The province of Bari is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region which, together with its iron rich soil, makes it a highly productive agricultural regions. Puglia is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year, providing almost 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil. Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The types of bread in Puglia is more diverse than virtually any other region in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The town of Altamura was granted a DOP certificate, the first in Europe for a baking product.
Puglia also has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta, a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from ewes’ milk; Canestrato, a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk; Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.
Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Bari and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites, but these are only a portion that you will find on the menus of restaurants in Bari.
3 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup hot water
¼ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup green Cerignola olives
½ cup pitted ripe black Leccino olives
1 egg yolk, beaten
In a mixing bowl, pour 2 cups flour; add the dry ingredients and stir to blend. Form a well in the flour and pour in the hot water. With a wooden spoon, pull flour into the water to form a batter. Break the eggs and drop into the batter. Stir the eggs and batter together until the eggs have been absorbed. Cut the butter into 2 or 3 pieces and drop into the mixture. With a wooden spoon or a flat mixer beater, mix until the batter-like dough is smooth and silky, about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour, ½ cup at a time until the dough is a ball and can be turned out of the bowl onto a floured surface. The dough should not be sticky, but if it is, sprinkle in more flour. Knead by hand or under a dough hook until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold motion and occasionally lift the dough and throw it back onto the work surface.
First rising: Place the dough in a greased bowl and set aside at room temperature to rise. Because of its richness, the dough may be slow to rise, but it will double in about 1½ hours or less if using rapid rise yeast.
Shaping: Drain the olives and mix the green and black together so they can be uniformly scattered over the dough; set aside. Punch down the dough and turn onto the floured work surface. Pat and push the dough into a 14” square. Allow it to relax for 3-4 minutes before scattering the olives. Press the olives lightly into the dough. Roll up the dough as though making a jelly roll to enclose the olives and place seam side down on a baking sheet or stone. Tuck the open ends of the dough under to make a smooth surface. Pat the loaf to flatten and shape into an oval about 2” thick.
Second rising: Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until puffy, about 30 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the loaf and brush with beaten egg yolk. Bake in oven until richly browned, about 45 minutes. When done, the loaf should sound a bit hollow when tapped. Place on a rack and cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Orecchiette and Turnip Tops
1 lb orecchiette
2 lbs turnip tops (cime di rape)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 salted anchovy fillets
6 cherry tomatoes
1 chili pepper
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil as needed
Clean the cime di rape, using the florets and tender leaves. Place into a pot of boiling water. When the water returns to a boil add the orecchiette and finish cooking them together. Fry the garlic and anchovies in extra virgin olive oil; add the tomatoes and the chili pepper.
Strain the orecchiette and cime di rape “al dente” and toss in the sauce for a few minutes. Serve with breadcrumbs previously tossed in extra virgin olive oil and lightly sautée until golden and crunchy.
2 lbs large mussels
4 medium eggs
1 bread roll, crust removed
small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 oz Pecorino Romano, grated
½ cup milk
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle passata (usually 700 grams)
Clean the mussels and open them keeping the shells attached. Soak the bread roll in a little milk and tear into small pieces. Beat the eggs in a bowl and mix with the cheese, half of the garlic, parsley and bread. Season with salt and pepper.
Add breadcrumbs to the bowl, little by little until you have a fairly dry stuffing mix. Stuff the mussels with the mixture and tie them almost closed with kitchen string. Don’t tie them too tightly as the stuffing has to come into contact with the cooking sauce.
Heat some oil in a large pan and add the remaining chopped garlic. When the garlic is golden, add the passata (uncooked strained tomatoes). Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the mussels and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the mussels from the sauce and remove the string. The mussels can be served as part of an antipasto; with a pasta as a first course or by themselves as a second course.