I have always had a secret crush on Italy. Not Florence or Rome mind you, but rather the Italy of olive tree covered rolling hillsides and crystal clear, turquoise seas along an undeveloped coastline. Someplace where friendly tratorias serve fish right out of the sea and salads straight from the local campagna. Where the vino bianco is as local as the clientele, and no one, but no one, speaks decent English... if any at all. Hah! You say. Dream on. Well, guess what?
|The plates disappeared as fast as the three guys shucking could shuck.|
|Paradise can be found just north of Gallipoli in the Gulf of Taranto on the Ionian Sea|
|Heading to lunch - this busy spot has it's own small fishing boat and offers only the daily catch|
|Sticky mud on the soles of your shoes is part of the campagna experience|
|Capers fresh off the bush|
|Caper bush and friend|
This charming part of Italy is pretty much untouched by tourism as we know it here in Paris. There is a 'season' when the English, Dutch and northern Italians visit, however you will find none of that pesky 'flocking' or 'pilgrimage' tourism (and all the stuff that goes along with it) in these rural and seaside communities. Which, I guess, is why I like it.
|Veronica picking zucchini flowers for the family vegetable stand|
The Lecce province is a region rich in history and in agriculture. In fact, it is Italy's most prolific and abundant farming region - as evidenced at the Farmers Market (which also serves as a giant roving department store) where many of the local farmers sell their cherries, apricots, herbs and vegetables. Did I mention there were zucchini flowers?
|These beauties went from the field to the farm stand to the stove to the table within hours|
We headed out to the farmers market just before lunch. Okay, so I went a little crazy with the cheeses and salumis (it's why I checked a bag instead of only doing 'carry on')... I'm not a bit sorry either!
|Bought some Parmigiana from this cheerful guy (11E per kilo)|
|And more, aged Grana from this pile (9E per kilo)|
|This father and son have been selling cheese in the region for more than 50 years|
|Summer was in full swing both in temperature and in clothing selections|
|So many styles, so little time. There were at least 3 stands this size selling shoes.|
|The 3 crates & 2 yellow buckets of little brown things are snails. I have no idea what's done with them.|
|First of the season|
|This man is selling a very unusual and fragile berry (see below) we bought some|
|Delicate, nearly melon like in flavor, they are highly perishable and best eaten cold|
|The outdoor kitchen where much delicious stuff goes on|
Fried Zucchini Flowers
This batter will coat enough for a dozen + people
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) All purpose flower
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cube yeast dissolved in 2 cups warm water
water enough to thin the batter "as you like it"
2 kilo (5 lbs) Zucchinis and their flowers - or only flowers
1 liter Olive oil - for frying - as needed
1) Put the flour in a large bowl, make a "well". Pour the dissolved yeast into the well. Stir. Add more warm water until the mixture is the right, smooth, consistency for you. (the thicker the batter, the more doughnut like the result)
2) Heat about an inch of olive oil in a large skillet.
3) Dip one washed and dried zucchini flower into the batter, shake off the excess, cook on both sides to an appetizing golden brown. Drain on brown paper bag. Allow to cool a bit (if you can stand it) taste and adjust batter seasoning if needed.
4) Repeat until there are no more flowers. Serve hot.
5) Slice zucchini into long strips. Dip in batter. Fry. Drain. Serve.
This batter recipe can easily be cut in half (1 lb flour to 1/2 cube yeast)
You can also try stuffing the flowers with fresh mozzarella or goat cheese or.....?
The options are endless.
|We gobbled up all the flowers before I had a chance to take a photo, but here is the actual zucchini cooked in the same delicious way|
It's a great life!
Click HERE for a great overview of the culinary and historic richness of Puglia.