Fresh Mushroom Herb Salad
Many people, when asked to name olive oil producing regions of Italy, do not immediately think of Abruzzo. This pastoral region set in central Italy east of Rome is well known for its spectacular vistas, majestic mountains, and expanse of Adriatic coastline. Yet olive trees and grape vines cover Abruzzo’s mountain slopes, and for thousands of years olive oil has played a crucial part in the culture and cuisine of the region. The truth is Abruzzo produces excellent oil, and each year more and more is being exported to the United States and other countries.
I recently received a bottle of Agrumato (ah-gru-MAH-to) Lemon and Herbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil for review from Olio2go, an online and brick and mortar retailer of Italian extra virgin olive oils, vinegars, and food products. This mild, yet flavorful oil is made from Gentile di Chieti, Leccino, and Olivastra olive cultivars. It comes from the Ricci Family of Lanciano, an area well known for its citrus oils. There is a long standing tradition in the area of pressing the last of the autumn olives along with lemons. The acidity of the lemons cleans the press and the oil is traditionally shared with family and friends. Because the olives are pressed simultaneously with the ripe lemons the oil exhibits a remarkable harmony of flavor. The sunny lemon oil is infused with garlic and oregano to create a sophisticated marriage of clean citrus flavor and aromatics. Read more of this article »
What beans! What character! The humble cicerchie, Lathyrus sativus, with their hearty flavor have been a character on the world food scene for thousands of years. Paleobotanists have determined that cicerchie came to ancient Rome from Greece, having first made their way from the Near East along the northern coast of the Mediterranean. The ancient Romans called the legume cicercula, and the march of the Roman legions was fueled on soup made from them. Because cicerchie grow well in high altitudes and cool climates they have traditionally played a large part in the cuisine and farming of the central and southern Apennines, especially Abruzzo where they sustained the poor through good times and bad. Cicerchie farming and consumption decreased after WW II, but a resurgence is underway, thanks to the burgeoning interest in traditional foods and sustainable agriculture both in Italy and worldwide.
However, cicerchie have one characteristic that sets them apart and is worth addressing. They contain the neurotoxic amino acid Read more of this article »
Handmade Garganelli with Beef Ragù
The calendar says Spring is here, but the mercury remains low. I wanted some hearty food, and that means ragù around here. I felt like some handmade pasta too, so I opted for garganelli, tube shaped pasta with ridges, a perfect match for any sauce. Whether delicate or hearty, the sauce bathes these handmade beauties inside and out, coating them and clinging to the ridges, delivering maximum flavor with every mouthful. Read more of this article »
One of my favorite Italian aperitif wines is back, and this time she’s in red. Meet Cocchi Americano Rosa.
You might remember my earlier post on the classic Cocchi Americano Bianco, an aperitif wine made from Moscato d’Asti. Over its more than one hundred year history The House of Cocchi has occasionally produced variations on that classic theme. Cocchi Americano Rosa, made of naturally aromatic red varietals from Piemonte is their newest.
There aren’t many bottles here in the U.S. right now, but that will soon change as it becomes available on the world market – a launch Cocchi has planned for June of this year. Good thing too, because that means Cocchi Rosa will arrive in time for summer. Its notes of white roses, cherries and summer berries are masterfully blended with citrus, herbs, fruit and spices. Make no mistake though, this is no “girlie drink.” The luxurious mouthfeel, earthy vegetal notes of gentian and cinchona complement the fruit, floral and spice notes. A distinct peppery warmth of pink grapefruit lends a complexity that will keep you sipping and sipping.
If you are curious about “bitters,” but find that even Aperol is too much for you, try this. The bitter element while present, leans toward the subtle, just enough to balance the sweetness and fruit of the wine.
Cocchi recommends serving this over ice with soda and a lemon wheel or mixed with Prosecco to start. From there I suggest you experiment with other aperitivi such Aperol and Campari or spirits such as vodka, gin, grappa, Acqua di cedro, or my favorite, Solerno, a Sicilian blood orange and lemon liquor. No doubt about it, this will be the go to drink in our home in the warm summer months to come. In case you were wondering about that garnet color you see, it is 100% natural. Read more of this article »