Some of the longest-lived people in the world come from the mountains of Sardinia. Just 250 miles off the Italian coast, Sardinia shares much of its culinary heritage with Naples. Its hundreds of miles of shoreline and hilly interior enjoy the same sunny Mediterranean climate that makes southern Italy a favorite vacation destination. It also boasts more people over the age of 100 than almost anywhere else in the world.
Molecular biologist Dr. Gianni Pes of Italy’s University of Sassari noticed this remarkable longevity and decided to identify the places where people lived the longest. These regions became known as blue zones, areas of longevity far beyond the average. Sardinia contains one blue zone, but so do Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; and another Mediterranean island locale, Ikaria, Greece.
People in Sardinia, Loma Linda and Okinawa eat vastly different diets, but the proportions of what they eat are similar. In all the blue zones, people eat plenty of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables with their meals. Fresh salads and greens dressed with olive oil are popular in the Mediterranean blue zones, but they’re also a favorite in California’s longest-lived population.
In Ikaria and Sardinia, tomatoes are a staple and appear with every meal of the day. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and high in vitamins A and C, but that isn’t why they’re so beloved in Sardinia; they’re a favorite because they taste delicious fresh or simmered into a savory marinara sauce. Red wine is a perfect foil for tangy sauces and is almost always on the table for dinner. Sardinians also accompany their meals with pecorino cheese from the sheep that graze in the hill country.
People in blue zones also enjoyed seafood. It’s no accident that so many blue zones are in or near coastal communities; seafood’s typically high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein but low in fat. Just as important, though, is that it’s high in flavor, which is why blue-zoners eat it five times a week or more. Mussels, clams, squid and whitefish keep the menu varied for people in blue zones.
For people who’d spent a century or more living in these blue zones, it wasn’t just what was on the plate that mattered. They shared another common bond: They enjoy life with family and friends. Meals are occasions to celebrate and connect with loved ones. Their community sustains them as much as the food they eat and laughter is as important a part of a meal as the wine served with it.
No one can promise that great Italian food, lively company and laughter will help you live longer, but it’s a great way to make sure you enjoy life more. Spend an evening with friends, a bottle of good red wine and a plate of clams Posillipo; and perhaps you too will live for 100 years!
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Mozzarella adds the luscious creaminess that makes a pizza delicious, but the best mozzarella is the hand-made kind. It’s the way we do it at Carlino’s, and today we’ll share how you can make it yourself. Whether you eat it on pizza, slice it for tricolore salad or crumble it atop a thick square of lasagna, fresh mozzarella is a culinary revelation.
Originally made from water buffalo milk, most mozzarella you’ll find today comes from cow’s milk. Cows are much easier to find than water buffalo, and their milk tastes very similar. You’ll need a little lemon juice, some rennet, a dash of kosher salt and plenty of fresh whole milk.
Before you start on the milk, prepare the rennet according to the manufacturer’s directions. Rennet is an essential part of cheese-making because it’s what helps the mozzarella form into curds firm enough to stretch. Most varieties need to be mixed with water to be effective. Stir about a quarter cup of lemon juice into the rennet and water mixture.
While the rennet dissolves in the water, warm a gallon of milk until it feels warm, but not hot. Use a thermometer to determine when the milk is at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and stir in the rennet mixture.
As the rennet and lemon juice react with the fresh milk, you’ll see it start to thicken. Mozzarella needs to rest, so stir it for just about half a minute to make sure that all the rennet mixes thoroughly with the heated milk. After it’s mixed, cover and let it rest while the rennet does its work. We wait about eight minutes, just long enough to start our house-made tomato sauce simmering.
When you lift the lid, you’ll smell the creamy scent of mozzarella cheese, but it isn’t done yet. It’s still too wet, so slice the curds into cubes and bring the heat up to help the thick curds release more whey. After the curds move to the bottom of the pot, take them off the heat and scoop them out of the whey with a slotted spoon or a kitchen strainer. The curls of fresh mozzarella should look a little like cottage cheese at this point.
Dunk the curds in salted water that’s just below boiling. The extra heating makes the cheese firm, and mozzarella has to be firm enough to tear into pieces to go on our Grandma’s pizza. Press the whey out of the curds after each trip into the hot bath. You’ll know they’re ready when they start to clump together. Add a teaspoon or two of kosher salt, and the cheese is ready to knead!
If you’ve ever wondered why mozzarella is so stringy, it’s because you pull it like taffy. Each string used to be a fat curd, but pressing and stretching turns it into a skinny strand. Pull and knead the fresh, warm mozzarella until it forms a smooth ball.
It’s a little bit of work to make fresh mozzarella cheese, but there’s nothing like it for making Italian food special. Try Carlino’s hand-pulled mozzarella and you’ll taste the difference.Tweet read more
Some of most famous dishes served at Carlino’s Restaurant on Long Island relies on the rich heritage of cheeses that food lovers have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Italian chefs had to be creative with dairy products in the warm Mediterranean climate, so they developed and perfected the art of cheese-making. From the mildest mozzarella to the sharpest Parmigiano Reggiano, Italy’s cheeses are justly famous worldwide.
Carlino’s Soft Cheeses
Mozzarella is Italy’s most common cheese thanks to its partner, the pizza. Soft and mellow with just a little saltiness, mozzarella originally came from water buffalo, not cows. When cheese-makers stretch the fresh cheese and press the water out of it, it forms strands, giving the cheese its other popular nickname: string cheese. You’ll find it shredded atop pizzas to impart a luscious creaminess or as part of an insalata Caprese with tomatoes and fresh basil. Unlike most cheeses, mozzarella doesn’t have to age; a pizza with fresh, homemade mozzarella is a gourmet delight.
Mascarpone cheese is so soft that it spreads like butter. It’s the mildest of Italian cheeses and has a gentle creaminess that makes it a perfect partner for sweet or savory dishes. Like other cream cheeses, mascarpone takes on the flavors of other ingredients readily, so it’s often the base for dips and fillings where it enhances the character of other ingredients with bolder tastes. Tiramisu wouldn’t be the same without it.
Ricotta, like mascarpone, has a light flavor and texture that makes it a component of sweet and savory dishes. Unlike its counterpart, ricotta cheese is naturally light in calories, too. Cheese-makers create ricotta from low-fat whey instead of whole milk, so it contains little fat compared to other cheeses. Ricotta soaks up other flavors well, so you’ll often find it paired with potent ingredients like a tangy tomato sauce in layers of lasagna or with cinnamon in crisp cannoli. It’s also excellent on a pizza where it complements robust toppings like sausage and onions.
Carlino’s Semi-Soft Cheeses
Every great cuisine has a notable blue cheese, and pale, blue-green veined Gorgonzola is Italy’s contribution to the world. Gorgonzola’s powerful, tangy taste makes it a perfect foil for dressings, dips and sauces where just a few crumbles of the cheese can add big flavor. You’ll also spot it on cheese plates where it goes well with walnuts and pears or on antipasto platters where it adds piquancy to pickled vegetables.
Provolone is to mozzarella what brandy is to wine – a distillation and concentration of an already delicious product. Cheese-makers press and age mozzarella, sometimes smoking it for extra flavor, to transform it into provolone. Sandwiches become special when dressed with a few slices of melted provolone to give them a rich, creamy texture and flavor. It’s also delicious in salads where its smooth texture contributes almost as much as its mellow taste.
Carlino’s Hard Cheeses
Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano are close to the same, but not quite. The former term is the English name for a hard Italian cheese with a powerfully salty, nutty, almost peppery flavor; the latter refers to Parmesan cheese made according to centuries-old traditions in the Parma region of Italy. Just as champagne is more than sparkling wine, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more than Parmesan cheese. Both are exquisitely sharp and hard enough to grate over pizza or pasta, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is good enough to eat in thin shards all by itself. It’s a mainstay of Caesar salads as well as an essential topping for tomato sauces.
Pecorino Romano is Italian for “little Roman sheep,” and that’s just where this ultra-sharp cheese comes from. Often used with grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano – sometimes shortened to Romano – is a traditional topping for anything with a savory tomato sauce.
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