Category Archives: travel

Arm to Table – Workshop at Case Vecchie, Sicily

After driving on serpentine bumpy roads lined with wild fennel, through a beautiful hilly landscape of vines and wheat, we arrived at Case Vecchie and Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School. Fabrizia Lanza, our host and director of the school welcomed us with sparkling wine and appetizers in the courtyard. We were all (me and 3 other food writers) invited to participate in the Arm to Table workshop and to be part of the cooking school’s 25th anniversary. The school was started by Anna Tasca Lanza, Fabrizia’s mother  in 1989 to teach authentic Sicilian cooking.
In the moonlight we all went down to the garden to have gazpacho followed by anchovy cake  and salad.

The next day our workshop started with a visit to Fattoria Di Gèsu, a farm that grows ancient wheat such as Tumminia, Perciasacchi and Realforte, as well as green chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, tomatoes and almonds. Their produce and products (flour, pasta, almond paste, dried legumes etc) are sold and used by locals and local businesses such as bakeries and restaurants.

We also visited  and watched the shepherd and cheese maker Filippo Privitera, who milks 400 sheep by hand every day (twice a day in the winter) to make ricotta and Pecorino. The fresh ricotta (that was made in front of our eyes) was mind blowing. I couldn’t stop thinking of a plan to persuade my neighbor (who has a few sheep) what a great idea it is to make cheese.

In the afternoon we all had a wonderful lunch with fresh ricotta, varieties of pecorino, several types of dried sausages, potato salad with a Cataratto wine from the Regaleali Estate (the winery of the family). Now we were all ready for our afternoon task: to create a four course dinner with ingredients from the land around us and product of Natura in Tasca. The result was excellent and was served in the courtyard later that evening.

At this point, I knew I was  in paradise! (although I still regret, that I didn’t fill my pockets with pistachio cookies before I went to bed that night).

Arm to Table Menu

The Saint
Bloody Mary alla Case Vecchie
by Marek

(chickpea fritters)
by Fabrizia

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd
by me (recipe below)

Fava Bean Pesto with Busiate Pasta
by Fabrizia & Lauren

Rabbit in Red Wine & in-House Tomato Paste
with couscous (see illustration above)
by Fabrizia and Linda

Green Cauliflower with eggs
by Rachel

Torta della Nonna
(with fresh sheep ricotta and pine nuts)
by Pille

Pistachio Cookies
Ricotta & Caramelized Pine Nut Ice Cream
by David

The Birthday Party started with mingling in the courtyard where we were treated to bubbly rose and chickpea panelle. An hour later we all took a walk up to the school’s vegetable plot where we all (about 160 guests) sat down at an endlessly long table surrounded by broccoli,  green chickpeas and vine.

As the school is all about farm to table, the lunch consisted of exclusively in-house or locally farmed produce. There were pickled artichokes, capers, anchovies, chickpeas, lentils, flavorful aborio rice, aged pecorino, amazing olive oil, different kinds of salt, fresh basil & mint, cold cut meats and at least three types of bread. My absolute favorite were the tomatoes that was served fresh, pickled and dried. The lunch also included different kinds of wines and endless amount of  desserts. To save energy and water, all the dishes (including the sweet treats) were served on the same ceramic plates which we all  could bring with us home.

I never wanted this to end.

Wild Fennel Knäckebröd at Case Vecchie

I usually bake my knäckebröd with wheat and rye but even before I entered the Case Vecchie kitchen I was eager to try to bake it with other kinds of flours. In this version I used durum wheat flour together with the very aromatic flour, perciasacchi semola. It worked really well. And Lauren Mikus (the school’s intern) did a wonderful job cranking them out thinly through the kitchen’s motorized pasta machine.

60 gram (lively) sourdough starter
2 tablespoons wild flower honey
240 ml (1 cup) water @ room temperature
250 gram durum wheat flour
120 gram perciasacchi semola (ancient wheat flour from Sicily)

1 tablespoon toasted wild fennel
2 teaspoons salt crystals, slightly crushed

In a large bowl, mix together the sourdough starter with the water and honey. Add all the flour and work the dough well together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about two minutes. The dough should feel a little sticky to your hands when kneading.
Place the dough in a bowl and let it rise in room temperature overnight or for at least 6 hours. In a warm kitchen like Fabrizia’s it was ready to bake within two hours. However with a longer rise the dough will develop a richer flavor.

When the dough has finished rising add caraway seeds and sea salt. Knead the dough for about 2 minutes on a floured counter top. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should feel smooth and should not be sticky to the surface or your hands. Let the dough rest for about half an hour while your oven heats up to about 200°C (400°F).

Cut approximately 3/4 inch x 3/4 inch sized portions of the dough and flatten every each slightly between your hands with some flour. On a generously floured counter top, roll out long (1 ½ – 2 inch wide) stripes until very very thin. To avoid the dough sticking to the table, continuously flip the dough over and roll again. Add more flour as needed. The length of the stripes depends on the size of your baking pan. I normally roll them out in my hand cranked pasta machine (until level 5) to about 12- 15 inches.

Place the long stripes on olive oiled baking sheets. Bake for about 4-6 minutes. Adjust the temperature and time if necessary. The knäckebröd is done when they have got nice color and look crisp. The sides tend to bend upwards which gives them an interesting shape.

Let the crackers cool completely on a rack. Don’t stack them until they are completely cool as that will just make them soft. Keep the crackers in sealed containers.

Serve the knäckebröd plain or together with aged Pecorino, anchovies or dried sausages. Linda came up with the idea of topping the bread with fava bean pesto. It was excellent. The bent shape seem to be made for this kind of topping.

Thank you Fabrizia, Lauren, Costanza, Linda and everyone in the kitchen, winery and garden. You are all amazing! And it was great and inspiring to meet you Rachel, Pille and David!


Other posts about the workshop, 25th birthday party and more…

my photos on flickr
on red and white in Sicily
by Rachel Roddy
Sicily, Again by David Lebovitz
Case Vecchie and the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School by David Lebovitz
Making Cassata alla Siciliana, in Sicily by David Lebovitz
Recipe for Torta della Nonna by Pille Petersoo
anna tasca lanza cooking school {25 years} by Elizabeth Minchilli
cavatelli + sage pesto {cooking in sicily} by Elizabeth Minchilli
remembering anna tasca lanza by Peggy Markel


Interested to visit Anna Tasca Cooking school? Check out their school program.
If you are a chef you should check out the Cook the Farm Chef School that will take place in the beginning of 2015.
And my review of the book Coming Home to Sicily by Fabrizia Lanza


Guest post: Xuxos & Churros

My next guest here on kokblog is my brother Oskar Kindvall. Oskar is probably one of the biggest gottegris (directly translated to ‘sweet tooth pig’) I know. As long as I can remember he has been very specific with sweet (and savory) things he likes and desire. For birthdays and Christmas he wished for marzipan and olives while I was dreaming of a new barbie doll or drawing equipment (yes that was a passion already then).

Oskar was born in Valencia when my parents lived in Cullera, a small town by the east coast of Spain. This must obviously have had a great impact on his interest in Spanish treats (see below). During a journey we made together in the late 80’s, I remember him carefully mapping out where the best flan was made. He of course returned later to the very best. He also makes excellent paella all year around in his garden. A skill he learned from our mother and father.

From an early age Oskar also developed a huge interest in nature and especially small creatures such as frogs, beetles and later on birds, grasshoppers, bats and butterflies. Like his passion for sweet treats, this interest never stopped. Today he works as an IT Developer, researcher and environmental analysts at ArtDatabanken, Uppsala, Sweden. I’m not surprised that he has become an associate professor of ecology as for me he was a professor long before he reached university.

Xuxos & Churros
by Oskar Kindvall

When traveling in Mediterranean parts of Europe I have adopted a peculiar obsession for fried pastries. My favorites among these delicious pieces of edible art are the donut like creations called Xuxos. These can be found in north eastern Spain and Southernmost parts of France. When made by experienced hands according to the tradition at local bakeries, there is almost nothing that can stop my appetite for them, except for one more of them. The really good ones are quite big, stuffed with tasty vanilla cream, extraordinary greasy and full of sticky sugar all over which make them both a little bit hard to handle and extremely calorie rich. Usually you are quite full after one of them which is so frustrating.

For obvious reasons I have tried to make my own xuxos. However, even if my attempts have been really tasty most of the time, I still have not revealed the secret the experienced traditional bakers possess. I realize that it is time to make a visit behind the scenes of the bakery next time. Especially since the handmade Xuxos have become increasingly hard to find nowadays. In most areas where I used to find good Xuxos almost everywhere in the early 80’s, it seems that they have been totally outcompeted by machine made copies with no magic. It appears to me that the negative trend has been worse in France while really good xuxos still can be found around Barcelona.

Someday I hope to meet someone who can show me how real xuxos should be made. Meanwhile I enjoy baking another fried pastry, called Churros, which is much easier to bake without much experience. Churros can be found almost everywhere in Spain and southern France and very often you can watch the whole baking procedure while waiting for your order. Besides, there are a lot of recipes on the internet. No secrets, not much magic but still very tasty! Most churrerias serve the newly baked churros on a plate together with sugar and chocolate. Personally, I recommend eating them with whipped cream, strawberry jam and a little sugar on top. However, this combination I have never seen at the Spanish churrerias. As a consequence you have to make them yourself to really enjoy their potential.

Cooking in Marrakesh – Semolina Pancakes

The best tagine I have ever had is the one I cooked myself while attending a cooking class in Marrakesh, Morocco. Its probably also the only proper tagine I have ever had. Raja (the cook) who really did most of the work that day, also led me carefully through and demonstrated every step in how to make other traditional Moroccan dishes such as salad, Berber bread and chocolate layered semolina pancakes. I watched and learned. Smelled and ate. It was absolutely my best day in Marrakesh.

The day started at an indoor market in Mellah (one of the neighborhoods inside Medina) where I could pick meat and vegetables for the cooking lesson. The market had everything from meat (even live chickens), vegetables, bread and milk. We got some beef, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, chili and olives for the tagine and some apricots, eggs and dark chocolate for desert.

The salad we made was really simple and fresh. Just finely chopped onion, cucumber, yellow pepper and tomato. Seasoned with a splash of olive oil, salt and freshly chopped mint.

The beef tagine was cooked in a traditional ceramic tagine cookware on low heat for about 3 hours. At the bottom we arranged onions, garlic and chopped fresh cilantro. The cookware was placed on the stove and the heat was set to low. The meat was placed on top and spices (ginger powder, cumin, paprika, salt and black pepper) were added at the edges around the meat. When the meat had been turned once we arranged carrots, potatoes, zucchini, one whole chili, ½ lemon, olives and parsley on top. Lastly we poured in a mixture of both olive and sunflower oil. Before the tagine “hat” was placed on top, a little water was added. Now and again we scooped up the cooking liquid and poured it over the vegetables and meat. In this way all ingredients got a nice taste of the spices without moving them around.

The semolina Berber bread  we made was baked on top of the stove in a skillet. In Morocco, bread is  served to almost any meal during the day and a must when having tagine. Raja’s recipe used only semolina flour but I stumbled upon some breads in the city that seem to have a mixture of semolina and wheat flour. Unfortunately they were not as nice. Our local deli (a hole in the wall) in Kasbah sold something that looked like a rye version of the bread. That was amusing!

The sweet dessert semolina pancakes were really the thing that won my heart and also something that was new to me. These pancakes should not be mistaken for the more well known pancake, begrhir. Begrhir is a yeast based semolina pancake that is often served for breakfast with honey. These pancakes are baked on only one side and the yeast create decorative holes on the surface. Raja’s dessert pancakes were sweeter and made with baking powder. They create similar decorative holes but are baked on both sides.

Below I have tried to translate Raja’s semolina pancake recipe as best I could. Raja used a typical Moroccan teacup when measuring the ingredients, so her cup measure was slightly less than a standard measuring cup. My recipe is as close as I could come!

Sweet Semolina Pancakes
serves 2-4 people

one egg
½ cup sugar ( I used sucanut)
½ cup milk (+ more if batter is too thick)
¾ cup semolina
one teaspoon baking powder
¼  sunflower oil (optional)*

zest from one lemon**
one teaspoon ground cardamom**

I don’t really remember the order Raja mixed the ingredients together but I did it this way: Whisk egg and sugar until well blended before adding the milk. Mix together semolina flour and baking powder. Add the semolina mixture to the batter and whisk well together (make sure there are no lumps). Add the oil, lemon zest and cardamom. Let the batter rest for 15-30 minutes before baking the pancakes.

Heat up a frying pan with some neutral oil (if using nonstick you don’t need any oil in the pan). When the pan is hot lower the heat to medium. Spoon up some batter in the pan with a sauce ladle (You may need to add more milk to the batter if it’s too heavy. It should be fairly easy to pour into a pan). When the pancake has nice decorative holes and starts to get firm on top flip the pancake over. The other side should now have a nice brown color. Press down the pancake with your spatula so the pancake doesn’t rise. Continue until done. Repeat until batter is finished.

It may take some time to get used to how much batter you need for every pancake. A finished pancake should be about 1/8” thick.

Serve the pancakes with sour cream and seasonal fruit and berries for breakfast or brunch. I loved it with a simple apple & orange fruit salad spiced with mint and chopped pistachio. The pancakes can also be done as Raja’s desert, layered with melted dark chocolate (she added some neutral oil to the chocolate) and topped with fresh mint and fruit of your choice. Serve it cool when the chocolate is firm.

*Raja used some neutral oil in the batter and fried the pancakes in a non-stick frying pan. As I didn’t use a non-stick pan I learned that the pancakes got a little greasy with oil both in the batter and in the pan.  They still tasted great but got firmer and easier to handle with oil only in the pan.
**Raja didn’t flavor her pancakes with cardamom and lemon, instead she used 1-2 teaspoons vanilla sugar. I just didn’t have any at home when re-creating the recipe. Both versions are equally delicious.

If you planing to go to Marrakesh and want to participate in a cooking class, I can warmly recommend Raja’s class. Contact Jean Peres at Riad Dar One for details and booking.

Story and recipe was originally posted at EcoSalon on 19th January 2012.