I goofed! | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Am I an expert in cooking? Perhaps. Simply I like to say that I love to cook, cook well and I have done it for decades, but I have not come to perfection yet. I don’t have a sweet tooth for instance and sweets don’t come as good as I would like. The other thing I don’t do well is lifeless food, meaning diet food.
This past weekend I played around with juices. I produced very good fruit juices with fruit from the trees in my garden mixed with store-bought fruit and I did spectacular things. In fact I make colorful juices every weekend for my mornings delight.

(Click on each photo to view it larger).

 

Valentina Fruit Juices

Yesterday, I wanted to try a new thing: vegetable juices and I goofed. I used too much of purple and dark green vegetables with the result of a non appetizing and very dark juice. The taste is OK, very earthy and healthy, but my eyes can’t bear to look at something this dark. “We eat with our eyes first” I know is a cliché, but it’s really true.

VeggieJuice

I used the following ingredients, all in the raw state:
½ red cabbage
½ bunch of celery stalks
4 radishes
2 avocados
2 bunches of broccoli
1 bunch of collard
6 carrots
salt to taste

I would have liked to obtain a colorful veggie juice and I should have used more of red, yellow, orange veggies than green or purple veggies.

Cooking is like painting, it’s all about balancing flavors, aromas and colors.
The difference is that a bad painting rarely can be remade into a new image. This time I goofed and made a bad painting with my veggie juice, but it is recyclable into a new food. I will use a few spoons into minestrone, beans soups and chicken broth. It will be delicious and so healthy. Nothing in my kitchen goes to waste. Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being. Finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

A Wine Moment | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Cacc’e Mmitte sounds as an unpronounceable strange name for a wine and perhaps it is, but the flavor is unbeatable. It’s not a new discovered wine for me since I come from the same region of the wine, I am surprised to know that a few wine representatives now carry the Cacc’e Mmitte in their selection of wines for restaurants and pubs.
In the Southern Italian dialect form, this name refers to the easy drinkability of the wine after it has been freshly pressed and the easiness to refilled the glass with a wine that doesn’t need much aging.
In reality making this wine is an ancient procedure. In the remote times of south Italy, farmers rented all the wine making equipment for only one day to anyone who wanted to make wines, but the pressing process had to finish in one day to leave the premises free for the next person. At the end of the procedure the wine must was taken out of the wine pressing tanks “Cacce” and transported away to a new cellar premise, then a new tenant came in for one day and used the same tanks “Mitte” to crush their grape and produce a wine style of their liking.

The Cacc’e Mmitte is a D.O.C. wine originated in Lucera, in the Foggia district of Puglia region, where the Gargano shows off the beauty of the Adriatic cost.
In 1995 Italian laws set the D.O.C. label to protect names, origins, production methods and characteristics of Italian food and wine, therefore it stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin).

I love its ruby color and its intense aroma, its alcohol content is about 11.5%. What do we pair this wine with?

A few days ago, I tried it with Valdeón Due Leche Blue cheese from the Spanish region of León, wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves. It’s made with cow and goat cheese, hence the name due leche and I must say the odor is pungent, but an incredible bombardment of flavors happens when brought in the mouth. Needless to say we consumed a large piece of the Valdeón in a short hour and only two people.

Now take out your tulip shaped calyx, pour yourself Cacc’e Mitte wine, enjoy it with the Spanish Valdeón, add a few nuts and forget the world. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Val in ParadiseValentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990 improving people’s life by changing their spaces. Most often she designs kitchens and wine grottos; outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms; great rooms and entertainment rooms. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being. Finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on color theory. Get your copy of Valentina’s books on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Lunchtime | Valentina Cirasola | Interior Designer

Today I am following the photo challenge: Lunchtime  by Michelle.

Colors in the kitchen do not stop at walls, counters and cabinets. Designing and preparing meals with a good company is a creative process to stimulate feelings. Colors contain the ingredients, which give out taste. Choosing and combining colors in food is as important as selecting ingredients to make delicious morsels. We can characterize food in a color wheel and make that the palette for our daily nutrition. Nature has created the beautiful seven colors rainbow as an optical and meteorological phenomenon, to which we refer when we talk about color selection. We can refer to the same rainbow colors when we select food, except that eating food in colors is not an optical illusion, is a real solution to a healthy life. To this, add healthy laughs, family and real friends and voila’ you have created the solution of a good life.

 

I am featuring here five colorful dishes from my books on Italian regional cuisine Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Roasted Vegetables Tarte
Potatoes Gâteau Al Verde
Zucchini Fritters
Cauliflower Muffins (savory)
Fried Olive with Barley

I want to point out one dish in particular: Fried Olive with Barley. The recipe doesn’t even call for barley, I added it because the black Calphalon background of the skillet would have not shown the black olives, but after I tasted it, I say it’s the perfect healthy lunch.

Preparation:

Boil the barley in salted water for 25 minutes. Barley takes longer than pasta to cook and it tastes always “al dente”. Set aside when done.
In a skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil, sauté black olives until they look crinkled. Add some chili peppers if you like it hot and 1 or 2 chopped tomatoes.
Continue to sauté briefly, add cooked barley, sprinkle chopped Italian parsley and a swirl of olive oil.

This specialty is typical of Puglia, a region in the South Italy, filling and healthy, so simple it is almost a non-recipe. I hope you will try it. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

PDots2Robert Taitano, a friend and business associate of http://www.wine-fi.com says: “Valentina – an International Professional Interior Designer is now giving you an opportunity to redesign your palate”. Check out her books on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Brown Food, Yes or Not? | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

In decorating, black is for grounding the room, white is for transitioning between one color to another such are usually trims and doors, red is for uplifting energy in a dull environment, green for calming and each of the rest of the colors in the rainbow have a dedicated function, but brown has never been a color that delight in kitchen décor.

Brown in cooking is a totally different matter. Cooking something brown is not that appealing, unless we talk about chocolate in the darkest form of brown, sweet, crunchy, luscious, decadent and even with a hint of salt. Brown breads and brown beers fall in the good brown category that give nutrition and pleasure, but brown steaks don’t. Meat at a fresh state starts with a bright red coloration and by the time is cooked, it should be pinkish inside to retain all the juices and flavors, but never too brown, risking to get a shoe sole.

Brown sauces sold in bottles are full of artificial ingredients and so much sodium. Aside from upsetting someone here who likes that stuff, I would say that brown sauces are good to stain food without personality. Fresh food do not need to be corrupted with brown or any other color sauces. It is clear I don’t agree with people who believe the best food is brown. However there are a few of the brown food I eat all the time: mushrooms, whole-wheat pasta, lentil, truffle and nuts. It is important to combine complementary color schemes when serving dark food – “the eyes want to take part of the feast too” – therefore if it appeals to the eyes it will appeal to the stomach. That’s a fact. Use bright color plates to make the brown food come alive, but don’t forget bright condiments as well.

Enjoy a couple of my simple recipes and colors.

Funghi Trifolati (sautéed)
Use any kind of mushrooms, but mostly crumini, the common dark button mushrooms. Wash them very quickly in cold water, pat dry, cut in half. In a skillet warm up olive oil and garlic, when the garlic is golden, throw in all the cut mushrooms, sauté until they have shrunk a little. Season it with salt, pepper or chili pepper. Add a hand full of fresh chopped Italian parsley. Serve with meat or fish and a robust wine.

Lentil Andalusia Style
For this dish I use dry lentils. Before putting lentils in the boiling water, make sure there are no small rocks inside the bag, as often happens. Boil them in salted water for about 15 minutes and season if necessary with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, chop finely the center core of celery because is tender and more digestible and 1 -2 oranges in small bite sizes. Plate the lentils, add both ingredients on top and a swirl of olive oil.

It cannot be any easier than this! The food in my slide show are all in my books. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Val:FarfalleStampValentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books and a book on colors, all available here in this site on the Books page and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

The Red On The Cheeks Comes From The Mouth | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

One of my friends has just returned from a month of vacation in Italy. She spent two weeks of her vacation in a kitchen of an agritourism to get some hands-on training on typical Italian cuisine. She is a personal chef and owns a catering company. Our catching up conversation was mostly centered on Italian food and table customs. She could not help but noticing the difference and making a comparison between her American eating customs and the Italian eating style. She noticed how properly people conducted themselves while sitting at the table and how she never spotted an Italian local person eating in the street while walking, an activity only foreigners and tourists engaged in.

focacciapomodori_a

At the restaurants and in the place where she was cooking for a few days, she went along with the flow of dinner and how her hosting friends conceived it. They ordered many dishes from antipasto to pasta, meats, and vegetables to fruit, cheeses and dessert. The dishes arrived at the table not in serving platters for sharing, as often is done in the States, but in single plates, each person got his/her portion of everything ordered.

cavatelli-limonati

One time they ordered grilled fish and she did not expect to see the deboning process at the table, right before her eyes. That is a common practice in any respectable Italian restaurant.

waiter-cleaning-the-fish
Photo waiter deboning fish at the table  from TripAdvisor 

There was a considerable time space between each specialty, she told me. At first she was puzzled to why it took so long to finish the entire dinner and even longer to get the check, people lingered at the table, talking with espresso coffee and digestive drinks, but by observing how Italians carried on conversation and relaxed with wines and company, she understood right away that she was in the land of “Dolce Vita” where eating is an art and nothing else is important while sitting at a dining table.

At some tables where business people gathered for lunch, talking about business, my friend observed, did not take place until after all the ordering of food and wines was completed and after people took interest in each other’s life, news of their families and the general happenings. Then during the second half of the dinner, business talk started.

She was all so surprised to see the freshness of food and its vibrant colors in both raw and cooked state. Fish was colorful and smelled like the sea, she said. Of course, she knows that in America supermarkets do not sell the entire fish stock in one day, thus the next day the store will re-propose old fish to the customers marinated in herbs or in some kind of dry rub. In Italy, nobody would buy the re-adaptation of fish. If I want fish, I go directly to the fishmongers. I am fortunate to live in a coastal place, where it is possible to go directly to the source.

My friend asked me why in Italy people don’t suffer gluten problems as people in the States do. You would think that with the large amount of pasta, rice, pizza and bread consumed in Italy, everyone would have gluten intolerance. Well, the answer is simple and crude: Italian food manufacturers do not stuff food with hormones, vitamins, sugar, sodium, MSG and other absurd chemicals. Read the labels of any American food and you will see that the majority of ingredients are unpronounceable chemicals and of real food, there is only a faint percentage. In Italy egg yolks are orange, chickens are yellow and don’t eat corn; pigs are not fed with hormones but acorns, which makes our famous prosciutto (ham) so perfectly balanced; gelato is made with real milk and fruit; bread only contains flour, water, yeast, and olive oil; vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals and fruit arrive at the supermarket with the dirt they grew in, not polished with wax. To this add the Italian lifestyle. Italian people walk to stores, to work, to schools and most of the places they must reach every day. In fact, my friend the chef, after all the commercial cooking she did for her own experience and the eating she did for her own enjoyment with daily wine tasting, lost 14 lb in one month and she could not explain how it happened.

As I say during my books’ presentations: “The red on the cheeks comes from the mouth”. Eating real food daily will help release extra pounds and stabilize the weight. Most importantly, real food will introduce positive energy in the stomach, which in turn will exude from your skin pores and that is good enough to keep away for your system any food intolerance ever invented by the human mind. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms, and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books and a book on colors, all available here in this site on the Books page and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

An Italian Sunday | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

In Italy not all Sundays are created equally. People dedicate Sundays to family lunches and the rest of the day is for leisure and social activities.
Meals are women’s best show on Sundays, they get up early in the morning, before everybody else to cook for the family and make sure everyone is treated properly from appetizers to desserts, from the smallest kid to the oldest person.

This past Sunday was a different celebration.
I am in Italy now, participating to my niece’s First Communion event. This is truly a treat, a day to remember and the first important mile stone in a Catholic person’s life. It happens every year in May. Boys and girls in elementary school will go through a couple of years of religious school to learn how to become good Christians and get prepared for the big event of the First Communion. Some churches go as far as organizing spiritual retreats for the kids.
A wide range of businesses related to the First Communion affair are busy for the entire month of May preparing every details from cakes and sweets, to party favors. Restaurants, photographers, hair dressers, tailors and seamstresses work together to assure the event is successful,  parents and guests are happy and have something to remember. Jewelry stores are also very happy in the month of May, as the gold gifts for the First Communion are a must.

My niece was prepared as a bride for the altar. The day before,  all the women of the house including the First Communion girl got electrified with trying on dresses, shoes and jewelry, hairdresser appointments and making sure all the party favors were ready to go.  At night, nobody wanted to go to sleep, we didn’t really know where to put our heads made up so beautifully to keep them preserved  until the next day. And the next day was really special for the kids and the adults! Confetti and photographs greeted the little girl coming down from the stairs of her home, my niece, a 10 years old was dressed in white from head to toes. Her father was the only person allowed to accompany her to the church as her escort, the rest of us followed  later. The church isle was also made up with white flowers to celebrate all the 10 years old kids entering the Catholic World as faithful Christians while cheerful music filled the air.

What really intrigued me was the elegance of the Italian people dressed to honor their kids first mile stone of life. I am Italian and I should be used to see well-dressed people, but somehow I still manage to get surprised  when I see Italians young and old attending some functions. There was nothing out-of-place in their dressing up, not even a hair. Colors and proportions are always well-balanced. Of course, everything was “all’ultimo grido” of the latest fashion.

The manners of Italian people at some formal affair are so affected and polite, but not disgustingly stuffed. I love to observe some youngsters giving up their seats to older people and helping them in getting up and down to follow the religious function. Certain things in my culture are still well-planted and are excellent foundations for generation to come.

The church of Maria Maddalena built in 1969 is an extravagant architecture considered very avant-guard for that era. A cement pagoda style, almost resembling a Japanese house was not well-accepted by the followers and much criticized by the public and the press. That church so many years later has seen a few funerals, weddings, births and joyous events in my family and in my friends’ families. To see Don Filippo again, the priest manager of that church, grey and older and remembering him young, with dark hair and just out of college, made me realize how much time has passed by and how deep my roots are in this land of Italy.

Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Dots2Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an author and a designer, writing about and observing Italian culture and style. Check out her books available on this site in the Books section and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Three Wonder Words | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

“Wonderful Cookbook!!! I have three wonder words: Baked Ricotta Cheese. Just amazing. The recipes are simple to understand and the instructions are easy for me a home cook. She takes a hand full of ingredients and turns them into a feast. This cookbook is just as good as the first” ~ says the review from one of my readers Shannon L. Sigman of San Jose, CA – on my book ©Sins Of A Queen.

This is a book on Italian Appetizers and Desserts, but everything in there can also be made into easy meals. Baked Ricotta Cheese on page 51 is such an easy recipe that it’s almost a non-recipe. The only ingredients needed are fresh ricotta any olives, Italian prosciutto, or any ham, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Drain the water from the ricotta. Beat it to break the molecules, mix in all the ingredients. Butter a baking dish, lay the mixture in the pan, and bake at 400˚ F for about 40-45 minutes. Serve it with a tomato salad, or mixed green salad. Don’t forget a piece of Italian bread and a glass of wine. Dinner cannot be any simpler than this. I kept my promises when I said I was going to write the simplest Italian recipes ever, especially thought for people living a busy life. That was my aim.

There are a few differences in the ricotta products you might want to know. Don’t get confused with Ricotta Salata, salty ricotta aged for a few months and covered with a natural hard skin formed during the aging process. Ricotta Salata comes in a wheel and cuts in slices like any hard cheese. It goes well with salami, Italian cured prosciutto, and grilled sausages, accompanied by a rustic salad. It’s a good rustic item to have among other appetizers.

The ricotta to use in my recipe must be the fresh type found in plastic tubs and sold in specialized cheese shops, where sometimes I am lucky enough to find it in straw baskets as it sells in Italy. The region of Puglia, in Italy, produces the best fresh ricotta and related products. http://www.abbasciano.it/en. Fresh ricotta is a spoon type cheese, creamy and spreadable and contains a bit of water, thus is lighter. It is very good to eat when following a low calories diet.

The difference in taste from the ricotta sold in supermarkets and the type sold in specialty cheese shops is like night and day.  Fresh ricotta is made from cow’s milk or sheep’s milk, the latter is a bit more fattening, but it has more body and a slightly salty taste. Both are good to use for savory cooking as lasagna, stuffed pasta with spinach and mushrooms, tarts, Savarins, canapés and so much more. For sweets and cakes, fresh ricotta is the best.


(Photo ricotta canestrata found on: https://www.italieonline.eu/da/italienske-oste-119.htm)

The day I plan to make fresh bread, I make also a trip to the cheese shop to get the fresh ricotta ready to go on that crunchy and hot bread from the oven.
It looks and feels like a hot volcano with a mound of fluffy snow on top and that’s the best way I can describe it in words.

The baked ricotta recipe is in my book ©Sins Of A Queen.

Being very conscious of what I eat, cow’s milk ricotta is lighter and fluffy, it suits better my need and my taste. Yes, it is true, Italian people in Puglia eat as simple as this. Ciao,
Valentina

www.Valentinadesigns.com

 Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

 

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms, and entertainment rooms.
She is the author of two published books on regional Italian cuisine, available on this site on the Books sections and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Her book on colors ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors is in the printing at this time and will be available soon.

 

 

 

Easter Breads | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

©Scarcella

Two more days to Easter Sunday and in Puglia, my land in Southern Italy everyone will eat “Scarcella”, typical Easter bread. Scarcella is a slightly sweet bread type, just enough to give a sweet taste but not enough to make anybody fat. Usually in Puglia, we make it in a round shape, as we all know the round shape is the most harmonious of all the shapes and in most cultures is regarded as the shape of fortune. Many shapes and designs also characterize the Scarcella to please the eyes of the receiver. If it is made for kids, the shape might be a small doll, a purse, a car, or an animal shape, just to be playful.

Scarcella goes back to a very remote past, in fact, it originated in the Roman Empire, enclosing in itself all the pagan and Christian symbols of Easter.

The raw eggs on top of the bread dough symbolize rebirth and the return to life. The eggs might fill the dough up to 21. Odd numbers are considered propitiatory, thus it’s important to place the eggs in an odd number. Bake the bread full of colorful confetti on top and lemon zest mixed in with the dough to aromatize it. Powdered sugar will cover the Scarcella after the baking to give it a veil of sweetness.

The tradition says that any daughter-in-law will give one Scarcella as a gift to the mother-in-law. The more eggs the Scarcella has on it, the more are the things the daughter-in-law is asking to be forgiven for. Well, that was in the old days, I am not even sure the new generations of Italians even know what Scarcella is, or if they care to ask for forgiveness through food symbolism. If anybody out there wants to try it here is the recipe, and it is also in my second published book:
©Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts

 

Scarcella
Mix with 10.5 oz. 00 flour (super-soft flour used for pizza dough) 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3.5 oz. of sugar, a little milk (use a little at a time to make the dough pliable).
Add a pinch of salt and grated lemon peel while working on the dough.
Spread the dough thus prepared to ½ inch in height.
Cut out the shapes you want, keeping the scraps of dough.
On one end of the Scarcella place 1 egg raw with the shell on, or you can spread an odd number of eggs around on the dough.
Cut the scraps of dough into strips and place them in a cross fashion over each egg to help them staying on the dough during baking.
Sprinkle the colored confetti and bake on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake it until golden brown.
If you like, add powder sugar after the bread has cooled down.

This Easter specialty is in my book Sins Of A Queen, on Amazon: http://goo.gl/JA4WMO
Another fun Easter bread and typical in the South of Italy made for this occasion is the “Casatiello”. The procedure of making this bread is the same as any other bread, the only difference is the stuffing.
Mixed in the raw dough there are chopped hard-boiled eggs, various chopped cold cuts meats and cheeses of many types. The quantities for the stuffing are up to your taste.
The taste will improve accordingly, I make mine very happy.

A Pink Moon will characterize this Easter. I just learned about it this morning when I read this article.

http://news.yahoo.com/moon-affects-date-easter-131202555.html

I am here to help you with your kitchen design and all the challenges that come with it, but I am here also to design your palate.
Remember that designing a table with colorful food is necessary for the soul and for the eyes just as much as a beautifully designed kitchen.
My next book on the subject of colors: RED-A Voyage Into Colors is in the printing and will be out on the market very soon. Stay tuned for the launch.

If you celebrate it, have fun and rejuvenating Easter.  Ciao,
Valentina
http://www.valentinadesigns.com

 

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Dots2Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms, and entertainment rooms.
Check out her books on this site on the BOOKS page  and on
Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0
Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Evolving Taste | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I thought I would have never said this but Italian taste for food is changing.

It has been over a decade that new emigrants are flocking to Italy as if it was the new land of opportunities bringing with them their culinary background and their culture.
Italians are now eating pizza with pineapple and cheese, or fried rice in place of risotto. Well, not everyone, fortunately food is one thing Italians are keeping away from corruption, but younger people, traveling to foreign countries more than the past generations are willing to try new food ideas.

I just could not help noticing the change in some of the original and traditional recipes. Cheese and fish cooked together was an absurd combination, it was viewed with skepticism and those people who attempted to do it were always criticized as not having a refined palate.


This is exactly what I observed in a restaurant on the Amalfi coast in Italy, a plate of fried anchovies sandwiched together stuffed with cheese and prosciutto in the middle. The waiter disregarding my dislike of anchovies paired with cheese went on and on trying to convince me that it was a good food and I had to try. I was up for the challenge. The food arrived piping hot and smelled really appetizing.

I must admit fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto was good and new.

However, I still believe if you want the taste the sea in the seafood, keep it simple and do not mix it with other food. Dairy products have a strong taste, no matter how light the product is, milk is milk. To me, milk fights with the delicate fish taste and leaves an after taste. The recipe of fried anchovies stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto is really easy, it’s up to you to try it and decide to like it or not.

Long live the blue fish, which is affordable and low in price, rich in calcium and omega 3 fatty acids.

To make stuffed fried anchovies all you need is:
10.5 oz of flour seasoned with thyme
10.5 breadcrumbs seasoned with thyme
3 whole eggs beaten
1 mozzarella chopped small
a few slices of Italian prosciutto
salt, black pepper to your liking
lemon juice
vegetable oil to fry

Keep each ingredients separate in various bowls. Add fresh thyme in the flour and breadcrumbs for an extra flavor.
Remove the interiors from the anchovies, wash and clean thoroughly.
Once the anchovies are butterflies (see my photo) place on the belly of each anchovy one thin piece of mozzarella and prosciutto and then close it with another anchovy belly down. Repeat until all the anchovies are paired up.
Pass the anchovy sandwiches in flour, than in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
Fry in the hot vegetable oil. Season the anchovies with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Otherwise, the simplest way to fry anchovies is to butterfly them, pass in the flour, then in the beaten eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs. I eat fried food every 4-5 months and I use a good vegetable oil that I discard afterwards.
Once in a blue moon is good, the metabolism needs a good slap every so often.

My two books are filled with easy fish recipes along with other Mediterranean diet recipes.
They are a super source if you want to stay off the mortal diets and want to eat healthy while you are enjoying food.
Please check them out in this site on my Books section.
They are also available on

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w

Yes, I do design kitchens, wine cellars and other rooms, but I also design your palate. Love to hear from you. Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
She is a speaker and a book author. Her new book on the subject of colors: ©RED – A Voyage Into Colors  is in production at this time and will be released very soon.
Stay tuned for the launch.

I Am In The Mood For Raw Fish |Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

I was thinking of all the raw fish I ate in one night alone in Japan at a restaurant and cherishing that nice memory in the company of good long time friends. (Click on each photo to view it larger).
http://www.ginpei.com/html/shop/do_tonbori.html

honten
A question came to my mind. Who first adopted the practice of eating raw fish, the Japanese or the Italians from Puglia?
Yes, not the entire Italy is accustomed to eat raw fish, but in the Southern region of Puglia, where my roots are, the ritual of eating raw fish happens once a week at least every Sunday and it is not called sushi.
No family Sunday meal will be left without it, raw fish is the king of every tables, always served before dinner allowing the palate to taste the sea and the freshness of its fruits.
A variety of raw octopus, mussels, hairy mussels (cozze pelose), other shellfish, sea truffles, sea urchins and allievi (cattle fish) is served in symbiosis with a few glasses of bubbles, then the real dinner can start.

The difference between the Japanese raw fish (sushi) and the Puglia style raw fish is that in Japan raw fish is served almost always on white rice and it is dry only wet with soy sauce.
In the Puglia style, raw fish is served wet with the sea water dripping, occasionally wet with a few drops of lemons, especially on mussels, otherwise there is no other condiment, just the sea flavor.
Fish over there does not need added condiment in that the Adriatic Sea is shallow and concentrated with salt. Nature does it all for us.

This old Puglia gastronomy tradition goes back to the 1500’s, when selling raw octopus was regulated by the local government and had to be sold in rolls of 890 gr. each (31.4 oz.). Imagine how important it was to eat raw fish that the government had to regulate it.

 

It is a common appetizer to find in restaurants, served every day of the week if the weather has been good and the catch of the day comes in regularly.
The restaurant owners usually are the only one responsible to guarantee  100% freshness of the fish.
Often black mussels will be paired with the sharp caciocavallo cheese, similar in taste to the aged Southern Italian Provolone cheese, with a hard edible rind.
The octopi must be properly curled, the allievi (cattle fish) thoroughly cleaned of the interiors and the mouth, tuna, mullets and cod finely sliced for carpaccio and the fresh delicate anchovies carefully cleaned of any bones ready for a marinade of oil, lemon juice salt, pepper and parsley finely chopped.

Bear in mind that in Italy we believe the months with the R are not good to eat mussels (Jan-Feb-Mar-Apr-Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec) and the months without the R are not good to eat oysters because they are full of eggs and fattier (May-June-July-Aug).
Here in the Unites States we eat them all the time, this rule is really not observed and I am always wondering if I am doing the right thing.

Sea Urchin

 

Another scene worth filming is the eating of the raw fish in the streets near the port area of any city in Puglia, where the fisherman bring the catch of the day and where they also mend the fish nets when they are not out at sea. The scene is colorful, playful and joyous. Some fisherman scream to get the customers’ attention and some sing. They show off a large display of fresh fish inside of baskets made of olive wood and set on rough tabletops. There, they propose a taste of sea urchins, at time accompanied with a piece of fresh bread and ice-cold beer and other times just as the offering of the sea is, fresh and natural.

Skilled fishermen never poke their hands while opening the sea urchins in half. They make a perfect cut to expose the reddish-orange meat inside; a small piece of bread will scoop out all the goodness from inside of the black shell.
Restaurateurs who have lived abroad for a while brought back to Puglia the knowledge they have acquired in foreign countries. Many sushi bars have sprung up in Puglia, as all over Italy, but when the Puglia people want to do a serious eating, they will always go to what is familiar.
They will always prefer the traditional specialties of their land and sea to the fashionable or trendy food of other parts of the world. They will stay faithful to what has been familiar to them for centuries.

It takes no ability to eat raw fish, just clean, wash and eat it, but it takes ability to prepare the simplest food, poor of ingredients and make it taste like royal food.
 (above: Alici Arraganate)

One of the many simple fish dish in Puglia is Baked Anchovies or Alici Arraganate as we call it.
Take the center bone from inside of the anchovies, wash and pat dry. Align anchovies in a crock-pot.
Add breadcrumbs, chopped garlic, mint, capers, oregano.
Drizzle oil and sprinkle a few drops of plain vinegar. Bake in the oven for only 12-15 minutes uncovered.
It’s so simple that is almost a non-recipe.

Another simple dish is Octopus Casserole or Casseruola Di Polipetti as we call it in Italian.
Place the octopus in a casserole with chopped onion, dry white wine, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
Bake until the octopi are fork tender. The sauce is good to eat with bread or to top a plate of pasta.
Bon appétit.

Find many of these simple recipes in my two published books on Italian regional cuisine from Puglia available on:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/xUZfk0

Barnes&Nobles: http://goo.gl/q7dQ3w
and in this site on the Books’ page.

Now, my friends from Japan need to go over to Puglia with me to experience raw fish my way.
Ciao,
Valentina

http://www.Valentinadesigns.com

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe.
She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.

Her third book ©RED-A Voyage Into Colors on the subject of colors is in production and will be released by end of April 2012.

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