View Original Article March 8 is International Woman's Day, and is an occasion for considerable celebration in Italy.
Not familiar with L'8 Marzo? Like many other days set aside to celebrate the rights of workers, the International Woman's Day's origins are American: At the turn of the last century women were entering the workforce in record numbers in the United States, and began to agitate for better working conditions and pay, as well as the vote. In 1908 the Socialist women of the US held demonstrations for improved working conditions, better pay, and suffrage on February 28. On February 28 1909 several thousand women turned out in Manhattan, and during the same winter the women working in the sweatshops struck for better conditions and pay, with the support of the Woman's Trade Union, which provided bail money and food.
American women continued to observe February 28 as Woman's Day, while in 1910 the delegates of the Socialist International Meeting in Copenhagen voted unanimously to establish an International Women's Day, without setting a specific date.
So in 1911 the women of Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland demonstrated on March 19, and it is estimated that more than a million people participated. A week later, on March 25, in Manhattan the Triangle fire claimed the lives of more than 140 workers, mostly immigrant girls -- there was only one fire escape for the hundreds of people trapped in the burning floors -- and the newspaper accounts led to calls for reform, while tying the fire to the struggle for women's rights in popular imagery. (For more information, including heart-rending newspaper accounts, see the Triangle Fire pages).
Yearly demonstrations continued, becoming associated with the peace movements that formed as a response to the gathering clouds of war in Europe; in particular, Russian women settled on February 28 as the day for their demonstrations. And continued to demonstrate during the war; despite opposition from other activists, on the last Sunday of February -- the 23rd -- 1917 they went on strike to protest conditions at home and the more than 2 million war dead. They called for "bread and peace," and four days later the Czar capitulated; one of the first things the provisional government did was grant women the right to vote. The date, February 23 on the Julian calendar then used in Russia, was March 8 in the Gregorian calendar used elsewhere, and that's why International Woman's Day is March 8.
In Italy it's an occasion for meetings, talks, and demonstrations, and men traditionally give women a sprig of mimosa, with its bright yellow blossoms, to mark the occasion. I'm off to buy Daughter Clelia and Wife Elisabetta theirs.
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I was searching the Web the other day for bruschetta, and came across an entry for "chicken bruschetta." It struck me as odd, because I'd never heard of bruschetta di pollo, which is what it would (roughly) be in Italian. So I clicked on the link and discovered it is a grilled chicken breast with a topping.
While an Italian might like a grilled chicken breast with a topping, few in Italy would think to call it bruschetta, for the simple reason that the word bruschetta means a rustic slice of country bread that has been bruscato, or toasted, and then rubbed with a slice of garlic. Antonio Piccinardi says the practice of toasting and garlicking slices of bread began between the Abruzzo and Lazio, and subesquently spread to other parts of Italy, gaining the dusting of salt and the drizzle of olive oil as it went.
While Bruschetta made this way is still one of the finest fall antipasti and the perfect way to enjoy newly pressed olive oil (in about a month), Italians do now also enrich their bruschetta with finely chopped tomatoes, or cooked white beans (especially in Tuscany and Umbria), or with kale, at which point the bruschetta becomes cavolo con le fette.
But as I said, I don't personally know anyone in Italy who makes Bruschetta di Pollo. Yet -- Google did turn up one recipe for Bruschetta di Pollo on a site called "A Tutto Pollo" -- Solid Chicken -- which says it is a "Piatto light e molto mediterraneo," A light very mediterranean dish, and the use of a trendy English word in the description speaks volumes. If the recipe catches on, we may yet talk of Bruschetta di Pollo in Italy, though I rather expect most people will continue to call the dish Petti grigliati alla...
In the meantime, if you want to try Chicken Bruschetta (written up in English), Linda's recipe looks quite nice.
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You might not think it, but ricotta is one of the more versatile Italian ingredients, working very well in fillings for pasta, fillings for vegetables, and also in pasta sauces and dishes such as lasagna, and that's just the savory side of the equation. It's also wonderful in cheesecakes and puddings, and if you don't feel like cooking, good fresh ricotta is very nice with a drizzle of good olive oil, salt, pepper, crusty bread, and a class of wine.
Cabbage is, like most everything else in Italy, both seasonal and regional. The leafy head cabbages are more of a northern thing because they do best with cold winter temperatures of a sort that are rarer in the south.
And yes, heads of Savoy Cabbage are beginning to appear in the markets. Given that it's quite soon for them, I'm not sure if they're Italian, but they are nice. A couple of ideas:
View Original Article Bell peppers are one of the finest summer vegetables, but are also very nice come fall, when it cools enough that one actually feels like turning on the oven (we don't have air conditioning in our house), and can therefore bake the peppers after stuffing them. A few ideas:
Potatoes may be from the Americas, but it's difficult to imagine Italian (or any other European cuisine) without them.
Italians fry them, mash them, dice tham and add them to the roasting pan, and in the past when frugality was more important, would simply boil them and eat them with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
Then there are gnocchi, stuffed pasta dishes, and other preparations, for example soups, which gain considerable creaminess from the addition of a potato or two.
These potatoes were in Florence's Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio, and have a rather non-commercial look to them -- the potatoes one finds in bags in the supermarket hare generally much better washed.
Moving in a slightly different direction, the latest addition to the site is a collection of Italian peasant foods, what are generally called Ii>Cucina Povera -- Traditional, inexpensive, often one-course meals enjoyed by Italy's rural population in the days when meats were a treat for special occasions.
View Original Article Chicken is one of the most popular meats in Italy, and even though much of what is now sold is commercially raised, it is tasty. And then, if one is lucky enough to come across a true free-range bird that foraged in the barn yard, well. Heaven on earth! What to do with it?
If it's not so hot, pollo alla cacciatora, or chicken cacciatore is quite nice. Though many recipes are extremely elaborate, I like Artusi's simple recipe. A close relative would be Pollo alla Marengo, the dish Napoleon enjoyed after a great victory in Piemonte. Or you could cream your chicken, if you want something more delicate.
Cipolle di Tropea are sweet onions that owe their sweetness (as do Vidalias from what I understand) to the terrains upon which they are grown, in the communes of Nicotera and Campora San Giovanni, in the Province of Cosenza (Calabria) and along the Tyrrhenian coast, between Briatico and Capo Vaticano.
They're beautiful to look at and very nice in salads too, or served with boiled beans and perhaps a little Tuna. One could also pickle them or slowly simmer them (caramelizing their sugars), but they're so nice raw that it seems a pity to cook them.
View Original Article This weekend the town of Impruneta began preparations for the Festa dell'Uva, or Grape Festival, which will culminate next weekend with the the town's four neighborhoods presenting allegories of the harvest involving floats and street theater. As you might guess competition is intense, and over the years the town has added side events.
Including a Peposo Cookoff, which I went to, and was invited to be part of the jury judging the Peposi prepared by the four neighborhoods.
What, you wonder, is Peposo?
It's a beef stew made with quite a bit of pepper that the people at the tileworks Impruneta is famed for would cook slowly in the mouths of the kilns, and goes a long ways back -- Brunelleschi happened to taste it when he was looking for tiles with which to roof Florence's Duomo and arranged for caterers to bring it to those working on the Cathedral (who were not pleased by the idea of eating on the scaffolds and struck to get their lunch hour back).
And since I watched Alessio the town of Impruneta has weighed in, drawing up an official recipe. It's disarmingly simple: Beef, of a cut called muscolo, or muscle -- larger muscle with some connective tissue (Alessio uses boned beef shank, which is about the same), peeled cloves of garlic, pepper, a little olive oil, and dry red wine. The presence of connective tissue in the meat becomes paramount, because without tomato sauce to bind the stew it's the connective tissue that confers a satiny texture to the stew, while the cook's ability comes through in balancing garlic and pepper, both of which should be present, robustly but not overpoweringly -- for 2 pounds of meat (1 k) figure 3-4 garlic cloves and a tablespoon of black pepper.
And this brings up an important point: while people ground the peppercorns in the past, now they are putting them into the stew pot whole, which allows them to release more of their peppery fragrances, and less of the bitter heat of cracked peppercorns. The two entries we liked best were both with whole peppercorns, and I do recommend that you use them and not ground peppercorns if you decided to make a Peposo.
To serve with? Tuscans generally serve peposo over toasted bread, but it will also be divine over Polenta. And I would serve spinaci rifatti, recooked spinach, on the side. And Chianti too.
Moving away from peposo, the latest addition to the site is a quick thing on How to Eat Spaghetti Like An Italian, featuring son R twirling strands of spaghetti onto his fork. Check it out!
View Original Article The walnuts on the tree up the hill from us look about ready for harvesting, and I confess that I envy our neighbor. They will of course be nice cracked open and enjoyed with cheese, but there are all sorts of other options as well. For example, one could make:
Insalata alle Noci, or Walnut Salad Liguria is famed for its walnut trees, whose nuts go into a number of sauces, including one that's quite nice over ravioli. They also go into salads, and here are a couple of recipes, one combining walnuts, greens, and fish, and the other greens, walnuts and fruit. Very different but both good.
Lasagna con le Noci, or Walnut Lasagna Lasagna is an almost infinitely variable dish, and though you might think of lasagna with ricotta and tomato, or lasagna with white sauce, you can also use walnuts and cheese.
Chef Luciano DelSignore's premier Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina's Southfield concept , opened in June 2010, announces the addition of brunch to the menu at this celebrated Italian restaurant, kicking off on Sunday, March 23. A go-to spot for pizza, pasta, and small plates for locals, lunchers, and area-guests alike, Bigalora Southfield is joined by ... (more)
Mary Ann Esposito, host of the longest-running cooking show on public television, travels around the United States and Rome, Italy in search of recipes that can be prepared in thirty-minutes or less for a busy audience that has time to enjoy great Italian food but doesn' t always have time to prepare it "the old way."
In this culinary battle, it's Philippines vs Italy
Have you ever wondered what happens on a fight between rice and pasta? You might just find out from a new culinary experience in the British capital, where dishes from the Philippines are set to battle it out against cuisines from Italy and other parts of the world.
Community members will enjoy all-you-can-eat Italian cuisine, raffle games, prizes, a live DJ, the soulful sounds of all-female band "Les Femme Totale," Kim Jordan, renowned pianist and music director, and Marc Evans, host of "Acoustic Thursdays" and more.
The Italian restaurant Mangia, a local Carmel eatery since 1997, has closed. Calls to the Carmel City Center business are met with a recorded message that says: "We are currently closed and unable to take your reservation." There is no sign on the doors alerting customers to its closing, but the restaurant sits dark and is locked.
La Pentola della Quercia chef Lucais Syme makes soba noodles with mirin and ginger