Tuesday, December 27

Lavender Love: Rosemary Cake with Lavender Glaze

As part of my lavender craze this year - I became addicted to this simple yogurt cake with rosemary topped with the most mouthwatering lavender glaze! The rosemary - lavender combination is delicate & delicious!

The batter is exceedingly versatile, as you could just as well substitute the rosemary for thyme, or orange zest, if it catches your fancy. It is best to use whole fat dairy when baking and this is no exception - we use a thick creamy Italian whole fat yogurt, Greek yogurt would work wonderfully as well. The cake keeps well for up to a week, guaranteeing a couple of days worth of breakfasts and nibbles -- that is if you can show restraint & not eat it in one sitting!

Rosemary Cake With Lavender Glaze Recipe

Makes one 9-by-3-inch loaf

For the Cake:
5 ounces/ 140 grams all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

5 ounces/ 144 grams sugar

2-3 inch sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
3 ounces/ 90 grams plain yogurt
2 large eggs

2¼ ounces/ 63 grams vegetable

Preheat the oven to 340F/ 175C. Butter a 9-by-3-inch loaf pan and place it on a baking sheet.
Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and chopped rosemary, then add the yogurt and eggs and whisk vigorously until all the ingredients are well blended. Add the dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate, then fold in the oil with a rubber spatula. The batter is ready when it’s smooth, thick and has a satin-like sheen. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until the cake’s edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. The cake should be golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle of the loaf should be clean.
Run a knife between the cake and the pan’s sides, let cool to room temperature before glazing or slicing.

For the Glaze:
½ cup milk

1 tablespoon dried lavender buds

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Place the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat and add the dried lavender buds. Let the mixture steep for 5-8 minutes, then strain the milk, and whisk it into the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until you get a smooth and opaque glaze. Pour or spoon over the cooled loaf.

More Lavender Recipes:

Saturday, December 24

Buon Natale

 Merry Christmas ~ Buon Natale
Wishing you all a festive holiday filled with pasta & Prosecco!
Tanti auguri per un anno pieno di salute, felicita' e cibo delizioso!

Thank you all for everything!
~ Ashley & Jason, cats & chickens

Saturday, December 10

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Italophile

From $5 to $500, this gift giving guide is perfect for the lover of all things Italian. Whether if it's for you or someone special on your Christmas list, at any budget you can say Buon Natale!

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Lover of Italy
1. Adopt an olive tree from Nudo Olive Oil in Le Marche! Imagine dunking your bread in your own oil from your own tree thousands of miles away on a hillside in Italy. Adoption includes certificate & two deliveries of olive oil.  - $109

2. The Marling Menu-Master for Italy: A Comprehensive Manual for Translating the Italian Menu
Stick this pocket guide in your pocket, order with confidence and never go hungry in Italy!  - $9.95

3.  Make pasta at home with the Atlas Pasta Machine, simple to use & will last a lifetime. (Skip the temptation to buy the pasta drying racks - totally unnecessary - a clean sheet will do!) - $75

4. I like to tell people to "get lost" in Italy, part of the fun is exploring back roads and small villages but you can easily get lost without a good map (and trust me, don't rely solely on a GPS.) The best of the best is the spiral bound Michelin Atlas Italy - $15

5. Parli Italiano? Give the gift of language with Rosetta Stone, the tried & true way to learn Italian at home. - Special $399

Thursday, December 8

Eat Your Greens: Savory Chard & Prosciutto Tart

Eating your greens, never tasted so good: Savory Chard & Prosciutto Tart
Nutrient rich swiss chard goes by many names (bietola in Italian), found in many colors and is a cousin of kale. Chard is a hearty green with a nice bitter bite, holding up better than spinach when cooking. Its fibrous leaves wilt nicely into soups, perfect simply sauteed with garlic & olive oil or elevated to more than just a leafy green when mixed with prosciutto and packed into a savory pie shell!

Garden Tip: Chard is a regenerating plant meaning you can cut it to eat & it will reproduce more leafy greens.
Chard Tart Recipe
Torta di Bietola

Pastry Dough
2 3/4 Cups (250 gr) all purpose flour
3/4 Cup (150 gr.) butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
2-3 Tablespoons ice water
pinch of salt

Sift flour into a mound, add the butter & pinch of salt. Rub together with your fingers or food processor. When mixture resembles crumbly coarse sand incorporate the egg & water. Knead 2-3 times.
Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

2 Cups (400 gr) of cooked, drained and squeezed dry greens (chard, spinach, escarole, etc.)
1 Cup (250 gr.) sheep’s milk ricotta cheese
zest of half a lemon
generous handful of Parmesan
2-3 slices of prosciutto, chopped
salt & pepper
1 egg, separated

Cook your greens in boiling, salted water depending on the toughness (spinach may only need 20-30 seconds, chard needs 3-4 minutes).  Drain and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the greens. Combine the greens in a bowl with the ricotta, parmesan, lemon, prosciutto, salt & pepper. Taste & check your seasonings.

To Assemble the Tart:
Preheat oven to 350 F/ 185 C

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and split in half. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch or 1/2 cm thickness and line the bottom of a tart or pie pan. (We use 9-inch or 25 cm but you can make individual tarts as well.)

Once pastry is lined in pan, brush with egg white then fill with a generous amount of the chard mixture (filling in evenly).
Top with the other half of the dough, rolled out to the same thickness. Pinch the edges, closing the tart securely. Brush the top with egg yolk. Cut 2-3 slits to allow  the steam to escape.

Place in oven, bake 45 minutes - 1 hour until pastry is golden brown & filling is bubbly. Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, December 4

Christmas Shopping by Candlelight

The tiny medieval village aptly named Candelara (Le Marche) is the host to an unique holiday market in Italy - lite only by candles. The first & second weekend of December all artificial lights are turned off for Candele a Candelara, and the city is lite only by the glow of wax candles.  Visitors marvel at the myriad of candles available for purchase (along with loads of other holiday gifts & chatchkies), glimpse a sight of Babbo Natale and sip spiced wine as they wander the glowing cobble stone streets. 
Don't miss the living nativity scene, reenactments of Pinocchio by street artists and Santa's Workshop for the kids!

The flickering candlelight, crisp air & Christmas joy make for a magical night and one of a kind market in Le Marche!

Candele a Candelara - 3, 4, 8-11 December 2011
Candelara di Pesaro (outside Pesaro) Le Marche, Italy

Wednesday, November 30

Eating Your Way Through the Holidays in Le Marche

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go..." (I can't help it!) This month's festivities are directed to the lovers of Christmas, St. Nick, Babbo Natale, La Befana & holiday markets than just food ...'cause it's the holiday season! (cue the music!)
Below is a list of annual events in Le Marche, if you have a favorite of your own - please add them below!

December 2011 Events in Le Marche

Tuesday, November 29

Podcast from Italy: Stinky Cheese, Meat Grinders, Lost Dogs & Holiday Eats

Podcast #28 - this weeks episode: We visit Cartoceto to celebrate the unearthing of formaggio di fossa - a unique local cheese that has been buried in a pit for months. The Doctor has a bad day, we make an offer on a meat grinder and readying the house for winter (things we never thought of before living in the country). And, its official, the holiday season has started, bringing with it endless eating & cooking....break out the fat pants!
Thanks for listening! 


Saturday, November 26

Irresistibly Sweet: Pear & Pine Nut Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Rosy cheeked, angelica pears, native to the Metauro Valley are found in the markets throughout autumn in our area of Le Marche. One of my favorite ways to use these sweet small pears is tossing them with pine nuts, parmesan and a sweet honey lemon vinaigrette - creating an irresistible salad!

1 small head of soft leafed lettuce, cut, washed & dry
2  small pears, cubed
100 gr pine nuts, toasted
juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil

In a bowl, juice the lemon with a spoonful of good honey. As you stir drizzle in olive oil approximately twice the olive oil than lemon juice.
Give it a taste - if its too olive oily- give it a squeeze of lemon, like wise in the reverse order. Set aside.  Toss lettuce with half the pears and pine nuts and the dressing add a crack of pepper and sprinkle of salt. Once in serving bowl, top with the rest of the pine nuts and pears and shaved parmesan.

Tuesday, November 22

Podcast from Italy: Preparing for Thanksgiving in Italy

We're back at it again!
Thanks for your patience as its been a few months since we posted a podcast! 

Join us, Ashley & Jason in the kitchen as we crack walnuts prepping for our annual Thanksgiving Pranzo (lunch). Menu ideas for your Thanksgiving are shared. We catch you up on the what's been going on around the farm since the summer and we chat about what I call "the year the fox got fat!" Stay tuned at the end for a bit of bonus footage.

Hope you enjoy -
Happy Holidays, Ashley & Jason Bartner 

Monday, November 21

The Best Way to Remove Pomegranate Seeds

This super hip - super fruit can be found in loads of recipes for the fall & winter, packing your plate with antioxidants. But how do you get to those tasty tangy ruby colored seeds?! It was seemed like too much of a to-do for the price tag. That is until now!

How to: The Super Simple Way to Remove Pomegranate Seeds by Jason:

I’ve seen everything from soaking them in water to picking each seed individually by hand - nonsense! 
There is an incredibly easy way to clean them and all you need are 2 kitchen items: a bowl & a wooden spoon. (Please don’t cut it & soak in water - it washes out the taste of this beautiful bright fruit)

1. Cut the pomegranate in half or if its very large into quarters.
2. Place the pom in your hand - skin side up, seeds down with your fingers spread so the seeds can fall through.
3. Now beat the skin with the pomegranate with the wooden spoon.  Seeds & juice will fall into the bowl - a bit of the white pith might drop out as well - just pick it out & discard.
Now that you know its that simple - test it out with this fabulous fall recipe with pomegranates:

Friday, November 18

Thanksgiving Must: Fall Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Walnut & Truffles

  A lovely fall take on a farro salad using local walnuts, pomegranates & shaved truffles atop - making it a delicious & decadent side-dish for the holidays!

 Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants and delivers amazing health benefits, combined with the off the charts nutrients in farro and the protein packed walnuts - this isn't just a Superfood but a Supersalad!

Insalata di farro con melagrane, noci e tartufi
Author: Jason Bartner at La Tavola Marche

serves 4-6

8 ounces (250 gr) farro or spelt
vegetable scraps to cook the farro in (piece of carrot, onion, celery, etc.)
1 small head of radicchio sliced thinly
4 ounces (100gr) toasted walnuts
seeds and juice of one pomegranate
shaved truffle or truffle oil to taste
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons (30ml) vinegar
parmesan  shaved into ribbons
1/4 -1/3cup(100-150ml) extra virgin olive oil

In plenty of cold water boil farro with your vegetable scraps until al dente (cooked but with a bite) - about 20-35 minutes.
Drain the farro in a colander & remove vegetable scraps.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.
In a large seperate bowl combine the farro with radicchio, nuts & pomegranate seeds. Give it a good mix and season with salt & pepper.

For the dressing:
Drizzle over the salad a couple tablesspoons of vinegar followed by three times the amount of extra virigin olive oil. Do it in your minds eye, just remember the 3 to 1 ratio. You can always adjust later.
Give it another good mix.
To finish, give it a good shave of fresh truffles, if not available truffle salt or oil works well too. Top with a few pulls of a potato peeler across a wedge of parmesan.

Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes up to a day - it needs a little time for it to all come together.
Before serving - give it one last good stir, taste & adjust the seasoning - making sure the dressing is balanced (not too vinegary or oily). Serve as an antipasto or side dish.

Monday, November 14

Fall Cooking Class: Truffles & Mushrooms

Mushroom Foraging & Cooking Class
What better way to spend a autumn afternoon but foraging for wild mushrooms in the woods, returning to a warm kitchen, cooking local recipes with a glass of Montepulciano and sharing a meal at the end of the day.  During a recent cooking class at the slow-food inspired La Tavola Marche, students hunted for mushrooms, topped their plates with truffles & made pasta from scratch all in a half-day hands-on cooking class in Le Marche, Italy.

We started the day with a walking sticks in hand, determined to find plump beautiful funghi, we headed into woods behind our farmhouse and the search was on! Almost immediately we could tell this was going to be futile - the conditions just weren't right: too much sun, not enough rain = no mushrooms in our woods. The leave-covered floor of the woods were plum dry!  We kept at it - under trees, in the dry river beds, near the creek, under the leaves - but still nothing! Not even the ones considered 'toxico.' (Which can still be fun to find & at least you know you're on the right track.)

Luckily Jason was prepared and we were able to use mushrooms for the class we had previously preserved (by freezing). So we may have come home empty handed but we'd still have a full belly!

Cooking Class with Truffles & Mushrooms
The rest of the afternoon is spent in the kitchen - eating, drinking, laughing & somehow within a few hours we have created a full meal and sit to enjoy the fruits of labor together! Jason shares invaluable tips along the way from the origins of the recipes, the importance of befriending your butcher to knife skills & food preservation.  As the class comes to an end, we pop a bottle of Prosecco and gather around the table. A few courses in I am already stuffed, the conversation flows like the wine. I hear a guest proudly proclaim, "Well, I learned today that I knew nothing about cooking!" The room erupts with laughter & assuring nods of the head. I teach them how to say to "I am full" in local dialect. The room is abuzz everyone is excited to return home & share their new recipes & stories ... and then arrives the most perfectly giggly panna cotta drizzled in chocolate and the room is silenced. At least no one has to go far and can just roll on up to bed!

Fall Menu
(Example of a typical Fall Half-Day Cooking Class)

Veal Carpaccio with Truffles
Fall Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts & Truffles

Homemade Tagliatelle Pasta with Wild Mushrooms

Braised Bone-In Veal Breast with Tomatoes & Potatoes

Panna Cotta with Chocolate Gen ache'
At La Tavola Marche you know where your food comes from; vegetables fresh picked from the garden, eggs from the hens, mushrooms foraged from the hills and fresh meat from our free-range fowl or the neighbor Pierangelo's farm. The eco-friendly 300 year old stone farmhouse overlooking medieval ruins & rollings hills is an idyllic foodie getaway!
Half Day, Full Day & Custom Cooking Classes in Italy
Read the TripAdvisor Reviews! # 2 "Things to Do in Marche, Italy"
Students celebrating a job well done after their cooking class, enjoy a glass of bubbly!

Wednesday, November 9

Taste Italia!

Pick up a copy of Taste Italia Magazine today! The November issue is on newsstands with our monthly column & recipes: Notes from Le Marche, From Field to Fork. This month's autumn recipes include: Pasta with Wild Mushrooms, Braised Lamb Shank and Italian Jam Tart

Friday, November 4

Slow Blogging

Slow Food, Slow Living and Slow Blogging.
Sorry for how slow things have been around here ... it's been a busy end to the season, lots of new posts, recipes & photos are coming!

Tuesday, October 25

The Butcher's Favorite: Bone-In Braised Veal Breast

photo by Melissa Ruttanai at Worldwinder

 Literally a one pot dinner - thinly sliced roasted veal breast with layers of tomatoes & potatoes makes for a rich delicious meal that is easy to make.  A classic example of cucina povera, peasant cooking using a tough piece of meat & simple ingredients to create rich dish fit for a king. (You can use slices of veal breast or other tough cuts of steaks or leg of lamb - anything tough with a bone it in.) Our butcher Beppe taught this recipe to Jason years ago & he's been sharing it with our students & guests ever since.

Featured in September 2011 Taste Italia Magazine

Braised Bone-In Veal Breast with Tomatoes & Potatoes
Puntine di Vitello

Sunday, October 9

Roasted Squash with Onion, Oregano & Mint

A new spin on squash: oregano & mint instead of cinnamon & nutmeg. This is one of my favorite Mario Batali recipes - best used with butternut squash or turban pumpkins the meaty flesh makes for a hearty fall dish.

Tuesday, October 4

Fall Food Festivals in Italy, Expat Recommended

Autumn is one of the best times to visit Italy, after the hoards of tourists have gone home, the locals throw fabulous food festivals to celebrate the fall harvest, truffles, chocolate and much more! As an expat living in Italy we love filling our weekends with foodie festival getaways getting to know the local customs, flavors & countryside! In these villages all across Italy, ancient 'taverne'  open their doors to the hungry masses for the few days of the festival, chestnuts are roasted, new wine is offered, musicians wander the streets creating a festive atmosphere and neighbors stopping to chat with one-another...this is why we live Italy.

  So I thought I would ask other expats living in Italy on Italian Reflections what their favorite local food festival is & here are a few recommended to you:

Saturday, September 24

Somebody's been eating our squash...

Farm grown pumpkins
Early one morning we took a stroll through the garden checking in on all the healthy plants. The tomatoes look great, the peppers are nicely turning to a deep yellow orange, the cranberry beans are ready to be picked - everything looks good! As we made our way to the back corner to check out the pumpkins we discovered all our ugly pumpkins or turban squash had been savagely eaten. Oh how the meals flashed before my eyes - pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, slow roasted - ohh that fat animal ate them before I could get a single taste! There was not one salvageable squash in the whole lot.

Tuesday, September 20

Truffles on a Budget: Festivals Full of Free Truffles in Italy

At $8,000 a Kilo for white truffles, it's cheaper to fly to Italy than have a truffle dinner in America.

Currently the price of white truffles in Le Marche, Italy starts at 6,000 Euro or about $8, 225 a kilo and expected to do nothing but climb, whereas the price of 1 roundtrip airfare ticket from NYC to Rome is under $800 on skyscanner.

Due to a dry August & early September, the ever sought wild mushrooms & truffles are scarce in what is known as the “Truffle Valley” of Central Italy. The area is chock full of festivals throughout October & November celebrating these rare funghi that have been found in these woods for centuries from the Apecchio to Acqualagna, Sant'Angelo in Vado to Sassoferrato.  A typical truffle dinner would include 40 grams - 60 grams of shaved truffle per person - so you can see how quickly it can add up when they are about $825 (600 Euro) for 100 grams, a dinner for 4 could be over $1,645! So instead of spending a few hundred dollars or more on a fancy dinner - book a flight to Italy and taste truffles for free at a festival! Each festival has eager vendors offering delectable samples of truffle products: spreads, oils, cheeses, rice, pastes, cured meats - you name it, they’ve got it  While you are taste testing, splurge on the 80 cents for an overflowing plastic cup of red wine and don’t forget to mossie on over & visit the non truffle products for plenty of samples of prosciutto, cheeses and sweets!

Bring 20 Euro and eat like a king!

 Upcoming 2011 Fall Truffle Festivals in Le Marche:

Wednesday, September 14

Mouthwatering Slow Roasted Tomato Soup: Pappa al Pomodoro

Slow roasted cherry tomatoes
 Make your house smell outright divine with this Tuscan-based slow roasted tomato bread soup, Pappa al Pomodoro. Locally grown tomatoes, in-season, peasant cooking (using stale bread)- a perfect example of Slow Food. Our tomato plants are thriving in this long warm, Indian summer in Italy, the colors deepening & the flavors intensifying as the days go by. Originating in Tuscany (about an hour away) we can't resist sharing this mouthwatering recipe at our farmhouse using our plump & juicy homegrown piccadilly & cherry tomatoes!

Tuesday, September 13

Traffic: Off the Beaten Path

Taking the long way home, we ran into a little traffic - free range cows!

Tuesday, September 6

Carnivore's Delight: Forage, Slaughter & Butcher Your Meal in Italy

If you call yourself a "foodie," pig lover, wine-o, tartufaio, gourmet or gourmand this culinary holiday is for you! Vegetarians seek refuge elsewhere because for five nights in October it's a carnivore's delight in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains of Central Italy. This fall savor the slow food & experience Italian farm life first hand with this unique holiday at La Tavola Marche (Organic Farm, Inn & Cooking School)for mushroom hunting, pig butchering, sausage making, chicken slaughtering & butchering with hands-on cooking classes incorporating the fresh butchered meats and a fabulous wine tour & tasting. The first night you are welcomed to the 300 year old stone farmhouse with the rich smells of a slow roasting fire escaping through the kitchen door, a feast to be remembered with each of the five courses paired with local Marche wines and topped with truffles.
At La Tavola Marche you know where your food comes from; vegetables fresh picked from the garden, eggs from the hens, truffles foraged from the hills and fresh meat from our free-range chickens or the next door neighbor. Spend the morning with our local butcher in Urbania for a demonstration on butchering, follow the process, identifying and trimming different cuts of pork, learning the best cooking technique for each cut well as a range of basic butchery skills. Learn the basics of the aging process, how to make salami, cured meats and sausages.  Back at the farmhouse we will stuff our own sausages to grill over the open fire for dinner! After a day of meat, relax the following day by sampling the best family-run vineyards of Le Marche with a full day wine tour & tasting. Later in the week hike into the woods to forage for mushrooms then get down & dirty; slaughter & butcher our free range chickens incorporating it into cooking class for classic stock, stews & roasts.

Sunday, August 28

Harvest Season: Top 10 Tomato Recipes

At the height of tomato season we are eating pomodori daily in every mode: raw, stuffed, sauteed, in soups & sauces!  From heirloom to beefsteak, fresh ripe tomatoes add bright flavor to any dish and with an organic garden with over 300 plants in 12 varieties there are plenty of meals to make!

 Here are the Top 10 Tomato Recipes served at La Tavola Marche (Organic Farm, Inn & Cooking School) using produce straight from our organic farm in Italy.

Friday, August 26

Another 60lbs of Tomatoes -

...and with the help of the good Dr. Gaggi, we continue picking, cleaning & jarring our tomatoes!
We are averaging about 30 kilos (that's over 60lbs!) picked & jarred a week!

Hungry for More Juicy Tomato Tidbits?!

Tuesday, August 23

Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Salad

A summer staple in Central Italy is the Tuscan bread salad Panzanella, a classic example of cucina povera (peasant cooking), transforming stale bread into a flavorful dish with fresh tomatoes, basil & anchovies.

Tuscan Bread Salad

3 bell peppers, grilled, peeled, seeds removed cut into strips
500 gr or 1 lb loaf of good quality stale bread
2 lbs or 1 kilo of ripe cherry tomatoes, (small sized) halved or quartered
6-8 anchovy fillets
1 small handful of capers, washed & drained
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 celery heart, thinly sliced
large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
couple cloves of garlic, peeled
red wine wine vinegar
good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

In a colander place tomatoes and sprinkle with a generous spoonful of salt. Toss the tomatoes a bit. Put a plate or another flat object on top of the tomatoes then a heavy jar or container ontop of the plate to allow them to be pressed & drained.

In a bowl place the garlic cloves, anchovy filets & capers. Now place the colander into the bowl, allowing the tomato juices to drip onto the garlic, anchovies & capers. Allow this to sit for 20 minutes of so.

Meanwhile, in another bowl combine your onion, celery heart, grilled peppers & cucumber. Once the tomatoes have had a chance to sit, add the tomatoes to these vegetables and give it a toss.
For the dressing, use the bowl with the anchovies, tomato juice, etc. - remove the anchovies & garlic, chop the garlic & return to the bowl with the tomato juice. Add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and about 10-12 good extra virgin olive oil. Stir well. Add a little salt & a good crack of fresh black pepper. Toss this dressing with the tomatoes & vegetables. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so while you tear up your bread.

Remove the innards of the bread, tearing it into small pieces (leaving the hard crust). Add a about 2 handful of torn bread as well as 3/4 of your basil leaves to the salad. Stir and adjust the seasoning giving the bread time to soak up the juices. If after 10 minutes it looks a little watery, add another handful of the torn bread.

To serve: Adjust your seasonings. Place in a big bowl garnish with the remainder of your basil leaves and the fillets of anchovies. Give a good drizzle of olive oil atop before it goes to the table.

Sunday, August 21

A Bountiful Tomato Harvest

It is full-on tomato harvest season at our organic farm in Central Italy, with over 400 tomato plants in 12 varieties each day yields literally kilos of fresh ripe juicy pomodori.   Endless meals will be made & devoured with this harvest of tomatoes, their flavors as diverse as their names; ranging from the classic san marzano, beefsteak & cherry Tomato to rare heirlooms such as the egg yolk, pink accordion, Paul Roleson and the Japenese black Taifele.

Tomato Harvest in Italy
 This year's harvest will be one of our largest & best season's yet, we begun a few weeks ago & have already picked well over 100 kilos and jarred about 65 kilos.  Doctor Gaggi & I planted the majority of the rows in May using starters from our dear friends Beppe & Caroline. Then  Jason spent the time this spring to pain-stakingly trim back the plants leaves giving the fruit plenty of sun. (Last year's dewy mornings lead to a vines riddled with blight or malatia.) And don't forget all the extra care & time tying up the plant as it continues to grows again & again...Plus it's as if this last heave wave gave all the tomatoes a nice strong dose of deliciousness, dangling heavy on the vine ready to be picked!

From 8-80, age matters not in the garden and we are happy for the help! Thankfully guests & friends join in to help pick, jar & eat.

Photos of the 1st tomato harvest of the season about 1 month ago:

Cooking Classes at La Tavola Marche pick fresh tomatoes & cook with them

and so the jarring has begun....

I will post updates as we jar to how many kilos we're up to and our favorite tomato recipes!

Don't miss the August & September issues of Taste Italia for our monthly column "From Field to Fork" filled with tomato recipes, jarring tips & much more!

Thursday, August 18

An Idyllic Evening in Italy: Wood-fired Pizza on an Organic Farm

From locals to guests from our the world, our Pizza Night is a hit & they just can't get enough of that wood-fired pizza... turning even the sweetest angel into a complete animal!

Recently mentioned on LonelyPlanet: Pizza Night in the Italian Countryside 

Friday, August 5

4 dozen eggs for pasta + 8 kilos of pizza dough in 2 days..Welcome to our Italian Kitchen

Dinner in the garden, al fresco in Italy
 We've gone through over 4 dozen eggs for pasta & 8 kilos of pizza dough in just 2 days......no wonder there hasn't been anytime to blog & podcast! Summer is in full swing & that means nightly dinners for 22, cooking classes 4 days a week plus its a packed house for pizza night! The days are long & sunny, our hens are working overtime to produce enough eggs to keep up with Jason's pasta production, the garden is exploding and its almost time to start jarring tomatoes!

Sunday, July 24

Garden Salad: Cranberry Beans, Cherry Tomatoes & Cucumbers

Cranberry Bean Salad

Picnic perfect! A garden salad with fresh borlotti or cranberry beans, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers goes great with everything from fish to grilled meats or eaten by itself with toasty bread & a wedge of pecorino (sheep's milk cheese).
(All the produce for this salad is grown in our organic farm with homemade red wine vinegar.)

Cranberry Bean Salad
Insalata di Fagioli Borlotti  

Thursday, July 21

R.I.P. Foghorn Leghorn

 It's been a long time coming ... our rooster Foghorn Leghorn has crowed his last cookle-doodle-doo at sunrise and is bound for brodo (soup).

R.I.P. Foghorn Leghorn

The massive white rooster, Foghorn Leghorn couldn't have been any more quintessential (with a striking resemblance to the famous cartoon character), as me marched about the yard owning the place, quick-step dancing around his ladies and herding our gaggle of hens home at dusk. He was surely a sight to see (and hear all day long!)

But after getting a bit aggressive, charging & trying to attack Jason numerous times, he finally went after me. Well that was it - off with his head! Literally.  With a house full of guests we were a bit nervous of where to clean the bird at 8:30 in the morning so we went to the side of the house. But a few of the guests noticed, took interest & called their kids over to see - ages ranging from 8-18. They said "I want the kids to know where their food comes from." It became a whole family affair as I plucked his feathers, Jason butchered the bird (with the watchful eye of Doc. Gaggi)  explaining to the guests what each part was & how he would later use it for cooking. In the early morning hours, these brave guests had a front-row seat to authentic country living in Italy. 

Monday, July 18

Italian Cooking Class Summer Menu

Preparing the dough for pizza at La Tavola Marche

 Learn to cook local seasonal Italian recipes at a 300 year old stone farmhouse & eco-friendly organic farm, taking three or four ingredients at the height of the season & do as little to it as possible. 

"I am a huge fan of The Full Menu cooking class from La Tavola Marche! The ingredients are so fresh (all harvested from a live & working farm), and you really get to dabble in a bit of everything. It's also a great class for those staying in Italy for a while and wanting to host a dinner for their travel companions or new friends they've made on their trips. You can learn a full course meal in one class and impress family and friends when you return from your trip as well!" - Fodors Forum

Our Full Day Class starts at 10am 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. Take a break after lunch made by your efforts and return to the kitchen around 3pm to start up again, finishing with dinner around 8pm.

Learn pasta from scratch, pizza in the outdoor wood burning oven or even a complete menu in a day!

 A typical menu for a summer Full Day Cooking Class at La Tavola Marche:

Fried Zucchini Blossoms
Borlotti Bean, Cucumber & Cherry Tomato Salad
Slow Roasted Tomatoes with Anchovies
Baked Vegetables with Bread Crumbs

Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato, Bread, Basil Soup)
Fresh Handmade Pasta with Zucchini & Zucchini Blossoms

Spiedini - Grilled Rosemary Skewers of Sausage, Pancetta & Steak
with Grilled Polenta

Salad from the Garden

Panna Cotta with Chocolate Ganache'

Half Day Cooking Classes—normally starts mid-morning finishing with lunch creating 4+ dishes, includes meal and house wine as well as an apron gift for € 110/person

A Full Day Cooking Class starts mid-morning and continues all day normally ending around 8pm; includes lunch & dinner, 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 € 200/person

La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School

Read TripAdvisor Reviews: Italian Cooking Class Reviews
See more photos on Facebook of our cooking classes: Summer Cooking Classes in Italy

Have you stayed & cooked with us? Please leave a comment on what you made in your class!

Wednesday, July 13

Reviewed by GreenTraveller: Green Places to Stay in Italy

Read the Full Article Here: GreenTraveller visits La Tavola Marche
Here are a few excerpts from the article:

La Tavola Marche photo: Mike Johnson
 "In the ‘farm to fork’ cooking class, the emphasis is taking the best seasonal ingredients and preparing them with traditional, local recipes."

"After the class, we all sit down to eat our efforts at a big outdoor table, lit by lanterns as it grows dark and thousands of starsoverhead come into view. Later we watch fireflies flash around in the dark before sleeping soundly, not even woken by the rooster next morning."
"This is life at La Tavola Marche, an agriturismo in the beautiful and unspoilt Le Marche region in Italy, between the Apennines and the Adriatic coast. Getting involved in local activities and traditions is exactly what the owners, Ashley and Jason Bartner, have done since they moved here from the US four years ago, immersing themselves in the local culture and language."

GreenTraveller features hundreds of amazing trips that can be conveniently reached by train, as well as a range of green and gorgeous places to stay in the UK and abroad. They also have a blog packed with tips on how to go green from leading eco travel writers. 
Ashley & chickens, photo: Mike Johnson
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