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May Newsletter 2011

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

Mary. Mary is everywhere in Italy, particularly in the month of May as Italians celebrate il mese di Maggio, translating to the month of May, -in honor of Mary the Virgin Mother. And on every May 8 at 12 noon Catholics pray ‘the petition of the Rosary’ in Pompeii and churches throughout the world unite in prayer again honoring Mary. During this month, the Rosary is also said both morning and evening in mass, while flowers are brought to the altar, and outdoor concerts fill small town piazzas in her name. Even if you are not Catholic, the month of May is a celebration that everyone enjoys, as churches unveil antique statues taken out only in May. Whether you are religious or not, celebrate May and all its traditions including universal Mother’s Day!

Read All About It!

Cooking Vacations Named Top 20 List Of Best Breaks For Foodies By Trip Base London May 2011

If you are a foodie, tripping the planet for delicious recipes and hands-on cooking classes check out Trip Base.

Tastes Of Italia May Issue
Learn about Todd English and his Calabrian Roots

I interviewed Chef English on a cold winter day in January at his new cupcake café, Curly’s on Charles Street-Beacon Hill, Boston. Partnered with his daughter Isabelle, Aka Curly and known for her gorgeous curls, the father and daughter team have a sweet café featuring cupcakes with an Italian twist.

Read about Chef English and see his family photos with
His Uncle Placido in New York City, circa 1965!

"I came from a family of amazing cooks. My great-grandmother, Bettina, who lived to be something like 100 years old, would always make pasta,” sates Chef English. Check out Chef English in the May issue of Tastes Of Italia Magazine.

Buon Appetito!


Table Talk

May, marvelous May. Skies clear, clouds scud along on the breeze and at last there is a scent of summer in the air. Temperatures rise and life slowly moves outside again – breakfast on the terrace, a walk at lunchtime, or perhaps a well-earned aperitivo in the evening at a street side café or a quiet piazza. These are the things we love about Italy, the spontaneity and the ability to appreciate simple pleasures as they appear. And of course, this is the month that Italy begins to rev up for the start of the tourist season, towns and cities filling with visitors, and menus changing to reflect all the delicious new seasonal produce. Events and exhibitions abound, especially this year following the beatification of John Paul II , but also because Italy celebrates its 150 years of unification. Even the Giro d’Italia this year will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, with racers set to tackle an epic 3522.5 kilometers, including nine mountain stages, seven mountaintop finishes and three time trials. Not for the faint of heart, but great for spectators who can line the streets and hillsides, egging riders on, drinks and gelatos in hand.

And as ever, we suggest taking advantage of those of the admirable Cantine Aperte event, which during the last weekend in May involves a great number of Italy’s most important wineries opening their doors to the public and encouraging closer relations between wine producers, locals and tourists. Every region has something to offer, and there’s no better chance to be able to learn more about your favorite labels, how they’re produced and indulge in a spot of tasting.

We hope you enjoy this month’s newsletter and that even if you can’t come to Italy, we manage to bring a little of Italy to you!

Food Notes

What a great month! May has to be one of the high points in any food lover’s book – so much fresh new produce, green everywhere, from new baby lettuce, peas, favas and asparagus to mint, chicory, rocket and wild greens. It’s fun to go shopping at the market, but it’s even more fun to go for a hike and scour the hillsides high above Positano for all the old fashioned salad leaves and herbs that grandmothers used to collect on their daily outings – wild asparagus, rocket, dandelion, tiny thistle leaves and the first of the year’s wild fennel. But you have to be fast, because most of these leaves are a spring treat that disappear with the arrival of summer. Served with a vinegary dressing, it really is a taste from the past. And what to say of the vegetable garden? It’s a veritable hive of activity out there, pristine lines of newly planted eggplant, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, lettuce, beans, corn and three of four different types of tomatoes – cherry tomatoes, San Marzano, pennolo, pachino, occhio di bue, each planted for a different purpose – sauces, salads, to toss quickly into a bowl of fresh spaghetti and of course, preserving. The fava beans and peas are almost ready to pick, the garlic stalks are turning yellow and just need to be laid flat and the onions and potatoes are progressing well. On a non-weeding day, it’s easy to think of it being a little corner of heaven. But May’s not all about vegetables of course. Rhubarb is an underrated fruit that abounds this month and can be turned into a series of delicious desserts. Stewed gently with the juice and zest of an orange and sugared to taste, rhubarb can be used to make pies, tarts, crumbles, jellies, and can be turned into the simplest last minute sweet by folding it through some billowy whipped cream with some reduced stewing juices and a handful of broken meringues. And how about some delicately hued rosy rhubarb liqueur? Many Italians still remember drinking a popular brand of this liqueur, but it’s a cinch to make at home by steeping the chopped fruit in grain alcohol or vodka and mixing with a sugar syrup. Quite delicious.

May is also the month of elderflowers, and this year we intend to make elderflower cordial, a versatile syrup which can then be diluted with cold fizzy water for a great thirst quencher, added to fruit salads or even to soak a sponge cake in a dessert. Or how about homemade elderflower champagne? All wonderful products that provide a taste of spring long after spring has gone. But whatever you cook – buon appetito!

Recipe Cards From Our Kitchen

Executive Chef Todd English
Beet & Goat Cheese Risotto

Recipe compliments of Todd English.

Number of servings (yield): 12


  • Risotto:
  • 1 pound box risotto
  • 1 large Spanish onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 quarts vegetable stock
  • 5 pounds beets (beet juice)
  • 1 pound roasted baby red beets, diced * see below
  • ½ pound roasted baby yellow beets, diced* see below
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup crumbled humboldt fog goat cheese
  • To Taste salt
  • To Taste pepper
  • Pesto:
  • 1½ cups shelled and toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup walnut oil
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup spinach leaves
  • ½ cup Italian parsley leaves picked
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • To Taste salt
  • To Taste pepper
  • 4 cloves smashed garlic


  • Method- Roasted Baby Beets:
  • Wash beets well and cut off tops.
  • Place in a shallow roasting pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and cover with tin foil. Cook until tender (about 30 minutes) remove from heat and set aside.
  • Method- Risotto:
  • Peel and dice 5 pounds of beets, and using a juicer, juice the beets.
  • Take beet juice and place in pot and simmer over low flame.
  • Melt in 1 tablespoon of butter and add diced white onion, slowly cook for 10 minutes, add salt and pepper.
  • Once onions are translucent, slowly add risotto and stir until mixed together -about 1 minute.
  • Slowly add vegetable stock, one 4-ounce ladle at a time and continue stirring and adding risotto slowly so that the liquid gets absorbed before adding more.
  • Once risotto is ¾ cooked, start to add beet juice and continue to stir.
  • Add juice until risotto is bright red color and risotto is 95% cooked (about 20 minutes).
  • Fold in diced roasted red and yellow beets and remove from heat.
  • Fold in remaining butter and parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside for plating.
  • Note- risotto should be served promptly.
  • Method- Pesto:
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend and chop until it has a pesto consistency – a bit chunky.

Plate risotto and top with ½ tablespoon of pesto and top with crumbled humboldt fog goat cheese and drizzle with remaining reduced beet juice.


Polpette Ubriache ~ Drunken Meatballs

There’s something about the name of the dish that makes it irresistible. You could also make these meatballs in a white wine sauce – use whichever you prefer.

Number of servings (yield): 4


  • 750g each ground Sirloin beef
  • 75g homemade breadcrumbs
  • Handful finely chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 25g grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 glasses red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Black olives


  • In a large bowl, mix the ground sirloin with the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, beaten egg and the grated Parmesan and red wine.
  • Judge the mixture, if it is too dry add more red wine, or if wet add more breadcrumbs and cheese.
  • Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Using the palms of your hands, form the meat into small balls and push a black olive inside each one.
  • Roll each meatball into a bed of breadcrumbs and place on a greased baking pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 2o minutes or until golden brown.


Scaloppine Di Vitello ~ Veal Scaloppini

Number of servings (yield): 2


  • 2 thin slices veal
  • Flour
  • Margarine (or butter or olive oil if preferred)
  • White wine
  • Slice of lemon
  • Fresh parsley


  • In a frying pan, heat margarine.
  • In a plate of flour, dust the veal slices until lightly and completely covered.
  • Add the veal to the margarine and cook until golden on one side, then turn and cook until golden on the other side as well.
  • Add a small glass of white wine and allow to evaporate over a high flame. Cook for several more minutes until the sauce as thickened.
  • Serve with a slice of lemon dipped in fresh parsley as a garnish.


Crostata Di Fragole ~ Strawberry Crostata

Courtesy of Chef Maria, Capri


  • For the Pastry:
  • 300 g Flour ‘00’
  • 130 g Butter
  • 70 g Sugar
  • 1 Egg + 1 Egg Yolk
  • Grated peel of One Lemon
  • A pinch of Salt
  • For the Cream:
  • ½ ltr Milk
  • 2 Fresh Eggs
  • 4 Spoons of Sugar
  • 2 Spoons of Flour
  • Grated Peel of One Lemon
  • For the Topping:
  • 500 g of Strawberry


  • For the Pastry, put the flour on the table and make a hole in the middle, in the hole put the eggs, the butter cut into little cubes, the sugar, the grated peel of lemon and the salt and mix with your hands for 10 minutes so you can make a ball.
  • Then put it in a cloth in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • When it is firm, put on the table with the flour and spread it with a rolling pin.
  • For the Cream, in a casserole put the sugar with the eggs and mix all with a wooden spoon so as to form an even mixture, then add the flour slowly while stirring all the time.
  • Slowly add the milk and the grated lemon peel and mix everything.
  • Put the casserole on the fire and continue to stir. When the mixture begins to boil the cream is ready.


 Kids Cooking

Chloe & Siena’s Recipes

Pasta Aglio & Olio

Well, they say April showers bring May flowers. And to get even more flowers you can try this yummy pasta treat from Italy!


  • Olive Oil 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup garlic (chopped)
  • Spaghetti (cooked)
  • Dish (do not eat!)


  • Take your dish and add the spaghetti.
  • Drizzle some olive oil on top of the pasta.
  • Sprinkle some garlic on top of everything.


Fresine Al Pesto ~ Pasta With Pesto

Number of servings (yield): 4


  • 1 Bunch Fresh Basil, leaves only, not stems
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 60 g Pine nuts
  • 100 g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 100 g Pecorino, grated
  • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 400 g Fresine


  • Prepare the pesto either with a mortar and pestle or in a blender/food processor.
  • First blend together the garlic and pine nuts. Add the washed basil little by little and start to add a bit of olive oil.
  • Next, add the grated cheeses and blend. With the blender on, add the rest of the olive oil slowly so that the sauce expands.
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  • Add the pasta with the pesto sauce and toss together for a moment to combine, then serve.


Cooking Vacations’ Property Of The Month

Renaissance Florence

Florence ~ Culinary Tours For Women Travelers ~ 6 Days

Join us in Florence for our special women-only program in the birthplace of the Renaissance. The exclusive Renaissance Women program is perfect for women wanting to join a small group and meet new friends; or mothers, daughters, grandmothers, or girlfriends getting together for a fun and educational cooking experience in Florence.

Click here to read more.

With Love From Italy

If you cannot make it to Italy, we bring Italy to you~

Florence’s wonderful Boboli Gardens will host the fifth edition of this exhibition and fair on floral and perfumery traditions, showcasing rare and peculiar scents, fragrances, flavors, forms and styles of everything and anything pertaining to the world of perfume. Enjoy displays of soaps, candles, room fragrances, essential oils, cosmetics, extracts from aromatic herbs, spices, fragrant flowers and plants, papers, rare prints and books, accessories and complementary products, all of which are part of the olfactory and sensorial universe.

Until May 22nd, Milan’s Palazzo Reale is hosting an exhibition of the fascinating work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (Milan 1527 -1593), whose portraits of human heads made up of vegetables, fruit, sea creatures, tree roots and books have been delighting viewers for centuries. Once court portraitist to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, Arcimboldo later retired in his home town of Milan, which is now devoting to him a special solo exhibition.

In honor of the beatification of John Paul II, the city of Rome is hosting a series of events to
elebrate and remember the figure of Karol Wojtyla. From the beginning of May through September, at Palazzo Caffarelli, there will be an exhibition of images, videos and objects from everyday life that tell the story of John Paul II and the intimate personality of a Pope who marked an era.

Italian Feasts And Celebrations

As temperatures finally rise, we take a look at some great food festivals to suit all tastes this May in Italy.

Festival delle Fragole, May 7th – 22nd, Terricciola, Pisa: Spring wouldn’t be spring without strawberries, so why not head up to Tuscany for this strawberry sagra held in the town of Terricciola which nestles among the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside. Sample local strawberries in a variety of guises – in fruit salads, tarts, with cream, covered in chocolate, served with a hint of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar and even in risottos. Naturally, the zone has other specialties on offer, not least of which its excellent wine and delicious meats and cheeses.

Sagra della Mandorla: This colorful festival featuring Sicily’s delicious almonds is held from May 15th – 23rd in the town of Vicari in the Province of Palermo in celebration of its Patron Saint, Saint George the Martyr. The event strives to keep local traditions alive and combines culinary arts, religious customs and history in an area that was dominated in turn by the Arabs, Angioini and Spanish. As well as filling up on local almond sweets and cookies, visitors can learn more about the local artisan scene, visit museums, enjoy musical exhibitions and street art, and take in a historical procession on horseback whose theme is the life and martyrdom of Saint George.

Pan Ieri, May 22nd, Spinello di Santa Sofia (FC): We love the sound of this event which sets out to illustrate local traditions and gastronomic culture using the product of country bread as a starting point for understanding and celebrating the roots of simple peasant cuisine. True, this sagra is held in the Province of Forlì-Cesena in Reggio Emilia, but surely every corner of Italy could stage a similar celebration, the ability to turn leftovers into mouthwatering treats a national art. So don’t be put off by the potentially austere nature of a sagra organized around country bread – as we all know, the Italians will soon have it transformed into something unbelievably delicious.

Sagra del Cinghiale: From May 20th – 29th, in the town of Montebonello in the Province of Florence, you’ll find one of the area’s most popular boar sagras. Here the cooks and waiters are the very hunters who caught the boar, along with their wives who lend a helping hand to prepare the many boar specialties on offer – antipasti with boar, boar salami, sausage and prosciutto, penne, polenta and tortellini with boar sauce and main dishes including roast and braised boar. But if boar’s not quite your thing, enjoy some grilled pork or beef with French fries instead, and there are local strawberries galore to finish up.

Italy On A Plate

By Germaine Stafford

Germaine Stafford gives you her chef of the month, book recommendation, and a list of seasonal foods for May.

What’s in Season?

Wood pigeon
Sea Bream
John Dory
New potatoes
Fava beans (broad beans)
Wild greens

Restaurant Of The Month

Since they took over the running of Don Alfonso, Chef Alfonso Iaccarino and his wife Livia have become one of the most important couples on the Italian gastronomic scene. Together they have transformed what was a family restaurant into one of the world’s best loved eateries, their pioneering adherence to local products, simplicity and excellence by now a trade mark of sorts, each dish served at their restaurant intelligently conceived and embodying the very essence of its ingredients.

It took time and hard work of course, but it has all paid off and their beautiful structure perched high in the hilltop village of Sant’Agata between Sorrento and Positano is now a veritable Mecca for those eager to experience the perfumes and flavors of the Sorrento peninsula. The stylish dining rooms are now part of a larger Relais complex so guests can opt to stay for longer gourmet breaks and even take some cooking lessons in the specially designed cooking laboratory.

In the kitchen, Don Alfonso’s philosophy is as follows. Dishes are based on three principles: Mediterranean character, absolute quality in raw materials and modernity. Using tradition as a springboard Alfonso is open to innovation, but insists it retains a tie to his land. To this end, Don Alfonso’s farmhouse business Le Peracciole, enjoying a splendid position at the end of the Sorrentine Peninsula and looking towards Capri, supplies the restaurant with fruit, vegetables, lemons and olives, each tomato, eggplant and lemon boasting a unique perfume and flavor imbued by the land, sun and sea. Dishes are simple, in the most glorious kind of way: homemade ravioli with local fresh cheese, tomatoes and basil; rabbit with cherries; fish soup with ricotta balls with nettles; small braciole, rolls of beef stuffed with pine nuts, raisins, parsley and garlic; risotto with fresh local scampi or crab, then palate cleansers, desserts and petit fours all to die for, but words don’t do justice to the explosion of flavors that hit your palate with each bite. It is every bit a special occasion experience, but one that shouldn’t be missed.

Don Alfonso
Corso Sant’Agata, 11/13
80064 Sant’Agata Dei Due Golfi (NA)
Tel: +39 081 878 0026

Book Of The Month

Olives, Anchovies and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table
By Georgeanne Brennan

This month’s book isn’t an Italian cook book as such, but deals with three fundamental ingredients of the country’s cuisine: olives, anchovies and capers. For centuries these ingredients have distinguished Mediterranean cuisine, adding their distinctive tangy accents to recipes and imbuing dishes with an intriguing depth of flavor. And even people who profess to dislike anchovies or capers famously find themselves enjoying dishes that contain them, their careful use in recipes enhancing other ingredients.

Brennan, a James Beard Award winner and author of over thirty cookbooks, talks briefly about these ingredients within their historical and geographical context, and even gives tips on how to preserve olives and anchovies at home. Before each recipe is an anecdote or tidbit of information which sets the scene for the recipe to come. It might be a note on how Sicilians prepare their caponata for example, or something a little more romantic to get readers in the mood: ‘On the porch of a house overlooking the Mediterranean at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, a Provencal man served me this rustic combination with great flair and aplomb…’, the introduction alone enough to make our mouths water.

The recipes themselves are split into chapters covering appetizers and salads, main dishes, and spreads, sauces and breads, and range from super simple ideas for quick lunches and snacks – fennel, orange and caper salad; white beans with anchovies; anchovy-stuffed eggs; and anchovies and lemon on black olive bread – to more sophisticated dishes such as – beef ragout with black olives; grilled herbed steaks with anchovy butter; veal shanks braised with parsnips; homemade chicken soup with caper and Parmesan dumplings; or green olive and almond couscous with carrot and cumin chicken. Predictably, there are plenty of dishes for fish lovers – salt cod and olive cakes; pan-seared salmon with capers and green peppercorns; saffron sea bass bowl; or perhaps some simple grilled fresh anchovies with thyme. But also for meat eaters – Parmesan-crusted veal chops finished with lemon and capers; lamb stew with tomatoes sweet peppers and capers. And of course, quiches, tarts, salads, sauces and spreads.

Much like the ingredients themselves, recipes are simple, combining a straightforward approach with the clean, essential flavors typical of the Mediterranean, and are guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding palates.

Moreover, at the base are ingredients that all kitchens should have in the store cupboard, ready for the time you decide to whip up a tapenade, a salad, a quick pasta dish, or a relaxed evening snack. A wonderful way to introduce a little Mediterranean magic to your everyday cooking.