FOLLOWING IS A PARTIAL LIST OF THE INGREDIENTS MOST FREQUENTLY USED IN this book. After each primary ingredient, I’ve described its use in Puglian cuisine in general as well as in the recipes that follow.
Many of the recipes in this book call for anchovies, an ingredient commonly used in Puglia to add depth of flavor to a dish. The anchovies melt in warm olive oil, and their initial flavor is not noticeable in the final dish—the only thing that lingers is a rich, mild saltiness.
When I first started using anchovies in my cooking, my friends were suspicious. Some had unpleasant memories of whole anchovies on pizza. But the anchovies in these recipes are used only to flavor the dishes. The flavor is so gentle that even some of my vegetarian friends don’t mind having their food seasoned with them. I use salt-cured anchovies, which you can find in fine grocery stores and Italian groceries. Canned anchovies work well, too.
Of course, you can always omit anchovies from a recipe, but doing so will change the flavor of the dish slightly. If you decide to omit the anchovies, add a little more extra virgin olive oil to boost the flavor.
Puglia grows some of the most flavorful tomatoes I have ever had. From the tiny, dark-red grape tomatoes often dried and preserved for the winter to the large, almost apple-sized, juicy tomatoes, Puglian tomatoes have an unforgettable flavor that is difficult to find other places. Since tomatoes of that quality and ripeness are difficult to find outside Puglia, I have opted to use canned tomatoes in many of the recipes. High-quality canned tomatoes are canned at their peak and, as a result, are fully ripe and sweet, preserving the flavor of a real tomato ripened under the southern Italian sun. The most widely available high-quality canned tomatoes in the United States are the ones that come from San Marzano (which is always identified on the can). They are dark red, sweet, and full flavored.