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One of my friends on Foodbuzz was looking for ideas on how to use Ficoco, which is fig jam with cocoa. Sugar was expensive so many desserts were made with jams or mosto cotto (grape syrup) to sweeten cakes, cookies etc. Itlians have many jam or fruit filled cookies that ficoco would be perfect for, in fact figs were also used to make mosto cotto.
I have several stuffed cookie recipes that we make and one is “Ravioli Dolci”. This cookie is a recipe from Apuglia. Ravioli Dolci is a fried cookie that does not have a long shelf life, in fact this is best eaten the day they are made.
Ravioli Dolci di Puglia
Prep Time: 1 1/4 hours
Cook Time: 1 second per batch, about 3 at a time
Yield: 26 Dozen
8 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shortening
1 shot glass of Marsala wine
Warm water, as needed
Canola or peanut oil for frying
8 oz. size bottle of honey or mosto cotto
1 lb. roasted almonds, finely chopped
1/2 lb. chocolate or chocolate chips, chopped
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Ground cloves, to taste
A teaspoon of any variety of jam or Ficoco.
In a pan on medium heat, melt all of the ingredients together, taste for seasoning and place it in the refrigerator.
Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl or on a board and make a well in the middle. Put in the shortening, wine and if needed a little warm water. Mix until you can form the dough. Knead until the dough is smooth and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. You can also mix the dough in a food processor.
If you have a pasta machine, you can roll out the dough to the second to the last level. Or you may roll a thin layer of dough with a rolling pin. With a round cookie cutter, cut circles about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place a small amount of jam or of the roasted almond honey mixture with the tip of a teaspoon in the center of each circle. Fold over like a half moon and crimp the edges with a fork.
In a deep pan filled with oil, fry about 3 at a time until they are golden brown. They turn brown very quickly; only about a second per batch.
Allow them to cool and sprinkle confectionary sugar over the top.
Vieste Foggia is located in Puglia in the southeast of Italy. The old medieval town stands on the eastern coastline of the Gargano; a peninsula protruding towards Dalmatia, surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and separated from the Apennines by the Tavoliere plateau with a unique landscape of naturalistic beauty. It is a melting pot of foreign populations with influences of Greek, Arab, Norman and Pisan reflected in its architecture making it distinctly different from other Italian villages. There are the sea caves and grottos and long white sand beaches. Ride bikes along the hilly coastline visiting many small villages or the National Park. The region is famous for olives and olive oil light in color and flavor perfect for the typical seafood cuisine.
The old village is not reachable by car. Stone steps bring you back in time to a village with glorious views of the Adria. It is situated atop a cliff capped with white stucco flat roofed houses. Doorways framed with pepperoncini (red hot peppers), pomodori (cherry tomatoes), pepperoni (peppers) and aglio (garlic) line the old cobblestone streets. I remember once when I took my brother there for his first visit, as we were meandering through the village in the late afternoon saying all this needs to complete this picture is a mother calling out “Angeloooooo!”. To our absolute amazement that is exactly what happened as the words left out mouths.
Colorful and friendly proprietors welcome you into the small Enoteca and restaurants offering beautiful fresh grilled fish, troccoli chitarra, pastas with ripe tomatoes grown locally and zuppa di peche (fish soup).
Puglia is one of the largest wine-growing regions in Italy and you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the wines. Deep in color and aroma, they compliment the flavors of the products grown in the region. Many can be bought in wine shops in the US and Europe. The following wines are some of the more popular available:
Aleatico di Puglia, Alezio, Brindisi, Cacc’è Mmitte di Lucera, Castel del Monte,Copertino, Galatina, Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Leverano, Lizzano, Locorotondo, Martina o Martina Franca, Matino, Moscato di Trani. Nardò, Ortanova, Ostuni, Primitivo di Manduria, Rosso di Barletta, Rosso di Canosa, Rosso di Cerignola, Salice Salentino, San Severo, Squinzano.
In the early nineteen hundreds many Italians emigrated from this region of Italy to America. They brought with them rich traditions, culture and wonderful recipes. Living in Europe for many years, I have traveled to Vieste often and took a cooking course to learn the local dishes of my heritage. My grandparents immigrated to the US between 1894-1912. The name was originally “Tura”, but as happened to many immigrants their name was misspelled at Ellis Island and the name became “Turo”. Also like many immigrants, they worked at what they knew and opened “Turo’s Market”, (originally a fish market) in Worcester Massachusetts. Later the family went into the restaurant business.
Orecciette con cimi di rape is a specialty in Apulia. As you sit down to eat your homemade oreccietti con cimi di rapa (shown below), given to me by a chef at the “Palace Hotel Pizzomunno”, you will feel as if you are experiencing a meal in a little restaurant situated on a cobble stone street overlooking the Adria in Vieste (Foggia) Italy.
4 cups flour (all purpose, or half all purpose and half semolina flour)
4 medium eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Water (tepid) as required
Place the flour mixture on a pastry board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, olive oil, salt and a small amount of water (you can always add more water if the dough is too dry). Begin to stir the flour from the outside part of the well into the wet ingredients. Continue this process until the dough holds together in a ball. The dough should seem as if it is too dry continue kneading for at least 10-15 minutes, and allow it to stand covered with a clean kitchen towel at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Roll out a cylinder about 1/2” wide and 10” long. Cut into 1/2” pieces. Taking one piece at a time, turn the piece of dough with the cut side up. Press your thumb down on the dough and pull it slightly toward you. Turn the piece of dough inside out to form a little cap. The edges will be a little thicker so that is looks like a rim.
1 lb. Cime di rape (mustard greens)
4 small tomatoes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 pepperoicnno (small dried hot pepper)
Salt to taste
Put the olive oil, chopped garlic, pepperoicnno and anchovies into a pan and cook for a few minutes. The anchovies will begin to break up and dissolve. Do not burn the garlic or the sauce will taste bitter. Add in the tomatoes that have been cut into cubes and deseeded.
Remove the leaves and flowerets from the mustard greens. The stems are fibrous and discarded. Cut the leaves roughly.
In a large pan of boiling salted water, put in the orecchiette and the rabe. Cook until the rabe and pasta are done. If the orrecchiette is fresh this will only take 3-5 minutes; if boxed follow the cooking direction on the box and put the rabe in for the last 5-6 minutes. Place the orecchiette and rabe into the sauce and grate the pecorino on the top.
When I first visited Apuglia, I was taken by the beauty of the shoreline. I was on a search to discover the place of my heritage, to understand a little more about my grandparents as I thought I would also discover a little about myself.
Since my family has been in the food business from the time my grandfather immigrated from Vieste (FG) Italy, food was where I jumped in first. The traditions and approach to food can be a starting point for anyone searching for answers about their heritage as so many traditions are wrapped around how people eat and go about it. I wondered if any of the recipes my family made would be exactly like those in Vieste or if they had been changed to satisfy the taste of the now American family. I write often about these recipes, but one that I found when writing up my family’s recipes was taralli and the important roll they play in Italian cuisine.
When I went through the soiled and hand written recipes of my aunts and grandmothers, I found many taralli recipes. Taralli with fennel and anise seed, black or red pepper flakes, made with egg or baking powder, wine or beer. They were boiled then baked, or just baked. This amazed me because although my family are experts at making Italian biscotti, they never made taralli, with the exception of wine taralli and egg taralli at Easter.
Taraill should be named the national biscotti. They are served with an aperitif, in a breadbasket, as a dessert, by hungry children as a snack and dunked in wine over a conversation or for breakfast. Taralli are eaten any time of the day by everyone young and old. They can be found in every market and bakery and in most homes. It became my quest to learn how to make taralli at home.
The Pugliese have a saying “Tutto finisce con taralli e vino”, no matter what the argument it can always be solved with a glass of wine and a handful of taralli.
Black Pepper & Fennel Taralli
Prep Time: 1 hr. 15 min.
Cook Time: 20 minutes at 375º F
Yield: 7 Dozen
8 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 ounce dry yeast (1 package is 1/4 ounce or 7g)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, crushed by hand
3 tablespoons fennel seed, whole
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup oil
12 oz. can beer
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl add the warm water and dry yeast. Let it rest in a warm place for 15 minutes until it foams. In a separate large bowl, add all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and add the egg. Gradually add oil, the yeast mixture and beer alternating with the flour mixture until the dough is formed. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and workable. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest on the counter for at least one hour.
Form the dough into a cylinder about 1/2″ thick, and cut them into pieces about 6″ long. Take each 6” long piece of dough and bring the ends together to form an oval shape. Press the ends together with your thumb. Brush the taralli with the egg wash and place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375º F. They should be lightly brown on the top.
NOTE: They will last about 1 month stored in a paper bag or a metal container. Do not put them in a humid place.
My father’s family came from the town of Vieste, Foggia Italy. The Region is Puglia (Apulia, Apulien) in the southeast of Italy. It is located on the tip or spur of the boot-shaped peninsula called Gargano.
It is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, a unique landscape of naturalistic beauty and known as a melting pot of foreign populations. The characteristic Apulian architecture of the 11th–13th centuries reflects Greek, Arab, Norman, and Pisan influences.
Olives, olive oil and both mountain and sea typical food products are mainly produced in this region. As you can imagine fish is an important part of their diet and a large variety of recipes using fish, vegetables and also cheese can be enjoyed in many of the small restaurants throughout the region. The myth that cheese and fish are never prepared together is exactly that, a myth. Italy produces cheese such as ricotta, mascarpone and mozzarella di bufala, which are very light in flavor and are easily combined with fish.
I have visited Vieste many times learning a little about my heritage and the recipe below was given to me by a chef in Vieste at a private cooking program we took on one of our visits. I have translated it and hope you enjoy it.
Ricotta, Zucchini, Eggplant & Scampi
Ricotta, zucchini, melanzane & salsa di scampi
Chef Marco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 20 (part of which is done during the cooking of the pasta)
Cook Time: About 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of a pan)
2 cloves sliced garlic
1 small zucchini, deseeded
1 small eggplant, deseeded
4 oz. arugula
9 leaves of sage
1 jigger of brandy
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups of cream
8 oz. ricotta
20 medium shrimp, cleaned (the original recipe calls for scampi, which have harder shells, but are difficult to find in the US).
Salt to taste
1 lb. pasta fresh or store bought, such as rigatoni
Remove the shells and vein of the shrimp and set them aside.
Cube the unpeeled zucchini and eggplant and sauté them until they are just cooked but not too soft, about 4-6 minutes.
In a saucepan sauté the oil and garlic for a minute. Add the shrimp, sage and cook for a minute, then add the brandy and flambé it until all the alcohol has evaporated. The flames will burn out when that happens. Be sure to remove the bottle away from the stove when you are doing this step. Add in the arugula, wine and sage at this point and allow the arugula to cook for a few minutes until it is limp. Put in the ricotta until it is well mixed into the sauce and add in the cream. Taste for salt.
If the sauce seems to be too thick, add in some of the pasta water and mix. You may have to do this again, if the sauce is ready before the pasta is cooked.
Boil salted water and cook the pasta until it is al dente. Add the sautéed zucchini and eggplant to the sauce. Drain and mix the pasta into the sauce, allowing it to finish cooking. Toss it thoroughly coating each piece of pasta.