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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

September. Time for new season's resolutions, full body scrubs to keep our sunkissed skin tight...and preserves. Loads of them, may they be fruits or vegetables based. Over the summer I spent a good amount of time food researching in my native land, Puglia, and spent entire afternoons picking the most luscious gastronomic delicacies. Wearing a straw hat, which I often filled with enchanting tomatoes, I would go to my favourite fig tree and laid there with a book. It was full midday heat one august fine day when, after a few pages and far too many mosquito bites I headed back home, and I came across a recipe idea that could convey both the figs deliciousness and the summer freshness. I posted its result on my Instagram feed and I am now publishing its sought after recipe following my lovely followers request.

Figs Pie

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 500 gr. all purpose flour
  • 250 gr. cold butter (not the spreadable version)
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon zest
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 80 gr. caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 350 gr. fresh figs
  • 100 gr. almonds
  • 1 lemon

Start off by preparing the shortcrust pastry. In a mixer place the flour, a pinch of salt and the butter right out of the fridge, cut into chunks. Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is sandy and chalky-looking; place the obtained mixture on a work surface (or alternatively in a bowl) and add the sifted icing sugar.

Make a well in the center and pour in the lemon zest and egg yolks (you can also flavor with orange zest, the seeds of vanilla bean or cinnamon). Start to mix the ensemble with a fork first, then when the eggs have absorbed the flour you can continue by hand. Knead briefly, just long enough to compact the mixture so that the crust doesn't get too hot with the heat of your hands and thus remains brittle. Form a dough and flatten it before you wrap it in plastic wrap; store it in the refrigerator to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Unwrap the figs from their skin and put them in a pan, leaving 3 fruits aside for decoration; with the help of a mixer, mince finely 80 gr. of almonds until floury, then add them to the figs, spray the juice of a lemon on top and let the whole ensemble cook on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

Have a pie tin of around 20 cm. of diameter ready. Take the shortcrust pastry off the fridge, remove the foil and tap the dough with your own hands on the pie tin. Fill the pie with the figs conserve and decorate with slices of fresh figs and the remaining almonds, roughly chopped.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. That's how I remain, often enough, at the site of my Italy. Gaining access to astonishment is ever so easy, just by turning a corner from a tiny pedestrian sidestreet to a magnificent Renaissance style landscape, just keep my eyes ready for surprises over and over again. Knowing that the season will be delightful and the best... oh yes, the best is yet to come.

Love,

Eleonora

On the heel of the boot

What I'm about to share with you today has got a deep connection with who I am. Here is an irresistible well kept secret that I couldn't help but share with you, my lovely readers, finally. It's been three years since, twice a year, I spend unravelled quality time in this corner of heaven, in my very land of origin, the Salento area in the south of the Apulia Region, there where the heel rubs against the soil. And I come home. 66

The first thing that I like to do when arriving to this place where food, nature, and white raw linen meet with the unique intention of releasing the senses from the cares of the world,  is having a good talk with Maria Grazia, the heart and soul of this one of a kind mind & body escape. She would first treat me to a snack (which, in her language, is a table set with all kind of local delicacies and her worldy renowned marmalades - if only this computer could transfer that perfumed texture!) to then show me to my room, a lovely suite with a four-poster bed nestled in an arcade of tuff stone. The sheets, as if out of a chest of drawers, are of immaculate linen finely embroidered with laces and the Toile de Jouy curtains, which softness I go through with my hands, have a scent of lavender. We sit down in front of the private arabic garden, where Maria Grazia start cutting some calla lillies to present as a gift to my grandmother, that I would see later in the evening.

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Maria Grazia, what is a masseria?

Masserias are ancient buildings, typical of southern Italy, particularly diffused in Apulia and Sicily. In the past these estates were exclusively devoted to agriculture with a rich extension of land owned by local nobles. In addition to the residence of the wealthy landowner, there were also the homes of farmers, stables, stores, forage and crops.

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Maria Grazia, what is your masseria like?

My masseria, the Tenuta Potenti, is a place of rebirth. It has its roots deep in the ground, carrying within itself a long history of traditions, warmth and humanity.

It is both the dream and desire of my husband Paolo and I to transfer the love for our land of origin, Puglia, to our children, Chiara and Walter, along with their friends.

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In fact, it’s nothing but our inextricable attachment to this land that led us to the purchase of the farm over ten years ago now. In the early days we solely dedicated ourselves to reclaim the uncultivated land and make it productive. It's about 4 years ago that we started to renovate the property with the idea of creating a place of welcome and absolute peace, a farm we would like to find on our way, had we been travelling from afar.

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And so here I was, looking in every possible corner to create an atmosphere of hospitality for my guest, the weary traveller who stops by with the wish and curiosity to learn.

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Is it true that you dance the pizzica (a typical southern Italian folk dance) for your guests? Tell us about the typical events occurring in an evening at the masseria.

I love to move to the sound of pizzica because it’s a traditional dance belonging to my roots. Dance for me is music for the body and dancing the pizzica puts me in connection with this wonderful land as well as with my fondest memories.

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Yes it is true I dance the pizzica for my guests because in addition to my enjoyment of it as a moment of liberation and source of pleasure, I also like the idea of wrapping my guests into music and the compelling pace of our cultural dimension. It's nice to see that these feelings, that go way beyond cultural and language barriers, are able to get us closer to our guests, thus making them feel at home.

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The evening is for me a sort of game with my imagination, when I create a unique atmosphere, which can arouse emotions and a feeling of well-being. What I love about the evenings at the masseria is the idea of always being able to create different ambiences in different areas , taking care of floral decorations and illuminations myself, strictly candlelight. I propose atmospheres that I seek for myself and I love to share.

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What are the products that the land offers you in this spectacular estate?

We produce extra virgin olive oil and beautiful white and red wine, plus all kinds of fruits and vegetables.

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What are the best times of the year to visit the Tenuta Potenti?

Each month has a peculiar fascination for nature lives through different colors and phases in each season. I love May’s awakenings, the silence of June, September’s nostalgia, the wintery resistance, emblematic of October.

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What are the pasts and future projects you’re most proud of?

Looking back, the achieved project to have transformed an abandoned farmhouse, a ruin, into a big house where people can get to know my food and my wonderful land of origin.

122The farm has thus become a large container of my passions, starting from the kitchen, through the love for nature.

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Additionally, I find it irresistible to share my immense love for antiques and forgotten objects such as trousseaux and antique fabrics with a wonderful crossroad of old and new friends.

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Last but not least, can you share an original recipe with us?

Eleonora, I would be glad to give you the cake you most enjoyed during your last stay with us so much so that it never lasted on the table for more than a few minutes!  (And I may add, it's one of the most extraordinary pleasures to indulge in for an all year round breakfast. Just try and see for yourself).

Ricotta tart with candied orange and dark chocolate

torta

  • 500g organic ricotta cheese
  • 200 gr. sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tbs of cinnamon
  • 50 gr. dark chocolate cut into small pieces
  • candied oranges

Mix all ingredients until a smooth cream is created.

Take a cake tin with a diameter of about 20 cm, butter and flour it and then pour the mixture previously obtained.

Bake at 180° degrees for about 25 min. Please note that it is essential for the ricotta cheese to be as fresh as possible. It 'an appetizing and tasty pie, but also quite dietary since it has no flour.

Enjoy!

Eleonora

It's #romanity. Sneak peek #5

It's Sunday. Finally. The day ahead is for us only, no tough projects or serious intentions allowed. Sunday in Rome, particularly, is truly a treat. Walking through the eternal city as if it belonged to you, when the purpose of noise is to make silence resonate. A typical Sunday in Rome would involve, of course, looking for the perfect lunch. There's no better way than doing it in one of the city markets. The Campagna Amica one offers a choice of products coming from the Roman countryside and 100% naturally grown.

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Once the selection of  the tastiest ingredients is dealt with, it's time to think about the perfect table sparks. Other than being a grace for the eye, flowers can also be poured into caster sugar and make for a wonderful cake decoration.

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Every Italian table would have at least one loaf of bread, to be considered a respectable measure of conviviality.  Most of us opt for a "scarpetta": after overindulging in your Sunday's lasagna, you take a piece of bread and clean the rest of the plate off the delicious leftover sauce. Strictly with your hands. Beware of all imitations.

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As my friend and partner in this project Cucina Digitale would put it - whether the weather - Sunday lunch is a sacred event.

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Taking long walks with a #romanity attitude and your favourite Sunday paper are likely to make you stumble upon Locandas and Trattoria. The typical sunday specials around here are: Lasagna, bucatini all' Amatriciana, Vignarola, Roast Lamb with Potatoes. And #foodhappiness as a cherry on the cake. Can you read it on my face?

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What's your favourite Sunday treat?

Happy thoughts to you all,

Eleonora

Blown away by the images? Blame it on Cucina Digitale amazing sight.

My tasty week...Singing in the rain

It rained cats and dogs here in Rome, for the entire week. Hence I've been "singing in the rain", as Gene Kelly would have rightly put it. And amazing flowers blossomed just right. I purchased a bunch of parfumed buds to use them in some recipes over the next days. SingingInTheRain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ZYhVpdXbQ

I was able to grasp a unique ray of light early yesterday afternoon, which gave my South Tyrol apples (which I talked about in a previous post) a glowing appeal.

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I'm trying to cleanse up my whole metabolysm by eating loads of seeds and veggies. Also Potassium Citrate tablets help. This fennel salad (pictured below) with parsley and almonds took no time at all to make and was incredibly delicious with its lemon and poppy-seeds vinaigrette.

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I couldn't maintain all my greens fresh for these long and rainy days if it wasn't thanks to the invaluable vacuum-sealing machine which keeps my food from going soft and soggy for over 5 days.

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I was lucky enough to enjoy a winter sea storm, which inevitably puts everything at its place, inside out. I couldn't refrain from purchasing a couple of tempting mullets. And then I asked myself: should I spoil their sparkling colour? No way! Still, I had to turn them into dinner...Therefore I cooked them plainly with extra virgin olive oil and let their gorgeous self be the protagonist of one of my clandestine dinners.

On the importance of chocolate. The picture of this handmade scrumptious cake talks for itself, and for all of our food cravings, which shall be indeed indulged during the coldest winter evenings.

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And, on this sweet note, I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Eleonora