Friday, May 30

Warm Salad of Artichokes, Potatoes, Asparagus & Fava

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade and when the garden is producing kilos of fava and neighbors deliver homegrown artichokes and asparagus we make this delicious warm salad! It's a shame to call is a 'potato salad' but when I asked a handful of guests, as they were eating this dish after a cooking class they all replied 'the best potato salad ever!' Use whatever Spring veggies you've got but the combo of warm boiled new potatoes with sweet artichoke hearts and bright asparagus & or fava is simply...the best potato salad ever!

Check out the short video on Tastemade to see a glimpse of the cooking class with this one the menu!

Artichokes & New Potatoes with Fava and Asparagus

Serves 4

12 artichoke hearts, cleaned (we have small artichokes, if you are using big Roman artichokes you can use 1 artichoke heart per person, cut into quarters)
4 medium potatoes (the best looking potatoes you can find)
2 handfuls of cleaned, double shelled fave beans (or peas)
handful of thin asparagus if you have them (grilled or blanched)
handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered (seeds removed)
small handful of chopped herbs: oregano, basil, parsley - whatever you’ve got.
good extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

In separate pots, of boiling salted water, cook: the artichoke hearts,  the potatoes with the skin left on whole and fave beans until just soft, but not mushy. Drain and allow to cool slightly.
When you can handle the potatoes, peel them and cut into similar size chunks as your artichoke hearts.

While everything is still warm, place the potatoes, artichokes, bean/peas and tomatoes, etc. into a bowl and season with salt & pepper, chopped herbs and dress with olive oil and vinegar. (General rule of thumb, dress with 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, i.e.: a 3 count pour of olive oil to a 1 count pour of vinegar.)

Toss gently, adjust seasonings and allow to sit for five minutes and serve slightly warm. Garnish with grated hard egg over the top if you like.

Wednesday, May 28

Video & Recipe: Beer Batter for Light & Crispy Elderflowers & Squash Blossoms, Spring Cooking Class in Italy

 On a warm Spring afternoon we added Fried Elderflowers or fiori di sambuco fritti  to the menu - these edible flowers when fried in a beer batter create a light, crunchy, aromatic antipasti/appetizer!
Serve with the same beer you used in the batter, in our case, local craft beer from Apecchio's Collessi Brewery. The flowers have a floral-lemony flavor that pair perfect with Prosecco as well.

The key to this recipe is keeping all the ingredients - including the bowl & whisk in the fridge!! It is a very light/loose batter that becomes nice & crispy!

Elderflowers or Sambuco from the tree in our front yard

Fried Elderflowers in Beer Batter

Here is a short 2 minute video taken during a May Cooking Class just the other day - on the menu: Fried Elderflowers, Homemade Ravioli stuffed with Greens & Ricotta in a 'Sugo al Momento' or Sauce of the Moment and 2 Crostata's: Fresh Strawberries and Fig Jam with Pine Nuts. It was a lovely lunch but the elderflowers stole the show!

Beer Batter for Elderflowers and Squash/Zucchini Blossoms

*It is very important to have all the ingredients as cold as possible, including: flour, bowl, whisk/whip, etc.

Serves 4
12-15 flowers (sambuco/elderflower or squash blossoms), it is important to keep the stem long to use it as a 'stir-stick' when frying.
bottle of beer (or seltzer water - but it won't be as crispy)
sea salt (for sprinkling on top before you serve)

Add a couple of handfuls of cold flour to a cold bowl, with a cold whisk add cold beer steadily mixing until you develop a light thin batter without lumps that will coat a spoon. (Think of a thin crepe batter.) - Watch the video for an example.

Once at desired consistency, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about an hour.

Heat oil to 350 F / 175 C - be sure to use a thermometer.

Clean your flowers. Elderflowers: give a little shake and check for bugs. Squash Blossoms: remove the pistil & stamen.

Dip the flower in the batter holding on to the stem. Allow access batter to drip off. While holding the stem of the flower, place in the hot oil in a slow swirling motion thru the oil. (This avoids clumping).
Fry for 20-30 seconds, until golden brown. Be sure to maintain the temperature of your oil.
Place on the fried flowers on brown paper and sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately!

Serve with beer or prosecco - something bubbly!!

Wednesday, May 21

Photo/Video Progression of the Baby Birds in the Windowsill:

All six blues eggs hatched into tini-tiny fluffy (kinda ugly) baby birds! It has taken a few weeks for their feathers to come in and we've been watching them carefully.  After a few nights of practicing to fly, just yesterday morning they have flown North with their mama to join others migrating for the summer. Incredible to be able to witness a bit of the wild - sometimes we feel like we're living in a National Geographic episode of some sorts....

About 2 weeks later...

Another week later...

And the day before they flew away I was able to get this quick video:

Tuesday, May 6

Podcast from Italy: Wine, Wi-fi and Citizenship

seeds started for the garden
Back after a whirlwind of Italian Spring holidays from Easter to Labor Day - four holidays in two weeks! A story on our latest drama with getting our citizenship, a garden update and discussion on offering wi-fi to guests. And we recant about refilling our cantina with local wine and bottling with guests! We answer a few of our 'favorite' email questions we get on a regular basis. Thanks for listening and we hope to post another soon!

and just for fun, we were out buying extra virgin olive oil for the farmhouse today, here's a short clip I posted: instagram@ashleybartner

Sunday, May 4

Video: Refilling the Cantina - Vineyard Visits & Bottling Wine in Le Marche, Italy

On an overcast April afternoon we bottled hundreds of liters of wine from Le Marche with our guests! Every Spring we refill our cantina with local wine: lacrima, verdicchio, 
rosato, pino nero, marche rosso and more! We buy the wine loose or sfuso, filling massive 54 liter demijohns straight from the winemakers and vineyards: Giusti, Antica Cantina Sant'Amico and Serenelli. Then return home and with the help of our guests, we bottle, cork and label the wine. Even with the threat of rain clouds we had a great time!!

Here's the video - enjoy!

(This mother and her daughter from Switzerland joined us for the second year in a row!)
Mark your calendar and join us next April to help us refill the cantina yet again...
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