Sunday, November 30

Snow - Yippie!

Monday we got snowed in & loved it!
It started the holiday season white - how perfectly festive!

our agriturismo nestled into the woods & snow

Sunday, November 23

Just in Time for Thanksgiving - Butternut Squash Soup

Fall in a bowl - this would make a perfect dish to add to your Thanksgiving lunch or dinner! It can be served day of or is even better the next day! Which makes it great for Thanksgiving since you can cook it off a day or 2 before, one less thing to do on turkey day! This soup has become a tradition in our house - it's so creamy & delicious.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 medium butternut squash - peeled, diced, seeded
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 ribs celery diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
vegetable stock
olive oil
bay leaf
fresh thyme
salt & pepper

In a soup pot heat 2 glugs of olive oil over med low heat, add carrots, celery, onions & garlic - until translucent - about 15-20 minutes.

Then add your squash, bay leaf & a couple sprigs of fresh thyme and salt & pepper. Sautée for another 15-20 min. on med-low heat until the squash starts to fall apart & gets soft.

Cover with vegetable stock & cook another 20 min. until the squash is now totally soft.

You may need to adjust the amount - if it looks like it is getting too thick, add a little water.

Blend with a hand blender & then add in about half a cup of heavy cream.

Adjust the seasonings to your liking: you can add in cinnamon, nutmeg &/or a clove to make it a bit more spicy & festive!

Toast a piece of bread & float it on top - garnish if you like with a little parsley

I know the cream sounds heavy, but it really rounds out the vegetables. Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 20

Nutella - Finger Lickin' Good!

First off, I must say, I am a peanut butter lover, through & through - I'm always looking for another vehicle for good ol' p.b. - but Italians don't seem to dig on the peanuts as much as Americans - and don't sell peanut butter (or its a single serving size of Skippy for 5 Euro! - So I've been making my own.)

Italians opt for its cousin-nut, the hazelnut - and combining it with chocolate is just divine! Thus Nutella was born! Thank the lord - it's finger lickin' good! I had never really gotten into Nutella in the States, but after my first taste here, I was in love! Creamy, chocolately & nutty! (The recipe is different here than in the States, less sweet, more nut.) It's great on bread, for baking or just eating a spoonfull! We've even made a nutella pizza!! I would suggest, if you have a fireplace to place it on the hearth to warm for about a half hour before you consume - I know that waiting is generally frowned upon - but it's worth it & makes it extra good & extra creamy! Trust me here!

Here is our favorite Nutella recipe (first translated & tested by my lovely sister Meagan)- it is ridiculously simple! Think of it like a nutella brownie!

Torta con Nutella e Nocci
Nutella & Walnut Torte
4 eggs

125 g sugar

125 g chopped walnuts

125 g Nutella

125 g butter

60 g flour

.5 teaspoon yeast

pinch of salt

Beat the eggs with the sugar.  

Melt the butter & chocolate together.

Combine all ingredients.

Butter & flour a spring form pan.  Add mixture to pan.

Cook at 375 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

(Since this recipe is Italian, it is in grams - click here for a conversion table.)

(notice how tightly she is clutching "the goods" to her chest!)

Monday, November 17

Sample Heaven!

We ventured into Umbria a little over a week ago to celebrate the white truffle in Citta di Castello only 35-40 minutes drive over the appennine hills into the valley & the region of Umbria. It is was a perfect day for a fall drive! Il Tartufo Bianco, the 29th annual festival for the white truffle & market was in full swing -

The festival was spread all over Citta di Castello & ended up to be a sample heaven! I don't now about you, but I just can't pass up good tasty bit size samples!

First stop: the freshly pressed olive oil tasting hall - yes please! Fresh bread, drizzled heavily in peppery olive oil - the freshest you've ever tasted with just a barely there sprinkle of salt on top!
Let's just say that we came back to sample the goods many times - oh I made my rounds - I was just trying to become a connoisseur if you will, really get to know each bottle...oh who am I kidding, I love the stuff, it was free, I was hungry & technically speaking, it's freakn delicious!

Next into the meat, cheese & olive tent -
There were many other artisan vendors from chocolates to bread (the biggest loaf I've ever seen actually - which just makes you think - what size oven are they using....), candies, spices & more! But one of my favorite things was watching a young cheese man, cut open his first wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano under the close watch of his mentor!
I had never seen this done before & requires much more concentration & technique than I expected - lots of repositioning the little cheese knives to change the pressure on the wheel, some wiggling of the knives & lots of patience - these things cannot be rushed!
But once it popped open & the smell of nutty parm took hold - uh! it's all worth the wait! Of course, after being such a good audience we again, sampled the goods!

Slow Food was involved with the festivities as well, offering "Showcooking" - a cooking demonstration with lunch. We opted to find lunch from a vendor & I was looking for polenta.. or just more samples!
We enjoyed rambling from one place to the next, weaving our way around the city, popping into old palaces for a grappa & chocolate tasting, watching an artisan woodworker, chatting with the locals about the rough truffle season & more-especially after we hit up the wine tastings...

For 6Euro each, we bought a wine glass with a specially made necklace/cup holder & a pass to 2 different 'cantina's' for wine tastings - not a bad deal! One cantina was dedicated to vino novello - which is the new wine, freshly made, unfermented and the other cantina was full of the best vino from Umbria. We bellied up to the bar - chatting it up with each different vendor, looking for another wine to add to our wine list at the house - what a rough job!

All in all I must say, it was a great day! A true sample heaven! We contemplated switching jackets or taking off a top sweater - essentially altering our appearences a bit if needed to take a another taste at the olive oils before we left - but as luck would have it - no one cared, no quick change needed or a shoddy story about how I wanted to give this sample to a 'friend...or that was my twin sister...'
We left with a bit of a buzz, a full belly, a bottle of artisan vin santo (wine of the saints) and a plan to buy 20+ litres of fresh olive oil from a local grower!
...this beats 'Sample Sunday's' at Costco by a long shot!!

Friday, November 14

Fav Fall Fotos

It's a cold, blustery morning, we've got the stufa (potbelly stove) burning & we've had our morning capuccino. Here are a few of our favorite fall photos from just around the neighborhood!
We came upon these horses up on Monte Nerone. They appeared through the was incredible, we got out of the car lured by the jingle of the bells worn by the horses...

Sunday, November 9

Move Over Martha!

We are getting pretty handy & crafty out here I must say! We've been jarring, canning, preserving, jamming, etc. all summer/fall. (I also made a wreath from scratch -using pliable branches & rosehib - I was really proud of myself on this one!)  Our pantry is full of apple sauces, apple chutney, peach jam, peach preserves & much more in the fruit dept. But now we've got onions! Cipolline - little pearl onions.
It took forever & a total group effort to peel 11 pounds of tiny onions! Beware you may smell like onions for a day or so after, I think my skin absorbed the onions...Oh but it's worth it!
We made a few different vinegar combo's - sotto aceto - under vinegar but my favorite is with balsamic vinegar.  Use whatever you have or like - for example we used a combo of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf & dried peperoncini.
These little onions are so sweet & make perfect antipasta, goes great with meat - or just to pop in your mouth when you walk by the fridge like I do!

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche! November 2008

Just in time to get a few more truffle festivals in before the close of the season! But this month is all about olive oil! It's the perfect time of the year to try fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil....mmmmm...peppery, green & delicious- soooo good on bread!

November 2008

Typical menus at fixed prices in diverse restaurants, osterias & trattorias of the province of Pesaro e Urbino

Mostra mercato dell'olio e dell'oliva 1st & 2nd Sunday
This event promotes the PDO (protected designation of origin) olive oil from Cartoceto with the participation of local producers. Starting at 3pm in the old center.

Fiera nazionale del tartufo - 1st & 2nd Weekend
The most famous truffle festival in Le Marche! The national truffle festival specializing in the promotion of the truffle & other typical products of the area & season. Truffle stands and tastings of both truffles & local dishes; arts & crafts, conventions & live entertainment. Starting at 10am in Piazza Mattei

Fair celebrating the Talamello cave cheese - soooo good!!
from 9am in the old center

Mercatello sul Metauro
Evento enogastronomico
Wine & food exhibition, conventions, tastings, stands & "islands of taste" - all day in Palazzo Gasparini & Piazza Garibaldi

Castagna in piazza - 11th
Chestnuts in the piazza - in the evening Mercato Vecchio

San Leo
Giornata del ringraziamento - Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day, an event to celebrate the fruits of the earth, the farmer world & ancient traditions. Refreshments & live entertainment all day

Sapori e aromi d'autunno - 3rd & 4th Sunday
Autumn fragrances & flavors - exhibition of local typical products & agricultural machineries, local crafts, tastings of specialties. The fruit & vegetable market is running as well. All day
Mostra mercato dei vini novelli dell'Italia centrale - last weekend
Vino novelli is the new wine of the season, just picked grapes! Exhibition & market of new wines from central Italy, new wine competition in collaboration with the Associazione Italiana Sommelier (Italian Sommelier Association) & guided wine tastings. Market of typical local products & opening of the 'fossa' (caves where cheese is housed maturing for months). Festivities start at 10am Conventino dei Serviti di Maria

Nel castello di Babbo Natale - Last Sunday of November (continuing through the 3rd Sunday of December)
Christmas market in the castle - how festive! I will be there for sure...hopefully with some hot cocoa!

Throughout the Region
A special day in which the public is allowed entrance to the region's oil mills & invited to taste the year's new olive oil!

In several restaurants of the province of Pesaro e Urbino it is possible to taste the extra-virgin olive oil of Cartoceto with typical dishes of the rural cuisine of the past, baccala' - dried salted cod

Monday, November 3

La Caccia - The Hunt

Jason has found a new hobby - hunting!
This is the time of year when small birds migrate from Northern Europe to North Africa. Italians in  this area love to hunt these small sparrow-like birds. They are looking for palomba, tordo, storno, merlo & colombaccio - I have no idea what these would be translated in English.

(One of the small birds)

The best part is the hunt is here, in our backyard, in the hills surrounding our house.  Every morning expect Tuesday & Thursday (hunting is prohibited on these days so the birds can, quote: ‘recharge their batteries”) you hear the shots being fired...

Jason was invited by our good friend, the Cardiologlist, Dott. Gaggi.

They head into the woods at 6am, ready for the hunt!  They take the little tiny hysterical Fiat Panda (4 wheel drive with knobby tires) that is older than us!  The car is somehow able to climb straight up into the hills, in “roads” most suitable for horses or a big off -roadin’ truck...not this little old beater car!

They have built about a dozen blinds where you sit & wait for the birds to passover. Let’s just say that Jason does not have a good poker he sees the birds flying over, he still gets too excited - nudging Gaggi & flapping his arms & a bit too loudly ‘whispers’ birds - there they are! Gaggi fires back ‘ferma’ or ‘stop, your scaring them away!”

Up in the hills, into the woods there is a funny little hunters house where this rag-tag group of vecchio (old) men meet. They have a whole setup out in the woods - a homemade hunter’s cabin/shack - with cured meats hanging from the rafters, a little stove, bbq, table & chairs & a fully stocked cabinet with plenty off food & booze to feed the hunters! A big boys club house! 

They hunt together every possible morning - sharing stories & jokes (in dialect) and a big fat breakfast at the huntin'!

( The hunters above: Basilio, Olavo, Umberto, Valter, Gigi & Gaggi.  Jason is about 30 years younger - but loves it!)

Needless to say, this is Jason’s favorite part - normally it looks something like this - sausages & pork chops over the grill, a wheel of cheese (everyone cuts off huge hunks with hunting knives), homemade wine & caffe correto (sempre -always sambucca) & of course grappa! This is a HUGE breakfast for Italians who normally eat just a pastry with an espresso.

After his first hunt Jason went shopping & bought the complete hunters outfit...

For his next time out he was welcomed with laughter & geers as he arrived in the proper atire. Now he looks the part!

Each & every day can be an adventure! Even though Jason hasn't shot anything yet & is technically not allowed, he is the gloried hunting dog, running out into the brush to look for the little birds - but he is loving it! And looks damn good doing it!

... its a great fall day, misty & foggy, the leaves are all golden & we've got a deer to butcher (seriously!) and birds to clean for eatin' too!  we're so country now its hysterical - we seriously have a fresh killed deer hanging in our cantina right now! 

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