The first time I saw this method of cooking was some years ago in a small town, in the folds of a mountain in Sardinia, Italy. A friend who lives a few mountains over had invited me for lunch, and when I arrived the first thing I noticed was the ancient red brick fireplace and clock. It had just snowed in Sardinia and it was cold, so I a found a spot right beside the fireplace to warm up. Upon closer inspection of the red-hot flames I saw slices of pancetta and pork chops sizzling away above the hot embers. The aroma, better than a barbecue and the taste impeccable. I’d never tasted meat so fresh and exquisite.
Roasting meat in the middle of a living-room was a first for me, and I can’t wait to delve into this tradition yet again.
What is the strangest place you’ve seen meat being cooked?
One of my favourite pastimes while in Sardinia, and in the early part of the year, is to hunt for wild asparagus. The flavour is stronger than the store-bought asparagus and the shoot much thinner. There are many dishes I’ve created with this earthly wonder: pasta, frittata, slightly baked, lasagna, and pickled asparagus.
I’ve collected asparagus in the early spring for the last seven years and this year, sadly I won’t be hunting for wild asparagus as it doesn’t grow in abundance in Canada like in Sardinia. So, for now just the memories of those moments.
Do you collect any wild vegetables? What are they and where do you collect them?
I found an out-of-the-way Italian food import store the other day, and decided to check it out as I was craving flavours from the Med. The prices are very similar to the prices in Sardinia, Italy and I’m aware that on most products we are also paying an import fee.
Colour me surprised when I found my all-time favourite Sardinian extra virgin olive oil.
San Giuliano Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Alghero, Sardinia, Italy
One litre of San Giuliano Olive Oil
3 litres of fine Sardinian Olive Oil
I’m biased; I just can’t get enough of San Giuliano’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and when the time is right, I will pay those hefty import fees for something I so admire. It makes my mouth water and heart sing. It’s the perfect complement to any dish and heck yeah, it’s made in Sardinia.
I’m not going to lie. I love Cannonau so much that it runs through my veins like blood. Heck, even Dr. Oz spoke about the health benefits of the Cannonau variety on his show – stating that if you drink Cannonau you could live to 100 years of age! I must admit, the amount of Cannonau I’ve drunk in the last week will skyrocket me to 200 years of age!
Cannonau grape varieties are the most common variety found on the island. All Cannonau must be made with 90% Cannonau grapes to be certified with the Cannonau name. Cannonau is aged in oak barrels for one year before gracing tables with its strong elegance.
Here are three of my favourite Sardinian reds:
Cagnulari 2010 – Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. This is a rare grape type grown in the north-western part of Sardinia and is used to produce a sexy, full-bodied red wine. This variety is seldom found outside of Sardinia and considered a regional speciality. Be sure to try it!
Terre Rare 2010 – Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. This grape variety was introduced to Sardinia by Provence or eastern Spain. Carignano del Sulcis vines grow abundantly in the south-west corner of Sardinia.
Cannonau di Sardegna 2010 – Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. Sardinia’s most popular variety is this sensuous full-bodied wine. Some say the Cannonaugrape variety was introduced by the Spaniards in the 1400′s during Spanish rule. Others argue that Cannonau is indigenous to Sardinia. It doesn’t matter who is right in this battle, as one thing remains clear: Cannonau is one spectacular wine not to be missed on the island of Sardinia.
Sardinia is a culinary delight and nothing would please me more than to cook like the grandmothers who have baked and cooked for generations. The times I go walkabout, and it’s generally in the winter, the wafts of delightful delicacies that breeze through the crisp Mediterranean air leaves my mouth-watering and my stomach wanting the recipe.
My Italian language skills are decent enough to ask the women in the shops “Come fa le polpette?” They are more than eager to share the recipe from their grandmother’s kitchen, and I’ve taken their advice into my home and made it my own.
I’ve experimented with my meatballs and have come up with three different methods of cooking: bake, fry or add raw to tomato sauce. I’ve slowly improved and continue to ask the women in town for their advice. It’s a warm fuzzy friendship.
If you’ve followed this blog long enough, you will know that I don’t measure the ingredients, I eye-ball everything, plus, the leftovers always taste better the next day.
How to make mouth-watering meatballs
400 grams ground beef (this makes about 4 meals for 2 adults in my home)
salt & pepper
The above ingredients are for your basic meatball, now let’s spice it up a bit.
finely chopped garlic, carrot, onion or zucchini
Adding too many ingredients takes away the intended flavour – keep it simple.
How to make meatballs in the oven:
Throw all ingredients together in a bowl and mix.
Use a tablespoon as measurement; ball together the beef mixture into the palm of your hand until round and slightly firm.
Roll meatball in bread crumbs and set in oven pan.
Set oven at 200.
Bake 25 minutes for medium size meatballs.
This is one of the healthiest options, I’ve made them in the oven several times and they were good, but dry.
How to fry meatballs:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
Use a tablespoon as measurement and ball mixture until round and slightly firm.
Roll meatball in bread crumbs and set aside.
Fill frying pan with desired oil and cook until golden brown; heat oil.
If you have tomato sauce you can add the meatballs now. Oh, and here, in the mountains of Sardinia we don’t pare meatballs with pasta, no, never, it’s not even talked about, trust me, I’ve tried.
Not so healthy this option but super delicious, as with all things fried.
How to make meatballs in tomato sauce:
Okay, we get the gist of making meatballs now, right?
Make your meatballs and add it your boiling tomato sauce.
Cook for 35-40 minutes, stir slowly on medium heat.
I used to think it was gross to add raw meat to cooking tomato sauce, then one day a friend was over and we were chatting meatballs. He asked me how I made mine and I told him I fried them, then put them in tomato sauce. He looked at me quizzically and said “perche non metti direttamente nel sugo?” It was a good question and the following day I just did just that, and the meatballs turned out superb, I’ve made them like this ever since.
Happy Meatball making.
How do you make your meatballs? Share your recipe in the comment section below.
Casu Marzu is eerie, very, very eerie. It’s a pungent cheese made from sheep milk andis left outside, uncovered, to rot. Tiny cheese flies infest the cheesy block and lay their off-spring, billions of small transparent maggots. The larvae feed on the cheese, thus causing fermentation and allowing the casu marzu to fully decompose into an eerie, stinky, creamy and highly sought after delicacy from the mountains of Sardinia. The moment I saw the sign above the door I knew what I had to do. Continue reading →
A few weeks ago my husband went to the farmland and returned home with a bushel full of local apples, and they have sat in a bowl, collecting dust, on my kitchen table ever since.
While at my tutoring session two days ago, the girls were baking apples and the smell was out of this world. They offered me one and I declined, knowing my rotting bowl of apples at home would suffice for this sweet project. Continue reading →
Torrone from Tonara is Sardinia’s supreme sweet; made exclusively with local honey, egg whites and almonds. It is the first-rate nougat bar that the islanders reach for to satisfy their sweet tooth. Every corner of the island knows the best torrone comes from Tonara.
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to drive 200 kilometers to the heart of Sardinia. I roamed ancient streets and grazed on the abundant world-class torrone as locals busied themselves preparing the longest torrone in Sardinia, and they did it! 200 glorious meters stretched and curved along the streets of Tonara.
Traditionally torrone was hand mixed using a long wooden rod and taking up to three hours for the ingredients to harden. Today, machines have taken the place of hard labor but the result is still the same – a lasting sweetness that you can only find in Sardinia’s heart.
I woke this morning to crisp cool air and instantly had a hankering for Carrot & Ginger soup. I don’t know what brought on this desire, as I’ve never eaten carrot & ginger soup. I went about my ways and searched the web for recipes and I found this super easy recipe – to which I changed a little and added a few of my own ingredients.
A friend who lives 3km down the curvy mountain road cultivates her own vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, every herb known to man and gigantic zucchini. Each and every year her surplus is big and beautiful and this year I’m able to taste the fruits of her labor.
For the first time in recorded history … I’ve made Zucchini Bread. Many moons ago, my sister went on a zucchini bread making binge which lasted months, she gave zucchini bread away as gifts for birthdays, Christmas and weddings! At the time she was new to gardening and wasn’t aware of the growth potential in zucchini, hence, her gigantic garden of zucchini and the hundreds of loaves that followed. I’ve been a zucchini bread lover since. Here’s the recipe I scoffed off the internet for which, the author is a gigantic zucchini lover too. Continue reading →