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Kevin72

A year of Italian cooking

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By the way, that sex on plate cheese dish looks pretty damn sexy! I'm going to the mercato tommorow and getting some cashcavallo! My oregano has already gone to flower so I'm all set! See, you cannot talk about Sicily without mentioning sex. Its simply impossible.  :raz:

Hi, finally catching up on this thread. Is cashcavallo a sicilian cheese? The fried preparation reminded me of something I've seen done with Cypriot haloumi cheese, and cashcavallo sounds a lot like the Arabic term we use for a similar Lebanese cheese -- Kashkawan. There must be a connection there, either Arab or just Mediterranean. I find it really interesting.

What's funny is, my last name is Arabic, but I've had a number of Italians ask me if I am from southern Italy, as there is apparently a large population with the same name. I was looking on the Ellis Island site one time, and put my last name in out of curiousity -- there were as many people with my name from Italy as there were from Arab countries. Weird!

I think I need to buy Clifford Wright's Arab Sicily book now. BTW, as far as Sicilian couscous, Paula Wolfert posted a recipe yesterday on Chefzadi's blog.

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Hi, finally catching up on this thread. Is cashcavallo a sicilian cheese? The fried preparation reminded me of something I've seen done with Cypriot haloumi cheese, and cashcavallo sounds a lot like the Arabic term we use for a similar Lebanese cheese -- Kashkawan. There must be a connection there, either Arab or just Mediterranean. I find it really interesting

Touchy topic there smile.gif . There's at least three theories I know of, which try to explain the origin of caciocavallo cheese. And clearly the scholars inside each of the separate fields claim they are the only ones that are right. I have looked at the historic sources for all three for a little article I wrote and I believe that the Italian origin seems the most sound of the three. Still here they are:

1&2) The term caciocavallo seems to originate from the Italian words cacio, today less used than the modern formaggio, meaning cheese, and cavallo, horse. This has given rise to two theories:

- the cheese was introduced by the nomadic populations, the Huns are often mentioned, which migrated /invaded Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and was actually in origin a mare's milk cheese, hence the name. From what I read recently this theory seems to be loosing popularity.

- the name refers to the way the cheeses are traditionally aged, i.e. tied in pairs and hung on a stick, something which is commonly described in Italian as "appeso a cavallo", hanging on horseback. Some sources mention the reference to a "cacio a cavallo" made from an old cheese called pruvatura (today's provolone probably) in old texts, but I never checked those myself. What I found is that there are documents describing the commerce of cacicavallo from Sicily from the XIV century According to the supporters of this theory, Italy is the place of origin of this kind of cheese which then migrated to the Balkans and from there to the Middle East and Russia, where cheeses with similar names can be found.

3) According to the last theory this kind of cheese has actually developed in the Balkan area, probably in today's Bulgaria, as reported here. From there the cheese making method migrated both east- and westwards.

If you check the dates between theories 2 and 3 you will see that the first Balkan reference to caciocavallo are from the XVI century while the name appears in Italian sources tat least two centuries before that, making the Italian origin more probable. Still, as my wife is always happy to remind me, the fact that someone wrote it down first does not mean that they came up with the idea first, and I have to admit there is some truth in that too.


Edited by albiston (log)

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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I've stopped worrying about who got there first...I just find it interesting how much people got around back then.

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You can get Aglianico at Winesearcher or Winezap.  I drank no other wine in Basilicata and the prices varied from 6E to 90E (at aclassier restaurant). 

BTW, a really nice and inexpensive Primitivo is A Mano,  The winery was covered in the NYTimes a few months ago.  One of the guys is US and they don't grow the grapes, rather they purchase them locally, apparently with great success because they pay cash on the barrelhead (so to speak) unlike most of the local producers who dangle the growers' payment.  A Manno can be bought at the above places, too at under ten bucks.

Whil I felt Basilicata was not as varied nor interesting as Puglia, Matera is mystical.  The sassi (previously abandoned cave dwellings) are incredibly densly packed in the center of the city.  They are now being restored and gentrified.  We stayed in a lovely hotel in the sassi and truly enjoyed the time.

A Mano is widely available here, and I enjoy it quite a bit. In fact I don't think I've had a bad primitivo yet. It will definitely continue to stand in when searches for wines from Basilicata and Calabria turn up short.

Thanks for sharing on Basilicata. The same article that clued me in on Ostuni and Alberobello in Puglia also had a writeup on Matera, which is enjoying some renewed interest as it is where Passion of the Christ was shot.

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As usual, I am quick to contradict myself: after stating how difficult it is to grow crops in Calabria, I turn around and make a vegetarian soup from one of their most famous products: sweet onions. I made a Calabrese onion soup to have for lunches this week, using sweet Walla Walla onions to stand in for the famed onions of Tropea.

Onions and bay leaves are simmered in lard until they are collapsing, then cooked in broth spiked with wine. Here's another different tweak that I like: make bruschetta, but instead of rubbing it with a piece of garlic, rub it with a piece of hot fresh chili pepper. Gotta have that heat in there! Unfortunatley, it didn't much carry through in the finished product. Pretty standard onion soup.

No pics; I figure we all know what a bowl of melted onions in broth looks like.

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I think I need to buy Clifford Wright's Arab Sicily book now. BTW, as far as Sicilian couscous, Paula Wolfert posted a recipe yesterday on Chefzadi's blog.

I was just about to respond that your question had "Alberto" written all over it, but he's quicker on the draw than me! :laugh:

See, THIS is what I'm talking about with Sicilian food. Never encountered anything close to it in my research, and now I'm wishing I was still cooking from that region to try this soup out. Man oh man.

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This is the first thread on eGullet I have read all the way through. What an undertaking! I quit last night at 10 PM because I was starving.

Although it is true that we in Italy can find lots of things that are nearly impossible in the US, you can't get everything everywhere. Same goes there-- when I cook in NY I usually have to settle for fat lush US versions of ingredients from Citarella because wandering around neighborhoods just for a meal is said to e "obsessive." Boh!

On the cookbook thing-- I have found all-one-region cookbooks on the stalls at market but in Italian. With a little work one can usually make out the recipes since you are only using one subject and directions are not normally done in many tenses. Unless they are in dialect-- erg.

Anyway, good work. Your photos are very good considering you are not using all those food stylist tricks that render the food inedible.

BTW, taralli really are hard in my experience. You get used to it. I find the peperoncino ones addictive.

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Judith, , welcome to the eGullet Forums and I hope we'll see you often on these shores.

Since you mention Italian (as in the language) regional cooking books, I was wondering if you have any favorites.

Ciao!


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Wow, I brought out a lurker!

Welcome, Judith, and thanks for the compliments.

We brought some Taralli back from our trip to Puglia and they weren't that hard . . .but I think these were a tourist-y aberration: they were more like shortbread. At any rate, the ones I made were little rocks after they got that second bake. You had to pick off the inedibly outer edges to make your way to the not-quite-so-hard interior.

I think I'd be just as happy to settle for the stuff just available in New York sometimes . . .

Speaking of which, we're contemplating a fall-ish NY weekend jaunt for our anniversary. Babbo or Esca are on tap for the Italian restayrant, but that still leaves lunches and one more dinner open. Any eG'ers reading this, please PM me suggestions. Also looking for good markets, food places, etc.

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By the way, that sex on plate cheese dish looks pretty damn sexy! I'm going to the mercato tommorow and getting some cashcavallo! My oregano has already gone to flower so I'm all set! See, you cannot talk about Sicily without mentioning sex. Its simply impossible.  :raz:

Hi, finally catching up on this thread. Is cashcavallo a sicilian cheese? The fried preparation reminded me of something I've seen done with Cypriot haloumi cheese, and cashcavallo sounds a lot like the Arabic term we use for a similar Lebanese cheese -- Kashkawan. There must be a connection there, either Arab or just Mediterranean. I find it really interesting.

What's funny is, my last name is Arabic, but I've had a number of Italians ask me if I am from southern Italy, as there is apparently a large population with the same name. I was looking on the Ellis Island site one time, and put my last name in out of curiousity -- there were as many people with my name from Italy as there were from Arab countries. Weird!

I think I need to buy Clifford Wright's Arab Sicily book now. BTW, as far as Sicilian couscous, Paula Wolfert posted a recipe yesterday on Chefzadi's blog.

That's an excellent book. And Paula's recipe is excellent as well and she offers some backstory to the preparation.

I very casually assumed that the North Africa Sicily connection began with the Saracens. But it was much earlier The Phoenicians (modern day Lebanese and Syrians) settled Carthage (Tunis) and quickly expanded to other ports into Algeria and one time Carthage rivaled Tyre in wealth.

Those chic Phoenicians were also accomplished seafarers trading with Mediterraneans on all sides of the Basin.

My last name Zadi is also found in Italy (mostly with Italian first names and just a few Arabic first names) more than in France. I know it's found throughout the Med, North Africa and the Middle East. Don't know where it originated exactly.


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Ciao Kevin!! I've been missing in action for a week or so. My house has been crammed with people...and either I've been cooking for them, or someone's needed the computer. Must be August in Italy! :biggrin:

What happened to doing Umbria?? :hmmm:

I love the sound of the watermelon gelee... I've done a few and they are lovely on a hot day. I'm still trying to find the time to make some cannoli to see if I get "stickage" on my new cannoli molds.

Alberto, thanks god for you and your cheese info! Caciocavallo appears in every single market, and its always some variation on the same theme. Very region specific with a very generic name is my take on it.

I know nothing about Basilicato ....even how to spell it is beyond me!

But I do know about A Mano Primitivo, and it is good! We've had such large armies of mouths to feed everyday, I've taken to going to the local cantina for 'fill-er-ups", and now, I'm craving something that comes with a cork!! :biggrin:

I loved the vegetables when we studied Calabria. Kevin do you have some info on roasting the vegetables over rock salt? Its a great way to do vegetables and I've been experimenting with all sorts of variations on it.

Those sweet onions just make a bland soup...try some sort of agro dolce with your walla-wallas. Secondo me.

OK, here are some of my requests for Calabria: pita in chiusa (a pastry, you make little pinwheels of nuts and raisins, and then pack them into a round pan and bake), the pasta that you make by wrapping it around a stalk of wheat, oh, and lots and lots of zucchini flowers!! :biggrin: Let me know if you need some recipes.

And I agree with I think its Judith Umbria, the cookbooks that are regional are superior to the compilations. Ciao Judith!! I'm Judith too, and I'm living in Umbria. Piacere! Kevin, can you read enough Italian to decipher recipes? There's a lovely book on Umbria I can ship off to you.

OK, and like what's for dinner???? :laugh:

And! my birthday is coming up...don't I get to suggest some sort of ingredient that you HAVE to work with?

(see...it was much easier when I was quiet!!)

ciao!! Happy Weekend...or Feroaugusto!!

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Hi, hathor. That makes Divina, you and me all within a pretty small area. You are in Montone and I am in Citta' di Castello. I will be in Montone for the plays next week, at least one night and sup at a quartiere.

I do regret being called a lurker when I just came on 2 days ago! I don't do quiet very well.

Anyway, another thing was the grilled cheese-- my experience is they are done in piastra, or on a solid grill. At one little hangout the piastra is shoved into the pizza oven and it does taste better there. I made the usual one night and was shocked at the fat that leaked out and haven't done it again. I do split and grill Tomino for vegetarian friends sometimes. I use a stickproof skillet. They have to be good for something.

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Judith's in Italy Unite!!!

Kevin, I am going to go to the Peperoncino Festival in Diamante , Calabria September 10th!!!

since I invented the Mostarda Mediterranean, that Dario Cecchini sells... when I worked there, and also several other piccante items!!! I love the heat..

October 2 for anyone in the area is Panzano Piccante... Dario has jus given space to 160 varieties of chili's from a researcher from the University of Pisa..

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Ciao, Giuditte!

I don't know if those cookbooks even have names! Mine seem to feature the name of the region prominently and probably the word cucina. I just leaf through them to be sure they are not in incomprehsible dialect and if they do not lean heavily on octopus, squid or guts and buy them. Couple of euro up to maybe 5 euro.

Once you get used to what they mean by a glass, qb and cucchiao, they are mostly simple recipes. I have yet to make a volcano of the flour, however. I make a lake in my Cuisinart.

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Hathor:

Good point on the onions, never heard that before. Regrettably I made a large batch of it and have had to live off it for the past week for lunches. But yeah, it's very bland; I get over it after about two spoonfuls.

I do not know about roasting veggies over salt.

My parents got me a Verona cookbook in Italian when they were there this spring. I can make my way through the recipes pretty well but I miss out on what I really like to read cookbooks for: background, history, storied behind each dish, etc.

What did you mean about Umbria?

Judith U, no offense at all meant by calling you a lurker . . . just meant I was amazed that my thread brought a new poster amongst us!

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For the inaugural meal in the new kitchen, a spread of Calabrese antipasti and elaborate contorni.

First up, we had a couple of spreads. One (on the left in the pic below) was maccu, another puree of dried favas. Unlike the austere Pugliese version, however, this time the beans were flavored with fennel seeds, chilies, onions, and dried oregano. The second dish (on the right) was murseddu, “Version 1”. Murseddu is a humble dish making use of the leftover parts of an animal, usually lamb, after it has been butchered. Purists take note: I won’t be making this with ‘nduja, the “sausage” of cured liver and lungs that is traditional to this part of Italy and often the choice ingredient in this dish. Nor did I even use fresh organ meats: this was based on a version Marlena di Blasi offers in Regional Foods of Southern Italy and is simply leg of lamb stewed with tomato paste, chilies, garlic, bay leaves, and read wine, then pureed in a food processor for a more refined texture.

Both of these items were served with grilled flatbread to spoon them over.

gallery_19696_582_3440.jpg

Next, stuffed peppers.

gallery_19696_582_47187.jpg

The stuffing was dried oregano, sardines (gotta use up that monster can I bought to cook Sicilian dishes with!) sundried tomatoes, bread crumbs, garlic, and pecorino.

The fourth dish was eggplant parmigiano.

gallery_19696_582_49651.jpg

Culinaria: Italy credits (unconvincingly) Calabria with this Italian-American classic. As I’ve mentioned before, I grill the eggplants for this dish, a tip I picked up from a vegetarian Italian cookbook. It lends the dish a lighter feel and a nice, smoky flavor. Layered with tomato sauce, basil that our new house's previous owner left behind (and is twice as big as my attentively cared-for batch:angry:), mozzarella, and parmigiano.

Dessert was cinnamon-ricotta gelato. I really like gelato made with ricotta: it creates a smooth, rich, luscious texture most like the gelati I’ve had in Italy.


Edited by Kevin72 (log)

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Sunday’s meal were a few more Italian-American classics by way of Calabria.

We started with “true fusilli” Puttanesca.

gallery_19696_582_97859.jpg

Can you tell I have new dishes to show off? :biggrin:

Fusilli’s traditional shape is a long strand of spaghetti wound up like a corkscrew. It is used a lot in both Calabria and Sicily, mainly, but I’ve seen it mentioned (and called something else) in Puglia. To make it by hand, you need to first roll out a single strand of spaghetti (itself a chore!), then wind it around a knitting needle and let it set up, and carefully remove it. You gotta be kidding me. Even I’m not that devoted, so instead, Rustichella d’Abruzzo came to my rescue.

Puttanesca sauce, an aromatic mixture is said to be named because it could be quickly whipped up by prostitutes and the smells would lure any man into their brothel. That’s one of many variations I’ve heard, and the most common. Garlic, anchovies, chilies, capers, olives, and tomatoes are gradually added one on top of the other and simmered.

I detect the faintest whiff of a feud with Naples running through Cucina di Calabria. Author Mary Amabile Palmer has a section on pizza, including the famous Margherita, which she vaguely says was created "In Southern Italy". When she discusses puttanesca, she says that Naples claims to have invented this sauce, but its flavors instantly say it's from Calabria. [Please note, Alberto, that by cooking this dish when I'm doing Calabria I am in no way endorsing that it, not Naples, invented the dish! :wink: ]

I have a confession to make here, and I hope it doesn’t lead to a knock on my door late at night: the first time I made this dish, I didn’t have the chilies it called for. I did have, and used, Tabasco sauce, and since then, whenever I’ve made this dish, I can’t not use it. It sends the perfect, vinegary, nearly smoky jolt right through the whole dish.

Chicken is outstanding when braised in this mixture, by the way.

The main was a variation on pork chops with “pickled” peppers from Erica de Mane’s book, Flavors of Southern Italy. She offers a tamer version that uses fresh peppers glazed with sherry vinegar and white wine, rather than the jarred, pickled kind. I used mild Hatch peppers, a varietal from New Mexico that has caught on like crazy here, and one of those few foods that is still very much attached to a specific time of the year: mid to late August. At any rate, the fresh peppers and onions retained some of their crunch and kept the dish vibrant and flavorful. With it, to mop up any runoff juices, we had roasted potatoes.

gallery_19696_582_45666.jpg

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I detect the faintest whiff of a feud with Naples running through Cucina di Calabria.  Author Mary Amabile Palmer has a section on pizza, including the famous Margherita, which she vaguely says was created "In Southern Italy". When she discusses puttanesca, she says that Naples claims to have invented this sauce, but its flavors instantly say it's from Calabria. [Please note, Alberto, that by cooking this dish when I'm doing Calabria I am in no way endorsing that it, not Naples, invented the dish!  :wink:

Scared :biggrin: ? What Amabile Palmer says about puttanesca makes perfectly sense to me. The flavors are much more Calabrese than Neapolitan. Who knows, maybe some nice ladies from Calabria offering their services in Naples brought it there.

I agree less on Margherita: there's plenty of good evidence that what we comonly call pizza today (not what goes as pizza in Southern Italy, that's at least 10 different things) developed in Naples. On the other hand I have no problem in seeing it as an item of Calabrese cuisine. I'm somewhat surprised how few writers (Italian and not) mention that since Southern Italy was an independent Kingdom for many centuries and it is therefore not surprising to have the two most important cities there, Naples and, in a lesser way, Palermo, as the places where the largest amount of culinary exchange took place. Immigrants from other regions of the kingdom would bring their traditions in and eventually they would export the Neapolitan food fashions back home. One just needs to have a look at how many places claim to have invented parmigiana di melanzane to have a good example of that. Never get into THAT discussion :laugh: .


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Yeh, the Naples pizza is most likely just a local adaption of the Spanish Coca. :wink:

Hogwash :biggrin: ! Coca is clearly an adaption of mexican maize tortillas, which clearly descend from Chinese pancakes, which in turn are inspired by asian naans, which derive from Mediterranean pitas which most definitely come from the Roman placenta and offa, which comes from the Greek plankuntos. Honestly Adam, didn't you know that everything came from Greece? Just like kimono!


Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.

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Yeh, the Naples pizza is most likely just a local adaption of the Spanish Coca. :wink:

hmmm, I wonder where the Algerians got their Cocas?

Does anyone know how Spanish cocas are prepared?


Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I think that Coca are Catalan, rather the Spanish (not sure on this point though, I think they are also found in Mexico). I have various recipes via Colman Andrews which I can look up later if you like.

that would be great. thank you Adam.

according to teresa de castro who contributed to the encyclpaedia of food and culture with an overview of the Iberian penisula flatbreads are a Moorish influence.

Cocas have different names in Algeria depending on the region. Some places they are simply called Kesra with whatever topping


I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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