing all the seeds and white.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, mix eggplant, peppers, capers, olives, tuna, Parmesan, basil, stale bread cubes, and eggs.
- Mix together and either spoon or use a pastry bag with a large opening (around 1-in diameter) to fill peppers.
- Once filled, place top back on to each pepper and set into baking pan.
- Sprinkle a little bit of olive oil over the top of the peppers. Bake in preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
Fresine Con Pesce Azzurro Al Limone ~ Pasta With Blue Fish & Lemon
Courtesy of Tre Sorelle, Secret Garden Positano™
Number of servings (yield): 4
- 500 g Blue Fish, such as Palamita (Atlantic Bonito), Anchovies, Tuna, or Mackerel
- 150 g Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Glass White Wine
- 1 Lemon (grated zest and juice)
- Water, as needed to boil the pasta
- 50 g Parsley (finely chopped)
- Salt, to taste
- Chili Pepper, to taste
- 400 g Fresine Pasta
- First, fillet the fish, cutting off head and tail and deboning it.
- Slice the meat into little cubes.
- In a pan, heat the extra virgin olive oil with the crushed garlic cloves.
- Sauté until the garlic becomes golden and add the cubes of fish, the salt and the chili pepper, as desired.
- Once the fish is colored add the white wine to blend the flavors together and cook until the wine has almost evaporated.
- Then add the parsley and the grated lemon zest. When it is almost ready, finish the cooking by adding the juice of the lemon.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce that you have already prepared.
- Add a splash of pasta water, as needed if it is dry.
- Serve hot with a garnish of lemon zest curls and a pinch of chopped fresh parsley.
Semifreddo Alla Pesca E Menta ~ Peach & Mint Ice Cream Cake
Courtesy of Valle Dei Mulini, Secret Garden Positano™
- 300 g of Mascarpone
- 300 g Whipped Cream
- 3 Eggs
- 200 g Sugar
- 300 g Peaches, peeled and remove pit
- 10 Mint Leaves
- 50 g Vodka
- Separate egg whites from the yolks. Save egg whites for later use. Mix the yolks with 100 g of sugar.
- When creamy, add mascarpone and mix for 10 seconds.
- Meanwhile, puree the peach with the mint leaves and vodka until smooth.
- Add peach puree to the mascarpone mixture, then fold in the whipped cream carefully so it does not deflate.
- In a separate bowl whip egg whites with the remaining sugar.
- Add this to the mascarpone mixture, always folding so the whites do not deflate.
- Place in molds and chill in the freezer for at least 1 day.
With Love From Italy
If you cannot make it to Italy, we bring Italy to you~
Dalì’s illustrations of the Divine Comedy
Until the 21st August, catch up with this singular exhibition at the Pinacoteca Civica of Follonica in Tuscany where you’ll find over 100 of Dalì’s paintings and sketches commissioned in 1951 for the illustration of Dante’s masterpiece. ‘I want my illustrations for the Dante to be like the faint markings of moisture in a divine cheese,’ Dalì stated. It’s up to you to decide whether or not he succeeded.
Women At Work In Italy
Italy is a country founded on work, and women’s work played a large part in creating the Italy we know today. In the Sala della Crociera of the Minister for Culture in Rome, this exhibition takes you on a voyage through history, illustrating the first jobs undertaken by women, many of which no longer exist – wetnurse, corset maker, rice weeder – to jobs considered inferior to men’s – typist, secretary, shop assistant – and even professions considered new but which, it could be argued, are simply old jobs in new cloths – starlet, cube dancer etc. Covering the years 1861 – 2011, this promises to provide fascinating insight into the role of women in the workplace through the ages. Open until October.
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
Hopefully August means a few days at the beach, so we’ve picked out a great beach read that will transport you to Venice in the blink of an eye. A tale of love and family across the ages, The Glassblower’s of Murano follows Nora Manin as she decides to leave her life in London to start again in Venice where she uncovers the story of her ancestor Corradino Manin, the greatest artist of glass that the island of Murano ever produced. Fast-paced, absorbing and easy to read, it’s perfect for taking on vacation.
Italian Feasts And Celebrations
This month, we take a look at some great food festivals to suit all tastes this August in Italy.
Sagra della ‘Carne Ferrata’: Felline (LE), Puglia, 12th August.
If you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near the pretty town of Felline this August, pop along to their annual horse meat sagra. While we appreciate horse meat may not be everyone’s first choice, you may surprise yourself and actually quite like it! And even if you don’t, there will be plenty of other local specialties around to keep you happy – fresh pasta, other roast meats and local wine – and it’s always fun to take a stroll round the market stalls and pick up some local oil, taralli or sweet cookies. Keep an eye out for the folk dancing, musical spectacles and soak up the fabulous festive Puglian atmosphere.
Festa del Lampone e del Mirtillo: Avasanis, Trasaghis (UD), 12 – 15th August
This delicious sounding festival held in the borough of Avasanis, province of Udine, in the north of Italy, celebrates the area’s much loved raspberries and blueberries. Stroll through the town’s pretty streets and sample the countless specialities on offer: ice creams, sorbets, crepes, bread, cookies, pies, cakes, desserts, tarts, syrups, jams, teas, and even hot sauces, all made with these mouth-watering fruits. But you will also be able to taste some local savory dishes, including pasta and polenta and delicious cheeses all to an eclectic selection of live music. But whatever you do, don’t miss the blueberry gnocchi!
Sagra medievale e caccia alle streghe: Appignano di Castiglione M.R. (TE), 17th – 20th August.
How can you resist a festival called ‘Medieval Sagra and Witch Hunt’? When we heard about this sagra held in the Province of Teramo, we knew it was a must. The whole day is organised like some kind of time machine where you’re whisked back to medieval marketplaces with damsels and sires, dancers and noblemen wandering among the visitors, inspecting the old fashioned fabrics, flower arrangements and precious stones on display. But make sure you have the good luck talisman with you at all times, or the witches’ magic will soon turn a dream into a nightmare! Lots of delicious fare on offer, as well as plays and spectacles on the subject of medieval witch hunts.
Sagra della Porchetta: Costano di Bastia, Umbria, 18th-28th August.
Costano is well known for its delicious porchetta, one of Umbria’s most famous specialties. The village’s porchetta producers have been making this wonderful stuffed roasted suckling pigs for 500 consecutive years, all the necessary skills being passed from generation to generation since late Medieval times. This is the 38th edition of this popular festival which has foodies flocking to the small town of Costano near Assisi from all over Italy.
Literally thousands of visitors fill the town’s streets eager to taste the delicious porchetta along with lots of other traditional specialties in a cheerful celebration of local customs and gastronomic traditions.
Cooking Vacations’ Property Of The Month
Blue sky, starry nights, and a cerulean sea that touch infinity. Set in the quiet town of Praiano, the sleepy Amalfi Coast town has a charm all of its own. Off the beaten tourist track, Praiano sits between Positano and Amalfi, making it a perfect location to visit, not only neighboring Positano & Amalfi, but Ravello, Capri, Paestum, Salerno and Sorrento. Words cannot describe the luxurious setting… check in, relax, open your terrace doors and step into a world of magic.
Blue Sky, Starry Nights & Cerulean Sea ~ 6 Day (click to read more…)
Italy On A Plate
By Germaine Stafford
Germaine continues her roundup of what’s happening in the culinary world in Italy and gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and a list of seasonal foods for August.
What’s in Season?
Restaurant Of The Month
O Bansin, Rapallo, Liguria
It’s summer, and we hope you’ve managed to make it to Italy to enjoy a vacation on a breezy island or pretty town by the sea. The Italian Riviera is always a favorite with visitors, so this month we have a great traditional trattoria for you, right in the heart of the bustling town of Rapallo. Rapallo is famous for its Roman origins, its small waterfront castle and a bridge allegedly used by Hannibal during the Carthaginian invasion of Italy in 218 A.D. But back to business…
O Bansin (a word in Genovese dialect for scales), is one of the oldest trattorias in Rapallo and offers many of the area’s best loved traditional dishes. Dating back to 1907, the locale was originally used by workers at lunchtime who brought their pignattino (small terracotta pot) from home, and heated up the contents in the communal oven, accompanying their lunch with bread and wine bought on the premises. Nowadays, things have changed, but you’ll still find many of the same dishes those workers might have brought from home: soups based on cereals, minestrone alla genovese, and braised stockfish for example.
Apart from the unmissable pasta dishes like trenette with pesto – you really can’t come this far without tasting the exquisite local pesto, ravioli with borage, pansoti in walnut sauce (exceptional!) and chestnut trofie with shrimp and zucchini, fresh fish is what you should order. The menu varies depending on the catch of the day but you can’t go wrong with staples like stuffed anchovies, mussels au gratin, mixed fried fish, potato and octopus salad, fish ravioli, salt cod fritters and whole baked fish. Desserts are homemade and there is a nice wine list with interesting offers. Add to that the efficient, friendly service and fair prices, and this is a trattoria that should be on every visitor’s list.
Via Venezia, 105
Tel. (+39) 018 5231119
Book Of The Month
The Glorious Pasta Of Italy
By Domenica Marchetti
You can never have too many books on pasta, and this volume by Domenica Marchetti celebrates Italy’s favorite food in all its wonderful guises. It’s no news that pasta has to be one of the most versatile foods ever, with good quality dried pasta providing one of the store cupboard’s quickest last minute meals, as many sauces can be whipped up in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. As Marchetti points out, if you use the seasons as your guide, the possibilities are endless: a speedy sauté of summer vegetables with a sprinkling of cheese, some left over sauces from a winter roast, or even a couple of handfuls of short pasta added to a fall soup or stew to turn it into a one-step dinner. For those with more time on their hands or folks who simply enjoy the therapeutic aspect of creating sheet after golden sheet of homemade pasta, there are also fettuccine, ravioli, panzarotti, raviolioni (and they’re big!), agnolotti and anellini.
The various chapters cover different ways to use pasta: in soup, with sauce, baked, stuffed, quick dishes, classics and even sweet pasta treats. When time is of the essence, dishes like bucatini cacio e pepe, farfalle with salmon, peas and sage, penne rigate with sweet peppers and anchovies or spaghetti aglio, olio e acciughe all fit the bill perfectly. Chilly winter evenings provide the perfect opportunity to try out recipes like the cream of borlotti bean soup with broken noodles, pumpkin lasagne ai quattro formaggi, pot roast pappardelle and saffron tagliatelle with lamb ragù. Fish appears in the bigoli with spicy sardine sauce, tonnarelli with Christmas Eve tuna tomato sauce, linguini fini with shrimp and slow roasted cherry tomatoes and spaghetti with red clam sauce. And special occasion dishes from the Showstoppers chapter include more elaborate dishes like the Maccheroni all Mulinara Domus, a traditional miller’s wife’s pasta with a great story behind it. A reminder that sometimes we become so accustomed to the sublime nature of Italy’s various pasta dishes, we almost tend to overlook it. The Glorious Pasta of Italy will help renew your appreciation and enthusiasm and have you in the kitchen cooking in the blink of an eye.