Festa del Cioccolato, Cosenza (CS)

There is no denying that when chocolate is involved, people will come out! And that is just what happened this past weekend in Cosenza.  The annual Festa del Ciccolato on the pedestrian area in the heart of the city was jam packed with chocolate lovers from Cosenza and neighbouring cities, towns and villages.  Stands from all over the Province of Cosenza set up shop on Corso Mazzini for the weekend offering up their chocolate treats to all those in attendance.

Like every year, I picked up some delicious chocolate bon bons and at midnight my friends and I hit up a crepe stand and got us a freshly made crepe overflowing with Nutella (of course!)

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To check out more photos from the Festa del Ciccolato, head on over to the Calabrisella Mia Facebook page!

 

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In Pictures: 10th Annual Sagra della Castagna, Carpanzano (CS)

The temperature has definitely taken a dip but on the weekend of the 18th of October we had some great weather, better than most nights we’d had all summer, which was perfect for a sagra!  The piazza was overflowing with people and the 10th Annual Sagra della Castagna was a great success!  We may be a small town, but we sure know how to have a party! :)

 

Local products made with chestnuts: pane di castagna, marmellata di castagne

 

The piazza overflowing with people ready to see Franco Simone perform.

 

I grispoli hot and ready to eat!

 

Certainly can’t forget the roasted chestnuts!

For more photos, head on over to the Calabrisella Mia Facebook page and if you haven’t already, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and like the page!

 

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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And there you have it, Eggplant Parmesan! Enjoy!

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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

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