Monday, June 18, 2012

Bietole (the best swiss chard EVER)

I LOVE BIETOLE! This green stuff is the Italian version of Swiss Chard and is so tender and delicious! If you love leafy greens, you will LOVE Bietole too! 

Here are Serragambetta, Angela makes a delicious version of this simple and classically Italian controni (side dish).

Enjoy this healthy recipe!

Bietole di Serragambetta
A LOT of Swiss Chard, washed, keeping the white "spine" intact
Garlic, sliced
2 Bay Leaves
Cherry Tomatoes, chopped (the sweeter the better)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Boil swiss chard in salted water until just tender but still has a little crisp crunch to the spine.
2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat garlic and bay leaves in a lot of olive oil.
3. Once you smell the lovely garlic aroma, add tomatoes, cover and simmer until tomatoes begin to "wilt" and are turning sweeter.
4. Drain swiss chard and add to tomato mixture- simmer for 10 minutes until flavors are incorporated and liquid is mostly reduced.
5. Enjoy as a side dish, or with pasta, grains or as a filling for a savory pie, baked ricotta, or any way you like!

Summer Adventures

This Friday will mark my "3 month" point of being in Italy for this year. Without a work visa or citizenship papers, this means I need to leave the Schengen countries for 90 days. My summer adventures will bring me to some delicious and fun spots in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean! 

June 22- August 1 
Istanbul, Turkey

Umit Dimen
11. KISIM H12 DAIRE 28

Staying with Umit Dimen and his wife in Istanbul. Along with my friend Jim (a Brit who I met last summer while volunteering at the Valley House Hostel & Pub in Achill Island, Ireland), I will accompany English students on recreational activities around Istanbul so they have a chance to practice their conversational English. We will do a variety of fun activities such as go to the cinema, museums and picnic in the park. I'm hoping this will be a great way to see the sights of Istanbul and help people feel comfortable speaking English while also experiencing Turkish culture and cuisine!

August 1- August 14
Eastern Europe
Slow travel from Turkey to southern Albania (unfortunately avoiding Greece). Thinking I will include Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania with a potential stop in Romania. Jim and I will take busses or trains to enjoy this part of eastern Europe.

August 15- September 8 
Saranda, Albania

The Hairy Lemon Hostel (located in Koder, Saranda)

I will stay and volunteer at this fabulously named hostel helping with basic cleaning and reception duties and social activities. It is run by a nice Irish lady and looks like a beautiful place on the beach in southern Albania.

September 8- 10
Travel from Albania north to Montenegro to visit my friend Anni!

September 10-17
Meet up with Jim again in Dubrovnik and enjoy a week together in Croatia visiting the cities of Dubrovnik and Split and others in between.

September 17-???
Take a ferry back to Italy and either head to Sicily or to Tuscany (to Montalcino at my first WWOOF Farm with the Casa Raia family) for Vemdemmia and olive harvest. Hopefully I will have my citizenship papers by this point.

If you have any ideas or tips on traveling in these areas, I would love to hear them! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Orecchiette is the typical pasta from the Puglia region. Literally, "orecchiette" means "little ears" and they certainly do look like little ears. Orecchiette is easily made using only durum wheat and water. The forming of these little ears is the hard part! Often it is served with cime di rapa (broccoli raab) and delicious fruity and slightly spicy olive oil from the region. 
Orecchiette di Serragambetta:
100 g Semolina Rimacinata di Grano Duro (remilled Semolina) flour per person
Hot water

1. In a large ceramic bowl, mix well until slightly tacky. Form into a large ball and let rest for 10 minutes, covered with a dry cloth. 
2. Cut into small pieces and keep covered (you want the pasta to remain warm and moist)
3. Take one piece and roll into a "snake
4. Using a knife, cut off a small square piece and press knife on one side while stretching towards you. Flip the piece and push over the top of your finger to make the indentation.
5. Sprinkle flour on top and let sit in a single layer until ready to cook.
6. Cook in boiling salted water until floating (2-3 minutes)
7. Toss with steamed broccoli raab and olive oil to taste
8. Enjoy!!!

Here Gina is stretching the small square piece with a knife and then placing in a "pasta box". This box is also where the dough is mixed.

My pasta making team! Together we made enough little ears to feed 22 people that night!

These are the prettiest ones I was able to make!

Orecchiette con cime di rapa ... Orecchiette with broccoli raab ... Delicious!! 
On another night, we are this pasta with a simple tomato sauce with basil and garlic. 

Friday, June 15, 2012


This agriturismo has it all- a convenient location, beautiful setting, fabulous guests, a loving staff that treats you like family and the most delicious Pugliese food every imaginable. I just want to post some photos of the beauty that surrounds me here.

 Oven-dried Figs stuffed with Almonds


 The pool at Serragambetta


Zucchini cream over pasta


 Pizza with 4 cheeses, olives, and rosemary


 Outdoor dining terrace

My favorite dinner... it's CHEESE NIGHT!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

La cucina di La Sorgente

La Sorgente is a small agriturismo gem located just outside of the town of Sortino, in southern Sicily.

I spent 2 weeks here with the owner, Beppe Pane (yes, that's Beppe "Bread") and couple of WWOOFers from Japan. Together we made and ate some delicious Sicilian food and had many happy guests! Here are a few of the recipes and delicious photos from my time there. 

Ravioli con Ricotta (yield 15 portions)
1000g Grano Duro (remilled durham wheat semolina)
9 whole eggs
a little water, if needed

1. In a mixer, using the dough hook, mix flour and eggs together and add water if needed. It's thoroughly mixed when it is in one ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl in one mass.
2. Knead gently into a log. Wrap in plastic and rest for 30 minutes. It should be slightly tacky.
3. Slice into pieces and run through pasta roller until very thin.
4. Place a spoonful of filling in center, and then fold another sheet of pasta over the top.
5. Stamp with ravioli cutter and set on floured sheet tray.
6. Cook, cover and place in fridge or freeze immediately.
7. Enjoy with your favorite sauce... we served ours with a simple tomato sauce but it would also be good with a sage butter sauce, or oil and garlic.

Ravioli filling:
500 g Sheep's Milk Ricotta (salted)
Parsley, minced
Black Pepper
Grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano

Combine and fill pasta!

500g Ricotta di Pecora
5 TBS White Sugar
2 each Eggs, separated
3 C Espresso, cooled
1 pt Cream, whipped
1 TBS Powdered Sugar with Vanilla
A LOT of Lady Fingers
Cocoa Powder to dust 

1. Make and cool espresso
2. Whip whites til stiff peaks and remove, set aside
3. Whip cream, set aside
4. Once all are whipped, fold together with ricotta 
5. Gently whip together for 1 minute to be sure all are combined well
6. Dunk lady fingers in coffee and arrange in pan. 
7. Layer with ricotta spread (usually 3 layers high)
8. Finish with ricotta spread and dust with cocoa powder
9. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours (or overnight) and serve cold. 


600g Farina Duro
25 g Fresh Yeast dissolved in 1 C warm water
1-2 tsp of salt dissolved in another 1 C of warm water
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive oil

1. Place flour in bowl and slowly add yeast water and combine (using a mixer)
2. Slowly add salted water and continue mixing until it's 1 mass and pulling away from the bowl
3. Add EVOO and combine
4. Place in bowl and cover with dry towel- let rest until doubled in size
5. Oil a tray, and press dough with palms to fit pan
6. Add ingredients as directed below and bake for 15 minutes on a high heat (400-500 F)!

Red Pizza
Sliced Garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crushed Tomatoes
Basil, chopped

1. In a cold pan, add EVOO and garlic slices and heat until just barely cooked
2. Add tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes
3. Add capers and basil and simmer for 2 minutes. Stop heat and let rest until using.

Toppings for Red Pizza (in order as they should be placed on the dough)
Grated cheese (mozzarella)
Red Sauce
Black Pepper
Parmesan Cheese

White Pizza
Toppings for White Pizza:
Potatoes (thinly sliced and soaked in salted water)
Onions (thinly sliced and soaked in salted water)
Black Pepper
Parmesan Cheese

 Lamb with Onions

Lamb pieces
Fresh Bay Leaves
White Wine
Onion, sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Thyme, Rosemary
Black Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

1. Simmer lamb pieces, bay leaves salt and water on low, covered for 30 minutes, until cooked.
2. Uncover and deglaze with white wine.
3. Remove lamb and add in onions in a layer in bottom of pan, add lamb pieces back in and cover onions in a layer of lamb.
4. Drizzle EVOO on top and add remaining ingredients.
5. Cover and simmer on low for another 30 minutes or until tastes tender and delicious and is falling off the bone!

 Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic, quartered
Fresh Basil, chopped
Fresh Tomatoes, chopped

Basil, chopped (for garnish)
Ricotta Salata, grated (for garnish)

1. Sautee garlic and capers in EVOO
2. Add chopped tomatoes and fresh basil and simmer for a few minutes
3. Toss with cooked spaghetti and garnish with fresh basil and ricotta salata

 Sicilian Salad

Fresh Tomatoes, quartered/sliced
Red Onion, sliced
Dried Oregano
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Basil, chopped

Toss together and enjoy!

                                                               Sicilian Orange Salad

Orange segments
Garlic, cut into small slivers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cayenne Pepper
Dried Jalapeno peppers (I brought these from the US!)

Mix together and serve immediately!

Cook sausage in pan with a little water and rosemary. Add a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar at the end of the cooking. Serve with lemon slices. Buonissimo!

Freshly collected wild oregano - the flowers are the most tasty part!

Boiled Potatoes topped with oregano, salt, EVOO and lemon juice was a delicious way to enjoy oregano!


While at Agriturismo La Sorgente, I spent two mornings with the neighbors, Claudia & Franco, to watch (and help) as they make delicious Sicilian cheeses. At Azienda Zootecnica Merendino, they only produce natural cheeses with pure ingredients. The animals are grass fed, freely roaming and grazing blissfully on these Sicilian hills and the babies have only the milk from their mothers. Cheeses are made only with fresh milk, Sicilian sea salt, lamb rennet and spring water (and sometimes a few black peppercorns and some white wine vinegar).

Here at Azienda Zootecnica Merendino they make an assortment of cheeses ranging from pecorino, cacciocavallo, tuma (which is delicious fried and with an egg, and should not to be confused with TOMA which is made in the north in Piemonte and Val d'Aosta), ricotta, capretta (small goat cheese discs), provolone and more! They have quite the aging rooms here, all with a humid feel and a pungent smell that I absolutely love!

I got to watch as they made Cacciocavallo, a Sicilian form of provolone that can be eaten fresh, aged, grated or also another version is smoked. It is often enjoyed as mozzarella is in the US, good for melting on pizzas, over pasta, or really on anything!

To make Cacciocavallo...
First of all, this is a bi-product of the process to make ricotta from cow milk. To make this cheese you do the following...

1. Cut strips of dry cacciocavallo bricks that have been drained, dried and pressed from the day(s) before.

2. Put all slices into a pot

3. Add hot whey (90C) from the cow's milk ricotta process (see ricotta blog)

4. Stir and mix well until softened and form into one large ball that is stretched to have smooth outer layer.

5. Cut in half and make (stretch and fold) inot a log

6. Cut log into smaller blocks and place blocks back in hot whey

7. Form by hand into balls, pushing into the center to form a large "butt" and then squeeze the neck to form a small "head" (you may need to dunk the head and neck back into the hot whey in order to make it softer again and more pliable).

8. Once it is formed properly, dunk in salted water and let sit there for 12 hours. Attach string and hang to dry and age.


Ricotta di Pecora
 Creamy, sweet and with a touch of salt, this fresh cheese makes my heart melt. And when eaten warm, freshly made, it is heavenly!

Ricotta is a cheese that is actually the secondary product of making anther cheese. So in this case, we will first make Tuma (a Sicilian cheese) and then we will RECOOK the milk to make the ricotta (which means "re-cooked").
Tuma with black peppercorns

So here we go...

Take A LOT of sheep's milk (this day we had 280L) and heat it to 36 C. Stop the heat and stir in the rennet (that has been diluted in some water). Rennet is the stomach lining of baby male cows.


Let the milk sit like this for about an hour until it coagulates.


When there are some masses forming, stir it quickly! Add some hot water (60C) and stir again.
Let the curds settle to the bottom (wait about 5 minutes).

Pour off liquid whey and begin to remove curds from the bottom.

Remove the curds and let them drain in a basket, layering some peppercorns in between layers if you wish. This will become Tuma cheese later.

NOW, for the Ricotta...
With the remaining liquid (whey), heat to 50C and add 10% more sheep milk (it should be cold).

Stir and heat up this mixture until it reaches 80C. Add salt (to taste- he uses 2 large ladles) and a bit of white wine vinegar mixed with some water.

WIth the disc paddle, do one last stir and gently lift it up as the mixture swirls to a stop. Let this sit for 5 minutes. (stop the heat)
Cheese-making tools. 
These are what I call the disk paddle and the whisk paddle. Not sure what they are actually called!

Ladle out the top layer of the "hard" stuff and place into baskets to drain.
TA-DA! Sheep's Milk Ricotta is complete! Now let drain and cool in fridge! On this day, starting with 280L of milk (and then adding in an additional 28L), we ended up with 85 baskets of ricotta that will equal approximately 40kg of final cheese.

The Ricotta di Pecore is also made into other delicious cheeses... 

It can be salted and dried into Ricotta Salata. Younger ricotta salata are on the bottom rack while those that have been aged for a few weeks are on the top.

Franco salting the Ricotta that has sat and drained for a day and is a bit harder now.

Ricotta di Muca
For Cow's Milk Ricotta, the process is slightly different and the taste and texture are very different as well. Cow's milk ricotta is not quite as delicate in texture and is a touch sweeter but less creamy (aka fatty). Personally I prefer the silky, creamy texture and rich savory and slightly sweet taste of the pecora, but both are deliciouso!

OK... so here we go for Cow Ricotta

Heat cow milk to 38C (we started with 240 L of milk this day)

Add the rennet (softened in water) and STIR

Wait 1 hour while the milk and rennet interact (milk is covered at this time)

Once the milk reaches 38 C, stir hard for 5 minutes with the whisk.

Gradually slow down the stirring and let the curds rise to the TOP

Drain the liquid whey (but reserve it) and then "cut" the remaining curd mass.

Remove the curds and place in 2 large baskets to drain.

This will eventually be Cow's Milk TUMA!

Ok... now to RECOOK the milk and make RICOTTA...

Add the whey/milk back into the vat

Heat this to 90 C (this is hotter than the pecora milk because cow milk is more strong and less fat)

At 90 C, skim the scum and stir with the disc paddle'

Add a mix of white wine vinegar and aceto di levito and the liquid whey from the previous day

Stir and swirl and let sit... it will separate on it's own!

Skim the foamy scum and then ladle the hard curd mass into 2 kg baskets and drain. This day we made 12 baskets.

In addition to tuma and ricotta, this farm also makes cacciocavallo, pecorino, provolone and goat cheeses too! YUM!