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Bringing you the flavors of Puglia through imported foods and olive oil, & exclusive getaways.

Puglia is a magical place. As the "heel" of Italy's boot,  a peninsula within a peninsula, it is a place where travelers must choose to go. Off the beaten path, trains traversing Italy North to South end their journey here, even the last cobblestones of the ancient Roman Via Appia are laid here.

Thick olive groves, rocky soils, and sea waters on three sides have created a land of unique culture, language, and history. Puglia harbors Italy's best olive oil, ancient vineyards, and some of the best culinary traditions Italy has to offer.  Italians are well acquainted with this "secret", but outside travelers rarely journey to this southern corner of Italy.

We are two sisters with family roots in Puglia. Our mother was born here and so was her mother and her mother. Our family's roots in Puglia are as deep as those of the centuries old olive trees. We have come to appreciate the many gifts Puglia has to offer - from food and wine to its ancient customs. Our mission is to share these with you, to bring you into the fold of Pugliese hospitality so that you too may experience the treasures of this ancient land.

 

 

 

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Recipe Blog

NEW RETAIL LOCATIONS

Le Sorelle

We are very excited to announce two brand new retail locations for Le Sorelle! Now you can find our gourmet products from Puglia at Montecito Village Grocery and at Pierre Lafond Market and Deli! We are delighted to serve the Montecito community with our specialty items from Southern Italy!

Easy semi-sundried tomato bruschetta with artichoke cream

Le Sorelle

Bruschette are fun and versatile and a great way to hold over hungry guests before dinner is ready. They consist of two basic parts: toasted bread + topping, and can be assembled in minutes (even seconds!).

Here is one of our original bruschetta recipes sure to be a crowd pleaser!

INGREDIENTS

  • Your favorite toasted bread (if your bread slices are big, we recommend slicing them in halves or fourths).
  • Le Sorelle's Le Chianche Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 jar Le Sorelle's Terra Rubra Artichokes, pureed (can be done in advance).
  • 1 jar Le Sorelle's Terra Rubra Semi Sun-dried tomatoes.

DIRECTIONS

Turn on your broiler. Once your bread is sliced evenly, sprinkle with Le Chianche EVOO and broil for a few minutes until nice and toasty (but not burnt!). Taking care not to burn yourself on a hot piece of toasted bread, spread the Terra Rubra artichoke puree evenly over the bread to cover. Add one or two Terra Rubra semi-sundried tomatoes on top. Serve (while trying not to eat them all yourself!).

Yes, this is amazing.

Easy baked tilapia with basil and caper pesto

Le Sorelle

This is one of our favorite recipes which come to our rescue when we're in a "what's for dinner?" pinch. Not only is it SUPER easy, it's also SUPER yummy, and will impress any guest! The buttery, mild taste of the tilapia pairs perfectly with the sweet basil and salty capers from the spread.

Serves 4, Prep Time = 5 min, Cook Time = 12 - 20 min

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Tilapia fillets, fresh or frozen
  • 1 jar of Le Sorelle's Terra Rubra Basil and Caper spread
  • Adamo Classic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F. Drizzle some EVOO on the bottom of an oven safe dish. Arrange your tilapia fillets evenly in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dollop the contents of the jar of Terra Rubra Basil and Caper Spread evenly over the fillets. Drizzle a bit more of EVOO over the fillets. Place in the oven and bake for circa 12 minutes if your fillets are fresh, or 20 or so minutes if they are frozen. Since oven temperatures vary, make sure that the oil is bubbling at the bottom of the pan and that your fillets have turned white and opaque. Don't over bake or they'll dry out!

Serve with lemon lemon slices and fresh basil garnish. And drizzle with our De Carlo Lemon Pressed Olive Oil for an extra bit of citrus-y flavor!

Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 Best spread to keep in your kitchen for those "you never know when company is coming over" moments!

Best spread to keep in your kitchen for those "you never know when company is coming over" moments!

Taralli, Italian Love Knots.

Le Sorelle

The days are getting longer and there is no need to rush and get dinner on the table. Kids can play outside a bit longer and the grown ups can enjoy a glass of wine.

Or two.

And if you get the munchies, try something different, something better than chips or pretzels. Try Taralli from Puglia, a crunchy, buttery, love knot made with all organic ingredients! They keep to the traditional Pugliese recipe of wheat, extra virgin olive oil, and white wine.

We taste tested these at our local neighborhood wineries in Santa Barbara and it was LOVE and lots of AMORE at first crunch!

Try them with your favorite glass of wine, and taste the LOVE in Love Knots!

 Crunch, crunch! Love, love!

Crunch, crunch! Love, love!

 

 

 

Edible flower buds: Capers and artichokes

Le Sorelle

It's spring and nature is a a bloomin' bonanza! We love what that means in terms of tasty buds. Flower buds! And we've got them packed for you in jars!

Yes, some flower buds are edible and we happen to be in love with two of them: capers and artichokes. Both plants are abundant in the Mediterranean and used prominently in Pugliese cuisine.

Capers plants grow wild nearly everywhere you look and add gorgeous dramatic flare when they flow spontaneously out of the natural nooks and crannies typical of limestone walls. When they bloom, the soft white trio of petals offer up wild pink shoots from their center. But before they bloom, their buds are prized for adding extra flare to just about any dish. Families typically preserve their own capers in olive oil, vinegar, or most commonly, salt; and children are often asked to pick the buds much to their delight. The added saltiness or acidity that capers add to a dish add a "special touch" without overwhelming the main ingredients.

Believe it or not, artichokes are also flower buds - gigantic ones! The "leaves" or petals are edible and the center or heart is often the most prized part of the bud. In Puglia, artichoke hearts are commonly preserved in extra virgin olive oil, maintaining their tenderness and buttery qualities.

Le Sorelle is so happy to offer these two culinary treasures. Our Basil and Caper Pate' is an exceptional combination of sweet basil and salty capers, a perfect topping for grilled meat or fish. And our artichokes add warm, buttery notes to salads, pizzas, pasta dishes; or can be pureed to make an exceptional dip.

Buon appetito! And Happy Spring!

It's our 1st Birthday! 40% off our Adamo line of EVOOs!

Le Sorelle

Yes, Le Sorelle is celebrating its first year in business! Woo-hoo!

We've come a long way since we launched last year. We work with chefs from some of Santa Barbara's finest restaurants, had an amazing holiday season, held sold out dinner events, and now we're expanding our geographical reach!

Thank you, thank you to all of our clients, customers, family and friends. We could not do this without you!

And to celebrate, we're having a 40% off sale during our birthday month (now until April 7) on our Adamo line of Extra Virgin - the oil that started it all!

Now is a great time to buy!

 Happy Birthday to Le Sorelle!

Happy Birthday to Le Sorelle!

How to eat Pugliese style

Le Sorelle

Italians love to eat. Everyone knows that. And everyone knows that the food in Italy merits its legendary status as one of the world's greatest cuisines. But what most people don't know is that Italians have a hidden foodie hub of their own: Puglia.

Puglia {pool-yah] is Italy's best kept culinary secret. I don't think Italians intentionally harbor their knowledge of Puglia to keep hungry tourists from invading the region. More likely, it's simply an accident of geography. As the "heel" of Italy's boot, Puglia's peninsula within a peninsula is more of an end than a means to an end. There is no passing through Puglia to get to any other part of Italy, or Europe for that matter (unless you're traveling on to Greece or Albania by boat). Travelers must intentionally want to go and stay there.

And stay you will once you sit at a Pugliese table to eat. Meals often last a long time due to a seemingly endless flow of foods and the good company gathered to enjoy it. Antipasti, akin to our appetizers, can easily number in the double digits: fresh cheeses, aged cheeses, prosciutto, fried veggies, baked veggies,  mussels, shrimp, octopus, grilled meats, and so on; followed by a pasta dish, a seafood dish, and sides of vegetables. And yes, red wine is a constant too. Fresh fruit is then served to aid digestion, and let's not forget about the mandatory digestivo and espresso.

All of this is consumed within an arc of several hours. But time hardly matters when you are at the table in Puglia.  It's all about being together and enjoying a meal with your loved ones. Long, leisurely meals are not time wasted. They are time gained with the people who matter most.

 Buon appetito a tutti!

Buon appetito a tutti!

 

 

Fabulous Friday - Extra virgin facial and body scrub

Le Sorelle

Many people complement us on our skin. They use words like “beautiful Mediterranean complexion,” or “perfectly smooth,” and mostly they just can’t believe how “old” we are! :) 

What’s our secret?

Olive oil, of course! And not just any. It has to be high quality with all those phenomenal polyphenals that fight oxidative stress in your cells! We were lucky to be raised with olive oil from Puglia, whose native varietals contain some of the highest quality and quantity of polyphenals in the world. 

Extra virgin olive oil, it turns out, is not just good for your insides, but for your outsides too. The ancients knew this. In Roman times, extra virgin olive oil was a highly coveted beauty treatment. The best part is that it still works!

Here is our recipe for a delicious, home-made extra virgin olive oil sugar scrub for your face and body. It works wonders. The EVOO protects and moisturizes the skin, while the lemon acts as a non-abrasive astringent. 

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Juice from 1/2 fresh organic lemon

1/2 cup of organic granulated sugar

1 tbsp of Le Sorelle’s Adamo extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp of organic honey

1 glass jar with a lid

Directions: 

Mix all ingredients together (add more sugar if you want a coarser scrub). Use to exfoliate and gently remove with warm water. 

Holy Tomatoes!

Le Sorelle

Most of you have heard of sun-dried tomatoes before, but have you ever heard of semi-sundried tomatoes? Aptly named after Calliope, the Greek goddess of eloquence and epic poetry, Terra Rubra Semi-Sundried Tomatoes aren't fully dehydrated like the ones you find in most stores. These are only half way dried, meaning that the fruits still retain their sweet succulent juiciness. Preserved in 100% extra virgin olive oil (unlike most sun-dried tomatoes which are preserved in disposable seed oils), Terra Rubra's Semi-Sundried Tomatoes are summer in a jar! 

You will NOT find these anywhere else! These are a Le Sorelle exclusive straight from Puglia and they are flying off the shelf. And for good reason too - they are deliziosi!! AND incredibly versatile. You can put them on pasta for an instant topping, pile them up on bruschetta bread, serve them with cheese, or plop them on top of hummus, fish, chicken, omelettes, you get the picture. YUM! And just like all our Terra Rubra products, every last drop of the oil in the jar is precious extra virgin goodness! Use it to add a pop of flavor to your favorite dish.

We recommend getting your hands on one (or two, or three) of these jars before they're gone. Click here to shop!

We're open for business!

Le Sorelle

Dear loyal friends and customers, March delivered a dream come true. Le Sorelle's much awaited imports arrived safe and sound on California shores! We have been busy organizing our inventory, double checking its quality, and making sure it's all around perfect for you. Fortunately, everything arrived in tip top shape and after hugging our bottles of olive oil and boxes of pasta, we were able to breath a huge sigh of relief. 

This was our FIRST BIG SHIPMENT from Puglia to California with lots of love on the part of our amazing producers to make sure we received the highest quality products. It was a little like handing off a baby from one pair of loving arms to another. There is so much love and care in these products that we can't help but glow with pride. We just KNOW you'll love them too.

And so my dear friends and customers, LE SORELLE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS! We can call it a soft opening if you wish as we haven't cut any ribbons or called in the fanfare. Our online shop has been nudged awake with a little glitter and glamour provided by artist and photographer LINDA BLUE, and is now ready to take your order.

So go ahead, try our stuff. You've been waiting a long time. Puglia's best extra virgin olive oil is here, along with beautiful vegetable preserves bursting with mediterranean flavor, traditional pasta shapes you can't find anywhere else, and satisfying I-can't-eat-just-one Pugliese love knots made with extra virgin olive oil.

Buon appetito!

Natale (Christmas) in Puglia

Le Sorelle

Christmas is a month long celebration in Puglia beginning with the first Sunday of Advent and ending on the 6th of January with the Epiphany. Travelers who visit during this time will take note of the many cultural traditions which remain strong in Puglia, despite the homogenizing factors of globalization. 

Catholicism provides the backbone for these rituals, from the countless hand-made nativity scenes found in homes and churches to enchanting live demonstrations of the nativity set in Puglia's ancient rock dwellings or among the trulli of Alberobello. The charming bellows of Puglia's wandering zampognari, or bagpipe players clad in goatskin vests and conical hats, accompany the festive lights hoisted above city streets. And the food! Cartellate (see below) abound in their sticky sweet goodness throughout the entire holiday season, while every family looks forward to a seafood feast on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day gifts are exchanged and the whole family gathers again for an abundant mid-day Christmas pranzo which can last well into the late afternoon.

On the 6th of January, the day of the Epiphany, children get a second opportunity to receive gifts. This time it is "La Befana," an old witch-like figure who swoops down on her broom and leaves gifts for good children and lumps of coal for those needing "improvement".

This year we will celebrate in California yet hold Puglia's traditions close, especially around the table.  But most of all, we plan to be with family and friends. Le Sorelle wishes you a happy holiday season too. And tanti auguri for the New Year!

Le Cartellate

Le Sorelle

The holidays aren't complete in Puglia without cartellate, sticky sweet pastries gloriously served after every meal. Their name derives from carta, paper, which the dough must rigorously resemble before being cut and coiled  into its distinctive round, crown-like shape. Once the dough has been fried, the cartellate are dipped in honey or fig vincotto as a finishing touch.  Like many recipes in Puglia, each family has their own variation, jealously guarding those culinary secrets! Tempted? Le Sorelle is happy to share with you. The ingredients are simple. Grab some flour, white wine, and extra-virgin olive oil, and some time. The full process could take up to a day to complete.

 

Ingredients:

 

2 c. Flour type “00”

½ c. of Extra virgin olive oil

⅔ c. white wine

¼ c. water

1 c. of vincotto or ½ c. of honey

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

 

Special equipment:

Mechanical pasta machine

Fluted pastry wheel


 

Pour the extra virgin olive oil in a small heavy pot and heat until very hot but not smoking. In the meantime, on a clean work surface pile the flour in a mountain like shape with a dip in the middle, much like a volcano. Pour the hot oil into the flour. With a spoon or spatula mix some of the oil into the flour to keep it from spilling off the work surface. Be careful not to touch the hot oil! In the same pan, pour your white wine and heat until hot but not simmering. In the meantime, if the oil has cooled begin mixing it more thoroughly into the flour mixture. When your wine is hot, add to the flour and oil mixture. If it is too hot, use your spoon or spatula to mix. Once the mixture has cooled begin to knead with your hands. Add the room temperature water to soften the mixture if needed. Once kneaded it should hold together nicely and not be sticky or crumbly. Adjust your flour or water content accordingly. The dough should be homogenous all the way through.

 

Take a small bit of the dough, just enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and begin to work it through the pasta machine. Make sure the machine is set to the finest setting. Cartellate need to be as thin as possible.

 

Once your dough has been fully rolled to the maximum thinness, use your fluted pastry cutter to cut the edges off your dough so you’re left with a neat rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise into long strips about an inch wide using your pastry cutter.

 

Take each strip and fold it gently lengthwise so that the two fluted edges are facing up, like a “U”. Pinch the pastry together about every inch or so to create little “pockets”. Now, beginning with one end, coil the pastry around itself like an “@” pinching an inside wall to an outer wall to hold it together. Place on a dry, clean cloth to dry out. This might be for the entire day. The drier the cartellata the crispier it becomes.

 

Repeat with the rest of your dough until complete.

 

Once your cartellate are dry. Heat an inch or two of olive oil in a deep pan until very hot. Add the cartellate making sure to give them some “breathing” room in the pan, turning over periodically. You may have to do several batches. Once turned golden and crispy, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain and cool.

 

When all of your cartellate are “cooked”. Heat the vincotto or honey in a pan until it begins to thin. Add the cartellate covering them thoroughly. Some honey or vincotto should settle into the “pockets”.

 

Arrange on a platter and enjoy!

 

Puglia - Best Travel Destination 2014!

Le Sorelle

Our entire lives, Puglia HAS been our best travel destination. Summers spent under the nurturing wing of our grandmother; long lunches under the shade of olive trees followed be even longer siestas; and unforgettable adventures exploring limestone sea grottos carpeted with bouquets of anemones and moss. Once school was out for the summer we became restless with anticipation for our trips!

Now it seems, others are noticing too.

Wine Enthusiast named Puglia as a top wine travel destination in 2013, calling the region "magical" and  boasting that it has "Italy's best food."

National Geographic named Puglia one of its Best Trips 2014, "where old ways still rule."

We are proud that our family's region is gaining some of the international recognition it undoubtedly deserves. We hope that the outstanding reviews Puglia has been given by these reputable organizations will intrigue you to travel to Puglia!

 

Trulli - mysterious hobbit homes

Beans

Puglia is not a place where you can simply "pass through." Geography prohibits the casual traveler. It is a peninsula within a peninsula - a land's end of sorts- the heel of Italy's boot. You must go with intention and arrive with purpose.

Roman roads came to an end here. Ancient languages still survive in Puglia's southern most recesses. Life moves at a slower pace in synchrony with the maritime winds and seasons.

The crimson earth exposes and expels chunks of limestone seabeds in constant geological motion. Tradition and ritual bind the people who live here.

And as with all ancient, far away places, there are mysteries and peculiarities to behold.

In Puglia, it is the trullo.

Copyright 2013 Raffaella Lorenzoni
These conical limestone houses dot the landscape from the central puglia to the south. Built without plaster, legend has it that trulli were easily built and deconstructed so as to vanish when tax collectors came around. No one knows for sure.

Alberobello is the hub for all things trullo. The town built on a hillside is a conical cornucopia of these whimsical structures. Though it has become somewhat "touristy" with many of these trulli unabashedly turned into shops full of kitsch souvenirs, it is certainly worth a visit. No other place holds such a high density of trulli. I personally prefer the lone, ancient trullo standing its ground in the picturesque countryside, but I don't hesitate to recommend a pit stop in this unique pugliese town. Wander the streets, take a first hand look at the structures in and out, and enjoy a shot of espresso. You won't be disappointed.

Primitivo, the mother of all zins

Beans

Like long lost twins, the Primitivo and Zinfandel grapes have finally been matched by their identical DNA. But like long lost twins, they have grown and adapted to different parts of the world, different soils and growing techniques, giving way to rather different wines. What California growers have relatively recently cultivated into a beautifully rich red variety, the Pugliesi have been perfecting for centuries. Nobody knows for sure how this varietal made its way to California and was renamed, but one hypothesis is that it was brought over during the Gold Rush by East Coast growers, and that it remained popular as sacramental wine during Prohibition.

But while the California Zin contains more youthful, fruity undertones (think blackberry and plum); the Pugliese primitivo is darker and more "liquoroso" or liquor-like in taste. Its jammy, spicy flavors run deep, like its ancient roots digging into rocky soil. Primitivos, so named because of the varietal's early ripening on the vine, have an alcohol content of 14 - 16%, making it a hearty wine - a wine most appropriately enjoyed with hearty (Pugliese) food!

Our cousin in Puglia produces his own primitivo label on his masseria -  a large limestone estate named Torre Catena dating back centuries.  The wine is called Volare - named after the song popularized by Domenico Modugno a native son of Polignano a Mare where our family is from. Needless to say, we are huge fans and served the wine at my sons' baptism in Puglia this summer. The party was held at Torre Catena and the wine was a huge hit (by the way, it is definitely worth checking out the above link to Torre Catena). Volare, like its name implies, soars.  It  is surprisingly vibrant in taste. It's the kind of wine where one sip calls for another simply for the pleasure of tasting it and feeling a well-balanced wine glide across your palate.  And yet the wine is far from pretentious. It's made to be enjoyed in good company, with good food and boisterous conversation. Volare is the kind of wine that becomes a joyful anchor to an evening of camaraderie with just the right touch of sophistication. Like the song, it makes you feel good.  


You'll have to stay tuned in 2013 to get your hands on a bottle. We are in the process of getting it imported. And when we do, our hope is that it will soar, and that Volare will make your taste buds fly!






Fava beans n' greens

Beans

It was once said that Hercules nourished himself on fava beans between physical exertions in order to regain his strength. These ancient varieties of peas have recently gained a resurgence of popularity, but for many centuries in Puglia they were considered the pauper's food. To admit a supper of fava beans was to admit one's beggared position in life.

No longer. Pugliese folk pride themselves on this traditional dish. The bean is grown in abundance and serves as a beautiful ornamental vine as well. Fava beans ripen in the summer and are often eaten fresh, but the recipe for fave e cicorie [chee-core-yay], the traditional Pugliese dish of favas and chicory greens, requires the use of dried beans. Boiling the dried beans eventually transforms these blanched, pebble like legumes into a thick, creamy puree', much like mashed potatoes. This dish, while posh on some menus, is pure comfort food. And better yet, it's good for you - packed with protein, antioxidants, and fiber. 


Fave e cicorie is easy to prepare. I use Bob's Red Mill Fava Beans. The beans are good quality, cook well, and are already peeled. An added plus is that there is no need to soak them over night. They'll cook down to a puree in an hour or so. They are also easy to find in grocery stores in our area. If you can't find dried fava beans in a store near you, you can easily order them online.

I also like to mix up the "greens" part. While tradition calls for boiled chicory greens (or closely related dandelion greens), I occasionally like to serve up these beans with milder greens like sauteed spinach with garlic, chard, or even kale. I also like to garnish the dish with other tasty treats like sun dried tomatoes, olives, raw red onion slivers, or artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil. 

The final product is a hearty vegetarian/vegan dish which is sure to please the palate and leave you satisfied.

Ingredients
Dried fava beans
Wild bitter greens like chicory, dandelion, collards or other bitter greens (also see variations mentioned above)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Rinse the beans to remove any small stones or pebbles.


Boil the beans in a 1 part fava bean, 3 parts water ratio.


Cover and turn down the heat. After 45 min to an hour the beans will start to break down. Stir frequently so the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. If you notice the beans getting too dry before they're fully cooked, add a bit of warm water to maintain a "mashed potatoes" type consistency - too much water and they'll turn soupy, and too little, the beans will burn. Once the beans are soft and easily broken down by the touch of a spoon, either keep stirring until you have a puree', or use a hand held mixer to get a creamy consistency. I like using my hand mixer.


Once pureed cook until you have a consistency which is somewhere in between pudding and mashed potatoes.

Add  salt to taste.

While the beans are cooking you can clean the greens and boil them (in the case of wild chicory, etc) or saute them in a teaspoon of olive oil and a couple whole (not chopped) cloves of garlic if you are using softer greens like spinach. When the greens are cooked dress them with extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste.

It's ok to serve these greens at room temperature.The important thing is that the favas be piping hot.

Ladel the favas onto a plate or wide bowl. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Add the greens on top. Garnish with sun dried tomatoes, raw red onion slivers, etc. (see above).


Serve with a hearty red wine like Primitivo or Salice Salentino.

Homemade limoncello

Beans

Hospitality is central to Pugliese culture. Visitors are always offered something to eat or drink when they enter a person's home. At the very least it is a cup of coffee, and if you're lucky it's a bicchierino, or little glass of liquor. Most often this liquor is homemade. Puglia still boasts a strong tradition of making a variety of liquors at home - from fruit based spirits to strong herbal concoctions to help with digestion.

A bicchierino is de rigueur after hosting a meal with guests or at important celebrations or events like weddings and funerals. Before the wide distribution and consumption of commercial liquors, the host prided themselves on his or her liquor making talents. Recipes varied from family to family but were consistent in their basic ingredients: alcohol, water, sugar, and the essence of either fruit, herbs, or coffee  - and even nuts! After particularly abundant meals, I remember a variety of homemade liquors being brought to the table - each to serve a particular guest's palate. They were often served in beautiful crystal decanters or rustic, thick glass bottles.

Small, local restaurants often bring these homemade liquors to the table free of charge to allow guests to relax and digest at their own happy pace. You can do the same! Think of how impressed your next dinner guests will be when you ofter them a small glass of your special homemade liquor!

We have an uncle who is particularly enthusiastic about maintaining this tradition. He favors liquors of the citrus variety and has perfected both his lemon and mandarin beverages. We love limoncello (lemon liquor) too, with its sweet, syrupy and fresh flavor. Making your own is quite easy to do. All you need are a few basic ingredients and some time - at least a week to allow the flavors to blend seamlessly together - so plan ahead. The classic limoncello recipe requires two months to prepare, so we are giving you a quicker version in case you can't wait that long.



Below is the basic recipe. If you're not a fan of lemons, you can substitute other citrus fruits like oranges or mandarins. The technique remains the same.

N.B. The juice from the lemons is not used when making limoncello. Therefore, we suggest squeezing the juice out once you've peeled the lemons and freezing it for later use so as not to waste any.

We also prefer using organic lemons with thick, aromatic skins for the simple reason that the peel is used. In fact, we make our limoncello with all organic ingredients! If you can't find organic lemons, make sure you wash your lemons well before use! The Sorrento variety is used in Italy because its thick peel is rich in essential oils.

 Ingredients

7 large lemons 
750mL bottle of 100 proof vodka
2 1/2 c. sugar (also preferably organic)
3 c. filtered water

Peel the rind of the lemons in strips being careful to leave the white part of the lemon (pith) behind due to its bitter taste. We suggest using a vegetable peeler. Use a small knife to remove any pith you may have accidentally collected. Place the lemon rinds and vodka together in a large glass jar  (or equally in multiple jars) and close tightly. Alternatively you can put the mixture in a large jug and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Set it aside for 6 to 7 days in a cool, dry place.* Do not refrigerate. You'll see the alcohol slowly turn yellow as the peels themselves turn whiter.

In a large saucepan over medium heat mix the sugar and water for about 5 minutes or so or until the sugar is entirely dissolved. Let the syrup cool completely.  Stir in the lemon and vodka mixture. Cover the saucepan and let it sit overnight at room temperature.**

Strain the mixture to remove the lemon peels (discard the peels) and pour into bottles. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving. May even be frozen for an extra cool drink.Serve cold.

--------------

* This is where the classic recipe requires a month of time to allow the lemon rind to give its flavor to the alcohol. If you can afford the time, we highly recommend you do it.

** Here the classic recipe requires at least another 4 to 6 weeks of allowing the mixture to sit in a cool, dry, and preferably dark place such as a pantry. If you decide to wait this long, we suggest pouring the mixture into a jar or bottle you can tightly seal.
 


Easy Almond Cookies : Paste di Mandorla

Beans

These past few days, our seaside town in California has been enveloped in cooler weather. Autumn has officially settled itself comfortably in our part of the world. Days are getting shorter in Puglia as well, and it is time to flaunt fashionablewarm coats and footwear. With the holidays approaching here in the States, our sweet tooth is ready to be satisfied. In our opinion, almonds offer the perfect balance of fragrant, nutty flavors and crunchy gratification. They are also a popular staple for making sweets in Puglia.

If you've been invited to Sunday

pranzo

(lunch - but think bountiful and leisurely), then it is almost obligatory that you first stop at a

pasticceria

and pick up at least a dozen miniature pastries to bring to your host. Below you'll find a quick and easy recipe for the most classic of sweets -

paste di mandorla,

small almond paste cookies.

I was inspired by the generous number of almond products we can find at our local farmers market. I made my own almond flour by grinding blanched almond slivers in my blender. You could do the same, or buy almond flower at your local grocery store.

We modified the recipe by making it a little bit naughty - we added a splash of rum to give it that

je ne sais quoi

warmth and yumminess. If you want to be even more naughty serve these with a deep red wine like primitivo or your favorite port. Otherwise enjoy with milk or tea!

This recipe yields about a dozen cookies.

Prep time: 5 - 10 min.

Cooking time: 20min

Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 c. almond flour (almond flours/meals vary - you may need to add more to make your mix less goopy and more solid).

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1 egg

zest of half a lemon

1/4 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp De Carlo Lemon EVOO

splash of rum

whole almonds or candied orange peel for topping

***

Start with the almond flour in a bowl:

Add all the remaining ingredients (except for the whole almonds or candied orange peels) and mix well. I used my hands - the dough is a bit too thick for a utensil and probably not worth getting any sort of appliance dirty. Note the use of lemon zest - this is typical in many Italian pastries. The lemon gives these cookies a lively bouquet.

Your dough should look something like this:

Make one inch balls and put them on a non-stick cookie sheet or on one covered in parchment paper. Press one whole almond or candied peel onto the top of each little ball of dough like this:

Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes or until they just start to turn golden on top.

Here is our finished product!

Yum, yum; or as the Italians say

gnam-gnam!

Italian cooking is far from precise. Mosts recipes are passed down from generation to generation simply by showing what's done and having a gut feeling for how much of this or that. We welcome any variations on this recipe.

Let us know how yours turned out and any creative twists you may have taken!

Vino

Beans

When we were girls, our nonna would give us the task of buying wine. This may seem shocking to an American so conditioned to heed the adult part in "adult beverage," but in Puglia, like much of Italy, wine is considered a staple at mealtime. People drink it in moderation and rigorously with a meal. It was unthinkable that our nonna's home would be without it. And so the chore fell on us to go buy a damigiana of it, or a glass jug ranging anywhere between 10 and 25 liters in capacity. The vendor, an elderly man with  long face and glasses known as il Signor Bovino, owned a shop in the same piazza in which our grandmother lived. The store shelves displayed a mish-mash of goods, and among the lightbulbs, stepstools, and fishing supplies, il Signor Bovino kept a fresh inventory of eggs, flour, and wine behind the counter.

Depending on the size, the damigiana would last us at least  few weeks. It was encased in hard plastic mesh with a small handle on each side. We would each grab one of these handles and scurry back to our grandmother's, teetering under the weight of the thing.  I still remember helping my nonna refill a few old wine bottles. They were made of thick, green glass and we would set them neatly in the sink. My job was to hold a plastic funnel securely at the opening of each bottle, while my nonna hoisted up the damigiana and poured the vino (always red) into each one. Those bottles would be placed at the table, while the damigiana was returned to the pantry until our supply was once again low.

The damigiana was never labeled. I still have no idea what varietals were in there or what vinyard it came from. Chances are that just like il Signor Bovino's store, it was a mish-mash of local stuff. But I do remember it was a decent red table wine. Our great-aunt Pasquina swore by it. She was unable to eat a meal without a couple glasses of wine. And by glass I mean a small water glass, not a fancy long stemmed wine glass. In fact, I don't ever recall stemmed wine glasses at any meal...ever.I don't think my nonna even owned any. It would mean literally elevating the wine to ornamental status when it wasn't so. Our vino was robust and earthy, like the soils it came from. It completed our meals of simple vegetables, cheeses, and legumes. It was always there - essential and appreciated, yet hardly worth a mention.

Today Puglia is experiencing a Renaissance in wine production. Its flagship varieties, Salice Salentino and Primitivo, are both spicy reds with a high alcohol content. Vineyards are improving their production and marketing their labels in local enoteche. It is more common for a family to buy wine in typical 750mL bottles than in the cumbersome damigiana. Regardless of the container, wine remains a fixture at the table, and I smile each time a see a kid shlepping some home just in time for lunch.

Olio d'oliva extra vergine

Beans


No kitchen or table in Puglia is without it. Olive oil is more than a staple, it is essential, it is the sine qua non of Puglia. The Pugliesi boast that there is at least one olive tree for every man, woman, and child in Italy. That's about 60 million trees. 

A drive along Puglia's strada dell'olio*, designated agri-tourism routes dedicated to olive oil production, will cut through endless fields of olive trees. These gnarled, silver-green giants grow thickly in groves that have been harvested for centuries, their heavy roots embedded deep in the fiery red soil. Their broad trunks stand like creatures from a fairytale, and are so knotted and twisted that it is easy to imagine them as keepers of secret histories and local lore.

Their fruits are prized in this region. The unctuous, goldish-green liquid that flows from these trees have sustained communities since they were first settled. Most people don't know that Puglia produces most of Italy's olive oil. Sadly it gets transported further north and mixed with other varieties and then labeled as real "Tuscan" EVOO. However, nothing compares to the pure, unrefined oils that are produced and sold at a small scale by local farmers. The cloudy color and slightly bitter yet buttery taste are appealing to the palate and add essential flavors to the local cuisine. Pugliese olive oil is striking olive oil.  It drips thickly and slowly onto your plate and the grassy bouquet connects you to the hard, rocky soil it came from.

There is much to say about the olive oil in Puglia- its history, its harvest, its heart-healthiness. EVOO will be a staple of this blog, and we will let you in on its secrets slowly, in the same way it should be savored. For now, know that the really good stuff isn't on super market shelves. It's handed to you directly by the farmer, in a glass jug free of any labels or expiration dates. Like an elixir faithfully bottled to maintain its magic, freshly pressed Pugliese olive oil is liquid gold in your mouth.



View Larger Map *In central Puglia, the Strada dell'Olio traverses the municipalities of Carovigno, Ceglie Messapica, Cisternino, Fasano, Ostuni, San Michele Salentino, San Vito dei Normanni, and Villa Castelli. Visitors can visit olive orchards, oil presses, mortars, masserie, and more.