Saturday, July 31

Whole Fish in Salt Crust - Summer Recipes from Italy

This is delicious healthy fish dish that comes out super moist & buttery every time with a dramatic table-side presentation! Don't be afraid of the name - it is not salty at all. In fact the salt crust seals in moisture essentially steaming the fish inside. Because the salt absorbs the moisture, the texture and taste of the fish ultimately is more that of roasted than steamed fish.

Whole Fish in Salt Crust
Pesce in Crosta di Sale

whole fish (we use Spigola or Orate but you can use any whole round fish you like or that looks good at the market on any given day)
pepper flakes
sea salt, coarse ground or rock salt
olive oil

Stuff the cavity with parsley & lemon slices.

In a separate bowl put 3 1/2 pounds of coarse sea salt per 1 1/2 pounds of fish, a small handful of pepper flakes, rind of one lemon and one egg for each fish & mix. (You can add any herbs you like - rosemary, thyme, garlic cloves - it doesn't matter you are just flavoring the salt.) It should have the consistency of for making good sand castles, add a water a little at a time to achieve this consistency.

Rub the fish down with olive oil and then lay a 1/2 inch bed of salt in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place down the fish and cover with the remaining salt. There should be a 1/2 inch crust of salt all around the fish. It is not necessary to cover the head & tail.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. You can insert a fork into the center of the fish & when the tips are hot the fish is done.

The fish will stay warm in the salt crust for well over an hour - this is something you can do ahead of time as pull it out as your guests arrive.

Crack the salt crust table side - for a dramatic entrance of the secondo! Use a pastry knife to gently brush away excess salt.

Friday, July 30

Podcast from Italy ~ Eating Up Summer Festivals and Who is Doctor Gaggi??

This is our longest podcast yet! We chat about the local summer festivals from the hill town of Piandimeleto to Senigallia along the Adriatic Coast and what festival food we love to order. Senigallia - Cucine di Borghi

Then we are out buying more wine from the vineyards and the latest updates of the garden. How many kilos of pasta did Jason make this week?! We address the question: Who is Doctor Gaggi…and is he really a doctor? Plus the word/phrase of the week: “Facciamo le corna”

Doctor Settimio Gaggi with that mischievous twinkle in his eye

Thanks for subscribing & leave a comment on iTunes!!

-Ashley & Jason

Wednesday, July 28

Top 3 Italian Cooking Classes in Italy

Thinking of taking a cooking class in Italy? How to decide which class to take - Amateur or expert, young & old - here's what to expect at La Tavola Marche Cooking School:

Meet in the kitchen of our 300 year-old stone farmhouse, tie on your handmade apron (our gift to you) and head into the garden to collect the ingredients for your cooking class with a stop at the chicken coop to pick up fresh eggs! These are hands-on, roll up your sleeves, dive-right on in classes. We cater to our guests at every cooking level from the novice to the professional. All the recipes you will learn are local & seasonal inspired by local traditions - most dishes only have 3 or 4 ingredients - extra virgin olive oil, a bit of salt (maybe lemon or vinegar), fresh herbs & veggies. Return with actual recipes & techniques that you can recreate at home!Spiedini - Grilled rosemary skewers packed with sausage, pancetta and steak

Cappelletti (little hats) - Pasta stuffed with sheep's milk ricotta and wild greens

Enjoy the afternoon with Chef Jason in the Italian countryside with a glass of wine in your hand, cooking at ease in our family kitchen and then devour the delicious foods you have just created! Does it get any better? Creating & sharing a meal with friends & family around the table with the freshest ingredients prepared simply ~ creating delicious memories is what we do best!

Our Top 3 Cooking Classes ~

1. The Full Menu - In just a few hours learn to create a full menu including antipasti, primo or secondo and dolce! Here is a sample menu from our summer classes:
Radicchio Crostini
Lemons in the Oven
Stuffed Eggplant
Farro Salad
Lentil Salad
Tagliatelle with Porcini
Carpaccio of Veal
Panna Cotta

2. Pasta & SaucesA perfect half day class for the pasta lover - making your dough from scratch, then rolling it paper thin by hand and pairing your pasta with 3 different sauces.Hand rolled pasta - Tagliatelle, pappardelle, ravioli, cappelletti
Zucchini and Squash Blossoms

3. PizzaFire up the outdoor wood burning oven, make the dough & sauce from scratch and become a pizzaiolo!
Pizza dough, sauce and toppings with out of this world Tiramisu

Book your Authentic Italian Cooking Holiday at La Tavola Marche ~ Italian Cooking Classes
The Details:

Half Day Cooking Classes—normally starts mid-morning finishing with lunch, includes meal and house wine as well as an apron gift for € 110/person

Full Day Cooking Classes—starts mid-morning and continues all day normally ending around 6pm; includes meal, snacks and house wine as well as an apron and The Little Recipe Book from the Kitchen of La Tavola Marche as a gift for € 185/person

Monday, July 26

Summer Sunflowers

Really isn't that what you are dreaming of when you think summer in Italy...rolling hills & fields of sunflowers! Well here you go - along the drive home from Urbania.We really are lucky to pass these beautiful bright happy fields everyday!

Sunday, July 25

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche ~ August 2010

Agosto - August, the end of summer yet the festivities continue & so does our series! Watch for lots of festivals & feasts on the 15th of August as this is ferragosto & the culmination of summer!

August 2008

Pesaro dulcis in centro - Wednesday to Friday
Evening shopping, concerts, exhibitions, entertainment for kids, creative workshops, food tastings, guided tours, culture walks, lectures & more.

Cinema sotto le stelle - Cinema under the stars
Starting at 9pm

Regional summer truffle festival, gastronomic specialties a
ll day in Piazza Mattei

The triumph of the black truffle, convention, truffle market, gastronomic stands, arts & crafts, wine tastings, music, dancing & live entertainment in the old center

Gabicce Mare
Mercatino di prodotti naturali - Thursday & Sunday at 8:30pm
Natural products market at Gabicce Monte, Piazza Valbruna

Macerata Feltria
Mostra mercato di preziosi d'epoca - 1st weekend, Thursday - Sunday
Antiques market, jewellery, ornaments, lamps, lace, carpets, artists, muscians, gastronomic specialties, fashion show, vintage cars & motorcycles and more! Starts at 6:00pm

Meractino del feudatario - 1st & 2nd Tuesday
Feudal market, evening time market of almost antiques, curiosities, collector's items, gastronomy, Renaissance costume procession, musical attractions and artistic exhibitions. Starting at 6pm in the old center.

Fagiolata in Piazza
Bean soup in the town's main square at 8pm

I sapori del castello - 1st weekend
Dishes from the past, cellars, crafts, choral & instrumental concerts, live entertainment & fireworks display. Starting at 6pm

Festa del mare - 1st weekend
Sea festival in the harbor area

Polenta festival - over the grill - taste of local food & products starting at 4pm

Sagra del Tartufo - 2nd Saturday
Truffle festival at 4pm

Giuoco dell'oca - 2nd Sunday
Historic revival with procession in costume and battles between the local districts - starting at 4pm

Palio dei Comuni - 2nd Sunday
Inter-district feud and ancient games

Local district festival, tastes from the past in Pianello di Cagli

Sagra del bostregno - 14th & 15th
Bostregno festival - a local specialty in the afternoon in the old center

Belforte All'Isauro
Tombolone e ballo in piazza - 14th & 15th
Open air bingo & dancing in the town's main square

Borgo Pace
Sagra della Panzanella - 14th & 15th
Festival of panzanella - local bread

Orciano di Pesaro
The antique market of San Rocco, XIX century market with inns, merchants, minstrels, music, gastronomy & more - staring at 4pm in the old center

Festival of the wild boar starting in the afternoon in San Crescentino

Crayfish from the river festival

Le Rocche crossbow tournament, gastronomic stands starting in the afternoon in the old center.
(San Leo)
San Leo
AlchimiaAlchimie - All day on the 26th
This event is a tribute to Giuseppe Balsamo, better known as Count Cagliostro a famous figure in the Masonic circles of the 18th century, who was imprisoned into the fortress of San Leo and died there on the 26th of August 1795. Live entertainment in the old center with lectures, dinner and a spectacular fireworks display from the fortress.

Ancoragosto - last Friday
End of summer festival at 10:00pm

Borgo Pace
Festa della patata rossa - last weekend
Red potato festival in Piazza del Pino

Of course there are tons more festivities, these are specifically for the Pesaro-Urbino area - all within an hour of our Agriturismo/farmhouse making for the perfect day trip into the Le Marche hill towns!

Wednesday, July 21

Italian Countryside, Food & Farmhouse Photo Series: Le Nozze

Le Nozze - The Wedding ~ Pictures at our farmhouse & local church from the wedding of friends, Theresa & Chris by my most favorite photographer: Kyle Johnson

the dress

the kiss

the celebration

Tuesday, July 20

Hungry for A Fish Festival in Fabriano

On a recent 'night off' (meaning no dinner or cooking classes scheduled) we were eager to get out of the house - so we jumped in the car late in the evening after all the watering was done and headed south west. Normally we drive to the coast but opted for cooler hilltop towns in southern Marche. Just in luck it was a Friday night & Fabriano had an antique festival & market filling the streets until midnight BUT the best part: a fish festival was scheduled too! Ohh this was gonna be good -we asked Dott. Gaggi what kind of fish is gambero di fiume - shrimp of the river & his eyes lite up!
"How do you know about this? Ohh those are good, we used to have them here in this river too, (motioning to the Candigliano river that wraps around our farmhouse & the valley we live in). Jason let's try to catch a few one day..." - he went on & on about how delicate they are & how special it is to eat these little critters. Sounds like we are in for a treat - Fabriano it is!

Just under an hour & half later and a drive through lovely valleys & quaint villages we arrived at Fabriano for what was building in our minds & bellies as an epic fish festival! Ah yes - that must be it - we see the filled streets, vendors & loads of antiques...more antiques...

and more - but no fish!
What?! We are now starving and its already 9pm - No one has a clue what we are talking about either (we began asking vendors, store owners, anyone we passed)- we bumbled on about a fish festival ...we're loosing steam & patience. So we follow our noses to a little osteria with the day's menu scribbled on butchers paper. When what do we have here - a full fish menu - and loads of it too! Thank La Madonna we will be eating well tonight after all! My bum barely hits the seat when I blurt out with a big smile that I'll take the special please!
Yup, I think you got that translation correct - finished! The damn fish special was finished off too! And the worst part was every single other person in the restaurant was PIGGING out on plate after plate of fish pasta, fried, grilled goodness! Quick thinking - Jason orders a bottle of local white wine - bravo! We glance at the menu & its not half-bad actually. I order mussells & gnocchi with fish & pesto, Jason orders a fried fish antipasto with a mixed grill main course. I'm not sure if the mussels were out of this world delish or I was just starving but at one point Jason says: "Ash you are literally drinking the juice from your bowl."
Me- without looking up, in the zone: "I know."

In a late night kichen mix-up Jason's grilled fish came as yet another plate-o-fried fish! (His antipasto was a mound of crunchy tiny fried fish that we hit hard, now arrives an even bigger plate of FRIED fish - sardines, calamari, monk fish, soglia (another whole fish). But we powered through & finished that off too!Finally full!

Who knows if there ever was that fish festival or not....I'm just happy we found our own version of it - a fried fish bonanza!

For more on Fabriano - FABRIANO, Le Marche
Famous for its 14 Century paper mills, Fabrian is worth a day trip from our farmhouse for sure. I can't wait to get back & do a bit more exploring ~ plus the city is packed with great gelato!

Monday, July 19

Podcast from Italy ~ All Hail Cesare and How We Chose Le Marche

Ceasare Festival in Fano 2010

Ciao tutti! We are back this week with another packed podcast! This week day trips to Fabriano for a midnight antique market and then to Fano for a HUGE festival celebrating Cesare's arrival! Plus we answer your questions on why we chose to move to Le Marche.
Thanks for listening - share it with a fellow Italy lover!
(or on the podcast player on the right sidebar)

The valley we live in & view from the 'hill' in our front 'yard' - part of why we chose Le Marche - need we say more??

Friday, July 16

Sauce of the Month: Porcini and Wild Mushrooms

Fresh porcini mushrooms are meaty & delicious but light enough for a summer pasta!Porcini mushrooms found in the woods of Le Marche on one of our hunts!

Here is a simple pasta sauce recipe using fresh porcini or other wild mushrooms. This dish is cucina povera at its best yet tastes elegant & refined at the same time. Seasonally this is a late spring/early summer dish. Procini in particular freeze surprisingly well, extending their season long after June, which is how we are still enjoying them today as this year's mushroom 'season' was highly anticipated but lack-luster at best.

We served this as one of the 2 pasta courses for the wedding we did in June. Not a single bite was left on anyone's plates - enough said! You can also use this 'sauce' as a topping for crostini as a tasty antipasta!

Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms
Tagliatelle con Funghi Porcini

serves 4
2 cloves of garlic
extra virgin olive oil
meat of 1 sausage
1 lb of wild mushrooms - porcini are our favorites
2 tablespoons heavy cream
small handful of parsley, chopped
tablespoon of white wine
fresh pasta

In a frying pan heat 3-4 glugs of olive oil & add brown whole cloves of garlic. Once brown, remove from pan & discard.

In the same pan, sauté sausage meat, breaking up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon.

When sausage meat is broken into crumbly bits & it is thoroughly cooked (without pink meat) add the mushrooms & continue to sauté for a few minutes.

Add in white wine & lower heat, reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Pour in cream, cook for 30 seconds. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper. If it looks a little dry add a spoonful or two of the pasta water.

Finish with chopped parsley.

Toss with fresh cooked pasta.

Saturday, July 10

Italian Countryside, Food & Farmhouse Photo Series: Pizzaiolo

Photographers Kyle Johnson & Patrick Wright, recently stayed at our farmhouse for the wedding of Theresa & Chris. They snapped away for 5 days the Italian countryside, the delicious food prepared by Jason and of course the wedding celebration & festivities!
Due to the incredibly stunning pictures taken by these talented artists I decided the best way to feature their work isn't in a whole heap in 1 post but slowly through the summer. I'll post 2 every few days for you enjoy a glimpse into our world - captured perfectly by Kyle & Patrick.
Here's a look through their lens ....

Photo by: Kyle Johnson
Jason's hands & the dough - my pizzaiolo

Photo by: Kyle Johnson
Dear friend Caroline helping prepare & serve dinner

Wednesday, July 7

What to do with Radicchio? Sauteed with Cherry Tomatoes, Piled High atop Crostini

Ok so what is radicchio? If all you think is its a purple lettuce, think again. Radicchio is an ancient leafy vegetable in the chicory family. It has a bitter and spicy taste, which mellows when it is grilled or roasted. Its commonly found throughout Italy & we grow it on our farm too! Radicchio is such as versatile ingredient - eaten raw, grilled with olive oil or in risotto. Radicchio Rosso di Treviso Tardivo

Here's a quick & easy recipe to enjoy this under rated leafy veg, you can use this topping as crostini, atop grilled chicken or try it in a frittata.

Radicchio Crostini

Radicchio, core removed, sliced
4-5 Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Soft cheese (we use stracchino a soft cows milk cheese)
Toasty bread

In a frying pan heat 3-4 glugs of olive oil and gently fry the clove of garlic. Once brown, remove garlic.

Raise the heat, add radicchio, season with salt & pepper and saute for 3-4 minutes as the radicchio will cook down a bit.

Add the cherry tomatoes and lower the heat to medium-low. Gently cook everything down, letting the tomatoes wilt about 10 minutes. It may be necessary to add a spoonful or two of water if it looks like its drying out.

Taste & check your salt & pepper.

Turn off heat & allow to cool. Add a healthy drizzle of extra virigin olive oil over top & mix in.
Toast your bread slices. Spread layer of soft cheese & spoonful of radicchio mixture.

Radicchio crostini

Monday, July 5

By Popular Demand: Kitten Photos!

With a current total of 9 cats we can officially-unofficially be called "the crazy cat people!" Here are a few of our favorite pictures of the 6 new kittens (about 6 weeks old). They are so hard to get standing still!

Sunday, July 4

Podcast from Italy: Chipper as the Chickens

Ciao tutti! This week's podcast we are rested & refreshed after a much needed day off & trip to the beach to swim in the Adriatic coast! Bright & early we are chipper & ready to start the day. We chat about our favorite menu/cooking class of the week - Jason shares a few recipes. And of course the word/phrase to learn - this week it's in local dialect!

Listen to our latest Podcast from Italy on iTunes!

Recipes mentioned on our podcast: La Tavola Marche Recipe Box

Thanks for all the wonderful comments, keep them coming & let us know what you would like to hear us talk about - food & recipes, local towns, culture, how to get a visa, etc.guests dinning al fresco at our farmhouse:
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