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July Newsletter 2011

Fresh Recipes, New Kitchen Ideas, Food News & Fun Things To Do In Sunny Italy

San Vito, San Anthony, San Pietro, San Andrew, Maria delle Grazie & San Luca –are just a few of the summer Saints we celebrate! With fish, and lemonade, fireworks and concerts from Amalfi to Capri! Elaborate statues carved in silver and gold, with white roses & white candles and fireworks that shoot late into the night. There is no other place in the world I would rather be than under the black, black midnight summer skies of the Amalfi Coast.

Our kitchens are busy as always preparing garden to table vegetables, fruits and lemons! A limoncello or lemon & chocolate gelato for a sweet ending before saying buonasera!

Read a little Italian Royalty! Pick up the July issue of Tastes Of Italia featuring an exclusive interview written by Lauren with Executive Chef Frank Cerutti of the Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo. Cerutti heads up the three star Michelin eating establishment of Alain Decasse in the Principality of Monaco. The Decasse and Cerutti team wowed guests as they cooked up the wedding dinner for Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock on July 2.

Just out of our Kitchen, we want you to try our summer recipes, of Mamma Maria Lucia’s Fiore di Zucchine Fritte & Zucchini Oreganata, Maria On Capri’s Frittelle al Basilico and Chef Todd English shares his Bucatini with Heirloom Tomato Cruda.

Our new Solo Traveler Program, Mare & Monti ~ Mountains & Sea, is hands-on cooking designed for those who love traditional Italian cooking and long to learn how to make the lasagnes, pastas, cakes and cookies their nonnas used to cook! Read on at

Mare & Monti ~ Mountains & Sea™
Cooking With Mamma Gabriella ~ 8 Day

Cooking With Mamma Gabriella ~ 4 Day

Buon Appetito!


Table Talk

Spending time in Italy in July is one of life’s pleasures as, mentally, Italians are already on vacation, whether they’re still at work or not. Even now, many families rent a house near the sea or in the mountains for the months of July and August so Mum and children can enjoy a couple of months relaxing and working up a tan with Dad joining them at the weekends and for a few weeks in August. It’s difficult not to envy a set up like this. Who wouldn’t want to savor the summer in a beautiful Italian location with family and friends, enjoying relaxed al fresco drinks and dinners, the pressures of time temporarily banished? Perhaps a day spent at the beach, a little shopping in the evening followed by a simple dinner. Or an evening spent at one of the many sagras and food festivals set up to celebrate local produce and which offer traditional dishes from the area and perhaps even some light entertainment. Then, after the summer, nut-brown children and Mum come back home ready for the upcoming school term and life once more takes on its normal rhythms. Certainly, not everyone has the opportunity to pass the summer like this, but in small ways, we can make the best of the good weather, wonderful fresh produce and family and friends. So, wherever you and and with whomever you spend your summer, from everyone here at Cooking Vacations, buona estate!

Food Notes

Each month has its own particular treats, and treats in July include fresh-picked green beans that snap when you break them in two, the year’s fresh garlic, dug up and drying in wooden crates, deep red onions swelling in the earth just begging to be picked, the first vine ripened tomatoes, cheerful sunflowers towering above the herb garden, whiskery sweet corn forming in its husks, and zucchini doing that old loaves and fishes trick of theirs, growing impossibly fast and multiplying every time you turn your back for a second. And then there are the pumpkins, sprouting and spreading as if they’re headed for the village down the road. And potatoes. I know they’re not quite ready for digging up yet, but can’t resist the occasional sneaky potato raid to see how my red and white darlings are progressing. (Deliciously well as it happens.) Meanwhile, the peppers and eggplant are progressing well and I’m already planning how I’m going to roast them on the barbecue, stuff them, bake the eggplant with mozzarella and pesto and make my favorite peperonata. That’s probably the most satisfying aspect of summer – deciding what dinner will be based on what’s ripe in the garden – maybe a delicious lemon spiked potato salad with capers and red onion, french beans with toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil vinaigrette, or local rabbit marinated then baked with whole heads of new garlic. The only problem is choosing. With all this fabulous produce available, it should be no problem to pull together some simple summery dishes. This month we’ve asked our cooking school chefs for some great recipes for the summer months, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Buon appetito!

Recipes From Our Kitchen

Mamma Maria Lucia’s Fiori di Zucchine Fritti ~ Fried Zucchini Flowers

Number of servings (yield): 6


  • 12 zucchini flowers (clean and de stem the center)
  • 1 ½ cup of flour
  • 1 ¾ frizzy water
  • Sea salt – to taste
  • Fresh black ground pepper, to taste
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 litre of canola oil for frying.


  • Clean the flowers and de stem the inside.
  • In a bowl, mix the flour and frizzy water until the mixture is to the consistency of a loose pancake like batter.
  • Add the sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and baking powder mix very well.
  • Dip each flower into the batter and gently deep fry in high heated canola oil until they float to the top and are golden brown.
  • After frying place on brown paper, sprinkle with sea salt and manga!


Zucchini Oreganata

Number of servings (yield): 4


  • 2 medium zucchini (pick them early and when not to big to avoid seeds).
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup of Parmigiano Cheese
  • Sea salt, a couple of pinches
  • Fresh black pepper, a couple of pinches


  • Take an oblong pizza pan and spray with olive oil.
  • Wash the zucchini and slice into thin disc like slices.
  • Layer along the pizza pan over lapping slightly and sprinkling in between with breadcrumbs and cheese.
  • After the process is complete and you have used all your zucchini, sprinkle the rest of the breadcrumbs and cheese.
  • Drizzle with olive oil on top and put in oven at 175 degrees and bake for 20 minutes until golden.


Chef Maria’s on Capri Frittelle al Basilico ~ Basil Puffs

Number of servings (yield): 4


  • 1 cake (25 g) natural yeast or one envelope of dry yeast
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 1/3 cups 00 Flour
  • Pepper, if you like
  • Basil, handful ripped
  • or you can alternately use squash flowers, or ruccola.
  • 1- 1 ½ cups Warm water – enough to make an elastic batter.
  • Sunflower oil, for frying


  • Mix all ingredients together and allow to rest 10-30 minutes depending on how warm it is outside.
  • The batter should be elastic and pull back when you put in the spoon.
  • Spoon the batter in hot sunflower oil and fry for 2-3 minutes turning so they turn golden on both sides.
  • Drain on paper towel and serve. (with any extra batter, pour oil over the top and keep it in the fridge, to keep it from drying out.)
  • Variations: Instead of basil, try making them with rosemary, arugula, sage, zucchini flowers or local herbs.


Chef Todd English
Bucatini with Heirloom Tomato Cruda

Number of servings (yield): 4


  • 1 box dried Bucatini
  • 3 – 4 Heirloom Tomatoes, large dice
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, torn
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the Bucatini and reserve.
  • Fill a large pot with cold water and add ¼ cup salt.
  • Bring water to a rolling boil.
  • Add pasta and cook according to the directions for al dente. Test the pasta periodically to assess doneness.
  • Once pasta is done, strain all water.
  • Toss bucatini with the tomato mixture.
  • Season to taste.
  • Tomato mixture should be cold while pasta is warm.
  • Serve immediately.

With Love From Italy

Catch a rock concert
July is the month to catch the great rock singer Zucchero on tour. Starting up in Udine, Zucchero will make his way south with concerts in Lucca, Taormina, Palermo, Cagliari, Rome, Cosenza, Lecce and Pescara. Sounds like a unforgettable way to spend a summer’s evening.

Giovani e Arrabbiati
Young and Angry is the name of this internationally organized exhibition which you can visit at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence until the 17th July. Dedicated to the early works of Picasso, Mirò and Dalì, this collection of paintings highlights the artistic talents that led to the beginnings of modern art, and offers the chance to see a number of paintings that are rarely exhibited.

Jazz It Up
From the 8th – 17th July, Umbria Jazz makes a very good reason to visit Perugia, with tens of world class artists gathering to entertain crowds in what has become widely regarded as the best festival of its type in Europe. From free open-air performances to big name concerts at the Santa Giuliana Arena and smaller shows in the piazzas of Perugia’s old town, there is non stop music, morning to night. This year, among other bigs, look out for Carlos Santana and Lisa Minnelli, Herbie Hancock, B. B. King and Prince!

Estate Romana
All summer long Rome is organizing a series of exhibitions and spectacles featuring music, dance, art, kids’ stuff, books and theater. From rock concerts at the Capannelle Hippodrome to cinema and literary events dotted all over the city, all summer long there will be events to entertain, enlighten and enjoy.

Italian Feasts And Celebrations

This month, we take a look at some great food festivals to suit all tastes this July in Italy.

Sagra dell’olio d’oliva e della pizza fritta: Monteflavio, Lazio, 9th July.
The title says it all – the olive oil and fried pizza festival – sure to delight anyone in love with two of what are surely Italy’s best loved products. From 4.30pm onwards in the town’s main square, visitors can sample deliciously light pizzas fried in local olive oil, warm bruschette drizzled with olive oil from the local hills, along with a variety of other local dishes, including desserts naturally, and all accompanied with a glass of local red wine. Evening concludes with musical entertainment and dancing.

4° Sagra Cotiche e Fagioli: Montaquila (IS), 16th July.
Okay, not for those on a diet, but who can resist the sound of this sagra cotiche e fagioli in the Province of Isernia? Almost every region of Italy has its own version of this dish – beans with pork skin, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to make it to Montaquila to find out why. Of course there will be lots of other local specialties on offer too, and music and dancing afterwards to help work off dinner.

Sagra della brace…e non solo carne: Sant’Agata dei Goti (BN), 15th – 17th July.
Traditional dishes galore to be had at this grilled food sagra in the pretty Medieval town of Sant’Agata de’ Goti near Benevento. First of all fill up on a variety of pasta and risotto dishes with sausage, pumpkin, mushrooms and other local produce, then head over to the open air barbecues where you’ll find everything from grilled pumpkin, eggplant and zucchini to pork, spare ribs and sausages followed by grilled local cheeses. All washed down with the area’s Falanghina, Aglianico e Piedirosso wines.

Festa del Miele Nuovo: Croviana (TN), 23th – 24th July.
If you feel like celebrating the year’s new honey, head to the town of Croviana near Trento where you’ll be able to take part in workshops, talks and guided tastings and discover more about the mysterious world of bees and honey. Visit bee hives, watch the honey being harvested and learn how best to use honey in the kitchen. There will also be activities for children and music and spectacles to keep folks entertained.

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 July.

What’s in Season?

Sea Bream
John Dory
Wild fennel
Red currants
Black currants

Restaurant Of The Month

At this time of year, whose thoughts wouldn’t turn to vacations spent on a fascinating island with Roman villas, attractive gardens, and delicious Fresh Mediterranean food served at a table with views over an impossibly beautiful sea? If this dream sounds familiar, we have just the place for you – Capri. A mere boat trip away from the Amalfi Coast, Capri is still an island that attracts celebrities and VIPs from all over the world, but even mere mortals can splash out on a dinner with a view. And for this treat, we’ve chosen Il Geranio, a charming restaurant located on the hillside overlooking Capri’s twin rocks, I Faraglioni.

In summer there’s no doubt that you’ll want to eat outside on the terrace, surrounded by the garden’s pine trees, shrubbery and geraniums and enjoy the incredible sea view. At Il Geranio, food is typically Mediterranean – fresh, clean flavors that bring out the best in local produce – and beautifully presented, with local fish and seafood central to the menu. Certainly, menus vary with the seasons, but you might want to start with some sautéed seafood or local octopus, then go for paccheri from Gragnano with mussels and clams, or perhaps a seafood risotto, followed by locally caught sea bream, some super fresh grilled scampi or even lobster served on julienned vegetables. Desserts are just as
ood with a variety of semi-freddi and lemon inspired sweets that are deliciously light and refreshing. There is an impressive wine list (including a number of half bottles) that the restaurant’s friendly staff will be happy to help you navigate, as well as an interesting selection of liqueurs and grappas. It has to be said that the combination of Il Geranio’s many pleasures – climate, a to-die-for view and quality food and wine – make this the type of place you’ll want to come back to.

Further Information:

Ristorante Il Geranio
Via Matteotti, 8
80073 Capri
Tel +39 081 837 0616

Book Of The Month

Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian, by Saveur Magazine, Chronicle Books

It may be ten years old, but there’s no denying the appeal of this book. As with all Saveur titles, the subject matter is authentic, meticulously researched, and written with interest and authority. The then editor in chief of Saveur, Coleman Andrews is one of America’s most respected food writers, and in this work he involves such authorities as Marcella Hazan and Lidia Bastianich (see above), as well as Italian chefs, home cooks, and suppliers.

While there is much to be said for American-Italian cuisine, Coleman and crew toured the whole of Italy to get the real story. From Friuli to Sicily, the Saveur team hit restaurants, trattorie, street food stalls and regular homes to watch, listen and savor not only dishes, but the context in which they were born, the traditions behind them and the fresh, regional produce they were made from. And these are aspects that really do make Italian cuisine quite unique – the variety of historical and geographical influences that shape the country’s food never cease to surprise, with Austria and Slovenia shaping tastes in the north east and the exotic influences of the Arab world in the south, Sicily in particular.

Chapters in the book include, antipasti and salads, soups, pasta, polenta and risotto, cheese and eggs, seafood, poultry and rabbit, meats, vegetables and side dishes, breads, torte and pizza and of course desserts. There are tens of simple Italian classics like bruschette, stuffed zucchini blossoms, tuna and white bean salad, Genovese vegetable soup, rice stuffed tomatoes and spinach gnocchi. But there are also plenty of inventive dishes used by housewives to make delicious dinners from whatever they have to hand, like fried rabbit and squash blossoms, fried fennel, artichoke and onion omelet, porcini salad (yes, it is possible to have a glut of porcini!), swiss chard and potato torte, and cheese and tomato filled turnovers with anchovies. Desserts are predictably simple but enticing – raspberry jam tart, almond meringue cookies, flourless chocolate cake, ricotta fritters and cream gelato with white truffles among others.

Everyone will find something of interest here as each recipe has an accompanying explanation and sidebar of tidbits of interesting information. There is nothing new about the recipes in the sense that they are all classic, traditional dishes as prepared in homes and restaurants all over Italy, but Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian proves a great reference book you’ll use time after time.