Dried Figs

Dried FigsI recently had the pleasure of attending a very ancient custom that usually characterizes the countryside life during the last weeks of summer. A beautiful tradition that unfortunately, like many others, is disappearing and I believe it should be preserved instead. The collection and drying of the fresh figs for the preparation of fichi cucchiati (literally coupled figs).

Olive Oil

Olive trees derive from The Oleastro, which is a species of wild olive tree, its early findings can be dated back tens of thousands of years ago. According to Greek mythology goddess Athena was the one who planted the first olive tree and its fruit was given to all men as wonderful juice.

Fichi d'India

Vi scrivo con una bella fetta di pane tostato e marmellata accanto. E’ un particolare che potrebbe sembrare inutile o molto peggio non interessarvi affatto ma è proprio da questo succulento pane con la marmellata che è nata l’idea per il mio articolo.

Pochi giorni fa, percorrendo in bici le stradine di campagna della mia bella regione, mi sono accorta di quanta buonissima frutta rimane incolta sugli alberi, a marcire ingiustamente; in particolare sono i fichi d’india ad essere i più numerosi e solitari.

Taralli

“Everything is ended to tarallucci and wine”, meaning that is everything is ended well and every discussion is resolved with a nothing of fact. This friendly expression is used to say that everything is finished for the best and is the famous motto of tarallini from Puglia that best describes their history and tradition.

Taralli-PugliesiThe tarallo was first introduced in Neapolitan cuisine at the end of 1700, food shortages and widespread hunger induced bakers to preserve the remains of the dough used to make bread, the bakers added pork fat and pepper to it and that’s how the tarallo was born. It was a poor food but nutritious and economical and was immediately a great success. But it was later on that the tarallo became famous and well known in its version from Puglia, it is called tarallino which literally means small tarallo.

Different from the Neapolitan version the tarallino from Puglia is a little smaller and smoother and thanks to the famous extra-virgin olive oil of Puglia it has also a different taste.

The tarallino is closely related to the landscape features of the Pugliese: oil, wheat and wine. The name is quite uncertain but is probably related to its circular shape. Some historians argue that the name derives from the Greek daratos meaning sort of bread. The tarallino was born as a traditional food for Easter in two versions: salty and sweet. The best known is certainly the salty version; its dough includes flour, oil and white wine in its basic recipe. There are many variants: among them the most famous is surely the one that involves the addition of fennel.

Born as a basic need to feed the poor people, today the tarallino is sold in nice packages and is no longer food for poor people. It is commonly consumed as an aperitif, so famous and popular in Italy as it goes very well with soft drinks or low-dose alcohol as beer.

Friselle

The frisella, also called frisa, makes its first appearance back in 1300. Typical of Southern Italy regions such as Campania and even more Puglia, its literal description is: bagel-shaped toasted roll. The name frisella probably derives from the Latin “frendere”, which means grind, cut into small pieces, and in fact the frisella is a crumbly food.

friselle_beautiful_puglia
It can be seen as a durum hard bread biscuit, cut horizontally in half and toasted again in the oven. The dough is entirely mixed by hand and is made from durum wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. The dough is then cut and rolled in a shape reminiscent of the bagel. After the first baking in a wood oven, it is cut in the middle with an iron wire and the two sides are baked again. Because of this cooking process the two sides have a different look: one is porous and the other one is compact.

friselle_beautiful_puglia
The frisella is an economic and poor food because it basically lacks anything. It is also fat free, which makes it incomparable to any other crackers or bread sticks and makes it perfect for diets. It is a time-resistant food being it a dry food. It can not go bad in fact it is already a dry bread and is, moreover, a good alternative to normal bread. According to tradition, the frisella made of durum wheat flour was a food for wealthy families while poorer people used to eat friselle made of barley wheat. Frisella today is a very popular food on the tables of Puglia in particular during the summer as it is a light and fresh food that goes well with the products of this region and typical of the season.

friselle_pugliesi_beautiful_puglia
To enjoy it the best, soak it in cold water for a time that depends on individual taste and thickness of cooked dough (in the past people in Puglia used to douse the friselle directly in sea water and then add dressing). Then dress it with fresh tomatoes, oregano, salt and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. The frisella is a poor food but its flavor is incomparable.