See Mamma Agata’s Cooking School on MasterChef UK!

Very exciting news for all of you Amalfi Coast lovers in the UK! Tune in tomorrow evening to the MasterChef UK show on BBC One to see the semi final, which was filmed at the beautiful Mamma Agata Cooking School on the Amalfi Coast. In this episode, judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace take the semi finalists on a culinary odyssey to Italy, including a stop in Ravello to learn Mamma Agata’s cooking secrets and enjoy those dreamy Amalfi Coast views. Sigh … and what amazing views they are from the Mamma Agata cooking school!

Enjoy a sneak peek here with the preview for this episode of MasterChef UK. But you won’t have to wait long to see the full episode! Here are the details:

MasterChef UK on BBC One

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

9pm

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UPDATE

If you didn’t catch Mamma Agata and her family featured on MasterChef UK, you can catch it all here. One word of warning … don’t watch when you’re hungry!

When It’s Pizza Day

Pizza home delivery on the Amalfi Coast

There are some days that—without even having to think about it—are unanimously pizza days. Sometimes that means we go out in the evenings for pizza or stop in one of our favorite restaurants in Amalfi for a quick lunch. Other days it means making a quick call and having pizzas delivered to our front door. Oh … yeah … now that’s the life in Italy!

Pancetta e cipolla in bianco

Today was very much one of those days to order pizza for lunch One of my favorite pizzas in Italy, pictured above, is pancetta e cipolla in bianco, which is made with pancetta and onions without a tomato sauce. While I love the traditional pizza, many of my personal favorites are without the tomato sauce. If you haven’t tried pizza without the tomato sauce, give it a go on your next trip to Italy!

Pizza with prosciutto cotto e funghi

Of course with the traditional pizza margherita you can have all kinds of different toppings. My husband likes prosciutto cotto and mushrooms. The pizzas are delivered on a scooter from the next village over, which accounts for the mushroom that looks like it tried to make a flying leap over the crust. So now you know … this is what you do when it’s pizza day on the Amalfi Coast!

If you love Italy ephemera and pizza, you might get a kick out of Pazzo for Pizza Boxes (Crazy for Pizza Boxes) on Facebook!

The Limoncello is Ready!

Amalfi Coast Limoncello

The limoncello and mandarinello are ready! We picked mandarins and lemons in Amalfi last month, and the rinds have been infusing in pure alcohol since then. It’s longer than usual for the recipe from the Mamma Agata Cookbook that I use, but I simply kept forgetting to finish them off! The final result was tasty either way, but we still have to do the taste test comparison to last year’s batch. We picked lemons that were just turning yellow and were still a bit green, and the color of the limoncello (on the left) is ever so slightly green. The rinds of the lemons are at their most aromatic when they are still just a bit green. We picked the mandarins later this year than usual, so the color of the mandarinello doesn’t seem quite as intense as last year. But the flavor is still divine!

Do you make limoncello or other liqueurs at home? Limoncello is super simple, and only takes about a week to make. Although some recipes call for infusing the rinds for much longer, even up to 40 days as Cherrye from My Bella Vita has found out in Calabria! If you make limoncello at home, how long do you let the rinds infuse? Would love to hear!

Pomegranate Seeds & Memories

Autumn Flavors on the Amalfi Coast

Brilliant red pomegranate seeds

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” – Henry David Thoreau

As I broke open the pomegranate and brilliant red seeds tumbled into the waiting bowl, I glanced up at that quotation by Thoreau tacked on the cupboard in the kitchen. I smiled because I had to think this is exactly what Thoreau had in mind. With red stained fingertips I picked the seeds gently out of the pomegranate pieces, every so often stealing a few to savor the sweetness while I worked. I look forward to pomegranate season all year long. When it finally arrives in the autumn, I just can’t wait to break open the first one.

My first memory of eating a pomegranate was in elementary school sitting out on the dining terrace in the hot Florida sun. There was a sweet girl in the class one year behind me who dreamed of one day becoming a doctor, a heart surgeon to be precise. I remember admiring her drive and passion way back then, and I’ve never doubted that she achieved her goals. We weren’t in the same class and only rarely met, but I liked watching her pour over encyclopedias in the library and knew we had a lot in common. She had long straight black hair, a shy smile and brought the most intriguing things in her lunch sack. That’s where, one day, she pulled out a pomegranate. It was the first time I had ever seen one, and I was so grateful she let me try some. In retrospect, I imagine she was grateful to have found a kid who didn’t make fun of her for having a pomegranate instead of peanut butter crackers or a fruit roll-up!

That was the first time I ate a pomegranate, and I often think back to when I was a kid as I work the seeds out of pomegranates now. I suppose that’s because I never ate them again until moving to Italy. One early autumn day on the bus from Amalfi to Sorrento I swore I saw a pomegranate on a tree as the bus whirled around a corner near Positano. I came home and looked up the word immediately in the Italian dictionary. Melograno is the Italian word for the tree and melagrana is the word for the fruit. I kept my eyes out for them when I visited the fruit shop, and soon enough I spotted piles of pomegranates arriving for the autumn. Now they’re one of the fruits I look forward to each year with the arrival of autumn on the Amalfi Coast.

Whatever influences pomegranates may have on me, I’m happy to resign myself to them.

Recipe | Bietola with Mustard Seeds

Fresh Swiss Chard on the Amalfi Coast

Fresh bietola - swiss chard - from the autumn market

The change of the seasons is official when it arrives in the markets of Italy. Or, at least, it’s officially tasty! Fruits and vegetables suddenly appear that we haven’t enjoyed for awhile, and it’s fun to see what will be new at the market each week. Shopping seasonally and locally is a healthy habit we can all cultivate. It just so happens that living on the Amalfi Coast makes that so much easier. Right now the markets and small shops are full of grapes, persimmons and lovely greens that only show up in the autumn. I stopped into the local fruit and vegetable shop yesterday and noticed a crate of fresh picked bietola with dark green leaves and white stalks. What’s bietola? That luscious vegetable is called swiss chard and is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. I brought home a big bunch and prepared it quickly as a side dish for dinner. While this recipe is so simple it hardly counts as a recipe, I couldn’t resist sharing one of my favorite autumn vegetables. If you haven’t had swiss chard, or perhaps don’t usually care for greens, do try this unusual and tasty flavor combination!

Bietola (Swiss Chard) with Mustard Seeds

Ingredients

1 big bunch of swiss chard

1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1-2 cloves of garlic

salt (to taste)

1. Wash the swiss chard thoroughly. Remove the thick white stalks and cut in 1/2″ slices. Cut the greens in 1/2″ or thicker slices and set aside separately.

2. Place the olive oil, garlic and mustard seeds in a large pot and heat over a very low flame until the garlic has infused the olive oil and the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove the garlic.

Swiss Chard with Mustard Seeds

Cooking the stems of the swiss chard

3. Add the white stalks of the swiss chard and mix well to coat in oil. Cover and cook over medium flame about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stalks begin to soften.

Bietola recipe with mustard seeds

Adding the swiss chard greens

3. Add the swiss chard greens and mix well to coat in the oil and they begin to wilt. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on quantity) until tender.

4. Salt to taste and serve as side or over rice or quinoa.

Swiss Chard with Mustard Seeds Recipe

Swiss chard with mustard seeds

If you don’t have mustard seed handy or don’t care for the flavor, leave it out and prepare the bietola with olive oil and garlic or add a bit of peperoncino for a spicy punch!