OFF TO CAPRI
It's only January 6, 2010, and I am way done with the winter. Pretty cold across most of America, even the oranges
in Florida are going to freeze tonight. Europe has been getting hit with lots of snow as well. So, to move us out
of this cold snap, I'm taking you to a spot where the sun shines, the citrus is colorful and bright, the sky is blue,
even the grottoes are blue, and the mozzarella, tomato, and basil have become the signature dish of this island,
Capri (pronounced CA-pri, as my Grandmother told me back in 1986). Capri, while I wasn't floored with its' beauty
as I was with Santorini in Greece, has many charms, including its' foods.
We spent a day there last summer and enjoyed a hydrofoil
ride from the Port of Naples across the bay to the rocky island. Lots of cliffs and scenic vistas to be had. The
heat of June was really oppressive, and it is an expensive place to visit...even Roman Emperors built their
vacation villas there. I felt very Fellini there, lots of Italian Cinema types strolling through the streets and alleys.
At least, I imagined they were. Olive trees were interspersed with grapevines. Citrus trees of all varieties were
at every turn along with tropical flowers and Mediterranean palm trees. But, again, the real draw for me, were
the regional specialties. Obviously, citrus, lemon, citron, and orange are king....olives, provolone, mozzarella,
tomatoes, basil, shellfish, fish...and pasta...all prominently displayed on all the restaurant menuboards.
So these here are the Ravioli (Agnolotti) Caprese we sampled at the
Ristorante "Columbus" in AnaCapri. What makes them a local and different from other ravioli, is that the filling is
made with a local farmhouse produced caciotta cheese, stronger and denser than ricotta, and it was made from
water buffalo, or so the waiter told me. A simple dressing of a salsa di pomodoro, some basil, and a fresh
ciliegine or bocconcini of mozzarella served on the side over a bed of arugula...the dish was dusted with a
Ricordi di Capri.....scenes from Capri
The Campanile (bell tower) in the Capri town square...
The St.Agnes Shrine in the Church of Santo Stefano...Capri
A locally made Majolica tiled map of Capri overlooking the harbor...
Let's stop the tour for a moment, I'm thirsty. If you enjoy the taste of a freshly squeezed O.J., or an Orangeade,
especially the one's that JWOWW knocks back on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights at the Kohr's Stand (3 fist
pumps for that one) on the Jersey shore...then southern Italy has the drink for you. It's called a granita..and most
I've had are very icy, almost like a snow cone..This one in Capri, and I had it again in Palermo, were not to be
believed. The Capri version was a mixture of sugar, fresh lemon and fresh orange juice, shaken with a good
amount of ice. Over the top refreshing, sweet, thirst quenching, and not too pricey. Check out the kiosk:
And there is my "Granita di Limone con Spremutad'Arancio", translated, Lemon Ice with Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice.
This is why you travel...get out of your comfort zone, everyone has those special places to see and things to eat in their
local area. Whether you travel domestically or internationally, there is a world to see and TASTE. This Granita was
worth going back to Capri a second time...ok, the tour is starting up again.....
Finalmente, I'm in Capri, and I order up the Insalata
Caprese, now a global Italian restaurant standard. HOWEVER, this was made with no basil (hello?), but with a local
dried oregano, olive oil, and arugula. It was very good, and you can make this just as good in your own home provided
you have access to good fresh mozzarella from a Salumeria or specialty store. NO BALSAMIC VINEGAR ON THIS EVER!
Call it an old wives' tale, (or not) but the acid in the vinegar isn't really a friend to the soft milky cheese. I read a few menus
as we walked through the towns and NONE OF THEM POUR VINEGAR ON THE SALAD. Enough said. You will not make
that mistake again.
Here's a bowl of locally grown Citrons, and pithy citrus
fruit grown for its' skin which is candied and used throughout Italy for cakes and pastries. Can you feel the heat radiating
off ot them? They are arranged in a ceramic dish made in the town...local...local...local.....
Two views of the Marina....
Now comes the recipe for TROFIE CON VONGOLE VERACI, BASILICO, & ZUCCHINI, which was my entree at
Ristorante "Columbus" that afternoon. Steam in a shallow pan 2 1/2 dozen small clams, cockles or manila
clams would be best. Cover them, add a little white wine and let them all open, then pour it all into a
bowl. In the same pan, saute' in extra virgin olive oil 2 small zucchini which you have cut into 2 inch sticks.
Salt and pepper them. Remove after they are soft. Takes about 15 minutes. While you are doing this,
boil up 1 lb. of Trofie, which are a short pasta twist, very local, you can find them on line or at specialy
Italian stores. The U.S. substitute would be Barilla Gemelli. Cook till al dente, and drain, reserving
1/4cup of the pasta water. In the skillet, saute' 2 sliced cloves of garlic in some oil, add the zucchini and the
pasta, then a cup of torn fresh basil leaves . Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water, then add the pasta and some
pecorino, black pepper. Make sure it is well heated through , taste for seasoning. Adjust accordingly.
This will feed 5-6 people as an entree.
Good luck with this one, great clean flavors and not a whole lot of prep here. The small cockles or
manila clams are key...try your local Whole Foods or a good fish market.
Another reason to travel...our waiter Giovanni brought us
this complementary Provolone Dolci, a mild provolone from the hills above the town...he cut into the cheese, and without
spliting the orb, he hauled out chunks of this dairy gold for us to sample...
I leave you with this still life which caught my eye as we exited the restaurant...the colors were spot on evocative of the
island...off to another location....Ciao'....