10th Annual Sagra della Castagna

We’ve been having a warm Fall so far, which is great because Carpanzano is having its annual Sagra della Castagna on October 18, 2014.  The festival, now in its 10th year, will feature food stands with plenty of homemade dolci (sweets) made with castagne and special musical guest, Franco Simone.  It’s going to be a great time!

sagradellacastagna2014

 

2 Comments

Filed under Calabria, Carpanzano, Cosenza, Festivals, Food

Cucina Calabrese: Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan)

The summer and fall months are a great time for eggplants. I love eggplant, but back in Canada I didn’t eat them often because I didn’t know how to prepare them outside of grilling them on the BBQ. Being here in Italy, I eat them much more often especially when I’m visiting my Zia in Carpanzano.

I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to learn how to make “Parmigiana di Melanzane” or Eggplant Parmesan and this summer my Zia offered to show me her delicious version. I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated but it’s actually not too difficult, you just need a bit of time, patience and like anything, practice.

There are many different ways that this dish is prepared, but here is how it’s done in my Zia’s house.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

5-6 melanzane (eggplants)
2  bottles of Tomato Passata (Tomato Puree)
5 eggs
Caciocavallo or Provolone cheese
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Flour (as needed)
1-2 cloves of garlic
Basil
Vegetable Oil
Salt

Great, now let’s get started…

Step 1: Prepping the Eggplant (Part 1)

The first and most important thing you need to do is get your hands on some eggplants. For this particular recipe, you want to find oblong or round eggplants that have a shiny, firm deep-purple skin. Eggplants tend to hold a lot of moisture, so before we do anything we have to sweat out or drain the excess moisture out of the eggplant. To do that, you want to cut the eggplant into approximately 1 cm thick slices. Layer the slices into a large bowl being sure to salt each layer generously with salt. Don’t be afraid, most of the salt will be rinsed away later. Once you have cut up all the eggplants, you want to put a weight on them. You may have to get creative here. We placed a large plate directly on the eggplants and on top of it another large bowl filled with water (you could also use a pot full of water depending on the size of your bowl).

eggplant-blog01

Let the salted eggplants sit for 3-4 hours. If you have kids, they will love seeing the water slowly being released from the eggplants.

eggplant-blog02

Step 2: Prepping the Tomato Sauce

While you wait for your eggplants to be ready, you can begin to prepare the tomato sauce. The sauce is very simple. In a pot, pour a bit of oil and once it’s heated add a clove or two of garlic (you can mince it or put it in whole and then remove it later – it’s all a matter of preference). Let the garlic turn golden, but be careful that it doesn’t burn. Then add about 2 litres of homemade tomato conserve or tomato puree (also referred to as tomato passata but not to be confused with tomato paste!). Into the sauce, you want to also add some fresh basil and a little bit of salt to taste. Cover the sauce and let it simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes to an hour or until it has thickened. Don’t forget to check it every so often and give it a stir.

Step 3: Prepping the Eggplant (Part 2)     

Now we are ready to finish prepping the eggplants! First things first, rinse the eggplant very well under cold water to remove the excess salt. Give them a good squeeze to get out all that extra moisture. Don’t worry if they break or rip a bit.

For this next part, you will need two bowls. In one bowl, add flour which you will be using to coat the eggplant slices. In the other bowl, whisk about 5 or 6 eggs. If you need more, you can always add more later on. Take each slice and coat it first with flour and then with egg. Once you got them all battered up, you are ready to fry them. Use a deep frying pan and fry the battered eggplant using vegetable oil (or any oil with a high smoke point). The oil should be about 350-375 degrees F. Gently place a single layer of eggplants into your frying pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are golden. Remove them from the oil and lay them on a plate with paper towels to drain the excess oil.

Step 4: Assembling the Eggplant Parmesan

Before you begin to assemble the eggplant parmesan, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Now, we are ready to put it all together. Eggplant Parmesan is very much like lasagna in that it is layered. In a baking dish, spoon a layer of sauce on the bottom. Then place a layer of the fried eggplant; you can overlap the eggplant slices a bit. Add another light layer of sauce and then on top of that, add pieces of caciocavallo (or provolone cheese) and sprinkle parmesan cheese. Continue this pattern until you’ve made about 3 layers. The top of your parmesan should be eggplant slices and sauce. You can also sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top.

Place the baking dish in the oven and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

eggplant_blog03

And there you have it, Eggplant Parmesan! Enjoy!

***

For another typical Calabria dish, you can check out my blog post for Polpette di Riso.

Leave a comment

Filed under Calabria, Carpanzano, Food, Recipes

Happy 6th Blogiversary, Calabrisella Mia!!

It all started with a “Hello There” 6 years ago when I posted my first ever blog post. I didn’t have any particular plans or goals; I just wanted a place that would allow me to express myself and do something I enjoy doing: write! I remember wondering if anyone would even take interest and read my blog. So much has happened in these past 6 years.

Starting in 2008 , I blogged about my journey to getting my Italian citizenship and my struggles with learning the Italian language. I also allowed myself to use the blog as a means to cope with the loss of my father.

In 2009, I began my “5 Questions With..” series with Jessica Stewart of Rome Photo Blog and started to focus more on Calabria, Cosenza and Calabrian traditions.

A dream became reality when I started blogging from Italy in 2010. From the moment I started blogging, I was on a path that I had hoped would lead me to a life in Italy. In 2010, I made the move and began blogging about my new life.

In 2011, I shared my thoughts and personal experiences about homesickness. Something I still struggle with from time to time

One of the highlights for me in 2011 was during the summer when I was involved in a series of events that helped reunite a family that had been “lost” after part of the family immigrated to America many years ago.

2012 was a year of reflection.  I looked back on life in Italy and how far I’d come.


Photo Credit:  JoshArdle Photography

2013 was a difficult year for me. I couldn’t seem to find inspiration to write and the longer I was away from it the harder it was to get back into it. I decided that I needed to reflect on what it was about blogging that I loved.

Now in 2014 I am starting to rekindle that spark I had for writing at the beginning of all this. This year will mark 4 years of living in Italy, which is quite unbelievable. I never could have imagined any of this and as I look back on it all, I am quite impressed and amazed at how much I’ve accomplished.

I still have no idea where this blog will take me, but it has been a wonderful and perfect companion for me throughout this journey we call life.

4 Comments

Filed under Blogging, My Life, Uncategorized

Golden Day in Cosenza

Just before the Easter break, I was asked by Susan Van Allen of “Golden Days in Italy if I would be interested in doing a write up for a Golden Day in Cosenza.  I didn’t have to think twice.  I was honoured to participate and have the oppourtunity to share information about the city I currently call home.

centrostorico

Check out my blog post:  Golden Day 107:  Cosenza with LuLu of Calabrisella Mia

You can also find other golden days for other cities across Italy.

Thanks, Susan for the wonderful oppourtunity! Hope to meet you in Cosenza in the not so distant future!

 

3 Comments

Filed under Articles, Blogging, Calabria, Cosenza, Holiday, Italia, Travel

Invasioni Digitali: Cosenza Millenaria with Scopri la Calabria

It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon but that didn’t stop people from coming out to check out the “Invasioni Digitali: Cosenza Millenaria” organized by Scopri la Calabria.

Invasioni Digitali or Digital Invasions is a project that was created to promote culture through the eyes of those participating in the events.  The “invaders” photograph, share and document their thoughts and experiences using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc.

One of my English students told me about the “invasione digitale” in the historic centre of Cosenza and  I was instantly intrigued and asked her for more information.  I love the historic centre of Cosenza and to have the oppourtunity to see and learn more about it was something I couldn’t pass up.  I met up with my English student and her friends along with other bloggers, photographers, social media and travel/tourism consultants and culture lovers.

We met up at Piazza dei Valdesi in the historical centre equipped with cameras, phones and tablets.  We were given a leaflet that gave us information about the tour, the places we would be visiting and most importantly the #hastags to use as we posted to our social networks.

Here are some images from the tour:

Piazzetta Piccola


The sign in the window says “I didn’t believe in love but then you smiled at me. I love you.”

Piazzetta Toscano
I’ve been to the old part of Cosenza many times but this was the first time I’d been to this small piazzetta tucked away behind the Duomo.  Here you will find an archeological area with ancient ruins that have been excavated.

Vicoletti in Old Cosenza
Like many old cities, Cosenza is full of small alleyways and streets that wind around and take you to beautiful ancient homes that once belonged to nobels and other wealthy people.

Church and Convent of S. Maria delle Vergini
The great thing about this tour was that I was able to see parts of the old city centre that I didn’t even knew existed.  It was even more amazing when the sisters opened the doors to the church to give us the oppourtunity to go inside this church and convent.

We ended our “invasion” in front of the Rendano Theatre in Piazza XV Marzo.  It was a great experience.  I’d like to thank Scopri la Calabria for their wonderful job at organizing this wonderful event.

You can see all my photos on the Calabrisella Mia Facebook Page

For more information visit these other Facebook pages:

Scopri la Calabria:  https://www.facebook.com/ScopriLaCalabria
Invasioni Digitali: https://www.facebook.com/invasionidigitali

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogging, Calabria, Cosenza, Italia, Italian, Travel

5 Questions with… Jonny Blair of Don’t Stop Living – A Lifestyle of Travel

I love travelling even though I don’t travel as much as I’d like to. There are times when I feel like I can’t but then people like Jonny Blair from Don’t Stop Living – A Lifestyle of Travel remind me that anything’s possible and if you really want to do something, all you need to do is get moving! Jonny is passionate about traveling and wants everyone who reads his blog to catch the travel bug. He also shares some great experiences, funny moments, and good advice on how you too can get up and see the world first hand.

Check out this “5 Questions With….” and get to know Jonny and his site a little better!

Jonny Blair is a long term traveller from Bangor in Northern Ireland. He doesn’t believe in staying in the same place for long and he wants to see the world while he can. A veteran backpacker of over 90 countries, Jonny aims to inspire others as he himself continues on his jaunts around the world.

I like to believe that everyone dreams of doing something out of the ordinary at least once in their life but only a few will actually go out and pursue it.  Was there a particular moment that made you decide that traveling the world was something you wanted to do?

There was no particular moment for me like that. Things just developed since I left my hometown 11 years ago, initially I thought I’d just be away for a few months. A few months became a few years, and that became over a decade. Almost 90 countries in now, and having been to all seven continents, I’m pretty happy with the way life has panned out for me.  There were a few factors that influenced my decisions along the way though. As a child I used to watch football and collect football stickers so I always wondered what places like Uruguay, China, Australia etc. were like. I knew eventually I’d want to travel to all those places.

One day while working in a butchery in my hometown of Bangor, we ran out of meat and this gave me an excuse to check if my qualifications to date were enough to get me into University. They were as long as I studied for another 8 months on a course, so I did that, moved to England and as soon as I started working in England I knew I wasn’t coming back. I worked in hotels and on the beach as an ice cream salesman often working 7 days a week and meeting people from all over the world. I had mates from Colombia, Angola, China, England, Spain, Poland and Australia. By 2007, I had been to China, Russia and New Zealand. By 2009, I was living in Australia, by 2010 and by the age of 30 I had visited over 50 countries across all 7 continents. I relocated to Hong Kong using it as my base as I toured the Middle East and Asia and now aiming to break the 100 country mark before the year is out.

What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced throughout your journey and what advice would you give others who may find themselves in the same situations?

If I’m honest I will say I haven’t had many difficulties, I’ve always worked hard to keep myself on the road. But I know of others that do have problems on their travels and my best advice is work hard, save hard and don’t waste money. There is no need to worry too much when you travel. If you can’t get a visa, try again. If you can’t get a job, be relentless. Have no limits or boundaries. Clean toilets. Work for free food. Do anything to get money. If you get tired or bored of travel, find a location to stay in for a time and work there to get ready for the next adventure. Talk to as many people as you can and build up a load of new contacts. Soon you’ll know someone in every country you go to.

You’ve been to many places that I’m sure are very different from your hometown of Bangor in Northern Ireland. What are some of the most interesting experiences you’ve had throughout your journey?

Too many to mention so I’ll do a top 5:

1. The Inca Trail in Peru – the Inca Trail was magical. It’s a 4 day hike through the misty and mysterious mountains of the Sacred Valley that leads you on the final morning down to the ruined and lost Inca City known as Machu Picchu. It’s just an epic journey and one not to be missed. Makes me sad that some fit and healthy travellers actually just get a bus or a train to Machu Picchu ruining the whole glory of the 4 day hike. To make things even better I did this adventure at Christmas, arriving at the lost city of the Incas on Christmas Day. My Inca Trail Stories

2. Antarctica – Antarctica was a dream trip for me. I set my mind on it. I camped out in the wilderness in Tasmania saving hard for this epic trip and I went and did it. When our ship sailed into the coldest continent it was just magical.Top 5 Backpacking in Antarctica moments

3. Hyena Feeding in Harar, Ethiopia – At dusk in the walled city of Harar, you can head down a lane on the edge of town and feed wild hyenas mouth to mouth. It’s supervised by well known local hyena tamers, but these animals have the largest bite of any land mammal. It’s an adrenalin rush and I needed a beer afterwards!

4. Homestays in Iran – Iranian people are easily, by far the friendliest and most welcoming people you will EVER meet. Ever. Fact. While just backpacking in Iran, you will get endless invites to local people’s homes. They will treat you to their superb hospitality. Try the local food, tea and shisha. Relax and chat about every topic in the world and help them learn English and about your culture. Iran is a special country.

5. Off the Wall stuff in Taiwan – It was hard to pick a 5th one as I had to leave out China, Bolivia, Uruguay, Iraq and Jordan, but Taiwan was a place where I rediscovered my backpacking touch. I toured about 7 or 8 cities that nobody I knew had ever heard of. Places like Chiayi, Shinying, Hualien, Taidong, Eluanbi, Changhua etc. and loved it. The Taiwanese are an awesome bunch of people to meet and my best mate Neil worked out there which meant we could also get our fix of football and beers down the bars in Tainan, Kaohsiung etc.

What have you learned about yourself and people in general from your traveling experiences?

I’ve learnt that if you want something enough, you just work hard and you get it. Put your mind to it and do it. I don’t have limits anymore and I don’t use the word “can’t”. There is no can’t. Have no fear – be fearless, create no boundaries and don’t put obstacles in your way. Despite travelling the world I will always be a very proud Northern Irishman. It’s my treasured homeland and I love it. I’m proud of where I’m from and I believe everybody else should be.

What I’ve learned from people in general is that you need to phase negative people out of your life. People that say they “can’t” or “won’t” do something – they really grill me. I’m not impressed and I’m not inspired. However the people who stay happy and create no limits for themselves are the best people to meet. My best mate has worked in about 6 or 7 countries. He got out there and wanted it. He worked hard for it. My girlfriend has been to every continent. She didn’t follow the norm of her school buddies and lived her dreams. These are the people that inspire. “These days the stars ain’t out of reach” – Jon Bon Bovi. I share my inspiration tips every Sunday on my blog – Sunday’s Inspiration

If you could hop on a plane/boat/ship right now, where would it take you?

There are a lot of places I haven’t been, so it’s too tough a question. I do want to visit Cameroon, Nauru, Turkmenistan and Nepal at some point. If you give me a few minutes, I’d actually just google what airport is the most expensive to fly into and take that one. I’m a budget cheapskate tightass so if the flights gonna be covered, I’ll pick the dearest one!

***

Thanks Jonny for contacting me and introducing me to your site. I look forward to following you on your next adventures.

You can learn more about Jonny by visiting:
Websites: Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel / Jonny BlHP,MwedoAY/RGG,5olR&vg%3/a> / Crossing World Borders
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/donotstopliving 
Twitter:
@jonnyblair

Check out my other “5 Questions With…”:
5 Questions With… RomePhotoBlog
5 Questions With… Olio di Oliva e Sogni di Vino
5 Questions With… Cherrye of My Bella Vita
5 Questions With… Diana Spechler
5 Questions With… Megan of TorreBarolo
5 Questions With… Anna of La Dolce Vita di Pizzo Visitor Guide in Calabria
5 Questions With… In Italy Tours
5 Questions With… Johnny Ward of Aspiring Backpacker and One Step 4ward

2 Comments

Filed under Travel

We are Happy from… Calabria!

Since posting Cosenza’s version of Pharrell Williams’ super catchy and uplifting song “Happy” a month ago, I’ve seen many other cities in Calabria contributing their own versions. These videos embody the nature of Calabrian people and showcase some of the beautiful places that can be found all over the beautiful region of Calabria.

I’m sure these will get you up and dancing, it did for me!

We Are Happy from… UNICAL (Università della Calabria)

Happy from Amantea

Happy from Reggio Calabria

We Are Happy from Scalea

 

2 Comments

Filed under Calabria, Cosenza, Italia, Italian, music, Randomness, Video