Creating good and tasty dishes from simple and poor ingredients is an art. Doing it relying on the products that the sea and its land offer is a real luxury. The rest is all thanks to the good Salento housewives. This land is never denied at the table, enjoying a gastronomic tradition that rivals the best star chefs.
The must of the Salento cuisine, we said, come from the earth, which creates marriages of taste with a unique flavor. Like the net beans (or mashed beans and chicory), the cicorine with meat, the pummitori crushed with lots of onion and chilli, paparina with olives. Of course, vegetables and legumes reign everywhere. But if you can’t get away from a good plate of pasta, here we have more: orecchiette and minchiarieddhi (strictly homemade fresh pasta) with sauce and ricotta schianta (forte), or sagne ‘ncannulate. Not to mention the ciciri and tria (fried dough). The Salento gastronomic encyclopedic panorama is strengthened with meat-based main courses, according to the ancient peasant traditions but little but good: turcinieddhi, lamb meat rolls, and bits of horse meat with sauce are often a good example cooked, as usual, in the terracotta pignata. Worthy symbols of Salento street food, especially if you want to make us your sandwiches.
Do not call them simply “side dishes”: the wild onions (or pampascioni), the wild-colored violet spring onions, are a dish of true lovers of the genre, like the municeddhe, the country snails, a dish probably of Messapic origin.
A special case is the frisa, a simple ritual that best sums up the authenticity of Salento cuisine: wheat or barley flour toast accompanied only by tomatoes and a drizzle of oil. Of course, for traditional purists this is the basis, but with a bit of imagination you can get great things!
In terms of cheeses, Salento products are all of sheep origin given the widespread use of sheep and goats: then cacioricotta, pecorino, ricotta and its strong variant with a taste that pinches the palate.
It will also be poor and simple, but some good housewife must have surrendered to the call of the aristocratic world if over time the recipe for rustic Lecce has established itself as a symbol of our local street food. A heart of béchamel (novelty in the rural world), tomato and mozzarella wrapped in two layers of puff pastry. The only dilemma: yes pepper or no pepper?
And again the puccia and its variants (sceblasti, mpilla, uliata, etc.), the mythical pitta of potatoes and the pittule by now cleared through the Christmas menu and constant in the peasant appetizer.
To make even more precious the already rich blue gold from the Salento sea (well represented by recipes like the tajeddha, the octopus with pignata, without forgetting the precious purple shrimps of Gallipoli), we think of the scapece, an ancient dish in which fried fish it marries with the marinade based on bread, vinegar and saffron.
Nothing, however, would have the same flavor without Salento oil, whose production, very ancient, is fundamental in the Salento economy, together with that of wine. To the extra-virgin “green gold”, due to its qualitative characteristics, is reserved the prestigious mark of Denomination of controlled origin (DOP), as in the case of the “Terra d’Otranto” and the “Collina di Brindisi”. A pleasure to be enjoyed in its simplicity, perhaps on a slice of freshly baked wheat bread. A separate chapter deserves the great Salento of wines, a chromatic panorama with an enveloping taste. From the Primitivo to the Negroamaro, passing through the whites and bright rosés, on the Salento table a glass of wine can never be missing.
Whether it is sweet or savory it does not matter, what is certainly not lacking in the typical Salento cuisine is fantasy, mixed with an unidentified dose of aromas and aromas that taste of the East. Indelible traces of the dominations that have alternated in this land are still visible in the Salento dishes, especially in desserts. Almonds, honey and cinnamon are some of them.
For all tastes, and throughout the year, the Salento dessert varies with every occasion. And yet there is a constant: the pasticciotto. Born from the encounter between pastry and custard, it is considered the undisputed king of Salento breakfast. And not just that.
But the good Salentine commare knows that it is “good crianza” to slavishly follow the ceremonial that precedes every holiday. And so he knows that for Christmas we will have to prepare the purceddhuzzi, small balls of sweet fried dough garnished with honey, pine nuts and colored sprinkles, and the carteddhate, with a square shape.
Regina passe-partout confectionery is almond paste, which takes the form of fish in the Christmas period and lamb in the Easter period. Even father’s day must be honored, so here for San Giuseppe is a – but even more – zeppola. Just as, on the ancient wedding banquets, the spumone could not be missing, ice cream in layers of different tastes from the soft heart of sponge cake drowned with bitter or Strega liqueur. There are some sweetnesses that, however, have an even more intense taste if bought from one of the stalls of sweets that crowd the narrow streets of the countries in celebration for the patron saint: we are talking about the cupeta, made from almonds, caramelized sugar and honey, and chocolate or lemon mostaccioli.
But there is no dessert without bitterness. And so, if you really “bitter” we want to define it, a coffee in ice never hurts. Because the Salentini are not satisfied, and therefore to the banal sugar they prefer a sweet but not obvious almond milk in addition. But be careful, do you remember the rule that “by changing the order of the addends the result is the same”? Forget it, the ritual of ice coffee also exceeds the rules of mathematics. Because the Salento to taste is a serious thing.