July 22nd, 2012 § § permalink
Off the coast of Venice, there are many islands, most in which are not visited by tourist. There is one however, that attracts people from all over, it’s the island of Murano. Murano is known for it’s exquisite hand blown glass. People visit to get a close look at this amazing glass & see first hand how it’s made. It’s one of those places, for me at least, that as interesting as it is, if you see it once, you may not need to see it again.
My friend Anita had been to Venice a few months before & told me of her amazing day on the Island of “Burano.” I’ve been to Venice three times & have never heard of this island. It’s about a 20 minute boat ride from Venice & a 10 minute ride from Murano. She told me not to miss this unique, quaint little town. I took her lead and arranged a boat ride. As we were pulling up to the island, we saw these beautifully, colored row of houses. When we hopped off the boat, I was in awe. I had never seen anything like this. Every house in this little village was painted a different color.
At one time, Burano was a fisherman’s village. It’s said that, when the men were coming home from being out at sea, they would try to see their houses. To identify them from off shore, they began to paint them different colors. This remains a tradition & what makes Burano so special.
Before I left for Italy, I saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservation” about Venice. One of the restaurants he visited was “Da Romano,” which luckily for us, was on the island of Burano. Although, my friend told me of a restaurant that she loved, I had to go with Bourdain’s suggestion.
Trattoria Da Romano, is known for a special dish called “Goa risotto.” Goa are actually scavanger fish that can’t be eaten, but are used to make a broth for their risotto. The cooking process needs to be very delicately done. If the fish is broken, the broth turns black & bitter.
We started our meal with sardines, white polenta, which is indicative to Venice & onions Veronese style. Veronese onions are sauteed in vinegar & have a sweet/sour taste. They are traditionally served on top of liver. We also had baby shrimp on white polenta, simply drizzled with olive oil & lemon. Although, the risotto is Da Romano’s specialty, we passed & ordered a whole Sea bass cooked in a mound of salt. It was moist & flaky, nothing less than wonderful. This by far was the best meal we had in Venice!
After a long leisurely lunch & a bottle of wine, we were ready for a nap, but not before dessert. Our waiter told us that the “S” shaped cookies were one of Burano’s special treats. We headed to the bakery & bought a bag full. They were hard, almond flavored cookies, that I call “dunkers.”
We thoroughly enjoyed the day we spent on Burano. Unlike the Island of Murano, Burano is a place you can happily visit again & again. Thanks to my friend Anita who brought this beautiful place to my attention & to Anthony Bourdain for being such a bad ass foodie. Everything about Burano is a colorful treat, not just the houses.
D I V A
continue to see more photos of Burano>
July 22nd, 2012 § § permalink
Venice, the romantic, magical & enchanted city, that’s full of history, winding streets, canals, and yes, gondolas. It’s said that the best way to see Venice, is to get lost in it’s streets. There are so many little alley ways that twist & turn, it’s an easy task; especially for J & I, since we both have no sense of direction. In my travels, I’ve experienced a few things that have truly moved me. One such experience, was the one I wrote of in my previous post, about my visit to the Amalfi Coast; another, is getting lost in Venice.
J & I were looking for a restaurant that I had read about in some food magazine, Corte Sconta. It’s a little trattoria that’s hidden in one of Venice’s winding streets. We took a wrong turn & found ourselves in a small square, where there were no tourist & no gondolas. There were young boys playing soccer, men sitting on plastic chairs chatting & the smell of dinner filled the air. Because there were no cars, the boy’s yells & laughter bounced off the hard surfaces & echoed.
I stood there taking it all in. The sights, sounds & smells gave me such an overwhelming feeling, that I began to tear up. (which is something I do when I’m moved) As we stood there, I couldn’t help thinking, that here we are, staying in some fancy palazzo, looking for the best places to eat, and these people were happy in their modest lives. It goes to show how little we really “need” to live & be happy. In a world full of indulgence, seeing this was refreshing. Experiences like this, give me a reality check. I try to use them to keep me grounded, which is not easy, since I myself, is guilty of indulgence.
Getting lost that day, is something that I’ll never forget. The sounds of those happy echoes will forever fill my head. Forget the shops, St Mark’s Square & the gondolas; to me, those echos are Venice.
D I V A
continue to see more photos of Venice>
St. Mark's Square
June 4th, 2012 § § permalink
Calabria is one of those regions of Italy, that’s not a popular tourist destination. I don’t know why this is true, because it has fabulous beaches; Tropea being one. We know a few people from Calabria, and they rave about its beauty and of course the food. They have Calabrian pride.
Like the regions of Campania and Sicily, Calabria had many people migrate to the States, bringing along recipes that we quickly adapted. Calabrians love their pasta. To them it’s the king of food….(my kind of place.) Each city in this region, has its own pasta specialty; many being tomato based, since they are grown right in their own gardens. There are two popular veggies of this region; eggplant, and onions. As for the eggplant, it’s used in everything, even desserts paired with chocolate. The onions are also frequently used, as a side dish, simply prepared.
Another thing Calabria is know for, is its peppers. Their cuisine is considered “spicy food,” due to the hot peppers that are grown there. Peppers are strung and dried in every house hold, and made into red pepper flakes or peperoncino.
Strung hot pepper
This month I’m going to focus on cuisine from the region of Calabria. I’ll be making dishes that use the popular foods that Calabria is know for. I’ll be making a dish for each course. Appetizer (antipasto), first course (primo piatto), main course (secondo piatto), and dessert (dolce). Hope you follow along.
D I V A
May 1st, 2012 § § permalink
Positano during the day.
Campania is a region of Italy that’s located in the south. In terms of where it is on the boot; it’s the lower shin. It’s a region that has hills, mountains and a spectacular coastline, know as the Amalifi Coast. It has been said that, “The Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place in the world.” I’m not sure if this statement is true, but it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Because of its beauty, it is a popular destination for vacationers.
Campania is most know for its city of Naples, the Amalfi Coast (which includes Capri) and Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that sits in the middle of the Bay of Naples. The land in this area is rich in volcanic soil, due to Mt. Vesuvius. This soil turns out the most delicious and sweetest tomatoes, especially the famous, San Marzano. Some of the other foods that Campania is know for are; lemons, capers, buffalo mozzarella (which is made from buffalo milk) and along the coast, plenty of seafood.
The Amalfi Coast was one of the first places in Italy I traveled. I was so excited to go. This region is the birth place of my grandparents. This trip became an eye opening experience for me, knowing that my ancestors lived their lives here. First off, I couldn’t believe the sheer beauty of every town on the coast. We drove along the mountain, with the bluest water I’ve ever seen below us. We stayed in the little sea side village of Positano, in the
San Pietro Hotel. The hotel was fabulous, but all I could think about, was getting lost in the winding streets to explore the town. As I walked, I saw similarities in the people to my family; not only the way they looked, but their hand gestures, expressions, and mannerisms. I suddenly, began to understand things about my family and myself, that I never understood before.
The Blue Grotto on the Island of Capri. If you jump into the water you turn blue. It's very cool.
One night, we went to a restaurant called Restorante Donna Rosa. We hopped into a taxi, not knowing what we were in for. We began to drive up a VERY steep mountain. Mind you, our hotel was at the bottom of the mountain and the restaurant was just about at the top. There were no guard rails, no traffic lights, it was dark and oh, I forgot to mention, it was 2 way. I have never been so nervous in my life. I think I went up the mountain with my eyes closed.
When we finally arrived at the restaurant, (after I thanked God for getting us there safely), I stepped out onto the restaurant terrance, which looked down the mountain. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The full moon was reflecting off the glistening water. The mountains curved along the shore, like rippling waves, and there were tiny white and amber lights that were twinkling from the homes that were built into the rock. I was so totally and utterly in awe and completely overwhelmed, that I began to cry. I think it was a combination of the beauty, the family history and the beginning of understanding my heritage. I was never so proud to be part of this culture, as I was at that very moment.
D I V A
This is the view that made me cry!
This month I’m going to focus on the food of Campania. Each week I will post dishes from different courses of a meal. Antipasti, primi piatti, secondo piatti e dolce. (appetizers, first course, second course and dessert.) I put my own spin on some dishes that may be familiar to you; but I also hope to show you some dishes that are new. I will focus on what this region is best known for.
I hope you join me while I explore the food of Campania, Italy; the birth place of my family.
RECIPES INSPIRED BY THE REGION OF CAMPANIA:
*Cozze al Vino Bianco(Steamed mussels in white wine)
*Insalata Caprese (mozzarella & tomato salad)
*Il Pane di Pasqua (Easter Bread)
*Orecchiette con rapini e fagioli (pasta w/ broccoli rabe & cannellini beans
*Christmas Pasta (cappellini w/ anchovy, nuts & raisins)
*Spaghetti con Acciuga, Capperi e Pangrattato (spaghetti w/ anchovy, capers & breadcrumbs)
*Stuffed Vinegar Peppers
*Bistecca Puttanesca (steak w/ anchovy, gaeta olives, capers & tomatoes)