Keys to Longevity Part 3: Sardinian bread and wine – Pane Guttiau “Carta di Musica” and Sardinian Cannonau

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There is an ancient Sardinian peasant proverb ‘Chie hat pane, mai no morit‘ which means ‘with bread you will never die.’ Not surprising that various breads are a staple of the Sardinian diet. 

The most popular is an unleavened (yeast-free) flatbread called Pane Guttiau or “Carta di Musica” (“Music card”) for its paper thin appearance. It is most often eaten with Pecorino cheese and Sardinian wine.

Pane Guttiau is very similar to another Sardinian flatbread Pane Carasau which contains yeast. Remains of the bread were found in archaeological excavations of Nuraghes (ancient Sardinian stone buildings) so this bread was consumed on the Sardinian island prior to 1000 BC.

Below is the recipe and I want to emphasize that it calls for Whole Wheat Pastry flour which is not the same thing as Whole Wheat flour. I was able to find this flour “Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry flour” in the healthy food section of my grocery store. 

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The ingredients needed are:

  • Whole Wheat Pastry flour – 3 cups (2 cups for the bread, 1 cup for the kneading process)
  • Semolina flour – 2 cups
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 5 oz (150cc)
  • Rosemary sprigs – 2-3
  • Water (lukewarm) – 2 cups
  • Sicilian Sea Salt (to taste)
  • Preparation time – 45 minutes , Cooking time – 10 minutes

Directions:

  1. To make the dough, combine 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, 2 cups of the semolina flour and salt in a large bowl. Add some lukewarm water and mix until it is moist.
  2. Knead the dough until it is not sticky. Sprinkle a little amount of the remaining flour on a plain surface and knead the dough on it. Knead it for 12-15 minutes until it is smooth.
  3. Wrap the dough with plastic all over and let it stand for 1 hour sand 20 mins at room temperature.
  4. Put the olive oil and rosemary in a pan and heat gently. Do not boil. Keep warm over a low heat for about 10 minutes to allow the flavor of the herbs to infuse the oil. Leave to cool completely.
  5. For baking, preheat the oven to 450°F.  Take 2 large baking sheets and dust them with the whole wheat flour. Then divide the dough into 6-7 equal pieces. Take one piece and pat on it until a disk/fairly round shape.
  6. Roll out the dough into a 13 inch larger disk, while turning it over and lifting it to make it even. I recommend trying to make these disks as thin as possible. Remember that this bread is called “Carta di Musica” because you are supposed to be able to read a sheet of music through it prior to baking.
  7. Transfer the pieces onto the baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 3 minutes until the bread is moldable and the edges rise up. Then turn the bread and bake until it is golden in few spots and bubbles rise up. Take the bread out and plate it.
  8. Using a brush, garnish the bread with the rosemary-infused olive oil. Sprinkle a little Sicilian sea salt over it.

Serve with Pecorino Romano cheese, olives and Sardinian Cannonau wine.

I recommend saving the oil and applying this shortly before eating if you plan to save some of the bread and eat it later. This will retain the dexterity of the bread and prevent it from getting soggy.  Store any unused bread in a Tupperware container.

Sardinian Wine

If you are looking for a great wine pairing for this bread, I highly recommend Sella & Mosca’s Cannonau di Sardegna. This is my absolute favorite red wine and I have a tried a lot of great Italian and French wines. I have tried other similar wines made from the same grape—Spanish Garnacha, French Grenache and even some other Sardinian Cannonau wines—and nothing compares with Sella and Mosca’s Cannonau.

It is a delicately spicy, herbal and fruit flavored dry red wine that is smooth and not too tanniny. It has a slight tobacco note that seems to reel in and bring balance to all the different herbs and fruit notes. This wine would pair extremely well with any tomato-based pasta dish, steak, a Cuban cigar or dark chocolate. It’s high in resveratrol, flavonoids and antioxidants that help prevent cancer and it is heart-healthy consumed in moderation as alcohol helps reduce heart attack and stroke risks.

On average, Sardinians drink two to three 3 oz glasses of wine per day and this is thought to be a contributing reason for their longevity. For my birthday, my girlfriend arranged for the local Hy-Vee to stock this wine. I thought I was going to have a nice convenient supply until it became Hy-Vee’s Registered Dietitian’s top wine pick (see below). Porca vacca! The secret is out.

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So this wine is Pharmacist and Registered Dietitian approved. James Melendez aka “James the Wine Guy” gives an excellent review of this wine in the Youtube video below. He gives it a 9.2 out of 10. I’d give it a 9.4 out of 10 because you are going to have to shell out a lot more money to find a better wine.

Buon Appetito and Salute!

–Michael

The Sardinian Longevity Diet

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I really hoped to have Part 3 of my “Keys to longevity, the Sardinian wine and diet” out today. But life interfered so I am throwing up the white Sardinian flag.

I will admit that this topic of Sardinian nutrition is much deeper, more complex than I anticipated. Why? I am trying to find alternatives and substitutes for their typical diet as many ingredients they use are hard to find or expensive to buy abroad. And the Sardinian diet is pretty radical to the average American diet. I may need to write a book, not a blog, on this subject as I am discovering the deeper and deeper I research this topic.

I am a hospital pharmacist who fills occasionally in on our hospital’s metabolic support/nutrition team. So I may bounce a few things off our Registered Dietitian before “hitting the submit” button so to speak on my next more detailed blog.

My goal is producing a diet and lifestyle modeled after the Sardinians that will extend and improve my–and all of my readers–life and years on earth. So I think you will appreciate the final result when it comes out. I am working on a Sardinian bread recipe that is a big part of their daily diet. I am also experimenting with lower cost versions of the Malloreddus alla Campidanese recipe I published last week.

I will state up front that the most difficult part of transferring to a Sardinian diet for most Americans would be the reduction of red meat. Sardinians typically only eat 4 oz of meat on average per day. That is roughly the amount of meat you get on a Subway sandwich. Ok, maybe a Subway sandwich has an one ounce less meat than 4 ounces but I am a carnivore who descended from carnivores.

The Malloreddus alla Campidanese pasta recipe I shared last week has pork in it but this would be more of a special occasions type dish. See the challenge?

The next challenge is amount of exercise as the Sardinian’s diet is composed of 50-58% carbohydrates but they typically walk twice as many miles (or more) per day than the average American. So their carb intake should be greater. Where is the happy medium?

Barley is another fairly major component of their diet. They typically add this in breads and soups. So I need more recipe research on this topic.

At any rate, I have a lot of great stories and recipes to share in the future but have too little time. Stay tuned and eat more veggies in the interim!

Ciao for now,
Michael

Malloreddus alla Campidanese – A Sardinian Delight!

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Below is an excellent recipe for Malloreddus alla Campidanese, a Sardinian pasta dish made with ground pork. One of the key spices that really makes this dish is Saffron. I used an online Rachel Ray recipe for this dish as a base and then tweaked it after watching five Youtube videos of Italian chefs making the same dish.

This pasta is a special occasion pasta as Sardinians only eat meat once or twice a week. In fact, this pasta is so special it’s a dish for Matrimony! An excerpt from a Daily Telegraph article:

On her wedding night, a Sardinian bride will parade through town wearing silver jewelery, and carrying a large basket of malloreddus which she has made by hand. She is closely followed by her family until she reaches the doorstep of her betrothed, who will scare off her entourage with rifle-shots. The bride will then enter, to eat her malloreddus from the same plate as her new husband.

Another key to this dish is pasta made from the heartier durum wheat Semolina. Gnocchetti Sardi pasta is harder to find but DaVinci makes a Gnocchi pasta made from durum wheat Semolina that works well and I found this on sale at my grocery store for $1.

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This pasta recipe takes about 30-45 minutes to make and feeds 4 adults. 

Malloreddus alla Campidanese

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry Gnochetti Sardi (you can substitute with Cavatelli or Gnocchi pasta made from durum wheat semolina)
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 3 pinches of saffron threads 
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 pound of coarsely ground pork or mild ground Italian sausage
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped (you can substitute with yellow onions)
  • 1 1/2 cans (28-ounce size) of tomatoes (I recommend San Marzano)
  • Basil leaves (about 10 nice sized leaves)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I recommend at least 6 to 8 ounces)
  • Sicilian Sea Salt (you can substitute with Kosher Salt)

Directions

You will need a large pot, a smaller sauce pot and a large fairly deep skillet

Heat the chicken stock and two pinches of saffron over medium heat in a sauce pot for about 15 minutes.

While the stock infuses and water comes to boil, heat a large deep skillet with extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add the fennel seeds and toast for 1 minute.

Add the ground pork, raise the heat to medium-high and season the meat with one pinch of saffron and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the sage, red pepper flakes and paprika.

When the meat is brown, add the garlic and the diced shallots and cook together a few minutes more to soften the shallots.

Add the 1 1/2 cans of tomatoes and crush. I recommend draining some of the juice from the cans as it expedites the cooking process. Bring the sauce to a bubble, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. This takes roughly 15 minutes.

While the sauce thickens, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Salt the boiling water liberally. Add the pasta once the water comes to a boil. It takes roughly 8-10 minutes to cook Gnochetti Sardi pasta.

Once the sauce has thickened, stir in a few diced basil leaves and some grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

When the pasta is ready, add the infused stock to the sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it in with the sauce and cook for a couple of minutes.

Serve in bowls with freshly grated black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Top off with a few torn basil leaves.

Pair this with Sardinian Cannonau wine.

Buon Appetito!

My next blog will be Part 3 of Keys to Sardinian Longevity.

–Michael

Keys to longevity Part Two: Sardinian Wine and Diet

There are numerous studies and books on diet and health. Fill in the blanks: _________ is good for you. __________ is bad for you. _________ causes cancer. Sometimes you’ll even see a study that concludes ___________ is good for you and why. Then another study will come out later that concludes that it’s bad for your health and/or causes cancer. How can you make sense of it all?

As I stated in my previous blog, I am more of “What’s working elsewhere and why?” type of guy. This would be Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy, who has the highest percentage of centenarians (people living 100 years or more) in the world. And specifically male centenarians. Genetics are believed to only play a minor role in their longevity.

Italy ranks 6th overall in the world in average life expectancy (82.7 years) and 5th overall in Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (72.8 years). The Health Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) adjusts overall life expectancy by the amount of time lived in less than perfect health. The average American’s life expectancy is 79.3 years and the HALE score is 69.1 years.

So the average Italian is getting about 3 1/2 more quality years of life than the average American. And Sardinians outlive their mainland Italian countryman despite drinking and smoking more.

What are the keys to their longevity?

1) Vegetable-based diet – with emphasis on low-glycemic vegetables (i.e. tomatoes, artichokes, zucchini)
2) Meat once or twice a week – with an emphasis on grass-fed, not grain-fed livestock
3) Bread and pasta – made from whole grains (Barley) or Semolina wheat durum
4) Legumes (i.e. Fava beans and Chickpeas)
5) Pecorino cheese – made from sheep’s milk
6) Wine – dry, red Cannonau wine (high in antioxidants)

This is essentially Sardinians diet and I will go into more depth on this in a future blog as there is a lot of misinformation out there. And I will explain how radical their diet is compared to the average American’s diet and how we can best adapt. I realize that my blog has worldwide readers, that various countries influences our diet and culture, and that the US’s diet and culture influences others. Especially American fast-food. We are all in this together.

Although diet is a huge key to Sardinians longevity, “You are what you eat” as they say, it’s more than diet. It’s also due to lifestyle and environment. I will explain:

Exercise you probably guessed this would be important. The number of steps taken per day by the average American ranges somewhere between 5,117 and 6,540. This equates to 2.5 to 3 miles per day. The average Sardinian walks somewhere between 5 and 8 miles a day. This shouldn’t be surprising, since for centuries sheep herding was the primary profession of Sardinian men. Walking rolling hills, tending to their sheep and goats, this explains why their diet is comprised of 50% carbohydrates.

You don’t really need a gym membership to get the right type of exercise. Sardinians don’t go to gyms, they get exercise naturally by walking and gardening.

StressYep, stress is lower in Sardinia than the U.S. This may be due to the fact that they have been somewhat insulated from the Corporate World that tries to squeeze every ounce of beet juice from the beet. The fact that their work day is often divided by two-hour lunch breaks. A little vino and a nap anyone? And no road rage, traffic jams on their way to work. A Vespa scooter weaves well through traffic.

But seriously, stress is very damaging to your health. I recommend reading this article (link). Stress weakens your immune system, it releases cortisol hormone that increases belly fat, it predisposes you to diabetes, heart disease and digestive problems. Stress increases your risks for heart attack and stroke. Just very bad overall. If you are in a high-stress job or relationship, you’ve got to reevaluate how this may take years off of your life and whether it’s worth it. It’s probably not.

How to reduce stress? Well I am sure that Yoga is good but Sardinians value family and friendships, they talk and vent to each other. The average Sardinian also drinks three to four 3 oz glasses of wine per day with meals. Moderate alcohol intake helps you deal with stress as it is a depressant that slows down the brain and Central Nervous System’s processes. And this leads me to my next common core finding in Blue Zone region longevity that reduces anxiety and stress.

FaithAccording to Buettner’s Blue Zone research, all but five of the 263 centenarians they interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. That works out to be 98%. Denomination didn’t matter. Although it is really hard to quantify, they believe that attending faith-based services adds 4-14 years of life expectancy.

Valuing Elderly & Having a Purpose in LifeThe Sardinian culture respects and looks up to the elders much more than American culture that seems to value youth. Having a purpose in life, something that occupies your day and makes you feel valued, is another key to longevity. I think this becomes more important when someone develops chronic health problems as often happens when we age. If you don’t have something to live for, something to fight for, you won’t live long. I have always believed that the mind is more powerful in a person’s well-being and health than we can ever truly appreciate.

My next blog will go more into detail on the Sardinian diet. I recently made a Sardinian pasta dish that was fantastic. However, I want to make it one more time and fine-tune the recipe before posting it. Stay tuned!

Ciao for now,
Michael

Keys to longevity Part One: Sardinian Wine and Diet

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

What does religion have to do with Sardinian wine and their diet you ask? A little more than appears on the surface but I will get into that later. When Jesus said “Do this and you will live,” he was referring to an eternal spiritual life. We don’t have one central figure to tell us how to get the most quality healthy years out of our life on earth…. how to best to achieve La Dolce Vita “the sweet life.” We have numerous authors on the subject, all proposing differing theories and/or diets.

I am more of a “What’s working elsewhere and why?” type of person. I prefer the big picture when it comes to health and diet instead of small picture advice. Fortunately, we have many cultures on earth that we can learn from. One of which, are the Sardinians who have one of the highest percentage of centenarians (people living to 100 years of age or more) in the world. Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy, the second largest Mediterranean island. Surprisingly, genetics are believed to only play a minor role in Sardinians longevity.

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My research pathway took the same route as Dan Buettner, who authored the book “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” Buettner studied five geographical regions which who had the highest percentage of centenarians. These are regions were called “Blue Zones.” The five regions studied were Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, Loma Linda California, Nicoya Peninsula Costa Rica and Icaria Greece.

Gianni Pes, a Sardinian scientist who helped coin the term Blue Zone, doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a “longevity gene.” I don’t either. Pes’s belief stems from the fact that there are genetic differences between the populations of the 14 towns that comprise the Sardinia’s Blue Zones. This suggests that environmental and dietary factors play a more important role than genetics.

Below is a Youtube video of a Sardinian family who, in 2012, held the Guinness World record for oldest family in the world.

This blog is the first of four part series. After studying the five Blue Zone regions, I will give my input on what I feel are the most important keys to longevity. This will be more than “Food for life” as I will also provide lifestyle advice, a Sardinian wine review and Sardinian pasta recipe. Stay tuned!

–Michael

An Introduction

June 29th 2017

Ciao Amici!

I created this blog as a means to write about the great food, wine and travel destinations I have enjoyed in my life or any that I experience along the way in the future. I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and his television show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.” So Bourdain is one source of inspiration for the creation of this blog.

Another source of inspiration were my travels to Italy. Dining in Italy left me with a desire to recreate the same awesome dishes I had there but can’t get here in the US in Italian restaurants. I have taken six Italian culinary classes to learn the art of Italian cooking. I also love to grill and have mastered the art of grilling.

I also love good vino. So I will be reviewing wine on this blog as well. In fact, my first blog will be on my favorite Italian wine. Stay tuned!

Ciao for now,
Michael

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