Wednesday, April 28

Homemade Limoncello - A Refreshing Buzz

Limoncello - ahh that means warm summer days in Italy are here!
After Jason returned from the market the other day with 2 crates overflowing with bright yellow fragrant Sicilian lemons - we knew we had some work to do! Now I can' really cook to save my life - but somehow I've picked up the knack of making booze! So that is my contribution to the table - after dinner drinks. Limoncello is one of the easiest liquors to make with only a few ingredients. Like most Italian recipes, they vary all over Italy - especially on the length you soak the lemon rinds to the amount of sugar - so have fun with it & keep tasting it as you go! As the alcohol absorbs the flavors from the peel you will notice it turn to a beautiful golden yellow.
We used over 60 large lemons & yielded over 15 liters of limoncello!

Note: In Italy pure alcohol is found at the hardware store! (Isn't that hysterical!) In case you cannot find it at your local Home Depot - you may use pure Vodka or Everclear.

Limoncello Recipe
Rinds of 6-7 lemons (no whites)
1/2 liter of pure alcohol
1 liter of water
500 gr. sugar

Let the lemon rinds soak in alcohol for 10 days
Filter the lemon rinds.
Make a simple syrup with the sugar & water (warming the water on the stove & incorporating all the sugar).
Combine the simple syrup with the alcohol & mix.
Bottle & freeze.
Serve cold!

So easy you can make it while holding a baby!

Saturday, April 24

The Price He Paid for Farm Fresh Eggs

It has taken 300% longer than expected but I can now confidently say our first chicken coop is done! Jason & Doctor Gaggi have been down in the coop for weeks - tweaking here, digging there, repositioning. A project Jason thought would take 2 days has damn near killed him - he banged his nose with a sledge hammer, split his lip open with the back of the hammer & smacked his forehead on the final 3 days! In classic Dott. Gaggi form, he declared with a wiry grin, "At the end of your arms instead of hands, there are hammers." This might in fact be true- But the end result looks great and I know the chickens will be happy!

We have the only coop on the road with poured cement around both doors, re bar reinforcement and welded joints! We recycled old materials found on the property; door, shelves, trees - you name it, we used it! The only thing we purchased was the fencing.

There is nothing more that the foxes would love than a chicken dinner - so the entire coop needed to wrapped in fencing from top to bottom! We asked a neighbor whose chickens roam free without a fence how do they keep the fox away? Matter of factly PierAngelo answered: "Oh no, we don't. Last year they killed all my chickens & the ducks!"

Jason learned a thing or two from this:
1. Do not stare at the welding torch without proper darkened glasses.
2. Have a plan on paper- It will save a lot of time and frustration. Nothing is worse than having to rip down a days worth of work.

Jason & the Doctor are confident the chick-a-dees will be happy in their luxury digs - at 5.5 meters by 4 meters -there's plenty of space for 12 or so chickens to sleep happily & then free to roam about the property all day!

A BIG grazie mille to the good Doctor for all his help on yet another project on the farm. Now all we need are the chickens...

Monday, April 19

The Famous Frog Race of Fermignano

Every year, the Sunday after Easter (weather permitting), the nearby tiny town of Fermignano celebrates its independence from the Duke of Montefeltro in 1607 with what else, but the Palio della Rana -a frog race.

The locals are dressed in incredibly detailed classic medieval costumes - with falconers, live music, fireworks, tons of food, ancient craftsmen and a parade through town with lords & ladies, knights, flag bearing attendants & dramatic drums!

Young men run wheelbarrows through town each with a single frog on it. The runners represent the five districts of the town.

If the frog jumps off, you must stop pick him up & keep on running. There is a town medical specialist that examines the frogs before & after the race to make sure they have not been tampered with. Oh yes- this is taken very seriously!

(Fermignano, Le Marche)

The "guest" of honor is also on every menu in town - during & after the race fried & porchetta-style frogs legs are available to munch on!

Friday, April 16

Slow Food: Spring Foodie Festivals in Le Marche, Italy

(Eating Your Way Through Le Marche, Italy - Part 2)
In conjunction with our series "Eating Your Way Through Le Marche" here are a few fabulous Slow Food foodie events, not to be missed in Le Marche this April & May 2010:

Slow Food is also the moving spirit behind Distinti Salumi, the National Festival of Italian Charcuterie on 30 April, 1 & 2 May in the norther Le Marche village of Cagli. The courtyards of the town's historic palazzi are filled with meat & you can taste some of Italy's finest salumeria. Distinti Salumi website

You are sure to see us there - we haven't missed one since moving to the area:

Slow Food Salami Festival in Cagli

Slow Food Strikes Again

Then a bit farther south in the small medieval town of Gualdo in Macerata is the setting for Formaggio d'Autore on 29 & 30 May, an annual festival dedicated to cheese organized by Italy's Slow Food movement. Tasting workshops, stands and a host of other events will present some of Italy's finest cheeses alongside some of the best from abroad. Formaggio d'Autore website

Other foody events include a 9-day Fritto Misto festival at Ascoli Piceno from 24 April to 2 May when you can try a range of deep-fried wickedness from Italy and abroad. Fritto Misto website.
In Cantiano (PU) there is La Piazza del Gusto, dedicated to local bread on 8 & 9 May, the Sagra del vino Lacrima celebrating the delicious red wine at Morro d'Alba (AN) on 30 April, 1 & 2 May, and the Sagra del carciofo centred around the local artichokes at Montelupone (MC) on 8 & 9 May.

Sunday, April 11

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche ~ May 2010 (Part 1)

One of the best ways to enjoy Italy is to hit the markets & food festivals while traveling! Enjoy our continuing series - Eating Your Way Through Le Marche: markets, festivals & feasts throughout northern Le Marche. (Make sure to double check the dates & info as they are subject to change.) Add any other local events in the comments section too!

May 2010 Events in Le Marche
Festa della bistecca marchigiana - Festival of the Marche Steak
Festival of the prized beef steak obtained from the prized, certified “marchigiana” cattle breed. (localita’ Casinina)

Mercato verde - Green market
Spring event with exhibition & sale of flowers & plants.
1st Sunday

Fiera di Sant’Aldebrando
Traditional fair displaying & selling a variety of goods all day in the city center.
Sunday near May 1st

Bell’Italia - Beautiful Italy
A night of local Apecchio food & exhibition.
(Sunday to be determinded)

Antica Fiera di Sant’Ubaldo
Traditional fair displaying & selling a variety of goods all day in the center of town.
Sunday May 16th

La piazza del gust - The piazza of flavor
A festival of typical products and specialties from Marche & Umbria.
A the beginning of the month

Fiera di San Bernardino - Fair of St. Bernard
Traditional fair displaying & selling a variety of goods all day in the city center.
3rd Sunday

Tradizionale fiera del primo maggio - Traditional fair for the first of May
Traditional fair displaying & selling a variety of goods all day in the city center.

Fiera de magg
Market of typical products, local handicrafts & hobby crafts.
Penultimate Sunday

Fratta Rose
Fiera di Torre San Marco
Traditional fair displaying & selling a variety of goods all day in the city center.
Last Sunday

Mostra mercato regionale della fragola adriatic - Show & market of the Adriatic strawberry
Regional exhinition market of the Adriatic strawberry complete with conference on the berry & tastings in Calcinelli

San Leo
Sgra della ciliege - Feast of the cherry
Cherry festival with live entertainment, gastronomic stands with fireworks - all day.
Last weekend

Sant’Agata Feltria
Spring festival with flowers & plants exhibition, gardening equipment & impromtu painting.
3rd Sunday

Borgo Pace
Festa del prugnolo
Mushroom Festival in the old center of town
3rd & 4th Sunday

Festa dello signolo e della crescia
Signolo (a spring mushroom) and crescia (a local bread) festival.
3rd & 4th Sunday

Festa dei Magnafava - Festival of the broad bean
Festival of local specialties based on broad beans (fava)

Sagra della lumaca - Feast of the snail
Snail festival
3rd weekend

Mercatino della fortezza
Market of the fortress with antiques fair all day in the old center.
5th Sunday of the month

Sagra del prugnolo - Feast of the spring mushroom
Last Sunday

Festa della falciatura
Harvest agriculture festival with food, drinks & live entertainment.
Last Sunday

Festa della campagna e dei piatti contadini
A gastronomic event to promote dishes of the local traditions.
Last weekend

Tuesday, April 6

Sauce of the Month: Vignole ~ Spring Vegetables of Asparagus, Artichoke, Fava & Peas with Fresh Pasta

This dish is a great way to incorporate all the fresh vegetables of spring from wild asparagus to roman artichokes & sweet fava. The dish originated in Rome, they called it vignarola or vignole but it can be found here as well in Le Marche. It's a versatile dish that you can make as a primo or pasta dish or as a stew/soup by adding more vegetable stock (and a good hunk of crusty bread).

Jason swears it really is a simple dish to make, just lots of ingredients to clean! During the spring this is his "go to" pasta for hungry guests & everyone has loved it! The longest part is the shelling of all the fava. (For the vegetarians out there, sadly, just omit the prosciutto)

We ask just one thing of you -Please, please use fresh pasta in this dish - it will make it much softer & worth the effort or cost - you will taste the difference. We use spaghetti alla chitarra or tagliatelle (local pastas), but if you can't find those types just try regular spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.

Vignole con Spaghetti alla Chitarra
Spring Vegetables with Pasta

serves 6

12-16 oz. of fresh pasta
4-5 small artichokes
sea salt & pepper
1 leek, outer leaves removed, cut into 3-inch lengths, washed
1/2 lb. chard (or other nice leafy greens)
extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
3/4 cup of vegetable stock (add another 3/4 cup if you are making into a stew) - use the water you will using to blanch the veggies in.
12 oz. fresh shelled peas
12 oz. of fresh shelled fava (or half a grocery bag full of the beans)
one bunch of asparagus
4 thick slices of prosciutto
small bunch fresh mint & parsley

Put artichokes into a pot of cold, salted water & bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes or until tender (you can check by inserting a knife into the heart) and drain. (Tip: Jason puts a plate on top of the boiling water of artichokes so they don't pop out & stay under water!) Allow to cool, then peel off the outer leaves until you find the pale tender ones, remove the choke (fuzzy white parts) using a spoon. Cut the hearts into quarters.

Fill the pot with new water, add salt & bring to a boil. Blanch the fava beans for a minute, remove from water with a slotted spoon. Blanch the leeks for 3 -4 minutes, until tender, and the chard until just wilted.

Heat a large saucepan, big enough to hold all the ingredients, and add a good splash of oil. Cook the onion, low & slow for about 10 minutes until soft. Cut the tough parts of the asparagus off the bottom & discard, cut into quarter inch pieces. Saute for 2-3 minutes with onion.

Then add vegetable stock (the water used to blanch the fava, leeks & chard) and the peas, bring to a boil. Cut the prosciutto into bits & add in - simmer for about 10 minutes, until the peas are cooked and soft and the prosciutto has flavored it all nicely.

Chop leeks into strips, run a knife through the chard & stir into the pan. Add the artichoke hearts & fava beans and let simmer for a few minutes.

Finish with salt & pepper to taste a small bunch of chopped fresh mint & parsley. Add a few glugs of olive oil.

Toss with pasta & drizzle with a bit more olive oil for the bright flavors & colors of spring! Sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan or grana padano.

Note: You may need a few spoonfuls of pasta water if the dish looks too dry.

fresh fava (broad beans) from the garden
Vignole ~ Spring Vegetables (Asparagus, Artichoke, Fava & Peas) With Fresh Pasta on Foodista
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