Italy Trip part 3

As I mentioned in Part 2, El Pompiere was the best place we ate in Italy.

Before I continue, let me post this “Google” picture of the awesome restaurant we had lunch at when we were in Verona.  As I said, it set a high standard for all the other meals we had in Italy. And thanks to our driver from Sunny Tuscany for the great choice.

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After shopping the market for ingredients, we went to Emanuela’s home (a lovely flat tucked in a private courtyard in the center of Venice). I was so stunned at the views from any windows in her home, I had trouble concentrating on what she was sharing with us. In Italy most kitchens in older building are small. As we teach here in our classes, mise en place is essential to a well executed menu. Ours was Pizza, and a wonderful tomato timbale. I will share the recipe for the pizza in this post.

As soon as we entered the flat, we were shown the work area.  Mise en place was in envidence.

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Even though kitchens in Italian apartments are typically small and compact. The food that comes out of them is anything but small. I loved looking at all the different types of equipment that Emanuela had in her kitchen. She made the most wonderful espresso I have tasted.

Emanuela and her housekeeper prepared the sauce for the pizza. It needed to cool, so she started it before we went to the market.

IMG_3630 (1)Each ingredient was carefully measured. The dry flour was weighed, not measured from a cup measurement. The pizza dough was mixed, kneaded, and left to rest. The girls volunteered to slam it against the workbench (which helps develop gluten).


PIZZA

800g plain white flour

200g wheat flour (gran duro)

600 ml warm water

5 tablespoons olive oil

25g yeast

1 tablespoon honey

15g salt

for the topping

two cans of skinned & crushed tomatoes or fine chunks (or prepared sauce like Mutti).

350g mozzarella cheese

1 small jar anchovies

1 small jar capers

salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the honey, then gently mix in the flour and, lastly, the salt

and the oil.

Work the dough very well, beating it to give it elasticity – this means picking it up and pounding it

down on the board. A hundred times will do nicely.

Allow it to rest for two hours in a warm place away from drafts.

Lay the pasta down on a baking tray, extending it with your fingers. Spread the crushed

tomatoes/tomato chunks, anchovies and capers on top and place in an oven pre-heated to

200°C.

The mozzarella goes on 5 minutes before the pizza is finished cooking.

The pizza should cook for about 20 minutes.

IF YOU AREN’T SIGNED UP FOR NOTIFICATIONS ON NEW POSTS I HOPE YOU WILL DO THAT WHILE YOUR HERE.  SEE YOU SOON.

A SUMMER TRIP WITH OUR GRANDDAUGHTER

Sorry it has been so long since I posted.  I got really busy this summer and got really lazy too I think.

But, we did make it to Italy….and I have lots of news to share about the trip.

A few months ago I went to Italy and Sicily for two plus weeks. It was a return trip for myself and my husband and a first time trip for my granddaughter who graduated from high school this year and started a new exciting life at college. I hope that she came home with the same admiration of life in Italy that we came home with.  I wanted her to have a special memory of our time together.

We had a great travel agent to work with, she did all the tedious work that I had not been able to find time to do, Mary Ann Vandenberg, CCT, TRAVELS WITH TASTE, phone 913-648-0858.  If you are considering a trip give her a call, she is absolutely the greatest at getting just the right people, places and events scheduled.

Part of my granddaughter’s heritage is Sicilian, as is my husbands.  It will be in part a sojourn to  walk the same streets, visit the same church’s as their ancestors walked, to get the sense of belonging that only a tie to a long passed relative can give one.  I think we all wonder “where we came from”  “who were the hardy people who left Europe and their known life”, and came to America, in most cases with little or no money.  A strange land where people didn’t speak the same language, the customs were to be learned, survival on a daily basis very much at the front of their consciousness.  There is something very grounding and magical about being able to connect with one’s roots.

In an effort to spend as little time as possible on a plane, we flew into Milan, and from there took a wonderful guided car trip thru the countryside to Verona, the site of the magical Romeo & Juliet balcony.

Our guide took us to a little restaurant for lunch after we stopped to visit Juliet, and the food was spectacular.  It set a very high goal for the entire trip.  But the food in Italy is so different than our food here.  It isn’t processed, made weeks ahead from something shipped 1800 miles.  As we would see all through our trip, each town has it’s own fresh food market, and the locals buy produce, fish, meat, breads on a daily basis.  I am sure the nonna’s would be horrified to know that I have 7 refrigerators and freezers.

Being from the wide open spaces of America, it is amazing to realize that when in Italy I can get from one side of the country to the other in a matter of hours.  The trains and bus services in Europe are much more developed and friendly that the U.S.  

When we were in Italy 4 years ago, we had a fantastic guide while we were in Venice for our very quick stop.  We were fortunate that he was available for us this trip also.  Andrea Perego and Edward Smith are the best guides to have.  They live in Venice, in fact Andrea was born there.  I suppose no matter how much time I spend in Italy, I would always think it was too short.  But at least this trip we didn’t  have to leave and board a cruise ship.  While cruises are fun, it’s no way to see a country.

Venice is a magical city.  This year was the Biennale, which is a focus on art, dance, architecture, cinema and theatre.  Some building that are being used now to show art from all around the world are not ordinarily open to the public.  We visited the several building that housed exhibitions and the interiors of these homes was totally amazing.  I think the thing that sticks with me is that in Europe, building are saved, there isn’t enough area to just abandon buildings and go build new ones.

We went through the Doge’s Palace, St. Marks Cathedral, Peggy Guggenheim museum.  The hotel we stayed at is out on an Island.  Quite a magical place in itself.  The Cipriani Hotel is something to be enjoyed if you ever go to Venice.

Each week I will show you more pictures and share more thoughts about Italy, food and ancestors.

THE FIGHT OF THE BLUMBLE BLEES

I am still harvesting herbs, trying to think of a million ways to preserve them short of hanging them from the ceiling in every room in the house. I just hate to think of any of them going to waste. So I freeze them, make pesto out of them, give them to the unsuspecting neighbors. I am even making Herb Oil. It really is delightful, and we will get to that shortly.

BUT,,,,,, there seems to be this guard bee in the yard. I have no idea what kind of a creature it is, but it is BIG, REALLY BIG, and it does stand guard over parts of MY garden. He/she and I need to come to an agreement that it’s quite OK for me to carry on out there cutting whatever I need without having to dive back and forth worrying about this very large bee thing coming after me. Now I’m not timid by nature,, but I sure as heck am not stupid either. And this thing is BIG. And it doesn’t look like it is playing around. When I get too close to an area that it is circling, it really dives close to my head. It starts to come after me, stops, turns the other way (almost as if it is saying “scared ya didn’t I” or “do you really want to make me mad lady?” ) and then turns instantly, hover in midair, and comes right back. It is lightning fast. And on the return trip I give in and run like a sprinter back to the house. I would take a picture for you to appreciate, but he/she is much too quick and besides, I am not sure it wouldn’t come swooping down, take my camera and drop it on my head.

Now, back to herb oil. It is quite easy to make. It will last for several weeks. But there are safety measures you need to be aware of for making herb oil. Wash all you herbs well, and dry them one whole day hanging. The moisture must be gone. The reason for this is moisture in the herb oil can cause botulism. It cannot grow in the oil if the herbs are dry and the containers is dry. So be sure that you have a completely clean and dry container and dry herbs. Fill the container with herbs that you have bruised to help release some of their essential oils, and them fill the container with your choice of oil. You may choose to use extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or another NON GMO oil. But choose an oil that is light in flavor so it won’t over power the herbs. Let them sit overnight up to a week in a cool dark place capped tightly. Check the flavor occasionally to see if it is as strong as you desire. Then strain the oil through a fine strainer with cheesecloth into a “dressy bottle” of your choice that is equally clean and dry. If you decide to put a piece of new herb in the bottle to dress the finished oil, that is fine, but make sure it is clean and dry before you add it. It will last about 2 weeks in the refrigerator that way.

The oil is so good drizzled over pasta, with a grind of sea salt, pepper and grated cheese. Imagine how good the rosemary oil is drizzled over lamb just off the grill. How about just added to red pepper flakes, garlic powder and a grated cheese, a little lemon juice, for a bread dipping oil. There are so many uses, it won’t last long.

Until next time, cook something you enjoy. Food is the path to happiness. Peace can be found over the table, feed your neighbor instead of making war.

Join me next time for a look at some other visitors to my yard. You won’t believe who has been in my bird feeder.

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The best part of growing herbs is eating them

It has been a busy month since I last sat down to write a note. Just one thing right after another. But with all the interruptions the one constant has been my herb garden. It just keeps growing. My basil got so thick I had to cut it yesterday and decided to make a batch of pesto. I love pesto. It is so good on pasta, with chicken, veggies, a big handful of fresh grated cheese and a drizzle of bright pure first pressed olive oil. But it is also good mixed in a little mayo as a sandwich spread, great on a cold pasta salad, good to dress blanched green beans. If you run out of things to use it on it freezes beautifully. Just put it in a plastic bag and get all the air out of it, fold it over, and it will freeze really well.

 

You need– 3 cloves garlic, 1 cup parmesan cheese, 1/3 pine nuts toasted , washed and sorted basil about 2 cups, 1/2 olive oil and additional to cover top of pesto in container, salt and pepper to taste. All this is gently pulsed in a food processor and voila’ you have PESTO.

{One little note, if you can’t find Italian Pine nuts (versus ones imported from China) you can use almonds. The reason I mention this is there is some thought that there is a thing called “pine nut taint” that affects ones taste buds after consuming pine nuts sourced from China. You can do a search on it for further information and form your own opinion, but I personally try to stay with US sourced pine nuts or Italian sourced nuts. New Mexico is a source for the nuts also. They can be found. And believe me, if you have gotten the toxic taste, you won’t use them again.

Well, until next time, enjoy. If you have time, join me next Saturday at Natural Grocers, in Overland Park, Kansas. for a Cooking Class. Begins at 1pm. First come, first seated. Look forward to seeing you there. Check their web site for details-www.http/naturalgrocers.com

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