Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tales of Ajvar

The best pepper paste ever?

I love that my city embraces a myriad of cultures, enough to host cultural/regional specific festivals, home to many country specific clubs and associations and also many small import grocery stores specialising in the food of a variety of countries. Within but a few kilometers, there are Italian, British, Polish, Dutch/Indonesian, Thai and Croatian grocers/shops.  It is quite impressive to be able to have crumpets and golden syrup for brekkie, an authentic mortadella sandwich and chinotto for lunch, an afternoon snack of kielbasa and dinner of Indonesian curry all in one day.

However, trying to keep with my fresh and local mantra, I have to admit to not frequenting these stores too often, either only to get something to enhance my garden goodies or try something new and different and usually recommended to me by a friend.  It's the locavore's dilemna.  But, today, I had to check this out.  I work with a ex-pat Macedonian who is only too happy to share food stories and I am a more than willing ear.

He tells me tales of ajvar, his mum and grandmother and that it's alot different just to get it out of a jar without all the work, but what delicious work.  This photo shows a part of the process.  Can't you smell the peppers roasting now?

Mama's ajvar: A roasted red pepper spread that also contains eggplant (aubergine).  It is available in mild, hot and green pepper varieties.

We've been enjoying its unctuous, concentrated pepper flavour on fresh and toasted bread as an appetiser. Divine!

 Na zdravje!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More than cheese in 2013

Marzipan pears at Slow Cheese (Bra, Italy - September, 2011)

It was an incredible week at Slow Cheese, 2011.  There was so much to absorb in a short time, I was happy that I had sessions booked and did my researchStill, the Italians are so organised, you could still just show up and have a great time.   

First of all, the cheese was amazing. I tasted rare and regional cheeses unlike which I have tasted before or will again until the next time I'm fortunate enough to travel back.  The food was absolutely stellar and the wine lists at the various venues were nothing short of fantastic.  These were never concerns going in.. however, the biggest surprises were found in the beer tent, the street food and some other unique artisan food stalls around Bra.

These marzipan pears (the photo above is of tiny marzipan pears, not real ones) found at the Sicilian products booth are a prime example.  I bought a few as a treat for my suocera.  Also at this stall were the best cannolu I have ever tasted.  Rich with ewe's milk ricotta and bejewelled with the crushed pistachios, I ate one on the spot and bought another for breakfast the following day. 

Since Cheese 2013 is coming up, I hope a few retrospective posts can help you decide to book your tickets.  If you have any questions or concerns about traveling to the land of Slowfood for all things cheese (and then some), I'd be happy to answer them as best I can. 


Friday, April 05, 2013

The Sangiorgio recipe project

San Giorgio Morgeto, RC

I am working with my suocera to compile some recipes.  I won't call them 'Italian' (obviously, I think the regionality of Italy is well-established), sort of Calabrese, but mostly Sangiorgese 'recipes' or the variants of common local/regional dishes made with her San Giorgio (and now, after nearing 40 years, a Canadian) twist.  It is a work in progress, a mission to save and preserve things that I do not want lost.  Spring (and this book) has inspired me and my suocera seems to have gotten over being bothered my desire to weigh and measure and write more detailed instructions.  Is it possible that I've become more stubborn and she has become less so? Hmm. 

Will I extract measurements and methods from this wise old woman?  We'll see. 

The names of some of the dishes, I am not even entirely sure how to spell given that the dialect is more of a spoken language and, what I have seen written, defies rules of traditional Italian.  It is a very old language, a precursor to Italian with Arabian, French and Greco influences shared with Sicilia and Sardegna. So bear with me and if you have a suggestion, for the words, spelling or a recipe - I know there are Calabrese far and wide around this planet, please let me know.

The first installment is in the works.  We're in the process of picking a day, deciding what we are going to cook and then, getting the ingredients.  I am long and inexcusably overdue to post about a certain cookie recipe so that might be a good place to start.

Looking forward to sharing the discoveries.