Tuesday, July 28

Life's A Beach...but 1st Let's Hit Up the Market

Fano is a much overlooked medieval beach town (with a fantastic Roman wall) along the Adriatic (only a 40 minute drive from our farmhouse) with a wonderful open-air Saturday market, as well as antique market & easy beach access.

With friends & family we weaved through the crowded streets of Fano - stopping for a caffe, a few postcards, photo-ops along the way and to peep through open doors for a glimpse of secret piazza's like this one:We picked up mid-morning snacks - juicy peaches & the prerequisite porchetta (pork sandwich) and headed for a gelato as the cherry on top!

Maki (Piazza degli Avveduti, 1 ) is a wonderful artisan gelateria in Fano, named "the best" by locals and as a gelato conessiour, I would have to agree! I prefer their fruity flavors (normally I go for pistachio & caffe - but on a hot beach day cool fruit flavors are best).

After feeding our sweet tooth, we bee-lined it for the beach! Soft pebbles massaged our toes as we waded into the water (some of us in the proper bathing "costume" & others went in head first wearing jeans!) You can rent a cabana, beach loungers & an umbrella for about 16 Euro for the day at one of the many semi-private beaches or just head down the road to the free beach. I must say it sounds weird to pay for a spot on the beach (coming from the States were most beaches are totally public) however it keeps it very clean, you don't have to lug a million things with you & you feel extra Italian - lounging among the perfectly bronzed Italian speedos & goddesses!

Hours later we returned home salty & suntanned ready for a nap!

Plenty 'O Plums Plump for the Pickin'

~ Say that 3 times fast!

Our farmhouse is surrounding by tons of fruit trees (apricot, apple, cherry, nespola, pear & more) - this year the plums have taken over! We've got over 5 different varieties of plums - tiny pale green, plump yellow, 2 types of purple - a mix of tart & sweet. And of course they are all ready, heavy with ripe fruit at the same time!

In a about a hour, together with my aunt & cousin we picked a metric ton! As we were picking & filling up basket after basket in no time flat I couldn't help but think: "man I hope we like plum preserves because we are going to have a year's worth for sure!" So what to do with all these plums....start jammin' baby!

Plum Preserves
Marmellata di Susine

1.5 heaping teaspoons of pectin
1 liter of plum mush (seeds & skins removed)
sugar to taste

Combine above ingredients boil for 5 minutes.
Ladle preserves into just boiled screaming hot jars. (Techniques will differ in the jarring process I am sure)
Cover hot jars (filled with hot preserves) with an airtight glass container.
Once you hear the "pop" of the lid sealing the jars are ready to be shelved or eaten on toast!

Friday, July 24

From the Farm to the Table ~ Cooking Classes & Dinners

Pull up the wellies, barn boots or rubber boots (whatever you want to call'em) because at our farmhouse & cooking school here in Le Marche, Italy - we head straight into the garden to pick our fruits & vegetables for every meal!

It is incredibly satisfying to walk a hundred feet from the house, with a group of guests & pick the night's dinner! If you are lucky enough to make it to a cooking class that is the first stop!

Our guests experience picking the zucchini or eggplants off the vine, checking in on the tomatoes, popping a bright red cherry tomato in their mouth then heading up to the kitchen to create delicious simple dishes with the cucumbers still warm from the sun!

With a crate full of fresh picked veggies the cooking begins!

Everything we serve is local & seasonal inspired by local traditions - most dishes only have 3 or 4 ingredients - extra virgin olive oil, salt (maybe lemon or vinegar) & the veg of choice. I may be a bit bias - but I must say these veggies are freakn' awesome - even the lettuces have so much more flavor in their delicate leaves than I would have ever imagined.

Does it get any better? Sharing a meal with friends & family around the table with the freshest ingredients prepared simply ~ creating delicious memories is what we do best!

"Farm to the table" experiences can truly transcend the holiday - many guests return home excited to become more connected to their food & start digging their own garden or expanding their current one (some have even added outdoor ovens-here's to you Primo!) Even if you don't have a garden a great way to eat farm fresh is to support your local CSA - Communtiy Supported Agriculture where you can purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

So keep on eating locally & seasonally from the farm to the table!

Wednesday, July 22

The Easist Antipasta Ever ~ Zucchini-mania!

Our farm/garden is still producing an insane amount of zucchini! So what to do with them - we've made everything from pasta & bread to simple fresh antipasti and of course using the zucchini blossoms (I'll post recipes with those too - fried & in pasta). Here is a no fail way to use young fresh zucchini that makes a wonderful antipasta or appetizer - seriously with only 3 steps how can you go wrong?!

Thinly Sliced Zucchini
Fine Fine Zucchini

olive oil

Use mandolin or slicer, slice zucchini very very thinly - paper thin.

Lay out one layer on a plate or plater.

Crack of pepper, crack of salt, drizzle olive oil, squeeze of lemon & shave parmesan over the top.

Let sit for 15 minutes & serve.

Jason with friend & guest Fabio after picking "just a few" zucs from the farm.

Monday, July 20

Castello Brancaleoni - A Big Castle in a Tiny Town

I had visited Castello Brancaleoni many times for numerous festivals, concerts & even a fully costumed medieval dinner, but I thought it was about time for a proper tour of the castle that sits above the town where we live. With my family in tow, we weaved our way through the old part of town, over the bridge, through one of the two arched entrances of this walled city- it's medieval baby! - marvelling at the crumbling village surrounding this magnificent castle.

Straight out of a film, the bells began clanging as we approached Castle Brancaleoni, who stands proud & stoic in the shadow of Monte Nerone, for centuries watching over the tiny town of Piobbico.

The castle was built in the 13th Century and was continously occupied by the the Brancaleoni Family through the 17th Century.

For a small town deep in the country the castle is more orante than you may think - beautifully decorated with frescos & stucoes (by F. Brandani), gold leafing & over 130 rooms!

Fresco painted by Giorgio Picchi in 1585

From the court of honor built in 1470 to the hall of dresses & jewllery of a noble family, antique looms & farming equipment - the castle tells the story & paints the picture of ancient life in Piobbico. My imagination goes crazy imagining this castle in its hayday! With a history of pre-Roman settlements, it's no surprise there is a geo-paleontoglogiccal, naturalistic, anthropic Museum with more than 5000 fossils (aging between 2 & 200 million years old!)

Stop by next time you are in town!

Guided visits are available to the Palace & Museum:
Weekdays: 9:00am - 12:00pm / 3:00pm - 7:00pm
Sundays: 10:30am - 1:00pm / 3:00pm - 5:30pm

Friday, July 17

Photo of the Week ~ Mia Famiglia

Please excuse my slack in posts in the last 2 weeks - I've got family in town....as you can see we've been busy catching up!

Saturday, July 11

40 Days & 40 Nights - It's Biblical! Homemade Nocino

A thriving local tradition is making homemade liquor - from grappa infused with fruits & herbs, to visner & visciolino (cherry liquors), Nocino & many many more! (It could be because (we can find 97% - 100% pure alcohol at the hardware store here!) Whenever offered a homemade digestivo (after dinner drink) you must ablige! It is homemade & thus a gift from the house....sometimes a wonderfully tastey & delicious drink that you are beggin for more and othertimes...WOW! absolute firewater! (Please Note: the saying my Grandma always used "That'll put hair on your chest" - does NOT translate & no one thinks it is as funny as I do- trust me, I have tried this - animatedly describing hair growing out of my chest because the liquor is so strong and failling every time to stone sober faces more confused than ever.)

I am determined to learn! With the wonderful Mamma Mochi teaching me her age old recipes of making homemade liquors, I revel at the thought of serving up my own digestivi - knowing I made 'em from scratch!

The recipes are all very particular & usually their is a proper date to make them, normally based around a Saint's Day - weather permitting of course! This Nocino recipe for example must be made in a 2 week window based on the size of the young green nut & MUST sit in the sun & stirred for 40 days, then brought in to sit in the dark for another 30 days!

(little walnuts)
25 green young walnuts
1 kilo (or just a bit less) of sugar
1 liter of pure alcohol
250 grams of water
stick of vanilla
stick of cinnamon
5 -7 cloves

Mix together well.

Let sit in sun for 40 days - stirring & mixing the sugar

Then let sit for another month in cool dark storage.

Filter & bottle.
You can let the nocino age if you would like - some prefer to drink immediately & those shelf the bottle for 2 years or more!

Check back as I will post a recipe for Visciolino a cherry liquor soon!

Friday, July 10

Olive Oil 101

Olive Oil 101

by Jason

Olive oil is used in everything in Italy! In the kitchen of course, but also can be used to coat squeaky hinges, fix equipment & cure many ailments. We live in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains so its a bit too cold to grow olives in our area however Cartoceto just a bit closer to the Adriatic Sea is famous for its fantastic olive oil.

I use 3 different types of olive oil in the kitchen

Number one - the every day good olive oil - its extra virgin, cold pressed unfiltered from Umbria. I buy this in 5 litre jugs and it’s excellent. It’s not very acidic or green in flavor, thus not overpowering in taste.

The second I use to finish dishes, this is our local olive oil from Cartoceto. It’s got a bit more bite to it, but not peppery. A beautiful color. This is used to finish a pasta dish or top a crostini - just when you need a drizzle.

The third I use for frying, sautéing & when lots of heat is added to the oil. For this I buy an economical name brand, extra virgin from the grocery store.

We are extremely lucky, we live in Italy, so olive oil, good olive oil, is found cheaper here than anything you can find in the States. For example, my ‘every day oil’ (which is better than anything I used in the States) is 7,50 Euro a liter. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil in the grocery store is 2,99 Euro! I once read that a family of four is expected to go through at least a litre of olive oil a week. It is part of everyday life.

How do I use my olive oils? Liberally.

It goes into almost everything. When I make an antipasta of raw vegetables (for example thinly sliced zucchini with just a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper) where there are very few ingredients & nothing is being cooked, I’ll use the ‘good stuff.’ If I’m sautéing veggies in a pan, my ‘everyday olive oil’ is perfect. And the fried zucchini blossoms get dunked in a more economical oil. This, I realize is not practical for most people. I would suggest using a normal store bought as your everyday bottle & spending a little money on something nice to finish your dishes. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on oil you are going to cook with. And you really never want to heat good olive oil.

If you are going to go out & spend twenty or thirty dollars on a bottle of oil you should be able to taste the oil first. I prefer bottles that are not very acidic or green tasting. But its really what you prefer. When you have an oil tasting, as with wine you can really taste the differences in all of them, from peppery to almost buttery & smooth. Each oil has it’s own personality & uniqueness. Remember the most expensive bottle is not necessarily the best and the fancy label & packaging doesn’t make it taste any better either.

As far as making dressings with oils, be careful because if you use a strongly flavored oil, it can be bitter in some cases. For me, the best salad dressing ever is a drizzle of olive oil, little vinegar & a crack of salt & pepper.

Olive oil doesn’t really like air or light when stored. Keep it in the cupboard in a bottle with an airtight lid if you are going to go through it slowly.

A good olive oil story…

This past fall we drove into Umbria to Citta di Castello for a Slow Food & White Truffle Festival. We ended up in a sample heaven of fresh pressed extra virgin olive oils! Ashley found it her duty to thoroughly try & retry each oil! It was a great way to taste the differences in over 20 different local oils. As we made our way around the room dunking hunks of bread into saucers filled with pools of the cloudy green life blood of Italy, in a room filled with frescos on the ceiling & admiring Italians arguing over which oil is best, we could taste fall and easily understand how these people are so passionate for the oil of an olive.

(You can read more: http://latavolamarche.blogspot.com/2008/11/sample-heaven.html)

Monday, July 6

Wood Fired Pizza - Every Thursday Night

Join us at our Agriturismo/Farmhouse as we fire up the outdoor wood burning oven, dine al'fresco family-style in the garden & enjoy handmade pizzas, veggies/salad from our garden, dessert & a quarter litre of wine for 15 Euro per person.

WOOD FIRED PIZZA - EVERY THURSDAY in June, July & August! (Continues into September weather permitting)
Reservations a must as space is limited!
call/text: 331.525.2753
email: info@latavolamarche.com

La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School
Via Candigliano, Localita' Ca'Camone

Are you a pizza lover? Try our famous pizza class!
Pizza making classes in Italy!
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