Saturday outdoor market in Sperlonga

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Saturday morning is the big outdoor market day in Sperlonga. One of my favorite vendors has an assortment of olives cured by his family owned azienda agricola, including local Gaeta olives. He also prepares whole red peppers in an agrodolce bath. Most of the peppers go by the wayside as the process is lengthy and includes sun and air curing first and it’s easy for peppers to disintegrate in this phase. But those that make it are amazing and delicious as a side dish, in salads or on their own.

One Response to Saturday outdoor market in Sperlonga
  1. patti kaplan
    February 23, 2014 | 7:42 pm

    I am interested in your cooking trip to Sicily. I am a solo traveler so I need to know what the supplement is and the name of the hotel, etc, Thanks very much.

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Homemade bread with home-ground flours

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Yesterday I had friends for lunch and prepared what has now become my go-to homemade bread. It’s a recipe I’ve been working on for over a year now, adding and subtracting ingredients, and working with different flours and grains.
My friend Dagmar got me started on grinding my own flours and it really does make a difference. My favorite is farro, a 7,000 year old grain which is abundant in central Italy, particularly Umbria. Dagmar’s recipe uses only farro, along with different seeds and nuts. But I found the bread to be too heavy and dry for my liking.
My chef friend Salvatore Denaro suggested I add some white flour to lighten up the bread which made sense.
I’m always perusing bread recipes to help me perfect my own and recently stumbled across Nigella Lawson’s recipe for her Norwegian Mountain Loaf. Nigella in turn gives credit to her half-Norwegian friend Trine Bell for her recipe. That’s what makes the best recipes: sharing and exchanging.
The beauty of the Norwegian Mountain Loaf is that it doesn’t require any dough rising time. The ingredients are stirred together until they reach a thick porridge consistency, then poured into the loaf pan. I like that part the best; it makes last minute bread baking something you can do on an impromptu basis with any meal.
So, although I’ve strayed pretty far afield with my bread ingredients I’ve kept Nigella’s super simple procedure intact.
I grind the grains myself in a small home-use mill. A powerful food processor will also work. I use 400 grams of flour: half farro, a quarter whole wheat and a quarter white. I also add 100 grams of oats and a half cup of seeds: sesame, poppyseed, sunflower and any others that appeal to you. I also use a healthy portion of raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit.
Match the weight of your dry ingredients with an equivalent of liquid: if you use 500 grams of flour, then use 500 milliliters of liquid. I like water and skim milk to keep it light.
Dissolve a cube of brewer’s yeast into tepid liquid (milk, water), stir in your dry ingredients and pour into a large loaf pan lined with oven paper. Place in a cold oven and bake for thirty minutes at 250°F, then one hour at 350°F. Use a cake tester to test for done-ness.
What you’ll end up with is a hearty, chewy, beautiful crumb bread reminiscent of some of the wonderful Northern European breads that we’ve all tasted at one time or another and love.
It’s a great breakfast bread drizzled with honey to accompany your morning coffee, and it’s wonderful with any lunch or dinner meal you serve.

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The Arrotino or Knife Sharpener

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This special bicycle was used by the arrotino to sharpen knives, throughout neighborhoods in Rome. The box on the front carries the tools of the trade, and the stone disk (center of the bike) is the sharpening device, powered by the arrotino’s bicycle pedals.
I used to love seeing the arrotino in our neighborhood, but sadly it’s become a rarity. Rome has a few arrotino shops, a few of them historic, but there’s nothing like the traveling arrotino on his bicycle.
My favorite in Rome is owned and run by Sergio Zoppo on Via Merulana. The shop has operated since 1925…nearly one hundred years. Sergio is a true master of his trade and I wonder if someone will take over for him once he reaches retirement age. It’s not the kind of thing that holds great appeal for young people these days unfortunately.
His prices are fair and he’s quick to get the job done. If you’re looking for a knife, or set of knives, to purchase Sergio has a wonderful assortment from classic knives to ceramic knifes to specialty Japanese knives. Stop by and take a look; you’ll glimpse a slice of Italian life likely to soon disappear.

One Response to The Arrotino or Knife Sharpener
  1. Gary Growe
    August 21, 2013 | 7:48 pm

    I loved the picture/story of the arrotino.
    It is these passing slices of life that keep drawing
    me back to Italy.

    Thanks.

    Gary Growe

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Peaches…an artist’s handiwork

I’m making a peach tarte tatin…more about that later…but for now I wanted to share this picture of the sliced peaches, mounded in the tart pan, just waiting for the crust to go on top, then into the oven. Nature creates the most beautiful edibles and peaches are certainly one of these spectacles. The delicate…

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Mentuccia Romana

The other day we showed my future son-in-law a piece of the ancient Via Flaminia, dating back over a thousand years, and all along the remnants was an explosion of calamint. I love calamint, with its delicate perfume of mint touched with marjoram, and find it everywhere that there’s an untended field or piece of…

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Tabacchiere or Doughnut Peaches

Tabacchiere peaches (“snuff box”) are one of summer’s best treats. They are flatter, often smaller, than other peaches and look like a doughnut. The flesh is whiter, with pink and white skin, and slips effortlessly off the seed. Take note: this peach is delicate and doesn’t store well. Plan on consuming them within a few…

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Coregone in Bianco, the prize-winning lake fish recipe of the year in Bolsena

Last weekend we were at Lake Bolsena, an under two hours drive from us. We were there with friends: it was partially a reunion of sorts (some coming from France) and others who vacation at the lake regularly; sailing, canoeing, swimming. One of our friends is a professional musician and keeps a grand piano at…

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The art of delicious deep fried zucchini flowers…

This photograph is courtesy of one of Flavor of Italy’s cooking class clients. Students are lined up at work, recipe before them, making various dishes including ravioli (pictured off in the back) and learning the art of cleaning and stuffing zucchini flowers…without tearing them! Clients are always fascinated to see the difference between the male…

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