Saturday, March 31

Recipe: Baccalá Mantecato | Whipped Salt Cod Crostini

Last Spring we took a weekend getaway to Venice to see the opera La Bohéme. It was an unforgettable evening, but what was forever etched in my memory was the baccalá montecato we ate for lunch that day! (I know that's horrible of me!)  Baccalá montecato (whipped salt cod) is a well known dish in the Veneto, however we live 4 hours south in Le Marche which means it's not found on any menu or local cookbooks that I can find... And if you ask Dr. Gaggi he'll tell you it doesn't exist! Seriously, that's what he told us.  We try to keep the recipes on our blog local to Le Marche but this one is just too good not to share!

A beautiful antipasto/appetizer for your Easter Sunday Lunch and easy to make for a large group as an elegant crostini. Also perfect as a light lovely lunch with a salad tossed in white wine vinegar on the side then topped with an anchovy or simply chive!

The most important part of baccala is the planning. We buy the salt cod still under salt. It typically takes us 4-5 days of soaking the fish and changing the water once a day to de-salt it (is that even a word?!) How do you know when it's ready? Wait for the thickest part of the fish to be nice and spongy and not the hard feel as before. The thicker part of the filet will take longer to de-salt/rehydrate than the tails and belly.

Bear with us as we test out a few new formats for our recipes as you can see below. (Try clicking on the recipe & it will pop out larger and then you can print it!)

Saturday, March 24

Recipe: Braised Rabbit "Hunter's Style" - Coniglio alla Cacciatore

In Italian, 'alla cacciatore' just means 'of the hunter', and since not all hunters are the same, neither are the 'alla cacciatore' recipes! Most Americans associate ‘cacciatore' as a dish with a tomato base - well, not this version. Braising the rabbit in vinegar creates one of the most mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone dishes you'll try!

Rabbit (or coniglio) can be found in butchers & markets throughout Italy. It's savory, inexpensive and perfect for cooking alla cacciatora!  Rabbit is an incredibly lean white meat you must be careful not to dry it out since there is so little fat. In this recipe we braise it in diluted vinegar (acid) which breaks down the meat - leaving it tender, juicy and oh sooo succulent!  
I remember hearing that if you only had rabbit to eat to survive, you would probably die because there is not enough fat which is why I've always been surprised there hasn't been a fade-bunny diet (just like paleo or south beach, etc)!

 I'm not sure why rabbit gets such a bad rap (since recipes have been around for centuries) -maybe too many people associate it with "Bugs Bunny" or the "Easter Rabbit" or had one as a pet... I know many of you have strong feelings on eating a fluffy white rabbit - but isn't it the same as eating a fluffy white lamb or pig or any other meat for that matter? For the record I had a pet bunny as a kid named "Thunder" & have no qualms eating rabbit for dinner, in fact I love it!
Coniglio or rabbit is on many many Italian menus all across the country - from roasted, stewed, in sauces & even in the style of porchetta.  Give it a try, it's absolutely delicious especially with a side of roasted potatoes with rosemary!!

 Braised Rabbit (or Chicken) in the Style of the Hunter
Coniglio alla Cacciatore

Note: Chicken can be easily substituted)

Serves 4

1 rabbit or chicken cut in pieces (chicken will take longer to cook)
4-5 cloves of garlic whole, peeled
2-4  anchovy fillets
spoonful of capers
small handful of sage
olive oil
white wine vinegar
salt/ pepper
pinch of chopped parsley

If using rabbit soak in cold water for a couple of hours to extract any blood. Change the water once during this process.

Clean and pat dry rabbit/chicken and then season with salt and pepper.  In a heavy bottom pan over medium high heat sear rabbit/chicken in a few glugs of olive oil.   About halfway through the searing process once you have turned all the meat over, add in your sage and garlic. 

In a glass combine 1/2 cup white wine vinegar with 1/2 cup water.  Once the meat is seared, turn down the heat and add vinegar mixture to the pan.  Cover the pan with a parchment paper lid (allowing some of the liquid to cook out) and braise slowly, 30 to 50 minutes depending on the size of rabbit/chicken pieces.  Give everything a turn every 10 minutes or so.  Be sure to control pan heat and continue to add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio as needed to keep the pan from going dry.

Once meat is tender transfer to a warm serving plate.  Remove garlic cloves from the pan  and discard (or just mush them into the pan sauce if you like.) Chop anchovy and dissolve into the pan and finally in go the capers and parsley. Check Seasoning and pour over warm meat with a drizzle of good olive oil.  Serve.

(Pairs perfectly with roasted potatoes)

Wednesday, March 21

Attention Aspiring Innkeepers...

Do you have what it takes own an inn, B&B, or farmhouse?! Is it a dream job, or are you just "dream drunk"? The Aspiring Innkeepers Bootcamp is your opportunity to get a hands-on taste of the pleasures and pains of running an inn, with both theory & practical experience, in this unique bootcamp/workshop especially designed for those interested in sustainable & culinary tourism.

Hosted in Italy at La Tavola Marche, it matters not if you are planning to open an inn in Tuscany, Texas, or Timbuktu - this bootcamp is for you. After 10 years of running an award winning sustainable farm, inn, & cooking school in Italy, Jason & Ashley Bartner realized most have no idea the challenges & work involved in this business - and for the first time are rolling up their sleeves and inviting you to join them in their daily work. It's more than just putting out breakfast in the mornings and pouring wine while chatting with the guests at the end of the day. Before moving to Italy, Jason was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute and became a Head Chef in New York City by the age of 25. Ashley, as well, has a long history of working in the hospitality industry from high end fine dinning to golf/resorts. Their combination of intimately understanding the operations of Front of the House, Heart of the House, farming, & marketing for over 20 years in the industry make this power team fantastic teachers!

"We might have been young when we moved to Italy at age 25/26 years old, but we had a solid foundation of the operations and hospitality, so adding on the culture shock of moving to Italy, learning the language, and then how to even garden wasn't nearly as challenging as if we had been Accountants or in IT before. Not to say that you can't do this job if you don't have experience - running an inn isn't rocket science, but it does take juggling, problem solving, and at times blood, sweat, and tears! We love this life we have created here, and want to help others attain this quality of life, as well. The goal of the bootcamp/workshop is to temper fantasy with reality," says Ashley. The life of an innkeeper brings great personal rewards, incredible challenges, constant problem solving, and many lifestyle changes. The Aspiring Innkeepers Bootcamp is your chance to dip a toe in the waters before diving head first.

"It's the hard part that makes it great - it was easy everyone would do it! Both when it comes to moving to Italy & running your own business, you have to love what you do. The reality is, at least for the first few years, you will probably be working harder for less money than you are now in a corporate job. But you have to ask yourself, 'Do the ends justify the means?' And for us, it did! It's a good life," notes Jason.

The part workshop/part bootcamp will jump right into the nitty gritty of not only operating an inn, but starting a business in Italy: from creating a timeline & business plan to the social media & marketing, understanding "sustainable tourism", operations, & hospitality, as well as Italian & EU incentives for farmers/operating an agriturismo. Then comes the real work...with actual guests! Each workshop guest will shadow Jason and Ashley for the day - from the garden to groceries, the coop to the kitchen, preparing breakfast & beds, then dinner & digestive!

The bootcamp will cover:
Daily Operations
Menu Planning
Sourcing & Shopping
Farm Work
Guest Relations
Food & Wine

Along with the steps to starting an agriturismo in Italy!

The Details:
Aspiring Innkeepers Workshop/Bootcamp!

August 2 - 7, 2018
2 Nights Workshop on How to Move to Italy & Start an Inn, B&B or Agriturismo (Farm Stay): Preparation, Transition, & Execution +  3 Night Bootcamp of Hands-on Working Experience at our Agriturismo (Farm & Inn) ONLY 4 participants!

This boutique, intensive workshop is limited to four
Includes five nights & six days accommodations, breakfast & dinner with local wine daily, evening aperitivi during seminars, lunches, printed workshop materials with a take home zip drive with extra resources ,and the full presentation + a one-on-one Skype chat before the workshop to help maximize your time in Italy & prepare for the trip!

3,500 Euro/Couple or 2800 Euro/single

Learn more:

Sunday, March 18

Made in Le Marche

 This spring escape to lovely Le Marche with these fabulous foodie getaway's in Italy! Lush fields of wild greens, crates of overflowing artichokes, handmade meals & a cooking class in the countryside with a professional chef in his rustic kitchen! La Tavola Marche (farm, inn & cooking school).

Not to hate on Tuscany, but not everything made in Italy (especially food & wine) is from Toscana. They just know how to market it best!! That is part of why we created the holiday "Made in Le Marche" to showcase and share a few of our favorite, unique and locally famous artisan goods from the pungent formaggio di fossa (cheese aged in pits), Lacrima wine (a grape that only grows in one tiny town in all of Italy and the vines predate the Romans!) to the award winning craft beer and grappa of one of the last artisan family run distillers in Italy, Collesi...not to mention the porchetta (whole deboned pig stuffed with wild fennel and herbs) of Le Marche is hands down the best in Italy! Did you know the Romans built the road from Rome to Fano (via Flaminia) partly because of the fields of farro grown here?! Most people have never heard of this wonderful region rich in culinary traditions and we are happy to share it with our guests! We will eat & drink our way through the region with tours, tastings & local guides plus 3 diverse cooking classes to highlight the recipes from the sea, rolling hills and into the woods of the Apennines!

​D.O.C. Wine Tour, Artisan Meat & Cheese Market Trip, Craft Beer Tasting & 3 Cooking Classes

May 15-20, 2018 (5 Nights) = 925 Euro/person

Celebrating the culinary traditions of Le Marche with a gourmet getaway of five nights with three diverse hands-on cooking classes teaching traditional seasonal recipes of the area, a wine tour and cheese tasting with Marco then feel like a local on Friday with our very special meat market tour & tasting (including a stop for porchetta), a visit to our favorite award winning craft brewery Collesi and then lunch at the Hunter's Hide-away!

Includes 5 nights, welcome five course dinner with local wine, 3 half-day cooking classes with meals and wine, 1 day wine tour with lunch and transportation, Pizza Night Dinner and Apecchio market tour & tasting, beer tasting and lunch at the hunter's hideaway, breakfast daily. Price based on double occupancy.

Just to whet your appetite - here's a glimpse of porchetta;

And if you are unable to come then check out our 2 & 3 Night Spring Getaways in April & May!

Visit our farm, inn & cooking school LA TAVOLA MARCHE       

Sunday, March 11

{Podcast from Italy} D.I.Y vs. Hire a Pro, Politics in Italy and Food: What's in Fashion vs. What's in Season

 Holy smokes - it's a crap-shoot most days in Italy if you will get everything crossed off your to-do list and today has been epic - everything from the shopping to house work has gotten done! The fireplace and kitchen are damn near set just in time for guests to arrive in less than a week!

The cap/hood for the stove has a new whole in the wall - without  a hitch! Which makes us pose the question - when to D.I.Y and when to hire the pros...Plus And listen for a SPEICAL OFFER for our Podcast Listeners for our Move to Italy Workshops

Jason comments on Jeremiah Tower's article/interview in Bon Apetite and his thoughts on cooking with what's in fashion vs. what's in season. A little local gossip of course and the usual updates from our farmhouse. What happens when you have credit card fraud in Italy? (Pray it doesn't happen) A few thoughts on the election coverage and politics in Italy. And GPS vs. an old school DRIVING MAP!  And check out the backroad to our farmhouse hat has collapsed...

Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #117 Podcast from Italy:
D.I.Y vs. Hire the Pro, Move to Italy Workshop, Politics & Jeremiah Tower’s Thoughts on Food
  Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

Winter Snow = Hearty Veal Stew

Outside, away from the warmth of the fire, beyond the steam covered widows, our valley was blanketed with a solid 3 meters deep of snow for over a week, then came the freezing rain (we've just thawed out in time for our first guests arriving next week!) We were prepared with plenty of wood and enough provisions to feed most of the village just in case… This was the perfect time to have something rich, hardy, and stewy on the stove fitting the weather outside.  Not to mention, I'm a meat & potatoes kinda girl - stick to your ribs the better and this does just that!

Most cultures have a staple version of stewed meat and vegetables. These are versatile comfort foods that take advantage of tougher cuts of meat, seasonal vegetables, and typical seasonings cooked slowly to tenderize and bring all the flavors together.

The same simple ingredients with slight variations produce totally different versions of the same dish. Add a bit of cinnamon, cardamon, and coriander and take the dish to North Africa. Rosemary, Juniper white wine and olives brings me back to Italy. Lets’ go to Greece by incorporating instead a squeeze of lemon, dill, and parsley- Its really that simple.

Stewed recipes here in Italy are referred to generally as ‘In Umido’ or that are cooked and served in a sauce usually of their own juices.

Some useful tips for stewed dishes:
1.  Bones! They have marrow and will provide the richness for your stew. If you like a more hands on experience, use meaty bones and serve them. If the bones are not your thing, use boneless stew meat along with stew bones during cooking and then remove the bones before service.

2. Stock. Use good quality or better yet make it yourself!

3. Beware of too many sweet vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash etc. are sweet veggies and can overpower everything! Keep this in mind when composing your stew. Love the parsnips and rutabagas; perhaps leave out the carrots…..

4. Grandma was correct in that stews always taste better the next day! Make it over the weekend for dinner during the week.

Here is one of my favorites Sepzzatino di Vitelli:

Stewed Veal

1 lb/500 gr of beef for stew (or a mix of both beef & pork)
1 carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
handful of olives
2-3 spoonfuls of capers, drained
1/2 glass of white wine
salt & pepper
flour for dusting
olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
aromatics/herbs - thyme, sage, rosemary
stock, enough to cover the meat
optional: mushrooms

Dredge meat in flour.
In a heavy bottomed pot on medium/high heat, brown meat on all sides.
Remove meat from the pan.
Reduce heat to low, add in vegetables, season with salt & pepper and sweat for 10 minutes.
Add meat back to the pot (as well as the optional mushrooms) with your aromatics.
Deglaze with white wine and lemon juice.
Cover meat with stock.
Toss in capers & olives.
Simmer very slowly for 1.5 - 2 hours until meat is very tender.
Check your seasoning.
Serve over polenta or boiled potatoes.

Thursday, March 8

Let's Talk Lids! Cooking Class Quick Tip

Lids are not normally what make headlines or talked about on today's cooking shows - they seem more interested in extreme eating and food wars than sharing actual cooking fundamental! But not us! Jason was trained old school, with serious technique imparted upon him. However this is a simple cooking tip that anyone should learn no matter what skill level they are in kitchen.

Do you know when to use a hard lid vs. a soft lid vs. no lid at all?!
Any idea what a soft lid actually is?

Sunday in between painting the guest rooms we took a break to have serious talk about lids & answer these burning questions!

Here's the LIVE video from our Facebook page:

(In case you have a problem viewing this, here's the link as well: Let's Talk Lids)

Tuesday, March 6

From Snow to Spring - Time for an Italian Getaway

Snow is still on the ground but we've got artichokes, radishes, fave and Spring greens on our mind!! Join us for our 2 & 3 Night Spring Getaways + hands-on, farm to table Cooking Class during April & May at our farmhouse in lovely Le Marche!

Arrive to a five course welcome feast, made by hand with produce from our garden and local traditional recipes. The next day tie up your custom made apron for a half day cooking class including meal prepared by the class and plenty of local wine! Choose from our Pasta & Sauces class or Full Meal Dinner Party class (creating all five courses from scratch!)

Includes: Two nights accommodations in apartment PESCA, welcome dinner with local wine and half day cooking class (with meal, wine and gift apron) for TWO (based on double occupancy.)

You can always stay longer and join us for a mushroom hunt, wine tour or "Feel like a Local Friday" Market Tour/Tasting & Lunch!

Details: Spring Getaway at La Tavola Marche  or email

This is what it looks like today - 

But in a few short weeks everything will be beginning to blossom! Here's a glimpse of what Spring will bring - 

Thursday, March 1

Snow Storm + Another Podcast from Italy...

This week's podcast is brought to you by: PROCRASTINATION. When it's snowing outside and there is a ton of work to do before the first guests arrive...Procrastination! So we poured another cappuccino and fired up the mics for another Podcast from Italy!

It's been 3+ days of snow with about 3+ feet and still falling - from shovelling to shuttling wood, frozen pipes and cats going crazy there's a lot to take into account when living in the countryside. Stories from Gaggi's birthday party and the most amazing (and most likely illegal in the U.S.) samples ever at Auchan!

I took the drone out for a flight during a break in the snow and was able to capture a few great shots - editing a short video in between painting the last of five guest apartments while Jason cooks and bakes up a storm!

The infamous internet ladder!


Thanks for listening!! Podcast from Italy #116 Podcast from Italy: What it’s REALLY like when it SNOWS in the Italian Countryside! + Another Chapter of the Book Dowload/Stream on iTunesStitcher or Podbean

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