Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lasagna Pizza Step-by-Step - 50 Kalo', (Na)

A few months back, I had a chance to try a few pizzas that were about to make their way on 50 Kalo's winter menu.  One of the new items that caught my eye - and taste buds - was pizza maker Ciro Salvo's lasagna pizza. It seemed to me to be an exciting/interesting mix combining two of my favorite foods.
Fast forward to last evening, when the desire for pizza and a craving for lasagna hit hard. So, while Neapolitans rushed to their favorite grocery stores/markets/butchers/pasta makers to pick up ingredients to prepare their version of lasagna, a traditional  Fat Tuesday-Carnivale must, I decided to make my way to 50 Kalo', cozy up next to a wood burning pizza oven and watch Salvo in action.
So here it is...
Lasagna Pizza step-by-step...

Step 1 - Salvo extends his pizza dough on his marble work station

Step 2 -  He then begins to add the classic lasagna ingredients such as generous amount of ricotta cheese

Tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes 

ground marchigiana beef

Fior di latte from Agerola, a sprinking of Grana Padano DOP cheese (aged 24 months), and fresh basil...

Step 3- 1-2 minutes in a wood burning oven and eat!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Migliaccio Memories, La Bifora , Bacoli (Na)

Chef Michele Grande's eyes lit up when I saw him a couple of weeks ago and asked him about traditional Carnevale recipes that he enjoyed as a child. Those same eyes even seemed to dance  a bit when he the conversation turned to migliaccio, a Neapolitan carnivale custard that he would devour when prepared by his mom, Sigrnora Maria Cristina.
The classic Neapolitan recipe calls for semolina and ricotta cheese, but in Bacoli - Chef Grande's hometown - they prepare it a little differently.  I was curious, so the chef suggested I swing by La Bifora and get a sneak peak at his childhood migliaccio memories.

Chef Michele Grande and Signora Maria Cristina

So, there I was, a couple of weeks later, back in the kitchen, ready to watch, take notes and of course...taste.  Chef Grande had already put the water on to cook the pasta.  In Bacoli, he told me, they use very thin spaghetti, not semolina.

Cooked spaghetti was added to a bowl with sugna - lard.  Grande stirred while his mom beat eggs to add to the mixture just as it cooled down.

Then?  Eggs, a bit of sugar,  anise liqueur, limoncello, and vanilla were added.

Amazing aromas wafted up as Grande continued to stir and stir and stir. Until finally he and his mom were satisfied.  It was ready to be cooked.  Signora Maria Cristina told me that some cook their migliaccio in the oven, but she prefers to fry it.

The procedure is similar to that of making a frittata.  The mixture is poured into an oiled non stick pan.

This is where experience comes into play.  Grande and his mom took turns checking to make sure they weren't cooking too quickly or  that they weren't sticking to the pan,

Then, when they were satisfied, Chef Grande flipped the migliaccio over with the help of a large plate so that they could continue to cook on the other side.

Finally the migliaccio cakes were ready.  As soon as they cooled down a bit, Grande added a bit of powdered sugar, cut me a slice, and  handed me a fork.

As he did, I was sure I saw his eyes light up as they had done a couple of weeks earlier...
No wait...
They were dancing.
And after a bite or two, I understood why.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pit Stop - Hot Chocolate and Chiacchiere Le Colonne Style

Last Sunday afternoon I had lunch in Caserta . On  my way back home, I decided to make a pit stop.  A pit stop which included a steaming mug of hot chocolate, you know...made with real chocolate.  A pit stop which included serving or two of chiacchiere; strips of fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. A pit stop at Le Colonne Restaurant, located a stone's throw from the amazing Caserta palace dating back to the 18th century.
There I met Michelin star chef Rosanna Marziale who came up with the cool idea of setting up a food trailer in the small piazzetta right in front of the family's restaurant.  And with a  super chic trailer on loan from a friend, Valeria Fusco, she decided to go for it.  Why not? It would be the perfect opportunity for Sunday strollers like me to stop by and pick up some of the restaurant's famous dolci, in particular Carnevale specialties such as castagnole (sweet dough balls)  or the chiacchiere that caught my eye.

The future?
The sky's the limit for Marziale.
In the meantime, Sunday pit stops at Le Colonne Restaurant are highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Snapshot of the Day - Il Sole nel Piatto, Pepe in Grani, Caiazzo (Ce)

It had been raining for a week.  A cold winter rain, that honestly, began to get quite old for those of us who are used to that Napoli sunshine.  It was coming down quite hard with strong gusts of wind on that  Saturday afternoon as I confirmed my Sunday lunch reservation at Pepe in Grani in Caserta.  I hadn't seen Pizza maker Franco Pepe since last summer, and quite honestly I was looking forward to going back to visit a friendly pizzeria that serves some of THE best pizza in the country.
Caiazzo is about an hour's drive from my home  and as my son and I hit the road that rainy cloudy morning,we were already thinking about which pizza we wanted.  My son loves the classics, so he wanted a Margherita.  I, instead, was still a little undecided.
Undecided until the sun came out...and that strong wind that was blowing managed to push the grey clouds away.  As we parked our car and headed towards the pizzeria in the tiny centro storico I had made up my mind.
Il Sole nel Piatto, I said enthusiastically when Pepe asked me what I wanted for lunch.  Sunshine on a plate! 
A pizza topped with tomatoes from Mt Vesuvius, oregano from nearby Matese, black olives from Caiazzo, anchovies from Cetara (where else :-) ), and fresh basil.
Top ingredients gathered together on Franco's famous pizza dough.
What a day of Sole...nel mio piatto!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Serendipity - Comfort Food in the Cuore of a Cantina, Fattoria Alois (Ce)

Wikipedia: Serendipity means  a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. 

After a full morning's winter pruning lesson at Fattoria Alois in Pontelatone (Ce) it was time for a glass or six of wine and something to eat. 
And there was plenty to eat like this dish prepared by Talita De RosaTotal comfort food starring potatoes, sausage, and broccoli greens. First De Rosa boils peeled potatoes, then drains the water and waits for them to cool down.  Once cool, she mashes them and mixes them up with  a bit of salt and pepper. Then she places the potatoes in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day, she sautes broccoli greens with extra-virgin olive oil and garlic in a pan.  She does the same with sausage. Afterwards, she mixes the cooked sausage with the greens.  
In a baking pan (previously greased with extra-virgin olive oil) she alternates three layers of comfort- f potato mixture,  sausage/green mixture, potato mixture.  It all goes into a preheated 180 degree Celsius oven for 30 minutes.

We paired it with a fresh, young Caulino  Falanghina 2013.
Can you think of anything more comfortable?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Andiamotrips Auld Lang Syne - My Top Eno-gastronamic Adventures in 2014 - Part 1

January has always been a month for many to not only think of new resolutions for the upcoming year, but to look back on the last 12 months.
I decided to do both - beginning with a look back on some awesome memories from 2014. Where do I begin?  There was quite a bit going on...
Like my Snapshot series which is basically a fusion of my photography, wine tastings, and dinners.  In 2014, I managed to put together 4 different photo exhibits throughout Campania.
Here's a look back:

January 2014 -  Snapshot of a Territory with Cantina Di Meo and Chef Gianluca D'Agostino at Veritas Restaurant.

My first snapshot of the year focused on Fiano di Avellino.  The photos from this exhibit focused on two memorable visits with winemaker Roberto di Meo during the 2013 harvest period in Salza Irpina (Av).  I thought it would be pretty neat to team up his wines with Chef D'Agostino's menu.  A chef who though lives in Naples, has strong ties with Irpinia.  Memorable moments? The chef's squid with creamy cauliflower and the 'world premiere' of Di Meo's Selezione Erminia Di Meo Fiano di Avellino DOC 2000.

June 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory with Mastroberardino Winery and Chef Roberta Alloca at Relais Blu.

  My next snapshot was a look back at nearly 4 years of vineyard hopping.  I pulled together photos of my visit to the various Fiano, Falanghina  and Greco vineyards belonging to the Mastrobeardino Winery.  I thought it would be neat to taste their wines alongside Piero Mastrobeardino at Relais Blu - a restaurant with one of the most spectacular sunsets in Campania.  I also knew that Chef Roberto Allocca dishes would match up perfectly.  Memorable moments? A glass of Morabianca Falanghina 2013 alongside amazing appetizers. Seeing my photos displayed throughout Relais Blu wasn't so shabby, either. :-)

June 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory - Falerno Del Massico with Villa Matilde, Az. Agricola Gennaro Papa, Masseria Felicia, and Viticoltori Migliozzi.

This was a exhibit put together with photos taken during March of 2014.  An exhibit that took me to a territory outside of my comfort zone. Outside of my zone primarily because I visited wineries that I had never been to before in my vineyard hopping adventures.  These wineries are located in the Caserta province.  I visited Aglianico and Primitivo vineyards and tasted wines that deserve to be discussed at length.  And thanks to Villa Matilde and the Confraternita del Falerno, on June 20th I was able to display my black and white snapshots at a dinner with about 80 guests.  Memorable moments?  Sharing the spotlight with four different wineries while tasting some amazing reds.

August 2014 - Snapshot of a Territory - Il Fiano di Montefredane with Villa Diamante, Pietracupa, and Vadieaperti/Traerte. 

 Back to what many believe is my first love - in version bianco.  Fiano di Avellino.  When I was asked to participate in WIne Fredane, Third Edition in some capacity or another, I believed the best way would be to put together another photo exhibit focusing on the three wineries that are located in the small community of Montefredane in Avellino.  Memorable moments?  My snapshots displayed on the lawn of Tenuta Ippocrate.  A wine tasting featuring older vintages of Fiano di Avellino going back as far as 1993.

As I look back on Snapshot, I can't help to get excited about what's ahead...
Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vineyard Hopping, Boscotrecase (Na), Az. Agricola Sorrentino

A suggestion from a chef friend of mine and a glass of wine in one of Napoli's top pizzerias that ignited that spark  inside and led me towards Mt Vesuvius one late November morning. It led me to Boscotrecase, a small town in the shadow of the sleeping volcano, a stones throw from the ancient ruins of Pompeii.
It led me to a visit to the vineyards of Azienda Agricola Sorrentino.
Upon arrival, I took a brief glance at the colorful panorama that surrounds the winery's  restaurant, reception area and tasting rooms.  Breathtakingly beautiful on that  warm yet foggy fall morning. A light drizzle did not dissuade me from heading towards my appointment with Maria Paola Sorrentino who happily showed me around the vineyards as she shared with me the story of her family's winery.
Maria Paola Sorrentino
 A story which began with her grandmother who, though a city girl, fell in love with a small piece of land.  Fell in love with agriculture, wine, and the contandina way of life.  Her grandmother who ignited a spark herself while working a small piece of land which over the years has expanded into nearly 75 acres of vineyards - the largest in the area.
The light drizzle ceased for awhile as we stopped in one of the piedirosso vineyards.  Grapes from this particular vineyard (along with aglianico) are used to help produce the family's  red wine version of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio DOC.  Although the harvest had been completed nearly a month earlier, there will still leaves adorning the vines.  There were even a few bunches of grapes left behind for wine tourists curious to see what a piedirosso grape looks like.

Each step led from one story to another.  Like as when we passed under a trellis of vines with one in particular.  A piedirosso vine that was over one hundred years old.  Th only one on the property that had withstood the last volcanic eruption back in 1944.

Or when she pointed out what seemed like little tombstones, but where really boundary stones which marked the lines between the various pieces of property.

Under this trellis was the perfect place for the family to plant tomatoes.  In fact, the property also grows vegetables like eggplant and zucchini which are used in a variety of recipes in their restaurant. Continuing our passeggiata, we even ran into Zio Antonio, an expert mushroom hunter.  A perfect time for me to join in on the hunt...
and bingo!

There was plenty to see in the family vineyards.  Coda di volpe and falanghina for example.  

A museum in progress complete with farming tools, antiques, copper pots and pans, etc etc.

It was time to head back towards the restaurant/tasting room (the actual cantina is a few kilometers away) to meet up with the rest of the family, which included Maria Paola's father Paolo Sorrentino, her mother, her brother Giuseppe and her sister enologist Benny Sorrentino. And after a little aperitif  with  Do'Re', a Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Spumante (Charmat method) produced with coda di volpe and falanghina grapes.  

Then it was time for a casual wine tasting over lunch with the family. The winery has a wide range of wines but I decided to stick with their local favorites.  We began with a glass of organically produced Verso- Bianco pompeiano IGT produced with 100% falanghina grapes.

This is one of five wines that they produce that are certified organic and part of their Versacrum line.
The parade of whites continued, each poured by Benny Sorrentino who gave me complete play by play on each wine, grape variety, and vinification process between sips of wine and bites of food.
Whites such as 

Vigna Lapillo Bianco 2013.  A white produced from their Lapillo vineyard and part of the family's Prodivi project. A blend of coda di volpe and falanghina grapes whose vinification process includes 6 to 8 months on the lees.  A comfortable delicious bianco.  I tasted the 2011 as well.

Another white that I tried was Catalo' produced with autochthonous grape catalanesca grapes.  Some ageing in wood.

 I tried an older vintage of Nati'.  Coda di volpe is Campania's little secret and a taste of their 2010 was evidence of how this variety ages quite nicely.
Benny Sorrentino
I was ready to move onto some red wines so we began with another organic wine...

7 Moggi, their piedirosso IGT 2013 version.
Then I enjoyed myself with the following interpretations of the territory...

 This red I was familiar with.  It was the wine that pulled me here that Saturday morning.  I wrote about it here.  My favorite assaggio of the day.  Piedirosso 80%, aglianico 20%.

 This 100% piedirosso wine is another part of their evolving Prodivi line.

The last red that I tried was Don Paolo Aglianico IGT 2010.  100% aglianico grapes with a flavor all its own.  Much different to the aglianico wines I've tasted from Irpinia or Benevento thanks to the volcanic sandy soil.  A powerful full bodied wine, like it's namesake, Paolo Sorrentino who sat across from me at lunch.

He was there alongside  my chef friend Eduardo Estatico. We put him to work to whip up a pasta dish starring those amazing chiodini mushrooms that we hunted down earlier.

Chef Eduardo Estatico

I tasted other Campania specialties during the meal such as sausage and friarelli greens and provolone del monaco cheese with a spoonful of honey.

We took a last stroll around the vineyard before dessert and after dinner drink.  The drizzle had begun again but that was okay.  It was okay because the spark that had ignited inside of me earlier was now in full blaze.  I had found a family winery who was honestly open to share their hospitality, knowledge of territory, and wonderful wines with me that day.  I found a winery who was not only serious about winemaking, but also wine tourism as well with a well developed web site (in English!) including an e commerce where wine lovers stateside can order wines directly. I found a winery who worked closely with local tour guides and has even added a couple of short term rental apartments immersed in the vineyards for that wine tourist who wants something different.

Back inside, I had a bite or two of baba' and a glass of Fior di Ginestre dessert wine (falanghina and coda di volpe 70/30) and reflected on my day.  

And made a mental note or two on when to come back.
With friends.
 Like the ones I made that day.

Azienda Agricola Sorrentino
Via Fruscio, 2
80042 Boscotrecase (Na)