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this year's bicycle trip through southern italian wine country (departing april 5th)

 They are often the high points of the year each year, these trips. I guess you could call them my 'sabbaticals', but each year I pack up my bicycle and take off for a few months off to bicycle Southern Italian wine country. I meet lots of producers, hear their stories, taste their wine. Those that I’ve connected with often invite...

Simmered figs, Salento-style

It's an odd fact but the longer I remain a bachelor, the more I cook like a grandmother. Yes, strange, I know. Take this dish, for example,  the sort of dolce that you can whip when you have almost nothing in the house, which happens more than I'd care to admit. Like today, for example. Angela asked, What do you have that's...

la rapa 'nfucata: suffocated turnip tops (SIC) or wilted rapini

It is perhaps the oddest part of my job as the owner of a cooking school in Italy that I'm asked so often for the recipes for the food of the Salento by those that have never even been to the school (departing students receive all of our recipes, regardless of the time of the year of their visit). I say...

ciceri e tria: the salento in a bowl

  Ask anyone here in Italy what people eat up and down the peninsula and the answers will always be the same: Northerners dive into molten mounds of golden polenta, central Italians eat enough beans to vibrant the windows at night and everyone in Sicily devours plate after plate of pasta, much of it oddly 'Arab'. And Puglia? Well, 'le orecchiette, of...

fae e cicureddhe (fave e cicoria: broad beans and chicory)

'OK, Angela, tell me how you make this dish', I say as we walk Lecce's market together, her cheeks plummy from the recent cold. 'OK. First you select a perfect chicory, this one is a real looker', she says. She tucks the vegetable beneath her arm as though it were her briefcase. Back at my place we strike wooden matches to light...

….overheard at this year's olive harvest in the deep Salento…..

  (Translated from dialect- and occasionally Italian- late November 2012)   'It's not like it used to be, now that the machines arrived. When I was a boy, we made honest oil, with brooms and fiscoli (the jute mats still occasionally used in the production of virgin and pomace oils). You know, you never tasted oil so good! Today though, they LOVE their...

la parmigiana (the false friend)

  For the the last ten years I've avoided writing about la parmigiana, so complex is this dish in all ways but technique. To paraphrase Churchhill, la parmigiana...

quince paste, salento style

At the school I often give talks about the history of 'sweet' in Italy, and how little there was of it, until very recently. It's a fascinating discussion, as for so much of human history, if you wanted something sweet, you had to find where nature would hide elevated levels of it, in the food bees created for themselves by...

advanced course for returning students: why, exactly, do folks return?

  'And there is no swan song in sight', said Kathy, pictured here on her 3rd visit, with her husband John, on his second. 'I come to Italy every year but The Awaiting Table keeps pulling me back. It might the mix of learning, cooking, eating, seeing old friends and picking up something new, each time. In other cities I can be...

stop to pickle the flowers: hyacinth bulbs in the Salento

Come San Martino each year, we take to the castle, turning the holiday into something approaching a food festival. We roast our daily vegetables, the sea bass for lunch and the local DOP rabbits for dinner. We simmer legumes in our earthenware vessels, so that the whole castle begins to smell like one giant kitchen. But perhaps more than anything,...