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I recently returned from a long trip to Italia, after an unplanned 3 year ‘pandemic break’. We missed our little casa in Orsara di Puglia.  Once we cleaned up a bit, there was a lot of activity in the kitchen. Cucina povera, literally ‘food of the poor’, is what you mostly find in Puglia.  Simple foods made with fresh local ingredients. Here are just a few of the things my family and I were up to in our tiny but functional summer kitchen in Orsara di Puglia.

Starting with the space itself, the whole casa is 40m² (about 450 square feet) including a bedroom and bathroom.  That is about the size of a double garage.  The room with the cucina is also the living room, guest room (aka my room) and art studio. The highlight of the room is the amazing barrel vaulted stone ceiling, which is hard to fit in a photo.

We had a lot of visitors who came bearing gifts.  My favourite gift was the anguria -the huge watermelon on the counter.  It was grown by a friend and was delicious!  He also grew the cipolle.

Melanzane (eggplant, or aubergine for the Brits) and zucchine are plentiful in summer.  We made Parmigiana di melanzane e zucchine.  It was soooo yummy, but we only made it once as cooking it was painful.  It was too hot to have the oven on! Now this is my idea of a bouquet of flowers! Fiori di zucca are one of my favourite summer foods. I stuffed them with caciocavallo and basilico, then battered and fried them.  It was too hot to bake them in the oven.  They were eaten before I could take a photo.  Luckily they are easy to find here. I grow fiori di zucca in my garden in Vancouver, because they are impossible to find. Recipes and harvesting tips can be found in the post Fiori di zucca

Fichi-figs-were everywhere.  Green, purple, small, big…even ginormous like this one in my hand.More fichi!basket of figsLast time I was here, I bought a spianatoia, although I only knew what is was called in dialetto.  It is a pasta rolling board with a lip on one end so it stays put on the table.  This one also has a handy carrying handle. I was only able to use it once in 2019, so I wanted to get some use out of it. I made ravioli di ricotta e spinaci a few times and filled the freezer.  I make them often in Vancouver, and they are good-but the goat milk ricotta here is so incredibly good that they taste better.

I did not get a chance to make my own orecchiette as I was too busy socializing, but we did eat them often.  I need to practice my technique!

Orecchiette con sugo

The cheese products in Puglia and Campania are drool-worthy!  Orsara has its own DOP cheese called cacioricotta, made with goat milk, but it never stays around long enough to be photographed!  Wednesday is mozzarella di bufala day. These melt in your mouth ones are from Masseria Li Gatti near Torremaggiore, SanSevero (FG).  

June is amarena season.  Amarene are sour wild cherries.  The word amaro means sour or bitter.  Everyone is busy picking them, making jam, canning them and making crostate.  I went amarena picking in my cousin’s olive grove.  Aren’t they gorgeous?Amarena cherries on the tree

Friends and relatives gave us amarene in syrup.  The absolute best place to use it is on top of gelato! I ate a lot of polpo or polipo on this trip.  They both mean Octopus and it is one of my favourite foods.  I will have to publish a post with all of my polpo photos.  This one of Mamma washing polpo in the kitchen sink was popular on instagram.washing octopusThis is the insalata di polpo that she made.  No leftovers.  Sorry, not sorry!Octopus salad

Cooking fish needs to be coordinated with umido day which is 3 times a week, otherwise the entire house will be puzzolente -stinky. Orsara now does la raccolta differenziata for garbage and recycling and it is extremely efficient!  Roma, are you listening?  The town has never looked so clean.  I will have to write a post about this.  Here is a sunny photo of l’umido pickup day.  This is not the kitchen, but these stairs do lead to it!

We went to a post-wedding meal in Alberona and stopped off at the caciocavallo store on the way home.  It was actually a farm and it was super-puzzolente!

Fresh caciocavallo needs to hang to dry.  The kitchen stone ceiling has a catnill’.  This is a metal ring like the ones outside that were used to tie up your donkey.  We couldn’t reach it to hang the caciocavallo, plus they tend to ‘sweat’ and leak a small amount of fluid until they dry.  Yuck.  who wants caciocavallo sweat to fall on their head?  It was hung from the fridge, next to the piattaia full of Pugliese plates.

I will leave you with one last photo of the cute little Ichnusa Sardinian beer bottle I brought home from camping in Mattinata.  I hope this post has made you either hungry and drooling or wishing you could visit Puglia yourself.  Maybe it has done both? Perché no?  I am already planning my next visit!  Buon appetito e buon viaggio, Cristina
Thanks Sherry from Australia for hosting the monthly food blogging event, In My Kitchen (IMK). Click the link to Sherry’s Pickings to read about other world kitchens. Buon appetito, Cristina