Gastronomic Events in Abruzzo in September

September is a great month for foodies looking for things to do in Abruzzo: this month chickpeas are threshed, grapes are harvested and many great food and drink festivals are celebrated across the region. Here is my round-up of this month’s tasty events that are worth visiting.

vendemmia abruzzoHistoric re-enactment of grape harvest, Città sant’Angelo (PE), September 19

In the old town centre during the “Rievocazione storica della vendemmia” a procession of women in traditional dresses will carry grapes in baskets with the help of donkeys. Visitors will see how the grapes used to be pressed in large barrels.

R…estate al Ceppo, Rocca Santa Maria (TE), September 12-13

This small sagra is for those who, like me, love wild mushrooms. It will open on Saturday at 4pm. There will stands selling local gastronomic delights, a cooking show, and, in the evening, a free degustation of local dishes cooked with mushrooms. On Sunday, you can join a guided forest walk in the area in search of wild funghi and porcini. I will be there!

what to do in abruzzo“Gust Art” Food and Beer, Chieti, September 12-13

On the main street of Chieti you can enjoy typical artisan foods from many Italian regions, artisan beer, music. It might be quite crowded but you will certainly find some excellent cheese and cured meats there.

And, of course, do not forget that I run weekly walking food tours in Pescara and Sulmona, organise cooking classes with locals, visits to wineries and cheese degustations all month of September!

Photos: © Alfaguarilla/ Dollar Photo Club, ©puchan/ Dollar Photo Club

 

 

 

Tasty gastronomic events in Abruzzo in August

August is upon us, which means it will be easy to decide what to do in Abruzzo as there are many gastronomic events are taking place around the region. Here is my round-up of the tastiest and most interesting of them.

Oleante festival in Tocco da Casauria (PE), August 1-2

For two evenings in the old town centre you can taste the local olive oil made with the Toccolana olive variety and typical dishes made with it, cheeses, salami, listen to a jazz band and see traditional dances.

From 6.30pm to midnight

Sagra del Timballo, Floriano di Campli (TE), July 29-August 4

The festival has been organised for 37 years to celebrate the delicious traditional dish “timballo di scrippelle”, a type of lasagne made with “scrippelle” thin pancakes and layered with meat and vegetables. There will be many food stands selling local specialties and timballo, traditional music and cooking shows.

From 7pm to 11pm

altino

Festival del Peperone Dolce di Altino, Altino (CH), August 21-22

Restaurants and food stands in the village of Altino will be serving various dishes made with the local sweet red pepper. There is also an annual competition among where the local districts cook traditional food with the spice and a jury picks the best of them. Traditional costumes, music, dances and great food!

abruzzo food

Sagra della Mazzarella, Caprafico (TE), August 7-9

No, not a festival of mozzarella the cheese but a celebration of a very rare delicious dish made in the province of Teramo called “mazzarella”. It is made with lamb heart, liver and intestines wrapped in lattice leaves cooked in wine.

Photos by: Peperonedolcedialtino.it, Maurizio Anselmi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cala Lenta: Summer Fish and Seafood Bonanza

Every summer seafood lovers of Abruzzo rejoice at Cala Lenta, a wonderful event organised by Slow Food Lanciano. The fish and seafood bonanza takes place along the Costa dei Trabocchi, the stretch of the Adriatic famous for its traditional fishing machines called trabocchi. This year July 10-12 there will be many thematic dinners in restaurants, from Francavilla al Mare to San Salvo, and on five trabocchi, cooking demonstrations and a food market in San Vito Chietino where you can sample some of the best products from the province of Chieti.

fish soup

The participating restaurants will be serving set menus that cost from €28 to €55 euro and will include some delicious traditional and innovative dishes. In Al Vecchio Teatro in Ortona, for instance, you can gorge on red mullet marinated in grape must and trinciatelli pasta made with the ancient grain of solina. Ristorante Essenza, San Vito Chietino, will serve pasta chitarrina with crabs and grilled mullet with local peppers. Are you drooling yet? Check out the menus and the Cala Lenta full programme here.

For a more authentic experience you can book a dinner on a participating trabocco. You can see the locations of the five of them on the graphic below. The fishermen will take their guests for a guided tour of the fishing machine and explain how they use them. Places on the trabocchi are limited, so hurry up to book for this weekend.

trabocchi

 

A Little-Known Wonder: Tortarello Abruzzese

The first time I saw tortarello abruzzese (“la turtarelle” in local dialect) at a local market a few years ago I could not understand whether it was a skinny courgette or an anaemic cucumber. The old lady who was selling it said that it was “tortarello” and it was “molto buono” in a salad. I bought four of them and got hooked since then.

Yard-long cucumber, or snake cucumber is a long (45-80cm) pale green vegetable from the gourd family, a little-known relative of cucumbers, zucchini, and pumpkin. Cultivated mainly in the province of Chieti, around Vasto and the valley of the Trigno river. It has a slightly more dense flesh and a sweeter taste than cucumbers. I tried to grow tortarello in my vegetable garden unsuccessfully: it needs a lot of space to spread its long branches and I try to cram too many things on the tiny patch of land that I have.tortarello1Every year, in June, I impatiently check the small green grocer’s nearby and farmer’s markets to see whether they have the delicious weird looking veg. There are never too many to choose from and the price is higher than that of your ordinary prosaic cucumber or courgette but it is worth every cent! Farmers grow tortarello abruzzese in very small quantities and it is somewhat of an endangered vegetable at risk of extinction. I have met people who have lived in Abruzzo all their lives and never seen or tasted this wonderful cucumber.

There are similar varieties of the yard-long cucumber in that grow in Molise, Apulia and Sicily.

I love eating tortarello, just like locals, peeled and chopped in salads with tomatoes, onions, a few oregano leaves and dressed with olive oil.

Featured image by Orticolando.it

The Best Among The Best: Sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni

On a grey wet afternoon, I arrived to Lama dei Peligni on a mission: to taste one of famous Abruzzo desserts the authentic local sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni, or “sfuiatell” in the local dialect. There are many imitations of this delicious pastry in Abruzzo, but to find the real deal you have to go to the village.

abruzzo dessertsTraditionally, sfogliatelle, shell-shaped pastries filled with cream, came from Napoli. However, at the end of the 19th century Donna Anna Guglielmo-Tabassi, the baroness of Lama dei Peligni, decided to adapt the famous pastry using only the ingredients from the area with spectacular results. However, the recipe was kept secret for a long time and only about 50 years ago it became public. I love the delicate crunchy shell of the pastry and the rich filling made with grape jam, amarena cherries, grape must, walnuts and cacao. It is not a treat for vegetarians, though, as before baking the dough is often smothered generously in lard. It gives the pastry a beautiful golden colour and, I reckon, makes it more addictive. Eating one just never seems enough!

lama-dei-peligniEvery year the village organises a sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni competition among the locals where the best among the best (“La più buona fra le buone”, as the festival’s posters declare) pastries is chosen and the winner gets a trophy, a silver sfogliatella.

There are a few bars, cafés and pasticcerie in the village and each of them makes their own version of the sfogliatella. I tried one in the bar Diamonds near the central piazza. It was generously dusted with icing sugar, tasty but sweeter than I expected. Then I bought another sfogliatella (one is never enough!) from a swanky pasticceria I Segreti di Donna Anna and it was perfect: crispy layered pastry, a delicious filling with a slightly sour note of the amarena cherries. Exactly the way I wanted it!

lama-dei-peligniRain didn’t stop the locals from celebrating the festival of sfogliatella: benches were lined up in the piazza, folk music was playing and a few men, well into their 80s, whirled a few young ladies around.

lama-dei-peligni4Where to buy sfogliatella di Lama dei Peligni:

I Segreti di Donna Anna, Via della Resistenza, 6

Pasticceria di Emilia Pasquale, Via Frentana, 120

Sweet Birds From The Province of Chieti

The other day I bought some celli pieni, soft biscuits filled with rustic grape jam called “scrucchjata”, cocoa, lemon zest and almond. Their name derives from “uccelli ripieni” (“stuffed birds”) and in old days the biscuits were shaped as birds. Traditionally they were made for Christmas but nowadays you can find them in small traditional bakeries in the province of Chieti.

abruzzo dessert

Until recently celli pieni were also made for young women who were getting married and leaving their family homes as symbols of fertility. Today it is hard to find them in elaborate bird shapes, more often they look like simple fat rings but they still taste delicious. The dough is very simple, with just a few ingredients: flour, sugar, olive oil and white wine. Here you will find a good recipe (in Italian) if you decide to make these sweet birds at home. If you are visiting Abruzzo, check out these small bakeries where fresh delicious celli pieni are every week:

Alla Chitarra Antica, Via Sulmona, 2, Pescara

Forno Zulli, Via Mazzini, 12, Rocca San Giovanni

L’arte del pane, Via Nazario Sauro, 31, San Vito Chietino

Pasticceria Lidia, Via Paolini, 31, San Vito Chietino

lampascioni puglia

What Are Those? Delicious Lampascioni, Or Wild Hyacinth Bulbs.

The other day at a local market I came across a basketful of small bulbs. Muddy and rather unprepossessing, they made my heart skip a bit with excitement. “Lampascioni!”, I exclaimed and the man selling them confirmed with a nod.

Lampascioni are the bulbs of wild tassel hyacinths, Muscari racemosum. Known since the times of ancient Greeks, in Puglia and in some parts of Abruzzo, these delicious bulbs are harvested in late winter and devoured as a delicacy. Their bitter taste goes with many traditional dishes: in Puglia lampascioni are served cooked with fava beans and chicory, sautéed with potatoes, with lamb or pork roast. In Abruzzo they are normally eaten as sott’olio preserves. Cleaning them requires a lot patience. When they are stripped of their dirty outer layers, the pink bulbs are soaked in water overnight to get rid of the excessive bitterness. Then they are boiled with white vinegar, piled in jars and drowned in olive oil. That way they can keep for at least six months. I love them served with generous amounts of lemon juice and fresh parsley. The hyacinth bulbs grow on you: the first time I ate lampascioni I was quite disappointed. Second time I thought they were interesting, now I am addicted to their mildly bitter taste, crunchy texture and a delicate pink hue. Here is a good Italian recipe for making lampascioni sott’olio and here is a great post with a recipe in English.

lampascioni recipe

I also found this recipe by the handsome Giorgio Locatelli of Locanda Locatelli in London that I can’t wait to try:

“Another fantastic way to use them is to boil some potatoes in their skins, bash them around a bit with a fork, then put in a bowl, add some cooked green beans and preserved lampascioni, before tossing in extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s a delicious salad to serve with sausages, and also makes a nice change to mashed potato – particularly so if your kids don’t eat green beans: you never know, this might tempt them”.