Monthly Archives: October 2010

Dreamy Capri

Sometimes when I’m a million miles away in daydream-land (or Pei-land, as I like to call it), I think about sitting in a nice beach chair on a beautiful little island and enjoying the sun, eating endless amounts of incredible food.

Then not so long ago, I went to Pei-land…

The Italian island of Capri does not have sandy beaches, but elegant high rocky cliffs. Continue reading

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Five Reasons Why Bologna is a Food Lover’s Dream

In Italy, the city of Bologna is known as “la grassa” (“the fat one”) because of its fantastically fatty and flavorful cuisine. Although I’ve hardly seen anyone I’d actually consider to be fat in Bologna, I can attest to the fact that “la grassa” is indeed an appropriate nickname. Tell anyone who has lived in Bologna for a while that you had a “traditional Bolognese meal” the other night and they will smile and groan while reminiscing about the last time they had five courses of tagliatelle Bolognese, crescentina, salumi, frommagi… the rest is just a blurry haze from the onset of food coma. Food, good company, and the leisurely pace at which you eat, make each meal in Bologna memorable.

1) The food is simple, satisfying, and amazing.

Case in point, pepata di cozze from the Ristorante Pizzeria Il Saraceno. Via Calcavinazzi, 2, 40121 Bologna.

This dish is made with the freshest, most tender mussels, pepper, some wine, and lemons on the side for some acidity.

2) Ingredients are fresh and easily accessible at local markets. Via Pescherie Vecchie features beautiful specialty food shops with large cuts of prosciutto hanging in the window, fresh cheeses still submerged in water, fresh pasta lightly dusted with flour sitting in wooden trays, and a variety of dried spices on the shelves. There are market stalls with fresh produce and fresh fish every morning. The fishmongers sell all kinds of seafood from langoustines to mackerels to squid. Butcher shops offer cuts of meat, whole chickens, pigs, and beef. If you’re wondering what the white piece of paper on the pig’s head is in the photo, it is a sign telling all prospective buyers that they’re too late- it’s sold!

3) Fat is embraced as an integral and natural part of food. Italians strategically incorporate fat into a dish to enhance its flavor and texture. Which is part of the reason why everything is so good– they don’t sacrifice or substitute taste to meet specific numbers such as calorie or fat counts. Continue reading

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Food Explainer: Buffalo Mozzarella

What exactly is buffalo mozzarella? Mozzarella cheese made in Buffalo, New York– much like the city’s alleged “buffalo” wings perhaps?

This time, buffalo literally means buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella, or mozzarella di bufala, is a rich cheese that is made from domestic water buffalo milk. Water buffalo milk provides higher levels of protein, fat and minerals than cow’s milk, which contributes to the cheese’s high quality, fresh deliciousness. Buffalo mozzarella is produced in many locations around the world, but originated in Italy, where buffalo mozzarella production is still a key industry and cultural tradition. The majority of buffalo mozzarella produced in Italy comes from southern Italy– namely Salerno, Napoli, Basso Lazio, Caserta

and Foggia. It is served in salads, melted on pizzas, on top of bread, or on its own. Fresh buffalo mozzarella is very dense, but soft and can be cut easily with a knife. It still retains a lot of moisture so some liquids may come out when you cut it. Therefore, making pizzas with buffalo mozzarella often requires using types that have lower moisture content.

There are many theories on how water buffalos first arrived in Italy. It is widely believed that they were introduced to mainland Italy by Norman Kings around the year 1000, after Arabs brought them to Sicily. The presence of buffalos and their by-products have since been traced back to the 12th and 13th centuries.


Domestic water buffalo. Image from http://www.mlive.com

The name mozzarella originates from the Italian word, “mozzare”, or “to cut off”, which represents the stage in the production process where cheese makers hand-cut the freshly made cheese paste.

How it’s Made

These are the main steps for buffalo mozzarella production. For more details and photos, visit the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP page.

1. Milk processing and curdling- Raw buffalo milk is stored, heated and then allowed to curdle by adding natural whey.  The curds are then stirred and broken up manually. The solid matter is then separated from the liquid milk.

2. Curd maturation- Curds are left in the why to ferment for 4-5 hours. When the paste is ready, as determined after a few manual tests, it is placed on a table to drain off the excess whey, cut into strips and placed into special vats.

3. Spinning- Boiling water is added to the cheese mixture and manually spun using a bowl and wooden stick. It is continuously kneaded and stretched until a homogenous paste is obtained.

4. Shaping- Shaping the cheese can be done using traditional or industrial methods. Traditional methods entail one cheese maker holding up the spun paste while another cuts it manually. Industrial cheese makers have mechanical molds. Buffalo mozzarella is usually shaped into bite-size pieces, knots, braids, or its well-known spherical shape.

5. Packaging- The cheese is packaged on-site in liquids for preservation.

How to Identify Authentic Buffalo Mozzarella from Italy

In Italy, certified buffalo mozzarella producers belong to a consortium and follow strict guidelines that ensure authenticity and freshness. In 2008, it was discovered that some uncertified buffalo mozzarella contained a high level of carcinogens, most likely from contamination caused by the illegal trash problem in Naples. Buffalo mozzarella can only be sold if it is pre-packaged at the source. By Italian law, if the cheese is packaged in a knotted bag, the manufacturer must place a seal of guarantee above the knot to prevent possible contamination.

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