Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apulia. A Film Tourism Guide

This past winter I translated a wonderful book that is a combination travel guide and guide to the sites and stars of all the films that have ever been shot in the Apulia region. The book is the result of a collaborative effort between the Region of Apulia and the Apulia Film Commission. Its aims are to increase tourism in the area, by attracting those people interested in films and visiting the locations where they were shot, and to encourage filmmakers to consider Apulia when searching for locations for new films.

Here's an excerpt from the blurb on the inside of the front cover:

"They are called 'locations,' but in Apulia they are simply life. Not only the most crystal-clear, spectacular sea you have ever seen, extending for 800 kilometres of coastline. Also the dazzling expanses of wheat seen in I'm Not Scared, the centuries-old olive trees and the ravines that 'wound' the land. The deserted villages of the Subapennine area and the candid towns eternally captured 'nel blu dipinto di blu' by Domenico Modugno. The trullos that captivate the English and now seduce Bollywood. The 'western' Murgia and the beaches of past invaders and present immigrants, the place were Lamerica begins. The indolent holiday resorts and the sensual nights that move to the rhythm of the taranta. The castles of Federico II and the Romanesque cathedrals. The mountain of the Angel and the cult of Padre Pio. The Ilva smokestacks and the outskirts of the cities. Bari, the hometown of the enamoured Meryl Streep of Madison County and of the resurrected Petruzzelli where Liz Taylor captivated the young Toscanini. The Felliniesque bands dear to Nino Rota. Castellaneta represents the legend of Rudolph Valentino. In the heart of Baroque Lecce, the nakedness of history and the strength of the light 'in the south of the south of the saints' of Carmelo Bene.
Ten itineraries to discover Apulia, a variable scenery for hundreds of sets, from Pasolini, Totò, the Taviani brothers, Monicelli and Wertmuller, to Placido, Amelio, Salvatores, Rubini and Moretti. Visions and symbols, famous masters and young talents, characters and places in search of a region where films come to life."

The English version was released this month and you can buy your very own copy on-line. The only problem is that all the links I have found are in Italian! Even the publishers, Laterza, don't have an English page in their on-line catalogue...I have to go pay them a visit and talk to them about this! In the meantime, you can place your order in Italian here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Molfettan Calzone

It's been a long time since I posted a recipe, so I thought I'd share this one for calzone, Molfetta-style. I must admit I am a bit intimidated by some of the wonderful recipe blogs out there. My motto continues to be "If It Ain't Easy, I Don't Cook It" so keep in mind this is nothing fancy!

First things first, let's look at making the crust. Although your calzone ends up looking kind of like a pie, the dough is much more bread-like.

1 kilo flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 cube of active yeast
warm water

You can mix the dough either on a tabletop, or in a large bowl. Create a small indentation in the middle of the flour and pour in a bit of warm water, then crumble in the yeast. When the yeast has dissolved add the sugar and salt and mix until they dissolve, too. Gradually mix in the flour, adding water as needed to achieve the consistency of dough. It shouldn't stick to your hands, nor should it be so dry that it crumbles. Knead the dough for at least 8 minutes, adding either flour or water, as necessary. Lightly flour the surface of your dough and cut a cross into it. This has religious connotations, "blessed bread" and all, if you prefer an "x" will do the trick just as well, but the cut also serves to allow the dough to rise. At this point, it should look something like the photo below...

Wrap this baby up in a dry cloth, then stick it under the covers in your bed...or in some other warm spot...and let it rise for about an hour and a half. On to the filling:

2 cod
green onions
cherry tomatoes
pitted black olives
grated pecorino or romano cheese

I know you are going to be thinking...how much of each of these ingredients? And I can only tell you that...it depends! It depends on how you like your calzone. Like so many recipes passed on through the oral tradition, you just have to try and see how it comes out, then make adjustments to suit your taste the next time. In any case, the onions are the key ingredient here, so you probably want about a kilo of them.
Boil the cod until they are firm and white inside. Clean them, discarding all the skin, bones, etc. and set the meat aside.

Chop the onions finely and sauteè them in oil and a dash of milk. The milk creates a much more delicate flavor. Add the finely chopped cherry tomatoes and cook until they are soft and basically have disintegrated (see photo above). Salt to taste.

Mix in the chopped olives, grated cheese, raisins and fish meat. Set aside for now.

When the dough has risen, dig it out from under your bedcovers and punch it down to release excess air. Divide it into four equal parts and roll each part out to slightly larger than your pie tin (or cake pan, if you prefer). Lay one crust on the bottom of your cooking dish, pressing it down so it takes the form of the dish. Fill crust with one half of your filling, then cover with a second crust. Fold the top crust over and under the bottom crust and press together (so the filling won't run out). Repeat for the second calzone.

Bake at 180° Celcius (about 360° F) for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust becomes quite brown.

This is how mine turned out. My husband thought it should have cooked longer, but I thought it was just fine like this...it's often just a matter of opinion when it comes to cooking, don't you think?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter gift

I'm back! Our changeover from one internet provider to another was not painless...two weeks with no internet connection at all...but we are back on-line!

And I have a surprise for you...Blackie had kittens! Five kittens! She gave birth in the field just past our garden wall on Easter Sunday. We brought the whole family into the yard and have created a private room for them inside our backyard bar.
I had my doubts about who the father was going to turn out to be. Tigro had broken his leg shortly before Blackie went into heat... And there was an orange intruder hanging out rather too assiduously during that period...
But the birth of 4 black and one tiger-striped kittens has cleared up all questions of paternity!

What a cute family!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Tax Man

Phone conversation overheard at the tax office...

Tax guy: Sì, professore, sì. You will have to declare that. Well, technically sì, you should have declared it last year, too. Mmmm, mmmm. Well, really, you didn't know about it last year, so let's just not mention it and act as if it was just an oversight...

Same tax guy then advises me to declare Son A's sports expenses as Son B's so as to get the full deduction. I suppose it's nice to have the tax guy on your side, finding you loopholes and nifty deductions and all.

Though, I am damn sure that if I were to follow some of that less than legit advice and then get audited...Mr. Tax Guy would have no responsibility whatsoever for anything!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Take a Number

The Italian public healthcare system is said to be one of the best in the world, and it is definitely less expensive than going to the doctor in the US. However, waiting is an inherent part of the process. Here, people are waiting for their turn to schedule an appointment and pay the "ticket," or nominal fee for services.

The next wait is the month or more before your appointment rolls around. Obviously, you can get faster care in the case of an emergency.

There is also waiting involved on the day of your appointment. Just because you have an appointment for a certain hour doesn't mean you can expect to be seen at or around that time. Things work on a first-come-first-served basis. Many people send retired relatives ahead, in the early morning hours, to hold their place in line. Then the actual patient shows up closer to the time when they will be seen by the doctor. Cellphones have made this a much more accurate science. "Just two more people ahead of us, Luigi, get over here quick!"