ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Foodie Friday! Lecce- Tip of the Stilletto. Ciceri e Tria, a Summer Minestra, and Rosette

Buona Sera!

It's Foodie Friday and we're going on a trip down memory lane. Come and join us!

As I've mentioned before, I spent my childhood summers in Italy visiting my maternal grandparents. My mother also had a brother 8 years her junior. When I was somewhere around 9 or 10, my Zio Franco met a girl- a beautiful, elegant girl who enthralled all who met her- including him. When they announced they were marrying, we were all thrilled and the wedding was a grand event (another post). Since he was still an Italian Air Force pilot, he would be required to live wherever he was assigned and it was determined that their married life would begin in Lecce

I found a bit of information about Lecce on the Web that describes the area and the cuisine that I came to love:

Puglia is the region encompassing the heel and spur of the boot, the main cities being Bari, Brindisi, Foggia, Lecce, and Taranto.
Lecce is a city and also the capital of the province of Lecce. Also known as ‘La Firenze del Sud’, meaning ‘Florence of the South’, it has a population of around 95,000 inhabitants. The city is famous for its beaches as well as the it’s famed Baroque architecture.

Initially, a Greek city, and then, a Roman town, Lecce developed to become one of the most important cities of Italy. Today, the city is an important agricultural and industrial centre with oil, ceramics and wine being the main industries.
Situated at the south-eastern edge of Italy, the province occupies the area called Penisola Salentina with the Adriatic Sea to the east and the Ionian to the south and west, a unique landscape of rugged, reddish territory, villages of white-painted houses, all between sea and sky of astounding blue, and including the two splendid lakes of Alimini Grande and Alimini Piccolo. Here and there magnificent churches and palaces, witnesses of the historical heritage of crossroads of cultures, thanks to the strategical position on the channel of Otranto.
One of the most vivid memories I have of driving down to Lecce was the view of the town as we approached- it was blindingly white against the bluest sky you've ever seen.

Also the local cuisine shows traits of the Arab, Spanish and Greek dishes, and the local dialect has many similarities with ancient Greek.
The ancient name of the province was Terra d’Otranto, with capital Lecce, including also the territory of the present province of Taranto.
Lecce was called Lupiae in ancient times. Even today, the town centre has kept something of the colours and art of a Messapian town. This marvellous town is the regional capital of the most southern area in Italy and represents a shining symbol of Salento; a land rich in art, culture and folklore which has been handed down to us from our wise ancestors. Yet Lecce is more than a centre for art and culture; it is a mixture of warmth and rich flavours. These are flavours unique to the land around Lecce. People have lovingly tilled the soil here and harvested their crops for centuries. Mother earth has been generous in Lecce, bestowing the area with magnificent olive groves and fantastic vineyards.
This is the southern-most tip of the stiletto heel and the first place in Italy to see the sun rise

Lecce boasts a unique gastronomic and culinary treasure trove which is mostly thanks to the areas natural products and the traditions of peasant cookery. The basic ingredient for almost all of Salento dishes is olive oil. Gabriele d'Annunzio himself sung the praises of the oil, writing that it travelled from the ancient oil-presses as far as England. Indeed, olive oil is the element of Pugliese cookery which makes Salento one of the most renowned eating areas in Italy.
Wine is also an important element in traditional cookery and it is known as "lu mieru" in Lecce dialect. Homer wrote of a "sea of wine": in September the sea becomes dark because of the sea storms and during the grape harvest the sea around Puglia turns the colour of wine. Lecces wines are a good accompaniment for a meal or a dessert and can be used for blends. Each wine carries with it the flavours, scents and colours of the earth and air of its vineyard.

This is also true of the areas vegetables, the fruits of the earth, which have particularly rich colour and flavour thanks to Salentos fertile soil. For instance, it is only here, in the heel of Italy, that you can try lampascioni, a wild muscari onion.
Salento is also a rich fishing area. Using the fish that they catch in the crystal clear sea, they make a wonderful fish soup. This contains top-quality fish which have rare and unforgettable flavours. The most famous of these dishes is called "taieddra". This contains courgettes, cherry tomatoes and sea food.
There are also plenty of traditional recipes which have been handed down from our grandparents. These include dishes like "ciceri e tria" which is a kind of homemade lasagna with chick peas, or tasty horsemeat spiced up with some chili peppers.
There is also wide range of dairy products from mozzarella to curds, all of which are made with sheep or goats milk. These are beautifully prepared and they still make marzotica ricotta and burrata using the same old traditional recipes.

The other essential element of the Salento diet is bread. Great care is taken in the preparation of oiled breads and Pizzi, both typical breads from Lecce.
Finally, there are the famous Pugliese desserts and pastries like strufuli, cartellate and cupete with toasted almonds. A visit to Lecce is not complete without trying a "pasticciotto" filled with cream or a "fruttone" with stuffed with marzipan and covered with chocolate. Lecce has one of the best cuisines in Italy and this is thanks to a combination of the love and care which they put into their cookery, and the old traditional recipes and high quality local produce. Chefs in Lecce love the land around them and use local produce because they know it is the best.  They serve beans with chicory beard, which comes from the wild chicory which grows in the countryside. This is seasoned with the olive oil of the highest possible quality. 
Puglia is adorned with a long, beautiful coast line, largely free of tourists and development. The heel and spur of Italy's boot produces hearty fruits and vegetables, a main addition of Puglian cuisine.
Tomatoes, fennel, peppers, lettuces, wild chicory and onions grow well there and are eaten raw at the beginning of a meal or served at the end of a meal with fruit. Between courses, pasta takes center stage. The types and shapes of pasta, made from Italy's best durum wheat, are more numerous here than in any other area of Italy. The most popular cuts are maccheroni, spaghetti, cavatelli, tiny gnocchi, and the region's most famous creation, orecchiette ("little ears"). Pasta sauces typically contain cauliflower, eggplant, chickpeas, fava beans, and broccoli florets.
Sheep's milk cheese is another important component of Puglian cuisine, as is the bounty of excellent seafood (particularly oysters, mussels and clams pulled from the Adriatic Sea.
Puglia is also reputed for its fabulous deep green olive oil, which competes with Tuscany and Liguria in quality. But grapes are probably the region's most important crop, as Puglia produces more grapes, both for eating and wine-making, than any other region in Italy. The main cultivations are olive trees and vineyards, whose production is of high quality and renowned all over Italy and beyond, as well as artichokes, tomatoes and watermelons.

       Back in those days, (yes- the dinosaur era), proper unmarried couples did not travel alone. So during their engagement while they were preparing their apartment  for after the honeymoon, my mother was appointed chaperone. ( We still laugh about that- my mom is quite naive about many things and is still the easiest person EVER to pull something over on!) We made numerous trips to the area both before the wedding and after to visit the newly married couple. 
My Zia Luciana was a fabulous cook and quickly learned the area specialties during her time there. The cuisine in the Puglia region is of the "Cucina Povera"- Kitchen of the Poor- or more readily known as peasant fare. Simple, hearty, flavorful, and always with the freshest ingredients. 

Ciceri e Tria is a beloved and traditional dish of Salento. It's a brothy pasta and chickpea dish. A third of the pasta is fried, the rest boiled directly into the broth. Its soupiness varies and sometimes you'll need a spoon and sometimes you won't. Cheese is not usually used, though I do.  :) The fried pasta was meant to mimic the texture of meat, back when it was hard to come by.
I'm giving you a method here- not exact amounts as I don't measure. 

Ciceri e Tria

dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
carrots, onions, and celery- coarsely chopped
olive oil
salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaves
chopped parley
wide pasta noodles, preferably fresh. If you don't make pasta, use a commercial fresh pasta. 

Drain the chickpeas and add to a pot of water. Water should cover chick peas by an inch or two. Simmer till tender, making sure to keep the water an inch or two above the peas- you may have to add hot water periodically.  Remove half of chick peas and put them in a food processor to puree. Saute vegetables in some olive oil for a few minutes over high heat till beginning to soften and brown.Add the vegetables, bay leaves, puree, red pepper flakes and salt to the whole chick peas and simmer until tender.
Take a third of the pasta and fry in small batches, in extra virgin olive oil.
Add the raw pasta to the chick peas and cook till tender. 
Cook until tender. Check for seasoning. Add fried pasta, the diced parsley and drizzle with olive oil.

In Italy, soup is served year round. During the summer, traditional vegetable soups are served at room temperature. In the Southern regions, the fare is traditionally heartier to sustain the farmers and field workers through their day. This typical Puglian vegetable soup, or Minestrone (big soup), is almost a vegetable stew or "giambotta". It is thick and can be served with or without pasta or beans. Made very early in the cool morning and left to sit at room temperature, it just gets better

Summer Puglian Minestrone Stufata

Stufata means a cooking technique similar to a braise, in which the ingredients are cooked in little or no water; the juices from the vegetables themselves serve to give the soup its broth.  This is a thick soup that should be served immediately, as the vegetables absorb the small amount of liquid and it becomes more of a giambotta or vegetable stew
 2 small eggplants
sea salt
2 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
2 red or yellow bell peppers
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a more for garnish
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small bunch fresh green or red chard, thinly sliced
1/2 lb green beans, sliced in 1 inch lengths
6 ripe red tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium zucchini, cubed
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
red pepper flakes, if desired
Cut the eggplant in 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a colander, sprinkling them liberally with salt. Weight the eggplant and set the colander in the sink to drain for at least 1 hour. Then rinse the cubes thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
Cut the potatoes and carrot into cubes the same size as the eggplant.
Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, discard the seeds and inner white membranes, and slice thinly.
Add the oil to a big heavy saucepan or rondeau large enough to hold all the vegetables and place over medium-high heat.
Quickly sauté the eggplant and potatoes till they just start to brown.
Stir in the onion and celery and continue cooking until the onion softens and starts to turn golden.
Add the carrot, chard, green beans, and peppers and stir to mix well.
Add 1/2 cup hot water or vegetable broth and 1/2 cup wine to the vegetables in the pan, cover, and cook together for about 5 minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, zucchini, and the herbs, together with the hot pepper if desired.
Season with salt, cover tightly, and cook for 30 minutes, adding a very little liquid periodically if necessary.
Remove oregano sprigs, bay leaf and rosemary sprig before serving. I added some thin spaghettini, broken into 2 inch pieces, and cooked separately. This prevents the pasta from absorbing the little bit of broth. When storing, keep the cooked pasta and soup separate.
Drizzle each serving with a bit of olive oil.

Dessert. You knew there was going to be a dessert, didn't you?  Rather than a heavy pastry to end a summer meal, this is a traditional light "Rossette". These are a light crisp fried pastry shell which can be served filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or a ricotta cannoli cream as I have done. OR, they can be simply sprinkled with powdered sugar and served as an accompaniment to a good strong espresso. 

These are made with a special iron (my kids think it's an Italian branding iron) which can be purchased in various shapes

My original came from my Nonna in Italy, but I have since replaced them at Kitchenworks 


1 egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water 1/3 cup beer
 3 TBSP grated orange rind
3 TBS sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp mint extract
Canola Oil

In electric fry pan, bring oil to 375 degrees. Whisk all batter ingredients together till smooth. Have a rack over a baking pan at the ready and a pair of tongs.
 Submerge iron in hot oil for about 30 seconds. Blot lightly on a paper towel and dip into batter. Be SURE not to submerge- batter should not exceed 3/4 of the depth of the mold. Submerge in hot oil and hold till you see the pastry start to separate from the iron. at this point, you can help it a little with the point of a sharp knife. Let the pastry drop into the oil and allow to cook till golden brown, flipping with tongs halfway through. Drain upside down on rack and allow to cool completely before filling or sprinkling with sugar. Enjoy!

 Come join us at Designs by Gollum for the Foodie Friday Festival of delights. A huge thank you to Michael for hosting and allowing us to have this fabulous party every week

Be sure to follow us as we learn what blogging is all about. And if you're a Facebooker, become a Fan of Bramasole (the link is on the sidebar)- we post bonus recipes and tips for our Facebook friends

As Always,

Buon Cibo, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie


  1. Pattie, it looks like you have been busy cooking up a storm. I try to make rosettes on the first day that it snows. I love them and so do my kids. I never really make them any other time. My irons also include timbale irons, which I have never made, have you? Everything looks yummy! Joni

  2. Beautiful photos of Italy, and I loved reading your story! The food looks fabulous, Pattie! Thanks for sharing your memories and your recipes. I really love your blog!

  3. That was a great history trip. Loved your story. As always your recipes are delish. Haven't made Rossettes in a long time. They are so good:)

  4. What a great post. I loved the mini trip and the recipes all look amazing! thanks : )


  5. Pattie,
    You need to write a book! If any publisher is reading this...she needs to be in print! Your stories are so awesome. I love how you tell us your family history intertwined with the history of Italy. And tonight you took us to Lecce! Would probably have never learned about Lecce if it wasn't for you!!
    Your recipes today (as always) look and sound delicious!
    Have a great weekend :)

  6. Oh, that looks absolutely beautiful! I want to visit so bad! I have always wanted too visit both Italy and Greece. I am afraid I would seriously gain weight! lol I will take my rossette with riccota cream please!

  7. What a lovely dish and the family and regional history make it interesting as well as delicious. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  8. What a lovely place to visit Patti!! I hope to get to Italy one day. It is on my list of places to go!! Those dishes you have shown us today look delicious as well!! Especially the rosettes!!xxoo

  9. I always love your posts!

    Wonderful history and the food looks delish!

    Thanks for stopping by the Back Porch. The pottery on the hearth room table was made by a Missouri artisan. I've always had it above the cabinets, just recently moved it to the hearth room.

  10. This has been a wonderful armchair trip to the coast of Italy through flavours and sights. How I long to be in Puglia.

  11. I love this wonderful post, Pattie. I traveled to Italy years ago and loved every minute of my trip. A highlight was a week in Sicily. I hope to return one day, but in the meantime I visit vicariously through your terrific posts. I haven't had a rosette in years...I remember my grandmother making them in our farm kitchen.

  12. I love your stories Patti! The photos are always so lovely too. The cookies you made are my husbands favorite. Right after we were married his first request was "Learn how to make the cookies from my mom." I did! She never measured anything though, so when people want to know how to make some of the things I learned from her we have to try to do all the calculations. Just another kitchen experiment.

    I hope you two will stop by Mia Monday on Monday. This week we are sharing favorite photos of ourselves. Everyone is welcome!

  13. I love coming here to read your posts about beautiful Italy and also finding such wonderful, authentic recipes! I'd like a little of everything, please ;)

  14. FABULOUS POST Pattie! My husband is from nearby Calabria and many of their cuisine is the same. There is a restaurant we frequent in Manhattan called Il Trulli which serves Pugliese cusine. You can watch women make home made orecchiette during lunch hours.

    I agree with Wendy -- you need to write a cookbook!

    xxoo Pat

  15. what an incredible post!!! out of all the places I have visited, my wife and I could live in Italy...your photos are so very beautiful, and your food is to die for...I love everything!! so fresh so tasty.....that soup is perfect for anytime of the year...I never knew they just left it out and ate it at room temp, what a great idea!!
    I am just blown away with this post.....
    thanks so much for sharing and for bringing back so many great memories!

  16. I need to go back to Italy. I learned a lot from this post!

  17. Enjoying your travel journals infused with food history and current dishes to compliment the part of Italy from where they originated. The displays are so pretty and stylish!Thanks again for such a wonderful food journal and culture woven into each post. ~Emelia~

  18. lovely photos of Italy, and I liked reading your post! The food looks gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your memories and your recipes.I'll come back very soon, kisses

  19. Thanks for the lovely tour! I wasn't familiar with Lecce! And your food looks fabulous, as usual! Yummy! Happy week!...hugs...Debbie

  20. Pattie, I'm late to the party, but this was the most fascinating post! I can't get over all of the info, and you tell it so well. I always, ALWAYS love to visit you.

    The Italian "branding iron" puts out a nice product! How festive! And the chick peas... YUM! Ready to eat now, and it's only 9:35!

    Thanks for this wonderful tour and culinary experience rolled into one. I'm also glad to learn that the area you reported on is still free of development. YEA! An unspoiled area of the world.



  21. Hi Pattie...

    Girlfriend, I just love coming to your place! I really enjoyed your tour and info about Lecce...ohhh, I would sooo love to visit there! I have never been that far south! always, your recipes and traditional dishes are fabulous! Thank you sooo much for sharing them with us! I'm so glad that you offered your recipe for Rossette...I have the molds but have never used them! Now I can!!!

    I always enjoy when you stop by for a visit...your sweet notes always make me smile! Thank you, my friend!!!

    I hope that you're having a marvelous Monday!
    Chari @Happy To Design

  22. Such a well researched post. I love that about your post, and when you add your family history in the backyard it makes it all so much more fun to read!

  23. Oh wow, the trip down memory lane, the region of Italy and the food was an amazing journey. Thanks for sharing.

  24. What a beautiful area of Italy - and not one that is usually featured. I found your post really interesting and even had to tell my husband about how pretty it is down there in the heel.


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