Thursday, 15 September 2011


We love you, Amanita Cesarea!

This mouthwatering recipe is an Autumn must in Liguria (needless to say, seasonality accounts for a drop in prices, a real kick off for the cost sensitive!). Mushroom hunting (porcini porcini porcini!) is practiced throughout the region, which has always been celebrated for its exquisite “funzi” (the Genoese for funghi), treasures of the forest happily enhanced by the magic touch of Mediterranean sea breezes (scent and taste show). Treat yourself to the best: funghi rossi (red ovoli, which owe their name to “uovo” because of their egg-like shape, are the connoisseur choice), Primura Bologna DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) potatoes, Vessalico garlic (delicateness and digestibility are well worth the search). Mushrooms are the protagonists of several regional recipes and are at their best fried, baked and sautéed – not to forget “tuccu de funzi”, the porcini mushrooms sauce that accompanies fresh pasta. Dried, they foster the cook’s ingenuity all year round.

Serves 4 people
400 g. ovoli (amanita cesarea) mushrooms
400 g potatoes
1 bunch parsley
1 clove garlic (peeled)
1 small glass extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Time: 45 min.
Gently clean the mushrooms, brushing off impurities and dirt. If you want to rinse them (opposite parties have been debating on the subject for ages), be extremely delicate and rapid (cool water only). Chop the stems, the parsley and the garlic into a well blended mix. Peel the potatoes, cut them into slices (neither too thick, nor thin) and place a layer into a pan (well oiled). Salt and put in half of the mix (mushrooms, parsley, garlic). Set the caps, add salt to taste, oil moderately and finish with the second half of the mix. Cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes on a low flame.
Wine pairing: nothing else but white wine (try DOC Colline di Levanto or DOC Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato), served at 10-11° in high stem wine glasses.

Buon appetito!

Monday, 12 September 2011



Is Solus (Doc Carignano del Sulcis) - Cantine Sardus Pater (Sant'Antioco) feature the rarity of own rooted (a piede franco) grape vines

The wines produced in Carloforte and Calasetta do deserve specific attention. Local ampelography reveals a fully Mediterranean setting – linked to Sardinia and Corse – where thanks to soil (volcanic-sandy), climate and human work it is possible to enjoy remarkable whites and reds, the fruit of vines resistant both to phylospora and saltiness.
The vineyards of San Pietro are beautiful, harmoniously sheltered from the impetuous northwest and southeast winds and dotted with some ancient white dwellings inhabited by the carlofortini in Summer and Autumn at harvest time. The indigenous grape variety is the ramungiò, which in the areas of Giunco and Sabino provides a dry white (13° average), the ideal match for local catch of the day fish, to be drunk cool and young in order to appreciate its perfumes. Other better known grape varieties are grown, though: carignano (accounting for wines rich in red fruits and spices) the monica (an excellent black variety, probably Spanish, responsible for dry, medium-sweet and fortified wines),the bovale (a.k.a. muristellu, bovaleddu…, it provides a red full of character, fruity, tannic, fit for ageing), the granaccia (or cannonau, a Mediterranean emblem of likely Aragonese origins, it boasts numberless synonyms and produces a scenting, elegant, dry and pleasantly bitter red), the moscato bianco (an aromatic variety already known in ancient Greece, it produces complex wines, with citrus or honey notes), the nuragus (the word dates back to the an era preceding both Phoenician and Greek, and defines a resistant white grape providing a sapid white, resinous, with good acidity and pleasantness), vermentino (what else?), trebbiano (Italy’s most common white grape, it provides discreetly fragrant wines, yet sapid and fruity) and – last but not least – some fortified free-run musts are the protagonists of ratafià (18°/22°), pale ruby, musky and mellow, the best choice for unleavened desserts and very tangy cheeses.
In Sant’Antioco the main variety is the above mentioned carignano, black fruit, Catalan origin (cariñena), grown also in France and Corse. It accounts for dark, hearty, dry, valid alcohol content; the palate reveals red fruits, spices, leather and toasted notes. The island also provides the so called Calasetta rosé (cerasuolo vinification, i.e. with a minimal contact between skin and must), and Vermentino.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011


Nowadays, Carloforte is a lively Sardinian port. Red tuna fishing thrives, and 15th May – 15th June is the time for the communal setting of the nets and for the “girotonno” festival. “Carlofortina” is the name of a sailing boat specially equipped for lobster fishing (please note that admiral Horace Nelson reputed the carlofortini to be the best boat builders of the Mediterranean). Saltpans stand south of the centre, whereas vegetable gardens and vineyards – lovely sheltered from impetuous winds – are a token of rural traditions. The indigenous vine variety (but also carignano, monica, granaccia, moscato bianco, nuragus and trebbiano are grown) is the ramungiò, the protagonist of a pleasant dry white (13° average) to be enjoyed cool and young with fish. History, commerce and culture are obviously reflected in the local cuisine, displaying a variety of influences form Sardinia and Liguria. Numberless recipes are based on tuna (no parts are left out apart from head and tail), the carlofortini do love scabeccio (the fish is fried, then marinated) and tonnina (cooked flesh undergoes at least 1-month salting), figatellu (the male gonads are boiled, pickled with oil and then eaten in salads or other preparations) and belu (the lyophilized stomach is boiled and pan stirred with potatoes, onions and tomatoes), gurezi (esophagus) and spinella (flesh that is not completely boned), bottarga (tuna eggs, pressed, salted and dried) and mosciamme (dried tuna fillets); the facussa is a sort of cucumber (tasty, sweet and refreshing) of Maghrebin origins participating with sea biscuits to the place’s adaptation of the caponadda salad; several declinations of chick pea farinata echo the memory of Pegli, and an in ancient local preparation farinata is the stuffing of a savoury tart. Gourmet highlights also include ceci in zimino (chick pea soup), focaccia, casòlla (a fish and mussels soup), basil pesto (enriched by tomato sauce), ravioli (usually filled with ricotta cheese) dressed with tomato sauce, bobba (a roasted polentina made of ground dry fava beans), stuffed onions (fried and topped with a light tomato sauce), cascà (a meatless version of couscous, vegetables cooked separately, feasted by an April fair), fried fish with aggiadda (garlic mortar sauce), stoccafisso (dry cod) and baccalà (salted cod), whence yummy frisceu fritters, panetti coi fichi secchi (made with dry figs and almonds), prepared on All Saints’ Day or on November 4th (San Carlo), Christmas or Easter canestrelli cookies (short pastry rules)…

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Located in Northern Tunisia, Tabarka is a port standing west of ancient Carthage and a few kilometers from the Algerian border. Its international airport and the presence of hotel chains account for its repute as a tour operating destination. Sheltered by a rocky islet, Thabraca (whence Tabarka by effect of metathesis) was a Carthaginian - and then Roman - landing place, archaeological remains still witnessing the vicissitudes of those agitated times. During the Middle Ages, the islet of Tabarka gradually entered the Genoese sphere of influence because of the profitable trade of coral. Sea waters (as well as in the rest of the Mediterranean basin) were troubled by the assaults of Turkish Dragut, who was captured in 1540 by Giannettino Doria, a member of the Genoese family acting in accordance with the Spanish crown. In 1544 the king of Spain endowed the noble Lomellini with rights and privileges in Tabarka, which through time was peopled by 300 families of intrepid fishermen from Pegli, a coastal village near Genoa. The constant target of raids and attacks, Tabarka nevertheless became a thriving free port and a point of contact between the Christian and the Berber/Islamic universes, in a time when Jewish merchants too reached Tunisia. But decline doomed: the hostility of the local governors, the growing scarcity of coral and the overcrowded conditions of the islet caused a little diaspora and explorations towards the island of San Pietro. In 1740 the bey of Tunis enslaved 900something dwellers of pegliese origins: they were redeemed by Carlo Emanuele 3rd of Savoy and moved to San Pietro. The island is situated off the coast of south western Sardinia in front of the Phoenician Punic Sulcis peninsula: there, in its flattest spot rose Carloforte (the toponym celebrating the rescuer – i.e. Charles the strong), “u pàize” (home), the heart of an area where the Genoese dialect is still spoken (and traces from other languages feature as well, e.g. bulanjé – from the French Boulanger – stands for baker). The choice fell on San Pietro – an ancient land of volcanic origins boasting outstanding natural beauties - because of a number of reasons: its geographical position, wealth of coral and red tuna (the tonnare of Portoscuso, Portopaglia and Isola Piana, where the tuna canning process (with olive oil) first appeared in the 1860’s, being at a stone’s throw), not to forget business prospects linked to saltpans. A total 470 people settled – 100 families of refugees and 30 families from Liguria. Though the beginnings were not easy (also because of frequent epidemics), the first mayor was appointed in 1738, a parish church devoted to San Carlo Borromeo was built and other families (under the aegis of the order of the Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro colonized Calasetta, on the opposite island of Sant’Antioco (a wonder of whitewash houses and Mediterranean maquis). Those who remained in Tabarka grouped in a “millet”, a community enjoying a set of rights, which managed to keep up economic relationships with Genoa and whose last descendants now live in France. The Savoy expansion saw the occupation of the island of la Maddalena in 1767, at the same time when Carloforte started to grow (settlement, framing, fishing, channels…) despite the never ending number of invasions and raids that at last urged the building of town walls (complete with wide Porta Leone, the door of the lion, a recurrent feature in local proverbs) and sighting towers. Safety and peace brought along eagerly awaited well being and a economic alacrity, up to the point that Carloforte began trading lobsters (astonishing to say, in the first decades of the 19th century they were the cheapest fish of the local market!) with the main European powers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


Umberto Curti's speech on the Pernambucco orange

during the 2011 edition of the

Salone dell'Agroalimentare Ligure in Finalborgo (SV)

The caruggi of the historical centre of Genoa offer travellers the amazing sight of the window shops of expert confiseurs, the contemporary masters of the arts of confectionery and candying that were developed by the Superba in a bygone past through its contacts with the Arab world. The glowing colours of candied citrus fruits stand out, and oranges present the explorer with the soul of the region and a special focus on the western coast from Finale Ligure to Sanremo.
Up to end of the 18th century Liguria was in fact one of the best growers of oranges, lemon, etc., their scents and hues enchanting visitors and architects regardless of the reason of their journeys. During the 19th century orange farming in the Riviera gradually gave way to more profitable flower growing, and today orange trees dot the coastal gardens of noble and important palazzi.
One of the characters of this citrus-perfumed history is the arancia Pernambucco (Washington navel orange variety), a remarkable example of the excellence of local produce on the savonese coast. Blond, easily digestible and fragrant, it travelled to and fro Asia, the Mediterranean and the New World -its Italian name clearly refers to the Brazilian State of Pernambuco (Recife) – and reached Liguria, too. From the orangeries of the Riviera the adventure went on throughout Europe, the precious citrus fruits fostering the export of the Republic of Genoa to the North of the continent. Oranges played the lead role in marmalades, sorbets, perfumes and medicines, and in the 18th century also began to be lusciously candied.
Nowadays the area of the Finale (SV) is working at the valorization of this set of know hows and skills that cover the whole process from cultivation to marketing via manufacturing. The arancia Pernambucco, also thanks to the commitment of AIE (Italian Ethnogastronomers’ Association), is again the protagonist of marmalades, liqueurs, mostarde and in the next future of chocolates and perfumes, not to forget tours and edutainment events. Make sure to be in Genoa on Saturday 3rd December (h 15.30) and hop to the Munizionere area of Palazzo Ducale for the "Le arance Pernambucco" seminar, organized on occasion of the “Pane al Pane” festival dedicated to Mediterranean food and sustainability.
A fil rouge – or better still, deep orange! – fit to explore the terroir, its traditions ands its ethnogastronomy. Unique connoisseur experiences designed by Ligucibario in an array of tasting conferences, dedicated itineraries and seminars with farmers and artisans.

Luisa Puppo