Italy

Italian Winters – Sparkling, Exciting and Full of Great Food

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Pizzoccheri is the perfect solution to cold and hungry after skiing or any winter day.

Pizzoccheri is a flat wide noodle (similar in size to tagliatelle) made with buckwheat.  Buckwheat
is used in the north of Italy more because you cannot grow much wheat in mountainous regions.  At least that’s my thoughts on why buckwheat is so prevalent.    Pizzoccheri is a dish of the Alps – around Piemonte it’s always made with cabbage and Fontina cheese. While it’s not easy to find the Pizzoccheri noodles in the U.S. it is sometimes in the Italian deli’s at this time of year. Here’s a great recipe to try. It was originally published: December 29, 2008 in the NY Times by Mark Bittman Time: 30 minutes

pizzoccheri 1 stick butter ( 1/4 pound)
4 fresh sage leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small head Savoy cabbage, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 pound flat, broad buckwheat noodles (pizzoccheri) or whole wheat noodles
1 cup fontina Val d’Aosta (or other good semisoft) cheese grated
1 cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups homemade bread crumbs.   * see note

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter with sage and garlic until butter turns nut-brown; be careful not to burn sage leaves. Set aside.  2. Cook potato and cabbage in boiling water until they begin to soften, just 5 minutes or so. Add pasta to same pot and continue to cook until pasta is about 1-1/2 minutes from done.Drain.    3. In a large oven-proof dish, spread a layer of vegetable-pasta combination, then a layer of grated fontina, then a layer of grated Parmesan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue this layering until all ingredients are used, ending with a layer of Parmesan; ideally you will have four layers of each. Cover dish with bread crumbs and drizzle with melted butter and sage (discard garlic). Bake for about 15 minutes, or until top is golden-brown and cheese has melted. Serve hot or warm.  Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

* this is one of the items I always bring back from Italy.  They have a way of toasting and making the finest, driest and most tasty bread crumbs.  I have not found anything locally that is as fine, toasty-colored and tasty.

A Turino Specialty to dream about:   Bicerin

For all us chocolate lovers, Torino is the place to go.  I know Perugia is a really well known for Perugina chocolates but the real history of Italian chocolate starts in Piemonte.   Torino is the chocolate capital of Italy.The International Chocolate Fair is in November, but the chocolate flows all year in Torino. Although Christopher Columbus first brought Cocoa beans back from Mexico to Spain, they hoped to keep them all for themselves and did formany years.  It wasn’t until 1606 that an Italian traveler, Antonio Carletti, brought the cocoa home to Italy. And he created the first chocolate mania.  It spread throughout Europe continuing to move from medicinal to the treat it is today, although most of us still believe chocolate is medicinal.

Bicerin is a winter drink invented in Torino in the 18th century.  It is still made only there. The word bicerin means little glass — and if you like it you’ll be joining august company: Alexandre Dumas, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso were all Bicerin fans. The caffè in Torino all keep their recipes secret, but I’ve found one close to the heavenly drink they make there.

Try this one:
1/3 cup high quality cocoa powder (like Venchi’s Cacao Due Vecchi cocoa), or
dark chocolate shavings
Sugar to taste
2/3 cup chilled heavy cream
Enough espresso for 2 long shots, about 2/3 cup

1. At least 15 minutes ahead, put a jar or shaker in the freezer. Fill 2 water goblets or Irish Coffee mugs with hot tap water. 2. In a small saucepan combine chocolate with about 2/3 cup water, and set over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until chocolate coats the spoon, about 10 min. Add sugar to taste. (They make it really sweet). Shut off heat. 3. Empty glasses and wipe dry. Remove jar from freezer, add cream and shake vigorously 1 minute. Make the espresso. To each glass or mug add a shot of espresso and 1/3 cup chocolate and carefully spoon 1/3 cup cream over top. Do NOT stir. Serve immediately.

If you’ve ever had hot chocolate in Rome you know about the thick, really hot, sweet almost pudding-like drink they serve as hot chocolate. It’s another item I always bring home – Ciobar is a great mix that uses milk and can even be made in the microwave. So good. It certainly seems medicinal to me.

 

Current Selections – Products and Prices

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You will come to think of me as your Personal Shopper in Italy. I can show you many things about the experiences of living, eating and shopping in Italy, all in the comfort of your home. At this time of year, the markets are filled with asparagus, artichokes and winter vegetables. Some of the finest of the late season foods are dried for use all year.

There are dried porcini — the most magnificent mushrooms you’ll ever taste Their fragrance is almost overpowering in their dried form. It is earthy and reminds you of fields and warm fires.

PORCINI – Dried Mushrooms   (Boletus Edulis)
Italy delivered Dec 013 Porcini Prices
50 grams (about 1 cup) $30
70 grams $42
100 grams $60   (100 grams is about 3.5 oz)

3 oz. re-hydrates to about 1 pound of mushrooms

Heavenly in risotto, or any soup, stew or pasta dish
Heavenly in risotto, or any soup, stew or pasta dish

POMODORI SECCHI – SUNDRIED TOMATOES
These most beautiful, bright sun dried tomatoes you’ll ever see.
From Campagna, they are richly flavored and can be used dried or re-hydrated. Don’t forget to use any of the liquid used to hydrate – it’s very flavorful and can add a depth of flavor and richness to any dish.

3 oz.  Price: $ 17.00                         8 oz. $ 35.00       Their flavor is so intense, a little goes a long way.

Here’s a great recipe for a dried tomato vinaigrette. Lots of flavor and fresh taste for any kind of greens.

Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon minced shallots
½ teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (any mix of basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint)
2 tablespoons chopped dried tomatoes, rehydrated in tepid water for 10 min.
1 small clove minced garlic
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except oil in food processor and puree about 4-5 minutes. While processor is running, slowly drizzle oil into other ingredients. Yield is about 1 cup.

Campagna Sundried Tomatoes

I am so happy to be able to bring you spices from the world famous fresh market in Campo dei Fiori, Rome. This market has been in existence since the 13th century. While “Spezie Famose nel Mondo” (Famous spices of the world) has been there at least three generations, the Berardi brothers have increased the scale and size of their booth. Mauro has developed a way of flash freeze drying the spices so they retain their flavor a full two years if kept in the plastic bags they sell them in. Marco works in the booth, but I’m not sure he speaks any English, he’s the quiet brother. Marco, on the other hand is Mr. Personality and  is quick to pull out his notebook of press clippings from all over the world. While he promised for about ten years to create a website, I’m pretty certain it will never happen. BUT.. He has agreed to permit me to finally bring his spices to the US.

Spezie Famose nel Mondo
Spezie Famose nel Mondo

Right now, I have a number of the mixes:
The most popular is Campo dei Fiori Mix – it’s a combination of garlic, parsley, oregano, pepper, red pepper flakes and more.

Campo dei Fiori Mix –  2 oz.   $7.50,     4 oz. $14.00,   –    8 oz. $27.00

Puttanesca Mix    –  2 oz.   $7.50,    4 oz. $14.00,          –   8 oz. $27.00

Mauro’s Mix – This is without garlic and can be used with or without heat.     2 oz. $ 7.50,    4 oz.    $14.00   –    8 oz. $27.00

Red Pepper Flakes from Naples – Peperoncini
2 oz.  $ 7.00,    4 oz. $14.00     –    8 oz. $27.00

Cacio & Pepe – (This is really a extra fine ground pepper)
2 oz.  4.65,     4 oz. $ 9.50,       8 oz.   $18.80

L’Aquila Saffron threads .5 gram jar $20.00

I’ve still got some really flavorful, fruity extra virgin olive oil – it’s from the Tivoli area just outside Rome, made in a small commune that takes the olives from the tree to the frantoio (press) within 4 hours. It’s fresh, fruity and mostly to be used as that last drizzle on a dish before it’s served. The last little touch that makes anything outstandingly fresh and really fine tasting. I have a few 8 oz. bottles which are $20.

Olio Nuovo from Tivoli
Olio Nuovo from Tivoli

Please note our prices are based on current availability and exchange rates. Email your order requests and we’ll reply immediately with what we can deliver immediately. Contact me for information on how to order.

In April I will have Tuscan and Umbrian honeys, olive oils and jars of mostarda from the north. Mostarda is a delicious sweet-spicy condiment used on everything from cheese to meat dishes.
I’ll be in Tuscany (Florence, Orvieto, Siena) Umbria (Rieti, Spello, and probably Perugia) and Abruzzo (L’Aquila) and possibly Bari and Palermo. If you have any special requests please let me know and I’ll be happy to accommodate you.

Contact us for orders, questions or requests.

email:  expresslyitalian@aol.com

Ph:  310-337-1391 or  0039-339-674-0879

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