Tasting Italy in SiroloAs the July evening moves in on Adriatic coastal gem, Sirolo, sea-satiated vacationers head up from the turquoise waters to the main square for a stroll from stand-to-enticing-stand at the food festival, Capricci di Gola. The late July “Caprices of the Tastebuds” ( or literally, “of the throat”) is a “culinary stroll” through Italy – just about – north-to-south.
At one stand, you can taste savory Pugliese pizzas or the famed Altamura bread and not far away, another southern Italian stand entices with baba al rhum, arancini (large rice balls, shaped like oranges, hence the name) cannoli made on the spot, colorful almond paste frutta di martorana, formed into every imaginable fruit form. You aren’t in Sicily here but you feel you are – and it’s not just the accent of the smiling young woman handing you a cannolo which convinces you! Hot and thirsty? Pause at the nearby giant lemon for a granita. Move up “the boot” a bit and stop at the stand of the porchettaio from Latium to taste his savory roast suckling pig sandwiches or a slice of the salami.
Some of the pecorino cheeses are from Latium, too, as well as a Roman artisanal beer.
Do comparative cheese-tastings with tastes as you move to Tuscan pecorini at another stand. Umbria stands tempt with offerings of prosciutto, capocollo, wild boar salami, and black truffles while neighboring region, Le Marche, justly stars here as, of course, hosting town, Sirolo is marchigiano.
The region’s spreadable salami ciauscolo is a big draw as are the rich dried blood sausages, amazzafegati (“kill your liver” !)Tastes of marchigiano wines, olive oils, and cheeses lure visitors and a vendor and his little girl offer roasted ears of local corn. Many line up for slices of crescia, the marchigiano flat bread (called “la torta” here in Umbria), filled with hand-sliced (for best-flavor!) local prosciutto. The man in the stand shaped like a giant olive is doing a brisk business selling paper cones of sizzling hot D.O.P. (declared denominazione di origine protetta in 2005) olive ascolane, huge olives of the Ascoli Piceno area, stuffed, then breaded and deep-fried.
The festival’s smallest stand is an “intruder” in this culinary stroll of the Italian peninsula: water droplets cascade over three tiers of coconut slices.
(Note: “DOP” is Italy’s highest food qualification – denominazione di origine protetta (protected denomination of origin) – indicating products whose ingredients and preparation are specific to a geographic region.)
Ingredients – serves 6
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 to 1/3 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until creamy and bubbly-about 10 minutes.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil to the dry ingredients and stir until a soft dough is formed. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and satiny, and not stick to the work surface.
Alternately, you can put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast and olive oil, and stir well. Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat all surfaces. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove from heat and cool on a rack.
Punch down the remaining dough, shaping and cooking the torta as before.
Cut into 6 wedges. Split and fill with desired ingredients and eat slightly warm, or at room temperature.
Cooled torta al testo can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 3 days, or frozen up to a month. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 400 ° oven for 5 minutes.
If a 15-inch griddle is unavailable, divide the dough into thirds and use an 8-10 inch griddle.
*My friend, Christine Hickman, www.sonomarcella.com, has very generously offered to share her torta recipe. My farmwomen neighbors all have learned to make torta from their mothers and grandmothers. So there is NO recipe. But Christine observed, learned and transcribed doses. This is her recipe, painstakingly calculated and based on her observations of donne umbre in cucina. The recipe was published in November 2003 in an article on her in The Sant Fe New Mexican. Chris lives 6 months of the year in Santa Fe and 6 month here in Perugia, teaching cooking lessons in both places. Look for her book-in-progress on gnocchi.