Puglia CuisinePeasant Progression
It’s hard to believe a cuisine as rich as Puglia’s stems from such an impoverished past. The region’s flavor profile was not developed in four-star kitchens, but rather among the stucco walls of its peasant farmers homes. Here, pasta was made without eggs, bread was baked with harsh durum wheat and meat served only on special occasions.
Luckily, years of culinary progression have made it easy for us to enjoy an authentic Pugliese spread like the one featured in this issue of Cooling Your Jets. Native ingredients like fruity olive oil, sweet figs and milky burrata will render the sights and smells of Italy’s famed “heel and spur.” These dishes are to be presented simultaneously and served family style, instantly transporting you to a traditional Pugliese table.
Leave it to Puglia to make mozzarella cheese even better. In search of a use for their scraps, cheese producers created burrata, a pillow of mozzarella stuffed with cream and – you guessed it – mozzarella snippets. Its unique texture allows it to be served simply with a sprinkle of salt or as part of a fresh salad like the one below.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour (resting time)
Cut tomatoes into wedges and place in a large mixing bowl. Add torn basil, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Let stand at room temperature for up to one hour, stirring occasionally.
To plate: Using a large platter, place rounds of burrata down the center and scatter the tomato mixture around the outside. Drizzle the “dressing” left in the bottom of the tomato bowl over the platter. Garnish with additional basil leaves and serve.
With more than 500 miles of coastline, fish and seafood is a huge part of Puglia’s cuisine. And when fish is plucked fresh from the ocean, crudo – or “Italian sashimi” – is the best way to enjoy it. The key is to use a high quality, meaty fish like tuna or sea bass, and dress it simply with olive oil and citrus.
Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour
The hardest part of this preparation is cutting the fish. You need to cut the filet against the grain of the flesh about 1/8-inch thick using a very sharp knife. Then it needs to be divided into four to six rounds or slices. Some say it’s easier to freeze the filet before slicing so it’s hard but not solid – some say it’s even easier to have your fish monger prep the slices for you.
Once you have your slices, coat them in olive oil and allow them to sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, as you will want them served cold. Arrange the slices on a platter, sprinkle with Fleur de Sel and garnish with mint. Cut lemons into wedges and serve alongside the platter, instructing guests to squeeze the juice over their piece of fish.
Lamb is considered to be a celebratory food and this dish is traditionally served on Easter in Puglia. It’s so simple and flavorful, however, we think it makes the perfect centerpiece to any festive dinner.
Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Using a heavy-bottom Dutch oven, sauté the pancetta in one tablespoon of the olive oil until brown. Add in the onion and cook until soft. Raise heat to medium-high and add the remaining oil and lamb chunks. Brown lamb on all sides – this should take about 12 minutes.
Add the wine and reduce by half until all the alcohol evaporates. Cover and place pot in the oven for about one hour, or until lamb is fork tender. Note: if too much liquid evaporates, add boiling water to keep meat from drying out.
Remove pot from the oven and stir in the peas and half the parsley. Add salt and black pepper to taste and cook over low heat on the stove until the peas are tender, again adding boiling water if necessary. This should take about 20 minutes.
Just before you’re ready to serve the dish, beat the eggs and cheese in a bowl with the remaining parsley. Stir in a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid from the lamb pot to warm the mixture. Remove the lamb from the heat and pour the egg mixture over the meat and vegetables, stirring well to coat. There will be enough heat left in the pot to cook the eggs just enough to make a creamy sauce. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.
Orecchiette (“little ears”) is the most popular form of pasta in Puglia. To make it from scratch takes a certain skill only attained by natives, and maybe your Italian grandmother. The tough dough contains no eggs, making it difficult to knead, and each piece is formed by hand using your thumb. Don’t worry: using a high-quality dried version will yield excellent results.
Serves 4 to 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Remove the thick stems from the broccoli rabe. Place in a sauce pot and cover with cold, salted water over high heat. Have a bowl of ice water ready on the side. When water just begins to boil add the broccoli rabe for no more than three minutes. Drain and plunge broccoli rabe in the ice water. Drain again immediately and pat dry.
Cook orecchiette in boiling salted water until al dente (tender but firm). This should take about seven to 12 minutes, depending on the brand. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook garlic until golden. Add the broccoli rabe and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through, about five minutes, and then reduce heat to low until pasta is finished.
Drain pasta and add to broccoli rabe mixture. Add chili flake and stir well. Transfer to a large bowl and serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
In Puglia, fig trees are almost as prominent as the olive trees. The sweet fruit can be used in savory dishes (it’s often made into a glaze for roasted lamb) or in desserts, like this simple poached concoction.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3.5 hours (resting time included)
Bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the honey. Add in the vanilla seeds and bean. Add the figs and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until figs are tender. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill, covered, for at least three hours but up to one day ahead. Discard vanilla bean and divide mixture into six bowls. Top each with a dollop of yogurt.
With large almond groves located among the plains of Lecce, the sweet nut is a staple in Pugliese cooking. While a naked almond is a wonderful snack, roasting them to adds a huge depth of flavor. This kid-friendly recipe creates a sweet treat that’s loaded with vitamins and minerals (don’t worry, we won’t tell, if you won’t tell).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Beat the egg white and water until frothy, but not stiff. Pour in the nuts and stir until coated evenly. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the nuts, toss to coat and spread in one layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until golden. Cool and store in airtight containers.