When Tomato meets Mozzarella…

Today I’d like to propose you the recipe of an authentic Italian delicacy so you can cook it and leave your guests impressed! Let me give you some hints. You can find it in any pizzerias and like pizza the fresher ingredients you put, the better results you get. It has molten surprises inside and you can find them bite by bite. It’s crispy, tender, fluffy, warm and incredibly tasty. Get it? I’m talking about Calzone, a delicious folded pizza that oozes tomato sauce, melted mozzarella and any other kind of succulent ingredients. I know your mouth is watering, isn’t it?

CalzonePreparing Calzone is simple and not too much time-consuming. You can choose out of a lot of ingredients for the filling: tomato, ham, cheese, grilled vegetables, mushrooms, rocket and so on. Baked in the oven (better if it’s wood oven) or fried, Calzone will delight your palate. My mum always fries calzoni because, well, in Calabria we fry everything. But I cooked them in the oven, you know it’s healthier 😉

Ingredients for the dough:

4 cups of wheat flour

1,2 cups of water

1 table spoon of yeast

3 table spoon of olive oil

1 tea spoon of sugar

2 tea spoon of salt

Elaboration:

In a bowl put the flour and make a well. Put the yeast, sugar and water inside it and start mixing. Then, add the salt, the olive oil and knead the dough for 10 minutes until obtaining a smooth ball. Cover the ball and let it rise in a warm place during 1 hour.

Ingredients for the filling:

4 medium mozzarellas

4 fresh tomatoes

8 table spoon of tomato puree

Fresh oregano

Tomato, mozzarella and olive oil

Elaboration:

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into portions. Roll out each portion, cut it with a mold and put a bit of every ingredient in the center. Close the calzone. It is important to lightly wet the edges of the dough with some water to help seal it closed. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 450 degree for 15 minutes.

Calzone

I must say my calzoni were excellent. However, as you can see Zoe doesn’t like them since she tried to untie my apron during the all elaboration.

Calzone

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Taste Gràcia!

Barcelona

Cargols, Correfoc and Castellers. Do you know what these 3 words mean? Well, I must say in Catalonia they represent the essence of festivity since they are present in all the folkloric celebrations. Popular traditions exemplify the soul of a country and it is through these manifestations that the true personality of a civilization comes out.

In Barcelona there’s an enchanting district known as Barri de Gràcia (mostly called Gràcia). It is a lovable place made of tiny tree-lined streets and little squares where people crowd bar terraces during the all year.  It’s like a little village within the city and it has a unique bohemian soul.  But there’s one thing that turns Gràcia into one of my favorite districts in Barcelona: la Festa Major de Gràcia (Gracia Festival), a folkloric festival celebrated every year in August.  For almost a week streets and squares are decorated by neighbors who compete to win a prize. You can walk among pretty sirens, enjoy an illuminated colorful garden and if you look up at the sky you can see flying musicians or fabulous Venetian masks.

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While I was roaming around Gràcia I noticed all the festoons where made with recycled materials: plastic bottles converted into flowers and fishes, Nespresso capsules transformed into curtains, plastic cans turned into insects, old cds decorating sirens’ tails.

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After enjoying such fantastic creations I felt quite hungry…as usual ;). I had not a specific idea in my mind. Suddenly I saw something quite interesting, down in the street there was a stand with both Catalan and international delicacies: Tasta Gràcia (Taste Gracia).  A tempting smell led me in front of a huge paella (pan) full of cargols (snails). A nice cook was smiling at me telling me the secrets of his delicious recipe: cargols a la gormanda.

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Snails are gastronomic specialties here in Catalonia, if you go to traditional restaurants you can taste them in many different ways. The most common is Cargols a la llauna, snails baked with garlic and cooking salt that are eaten with all i oli, a typical Catalan sauce made with egg, olive oil and garlic.  I wanted to know more about Tasta Gracia so I met the organizers of this culinary initiative. They welcomed me with a succulent dish of snails and a glass of excellent vermouth (a flavored wine).  I was sitting in a garden, tasting authentic delicacies, talking about food with funny people in a bright summer day.  How could I ask for anything more?

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Tasta Gràcia was born in 2008 under the initiative of a group of people interested in food. These people realized they had in common the passion for snails and food in general. All of them knew the Aplec of Lleida, a gastronomic festival celebrated every year in May where thousands of people cook, taste and enjoy 12 tons of snails. Inspired by this festival, they founded El cargol graciòs, an association that wants to promote food in a cultural way.  So they started meeting people, organizing open activities and they proposed to the coordinators of the Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia to open a gastronomic corner to celebrate food. A part from cooking snails and other Catalan delicacies, they offer international food and make wine tastings.  Their main objective is to create a consciousness about food that unifies people and help to comprehend and share diversity. El cargol graciòs wants to stimulate a cultural and territorial cohesion; it’s a way to celebrate with friends, neighbors and with everybody.  Once again food inspires, delights and unifies people!

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The other C I mentioned is Castellers, people playing drums and building spectacular human towers. Look at the way they erect a castle of about 7 levels! It’s amazing!

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The last C is Correfoc (firerun), a very popular Catalan tradition where a group of devils dance spreading sparks from fireworks attached to forks.

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Minorca, the island of wind and…mayonnaise

The wind brings me to an island lost in the Mediterranean. Crystalline water surrounds me and I can see through the wonderful seabed. Colorful fishes swim next to me, the white fine sand warms me up, a kind breeze caresses me and I find myself surrounded by yellow-blue butterflies. Green fills my iris, the underwood smell captures my senses and the cicadas sound bewitches me. It could have been a desire or a dream, but fortunately this is reality in Minorca, the island of wind.

An authentic Eden, Minorca astonishes me not only with its incredible landscapes and  the amazing wildlife but also because it is rich with history and emotional traditions.  Ancient peoples colonized the island leaving interesting remains of their civilization like Talayots: tower-shaped stoned structures which function is still unknown.

During the 18th century the island was first settled by the English and then by the French who brought habits from their cultures. The deep link with history is evident in the popular celebrations like the Sant Joan festivity. Originally religious, this commemoration is today one of the most important cultural events thanks to the medieval games – Jocs des Pla – where knights riding Minorcan horses defy each other in the crowd.  Thousands of people watch riding horses, some brave ones even try to touch them. The atmosphere is vibrant! In Ciutadella people open their house doors and prepare banquets on the streets where it is possible to taste authentic local delicacies. Here, apart from cheese and sausages, you can enjoy the pomada, a typical long drink made with lemonade and the famous Minorcan gin Xoriguer. Once in Ciutadella, I’m involved in a nut battle: l’Avellanada. At first I think you should throw nuts to friends only, but then I notice nuts coming from everywhere and the fight begins!!!

Minorca is not only a natural paradise but also a gastronomic one! Did you know that Mayonnaise was created on this island? During the 7 Year’s War, French troops attacked the English Marlborough fortress next to the Mahon harbor. The French defeated the English and to celebrate it they organized a huge banquet. In the menu there was a delicate sauce expressly created for the occasion by a chef of the French Crown. The two basic ingredients of this new delicacy were olive oil and eggs. The new sauce was called Mahonnaise in honor of the victory at the Mahon harbor.

Minorca’s flavors are strong and intense. How to resist the authentic sausages, the famous Mahon cheese and the renowned pastries?  During my visit to the small town of Binibequer, I could relish a genuine treat: el cuixot. It is made by mixing pork remains with blood and spices like cinnamon.

In the shop windows, on the markets stands, on Minorcan’s tables it is impossible not to find an interesting squared and paprika coloured cheese: the Mahon cheese. Semi-hard to hard, this dairy product is traditionally elaborated with raw cow milk.

During my stay in Menorca, I visited S’arangí, a dairy farm in Es Mercadal  producing cheeses, delicious marmalades and appetizing sausages.  The owner welcomed me just during the elaboration of theMahon cheese. Cow milk is poured into big tanks where rennet is added. Once coagulated, the solid part of the milk is placed on a huge cotton cloth called fogasser. The dough is pressed many times and left to drain in order to eliminate the excess whey. The cotton cloth is then tied with a string called lligam which gives the cheese its authentic shape. Once pressed, the cheese is immersed in salty water and is subsequently left to mature in special rooms. It is important to grease it periodically with olive oil and paprika that gives the cheese its peculiar color.

Before leaving Minorca I visited Ca’s Sucrer, one of the historical pastry shops of the island. Once I entered the shop I’ve been attracted by the bar that was full of ensaimadas, a typical Balearic snail-shaped pastry made with pork lard called saïm. The ensaimada can be empty or filled with all sorts of delicacies like chocolate, sobrasada (a sausage made with pork meat, paprika and salt) and cabello de angel, a delicious pumpkin jam. Of course I tasted all of them, how good!!!

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It’s Cherry Time!!!

It happens every year from May to June. Juicy red fruits spring up from flowering leafy trees. They have such a bright appearance, a soft pulp and a sweetish taste that anyone who tries them is hooked. Cherries are the late spring fruits par excellence and a part from being eaten raw, they can also be used to create fantastic marmalades and delicious cakes. Here in Catalonia, cherries have been introduced during the XIXth century as an alternative to grapes picking. One of the most important Catalan areas for cherries is the Baix Llobregat, a rural region only a few kilometres far from Barcelona. The main cherry varieties, Burlat and Starking, are famous for their fresh and sweet taste. When I first decided to write about cherries I thought about interviewing a bio cherry farmer but then I found something more tempting: El Forneret!

In the little village of Torrelles de Llobregat there is an artisanal bakery runned by  Miquel, passionate about history, and his son Jordi who is a mineral spring expert. In the Forneret, they create excellent genuine products among which cherry-based desserts! As soon as I enter the bakery flavours and colours take me back in time. I can see different bread qualities, cakes, pastries and peculiar tower-shaped biscuits.  Miquel starts telling me the story about those special biscuits called “torretes” (little towers). Almost thirty years ago, browsing through history books, he found out that in the Middle Age there was a very important noble family living in Torrelles. The emblem of that family were 3 towers. In fact, the name of the village, Torrelles (towers), comes from that medieval shield. So, Miquel decided to create a sort of symbiosis between history and his job by making delicious tower-shaped biscuits. They are artisanal and made with different flavors: black and white chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, walnut etc.

As for Miquel, creating those biscuits was a way to meet his main interests. Torretes are known in the all area and have also been exported abroad. However, being an artisanal product, it is impossible to produce them in big quantities. The alternative would be mechanizing their production, but this is not the philosophy behind the Forneret.

But let’s go to the point! The reason why I found this bakery is that they use cherries from the Baix Llobregat to make marmalades and create desserts. Miquel’s son, Jordi, welcomes me to the pastry lab to show me how to prepare a special delicacy: the cherry sacher! While Jordi is looking for ingredients, I see the rest of the staff making appetizing pastry delicacies among which the typical Coca de Llardons, a Catalan pastry made with crackling.

Coca de Llardons

One of the guys prepares Massini cake, and I am attracted by the way he flambés the yolk.

Everything is ready! We can start preparing our Cherry Sacher!

Step 1

Take a sponge cake

Step 2

Cut it into three parts

Step 3

Wash fresh cherries

Step 4

Prepare cherry marmalade

Step 5

Garnish the sponge cake with cherry marmalade

Step 6

Coat with dark chocolate

Step 7

Put some cherries on top

But hey…pay attention to those guys…they start a chocolate fight!

As you can see, there is a story behind everything you taste! Ready for the next one?

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The Only Cheese that comes from Ashes

In the middle of the Berguedà, a Catalan county in the foothill of the Pyrenees, there is a cheese maker with a shy gaze and  long mustaches. Toni Chueca, who at a first glance looks like a bashful and reserved person, welcomed me to Formatges Bauma to tell me the story behind 30 years of passion for cheese. I said at first glance because he is actually a person with a great sense of humor and, after some ironic jokes, his big blue eyes open wide spreading authentic fun. Toni has a huge dairy knowledge, he visits cheese makers of all over the Europe and he makes and distributes his products on both a national and international scale.  He created excellent delicacies such as the goat hard cheese Garrotxa and the goat soft cheese Carrat.

Carrat goat soft cheese

But how did it all begin? Do you know that Toni was neither born nor grew up in the Berguedà?  Almost 30 years ago he decided to leave the city to live in the countryside.  Try to figure out how strange it was! At the beginning of the 80s, when the majority of people was leaving rural places to crowd cities, Toni did the contrary.  “Rural life is not easy. You have to find a way to live. But with a bit of creativity and initiative it is possible to find valid options” he says.  For instance he chose to have a goat flock, but then he realized producing cheese would have been more profitable, and so he did. But he wasn’t alone. Toni told us that at that time a group of people made the same as him. Pushed by a hippie spirit of freedom , they moved to the Catalan countryside and started producing cheeses.  These farmers eventually founded Acrefa.

Nowadays Toni buys milk from local producers;  he makes and distributes 10 dairy products like fresh yogurt, cheese cream, the famous mató, the Garrotxa and the original Carrat.

Carrat is a unique cheese since it is ash-covered. Yes it’s coal ash and it gives the cheese a singular taste. Carrat has goat aromas and a creamy texture similar to yogurt.  Toni told me he had a square mold that remembered him french cheeses, so he thought he could put creamy curd in it.  Then he came up with the idea of covering it with coal ashes to differentiate it. He eventually realized coal gave Carrat an authentic taste but it had a little inconvenient: it stained hands. So Tony had to find a solution and he finally added pennicilium candidum – a food genus –  to avoid hands dirtying and it worked!

Toni also talked about the different coagulations to obtain hard and soft cheese. In the first case, he heats milk at 36º C and adds a consistent rennet quantity. In a few hours milk turns solid and can be put in cold stores. Seasoning lasts 30-50 days.  It is important to touch cheeses once a week to avoid mold spreading. Yes mold, don’t be scared! Mold is actually a natural process in cheese seasoning. “People should know mold is something natural. If it comes out it means everything is ok, we should worry if this doesn’t happen!”


Garrotxa goat hard cheese

In the second case, he heats milk at 20º C keeping the temperature during 24 hours. Rennet quantitiy is minimum and the all process is slower. What comes out is a fantastic cream.

Obviuosly before leaving I stored up both hard and soft cheeses. If you are interested in knowing more or visiting Formatges Bauma here you have some interesting data:

Formatges Bauma, La Solana – Borredà

+34 93 823 90 64 – bauma@formatgebauma.com

Are you ready for the next story?

 

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Hello world!

Hello!!!

Welcome to my new BLOG! This is a place where you can find interesting stories about FOOD.

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