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As I mentioned in my previous post most recently I spent 10 days in Naples/Italy. As a blooded gastronom I was really looking forward to discovering the best pizzeria/pizza of the town since the pizza is the most popular and best known creation of all Neapolitan cuisine. It soon became very popular among the people as well as barons or princes: it was even present in the Bourbon court. For instance King Ferdinand I experienced cooking pizza in Capodimonte’s porcelain ovens. After Italian unification, the new kings were also attracted by this southern food. The pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito created in 1889, in honour to queen Margherita of Savoy, is a nationalistic pizza, where the colours of the Italian flag were represented by the mozzarella (white), tomato (red) and basil (green). Since then this pizza is called the pizza Margherita.
Pizza can be cheap and nutritious, so it had great success very quickly. Sometimes pizza is made in home ovens, but the real Neapolitan pizza must be cooked in a wood-fired oven, hand-made by an able pizziaiolo who makes the dough disk thinner in the centre and thicker in the outer part; the ingredients and olive oil are rapidly spread on the disk, and with a quick movement the pizza is put on the shovel and then slid in the oven where it is turned around a few times for uniform cooking. I visited the three of the most famous restaurants:
Pizzeria da Matteo
It’s located at via Tribunale, zona Spaccanapoli. Long haunt of the rich and famous previous visitors include the Italian film star Marcello Mastroianni and more recently Clinton. Simple surroundings, tasty pizzas. Excellent prices and quick service. Mind you don’t bang your head going up the stars to the first floor.
Among the most famous pizzerias in Naples this is the most popular pizzeria. The decor is unpretentious and the main attraction is the excellent pizzas. Go armed with bags of patience-because queuing is part of the experience and almost obligatory.
Tradition has it that the mythical Margherita pizza was born here on 11 june 1889, so called in honour of Queen Margherita. One for the address book of all pizza connoisseurs. A good place to head for after a little light afternoon shopping since it is open from eight o’clock!
I ate this fantastic salad in Capri (Naples Bay) last week! It was like a flavor of summer. But anywhere you can enjoy (and any time of year) this fresh, Italian salad. It’s quick and easy to prepare.
Insalata Caprese-Capri style salad
In Italy, this salad is known as insalata caprese (Capri-style salad). It’s best in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. If you can get imported Buffalo mozzarella from Italy, use it, but domestic fresh mozzarella is fine, as well. Fresh mozzarella cheese is packed in water. It has a softer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor than the regular part-skim mozzarella that is more commonly used in cooking for its superior melting qualities.
Ingredients: buffalo mozzarella, huge red-green-white tomato, kosher salt, brushetta, basil leaves
Arrange 4 tomato slices and 2 mozzarella slices on each of 6 salad plates. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Top evenly with basil. Prepare brushetta: rub bagette slices or ciabatta bread with garlic, pour over some olive oil and put into the oven for 5-8 minutes until bruschettas are crispy.
I’m just back from my amazing Italian holiday but in my thoughts I’m still lingering in Naples. During my 10 days trip at the Naples bay and in Naples I’ve made many new discoveries and among was the loquat fruit or in Italian the Nespolo. When I tasted the ripe fruit I really liked its sensational aroma therefore I’d made some research about it. Here it is:
The loquat or nespolo belongs to the species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae, and native to south-central China. In the Neaples golf it was a large evergreen shrub or sometimes small tree, grown commercially for its yellow fruit, and also cultivated as an ornamental plant. It is also known as the Japanese medlar or Japanese plum, Chinese plum (in Japan it is called biwa, in Chinese it is called Lo Guat in Cantonese and pípa in Mandarin). In Hebrew it is called Sheseq, in Turkey it is known as malta eriği, meaning Maltese plum or yeni dünya, literally new world, while in Malta it is known as naspli. In Italian it is commonly known as Nespolo.
Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe in late winter or early spring. The flowers have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance. Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 3–5 centimetres long, with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes red-blushed skin. The succulent, tangy flesh is white, yellow or orange and sweet to subacid or acid, depending on the cultivar.
Self-fertile variants of the loquat include the ‘Gold Nugget’ and ‘Mogi’ cultivars. The loquat is easy to grow in subtropical to mild temperate climates where it is often primarily grown as an ornamental plant, especially for its sweet-scented flowers, and secondarily for its delicious fruit. The boldly textured foliage adds a tropical look to gardens, contrasting well with many other plants. It is popular in the American South as an ornamental plant for its blossoms, though winter frosts rarely allow the flowers to survive and bear fruit the following spring. There are many named cultivars, with orange or white flesh. Some cultivars are intended for home-growing, where the flowers open gradually, and thus the fruit also ripens gradually, compared to the commercially grown species where the flowers open almost simultaneously, and the whole tree’s fruit also ripens together. In temperate climates it is grown as an ornamental with winter protection, as the fruits seldom ripen to an edible state. In the United Kingdom, it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. In the highland parts of Central America, the loquat has become naturalized, and is often found growing wild in areas that have been disturbed but abandoned, its seeds having been dispersed by birds. Below 1000 meters, the fruit remains inedible for its high acidity, but above it, the wild fruit is appreciated and much harvested for its sweet, fruity flavor. It is occasionally planted for living fenceposts, as the tree is long-lived, not much subject to disease, and the wood is hard and durable. Good quality logs are much sought-after by furniture makers in Central America, who prize its hardness and durabilities.
The skin, though thin, can be peeled off manually if the fruit is ripe. In Egypt varieties with sweeter fruits and fewer seeds are often grafted on inferior quality specimens.
The fruits are the sweetest when soft and orange. The flavor is a mixture of peach, citrus and mild mango.The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts. The fruit is sometimes canned. The waste ratio, however, is 30 percent or more, due to the seed size. The fruit is also processed into confectioneries. Loquats are abundant in Pakistan, from Islamabad north, during the month of April, where the sour unripe fruit are used to make chutneys and sauces. Loquats can also be used to make light wine. It is fermented into a fruit wine, sometimes using just the crystal sugar and white liquor. In Italy nespolino is very popular. In Neaples the most popular to make nespolo liquer which is made from the seeds, reminiscent of nocino and amaretto, both prepared from nuts and apricot kernels. Both the loquat seeds and the apricot kernels contain cyanogenic glycosides, but the drinks are prepared from varieties that contain only small quantities so there is no risk of cyanide poisoning. Among the liqueur my husband “fell in love with” the sfogliatella pastry which is also made with nespolo oil and liqueur! To be honest the following recipe is quite an undertaking:
Sfogliatelle with nespolo oil (on the picture sfogliatelle is the third-first on the second tray from the left)
Ingredients for the dough: 3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, 3/4 cup water plus additional,1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened, 4 ounces lard (1/2 cup), softened
For the filling:3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/4 cups semolina flour, 3 large egg yolks,1 tablespoon vanilla and nespola and orange oil, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 cups fresh ricotta (1 pound),1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
Special equipment: a heavy-duty standing electric mixer with paddle attachment, a pasta machine, a small metal offset spatula, a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, and parchment paper
Methods: Make dough Mix together 3 cups flour and sea salt in bowl of mixer at moderately low speed, then beat in water. Gently squeeze a small handful of dough: It should hold together without falling apart. If it doesn’t, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, beating after each addition and continuing to test. Continue beating at moderately low speed until dough forms a ball, about 5 minutes (dough will not be smooth).
Halve dough and roll out each half into a rough 12- by 5-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick) with a rolling pin. Put dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Set smooth rollers of pasta machine at widest setting. Feed 1 piece of dough through rollers 6 times, folding in half each time. Feed remaining piece of dough through rollers in same manner.
Stack both pieces of dough and, using rolling pin, roll together to form 1 (1/2-inch-thick) piece. Feed dough through rollers 10 more times, folding in half each time. Fold dough in half crosswise, then fold in half again. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 8.
Beat together butter and lard in a bowl with mixer until pale and fluffy. Quarter dough. Keeping remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap, roll out 1 piece dough into a rough 4- by 8-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Feed rectangle through rollers of pasta machine (dust dough with flour as necessary to prevent sticking), making space between rollers narrower each time, until dough has gone through narrowest setting (dough strip will be about 4 feet long). Cover strip loosely with plastic wrap. Feed another piece of dough through rollers in same manner.
Put 1 dough strip on lightly floured surface and trim ends to make even. Spread 3 tablespoons lard butter evenly over strip with offset spatula. Gently stretch strip to 9 inches wide with your fingers, moving slowly down length of strip. Beginning at a short end, carefully and tightly roll up strip, stopping 1 inch before end, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Spread other dough strip with 3 tablespoons lard butter and stretch to 9 inches in same manner (do not roll up). Overlap 1 inch of a short end onto exposed end of first roll, then continue to roll up first roll to form a tight cylinder (about 9 inches long and 2 inches in diameter). Feed remaining 2 pieces of dough through rollers and make another tight cylinder in same manner. Wrap cylinders well in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 3 hours. Chill remaining lard butter.
Make filling: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add semolina flour in a slow steady stream, stirring, and cook, stirring, until mixture becomes a thick heavy paste, 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread 1/4 inch thick. Chill and covered with wax paper, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Tear semolina into pieces and mix in bowl of mixer at low speed to break up. Add yolks, vanilla, sea salt, and cinnamon and beat until smooth. Mix in ricotta and candied orange peel at low speed. Spoon into pastry bag and chill it.
Form pastries Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove remaining lard butter from refrigerator.
Working with 1 cylinder at a time, trim about 1/2 inch from each end, then cut cylinders into 3/4-inch-thick slices (about 12). Lay 1 slice flat on work surface and gently flatten into a 4-inch round with heel of your hand, starting in center and smearing out in all directions.
Form round into a cone Scrape carefully round off work surface with a knife or metal spatula. Put your thumbs underneath round and first two fingers of each hand on top, then gently push center upward with thumbs and simultaneously pull side downward with fingers, keeping layers overlapping slightly (imagine a collapsible travel cup).
Cup the cone in palm of your hand, pipe in about 3 tablespoons filling. Pinch edges of dough together to seal and put pastry on a baking sheet. Form and fill more sfogliatelle in same manner with remaining slices and remaining cylinder.
Brush sfogliatelle with some lard butter. Bake in batches in middle of oven (keep second batch covered with plastic wrap while first bakes), brushing with remaining lard butter twice during baking, until very crisp and golden brown, about 30 minutes total. Transfer pastries to a rack to cool slightly then serve.
For the rice with tomatoes: 200 g rice 10 coctail tomatoes, 1 tbsp tomato sauce, 1 clove garlic, salt, 1 tbsp agave, 1 tbsp fresh mint, lemon juice
Methods: Preheat oven for 180 grades
Wash the cauliflower and cut into slices (not too thin). Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and fry the cauliflower slices. Sprinkle with salt.
Prepare the marinade: Add 2 tablespoons of oil in a salad bowl, add cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and agave syrup. Mix all ingredients well. Soaté the cauliflower steaks on both sides, then arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub with a pinsel each steaks with the oil, put into the oven and bake until cauliflower steaks are crispy for 10-15 minutes.
Prepare the rice: Sauté the garlic in a little oil, then add the rice, pour over water, add salt and pepper (you can flavour with rice wine or lemon juice). Before the cooking is completed add tomatoes to rice, and 1 tbsp of canned tomato as well, season with salt and pepper, and add to taste 1 tablespoon of agave syrup. Serve cauliflower on the rice tomato bed and sprinkle with plenty of fresh mint and parsley.
Wakame is an edible seaweed, and it is virtually fat-free, low calorie and is one of the richest source of minerals in the vegetable kingdom. According to Seibin and Teruko Arasaki, authors of Vegetables from the Sea, “All of the minerals required by human beings, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron, and zinc are present in sufficient amounts. In addition, there are many trace elements in seaweeds.”
Wakame has a subtly sweet flavour and is most often served in soups and salads. Sea-farmers have grown it in Japan from the Nara period.
In Japan and Europe, wakame is distributed either dried or salted, and used in soups (particularly miso soup), and salads (tofu salad), or often simply as a side dish to tofu and a salad vegetable like cucumber. These dishes are typically dressed with soy/sesame sauce and rice vinegar.
Wakame fronds are green and have a subtly sweet flavour and satiny texture. Tip: the leaves should be cut into small pieces as they will expand during cooking. This salad is super crunchy and refreshing!
3⁄4 ounce dried wakame seaweed (whole or cut)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Soak seaweed in warm water to cover, 5 minutes. Drain, rinse then squeeze out excess water. If wakame is uncut, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Stir together vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pepper flakes, ginger, and garlic in a bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add the seaweed, scallions, carrots, and cilantro, tossing to combine well. Sprinkle salad with sesame seeds.
Ingredients for the asparagus:
Yam/batata or sweet poato is the most common food in many African countries where it is regarded as a staple food crop but it is also native to the tropical regions in America.
In Africa it is mainly served for breakfast, eaten with peanut sauce. In Asia it is a street food during winter. In Japan people like sweet potato soup very much which consists of boiling sweet potato in water with rock sugar and ginger. Steaming sweet potatoes is also a common cooking method in Japan. Also, the use in vegetable tempura is common. Because it is sweet and starchy, it is used in imo-kinton and some other sweets such as wagashi, ofukuimo or daigaku-imo which is a baked sweet potato dessert. Shōchū, a Japanese spirit normally made from the fermentation of rice, but it can also be made from sweet potato, in which case it is called imo-jōchū.
In Philippine sweet potato is also used in a variant of halo-halo, where it is cooked in coconut milk and sugar and mixed with a variety of rootcrops, sago, jackfruit and bilu-bilo. In USA bread made from sweet potato flour is gaining great popularity.
For the chimichurri dip:
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 handful fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 bunch of fresh coriander
4 pieces yams or sweet potatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chili con carné: 200 gr minced meat (or only kidney bean), 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 red bell paprika, 1 can of kidney bean, 200 ml tomato juice or 3-4 tbsp of ketchup, 4 ounces low-fat Feta cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and onto an oven rack. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork tender.
2. Meanwhile in a deep sauté pan heat olive oil and cook the onion and the finelly chopped red bell paprika for 2-to 3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic too and cook for one more minute. Add the minced meat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Finally pour over kidney bean and flavor dish with oregano, coriander and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste and add some tomato juice.
3. For the dip combine the garlic, jalapeno and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the parsley, oregano, coriander and lime juice or raspberry wine vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to marry.
4. When the sweet potatoes are cooked let them cool for 5 minutes. Carefully slice each one in half and scoop out inside of potato flesh. Add to the chili con carné, salt and pepper and mix together. Place potatoes onto plates fill with the bean or bean and meat chili con carné and serve with the chimicurri sauce.
A rum baba or baba au rhum is a small yeast cake saturated in hard liquor, usually rum, and sometimes filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. It is most typically made in individual servings (about a two-inch-tall, slightly tapered cylinder) but sometimes can be made in larger forms similar to those used for Bundt cakes. The batter for baba is even richer than brioche batter, and includes eggs, milk and butter.
The origin of the Baba au Rum
The original baba was introduced into France in the 18th century via Alsace and Lorraine. This is attributed to Stanisław Leszczyński, the exiled king of Poland. The Larousse Gastronomique has reported that Stanislas had the idea of soaking a dried Gugelhupf (a cake roughly similar to the baba and common in Alsace-Lorraine when he arrived there) or a baba with alcoholic spirit. Another version is that when Stanislas brought back a baba from one of his voyages it had dried up. Nicolas Stohrer, one of his pâtissiers (or possibly just apprentice pâtissiers at the time), solved the problem by addition of adding Malaga wine, saffron, dried and fresh raisin and crême pâtissière. The writer Courchamps stated in 1839 that the descendants of Stanislas served the baba with a saucière containing sweet Malaga wine mixed with one sixth of Tanaisie liqueur.
Nicolas Stohrer followed Stanislas’s daughter Marie Leszczyńska to Versailles as her pâtissier in 1725 when she married King Louis XV, and founded his pâtisserie in Paris in 1730. One of his descendants allegedly had the idea of using rum in 1835. While he is believed to have done so on the fresh cakes (right out of the mold), it is a common practice today to let the baba dry a little so that it soaks up better. Later, the recipe was refined by mixing the rum with aromatized sugar syrup.
In 1844, the Julien Brothers, Parisian pâtissiers, invented the “Savarin“, which is strongly inspired by the baba au rhum but is soaked with a different alcoholic mixture and uses a circular (ring) cake mold instead of the simple round (cylindrical) form. The ring form is nowadays often associated with the baba au rhum as well, and the name “Savarin” is also sometimes given to the rum-soaked circular cake.
The baba was later brought to Naples by French cooks and became a popular Neapolitan specialty under the name babà or babbà. And finally the pastry has appeared on restaurant menus in the United States since 1899 or if not earlier.
Ingredients: 5 tablespoons lukewarm milk (100 to 115 degrees), plus 1 tablespoon milk
1/2 ounce fresh yeast
1 pound 2 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for forming dough
1 tablespoon coarse salt
6 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, plus more for molds
1/4 cup superfine sugar
Nonstick cooking spray
Whipped Cream, for serving (optional)
Cherries, for serving (optional)
- Place milk and yeast in a small bowl; stir to dissolve.
- Place flour, salt, and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with dough hook attachment; add yeast mixture and mix on low speed to combine and knead, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula; knead on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar. Add a few small pieces of butter mixture to dough; with the mixer on low, add remaining butter mixture, a little bit at a time. When all the butter mixture has been added, increase speed and continue mixing until smooth, shiny, comes away from the sides of the bowl, and is elastic, 6 to 10 minutes.
- Butter a large bowl, transfer dough to prepared bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
- Lift dough from bowl and drop back into bowl to deflate; repeat process once or twice. Cover bowl and transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
- Butter 20 5-ounce baba molds and place on a baking sheet. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces; pinch each piece of dough to form balls. Place each ball of dough into prepared molds.
- In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Brush dough with egg yolk mixture, reserving remaining. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray; cover dough, cooking spray-side down, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees in a convection oven (425 degrees in a conventional oven).
- Working from the outside inward, brush each baba very lightly with reserved egg yolk mixture. Transfer molds to oven and bake until baba just begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees (if using a convection oven; 400 if using a conventional oven) and continue baking until deep golden-brown and internal temperature reaches 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes more.
- Remove from oven and let cool in mold for 5 minutes. Unmold onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Poke bases of babas all over with a toothpick. Working in batches, gently drop babas into hot rum syrup, submerging completely; let soak until there are no more bubbles. Place on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining baba; serve drizzled with additional rum syrup, whipped cream, and cherries, if desired. (The modern baba au rhum (rum baba), with dried fruit and soaking in rum, was invented in the rue Montorgueil in Paris, France, in 1835 or before. Today, the word “baba” in France and almost everywhere else outside Eastern Europe usually refers specifically to the rum baba.)