Posts Tagged ‘Friuli’

presnitzFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Presnitz (Trieste-Style Pastry Spiral). Named after the Slovenian Easter cake presnec, this snake-like spiral of puff pastry is filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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Val RosandraHaving lived, at the time, over fifteen years in San Francisco, I sorely missed seeing the gorgeous hues of autumn foliage. So when I traveled to Trieste in October of 2005, I found myself in a perpetual state of awe over the reds and oranges that were beginning to transform the countryside. Longing to immerse myself in the great outdoors, I planned a hike through the Riserva Naturale della Val Rosandra.

I set out early to do a few errands first: the produce market for some apples, the salumeria for a wedge of latteria cheese, and the tiny supermercato for my new favorite olive bread. Then, after dropping off my groceries and packing a picnic lunch, I swung by Pasticceria Penso to deliver the gift of Vitovska wine that I had purchased the day before at Osmiza Škerk. In return Antonello gave me a slice of sachertorte for the road.

I took the bus to the small town of Bagnoli at the mouth of the Val Rosandra, a huge gorge slicing through the mountainous Carso region. Numerous hiking trails had been cut through the forests of the nature reserve, and I set out on what seemed to be the most well-trodden path.

Val RosandraThere was no map, but I followed the trail until it emerged onto a ridge overlooking the gorge. From a distance, I could just make out the 118-foot waterfall that fed into the Rosandra Stream. The bora wind whipped through my hair as I struggled to keep my footing on the slippery gravel. The path hugged the cliffs, rising and falling with the curve of the mountain, until it descended once again deep into the woods.

Though the foliage was only just starting to turn, I still saw plenty of reds and golds mixed with the verdant evergreens. I crossed the stream near the ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct, in an area I suspected to be very close to the Slovenian border. Then, I followed the path as it climbed the ridge on the other side of the ravine, the rough path giving way to a wider, paved road.

Here, with the chilly wind blocked by the limestone peaks above me, I found a warm spot in the sunshine to sit and eat my picnic lunch—cheese, olive bread, an apple, and that yummy slice of sachertorte. There were very few people on the trail that day. I had passed several hikers near the entrance to the park and another few along the initial rocky ridge. Since then, I had enjoyed complete and utter solitude.

Val RosandraAs I continued on my way, the paved road leveled out. I noticed the occasional sign marking a bicycle path, as well as an unmarked building that looked like a refuge of some sort. Unsure of where this road would lead, I plodded forward, winding around the mountainside and passing through tunnels. Eventually I was able to spot the town of Bagnoli in the distance across the gorge. The visibility was excellent on such a clear day, and from this vantage point, I could even see all the way to the Gulf of Trieste and the sea beyond.

I had been hiking for about two hours at this point, and I began to wonder if it was wise to continue in the same direction, whether the path I had been taking would eventually circle back to its starting point or if I had better begin retracing my steps back across the ravine. A map or some signs would really have come in handy just then.

Fortuitously, I passed a young woman walking her bike, and I asked her whether this road continued full circle. It did not, but she told me that up ahead there was a shortcut leading down to Bagnoli—but she warned me that it was quite dangerous, with steep slopes and slippery rocks.

I decided to follow her direction. The trail was not well marked, but I found the narrow path cut into the bushes, heading downhill on my left. She wasn’t kidding about the steep and slippery part! Wishing that I had brought my good hiking boots on this trip (though the boots I was wearing still had some traction), I managed to baby-step my way down the mountain without falling on my butt. An hour later, I emerged not too far from where I had started in Bagnoli—and I made it to the bus stop with only five minutes to spare before the next return bus to Trieste!

Buffet Da PepiI spent the afternoon back in my apartment, looking through the cookbook of Triestine desserts that Antonello had loaned me. Around 5:00pm I headed out for an early dinner at Buffet Da Pepi. Once again, I had the piatto misto, the pig-shaped platter of assorted types of pork, accompanied by a heaping portion of sauerkraut. And, of course, a glass of local red wine.

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Torta DobosFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Torta Dobos (Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream and Caramel), one of many desserts made popular in Trieste during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was created by Hungarian pastry chef József Dobos for Budapest’s National General Exhibition in 1885. This recipe was adapted from the one at Pasticceria Penso. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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Gorizia's Chiesa di Sant'IgnazioI awoke around 3:00 in the morning to the harsh sound of wind rattling the window panes. Even with ear plugs the noise was so jarring I couldn’t go back to sleep. This was the bora wind I had read so much about, the cold northeast wind that is particularly strong along the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, from Trieste to the Albanian border.

Despite my grogginess, I decided to get up early and head out to the train station. The weather in Trieste had taken a dramatic turn toward winter. The mostly clear sky was streaked with feathery brushstrokes tinted sunrise pink. The gusty bora had not let up, and I shivered as the winds tore through my light fall jacket.

I took the train to Gorizia, with no plans but to check out restaurant menus and bakeries and eventually find somewhere to eat lunch. It was a Monday, when many restaurants were closed, but I had a list culled from my library of travel books (particularly my favorite, Osterie e Frasche del Friuli-Venezia Giulia by Ermanno Torossi) of places that should be open. Two of them were a mile or so away from the city center in opposite directions, so I ended up spending about 2-1/2 hours trudging along the city’s many tree-lined streets, the sidewalks blanketed with fallen leaves and chestnuts.

To my dismay, every single restaurant on my list turned out to be closed. Feeling defeated, I headed back toward the train station to return to Trieste, but on the way, I stumbled upon a small trattoria that was packed with diners. Trattoria Al Piròn had the distinct vibe of the blue-collar working man. Aside from the waitresses, I was the only woman in the whole place. There was no menu, just a few prix fixe selections. For my primo piatto, I had the pasticcio: a lasagna layered with artichokes and bechamel sauce. My secondo piatto was goulasch: two large hunks of beef in a spicy paprika gravy. For a side dish, they served a plate of peas sautéed with bits of smoked pork.

piselli in teciaIn the provinces of Trieste and Gorizia, vegetables are often cooked “in tecia,” a term that refers to the cast-iron skillet traditionally used. Here is my version of piselli in tecia:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 pound shelled fresh or frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta; cook and stir until the onion softens and the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the peas. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the peas are tender, about 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Season to taste with salt.

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cjalsons di Treppo CarnicoFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Cjalsòns di Treppo Carnico (Pasta Filled with Potatoes and Raisins). One of my favorite recipes for cjalsòns, these are sweetened with caramelized onions, raisins, and a touch of sugar. I first tasted them over a decade ago at Ristorante Alle Vecchie Carceri in San Daniele, although its chef, Ugo Durigon, has since moved to Udine, where he and his wife have opened Osteria Antica Maddalena. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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Pasticceria PensoSo far my efforts to visit an osmiza—a sort of pop-up tavern where small producers can sell wine out of their homes—had proved fruitless. Today being Sunday, I was determined to locate one at long last. My most recent attempt had revealed that daily listings of osmize were printed in a local Slovenian newspaper, so I headed to Pasticceria Penso in order to enlist the help of my friend Antonello. He immediately ran out to buy a copy of Primorski dnevnik and translated for me the listings of two osmize open that day. After helping me figure out the various bus routes, he then sent me on my way with a pallina di cioccolato, a yummy ball of chocolate, raisins, hazelnuts, and rum covered in sprinkles.

Casa CarsicaSince it was still early, I had time for a little detour. First, I caught the bus going to Rupingrande, so that I could visit the Casa Carsica, an 18th-century house now open to visitors as an ethnographic museum. In the architectural style typical of the Carso region, the home’s bedroom, kitchen, loft, and stable adjoined a central courtyard, which was surrounded by a high stone wall built to keep out the fierce bora winds.

Afterward, I went to lunch at the nearby Hotel Krizman. I started with a plate of gnocchi di susine: three potato dumplings, each stuffed with a small plum and topped with bread crumbs browned in butter. Sugar packets and a jar of cinnamon were provided for me to sprinkle on top as desired. The gnocchi were huge—nearly the size of tennis balls—and more dough than fruit. Regrettably, I was unable to finish them, as I needed to save room for my second course, pollo fritto. Chicken fried with a bread crumb coating sounded rather ordinary, but I had read that this was a dish typical of the Carso. Finally, despite being overly stuffed already, I couldn’t resist ordering dessert when I saw palacinche on the menu, particularly since I had missed several opportunities to try these crêpes in Vienna at the beginning of my trip. A traditional dessert throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to which Trieste belonged for several centuries, palacinche may be filled with fresh fruit, jam, cooked apples, sweetened ricotta, or pastry cream flavored with chocolate or nuts. The ones at Krizman were filled with a rich chocolate cream—delicious, though I could only manage to eat a few bites.

With an uncomfortably full stomach, I left the restaurant and leisurely made my way to the bus stop. Though quite warm in the sunshine, there was a certain autumn crispness in the air, a cool breeze rustling the yellow leaves as they drifted to the ground.

I took a bus to the town of Prosecco, then changed buses for the hamlet of Prepotto, where I was hoping to find an osmiza run by the Škerk family. Since I didn’t have a map, I was obligated to wander the streets looking for the trademark frasca, a leafy cluster of branches hung above the door to indicate that an osmiza is open. At first, the only human activity I saw was an agriturismo crowded with visitors enjoying an afternoon of snacks and wine tasting. I ventured inside, inquired at the bar for directions, and shortly found myself approaching my destination.

Osmiza SkerkAs expected, a frasca marked the entrance to Osmiza Škerk, where a few people stood milling around, glasses of wine in hand. I entered through the large wooden doors into a courtyard surrounded by a high stone wall, built in the same architectural style as the Casa Carsica. Picnic tables were set up in the courtyard, as well as in several ground floor rooms. All were jam-packed with guests drinking house-made wine and tucking into platters of cheese and salumi. With no room to squeeze in at a table, I ordered a glass of wine at the counter—Vitovska, a white wine I had never tried before—and stood against the wall sipping it, regarding the buzz and chatter of camaraderie all around me with just a touch of envy. Before leaving, I bought a bottle of Vitovska to take back to my friends at Pasticceria Penso, as a thank-you gift for their generosity in letting me hang out in their bakery kitchen during my stay.

Feeling thoroughly gratified by the day’s success, I returned to the bus stop to make my way back to Trieste. My return, however, would prove to be a bit more complicated. Most bus stops in the region post a schedule on or near the sign. This one, unfortunately, did not. But since I had no other way to get home, I was compelled to wait…and wait…and wait.

Presently, two elderly ladies joined me at the bus stop, though they didn’t know when the bus was expected to arrive either. They did, however, help me figure out that I didn’t necessarily need to backtrack. I could alternately take the bus heading the other direction toward Aurisina, then change buses to get to Trieste. I decided that I would just take whichever one came first. After waiting over an hour, I spotted the bus to Aurisina and jogged across the street to catch it. My connection for Trieste came within minutes, and I was soon back in my apartment, exhausted from a long day of exploring and still full from my enormous lunch.

palacincheHere is my recipe for palacinche with apricot jam—my favorite filling and perhaps one of the most popular.

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons sugar
Pinch salt
4 eggs
2-1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
• • •
2 cups apricot jam
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter, and lemon peel. Gradually whisk in the flour mixture.

Preheat a 10- or 11-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Pour 1/2 cup batter into the skillet, swirling to allow the batter to coat the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the crêpe begins to turn light golden in color, about 1–2 minutes on each side. Repeat using the remaining batter. (Stack the crêpes between layers of parchment or waxed paper; they may be warmed in a low oven or microwave before assembling.)

Spread each crêpe with about 3 tablespoons apricot jam; fold into quarters. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

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cavucinFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Cavucìn (Butternut Squash Purée), in honor of this month’s Festa della Zucca. Held annually in the tiny, medieval-walled town of Venzone, this festival celebrates pumpkins of all varieties with a weekend of food, art, music, and dancing. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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