Part 5 Italy trip

    
  
  
  
There isn’t much more to say about Venice because in this case pictures speak louder than words. It is a magical city, and with a great guide such as we had in Edward myfriendinvenice.com, you can know you have seen a side of Venice that is only open to “insiders”.

We will return –it’s impossible to think we would never visit again.  The life beat of Venice gets into your very soul-it becomes a friend you must reunite with.

Our next stop was Sicily. We flew into Rome and transferred to a flight to Palermo.  This was a very important visit for us because it is my husbands family ancestral land. His Grandfather came to the United States in the early 1900’s.  We wanted to visit the town they were born in-Termini Imerese.

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.

20130729-164017.jpg

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

20130714-173311.jpg

Things that remind me of Italy

We went to dinner last week with friends, and visited a restaurant that served a dish that always makes me think of Italy. Both because my Italian friends here fix it a lot, but also because it is to be eaten almost everywhere in Italy. Fritto Misto Di Pesce. Of course, when one eats in Europe, the fish and the vegetables that are fried crispy are what is freshest at the market and what is caught that day.

I was absolutely thrilled to walk through the many markets and small stores in each town we visited in Italy. They don’t have large super markets like we do here in the United States. And Europeans don’t ship their food hundreds of miles in a green state, gas it, and then hope for the best as it lays on a store shelf for customers to purchase. They eat what is harvested in season, close to their towns. The markets are surrounded with tiny stores of all kinds, specializing in pasta, meats, breads, balsamic vinegars. Just about anything one could wish for. I absolutely wore my eyes and feet out. Of course my husband loved it because I didn’t have a kitchen, so I couldn’t buy one of everything in the market. But just to show him I could buy in bulk, I brought lots of goodies home (shipping is the way to go and the hotels are quite accommodating). We were right across the Grand Canal from the main market in Venice, so a short water taxi ride is all it took to take me straight to heaven so to speak, the Rialto market. And the fish market was right next to that. It was just heaven. I still can close my eyes and transport myself back there.

And the same thing I’d true the Florence. We stayed in a modest hotel very near the main market area in Florence. I could literally walk out my door, turn left, walk two blocks, turn left again, and there before my eyes was a market with everything I could need to have the most wonderful dinner, and it was all so fresh. And stores with all types of merchandise.

Our hotel room in Florence was on the 4th floor overlooking the street. We ate breakfast on the balcony. The buildings are beautiful and quite old and close together. There was a very old lady across the street in a window from us one morning. It was quite easy to see that she had just finished her breakfast and was leaning on her window ledge looking down at the street below. She must have eaten some type cereal, as her bowl appeared to have milk in it and she had a wooden spoon. (Maybe she was making her daily bread or pizza.)

It was quite common to see pigeons on window ledges or balconies (much to the annoyance of our hotel waitress who had a broom battle with three very sly and dodgy fellows near our breakfast table). Well, my neighbor looked up the street, she peered down the street, she very carefully checked below her window, and when she felt the coast was clear she stretched her very old arm out her window and dumped the contents of her bowl out to the birds below on the street. Of course I found that to be hilarious, especially since I wasn’t walking under her window when she hurled her breakfast out for the birds. I often wonder if she is still there, how she is doing and if she is still feeding the birds. Betcha she is……

I would love to go back to Italy. It was so magical. The way of life is slower, I think the people kinder to each other, the pace is not as frantic, people seem to be more interested in each other than in material things. Don’t get me wrong, there in nowhere where people look more beautiful or handsome, it’s just that Italians seem to take time to care for each other more, to take time to appreciate the things they have rather than to always be looking to something in the future that they haven’t achieved yet.

I will go back! That is a promise. And the next trip I will walk slower, sit on a curb and just breath in the air and watch life as it presents itself. I will stay in an apartment where I can cook, and I will take cooking lessons from a Nanna who carries a wooden spoon and feeds the birds.

SUSHI IS– WHAT SUSHI IS!

IMG_0754

 

I love the weekends when we get a chance to go the our local sushi restaurant to enjoy a few rolls, some Asian BBQ Ribs, maybe a plate of shrimp tempura. I think I just love about everything that they make at Kobe Steak House. Over the 8 years since they opened, we have enjoyed their food almost every weekend. Of course we have favorites, and there are also some new rolls on occasion that strike our fancy.

I enjoy introducing friends to sushi that have never gone there before. If they are afraid it is because their idea of “Sushi” is usually that it is raw fish, which it of course isn’t always. So it gives me a chance to explain that the word “sushi” means the way the rice is prepared, not the fact that some of the seafood is eaten raw. The first time I ate sushi was in San Francisco some 30 years ago. At that time there were few if any sushi restaurants in my small town of Independence, Missouri. There is no way one could have found the ingredients needed to make sushi, at least not locally. Now the components are carried in markets everywhere. I am amazed at how popular edamame have gotten in the midwest. Now I see them in all kinds of food preparations. Even as recent as 10 years ago that just didn’t happen around this part of the country. Talk about a paring, love them with dried cranberries…in a salad. How about crab meat, spinach, deviled eggs, maybe a Louis dressing, edamame, dried cranberries, NEED I SAY MORE?..oh my.

Being this far from both coasts, I find that most foodie trends hit here about 2 to 3 years after they hit the east or west coast. And newer styles and food preparation methods are for the most part slow to become main stream (but we do have some REALLY fantastic restaurants in KC now, ones that can’t be beaten anywhere in the world, like Michael Smith’s two restaurants, my fav I guess is Extra Virgin, and Blue Stem – which is a James Beard award winner and has done Kansas City proud, Story, Jaspers, our list is growing and I am not naming all of the greats in my list of favorites.

But I wander from my sushi. My mind is like a little butterfly when it comes to food. Jumping from one delight to the other. Japanese/Asian/Pacific Rim /Fusion–and it has become a fusion in my poor little brain. There are parts of each regional style food that I totally enjoy eating all at the same time. Thai pot stickers, Yaki Soba – one of my go to comfort foods– miso glaze for salmon, (sake-mirin-plum sauce or brown sugar-miso paste)–also broiled salmon noodle soup.

Image

Uni – or sea urchin. Not typically one of my favorites, because it is a textural thing more than a taste thing. When we were in Kauai, Hawaii we ate at one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world- “Roy’s”. One course was lobster ravioli with an Uni butter sauce. Wow! What a way to use uni. Every time I see uni I think of Hawaii and that wonderful dinner.

Image

I am by no means a Sushi purist. I have picked and chosen my favorite gems from all the places I have eaten that serve sushi or a combination of sushi-ish cuisine. It is fun, give it a try. There are lots of rolls that don’t have raw fish. Some don’t have fish at all. Seat yourself at the sushi bar if you can, so you can watch your sushi Chef prepare the rolls.

Image

Jeffrey the Sushi Chef at Kobe Steak House

THE SALMON ARE HERE

20130516-163129.jpg

It’s that time of the year again. The Wild Alaskan Salmon are showing up in the store. I am waiting for Jim Bennett at Costco, my Independence Fish supplier to call me and tell me my case is ready to pick up. I order what I can get, what is available depending on what is being harvested, and then freeze the fillets. That is what we eat all year. I don’t eat farmed salmon, it is not sustainable, it has to have dye added to its food to make the meat red, and it just isn’t something I want to promote.

I like to grill the salmon on a grill pan. It doesn’t take long, and I feel like I can control the degree of doneness better. I use a simple rub– 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 3 tbsp chii powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. papriika, sea salt and white pepper.

Love Salmon Chowder, Salmon Quesadillas, Salmon Cakes, Salmon Loaf, just about Salmon anything. But if you are new to cooking Salmon, remember, don’t over-cook it. It will be dry and undesirable.

Salmon truly is one of natures gifts. That is why our stewardship of it is so important. For more information on this species and many others check out such sites as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch”. You can even print off a handy guide to take with you to help you make wise choices when shopping. There is even a Sushi Guide to help make sushi choices that are good for the environment.

Help make wise choices. Help preserve our oceans and seafood for future generations. It is a worthwhile way to spend a few hours reading about something that can change your life and the lives of those you love. You’ll be glad you did and so will the future…

20130520-171158.jpg

20130520-171207.jpg

20130520-171216.jpg