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Dessert Recipes

Making Pane Calabrese in Sicily


Making Pane Calabrese in Sicily

I have been meaning to share some photos of making pane Calabrese in Sicily. When my mother-in-law Teresa comes to visit us from Italy, I give her free reign in my kitchen. The first couple times she visited, I wasn't too willing to give up the culinary control. I know, what was I thinking?!?

Completely ridiculous. Especially since she is crazy talented. She can cook around me, my whole street, even this whole city, with her eyes closed! She is fast and furious in her preparations. If you can't keep up with her, it's better to just go and set the table or tend to something else that is more menial.

I have finally learned the ways around my kitchen with her here and I usually take the role of a very willing observer and photographer. I learned my lesson to not even offer to preheat the oven. I erroneously tried to help her last January when they were here and preheat the oven. I didn't realize that Teresa had a tray of bread rising in the peace and quiet of my empty oven. She miraculously kept her cool and the bread was salvaged.
Making Pane Calabrese in Sicily


I've come to the conclusion that there is no need for me to feel that she is intruding in my kitchen. I engage in complete submission: la mia cucina e la sua cucina. Really, it doesn't make any sense why I didn't adopt this easy-going attitude much sooner.
Making Pane Calabrese in Sicily



For example, this summer in Sicily. My in-laws took a trip with us to visit my father's hometown. We were lucky to have the opportunity to stay with family by the coast. The views were spectacular and we pretty much ate all day long, took a break to go get more food supplies, then ate some more. A typical Italian summer holiday, except this was filled with fresh seafood from the Mediterranean Sea. My cousin Alessio constructed a pretty amazing brick oven to cook in. It's hardly been used and if you ask Teresa, they have no idea how to use it. So that's probably why it's barely been used. She didn't mean it as an insult when she said they don't know how to use the oven. It's a pretty complicated and even dangerous process to get the oven going. Teresa grew up in Calabria making bread in ovens like this. As I mentioned before, she could probably do the whole thing with her eyes closed. Although since this is involving flames, probably not something she would do.

Making Pane Calabrese in Sicily

Alessio's wife Winnie knew that Teresa had mad baking skills. She was being polite and not asking Teresa to make any thing the whole time we were there. Winnie waited until the last day and then threw her request for Teresa to bake her famous Calabrese bread. Teresa accepted the challenge happily. As I find when I bake at someone's house, it's not the same as baking at my own. Teresa encountered some similar issues. The day she decided to bake we also had to run some errands in town and had to leave her bread to continue resting lovingly tucked under blankets on one of the guest beds (yes, some Italian women prefer to tuck their loaves comfortably under the covers to rise properly).


How adorable are my in-laws? Teresa would not be happy that Domenico's shirt was unbuttoned there on the bottom. He probably had on his tank top because it was about 100 F. But she made him wear his more dressy shirt and long pants, because that is the more proper thing to do.

When we returned from our errands, Teresa was a little flustered. The bread rose a little too long and they still had to get the brick oven going. Alessio was trying to help get the oven going. My father-in-law had his way of starting the oven. Alessio had a different way of doing things with the oven. I was really beginning to doubt if Teresa would get to see her famous bread baked in Sicily.

Even though there were some slight baking technical difficulties, the bread turned out quite perfect. Winnie was thrilled. We had some with dinner with our fresh fish dishes. Teresa was still commenting after we ate that the texture wasn't right. That it rose too long and that they didn't know how to start the oven. But most importantly, she was missing her lievito madre (her mother yeast)and that would've made all the difference.

No matter what she says was wrong with the bread (and that there was any thing wrong was solely Teresa's opinion), we couldn't get enough of her bread! One day I will try to share her recipe here. It won't be the same.  I have had her bread here in Florida, at their house near Como, and in Sicily. The only time it seemed as perfect as it could be was when Teresa was baking it in the comfort of her own home in Calabria.
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A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


A Visit to the Mercato in Italy

When you go for a visit to Italy, be sure to ask about the local mercato (markets)in the city you are visiting. You must do a visit to the mercato in Italy!  There is usually one in every city once a week. Some even have 2 a week. I love to visit the mercato because you can find a little of every thing. I'm mostly there to check out the food, but I know those that go just for the fashion. I do like to check out the shoes and the clothes, but prefer not to buy any thing. It's all too rushed and frenetic for me.

It's hot and it's crowded in the summertime. People push you around and some of them are smoking cigarettes as they're glancing around the racks of clothes. There's shouting and there's bargaining. There are babies crying and there are lots of cute dogs to check out.

Right around here is where my sister-in-law convinced me to check out these tops. I noticed it was getting chaotic the closer I was getting to the pile. They were these cute bathing suit cover ups. In a few days, everyone will be gone. Italy will practically shut down the month of August. It is time to go to a beach. Any beach will do. Besides visiting the mercato for a bathing suit coverup, did I mention that it is SALDI time in Italy. That means, Summer Sales! Everyone awaits the big day when the stores start the sales. But back to this day at the mercato.
A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


I'm not sure how any one can find their correct size in the midst of arms and material whipping around. There is no organization and I guess that is what is the thrill of it all? My sister-in-law dove deeper around the corner to where she found something she had her eye on the week before. I liked that green one you see on the left on a mannequin. But to attempt to find my size with Italian ladies happily shoving each other around to find their own sizes, impossible. The heat was getting to me and I was starting to not breath as well as I was 3 minutes before. Another puff of smoke in my face and a cigarette dangling a little too close to my son's head. A little mercato claustrophobia? Definitely!

I didn't want to offend my sister-in-law and not keep her company and give her my opinion of the one she was interested in, but I realized I just bought a cover up before going to Italy and really didn't need to spend 30 euros on something I wasn't even sure would fit me. Off I went to check out something more interesting!
A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


The Italian mercato is where everyone catches up with each other. Moms get to see friends they haven't run into in a while. Most Italian women make sure they look really good before going to the mercato. The bella figura is very important in Italy.  What is a bella figura? It's all about making a good impression! My mother-in-law would not let my father-in-law go out not looking completely put together. His pants and shirt clean and pressed. Not one stain or wrinkle will do. Dirty shoes? Just this month I watched zia Daniela lecture zio Domenico about how he could not. No, there was no way she would allow him to go to Venice with us with dust on his shoes. Examples of La Bella Figura.

And it's not excluded just to how you dress and look when you go out. It truly is a philosophy on life. It's what makes every thing tick in an Italian's life. It is a little too much to get into here and I may have to make this into another post for a future date.
A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


A Visit to the Mercato in Italy

But really, for me, visiting a mercato is all about the food!! Check out this cheese!
A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


A Visit to the Mercato in Italy


A really great post that talks about the history of mercati in Italy from Paolo of Disgraces on the Menu.

Georgette (AKA: THE Girl in Florence) talk about the incredible Mercato Centrale in Florence.

Katie Parla talks about the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio in Rome.
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Blueberry Icebox Pie


Blueberry Icebox Pie

Are you finding blueberries everywhere you go? If you are, you should make this fantastic blueberry icebox pie! I swear you will be loved by all! I mean, I'm sure you already are for all the other wonderful things you make. But when you make an icebox pie when it's 103F outside, people just tend to get a little more excited about you.

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