Stuffed Pork Loin and Pumpkin Puree

Here is a dish that was inspired primarily by chilly Fall evenings and the abundance of fresh pumpkin showing up at all the markets here in Rome. You may remember the pumpkin risotto with clams we sampled a few weekends ago at La Quercia on an especially chilly and rainy Saturday. Pumpkin finds its way in many Roman dishes from Soups to Stuffing for Ravioli.  In fact this puree, thinned out with chicken or vegetable stock is really delicious as a soup the next day. Continue reading Stuffed Pork Loin and Pumpkin Puree

Rome: Palazzo Spada

Saturday was once again rainy and a bit dreary.  But the upside is that the tourist stay in while we venture out.  And, frankly, Rome not unlike Paris is actually quite beautiful in the rain. The cobblestone streets and sidewalks come alive; wet, shiny and reflective.  The green of vegetation becomes exaggerated and enhanced creating a contrast to the otherwise gray smog stained buildings.

We took a nice walk over to Palazzo Spada and spent  a few hours or so touring the picture galleries of this wonderful renaissance palace.  Only one floor is open to the public but enough paintings and period furnishings to keep us occupied for the morning.

After the picture galleries we headed downstairs and out the back into a wonderful courtyard to view the perspective colonnade by Borromini.  The rain was pouring but nothing could take away from this fascinating three dimensional perspective.  Be sure to check it out here: http://www.artbabble.org/video/ngadc/empire-eye-magic-illusion-palazzo-spadas-corridor-part-5

 

After spending some time photographing and pondering the genius of this architectural wonder we headed back out into the wet city.  Not far from the entrance to the gallery there is a restaurant, La Quercia, that we have passed many times but had never tried.  This time with so much rain and no other place in mind for lunch it seemed destined for a first try.

laquerciaI
La Quercia Interior

We were the first to arrive for lunch. This is typical for us. Somehow we have not gotten accustomed to eating lunch as late as the locals do. Lunch here does not really get started until at least one and really even later on weekends. The interior is very warm and cozy; the perfect place for this rainy day.

LaquerciaII

We started by ordering a bottle of Poggio Dei Gelsi. This was the least expensive bottle on the menu but the only white from the Lazio region which is to say a local vineyard. The wine was fairly dry and went well with everything we ordered; the perfect table wine.

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Sauteed Porcini Mushrooms

Our waiter soon arrived with a basket of fresh Porcini mushrooms and suggested we try them in one of two ways; either sauteed or with fettuccine. We opted to share the sauteed version.

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Pumpkin Risotto with Clams

The mushrooms were sliced and diced into nice size chunks and sauteed in olive oil along with garlic and rosemary.  Grilled whole wheat bread was nestled in for soaking up the sauce.  These were really really good.  So succulent!

Rabbitwitholives
Braised Rabbit with Black Olives

Next we decided on one of the special dishes of the day which was risotto and pumpkin with clams.  Again, a really delicious dish. The salty sea infused clams contrasted nicely with the creamy background of the pumpkin while the rice, cooked al dente, offered texture and balance.

The final dish we ordered and shared as well was the rabbit cooked with black olives.  A beautiful presentation with glossy black olives and creamy puree of potatoes and again some bread nestled in for soaking up the sauce. The rabbit had been braised with herbs and garlic and was super tender and succulent.

All in all a wonderful rainy Saturday here in Rome.

Cabbage Soup with Clams and Pancetta

The following is my interpretation of the cabbage soup from last weekend in Puglia.  I decided with Autumn in our midst that some crisped pancetta would make a nice addition to this dish.  I already consider cabbage an Autumn food so why not play that up?  Enjoy!

Continue reading Cabbage Soup with Clams and Pancetta

Alberobello, Puglia

Friday we boarded a plane bound for Bari and just forty-five minutes later we were driving across the southeast side of the “boot” surrounded by olive groves and almond trees.    We arrived too early to check-in to the hotel which was located in the heart of the town just off the main piazza, Piazza del Popolo.  Our room was not ready so we headed out for a walk through the small village filled with Trulli.  These dwellings date back to the early 17th century and are a fascinating attraction in this area of Puglia.  Remarkably, many are still inhabited today.  We were able to visit one occupied by a family graciously excepting visitors.
TwoTrulli

After a bit of wandering through the winding roads  looking at all the different features of these dwellings we headed back to the main piazza for lunch.  We settled on Miseriaenobilta, a restaurant serving typical dishes from this region.   We started with a calamari stuffed with ricotta and herbs and a delicious octopus salad on a warm bed of potatoes.

Stuffed Squid
Stuffed Calamari
Octopus Salad
Octopus Salad

 

For our second dish (yes we ordered too much food but…)  we ordered Orecchiette with sausage and zucchini and Strascicate with shrimp and scallops. Both pastas, which mean “little ears” because of their shape, were very good. I really preferred the Orecchiette with sausage and zucchini. The sauce on the Orecchiette was extremely light and tangy which paired nicely with the earthy flavors of the sausage. It was not over dressed with too much sauce or sausage. Mine on the other hand was a little heavy but super fresh.  One note worth mentioning is that my pasta with seafood also had toasted walnuts in the mix which was unexpected but quite nice; adding an interesting texture to the dish. There are an abundance of walnuts in this region so it makes sense that they have found their way into all types of dishes including ones with seafood.  We drank Punga Rosa, Cantina Rivera, a rose from the region, which went perfectly with both dishes.

Orecchiette
Orecchiette with Sausage and Zucchini

 

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Strascicate with Shrimp and Scallops

After lunch we headed across the piazza to our hotel and checked in for a brief but badly needed afternoon nap.  We were up just in time to catch the Territory Museum which is located in a group of connected Trulli. This museum covers the history of the town and some small exhibits of artifacts and photographs related to the area.  After the museum and a little more strolling we were ready to call it quits and head for a glass of wine or two.  Our dinner reservation was not until eight o’clock so we had some time to relax and get ready to go out once again.

Dinner was at a small restaurant, Favola in Tavola, situated on one of the main streets which divides the town between a tourist zone and a residential zone; both still populated with Trulli. We arrived a little early and were greeted by our hostess who was also our waitress. She seated us in a small intimate alcove with a fireplace all made of the local stone which resembles limestone.  This was the perfect spot to unwind after a long day of travel.  We both started with a smooth cabbage soup dotted with mussels and covered in a shroud of shredded celery and arugula.  Both of us agreed this was really delicious.  I will be sharing my verison of this dish shortly.  Again, it is really simple ingredients but combined with care and attention to each one.

Cabbage Pure with Mussels

We then ordered sea bass studded with herbs over roasted beets and and a seared tuna with a chopped celery and herb mix.  The tuna was the most successful of the two dishes. The sea bass was overpowered by the beets.  We also both agreed that the two flavors, fish and beets, were not particularly great together. My dish was well executed in both flavor and preparation; not too rare and not too done.

Seabass
Sea Bass with Roasted Beets
Grilled Tuna
Grilled Tuna

We shared a bottle of “Il Selva”, Cantine Albea. This, is a local dry white comprised of Bianco Verdeca, Bianco D’ Alessano and Faino varieties paired nicely with both dishes.

Our meal at Favola in Tavola was a nice ending to a day of adventure and sites.  We returned to the hotel and started planning our next stop in this beautiful region of Italy.

Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella

This is a dish that really puts the homemade tomato sauce in a previous post to perfect use.   This recipe was inspired by a dish I had a few weeks ago for lunch in Sorrento.  Like so many Italian dishes the ingredients are simple but combined with care and finesse.   Here you will see that I have used only one large eggplant which really makes more than enough for two people as a side dish. However you can easily alter the proportions to serve as many people as you need.  Just bare in mind that you will need enough cheese and tomato sauce for each layer of eggplant that you add to this recipe. If you have any leftovers it is wonderful at room temperature or warmed with a salad of Arugula. Continue reading Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella