Cooking with Chef Leo

Olive oil transforms good food to greatness.

Olive oil transforms good food to greatness.

My visit to Galantino in Puglia, Italy, was a composition of olive oil familiarization, in-depth visits to Puglia’s cheese makers, ceramists, bread artisans and olive groves and, the fun part, cooking lessons with Galantino’s head chef Leo. I joined a group from Holland who was also there for the same adventure. Each day we prepared different dishes all using a variety of what else – olive oil! The two recipes here, a foccacia and Caprese Cake are described with mostly technique as the recipes were for the masses. In the upcoming weeks, when my Virtuous Olive site goes live and I am back from Italy, I will publish detailed recipes. The Caprese Cake is especially delicious and different with the addition of orange or mandarin olive oil.

Significant amounts of olive oil coat the foccacia pans. All this oil enhances the flavor of this delicious Italian staple.

Chef Leo pours significant amounts of olive oil to coat the foccacia pans. All this oil enhances the flavor of this delicious Italian staple.

Chef Leo’s foccacia is a mixture of flour and potato flour. This cuts down the gluten and makes it a softer, spongier bread.  The copious amounts of olive oil give the outer crust a crispiness.

The dough is pushed into the edges of the pan with fingertips to create the small divets characteristic of foccacia.

The dough is pushed into the edges of the pan with fingertips to create the small divots characteristic of foccacia.

We each "decorated" a foccacia with slightly simmered pomodoro - tomato - oregano and sea salt.

We each “decorated” a foccacia with slightly simmered pomodoro – tomato – oregano and sea salt.

Perla, the family dog, makes her hang out strategically and hopefully between the dining room and kitchen.

Perla, the family dog, makes her hang out strategically and hopefully between the dining room and kitchen.

Eggs and sugar whisk together until fluffy with air.

Eggs and sugar whisk together until fluffy with air in preparation for the Caprese Cake.

Maud stirs the orange olive oil into the melted chocolate. Decadent!

Maud stirs the orange olive oil into the melted chocolate. Decadent!

Cocoa powder and ground almonds are carefully folded into the eggs.

Cocoa powder and ground almonds are carefully folded into the eggs.

The melted chocolate is stirred into the batter and poured into a oil and floured pan to bake for oly 10 minutes.

The melted chocolate is stirred into the batter and poured into an oiled and floured pan to bake for only 10 minutes.

The group eagerly awaits dinner and....the Caprese Cake.

The group eagerly awaits dinner and….the Caprese Cake.

This cake tastes as good as it looks. The orange and almond marry well with the chocolate giving it intensity.

This cake tastes as good as it looks. The orange and almond marry well with the chocolate giving it intensity.

Recipes will be forthcoming! I am eating more than I ever have here in the land of food alive with flavor and taking notes!

Ciao for now.

Maria




A Bit of Bisceglie

Che bello!

Che bello!

Nestled into the heart of Puglia lies the seaside town of Bisceglie in southeastern Italy. I am here on an olive oil discovery, to slip into a slower pace and to delve for clues about what makes this such an alluring part of the country.

The people have a warmth and contentment about them. They seem satisfied with life and most that I have met have long lineages in Bisceglie. It’s all about family and their culture of which they are passionately proud.

A visit to the Fish Market on Friday got my adrenaline flowing and whet my appetite for the cooking classes I will attend. For now, let me share with you my favorite photos of the people and their livelihood.

A thinking moment.

A thinking moment.

Live, fresh prawns awaiting their fate.

Live, fresh prawns awaiting their fate.

Advertising his seafood.

Advertising his seafood.

Describing, in Italian, how to stuff the zucchini flowers.

Describing, in Italian, how to stuff the zucchini flowers.

Dinner. Octopus soup.

Dinner. Octopus soup.

This is for you my belle soeur! Our favorite Italian plums.

This is for you my belle soeur! Our favorite Italian plums.

Scooping out the sea urchins' delicacies.

Scooping out the sea urchin’s delicacies.

Freshly picked chilis, roots and all.

Freshly picked chilis, roots and all.

Waving away the flies.

Waving away the flies.

Ciao! This darling group of friends called to me to take their photo. Looking good!

Ciao! This darling group of friends called to me to take their photo. Looking good!

My next story is on Pugliese cooking. Stay tuned!

Ciao for now.

Sending amore,

Maria