Wednesday, November 28

I ❤ Root Vegetables {Roasted Heirloom Beets & Carrots}

Move over mashed potatoes! This winter why not try something different like roasted root vegetables?  Parsnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, fennel, etc. go great with rich meats or as a side dish or antipasto. As autumn comes to an end and fresh vegetables are harder to come by we like to mix and match our root veggies. For example why not add potatoes or carrots to your mashed potatoes adding a bit of color and complexity to the taste.  It's easy to do too, simply peel the carrots or beets and dice and boil in the same pot as the potatoes. Then mash'em, adding in your butter and milk. You can also braise or grill certain root vegetables.

On a side note: I grew up hating beets because my parents forced us to eat them from a can! It was horrific. I promise you that fresh picked beets taste nothing like the tinned variety.

Root vegetables are rich in nutrients, low in fat and calories, inexpensive and usually available throughout the year.  Beyond that, they have wildly varying characteristics.  Radishes are pungent, carrots sweet, beets earthy.  Others, like parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas, have more subtle flavors. Root vegetables preserve well in the ground or in a dry cool place.

Fresh from the garden carrots and "candles of fire" beets

Roasted Root Vegetables

Keep in mind that different veggies have different cooking times. For instance the beets will need to be boiled & skinned first, where as the carrot can be roasted raw.

serves 6

1 bulb fennel
2-3 med. beets (we use a long variety, but you can use the classic round beet as well)
a bunch of baby carrots or 2-3 normal carrots, peeled & left whole
couple cloves of garlic, skins removed
handful of parsley leaves, whole
salt & pepper
olive oil

In a pot of boiling water, cook the beets until a knife easily slips through them. Drain & allow to cool. Once you can handle them, rub the beets with a damp kitchen rag & the skins will slough off. If you are using long beets like the photo above, simply quarter them length wise. For the traditional round beets, cut them into 1 inch square chunks.

Take the fennel, cut in half & remove the bottom core by cutting an inverted ‘V’ at the base.   Then simply slice the fennel lengthwise into inch wide pieces.

If you have baby carrots, just clean them up & throw them in whole, they look gorgeous! If not, cut your carrots by quartering them lengthwise - use your judgement & try to keep your cuts similar to the size of your fennel.

Toss all the root veggies in a bowl with a couple cloves of garlic left whole, a few pinches of salt & crack of pepper, finishing with 2-3 glugs of olive oil. Toss everything together & layout out a baking pan with parchment paper.

Bake in a hot oven 400 F or 200 C for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven, give everything. If you have a convection setting turn it on now, if not raise the temp. to 425 or 215 C. Continue roasting for another 15-25 minutes depending on the size you cut your vegetables. The cooking time is generally about an hour in total, I like to keep it in until the edges get the burny crispy edges. Five minutes before the veggies are done add you whole parsley leaves atop & give it another turn. Be careful not to leave it in too much longer, you don’t want the parsley to burn, but just wilt.

Serve with a drizzle of really good olive oil & serve with anything: roasted chicken, grilled meats, fish, put it on cibatta bread with soft cheese - all by itself, you name it, it’s delish!

Thursday, November 22

It's that time of year...

It's not all sunny days, cock-a-doodle doo's and farm fresh eggs when raising chickens on a farm, there is the cold hard truth, death is inevitable. Either by our hands or the teeth of a wild beast our hens meet their demise every winter. I know I am risking PETA protests (as if we are on their radar!) by evening discussing this - but it's part of country life. Our hens and roosters have a great life- wandering about our property, chasing bugs and chirping away, producing gorgeous protein rich brown eggs, however we know what they are there for, food. In the most humane way possible we slaughter our chickens ourselves, pluck their feathers and butcher them on the spot. It's a messy day that doesn't ever get any easier as the years pass. 

It's truly the "omnivore's dilemma" - can you kill what you eat? And the answer for us is yes, but it changes you. My twenty year old brother is here visiting from the States and helped us, he thought it would be 'cool' talking tough before the big day, but instead he was left feeling "confused." But he began to understand the true price of food and it's not just $3.99 pound.  We've learned first hand there is a different relationship with your food when you raise it, kill it, clean it and eat it. It's not just a piece of meat wrapped in plastic found in the frozen food section. There is much more responsibility and respect for everything - the life the chicken leads, the food we feed it, how we slaughter them and the dishes that will be prepared.

This years hens were slaughtered to be part of our Thanksgiving Feast we host for 30 our friends and neighbors. Jason will make a rich chicken stock for his pumpkin/squash soup and we will honor a few of our neighbors by giving them a hen to give thanks for all they have done to help us this year. And luckily our neighbors understand what a gift it is. The rest will be saved for Christmas and cappelletti in brodo or roasts in the winter.

I wanted to post this because it's part of our crazy life here and I think this aspect is important to share & discuss: not to feel guilty, but to truly reflect and give thanks for this delicious meal we are about to eat. (For more on this take a moment to read a story from a 12 year old guest: Food for Thought)

Let the comments begin.....

Monday, November 19

{New Episode} Podcast from Italy: The Dirty Part of Country Life & Turkey Talk

Still smiling at the end of another crazy season!
This week we chat about closing down the house for winter now that the guests are gone, road tripping through Europe and the dirty deed of slaughtering chickens. Then we turn the conversation to Thanksgiving and turkey-talk with how & why to brine a turkey. We interview my younger brother Jerome on his first impressions of Le Marche and the food of Italy. 

Listen and subscribe to Podcast from Italy on iTunes

To All our Guests, Thanks for another great crazy season & all the wonderful memories!!! 
- J&A

Sunday, November 18

The Best Thanksgiving Recipes from the Best Bloggers

It's not too late to finalize your Thanksgiving menu with some drool-worthy recipes in The Best Thanksgiving Recipes from The Best Bloggers!  The book is filled with beautiful photos of delicious fall recipes from seriously some of the top food bloggers out there including: Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille, Kristy Bernardo of The Wicked Noodle, Elizabeth Nyland of Guilty Kitchen, Sommer Collier of A Spicy Perspective, Najwa Kronfel of Delicious Shots and TWO recipes from us!!

Check out Swoop's new ebook The Best Thanksgiving Recipes from The Best Food Blogs available on for $1.99. The best part is that 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Feeding America.

Friday, November 16

Gorgeous on your Plate: Pumpkin Risotto

 A rich and creamy seasonal dish perfect for fall and a delicious addition to your Thanksgiving feast is Pumpkin Risotto. Make extra because the next day a risotto pancake (with a few sunny side up eggs) is amazing!! It takes a bit of time, but easy to make and gorgeous on your plate!

Don't believe the hype that you don't have to stir. You really do have to keep the spoon moving to massage the starch out of the rice to achieve a creamy constancy. It's worth twenty minutes of your time. Once you get it down, it's easy to become proficient at making risotto. Have fun, switch it up. The great part of this dish is that you can replace the pumpkin with any vegetable you like - try radicchio with a drizzle of aged balsamic from Modena for example.

Pumpkin Risotto
Risotto di Zucca
Serves 6

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
3 big handfuls of diced pumpkin (about 3 cups or 400 gr) butternut squash or sugar baby
5 cups or so fresh vegetable or chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
scant 2 cups risotto rice - Arborio or Carnaroli are best
salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese
sage leaf or tig of thyme (optional)
few tablespoons of cream (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan over low heat, add the onion & garlic and a little salt and pepper and sweat for 10 minutes or so with out browning.

Next, add  the pumpkin with a few spoonfuls of vegetable stock and cook them slowly until tender. Then raise the heat, add the rice and herb sprig and saute for a minute or two. Add in the wine and let it cook out but be sure to continuously stir.

Season with a little salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in another pot and check that the rice is now on a medium low heat. 

Add a ladle-full of the hot stock to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it has been absorbed.

Continue adding the stock, a ladle-full at a time, constantly stirring until each addition has been absorbed. This will take 18-20 minutes.

When the rice is al'dente, turn off the heat, add in a handful or two of graded cheese and give the rice one more stir, check seasoning. Rice should be thick & creamy but not runny. Cover the pot and allow the rice to sit for a couple of minutes. Make sure to remove the thyme sprig or sage leaf.

To serve, spoon the rice into the bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

If you like to make the rice a little richer, try adding 2 tablespoons cream at the point when the Parmesan is incorporated.  

Sunday, November 4

From Vine to Glass: The Grape Harvest Photos

Photos of the wine harvest la vendemmia in Morra d'Alba (Le Marche) at Azienda Giusti, our most favorite, passionate wine maker! 

From Vine to Glass:

The happiest wine maker in Le Marche, Giusti

Thank you Kelly @The Meaning of Pie for sharing a few of the gorgeous photos!

Friday, November 2

Pasta with Wild Chanterelle Mushrooms

This has been a stellar season for mushroom hunting, collecting kilos of funghi from the woods surrounding our farmhouse Jason has made countless dishes incorporating the wild mushrooms. And to top it all off Gaggi stopped by the other day with a basket full of chanterelle or gallinaccio mushrooms. As soon as Jason laid eyes on these delicate golden mushrooms he knew he'd make fresh pasta and a simple sauce to let the chanterelle shine!
 Pasta with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Tagliatelle con Funghi

serves 4
2 cloves of garlic
extra virgin olive oil
meat of 1 sausage
1/2 lb of chanterelle or other wild mushrooms like porcini
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.
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