Archive for the ‘Puglia’ Category

Caprese!

Insalata Caprese is one of my absolute favorite summer meals. Fresh mozzarella from Zingerman’s Creamery, a ripe slicing tomato from the farmer’s market, basil from my garden, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzled with an extra virgin olive oil from Puglia and a concentrated vinegar must from Marsala, Sicily. Eaten on our back deck to the sounds of the goldfinches. One of the joys of this season!

Insalata Caprese

Puglian extra virgin olive oil and Paesano bread

It was time to try a wonderful artisanal Puglian olive oil called Piana degli Ulivi – made by a family in Puglia for over 200 years. I had never had it. So I picked up a bottle from Zingerman’s Mail Order (lovely bottles with round stoppers), and a loaf of fresh Paesano bread (a traditional bread of Puglia) from Zingerman’s Bakehouse. And some excellent salami and cheese just to round things out. So we had a simple but perfect mini-feast on our back deck. The oil was flavorful, grassy and buttery too, with a pepper-in-the-back-of-the-throat finish. Very good stuff. And the Paesano bread is always fabulous – we tore chunks of it off the loaf, dunked it in the olive oil, and devoured it. A perfect match. We didn’t need anything else for dinner that night!

Paesano bread, perfect for tearing and dipping.

Piana degli Ulivi, extra virgin olive oil

Taralli

Taralli look at first glance like some mighty large cheerios, but no. They are much better! They are a traditional snack food from Puglia, and a wonderful accompaniment to wine. I tried them for the first time recently, thanks to a friend who had brought a bag to the U.S. from Sicily. (I know they are available in the U.S. now too.) They were hard to describe exactly – light and crunchy but not too crunchy, and slightly moist, not too dry – almost flaky inside, they dissolved on my tongue with great flavors of sea salt, bread, olive oil, and something else. And when I read the ingredients, that was all there was – wheat flour, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and the “something else” was white wine. These are addictive.

Taralli

Puglian Wolverines?

I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of The University of Michigan, whose mascot is the wolverine. So, that particular mammal is mentioned quite a bit around town – the hundreds of UM sports teams are avidly followed here – American football being the most popular.

It’s a bit ironic, that although the state of Michigan does have moose (I’ve met Michigan moose – they are large, kind of like horses on stilts), bobcat, coyote, wolves, and apparently cougar (happily I’ve not met one of those), among many other animals, the wolverine has long been extinct in Michigan.

So what do wolverines have to do with Puglia? I wasn’t worrying about the absence of the Michigan wolverine, but I’ve been reading up on Puglia. The latest book I read, called “Venturing in Italy: Travels in Puglia, Land between Two Seas”, is a collection of essays by a group of writers who traveled to Puglia in 2008. Joanna Biggar, one of the contributors, writes about her visit to the large, wild, national park in Puglia, called the Gargano. It is one of the few areas of Puglia that still has dense, original forest – the Romans deforested much of Puglia thousands of years ago, and so created some of the large agricultural areas in Puglia that have remained ever since, but they did not touch the Gargano. Joanna lists some of the flora and fauna in the Gargano, including, wolverines!

Our trip to Puglia will be to areas south of the Gargano, but still, it’s fun to know that when I travel in Puglia I’ll be visiting a region that managed, unlike Michigan, to hang on to its wolverines.

-Jillian

Puglia in the latest issue of Bon Appetit

The May 2010 issue of Bon Appetit has a lovely article on Puglia, focusing on how the exellent local cuisine evolved, and how the people turned “scarcity into a strength.” As they put it, Puglia has a “culinary tradition that is the envy of nations.”

This southern and historically poor area of Italy did not have many of the food staples their neighbors to the north had – such as soft cow cheeses, eggs, salamis, cream. But they had abundant seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes from their gardens, olive oils they pressed themselves, goat’s milk cheeses, and the breads and pastas they made from their hard wheat. (The pasta shape that Puglia is famous for is called Orecchiette, aptly shaped like a little ear.) And they have created a cuisine that is getting international attention.

And of course, there’s their vineyards and wines, which are also becoming known, as the growers there start to bottle their own specialty vintages rather than selling their grapes to larger wine producers in the north.

Go Puglia! Am looking forward to May 2011.

-Jillian