Italian

Zucchini with Mint is like Summer in a Bowl

Summertime is synonymous with eating light meals and grilling in the outdoors. In June of 2017, I visited Positano on the Amalfi Coast and dined at the famous Chez Black restaurant. As a side dish, I ordered zucchini marinated in vinegar and mint. It was light, delicious, and healthy. Today, I am sharing with you a similar version called Zucchine alle Scapece that is popular in Naples, Italy. Typically, the zucchini is sliced thin, and fried in peanut or corn oil, but in this recipe, I am grilling them for a healthier option. Not having to turn the stove on is also a great way to keep your house cool. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this dish has your name written all over it. Grab your apron, and let’s get cooking!

Difficulty level: Easy – Serves 3-4 as a side dish

      Ingredients: 

  • 3 zucchini cut lengthwise
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
  • Extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on top
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 handful of freshly chopped mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

    Preparation:

    1.Season zucchini with salt and pepper, liberally
    2. Drizzle with olive oil, mix well
    3. Pre-heat grill on medium high, and place the zucchini on a single layer
    4. Cover the grill, and cook for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender, turning occasionally.
    5. Let the zucchini cool off and cut them up in 2-3 pieces. Place them in a medium-sized bowl.
    6. Add vinegar, mint, garlic, and mix well.
    7. Drizzle with olive oil to finishZucchini in Naples, Italy Zucchini in Naples, Italy

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchine alle Scapece

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina's Kitchen

    Zucchini with Mint in Gina’s Kitchen

     

    I hope you will try this light and summery dish and share your thoughts with me. Until then, enjoy the summer!

    Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to Yours,
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier

    To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

    Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


    It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

Happy New Year everyone! I just returned from a holiday cruise and had an amazing time with my family and friends. Unfortunately, I came home with a cold and was looking for some comfort food. I decided to make a “creamy” and delicious Fettuccine Alfredo. In the US, many people use cream in their recipe when in realty, this dish has only three main ingredients: fettuccine, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Before I share the recipe, I want to tell you the story behind this dish. The original recipe was created by Alfredo Di Lelio in his restaurant in Rome. His wife was pregnant and had lost her appetite. He invented this dish for her by simply adding Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to an everyday Italian dish called Fettuccine al burro ( with butter). She could not get enough of it. Fettuccine Alfredo became very popular in the Italian-American community but many people use cream which is not in the original recipe. If you mix all the ingredients properly, it will create a creaminess without the use of cream. Grab your apron and follow me in the kitchen!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry Fettuccine pasta
  • 1 handful of salt for pasta water
  • 8 ounces salted butter
  • 1/2 pound (24-month aged) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water

    Preparation:

    1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt. Cook Fettuccine al dente (about 12 minutes)
    2. In the meantime, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat up the butter.
    3. The pasta should be cooked by now. Reserve some pasta water before draining it.
    4. Drop pasta in the melted butter, add cheese and reserved water.
    5. Use a set of thongs to mix all the ingredients thoroughly until every strand of fettuccine is coated. Serve at once with a salad or a vegetable of your choice.Gina’s note: Even though I used salted butter, this dish was perfectly balanced and not salty. If you follow my instructions carefully, you will obtain great results.

    Wine pairing suggestions:
    I recommend either one of the three V’s: Vermentino, Vernaccia, or Verdicchio. They are all Italian white wines and would pair nicely with the richness of the pasta.

    Buon Appetito!

    In June of 2019, I had the opportunity to visit a Parmigiano Reggiano factory in Parma, Italy. Photos are my intellectual property. All Rights Reserved.

    Parmigiano Reggiano Heaven

    Parmigiano Reggiano Heaven

    Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

    Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

    Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

    Soul-Warming Fettuccine Alfredo

    I hope you will try this delicious recipe for yourself or your loved ones and share your experience with me.

    Happy New Year from my kitchen to yours,

    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
    Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
    Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
    Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
    Level-2 Certified Sommelier

    To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook:

    Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures


    It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

Ca’ del Baio, a Piece of Heaven in Barbaresco

I finally had the opportunity to travel to Piedmont (Piemonte) this past June, and experienced the beauty of this picturesque Italian region. I visited many lush wineries in the sub-regions of La Morra, Barolo, Alba, and Barbaresco, and tasted some delicious wines. Barbaresco is a beautiful region in northwestern Italy where the Nebbiolo grape thrives in the slightly maritime climate: warmer, dryer, and milder, allowing the grapes to ripen faster. The Nebbiolo grapes are used to produce the wine that also goes by the name of Barbaresco. It is characterized by its rich flavors with notes of spices and mild perfumes with sweetness and is considered elegant and refined. The soil in Barbaresco has more nutrients and makes it less tannic than Barolo. Barbaresco is also known for Dolcetto and Barbera. 

Upon arriving at Ca’ del Baio── house of the bay horse, means a dark-horse in Piedmontese dialect, which is an inspiration for their logo──Federica greeted us with her contagious smile in her work attire. We knew it was going to be a special tour and felt a deep connection with the winery.  For four generations Ca’ del Baio has been a family affair, as is the tradition in the Langhe region. Nurtured and passed down from father to son, the vineyards surrounding the Grasso family farmhouse have been added to over time through marriage and acquisitions. 

Giulio and Luciana along with their daughters Paola, Valentina and Federica, handle all the various aspects of the business. They do it with passion and expertise, from the growing and vinification of the grapes to hospitality and wine sales. For the Grasso family, simplicity, a sense of sacrifice and the deep attachment they have to their land are pre-requisites for guaranteeing wines of quality. Today the Ca’ del Baio estate takes in 28 hectares of vineyards in the villages of Barbaresco and Treiso, both of which are in the Barbaresco winegrowing area.

All estate-grown, their wines are made from a range of highly valued varieties, some typical of the area while others are more international: the whites include Moscato, Chardonnay and Riesling, and the reds Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Almost all the wines are varietals. The most prestigious vines – producing the Nebbiolo used to make Barbaresco – are between 25 and 40 years old, and they go into making the estate’s crus of Asili and Pora (commune of Barbaresco) and Vallegrande and Marcarini (Treiso). 

Since we were on a tight schedule, I did not have time to write my own wine descriptions, therefore, I am using the winemaker’s notes that I found on their website: Ca del Baio. I enjoyed this wine tasting tour that was conducted by Federica. She’s passionate and very knowledgeable in the world of wines. I highly recommend  you make reservations ahead of time before visiting this charming boutique winery. 

Recently, Ca’ del Baio’s Barbaresco Vallegrande 2016 received the prestigious “Tre Bicchieri”( 3 glasses), Italy’s Best Wines award given by Gambero Rosso. It’s the largest food-E-Wine Publishing House in Europe, according to their Instagram profile. 

Enjoying a tasting at Ca' del Baio

Enjoying a tasting at Ca’ del Baio

Ca' del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

Ca’ del Baio 2013 Barbaresco Asili Riserva

 

Winemaker’s notes: The wine displays a brilliant garnet red colour with shades of orange. The intense nose releases hints of lavender, pine, rose petals, aromatic herbs, spices, and goudron (tar) notes. The wine is dry, full-bodied, and warm. It is exceptionally smooth and velvety in the mouth.

 

Ca del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

Ca’ del Baio 2015 Barbaresco Pora

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright garnet red; nose intense and complex, with fruity overtones conjuring up plums and blackberries, and spicy hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnuts; taste full-bodied, soft and tannic; a big, yet very flavorsome wine.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2016

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Asili

 

Winemaker’s notes: color bright garnet red, with slight orange tinges; nose intense, with fruity aromas of marasca cherries and hints of violets. Spicy notes of black pepper, liquorice and goudron (tar); taste dry, warm and soft, showing a long, rich, smooth flavour.

Award-winning Ca del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

Award-winning Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Vallegrande

 

Winemaker’s notes: colour garnet red; nose intense, with powerful fruit, dried flowers and underbrush; taste dry, smooth and rounded, ending in a warm finish with nicely-balanced tannins.

Ca del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Lineup

Ca' del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Ca’ del Baio 2016 Barbaresco Autinbej

Winemaker’s notes: the colour is a deep garnet red with reflections of old pink. The nose is an intense, fruity aroma reminiscent of raspberries, jam, and violets that give an ethereal feeling accompanied by sweet spicy notes and hints of cocoa. In the mouth, Autinbej is warm, long, persistent and slightly tannic with an aftertaste of fruity notes.

LCa del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Ca’ del Baio Langhe Chardonnay

Winemaker’s notes: colour bright straw yellow; nose intense and complex, ranging from flowery to fruity, with hints of nuts; taste dry, full-bodied and well-balanced, with long flavour…Chardonnay, international by nature, Piedmontese at heart.

Barbaresco wine region 

Amazing Barbaresco lineup 

While touring, Federica's dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato to taste

While touring, Federica’s dad Giulio brought me a glass of Moscato d’Asti to taste

I captured a picture of Ca' del Baio family portrait - Original is not mine

I captured a picture of the Grasso’s family portrait – Original is not mine

Ca' del Baio Barrel room

Ca’ del Baio barrel room

 

Ca del Baio Wine Room

Ca’ del Baio wine storage room

Ca del Baio sisters

Ca’ del Baio – the 3 sisters – photo from their website – not mine

 

The Grasso family symbolizes respect for land and passion for wine. They take pride in their work and harmoniously carry on the family’s legacy.  I am so glad that I met this tight-knit family and made unforgettable wine memories. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this article that illustrates our wine tasting journey in Piedmont, Italy. 

“Il vino fa buon sangue”  = Good wine makes good blood
“In vino veritas”  = In wine there is truth
 
Photos taken by Gina for Foodiewinelover – unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. 
Disclosure: some of the information was taken from Ca’ del Baio’s website.   

Happy Sipping! 
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino Bloggers Award”
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

To obtain a signed copy of my cookbook: https://foodiewinelover.com/product/cookbook/
It’s also available on Amazon Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Japan, Australia, and more.

 

 

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Barbera D'Alba

Barbera D’Alba

Pasta alla Norma originated in Sicily and is perfect for a small gathering. It is believed to be named after the famous opera called Norma. It’s easy and made with a few ingredients including my favorite veggie: eggplant! In this recipe, I am using whole canned tomatoes but you can use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. This is a great meal for vegetarians depending on their diet lifestyles (with or without the cheese). I served a salad with the pasta and my family ate to their heart’s content. Put on your apron and follow me in the kitchen.

Level of difficulty: Easy to intermediate

Serves 6-8 as a main meal

Ingredients:
• 1 medium eggplant, chopped in medium size
• ¼ – ½ cup of olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 – (28) ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 5-6 basil leaves cut in chiffonade, plus more for garnish
• ¼ cup pasta water, as needed
• Ricotta Salata cheese, for garnish
• 1-pound penne, rigatoni or spaghetti

Preparation:

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up oil, sauté the garlic, 1-2 minutes, add the eggplant, cook while stirring for 5-7 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary. Add the tomatoes, salt, basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes covered with lid tilted. Stir occasionally.  If the sauce is too thick, add water toward the end. (before draining the pasta). Turn the burner off.

2. While the sauce is cooking, bring pasta water to a boil. Add salt and cook al dente. You will be doing a little juggling.

3. Add drained pasta to the sauce and mix well. Serve in a large pasta bowl. Garnish with the cheese and basil.

I paired this meal with a lovely aged Barbera D’Alba from Ca’ Viola winery and it worked magically.

Other wine pairing suggestions: Nero d’Avola, a red grape variety from Sicily or any medium-bodied red wine of your choice.

Happy Cooking from Gina’s Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier

A Lesser-Known Wine, a Good Find from Umbria

Cantina dell’ Alunno 2012 Montefalco Sagrantino 14.5% by volume. This wine is made with 100% Sagrantino grapes.
Sagrantino is considered a rising star among Italy’s top-notched ageworthy red wines.  Sagrantino di Montefalco has attracted wine enthusiasts from around the world. In 1992, this grape variety was elevated to DOCG status, the highest-ranking category of Italian wine denominations.
Montefalco is a magnificent hilltown in central Umbria. Unlike all the other major tourist towns around Italy,  Montefalco is quiet and known for the production of its indigenous grape, Sagrantino, as well as its medieval churches. 
Sagrantino is an extremely tannic wine and is high in alcohol. The tannins are naturally found in grape skins, their seeds and stems. This natural occurrence adds bitterness and complexity to the wine. Sagrantino is bone dry and the legs are super slow which indicates a high-alcohol content. Due to the high level of tannins, this wine is packed with anti-oxidants and pairs well with meat-based dishes and gamey food.
When I first tasted it, it was so bitter, I was grimacing. I decided to decant it and used the vSpin, (you can use any decanter) but this one works pretty fast. After decanting it for about 7-8 minutes, the wine started to open up nicely. The wine is dense and the color is a dark garnet. On the nose, it boasts robust aromas of dark cocoa, cigar box, tobacco, dark fruits, and spices. On the palate, there is an explosion of bitter cocoa, cedar, moderate amount of oak, with firm tannins and a persistent finish. This is a serious wine and should be consumed with food and/or aged cheeses. I paired it with lamb loin chops and it stood up to the gaminess of the meat. It intertwined nicely with the mint jelly and the accompaniments.
Sagrantino generally reaches full maturity after 10-15 years from the harvest and is able to bottle age for more than 30 years. 
IMG_8168IMG_8166IMG_8165IMG_8169

 
This wine is definitely different from what I am used to but it was a good find! As always, I love exploring various Italian wine terroirs. If this sounds like your style of wine, I suggest you give it a try! If you’ve had this wine, I’d love to hear your experience. 

Happy sipping and happy cooking from my kitchen to yours,
Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier  
2019 Winner of “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Award” 

Discover the Splendor of Salento and its Signature Italian Wines

Puglia has become one of the hottest spots in Italy where people flock to the beach to bask in the hot sun, enjoy the local wines, and partake in the Italian culinary traditions. This region is known for its wine production, cultivation of tomatoes and artichokes, and is a major producer of olive oil.  It’s also known for its famous “cucina povera” which translates to poor cuisine because the people use simple, seasonal, and high-quality ingredients.  Orecchiette—Italian for “little ears”— a regional pasta shape, fava beans, eggplant, and an abundance of fresh seafood are part of their diet. The Puglian cuisine and the wines produced in this area intertwined nicely.

As a result of my infinite love affair with Italian wines, I have tasted hundreds of them in classes, seminars, festivals, and private gatherings. If you are a wine enthusiast like me, you would be constantly exploring grape varieties from different Italian regions.

In this article, I will focus on Salice Salentino DOC wines from the Salento area. They deserve to be recognized for their richness and signature taste. Their production is still in its infancy stage unlike the wines from other major Italian regions like Piedmont and Tuscany.

Facts and history:
The Salento Peninsula in the region of Puglia is in the southernmost part of the boot known as the heel. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas with a sunny dry climate. The soil is fertile and the wines tend to be high in alcohol. This is due to the lack of rain in the area which creates a challenge for winemakers to craft attractive wines. The Salento area is renowned for its beautiful landscape, exquisite regional cuisine,
sun-baked vineyards, luscious wines,  and cultural diversity.

In the 1930s, the farmers would combine the Negroamaro grape, known for its earthy bitterness with the Malvasia Nera to add sweet character to the wine. This blend created a perfectly balanced wine. The rosé version followed soon after. Over time, the farmers continued to experiment and created new varieties of Salice Salentino, which now include: Negroamaro, Negroamaro Rosato, (rosé) Pinot Bianco (white wine), Fiano, Chardonnay, and Aleatico.

The Salice Salentino wines became so important in that region, that, in 1976, they were assigned the DOP: “Denominazione di Origine controllata –official quality label (DOC, “controlled designation of origin”.)

Salice Salentino owes its name to the town bearing the same name in the province of Lecce. This province is known for beautiful churches and baroque-style architecture. Lecce has been the main production of these wines for years, and is protected by a Consortium called: Consorzio Di Tutela Vini D.O.P. Salice Salentino. The Consortium was founded in 2003 and consist of 1,858 members, among them are winemakers, bottlers, and winegrowers.  The goal is to promote and ensure the protection of the territories, vineyards, ancient trees, and the indigenous grapes of the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi. The wines from that region are marketed and controlled by the Consortium to ensure the quality and the authenticity of the local grapes. Additionally, it was created to enhance and preserve this area for its great winemaking tradition.

The main grape is the Negroamaro, which translates to “black bitter” in Italian. This grape variety thrives on the terroir that combines clay and limestone soils. The Malvasia Nera is also a popular variety known for its aromatic qualities. Both grapes tend to be dark and intense in flavors.

Production and procedural guidelines:
For many years, the Salice Salentino wines have been made according to the requirements of their procedural guidelines. The entire process, from the grape growing to the final stage must take place in a specific area. It includes the districts of Salice Salentino, Veglie and Guagnano, in the province of Lecce, and Sandonaci, in the province of Brindisi, as well as some portions of the districts of Cellino San Marco (Lecce) and Campi Salentina (Brindisi).

Specific grapes are required for each single Salice Salentino wine.
At least 75% of Negroamaro grapes is required in the Salice Salentino Rosso (red) and the Rosato (rosé wines); whereas 90% of Negroamaro is required in the Salice Salentino Negroamaro and Negroamaro Rosato varieties. Additionally, local dark-colored grapes like the famous Malvasia Nera of Lecce or Brindisi can be used for blending as mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

In the Salentino Aleatico wine, (red) at least 85% of the Aleatico grapes is required, and can be blended with Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera or local Primitivo.

The Salice Salentino Bianco (white) is made 70% from Chardonnay grapes, if it does not have any other appellation. There are other types of Salice Salentino Bianco—Chardonnay, Fiano and Pinot Bianco which must contain at least 85% of the corresponding grapes.

There are also Spumante (sparkling wine) versions of the Salice Salentino on the market. This method involves natural fermentation without the addition of carbon dioxide. The Bianco, Rosato, Negroamaro Rosato, Pinot Bianco, Fiano and Chardonnay are generally used for this style of wine.

The Riserva (reserve) versions of Salice Salentino Rosso, Negroamaro, and Aleatico are aged for at least 24 months, including at least 6 in oak barrels.

The Dolce and Liquoroso versions of the Salice Salentino Aleatico are also produced and  make great dessert wines. The Dolce Naturale must have a finished alcohol of 15% and Liquoroso must have 18.5% which is like a fortified wine. Once produced, the wine is bottled in glass bottles that can have different sizes and corks, depending on the type of product.

Flavors and characteristics:
These Salice Salentino wines are enjoyed worldwide. The red ones are generally cherry, ruby or garnet-colored, and their shades become more intense as they age. The Riserva tends to have a brick color. The red wines are robust and full-bodied and can generally be classified as dry wines. The Rosso Riserva and Rosso Riserva Negroamaro have fragrant aromas of ripe fruits such as plums and cherries with a touch of spices. The sensory experience as perceived by sight, smell, and taste varies depending on the grape variety that has been used, and the way the wines are produced.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties are predominantly sweet, dense, and are higher in alcohol.

The wines from the white grapes are straw yellow in color, refreshing, and fragrant with delicate fruit notes; while the Bianco and Fiano varieties have greenish hues.

Lastly, in the spumanti made from traditional wines, yeast notes are easily detected due to the re-fermentation process.

Food & wine pairings:
In general, meat-based recipes, and complex dishes are paired with the Salice Salentino from red grapes to stand up to the robustness of the wine. Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk also makes for a killer pairing. The Salice Salentino Rosato pairs nicely with salamis, less-intense dishes like chicken and pork, delicate cheeses, and fragrant frittatas.
The Salice Salentino Bianco goes well with swordfish and salmon, as well as a variety of seafood dishes. The bianco variety also pairs nicely with a Caprese salad using tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil from the local farms. Whenever possible, pairing food and wine from the same region is ideal, as they are grown in similar soil.

The Aleatico Dolce and Liquoroso Dolce varieties make great dessert wines and would pair heavenly with the popular pasticciotto. This traditional dessert is known for its a flakiness, buttery short crust filled with an exquisitely rich vanilla pastry cream. There are also chocolate and pistachio versions of the filling. This dessert is also common for breakfast.

My food & wine pairing experience:
I had the pleasure of tasting the Rosalbore Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato DOP from Cantina Sanpancrazio, a beautiful rosé made with 100% Negroamaro grapes. The color is deep coral, (like I’ve never seen before) lightly perfumed with aromas of strawberries and gentle floral notes. The palate follows the nose, with luscious flavors of semi-ripe strawberries, and the tannins are soft. This wine is intense and well-structured with a lingering finish. The alcohol content is 13.50% by volume. The Salice Salentino Rosato represents a middle ground between the heaviness of the Rosso (red wine) and the freshness of the Bianco (white variety).

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato paired with frittata

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

Salice Salentino Negroamaro Rosato

I paired this delightful rosé with a delicate frittata made with tomatoes, scallions, pancetta, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It was like the king meeting its queen (the rosé) in the quest for a beautiful romance. This food and wine combination went together harmoniously and felt like a never-ending fairytale on the palate.

I also tasted the Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP from Cantine De Falco which is made with 80% Negroamaro and 20% Malvasia Nera. The color is garnet, showing fragrant spices like vanilla and nutmeg on the nose, dark cherries, and plums on the palate, with nuances of cocoa, cigar box, and oak. There is a hint of sweetness in the wine that comes from the ripeness of the fruits. The tannins are velvety, and the finish is persistent. The alcohol content is 14% by volume.

In the region of Puglia, it is common to eat horse meat, and it would make perfect sense to pair this big wine with it. However, since we do not consume this type of meat in the United States, I prepared braciole, an Italian-style gourmet beef dish that is stuffed with garlic, parsley, and prosciutto and then rolled up. They were seared on medium-high heat, then simmered for a couple of hours in a rustic-style tomato sauce. The stuffed meat and the acidity in the tomatoes were a perfect match for this majestic and full-bodied wine. This dining experience was the epitome of a beautifully balanced meal.

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOP

Braciole

Braciole

I hope this reportage on Salice Salentino wines has piqued your curiosity to explore this splendid Italian region and its autochthonous grapes. These wines are not only luscious but they are affordable. This combination makes for a win-win sensory experience. Now, that I have tasted these wines, it’s time to visit Puglia. I will dream about it, until it becomes a reality.

Happy sipping from my kitchen to yours,

Update: I won the  “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers Contest 2019” and will be receiving an award/trophy for writing this blogpost. The ceremony will be held at Rosexpo Festival  on June 22nd, 2019 in Puglia, Italy.  I am super excited and feel very grateful to the Consortium for choosing my blogpost to represent wines from Salice Salentino. I plan to visit this beautiful region and enjoy the wines and the local cuisine.

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award

Salice Salentino 2019 USA Bloggers Award

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
Culinary Personality, Food & Wine Blogger
Author of the cookbook: Cuisines, Corkscrews & Cultures
Level-2 Certified world-renowned – “WSET: Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust”
Level-2 Certified Sommelier
Winner of 2019 “Salice Salentino USA Bloggers” Award
Recognized in Lecce, Puglia, Italy on June 22, 2019

Exclusive photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
All rights reserved.

Gina’s Eggplant Caponata

 

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant Caponata

Eggplant, also known as aubergine is probably my all-time favorite veggie. It’s so versatile and is used in many cuisines throughout the world. Today, I am sharing with you my eggplant caponata that I have been making for many years. I have tweaked it a little, to reflect the ingredients in the traditional version. It originated in Sicily and there are a few recipe variations. Traditionally it’s served with hard boiled eggs and crusty bread. Ideally, I recommend using green Sicilian olives, but to stay within budget, I use pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives. This recipe can be doubled for a larger crowd.

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish or 4-6 as an appetizer – Level of difficulty: Easy – Prepping time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut-up in cubes*
  • 1 – 1.25 tsp. sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 1/4 cup onions chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped *
  • 1/4 cup Pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, drained
  • 1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 pinches of sugar (dissolved in vinegar)
  • pine nuts, optional
  • basil, cut into chiffonade for garnish

    Preparation:

    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper.
    2) In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil, sautee onions and celery for about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    3) Add eggplant, it will absorb the oil, it’s ok, just keep stirring to avoid burning for 2 minutes or so.
    4) Add tomato paste, brown until it caramelizes, another 2 minutes. Keep stirring.  Add tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar/sugar, pine nuts.
    5) Lower the flame to medium and cover with a lid. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove.
    6) Serve in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with basil.

Wine pairing suggestion: A Nero d’Avola for red, or  Insolia for white wine lovers. Both grape varieties are indigenous to Sicily and would make a stunning pairing with the caponata.

Cook’s notes: 1) I used Pomi brand chopped tomatoes. If you want it to have more sauce, add more tomatoes.  You can certainly use fresh tomatoes. 2) Feel free to add more oil, if you need to. 3)  Buy the eggplant the day before or preferably the same day if possible to ensure freshness.

Buon Appetito!

Base recipe, method of cooking and photos
by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

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