Apples from the Underworld – Campania’s Melannurca Apples

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Mela Annurca Apples

 

Maybe it’s an American thing. Johnny Appleseed, as American as apple pie, a visit to the orchard on a cool fall day – we certainly have a distinct apple culture in America. For me, autumn fully arrives when I tote home a big pile of fresh, crisp, tart apples – certainly one of the highlights of the season!

 

Over the past year I have learned much more about food and cooking here in the region of Campania, and I’ve been trying all the local specialties I can get my hands on. One that I’ve been eagerly awaiting is Campania’s famous Mela Annurca (or Melannurca). Why famous? This apple has a pedigree more ancient than the region’s famous ruins of Pompeii and Ercolano. The great Roman historian Pliny the Elder, who died during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD that devastated those two Roman cities, described the Melannurca apples in his Historia Naturalis. At that time the apples were called “Mala Orcula,” or the apples of the underworld, as they were thought to have originated near Pozzuoli where the Romans believed the gates to hell were located. Now how’s that for a good story?

 

Mela annurca ripening

Photo Pro Loco “Valle”

 

I simply had to try these apples from the underworld! Mission accomplished two days ago as I toted home a big bag of these little Melannurca apples with a smile on my face. They are known for their small size and good flavor, and after many, many, many taste tests , I can assure you that they are, in fact, very tasty.

 

The Melannurca apples are peculiar in that they don’t ripen evenly on the tree. They do best when they are picked while still slightly green and then laid out to finish maturing on beds of straw or wood chips, which you can see in the photo above. They are covered with nets to protect them and limit the direct sun exposure, and then painstakingly turned every once in awhile as they ripen. I would love to see this in person!

 

In 2001, the Melannurca apples gained the IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status by the EU, which marks quality and importance as well as protects the status and reputation of regional foods. They are grown in all of the provinces of Campania, but especially in Naples, Caserta and Benevento.  You can read more about the Melannurca apples in Italian at the Melannurca apple website and at the Regione Campania website.

 

mele mela

Photo Comune di San Mango Piemonte

 

Happy mela (apple) eating!

Autumn Arrives on the Amalfi Coast

 Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Autumn Grapes

 

Over the last few days, autumn has finally started to arrive on the Amalfi Coast. The temperatures are starting to drop a few degrees, jackets are coming out of the wardrobes, and the leaves are beginning to flutter to the ground from the sycamores. Bursts of sun have been mixed with those pesky clouds that seem to get stuck in the mountain tops. The vines are turning red and golden colors, and la vendemmia (the grape harvest) is just about complete along the Amalfi Coast. I took the picture above just in time as only a few days after the vines had been cleared of their dark purple treasures. There is a house near where I live that is covered in this plant, perhaps a type of ivy (see below), that turns spectacular shades of red this time of year. How beautiful!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Autumn Leaves

 

Since l’autunno has arrived on the Amalfi Coast, I wanted to share with you some of my recent autumn themed posts over at The italyMONDO! Blog. I’ve been dreaming about Sweet Figs that ripen in September and all the wonderful Autumn Foods in Italy. If you love Italian food, head over and check out A Love Affair with Italian Food. Last weekend italyMONDO! did a reverse spotlight on me . . . Welcoming … Laura Thayer. [Blush!] I will be writing every Friday on The italyMONDO! Blog about Italian food. Does it get more delicious than that? I don’t think so! I hope you’ll stop by often to read about the regional cuisines of Italy, learn about cooking traditions and methods, and even learn a few recipes along the way. Time to start gearing up for autumn cooking!

 

Buon autunno!

O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness

 ovarian_cancer_awareness175

This month the wonderful and resourceful Michelle from Bleeding Espresso and Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy are hosting the 2nd Annual O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. The idea is to share a recipe that either begins or ends with an O as a way of bringing attention to Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I’m coming in at the end of the month, but it took a bit of thinking to come up with a good O food recipe to share here. Here’s one of my local favorites, easy, healthy, fast, and with two Os to boot. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

Poll0 con Olive, Capperi & Limone

(Chicken with Olives, Capers & Lemon)

 Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Pollo

 

This recipe is a traditional Neapolitan method for preparing fish, but I found the suggestion for substituting chicken in one of my favorite cookbooks Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz. I love how quick this recipe cooks up and how fresh the combination of flavors taste. It is especially nice made with Amalfi Coast lemons!

Serves 2

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon salted capers, thoroughly rinsed and chopped coursely if large

4 ounces green olives (about 3/4 cup), pitted and finely chopped

Juice of one lemon

2 chicken breasts (butterflied if you prefer)

1 rounded tablespoon finely cut parsley

 

(1) Mix together the olive oil, capers, olives, and lemon juice in a 10-inch skillet. Cook over low heat and let the mixture warm slowly until it begins to sizzle gently.

 

(2) Arrange the chicken breasts in 1 layer over the olives. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts, but if using plump breasts (not butterflied), expect them to cook about 4 minutes on the first side and about 3 minutes on the second.

 

(3) Serve garnished with the olives and capers from the pan and sprinkled with the fresh parsley.

 

Buon appetito!

 

 

CONTEST RULES

O Foods Contest for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and for the second year in a row, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are hosting the O Foods Contest to raise awareness of this important health issue.

 

There are TWO WAYS to take part in the O Foods Contest:

 

ONE: Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato); include this entire text box in the post; and send your post url along with a photo (100 x 100) to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

PRIZES for recipe posts:

  • 1st: Signed copy of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma, Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who is currently battling ovarian cancer, inspired this event, and will be choosing her favorite recipe for this prize;

OR

TWO: If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word and send your post url to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on Monday, September 28, 2009.

Awareness posts PRIZE:

  • One winner chosen at random will receive a Teal Toes tote bag filled with ovarian cancer awareness goodies that you can spread around amongst your friends and family.

 

———

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose, but include bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
  • There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
  • In spite of this, patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

 

And remember, you can also always donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at our page through FirstGiving!

Please help spread the word about ovarian cancer. Together we can make enough noise to kill this silent killer.

The Food Hunter Explores Praiano

 

fruit-basket-smallImage from the Food Hunter’s Guide

 

Earlier this month, The Food Hunter from the Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine was on vacation here on the Amalfi Coast. The home base for  their stay was the town of Praiano, just east of Positano. Praiano is a great choice for visiting the Amalfi Coast if you’re looking for a small hotel or apartment to rent, because it is small town that is relatively free of the tourist feel of the more popular destinations. I love it when fellow bloggers visit this area, because I get to see and hear about their vacations on the Amalfi Coast. In the case of the Food Hunter, it was an especially tasty treat, as they shared about their shopping and cooking adventures during their stay. Head on over to the Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine to read about Cooking in Praiano Highlights and their daily walks to the market at Cooking and Climbing in Praiano. I love the videos!

 

cheese_small (2) Image from the Food Hunter’s Guide

 

While you’re there, don’t miss the post on their Sorrento Cheese Factory Tour about visiting Caseificio Michelangelo. I know where I want to visit now to learn more about the process of making the cheeses the Campania regions is so famous for, including mozzarella, provolone, ricotta and more. Many thanks to the Food Hunter for sharing memories and stories from your vacation on the Amalfi Coast. Come back again soon!

Something Fishy in Atrani

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani  Pesce Azzurro1

 

Today I went for a beautiful swim in Atrani, and while I was there the city was setting up for the Festa del Pesce Azzurro, or the Festival of the Blue Fish, which takes place tonight. The city is covered with fishing nets like a haunted house might be with spider webs, and there are beautiful little fishing boats everywhere. It looks like a fun festival, and it has been recommended by my readers Una and Maria from Ireland who visit Atrani every year. The Festa del Pesce Azzurro is one of the many food festivals, or sagre, that are common all across Italy. They are usually a very tasty way to experience local specialties that vary from town to town and village to village. I was hoping to go to Atrani tonight, but other plans have come up for the evening. However, I just can’t resist sharing some photos of the fun decorations that I took this morning. Here you go:

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani Boat

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani Lamp

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Atrani nets