Sunday, February 26

Perfect Sunday Side Dish: Braised Fennel with White Wine

Photo: Simply Recipes
Fennel is a versatile vegetable that is often looked over for being too tough. Braising is a great way to soften this hearty bulb is known to aid in digestion. The acidity & fruitiness of the wine compliments the anise flavored fennel and with a good drizzle of olive oil it finishes this dish perfectly.  Serve with meat!

Braised Fennel with White Wine
finocchio al vino bianco

Friday, February 24

Surprising Discoveries in the Industrial Zones of Le Marche

From the outside you'd never know what's going on behind those doors.

 Totally random tidbit: Next time you cruise past an industrial zone (zona industriale) in Le Marche - take a closer look, you'd be amazed at what's inside! 

Thursday, February 23

Sausage & Salami Curing Update: 250lbs+ of Meaty Goodness

Homemade dried sausages, ready to be eaten!
As the snow began to fall in what is the biggest snowstorm of the century in Italy, we got to work making an additional 25 kilos of salami & sausages to be cured with our friend Milud (adding to our grand total of over 250 lbs of meat to be cured). This time we mixed it up a bit and made dried sausages with fennel seeds, spicy red pepper flakes and one with meat from a different farmer. Dr. Gaggi was just itching to be here to over-see the operation but was unable to make it due to the snow. The newly restored 'meat machine' not only worked perfectly but looked brand spanking new! Jason did a great job painstakingly restoring the meat grinder from rusted metal junk to a working tool that will be used for years to come.

Wednesday, February 15

Decadent Lasagna Bianco with Porcini & Sausage

During the snow storm of the century in Central Italy, I can't think of a better way to warm up than devouring a plate of rich & creamy pasta with a good bottle of red after a day of shoveling the drive. Perfect for a cold winter's night, lasagna bianco,  'white lasagna' is made with porcini mushrooms, sausages & bechamel, a local classic in northern Le Marche. A refined take on the usual red sauce classic, that will have your mouthwatering for more after the first bite. 

Extra Delicious Tip: Make sure to have your pasta sheets large enough to hang over the edges creating golden crispy edges!

Lasagna Bianco
White Lasagna

Saturday, February 4

Podcast from Italy: Snowed-in Fireside Chat

Italy is blasted by a Siberian storm & we are snowed-in! In a rare evening podcast from our frozen farmhouse we talk about things that come along with severe weather & living in the countryside that we've never experienced before! And as the snow accumulates to over 4 feet, we contemplate our next move.... (Check out the photos on Facebook: Snowmagedden 2012: Snow in Italy)

Wednesday, February 1

Food for Thought: A 12 yr old learns the true price of food, taking the "Omnivore’s Dilemma" to heart.

 I recently received an extraordinarily eloquent email from a former guest & cooking class student, twelve year old Noah, sharing his emotional experience slaughtering a chicken at camp. (We met Noah & the rest of his family last year when they came to cook, he was one of the most engaged & well-informed students we ever had, no matter the age.) This is worth the read and even more amazing when you realize he is just a kid, who understands more about where his food comes from & his connection to it than most adults grocery shopping for their families.

His words perfectly capture my feelings, not only the heart-pounding experience of our first chicken slaughter but why we proudly raise our animals to eat.

 Here is an excerpt of Noah's essay:

Life is a journey, ups and downs included. Along that way, sudden realizations spring across your path, and there is no other option but to experience and consequently be changed by them. One of those striking moments happened to me at Farm and Wilderness camp last summer, when I slaughtered a chicken.

Without electricity and not much  contact with the outside world, growing our own food was a necessity, and that  included slaughtering our own meat. Doubtfully, I scribbled my name on a list  spotted with grimy fingerprints, feeling like it was my own death sentence  instead of a bird's. One misty Sunday later I stood under a tent, watching  others kill, pluck, and butcher their chickens. The line shortened, and suddenly  I was next. The chicken was on the stump, its fiery plumage dully gleaming with  the glare of midday.  My axe was raised, and I swung. I will never forget what it felt like
The axe burrowed deep into the wood, and where a living thing stood  before there was now just unprocessed meat.

With tears on  my face, we went through the process, and in less than 10 minutes, a  living chicken was turned into one of the carcasses that are kept in the refrigerated meats section at a grocery store. This was the true price of food, a lesson hard learned but important. After, I saw the food on my plate with more gratitude and respect than before. I decided  that, as a chicken eater, I should experience how it gets on my plate. Before camp, I had never made the connection between "farm and fork." Chickens, as well as other meats and produce, went into one end of the agribusiness factories as raw materials and came out the other end as things I could eat. I had read the Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids many times, but to see what was meticulously described was completely different. 
I realized what the true price of food was and it isn't $3.99 a pound. 
It is hours of work, having to get up at  6:00 am on cold rainy mornings to feed the chickens, and, ultimately, an animal's life. To quote Michael Pollan, "meat doesn't come in sealed plastic  bags."  But with that understanding came another feeling, a feeling of pride. Not  because I had killed a chicken, but because I had taken responsibility for  eating it. I had no longer averted my eyes while someone else slaughtered the chicken I ate, and no longer paid someone else for taking care of it for four months. I took full responsibility for that chicken's life and I had every right to eat it. Before I felt guilty because I had benefited in the results of  others work while never doing the work myself, but now I was as qualified as anyone.

It took hours of work, countless mornings getting up at still-dark  hours, and the life of a chicken for me to feel proud about what I eat and learn the true price of food. It is a lesson that should be learned by all people living on Earth, because it's what is keeping us alive. 

For now, my conscience  and my stomach are both satisfied.
-Noah the Foodie
That's Noah on the left with his mom & grandparents
That coming from a 12 year old!
Noah continues to take weekly cooking  lasses and it seems that his interest in food and cooking is just growing  stronger! He may just be the next Michael Pollan....
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