Wouldn't it be a bit ironic if I hadn't spent time in Puglia learning tradition from the ones who inhabit the land? I was fortunate amongst others to take the time and watch a home cook dwindle her hands through focaccia dough, clean bearded mussels, and chat up a storm in Italian which most of us only understood little of. For two consecutive days we learned the right way to cook Pugliese food and what it meant to live in this region.
For almost two months I have slept, walked, drove, and eaten along the coast- north to south. I have lived in a new place and I have learned. But, what's more important is actually being with and watching the ones who know the heart of their culture. I was lucky to have this experience aside from the wonderful professionals who teach us day to day; even they too, can learn something new.
So, focaccia is used as a loose term in America, for those who know it as the fluffy dense pizza crust topped only with little sauce and gooey cheese. But here, focaccia is used for many different styles of bread and this focaccia happens to be the one we are familiar with. It also happens to call it's home, Puglia. It's perfectly crusty on the bottom and glutinous in the middle after three hours of proofing. Caterina worked her magic slapping the dough against the bowl to create lots of elasticity, a technique I haven't seen before. The only thing left to add to this sticky mass were tomatoes, (olives) and olive oil since Puglia is best known for the production of. I promise you it's not like anything you've ever had!
Tiella di Riso Patate e Cozze is a total mouthful. Potato, tomato, mussels, and rice with all the essense of garlic and onion too. Catarina lives in Bari- the capital of Puglia- and this one pot meal is from Bari, and Bari only. Baked specifically in a terracotta pot, the ingredients are layered on top of each-other in systemic order; aromatics, tomato, potato, cheese, mussels, rice, and potato. It's super simple, fairly inexpensive and a mild seafood dish to celebrate the coast.
Taralli (made similarly to a bagel) are like the be all end all to the classic potato chip. It may only be me who thinks that, but they are so satisfying when you're looking for a salty snack. They are tender and crunchy and buttery, all the good characteristics of nutrition-less snacks. For some reason I really enjoy the simplest cracker- like snacks. I've always requested plain Goldfish, oyster crackers, table water crackers, and taralli from the store if I had a hankering for crunch. My grandma Chetti always knew how to perk up my tastebuds after school.