San Salvo Marina

The magic of being the only person swimming in the clear Adriatic Sea is not lost on me. I feel like I’ve found a secret place that allows me to be me, frolicking like a dolphin under the noonday sun. Standing in the warm water, I look west past the ancient hilltop towns to snow capped mountains touching the clouds. The only sound I hear is water lapping on the shore. Welcome to San Salvo Marina at lunch time!

For the last 4 years, always in June, Jack and I have rented apartments here. We have now rented for the second time a two bedroom apartment – the kitchen is the only other room -with a large 3rd story balcony that gives us a wedge of a sea view and all modern appliances for €550 a week. (About $645.) We take advantage of off season rates, great summer weather and very few beach goers. Once school is out, this place will be packed and prices will escalate. The second week in June is perfect. Noon until 3:00’ish, when the few families who are here have left for lunch and a snooze, it is even more perfect.

I must admit, living in low costing Pontelandolfo has caused me to get shell shocked at even off season beach town prices. What, I bellowed one night after staring at the ocean and drinking at Beat Cafe, €7 for one glass of house wine and an aperol spritz? It would be less than half that at home. Jack reminded me that we would pay double that at the Jersey Shore. Oh, I sulked, OK I will try not to whine about prices MUCH.

Why San Salvo Marina? It is only about an hour and a half away from Pontelandolfo – which makes going to the beach an easy drive. If I am in a car for more than 2 hours, I become meaner than the wicked witch of the west. Having lived in Asbury Park and known the Jersey Shore intimately, I can say unequivocally that I loathed the honky took of places like Seaside Heights and loved the kinder gentler feeling of Ocean Grove or Sea Girt. San Salvo Marina has a wonderful lungomare – seafront promenade that includes closing off the adjacent street to vehicular traffic. It is a great place to stroll after dinner. The beachfront is full of medium rise condos that look like they have been built in the last 15 or so years. New ones keep popping up. That said, it doesn’t feel cramped and crowded. There is green space between buildings and a park between the buildings and the seafront.

We walk about 5 blocks from our apartment to the beach front stand we like. This year I GULPED when it cost me €75 to rent our spot near the sea for 7 days – yeah, yeah it was less than €13 a day but still. We got our two lounge chairs, table and giant umbrella set up by the attendant and nestled in for a seaside view and ahhhhh moment. €13 pppfffew – is niente, nada, nothing for this.

Being foodies, we also like San Salvo for its restaurants and proximity to our very favorite seafood restaurant – Il Corsaro Della Baia Azzurra in Porto Vasto. When we arrived this week, the first thing we did after lugging all the crap from the car and getting organized was walk the half block toward, Ristorante Al Metro. We were salivating as we thought of their riffs on local Abruzzo food and their industrial style modern and elegant dining room. As we started to cross the street this teeny tiny little girl – I found out later she was 6 but soon to be 7 – stopped Jack and was prattling away. Sensing he didn’t have a clue about what she was saying, I walked up to them. She had handed him a flier for Risto Pizza da Bocconcino, the corner joint we had just passed, and was delivering a marketing pitch that was freakin’ perfect. We thanked her, I put the flier in my purse and we continued on to Al Metro – which was now closed!!!!! We went back, found the girl and let her guide us into her dad’s Risto Pizza da Bocconcino. After praising her to her pop we took seats outdoors in a comfortable space and had a pretty decent but €40 lunch. OK, I’LL STOP WHINING SOON ABOUT PRICES. I had grilled cod, pickled onions and sautéed spinach. Jack had – I don’t remember – but we did share a bottle of a great Abruzzese white wine and mineral water. Since we were late eaters, the place was cleared out by the time we finished. Out came the home made limoncello, caffè and conversation. The owner sat with us and we argued about politics. He was the first Italian I have ever met that didn’t think the current president of the USA was a putz. He liked his brazen style! Let the arguments begin! Putting politics aside, we enjoyed ourselves and will go back.

One night we decided to drive the strip and look for a new place to dine. We discovered Medusa Ristorante Pizzeria on the very active Via Magellano. We agreed – an anomaly – that we had eaten the best mussels we have ever had. Their Cozze Marinate was full a chunks of garlic and parsely that added to the perfectly braised mussels. Yummy. We each had a fresh fish dish, side of veggies, mineral water and coffee for €54 – oh yeah there was that bottle of Abruzzese wine too.

Can we talk about gelato??? Ai 3 Scalini makes and serves the best gelato I have had in forever. It is fortuitous that it is a short half block from Medusa Ristorante! We had no choice – really Jack made me go there kicking and screaming down the street. The strawberry gelato reminds me of the wild strawberries of my youth. OMG – the chocolate is so full of chocolate that Belgium chocolates pale by comparison. We vowed we would only go once this week. But I’m thinking if I don’t eat breakfast or lunch…

I’ve got to stop talking about food. Time to stare at the sea, thank Vodafone for the cheap data plan that lets me turn my phone into a hot spot, and hmm it’s 6:30 PM here maybe walk to a seaside bar for an overpriced Aperol Spritz.

Ci Vediamo

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They Came to Cook and Conquered a Village

In a small town, like Pontelandolfo, everybody knows your name. Tweens in a dark alley getting into something that they shouldn’t, don’t think it is such a good thing. “Second act’rs” like Jack and I living in a new place, find it magical. Whenever we go into the piazza we know we’re home. Folks say salve – hi, come stai – how are you, smile and wave. When we first started staying long-term in Pontelandolfo, going to the piazza was kind of like going to the high school cafeteria on the first day of school.  Who would I sit with?  Who would talk to me?  I don’t know how it happened but we too became part of the fabric of life here.   What struck me this past Saturday, was that every time a group of adventuresome cooks come to Pontelandolfo to be part of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo they too quickly become part of our village’s life.

For three years the homes, citizens and businesses of Pontelandolfo have opened their doors and hearts to strangers looking for a different tourism experience. These strangers aren’t strangers very long.  Relationships are formed in nanoseconds. I know that the relationships are strong because I see the tears when folks depart. I read the FaceBook posts as connections are kept.  Love – the feeling of love is everywhere.

This latest group jumped right into village life with that first night “bar crawl.” They met bar owners, bar goers, politicos and curious folks. Pontelandolfese out for their evening passeggiata got a look at them. What troupers, having snacks and drinks at not one but all three bars on our piazza. It was obvious to all who met them that they were really interested in Pontelandolfo, our home town.

Tourists often pop in and out of Piazza Roma, take a picture of the iconic tower and dash off. The seven day commitment that both these latest and our past Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo participants made,  meant that the visitors wanted to have a meaningful encounter with not only the food of Pontelandolfo but also the community. They became regulars at the bars, chatted up everyone, played with the children, cooked and ate with families, visited with our baker, cheesemaker, butcher, listened intently as an elder craftsman talked about weaving fabrics as his great grandfather did – all this endeared them to the community.

Now if you know me, you know I wear my emotions on my sleeve and tear up often. When something really touches my heart, I not only tear up but am speechless – cause talking is impossible. There were many times during our cooking programs when I couldn’t speak. I have seen love crossing economic lines, ignoring politics and breaking down cultural barriers.

Some of our guests have had a root of their family tree here in Pontelandolfo.  They came not only to learn traditional Pontelandolfo cooking but to discover more about their past.  Our first group, three years ago, visited the Contrada (little village) of their ancestors and felt the connection that only blood returning to its source can bring. One of this past week’s women had ancestors from Pontelandolfo.  At the B&B she discovered a couple that knew her  distant cousin.  They embraced her and took her to see where her family was from. She was full of stories and felt the spirit of Pontelandolfo.

The women who open their homes to these strangers are so warm and loving that it is impossible not to feel welcome.  They have been touched as these strangers, who are strangers no more, have bought them gifts from their home states or made them something special.  A young female ship’s captain just presented each teaching cook with little dream catchers she knotted and wove from one long piece of ship’s string. Those little catchers will be holding a lot of love.

Everyone always pitches in as meals are being created, parties started or excursions planned.  I can see men and women of all ages flicking tablecloths, setting places and carrying dishes.  I also saw them carry wood from outside for wood burning ovens, making brooms from the sambuca tree and washing hundreds of dishes. This May, a female Broadway sound engineer, even fixed the butcher’s sound system. That meant that music flowed during our last night party. All of these actions felt like the actions of family members not recent strangers or guests.

Some of our visitors have even made sure that children’s books in English were added to our community library.  Since everyone must study and pass an English proficiency test this was a fabulous and thoughtful gift.

Children, twittering with stage fright,  who in traditional dress, performed stories from the town in English, have been cheered like movie stars.  Our guests have loved the challenge and work that these little actors put into sharing stories about their town.

I thank all the culinary tourists over the years, for bringing a tear to my eyes and silence to my mouth. I thank them for being willing to experience a small southern Italian village. I thank them for accepting us for who we are. I thank them for being who they are. I thank them for making me understand that love and food break down barriers!

Huzzah to those who came, cooked and conquered our hearts!

Cooks 4 sessions

Cook, Eat, Laugh!

Cook, Eat Laugh!  That is exactly what happens each time a group of adventurous foodies – women and men – come to Pontelandolfo and hang out in local kitchens and learn the dishes that nonnas have been sharing for generations.  Pontelandolfo – to me – is an example of the best that Italy has to offer.  No backpack swinging tourists. No overpriced cappuccinos. Simply incredible mountain views, fresh foods cooked seasonally, a population that embraces life with joy and a welcoming attitude that surrounds all newcomers.

Just a scant two years ago, Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo was an idea floating around a kitchen table.    How could we bring some tourism money to Southern Italy and not promote the town into another jammed packed tourist site.   The “ah- ha” moment came when a visitor said to me, I would love to just spend a week here living like the Pontelandolfese.  Bingo!  Together with a group of homemakers an incredible opportunity, for folks who love to cook and travel off the beaten tourist track, was born.  Visitors have been Cooking, Eating and Laughing ever since we produced the first event in May 2016.

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Our First Group Visited Our Historic Tower

Now it is your turn!  Cook, Eat, Laugh!  Become part of a small Southern Italian village’s life.  See a different part of Italy and taste dishes that go back generations.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo

May 19 -26 or September 8 – 15 2018

Limited to 8 people!

The Experience Features –

  • Transportation from the Benevento Train Station
  • 7 nights at B&B Il Castello
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo (lunch) at an agriturismo.  A great example of Italian Farm-to-Table eating.
  • 4 half-day cooking classes with local cooks. After preparing the dishes for pranzo or cena you will sit down and eat with the family.  Here is an example from September 2018 – some of you may have seen this!
  • English Speaking Translator for all classes and events.
  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products and other activities.
  • Excursion to  Sepino Altilia Roman Ruins
  • Walking Tour of Historical Pontelandolfo
  • Visits to another village’s cultural site or a cultural activity – to be determined.
  • Last night “arriverderci” with all the local cooks.
  • Apron
  • Written recipes in English.

Regretfully, there are no special dietary considerations.  This medieval village has charming cobblestone streets but it is not handicapped accessible.  The adventure and experience in the home of local families requires the ability to climb stairs, walk on uneven streets and feel comfortable in a hilly environment.

To see more photos of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo, visit our Facebook Page.

Cook, Eat and Laugh with us!

Registration materials and financial information will be sent via e-mail to those that want to join the adventure.   info@nonnasmulberrytree.com 

Ci vediamo a Pontelandolfo!

Time travel through your taste buds


You’ve seen lots of folks “cry in their beer.”  But, I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on the planet seen crying over cooked pig’s feet.  As I slurped the meat and fat off the bones cooked to perfection in parrozz, I could feel my nonna hugging me and hear the squabbling of my Italo-Americano family fill the Flagtown farmhouse kitchen. Parrozz- what the heck is parrozz? Thank you Angelamaria Addona of B&B Calvello for whisking me – and our group of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo September 2017 cooks – back in time.  To the time when subsistence farming, foraging and eating every single bit of the animal you raised was the norm.

Kathy, one of my best foodie buds, couldn’t believe it when I called her about this dish. I literally had started crying when I ate it and when I talked about it. Crying for my Nonna Rosa, Zia Caterina and all the elders of my family who not only had made this dish after foraging for dandelions and wild fennel but passed me the mapeen so I could wipe my hands on the communal towel after sucking the meat off every bone in my bowl.  Pig parts and weeds, I said to Kathy. Pig parts and weeds – so delicious that I could have stayed at B&B Calvello long after the van came to pick up the American cooks and kept on eating. Kathy suggested that I stop calling the dish “pig parts and weeds”. In dialect it is called Parrozz con Cacchiarella!

In her turn of the 20th century kitchen, Angela made parrozz  – vegetable and meat soup/stew – and cacchiarella – unleavened corn bread. Parrozz con cacchiarella is a dish that dates back to the time my ancestors scampered over our Sannio hills searching for what today’s foodies call edibles.

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If you are not afraid to forage, here is how you make it. Go out in the field and pick what ever vegetable green is in season. Verdure di compagnia– greens from the countryside. She used the white part of bietola, which is in the rhubarb family.  Cicoria, chicory, was raising its green head on the countryside so that was the second veggie. She washed the veggies and cut them in big chunks. They were tossed in a pot and covered with water with a dash of salt. When the water came to a boil the veggies simmered for half an hour.

Angela cooked some local cabbage leaves while pig parts were cooking away in yet another pot.  These are the parts of the pig I LOVE  – pig’s ear, feet, cheeks etc. Boiling softens them and lets some of the grease out. After the pork had cooked, she tossed out most of the water and layered the cooked vegetables on top of the pork pieces. Chunks of garlic were tossed into the fray. Do not mix it up! Top it with the pre-cooked cabbage. Think of this as a green lid. Toss a wee bit of salt on top and a tiny bit of olive oil. Not a lot since the pig parts are full of fat. Cover the pot and cook it very slowly on a low heat. It is great with wild fennel – but they weren’t in season now – so Angela added fennel seeds.

A wee bit later, Angela took the lid off the parrozz to let the extra water evaporate. She lowered the flame even more and pushed the cabbage down on in the pot. Do not turn the pot! The pig parts stay on the bottom and the vegetables stay on the top! The minestra will be bubbling, you will smell the pork and veggies and keep on wanting to stir it up.  DON’T!  Leave the pot alone and let it simmer along until the weeds – oops – I mean greens are cooked and the scent of pork wafts through the kitchen.

When the liquid comes to the top and the veggies sink. Turn it off!!! It is finished. But what about the cornbread called Cacchiarella?  You would have been working on it while the soup/stew was bubbling away.

The first step to making the cacchiarella made no sense to me – until my ah ha moment later. Take giant cabbage leaves and cut off the bottoms and slit the core a wee bit. Wet them and put them in the sun so that they will wilt and get flat. Then go out to the fields and cut some sambuca tree branches to make a broom. Why? You will of course be using a wood burning oven and need the broom to push the coals back to the side while maintaining the temperature of the oven. Wet a second broom to really clean the base of the oven. Oops, guess I forgot to mention that Angela’s kitchen has a wood burning oven and stove!

Back to the corn bread. Make a flat circle out of four or five flattened cabbage leaves. Flatten them further. They are now the tray or parchment paper for the corn bread. The corn bread she made with our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo cooks included 600 ML of water, 1 kilogram of corn meal, 4 spoons of salt – well they were spoons, a hand full of wild fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Knead it up!  Take your aggressions out on the dough! Meanwhile, for a few hours your wood burning oven has been filling the air with the scent of days gone bye. Oh, only use olive tree wood in the oven and when the bricks turn white sweep the coals over to one side with a broom made with sambuca leaves.  Then take the dough and spread it out on the cabbage leaves and with your handy pizza peel slide it into the prepared wood burning oven.  Wheeeooo, this is a lot of work.  Watch it rise and fall and turn a golden brown.   Then pull it out and remove the cabbage leaves – let it cool a second or more first.  Rip up the corn bread and add it to the top of the soup/stew pot.  Serve it immediately and watch me salivate. Watch the tape and enjoy.

 

You too can learn traditional Southern Italian cooking.  Join us.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 19 -26 and September 8-15, 2018

For more information, send an email to info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

More Zucchini Recipes.

 

The zucchine elf - Zia Vittoria!
The zucchine elf – Zia Vittoria!

Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all too busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms     Don’t forget – all recipes are posted in the recipe section.  Look above the Tower Picture to find the tabs.

Giambotta

I thought I knew how to make giambotta!  Take whatever summer vegetables were starting to turn ugly in the fridge, slice them, dice them and sauté them with ground meat, dump in a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, add a pinch of salt and a few basil leaves.  Easy peasy.  Since everyone in New Jersey grew zucchini, the first giambotta I ever ate featured zucchini, more zucchini and nothing but zucchini.

EEEEEEE. Midgeee, questo non e ciambotta.  I got my hand slapped by Santina the butcher when I ordered carne macinato – ground meat – and she asked what I was making.  I got my head smacked by every other elder who I asked about giambotta.  But, I swear my mother or grandmother or someone always added ground meat.

Simply put, giambotta is a beautiful blend of fresh – not almost rotting in the fridge – vegetables.  Zucchini, green beans and eggplant are pleantiful now.  Carrots spill over in the market with fresh white onions and tomatoes.  I add tomatoes but my cousin and ace cook Carmella Fusco didn’t and her giambotta was magic.

The trick I have learned here in Pontelandolfo about cooking some vegetables is to not add any liquid.  The vegetables have all the liquid you need.  Put a nice thick layer of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of a pan and add the vegetables in order of how long they take to cook. I always start with the onions, then toss in carrot slices, then add the beans, zucchini and eggplant.  Rats, Jack hates eggplant – he puts it in the ‘tofu category’.  Don’t tell him that the perfectly formed cubes are eggplant.  I toss in so little salt that it doesn’t count and add a handful of crushed fennel seeds.  Note:  No added liquid like that can of  squashed tomatoes that I used to use.  The vegetables do have enough liquid to create their own sauce.  Also, I’m the only one that seems to add carrots to the mix. Yummy.

I can not tell too many lies – I often still add ground meat to the onions and when it is brown add the vegetables.  I also often dice up fresh tomatoes and toss them in too.

Carmella’s Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers

When cousin Carmella sends me a “WhatsApp” text that says –Venite a pranza oggi?   I always quickly respond with a SI!  Carmella is a world class cook and lunch at her house might be the simplest of ingredients but they are always tossed together delectably.  Check out Carmella’s cooking on her Facebook Page A Pranza dalla Nonna.

Today we had another variation on the zucchini theme, Spaghetti with Zucchini and Zucchini Flowers.  Fresh, local ingredients easily tossed together and delicious.  Zucchini flowers, zucchini, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, hot pepper, spaghetti and pecorino cheese round out the list of ingredients. (You lucky New Jerseyans who belong to a CSA like Hillsborough’s fabulous Martenette Farms have access to lots of zucchini and zucchini flowers this time of year.)

As I was slowing chewing my spaghetti, I asked Carmella her secret.  Simplicity is the secret.  She cut the flowers into little pieces.  They added great orange color to the pasta.  A few cloves of garlic were chopped and after cutting a zucchini in quarters it was thinly sliced.  She put a walloping helping of olive oil in the pan – it thickly covered the pan – and added the garlic.  She let that sizzle for a second and then added the zucchini and flowers.  Next came a tazzino – espresso cup of water – or two fingers in a Nutella glass – and salt.  The veggies cook until the water has evaporated and then they sauté for a couple of minutes more.

At this point the salted spaghetti water should also be on the stove.  Cook the spaghetti as you normally would.   When the pasta is done, drain it and add it directly to the pot that has the oil and sautéed zucchini.  Carmella said, saltare in patella.  Toss it and let it cook a wee pit in the pan.  At this point she also added a hint of hot pepper and freshly grated pecorino cheese.

That was our primo piatto!  Zucchini heaven!

(Carmella is one of the cooks who opens her home for the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program.  Interested? Message me.)

Ci vediamo

Midge

 

Festa at Terra di Briganti!

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Tante Auguri a Jack!

Jack was turning 70 – that meant I had to throw a humongous bash.  The problem is I had thrown Jackstock when he turned 60 and folks are still gazing numbly out from tents in our back yard.  How could I top three nights of music and mayhem?  Hmm, what’s a girl to do when she is in Italy and without the resources of her home team?  1. Make sure her BFF, Janet, is in Italy in time for the party. 2. Sit in the piazza, stare up the the hills and come up with a gimmick.  While staring at the grape vines that range up and down the mountain it hit me – take over a winery – it would be a blast from the past.

My first call was to Tony at our favorite winery, Terra Di Briganti. (Remember the story I did a few months back – http://wp.me/p3rc2m-ji)  Tony was a tiger and roared out ideas – starting with come on over and let’s pick out the wine.

Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!
Tony De Cicco is passionate about eating and drinking local!

Tony, his dad and his brother were pouring us a glass of Pidirosso. Then a glass of Aglianico.  How about a Falanghina.  Wait did you taste?  We tasted and knew that we would have a cocktail hour with a lovely sparkling – well it doesn’t matter just know it is all good.

Then came the menu.  Tony works with a chef – Gennaro – who by day is a policman!  But Gennaro is a foodie who relishes the dishes of historic Casalduni.  This is what we ate:  Quenelle di baccalà, Risotto al’aglianico e salsiccia profumato al rosmarino, controfiletto di pelatella casertana al Martummè con papacelle al’agro, Zuccotto con ricotta di pecora e ciccolato!  Notice that the Italian sings with the dialect of Casalduni.

Let’s just go to the video and you can see Jack’s 70th birthday at Terra di Briganti!  Click on the link and be sure to sing “tante auguri a jack!”

https://vimeo.com/107592027

To find out more about Terra di Briganti visit their website at www.terradibriganti.it

Zucchine Sono Arrivate! Recipe 1

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Everyday it seems there is a mysterious bag, basket or pile of zucchini by my door.  These things must multiply like rabbits.  Last year, it seemed like I was chomping down on zucchini blossoms daily.  Bundles of fully formed zucchini didn’t appear because we were all to busy frying up the flowers – remember this post:  Fried Squash Blossoms

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This year, I didn’t get invited to imbibe as much in my favorite fried flower.  Now I know why.  People let the blossoms grow into long green meaty vegetables.  But what is a woman to do with them?  I can’t say no thank you – half the time I don’t know where they come from and the other half – well it would just be rude.  I remember making tons of zucchini bread in Flagtown but we’re in Italy – so it is time to start finding out what the elders do.

Zia Paulina taught me how do make a simple zucchini topping for pasta.  Actually, she tortured me with a little knife by insisting that I cut paper thin zucchini slices without using a cutting board, mandoline slicer or food processor.  None of my slices were thin enough – come carta – like paper!  When I finally got the thinness just right she was pleased.  Then I watched her dump some olive oil in a frying pan, sauté the zucchini slices and toss them with pasta and a healthy dose of parmigiana.  Prima piatta was finished.

I decided to see if anyone else tossed zucchini with pasta – a quick web search found lots of recipes.  Being an independent type, I ignored all the advice and just followed my instinct –  the pinch of this, a handful and there you go style of cooking. The first step was to create the paper thin slices that really worked in Zia Paulina’s dish.

Note - I slice towards my thumb!  How dumb but it works.
Note – I slice towards my thumb! How dumb but it works.

My smart ass husband watched me get closer and closer to lopping off a finger and he decided to show me how to get those paper thin slices.  First he took out the potato peeler and peeled the skin off one cucumber.  Then he cut it in half and started making short thin slices with the peeler.

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Master chef makes quick work of the zucchini – but where is the cute green? Oh, next to the cutting board.

 

Jack’s system would absolutely work.  But I wanted the zucchini – which I know had absolutely  no yucky chemical crap on them – to have that cute green trim.  White zucchini against white pasta couldn’t look very appealing.  So I finished up the rest using the potato peeler on unpeeled zucchini.

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Cripes, they didn’t teach me this in 4-H. What a cool use of a peeler.

The actual cooking of the dish was much simpler.  I sliced up some onions and a red pepper.  Why the red pepper?  Because I had it and I liked the color – back to white pasta and white onions and white zucchini – you get the idea.  The olive oil that we have here is literally from the trees in our yard and pressed locally.  It is heaven on the tongue all by itself.  It really helps to use good olive oil for dishes like these.  While the water for the pasta was getting up to boil, I quickly sautéed the onions and peppers.

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What a beautiful red color! They do not sell green bell peppers here – because red means ripe!

Salt, pepper, a touch of garlic powder – I noticed that none of my Italian relatives cook with onions and garlic in the same dish.  Loving garlic anyway I can get it, I tossed in the garlic powder.  When I added the zucchini, I happened to look out the window at the basil growing madly and thought – why not.  The basil added at the end gave the dish more color and a little zing.  Here is the final product – I added grated cheese to the dishes before I tossed them.  Buon appetito!

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The “New” Fountain!

When my nonna told stories about life in Pontelandolfo she often mentioned the fountains.  There is a massive one in the main piazza but there are others scattered among the hills.  Some of these fountains date back to Roman times. These fountains were a hub for gossip, doing laundry, getting a quick drink on a hot day and gathering water to drink, cook with and wash in.  For generations, mountain spring water has run through ancient pipes and spurted out into jugs that were carried home.

The fountains still exist – but there is a new kid in town! This year when we drove into the center of Pontelandolfo we noticed this big stainless steel box – Acquaself – and a bunch of people  hanging around with plastic bottles.  Holy smokes – they are getting water!  It costs only €.05 a liter for spring water – sparkling or plain.  Oh no, I thought, yet another rural ritual blown out of the water.

Years ago, Jack joined Mario Mancini and went up into the mountains to one of five or six ancient fountains.  Mario, a foodie and mountain gatherer, knew where to take his bottles to get the best tasting water.  They drove miles away from the village center and what did they find – other men filing bottles.  Jack was flabbergasted when one of the men turned to him and said in English – where are you from – “New Jersey” – “Me too – Livingston”!  That is the magic that happens around the fountain.

The Pontelandolfo main fountain has been a meeting place, photo op and life blood of the community.  In the summer kids fill water balloons from the constantly flowing spring water.  When that happens I run in the other direction – cross fire can be pretty wet. Can Acauself – a stainless steel box – really replace all that?  Interesting question.  I’ve gone for our water – I mean .05 for a litter of sparkling water – and chatted with folks who were filling their bottles.  Maybe the conversation will continue at the box but I can’t see anyone doing their laundry. The talented Annalaura Iacovella will explain how Acquaself works – so those of you who speak Italian can test your skills – those of you who don’t can read the titles.  Happy mineral water to you.