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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cinque Terre & more to love: food & wines!!

Dear friends,

Well you know by now that I really love Cinque Terre and the beauty of its landscape. But if you go and visit it I will assure you that you will also love his food and, if you like wine, its wines!!

Some of my favorite dishes of the Cinque Terre are the Anchovies of Monterosso. Those are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The 'cotoletta di acciuga', anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb based filling and then fried is a delicious typical dish.
Another of my favorites is the 'frittelle di bianchetti', fritters made from tiny newborn anchovies or sardines.
Following the seamen's gastronomic traditions, other delicious dishes typical of the Cinque Terre are stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.
Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed, baked.
So if you like shellfish and fish…this is the place to be!!

The mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, and olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese.
Even though you can buy Pesto everywhere in the world, the one that you taste here is somehow better!! Maybe is the beauty of the Cinque Terre?


Focaccia is also a particularly common locally baked bread product, and are super yummy if you ask me!! Vegetable pies, 'torte di verdura' are prepared with a stuffing containing borage (borago officinalis), parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes, and leeks are combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family's traditions), parmesan cheese. I have tried so many of them…all very delicious!! The piecrust is very thin, because flour was a very precious commodity. Well I can tell you that…they are heavenly yummy!!

Rice pie, or 'torta di riso' is another specialty of every grandma in the region of the Cinque Terre. In Monterosso this rice pie is made even more delectable by adding a bit of dried mushrooms to the filling. I had Grandma Gilda making one for us while there….delicious!

Farinata is also a typical snack that you can find in bakeries and pizzerias. Essentially it is a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chickpea flour. A regional specialty and, even if not my super favorite, kind of delicious!! Wirth to try!!

The cuisine of the Cinque Terre almost perfectly conserves the characteristics of yesteryear; the respect for the flavors and fragrances of the primary ingredients.
One of my favorite things in Cinque Terre is Trofie, a kind of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and is one of the forefathers of modern and more sophisticated pasta. Its condiment is still pesto sauce.
The combinations of those flavors together….you should really try it!! You will love it!!


The fame of the Cinque Terre is largely due to its products, and wine is for sure one of the most famous!!



I’m not a wine drinker so for this subject I had to ask my dad’s help. He told me that the most popular are a dry white wine, simply called 'Cinque Terre' and the 'Sciacchetrà', a prized dessert wine made from prime grapes dried to the point of holding only a few drops of sweet juice.

A colorful addition to the Cinque Terre products is 'limoncino'; a dessert wine made from steeping lemon peels in pure alcohol and then adding sugar and water to make a fragrant and fresh liquor. I tried this one…and I truly loved it!!
The lemons are another famous product of the Cinque Terre prominently on display in the many 'limoneti' (lemon groves) and at the annual Lemon Festival held each year in Monterosso during the season of Pentacost. It’s such a colorfull happy event. The yellow of the lemons under the sharpe sunlight, the music the view….that’s amore for sure!!


Another very beautiful thing to see in the Cinque Terre are The Sentieri dell'Uva (Grape Routes). They are still as they once were with fig trees planted in strategic positions to give shade during breaks from work, agaves planted to mark boundaries, to line the footpaths along steep, stony steps and to indicate the rail terminals of the recently installed monorails which are the only vertical structures emerging from this seemingly completely, horizontal landscape. Many dry stonewalls support this terraced landscape. There are large wicker baskets of grapes (corbe) arranged along the "pose" (little walls, as wide as tables, built solely for this purpose. While in Cinque Terre this was for sure one of the favorite places for us to stroll around!! Beautiful!! Like time has stand still here!! Magic place!!


I know now, thanks to Dad that very popular grapes for this kind of wine are Albarola (Trebbiana), Biancorotto, Bruciapagliaio, Piccabon (Pizzamosca).
The Cinque Terre is also famous for white grapes most popular are the Fiore di Bosco, Rappolungo, Fogiaccia, Ruspara, and Sesagra. Baskets full of Magnagra (Albarola), from which the famous Black Sciacchetrà is made, are handled with extreme care and set to one side.
Dad keep saying I should taste this one since is super great….of well I may do that next time I visit!

The Cinque Terre grape tracks reach down to the sea. In the past, people used to anchor small fishing boats called "gozzi" immediately below the terraced vineyards. Baskets laden with grapes were then lowered from above into these small boats, which then sailed round to the otherwise inaccessible village.
Nowadays this method is nothing but a distant memory but by visiting the Cinque Terre people is still able to sample some of the most prized wines of the world that have been created by centuries of backbreaking experience. I’m not a wine drinker…but I can tell you that seeing the appreciation of my dad and his friends, the wines are exquisite.

In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include also grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking. Well Grappa is also a typical drink in Venice, and we love to put a drop of it in our espresso!!

I really can’t wait to go back to the Cinque Terre: it’s a piece of Paradise on hearth!!



And here is a recipe for the Torta di Riso: easy and delicious!!

Serves 10
Ingredients
4 cups water
4 cups whole milk
7 oz sugar
Zest of one lemon
Salt to taste
16 oz. Carnaroli rice
4 tablespoons butter
6 eggs
3½ oz almonds
0.7 fluid oz Maraschino liqueur
Procedure
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
Bring the water, milk, sugar, lemon zest and salt to a boil. Add the rice and
cook until the all the liquid is absorbed, strain, and place on a cookie sheet to
allow the mixture to cool.
Once the rice has cooled, place in a large bowl. Add the butter, eggs and
almonds, mix well and pour batter in the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove cake from oven and allow to it cool completely.
Once cooled, brush cake with maraschino liqueur and serve.

Buon dolce a tutti!!



Stay tuned for my new blog “ Italian Romance in Pittsburgh”.
I will also start to write soon a new daily blog about music !! Stay tuned!!

Love always,

Un abbraccio a tutti,

Giada