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November Newsletter 2011

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

Today is 27C in Positano that’s just about 79F. Visitors are on the beach and bathing in the sea, and there was even an unexpected boat that sailed in from Amalfi. This is the unforeseen beauty of the Amalfi Coast in November. The seasons go on, maybe a little warmer than usual; and so do the food and wine.

November in Italy is also deep dark green olio nuovo drizzled on a Carpaccio Morellino, Tagliatelle e Tartufi Bianca, white truffles melting on a bed of warm pasta with Cantucci dipped in Vin Santo. There’s also Vino Novello, the new wine to sip about, and Formaggie Stagionale made with precious truffles or walnuts. Great pairings for a cozy night before the fire.

And while the Lattari Mountains to the Tuscan hills swirl in colors of emerald green and dark deep burgundy, the vineyards lay bare with yellow leaves covering vines that will sleep until spring. Crack another castagne, take another sip of Vino Nobile and soak in the warm Autumn sun. Italy beckons the soul in November.

Buon Appetito!


Table Talk

Congrats to our favorite Chef Todd English!

November also brings us, award-winning Chef, Todd English’s, “Everyday English: The A,B, Cs Of Great Flavor At Home. English, an award-winning TV chef and well-known restaurateur, brings us 150 recipes from his kitchen. In our Kitchen we are cooking up hearty comfort food recipes like zucca and pasta, Todd English’s chicken ciaccatore and Panza Mela, baked apples. Check out our new cooking program, Bologna ~ Tortellini, Parmigiano & Balsamico™, La Grande Cucina With Chef Antonella~ 5 Day, La Grande Cucina Bologna program includes 3 hands-on cooking classes, while discovering so many favorite addresses of food, wine, culture and history in la centro storico. Read more, at https://www.cooking-vacations.com/tour/la-grande-cucina-with-chef-antonella-5-day/

There’s something about November – the cold wind whipping through your hair perhaps, or the exhilaration of a brisk country walk – that has you rubbing your hands in glee, and heading for the kitchen. Gone are the fresh tomato salads and light lunches of summer and here come slow-simmered soups and stews that infuse the house with their delicious, reassuring smells. After months spent outside, the house becomes a home again with the kitchen at the center of activities, the warmth and scents of home cooking luring family and friends oven-wards. The clocks have been turned back, evening comes early and we settle into the comforting ritual of the changing of seasons, celebrating the arrival of all November’s goodies: pumpkins and squash, mushrooms, broccoli, kale, and the first of the year’s root vegetables – swede, carrots, turnips and beetroots – that are so good cut into chunks and roasted as a simple accompaniment to chicken or beef. Simple fair, but delicious.

November is also the perfect month to make the best of Southern Italy’s clement weather, with a cooking vacation on the Amalfi Coast, Puglia or the island of Sicily. Perhaps with Chef Raffaele in the hilltown of Ravello with its historic villas and gorgeous views over the coast, or in Puglia with Chef Letizia’s Slow Food program, where you will cook, eat and tour your way through this amazing region of trulli. Or hone your skills under the eagle eye of a Michelin star chef and his team on our Sicilian Cookbook program in Modica, where dishes from the kitchen are true works of art. That’s the beauty of Italy, its diversity: while folks are busy on the Northern ski slopes there is a beach in a southern town with locals soaking up the sun. The choice of destinations is truly mesmerizing. And, as ever, even if you can’t make it to Italy, take a sip of a good Italian wine, close your eyes and you’ll be with us in spirit if not in body!

Food Notes

Before coming to Italy, the only broccoli many people will have encountered is the common dark green broccoli with its compact florets that is on sale in most vegetable markets and supermarkets. But in Italy, especially in the south, there are more types of broccoli than you can shake a stick at. Regular broccoli is easy to find too, but more often than not you’ll run into broccoli di Natale, broccoli rabe, broccoletti, and Romanesco (looks like a pointy cauliflower). All of these varieties are equally delicious and are endlessly versatile.

In the Cooking Vacations kitchen there is garden bitter broccoli rabe, or friarielli as they’re known here, we’ll have greens from November to February, helping to keep the weeds at bay. In the greenhouse we planted another three types of broccoli which will be used with pasta, Puglia style; blanched then sautéed in oil and garlic; used as a stuffing for pizze rustiche; served up with delicious Italian sausages; as a pizza topping with crumbled sausage meat. You can also put them in a golden frittatte, conserve them under oil or purée them to provide a ‘bed’ for meat or even an elegant serving of pasta. And of course, the great thing is that friarielli and broccoli are inexpensive (if not free with so many kind neighbors growing and giving them away) and are incredibly good for you. In fact, broccoli rabe has recently been named a power food thanks to its cancer-fighting sulforophanes and indoles, and its powerful antioxidant properties. We are cooking up a storm and getting healthy with broccoli!

Recipes From Our Kitchen

Formaggio Con Le Pere

This simple and easy Autumn recipe is great appetizer.

Number of servings (yield): 2


  • 1 whole Spadona Pear
  • 1 of lettuce
  • 1 handful of shaved Percorino cheese
  • 1 small hand of walnuts
  • Modena Balsamico drizzle to taste
  • Sea Salt
  • Extra Virgin First Cold Pressed Olive Oil


  • Wash the lettuce well.
  • Rip into small pieces.
  • Peal the pear, take the stem out and cut into small pieces.
  • Add the Balsamico, add the oil, sprinkle with sea salt add the Pecorino.
  • Toss, let sit for 10 minutes and serve.


Todd English’s
“Old School” Chicken Cacciatore

Number of servings (yield): 4 – 6


  • Skinned, bone-in chicken thighs, 8 (about 4 lb.)
  • Kosher salt, 1 tsp.
  • Freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp.
  • All-purpose flour, 1 cup
  • Olive oil, 1⁄4 cup, divided
  • Shiitake mushrooms, 3 cups sliced
  • Shallots, 1⁄2 cup finely chopped
  • Anchovies, 2 coarsely chopped
  • Garlic, 3 cloves minced
  • Capers, 3 Tbsp. drained
  • Dry red wine, 2 cups
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1⁄3 cup
  • Fresh sage leaves, 4
  • Bay leaf, 1
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Semolina Polenta (page 122)
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped


  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off excess.
  • Cook chicken, in batches, in 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Transfer to a plate, and wipe Dutch oven clean.
  • Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to Dutch oven, and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and next 4 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Return chicken to Dutch oven, and add wine and next 3 ingredients.
  • Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 11⁄2 hours or until meat is tender enough to fall off the bone, basting chicken occasionally with liquid in Dutch oven. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over Semolina Polenta; sprinkle with parsley just before serving.


Cantucci~ Tuscan Biscotti

Number of servings (yield): 8


  • 3 Eggs
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 1 1/3 cups Sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups Flour (plus additional flour if needed, if too sticky)
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ glass Milk
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ cups Almonds, to taste
  • A glass of Vin Santo for dipping.


  • In a large mixing bowl, whip 2 eggs with the 3 egg yolks and the sugar until foamy.
  • Add the flour little by little, mixing continuously, the salt, milk and baking powder.
  • Mix well then add the almonds; try to mix them in evenly throughout.
  • It will be a pretty soft and sticky dough, but add additional flour if too soft.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper and form flattened logs of dough about 1 ½ inches wide and ½ inch tall (length depending on your baking pan).
  • Brush each log with the remaining egg.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes until the logs are browned.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes.
  • Slice diagonally into biscotti shapes and place on the baking pan.
  • Lower the temperature of the open to 250 degrees F and bake a second time for 10 minutes to toast the biscotti until the inside is golden.


Italian Feasts and Celebrations

November is a month rich in sagras or Italian food festivals. This is the season of wine, nuts, truffles and oil, and here we share with you a selection of Italy’s favorites.

La Sagra delle Sagre: Sant’Agnelo dei Lombardi (AV)

Campania, 12th & 13th November. The aim of this well known sagra held in the Province of Avellino is to showcase the area’s very best products, ingredients, wines, artisans and celebrate traditional culture. Sample a variety of traditional dishes, enjoy the area’s excellent wines, and participate in local folk dancing exhibitions. Children are well catered for with organized games, street artists and musicians. And of course, what better occasion to pick up some of the area’s delicious pecorino cheese, truffles, honey, cookies, country-style bread, salumi and hams?

Saffron Festival, Gavino Monreale, Sardegna

The town of Gavino Monreale in Sardinia is where this festival takes place from 11th – 13th November to celebrate the area’s precious saffron. Sardinia’s saffron is a unique product treasured for its high quality, its color, flavor and aroma. Brought to the island by the Phoenicians and enjoyed by the Romans and Byzantines, this ‘oro rosso’ has become one of Sardinia’s best loved specialties, one you’ll be able to try in a variety of dishes at this sagra, along with samples of other local gastronomic specialties.

Festa dei Bringoli e di San Martino, Anghiari

This traditional celebration takes place in the province of Arezzo on 12th-13th November, with the local handmade pasta similar to fat, rolled spaghetti, bringoli, at the centre of attention. Huge quantities of sausages, bringoli with meat and mushrooms, chestnuts and vino novello are served up to the town’s many visitors, and festivities normally continue into the wee small hours.

Fossa, Tartufo e Cerere, Mondaiono, Emilia Romagna

The town of Mondaino near Rimini holds this most delicious of festivals from the 20th – 27th of November, where guests can sample the unique combination of the area’s white truffles and special formaggio di fossa, sheeps’ milk cheese matured in specially prepared pits. Attend meetings and discussions on both local truffles and cheeses, take in a demonstration or two and enjoy some musical entertainment. A wonderful opportunity to taste two of this region’s most prized products, with many local restaurants offering special menus for the duration of the sagra.

With Love from Italy

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

Opt For An Opera

November signals the opening of the official opera season for many of Italy’s great opera houses, with Rossini’s Semiramide marking the opening at the San Carlo in Naples, Rossini’s La Dona del Lago newly opened at La Scala in Milan and Verdi’s Il Trovatore opening soon at La Fenice in Venice. So why not treat yourself to a night to remember at one of Italy’s historic opera houses – an experience you’ll never forget.


Da Vinci at Fiumicino

It’s hoped that visitors to Italy flying through Rome’s Fiumicino Airport don’t have to spend too much time there, but anyone with a spare hour or so on their hands can head along to the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition the airport is hosting through April 2012. Appropriately, all 21 full-size flight machines and aeronautical instruments, made of wood, metal and cloth, derived from Leonardo’s original sketches and drawings will be on show, including the 12 meter high machine called “Vertical Ornithopter” which represents the Leonardesque precursor of the modern helicopter.


Venice & Egypt

Until January next year, visitors to the Palazzo Ducale in Venice can take in this fascinating exhibition uncovering the theme of the relationship and the ties between Venice and Egypt across almost two millennia. Over 300 international pieces have been brought together to illustrate shared history, adventures, science and business, human interest stories and great art. Sounds like a winner to us.


150 Years of Italian Fashion

Turin’s Venaria Reale is hosting this interesting exhibition on Italian fashion from the Unification of Italy in 1861 to the present day, with two experts, costume designer and 1994 Academy Award Winner Gabriella Pescucci and fashion journalist Franca Sozzani (editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia since 1988) bringing together what they consider to be the most significant themes and styles of this 150-year period of the Italian fashion scene.


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 November.

What’s in Season?

  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Swede
  • Cabbage
  • Turnip
  • Leeks
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Beetroot
  • Celeriac
  • Pumpkin
  • Cranberries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Quinces
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts

Restaurant Of The Month

 Malga Panna, Moena, Trentino

As is our wont, November has us dreaming of snow capped mountains, terse blue skies and somewhere to cozy up and enjoy a wonderful meal. Up in the Dolomites in the town of Moena, on the slope of the mountainside overlooking the town, you’ll find a fairytale chalet that is home to this month’s eatery, Malga Panna. As you approach it, you’ll feel as if you’ve been whisked away to another world (which you have!): hand-carved wooden shutters and balconies, geraniums and petunias trailing from window boxes; the pine forest capping the ridges above. And when you step indoors, you’ll be utterly charmed by the warmth of the interior. In cold weather you’ll love the logs crackling away in the fireplace, and it’s difficult not to fall for the characteristic carved wooden tables and chairs or the ancient cartwheel separating two rooms.

Three generations of the Donei family have gradually transformed what was a simple mountain shelter for animals into one of the area’s most important eateries, and now it’s award-winning Chef Paolo Donei who runs the kitchen. Expect a warm welcome from Massimo Donei and prepare to be entertained.

Memory is at the basis of chef Paolo’s philosophy, as he believes it is by making note of sensations and ideas that you create memories and that it’s memory that stimulates the imagination. ‘It has never been our intention to invent or stupefy,’ he says, ‘but rather, to tell and remember old stories using new concepts and ideas.’ And these ideas are reflected in the traditional yet innovative dishes that come out of his kitchen.

Depending on the season, for an appetiser you might opt for pumpkin pie with truffle and crunchy rye bread; roast prawn tails, cuttlefish in olive oil and burrata cheese (divine); venison tartare with smoked aubergines, golden apple and rustic bread; or local snails Bourguignonne style. First dishes come in the form of papparedelle with venison and smoked bacon; wild celery soup with ‘cappelletti’ of beetroot and a millefeuille of fresh goat’s cheese; or perhaps tagliolini with porcini; or even tortelli with eggplant, roast prawn tails and bisque sauce. And main dishes leave you in no doubt that you’re up in the Dolomites: roe deer venison stew with polenta; baked leg of spring lamb with thyme, creamy potatoes and crunchy pumpkin; roast fillet of deer venison, grilled polenta, mountain honey and wine sauce; or a delicious selection of best cheeses from the Alps with jam and warm bread. As you’d expect, desserts are designed to make you eat even when you think you’re full, so chose between caramelized cream puffs with dried fruit parfait and pear Chantilly; chocolate, liquorice and citrus fruits; wild berry sorbet with candied strawberries and maple syrup cream; or (our favorite) white chocolate, passion fruit, peach and basil.

Accompany your meal with any of the restaurant’s comprehensive wine list (prices are admirably honest and there are plenty of choices by the glass as well as bottles), and as you sit back with a final glass, like many fellow guests you’ll be reluctant to leave and return to ‘real life’.

Ristorante Malga Panna

Strada de Sort, 64

Moena (TN)

Tel: +39 0462 574142

Web: www.malgapanna.it

Book Of The Month

Cooking in Everyday English: The ABCs of Great Flavor at Home, Oxmoore House.

We’re always excited when friends of Cooking Vacations have a new book on the scene and this fabulous volume by Todd English is no exception. True, it’s not exclusively an Italian cook book, but Todd’s Italian roots means there are lots of healthful, Mediterranean-style dishes on the menu that are easy to prepare and which will appeal to all the family.

English, an award-winning TV chef and well-known restaurateur, explains how to transform everyday ingredients into simple but delicious dishes at home, with special emphasis on how to create winning flavor combinations. Cooking in Everyday English uses a clear, uncomplicated approach to walk readers through recipes step-by-step, explaining how to get the best out of fresh, seasonal ingredients and showcase their unique characteristics using a variety of simple techniques. From appetizers, soups and salads to meat and fish, family dinners and desserts, dishes are illustrated with gorgeous photographs, making it not only a comprehensive cookbook, but a visual delight.

English shows us how simple ideas can nevertheless result in flavorsome food – Gorgonzola bruschetta, for example, fire-roasted eggplant, herbed ricotta crostini or an easy pesto and shrimp frittata. Or how about mozzarella stuffed meatballs with roasted tomatoes, orange and fennel salad, beet risotto with blue cheese or fava bean minestrone? English also explains the secret to making homemade pizza dough (salami and caramelized onion pizza, anyone?) and also homeamde pasta, with artichoke cheese and pepper pasta and sweetcorn ravioli just two of the pasta dishes on offer. Desserts also sound tempting, with spiced apple compote, olive oil pound cake, panna cotta with crushed blackberries and Todd’s favorite cookies just a few of the sweet treats included.

All in all, this latest offering from Todd English will make a great kitchen companion, guiding new cooks through each dish with ease, and providing innovative ideas for flavor combinations for the more experienced cook. An all round winner.