Wednesday, June 27

The Gardener's Morning

 Today, I slipped on my hot-pink crocs and joined Jason in the garden, snapping a few photos as he watered, enjoying the morning together with a cappuccino in hand and the sound of the river echoing in the valley as it wraps around our field.  

My how the garden has grown! It loves the scorching heat we've had the past two weeks however it means constant watering for Jason. About an hour and a half each morning he delicately waters the small plants, picks the ready to eat zucchini & lettuces, reties the tomatoes and weeds the strawberry patch. He could easily spend all day down here & would love to - but other work beckons, calling him away for this peaceful bliss.
Zucchini Blossoms
I came across this lovely garden poem:

The Gardener's Morning
The robin's song at daybreak
Is a clarion call to me.
Get up and get out in the garden,
For the morning hours flee.
I cannot resist the summons,
What earnest gardener could?
For the golden hours of morning
Get into the gardener's blood.
The magic spell is upon me,
I'm glad that I did not wait;
For life's at its best in the morning,
As you pass through the garden gate.
- Howard Dolf

Poppies & daisies cover the resting rows of the garden, such pesky & pretty 'weeds!'

Mischievous little Peepers hiding in the eggplants!

Yellow Onions
The dirty boots at the back kitchen door say it all...

Sunday, June 24

Arugula Walnut Pesto with Fresh Pasta {Pesto di Ruccola}

 For a peppery twist, update your pesto recipe with a new classic: arugula and walnut!
Serve tossed over fresh pasta or rubbed on toasty bread with a ribbon of Parmesan, a delicious topping for pizza or a beautiful frittata with a dollop of arugula pesto! Pesto with endless possibilities...

I love using arugula, rocket or ruccola (depending on where you're from), not only for the peppery kick but also because it grows much faster & heartier in our garden than basil. Which means we can make it over & over again!!

Arugula Walnut Pesto
pesto di ruccola

Wednesday, June 20

Figs & Pecorino Cheese with Honey (Fichi e Formaggio)

The 1st figs of the season are here, so we're serving them simply with semi-aged Pecorino (sheeps milk cheese) and a drizzle of honey from our neighbor. That's all there is to it! 
(Makes a beautiful antipasti or dessert.)
 serves 4
4 fresh figs, quartered
wedge of cheese, semi-aged sheep's milk is what we prefer
Arrange figs & cheese on plate, drizzle with honey & serve!

Monday, June 18

A Family Farm & Food Holiday in Italy: Cooking Classes for Kids

 Holidays with the kids can be difficult to plan- finding that compromise between keeping them entertained, but at the same time doing something appealing to you is never easy. Bring your family to the little known region of Le Marche, in central Italy, to stay in a beautiful agriturismo (working farm).  Enjoy a family cooking lesson, horse back ride in the hills, a visit to a bee keeper for honey and chilling out by the pool! Unplug & relax in the Italian countryside.

This region of Italy, Le Marche, is in central Italy next to Umbria and Tuscany. Not overrun by tourists, Le Marche is perfect for a mix of sight seeing and doing - medieval art and architecture, hiking, horseback riding and sun worshiping at the beach are just a few things you can do.

This family holiday is all about having something for everyone! Included in the price is one half day cookery lesson for the whole family. You will pick the ingredients from the vegetable garden and will all get your hands dirty cooking up some delicious food.

Even if all the kids make at home are a peanut butter & jelly sandwiches - they will love making pizzas in Italy! Get your hands dirty - start by making the dough from scratch, fire up the wood burning oven, make the sauce & toppings, then try your hand tossing the dough! And for dessert we will create the most delicious tiramisu!

But you don’t need to be limited to just this session, if some (or all) of you want to do more cooking, there is always the option add additional sessions.  Away from the kitchen, a horse back riding trip is also included in the price. The local guide, will take you & your family on a memorable horse ride along the hills of Urbania.

Aside from a visit to a local bee keeper for honey, which is also included in the price, the time will be your own.  You are free to relax around the pool, or explore the local area. You can explore the town of Urbino, whose historical district has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, or the enchanting medieval city of Gradara or in under an hour arrive at the seaside town Fano packed full of beach lovers and fabulous gelato to enjoy!

Make memories that last a lifetime...

Accommodation & Food
The stone farmhouse also houses the cooking school and other apartments which most likely will be filled with guests. Your apartment, named Ciliege (cherry) after the fruit grown on the farm, has a rustic style to match the surroundings - wood beams, tiled floors and stone walls. It is equipped with its own kitchen and espresso maker so you can self cater. There are two bedrooms, one double and one with two single beds. Both of the bedrooms are ensuite, so you don’t need to share a bathroom with your children! Outside of the sleeping accommodation, there is a lovely pool which is shared between you and the other four apartments.

A five course dinner with local wine on your first night is included.  As all cooking uses seasonal ingredients, there's no predicting what will be on the menu. A packed lunch and light dinner are also included in the price. The rest of the time, you are left to self-cater – you can choose to cook in the apartment, or you can eat at a local restaurant – either at the accommodation or in one of the nearby towns. 

Rave Reviews From the Entire Family
"We have just returned from a wonderful week at La Tavola Marche. Our apartment was spacious and comfortable, and the food was fabulous, especially the "welcome feast". The location is lovely with beautiful views in all directions, and being well off any main roads was perfectly safe for our two girls (7 and 5) to run-around. Jason and Ashley are wonderful hosts and went out of their way to look after us - the "family cookery class" and the daily trips to feed the chickens and collect their eggs were especially popular with the girls, as more obviously were the pool and the swings!
The local towns also have plenty to keep everyone interested if you do want to get out and about a bit. Urbino is the most famous town nearby, but all the local towns we visited had things of interest - the Brancaleonie palace in Piobicco and the mummies in the Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the Dead) in Urbania are well worth a vist to name just a couple.
All in all I couldn't recommend enough!" - King Family

Is It for Me?
Whilst this is a family holiday, the agriturismo is not exclusively for families, so there is no guarantee that there will be other children staying there when you are. This could be a positive or a negative depending on what you want out of your holiday. This holiday is all about doing activities together as a family, rather than the children having the chance to make lots of new friends. There is no tv, wi-fi or internet access at the farmhouse, making it an unplugged holiday as well. A wide selection of games & movies are available to watch on a rare rainy night. (Featured on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel Site: Unplugged Family Vacations)

None of you needs to be an expert cook to enjoy the cooking element of the holiday.  Just a basic interest in good food and eating will suffice! There is no set menu, as the class depends very much on what is growing in the garden, so best to be open-minded. 

To Book:
5 Night Family Holiday starting at 1200 Euro/family of four

Friday, June 15

Fresh Picked Cherries in Limoncello

Fresh picked cherries macerated in homemade limoncello, it doesn't get much better than that! A perfect combination of sweet & tart and to top it off with a spoonful of whipped cream!

Serves 4

 Pound of pitted cherries

3-4 leaves of mint, plus more for garnish
2-4 tablespoons of limoncello (depending on how boozy you like it)
white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Toss cherries with liquor in a bowl with a little sugar, if cherries are tart add more sugar, if cherries are already sweet you can omit the sugar. Refrigerate for an hour or two.

In a separate bowl whip the cream, chopped mint & a spoonful of sugar of two. Whipped cream should have just a hint of sweetness to it - not sugary.

Spoon cherries with syrup into a pretty serving dish or cup (we use a martini glass) and top with a couple spoon full of fresh whipped cream.  Garnish with fresh mint. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 13

Delicate & Delicious: Fried Squash Blossoms & Prosecco

A fabulous summer appetizer is fried zucchini or squash blossoms, lightly battered, golden & crispy with a hint of salt, followed with a tall glass of bubbly Prosecco! It's a match made in heaven.
You can find recipes that fill the blossoms with cheese but I prefer it vuoto, fried without anything stuffed inside so you can taste how delicate this dish really is.  The blossoms perish quickly, so cut them off the plant or buy them the day of use & keep them in the crisper section of your fridge until ready to fry.

I am not normally a big fan of fried foods (I should say I'm a big fan of eating them but the cooking & clean up can be a mess), but this dish is so delicious it's worth it.

Fried Squash Blossoms
Fiori di zucca fritti

8 zucchini or squash blossoms, fresh cut, remove the center pistil & stamen from the flower
cup of flour
1 egg
pinch of salt
spoonful of baking powder
enough seltzer water to make a thin batter
oil for frying

In a bowl combine the flour, salt & baking powder. Scramble the egg & add it to the flour.
Then with a fork, mix in the egg & enough seltzer water to make a thin batter.  Allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour. The mixture will separate, stir it with a fork a few times before use.

Temperature to fry 350 degrees
Dip into the batter & allow the access to drip off. Fry at 350 degree until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt & serve immediately with an cold glass of Prosecco.

Monday, June 11

La Fiorita: Millions of Flower Petals Cover the Cobblestone Streets in Villages Across Italy

Straight out of an old Italian film, the first Sunday of June villages across Italy celebrate La Fiorita (or Corpus Domini), a relgious holiday by decorating the streets in flower petals followed by a procession through town led by the priest, clergy, band, mayor & townspeople (men & women separated of course). This is one of the most beautiful traditions of Piobbico, not only the because of the flower petals on the streets but the townspeople that come together to decorate our little village. 
An hour before the procession, the townspeople gather with boxes over-flowing with sweet smelling flowers & vibrant colored petals of roses, lilies & daisies. A friendly neighbor has come by early & created frames with sprigs of rosemary to be filled with pictures made of flowers. From young to old they meticulously place each petal with pride.
As the priest leads the villagers through town sharing blessings, he breaks through this most beautiful offering. I nod at the Mayor with a smile, wink at 13 year old Mariellena whom I tutor in English, acknowledging the plumber too as he passes.
 I love being part this community and sharing in the traditions of this wonderful Italian culture!

Friday, June 8

Creamy Vanilla Panna Cotta with Dark Chocolate Ganache, A Classic No-Bake Dessert

As the weather gets hotter, so does the kitchen making oven-free desserts ideal, try this no-fail creamy Panna Cotta with rich dark chocolate ganache! Panna Cotta literally translates to cooked cream in Italian and the recipe is just about as simple as the name.

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Chocolate Ganache

serves 8
Ingredients for Panna Cotta
3 sheets of gelatin
scant 1/2 cup milk or 120 ml
2  cups or 500 ml heavy cream
1/2 cup or 60 g sugar
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise

Fill a bowl with water, add the gelatin and let is soak. Pour milk into a pan & bring to just below simmering, then remove the pan from the heat. Do NOT let it boil. Drain & squeeze out the gelatin & add it to the milk. Pour the cream into another pan, add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Then remove the pan from the heat, remove the vanilla bean and stir in the milk mixture.

You can put the mixture into any kind of ramekin, mold, cup, you like. Rinse your 'glass' in ice-cold water, shaking out any excess water & fill with the milk mixture. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours until set (at least 3-4 hours). Turn out onto a serving dish & serve with fruit sauce or chocolate sauce.

Ingredients for Chocolate Ganache
4 oz or 100 g dark chocolate 72% or better

3/4 cup or 200 ml heavy cream

In a double boiler melt chocolate bar. Once the chocolate is completely melted, slowly whisk in cream until the desired consistancy is reached.

Drizzle over the top of the panna cotta once on the serving plate.

Wednesday, June 6

Fresh Radishes with Olive Oil + Wedge of Pecorino = The Perfect (Healthy) Snack

The crisp, peppery flavor of fresh picked radishes pair perfectly with a wedge of creamy pecorino (sheep's milk) cheese and a dish of extra virgin olive oil with a few cracks of salt. Done. This is my kinda snack (or antipasto),  I could crunch on that all night with a few glasses of sparkling Verdicchio DOC to wash it down...

So, what's so great about radishes anyway? 
Radishes are an edible root that are easy to grow & are ready to eat within about a month of planting.  Radishes are a low calorie vegetable that have no fat or cholesterol. Considering how small they are, radishes have quite a high vitamin count (in particular vitamin C) and packed with fiber. They are also known to help fight colon cancer. Despite having positive benefits on health, many people pass radishes over at the market without second thought - perhaps next time you'll pick up a bundle & enjoy! (Here's a quick & easy recipe: Radish, Cucumber & Chive Salad)

fresh picked from our garden

Sunday, June 3

Eating Your Way Through Le Marche: Summer Festivals & Feasts

 From grilled fish with breadcrumbs to whole roasted pig with wild fennel, Le Marche is full of delicious things to eat in picturesque medieval villages. If the best way to know a culture is through its food, then I would suggest traveling with a fork!

This marks the fourth year of our extended series on "Eating your way through Le Marche"
created to help you plan your trip around food & to promote the delicious gastronomic traditions & festivals of Le Marche. PLEASE please note - none of these dates are "set in stone." It is smart to call, email & check the web sites for more information. And please add any others you know of in the comments below!
June 2012

Friday, June 1

Drool-Worthy Menus, Recipes & Photos from our Spring Cooking Classes in Le Marche

We've been busy at our farmhouse this spring cooking up a storm!

 Here are a few menus, recipes & photos from our recent spring cooking classes -
WARNING: Don't read this while hungry!! May cause you to day dream about your next meal and/or unexpectedly book a trip to Italy.
Fresh Pasta & Sauces Class with Lunch: 
Ravioli Stuffed with Fresh Peas, Fave (Broadbeans) and Ricotta

Antipasti Class: 
A half day cooking class filled with antipasti, a Spring soup & dessert- including:
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
Stuffed Peppers with Tuna
Dolce -

Dinner Party - Full Menu Class:
Creating a complete 5 course meal from start to finish in 4 hours ending with dinner under the stars.
Pecorino Cheese with Vegetable Compot
Porcini Risotto
Roasted Potatoes & Green Salad
Fresh Picked Cherries Macerated in Home-made Limoncello & Whipped Cream

So now that I've got you hungry - what class would you like to take?!
Hope to see you in the kitchen - 
La Tavola Marche (farm, inn & cooking school) in Italy
To keep dreaming about Italy - visit our facebook page for more photos & recipes!
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