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The Food Of Sardinia, Simply Delicious

Mar 18, 2008
Sardinian foods have a rightful place in the typically Mediterranean gastronomic tradition. And it could not be otherwise given the island's geographic position in the middle of Mare Nostrum. Basically, it can be described as having a good base of carbohydrates, in which the main component is wheat derivatives: pasta, bread, Focaccia and baked desserts.

There is a healthy amount of fibre and fruits, while the fats are mainly of vegetable origin - above all monoleic acid that is found in extra virgin olive oil. The rest of the fats come from white meats and fish that are rich in the good, polyunsaturated variety: lamb, kid, mutton, lean pork, oily fish, molluscs and shellfish.

And the flavours that have little to do with nutrients and calories, but make everything pleasing to the palate are entirely natural: wild oregano and fennel, garlic, bay leaves. Sardinian dishes are exquisite to eat and healthful to the whole body, especially the cardiovascular system.

Carta da Musica, Bottarga, pecorino and Porceddu - these are the first words that come to mind when thinking of Sardinia's foods. And they also draw a picture of the island - going from its fertile plains to the blue seas, the rugged mountain pastures and the fragrant maquis, as you will see during this article about Sardinia's beauties and bounty - a gastronomic overview of the most Mediterranean of the Mediterranean islands.

Sardinia has been ruled by many different races over the years and has been able to use the best from all of it's rulers cuisines - Catalans or Corsicans, Spaniards or Piemontese, blending each new contribution into its own dynamic culture, making it even broader and diversified. In fact, some people maintain that rather than Sardinian cooking, it would be appropriate to talk about the gastronomic schools of its several regions which, in effect, are culinary islands within the island.

Entering its worlds of myths and legends, processions, wild cavalcades and archaic rituals that seem to revive forgotten gods, you will begin to see where it's many influence start to show. We can begin with Cagliari, the Phoenician, open to all influences. Set on a splendid bay it offers foods refined by exquisite nuances, and then on to the country flavours of Campidano, home of the plump culingionis, impanada and other hearty, filled pastries. Heading towards Arborea and Oristano, we come to a land of incomparably fine wines; The ponds of Cabras hide the delicate secret of Bottarga.

Gourmets have known about Bottarga for centuries. It is made between August and September at the Stagni di Cabras, in the province of Oristano. It consists of mullet roe, complete with the protective sac, that is salted and dried in the sun for two or three months in a dry, breezy place.

It is shaped by wooden boards that are weighted down. Slice it thinly as an appetizer, or use it to dress pasta -spaghetti cooked al dente then sauteed in a skillet with olive oil, Bottarga and parsley is simply delicious!

Gray mullet Bottarga is more delicate than the tuna roe which has a coarser grain.The hearty dishes from the triple, inviolate Barbagia, surrounded by forests and mountain bastions, reluctant to abandon their lives as shepherds; and the home of Porceddu - and all this is a prelude to ancient Nuoro, embellished by sweets such as Sebadas, Sospirus and Tilicas.

Gallura presents two faces - the old land of cork trees, sister to Corsica, and the modern tourist district - that are reflected in the tasty traditional foods such as Suppa and Purulzoni, and in the exquisite fish and seafood from Olbia and other famous seaside resorts that are always served with superb wines whose labels bear the names of ancient villages and hamlets.

To the west, beyond Anglona is the garden of the Logudoro and Sassari that offers one hundred ways of preparing snails. After we cross the fertile valley of Nurra - motherland of vineyards - we come to Catalan Alghero to enjoy seafood.

As you will see, not even Sardinian foods have been overwhelmed by industrialisation. Neither the recipes nor the appearance of ingredients or foods, starting with the bread, pork products and cheeses that still are made with artisan methods have been lost. As in other Mediterranean lands the recipes speak of old style, familiar, humble yet rich fare that in some cases has not changed over centuries and is still handed down from mother to daughter. You just have to follow its few simple rules, trust in its ancient wisdom and excellent results are guaranteed - and delicious!

You will discover that this ancient cuisine is extraordinarily modern with its hearty soups that make one-dish meals, the lamb and pork stews with vegetables that combine the main and side dishes, and the seafoods like Cassola - soup and main course all in one.

Based on olive oil, Sardinian recipes treat their healthful and appetising ingredients with care -cooking them gently and briefly - and in their humbleness are all the elegance of simplicity, all the refinement of wholesomeness.
About the Author
Alghero holidays

You may not always agree with my writings but I hope to inform.

Harwood E Woodpecker
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