Saturday, May 30

Cherries with Mascarpone

Cherries with Mascarpone

Serves 4
Pound of pitted cherries
3-4 leaves of mint, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons of liquor of your choice (we use brandy or cognac)
white sugar
3/4 cup of mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Toss cherries with liquor in a bowl with a little sugar, if cherries are tart add more sugar, if cherries are already sweet you can omit the sugar.

Refrigerate for an hour or two.

In a separate bowl whip cheese, chopped mint & cream adding in a spoonful of sugar of two until incorporated & smooth. Mixture should have just a hint of sweetness to it - not sugary.

Spoon cherries with syrup into a pretty serving dish or cup (we use a martini glass) and top with a couple spoon full of marscapone.

Garnish with fresh mint.
We added a short bread cookie for a little crunch! You could also fill a tart shell with a layer of the cheese & then top with cherries - that is really good too!

Enjoy! The perfect ending to a summer lunch.

Friday, May 29

Photo of the Week - 1st Squash Blossoms


mmmmmm.....a sign of good things to come.....

Wednesday, May 27

Cherry Pickin'

Ahh cherry pickin' time! Our little cherry tree is pieno (full) with these sweet ruby cherries!

In just one morning I picked over 10 lbs of cherries & I barely made a dent!

Check back for our cherry dessert recipe...

100th Giro D' Italia & Lovin' Lance in Italy!

Let me start by saying I do not cycle (hell, I can barely change gears on a mountain bike), I know nothing about professional cycling, except of course I have heard of Tour d France & Lance Armstrong - until last year that is when my sister & I sorta stumbled upon the Giro d'Italia when there was a finishing stage in Urbino & a start in Urbania. We loved it! What a party & so much fun cheering on the cyclists as they made their way to the finish line.


This year - I was super excited, it was the 100th race in Italy - I knew what to expect - had my pink Giro T-shirt ready to go & the "All American Hero" - Lance Armstrong was coming to Italy to race!!! Plus - the course lead the 70 some cyclists right into our tiny town of Piobbico & then up Monte Nerone (whose shadow we live in) for a 237km stage of the race reaching altitudes of 1400+ meters - set to be one of the toughest stages. So I was more than pumped! And to add a little frosting on the cake, an old friend from High School was in town & she was ready to root for Lance too!


So we headed to the base of the mountain where they began their climb on this hot hot day (temps in the high 90's - we were sweaty just watching - I can't imagine biking in that heat), staked out our spot as the locals slowly crowed the edges of the road ~& cheered our hearts out (or should I say we screamed for Lance jumping up & down like crazy Americans shouting out the top of our lungs - LANCE ARMSTRONG!) Later we realized maybe we should have had some sort of proper LiveStrong cheer - and sure enough - he passed RIGHT NEXT TO US! (That's him on the far left w/ light blue)

We've read how Lance & Levi (his team member) have commented on how difficult stage 15 (Monte Nerone & Monte Petrano) was - with the heat & climb - noting it was one of the most difficult stages to race in their entire career! Unbelievable - right here on the mountain we live under! Click here to watch.After the lead cyclists passed we headed into town for gelato & chatted it up with the locals as we watched the race continue on TV. We kept telling everyone that Lance is the best & such an inspiration & just how excited we were to see him in our tiny town. The Italians (& French) liked giving us a hard time & said that the only way he'd be in pink (the color of the lead/winning jersey) is if bought one!

Another giro in Italy & Le Marche, another great time - until next year....
To continue following the giro - check out Steephill.tv

Tuesday, May 19

The Art of the 'Choke ~ How to Clean an Artichoke

Artichokes or carciofi are a sure sign of spring & are filling the shelves of the frutta & vedure or fruit & vegetable markets here in Italy! Don’t be put off by the time it takes to clean these edible flowers - it’s easier than you think. Remember that artichokes oxidize very quickly & will turn black - so every point you put a knife to, MUST be rubbed down with lemon.

How to Clean an Artichoke:

Start with a big bowl of cold water. Juice one lemon into the bowl & toss in the juiced lemon into the bowl.

Trim the stem of the artichoke so there is about an inch to an inch and half remaining. Rub the cut end with lemon.


Peel off the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you arrive at the pale, soft inner leaves.



Using a pairing knife, peel the stem until the light green flesh is revealed. Be careful not to cut too much off. Rub the entire stem & cut portion with lemon.


Trim the top of the artichoke so there is about an inch of leaves remaining. Rub the cut portion with lemon.


Cut the artichoke in half. With a small spoon remove the fuzzy choke in the middle, leaving the soft flesh underneath. Rub down with lemon & toss into the bowl with lemon water.


You’re done! Now how easy was that, seriously?!

Here’s a great recipe that we love to serve here as an antipasta when fresh artichokes are in season: Maria’s Artichokes

Thursday, May 14

Spring in Our Neck of the Woods - Le Marche, Italy

Ahhh yes, that wonderful Italian sun is back! Warm sunny days fly by as we work in the garden, get the pool ready to be opened & now we can spend our evenings eating under the glow of the setting sun. Bright red poppies line the sides of the road & can fill entire fields in a sea of red, our big old cherry tree is already full of fruit & off to a great start (all I can think of is warm cherry pie!) and fresh zuchinni is filling our plates!

Here's a look through pics of our very spring day here in Piobbico from visiting our neighbor Pierangelo's farm~


~ to dinner with friends under a pergola heavy with sweet smelling wisteria


~un bello giorno!

Sunday, May 10

L'Orto - Our Italian Veggie Garden

Our big veg garden or orto is really coming along! We've had a wet & chilly spring so far (we are hoping all the water will come in handy in the dry months of late July to August) but it has meant that our seedlings are still pretty small, hearty but small. Now that the sun is shinning & bringing warmer days, they are shooting up like...weeds!

It's hard to imagine how big it really is in pictures, but trust me -it's big! There is a TON of space for all the delicious, flavor-packed fruits & vegetables we are planting and then serving in our restaurant, canning & jarring & using in our cooking classes. Here's what's in the ground as of today:

- 90 fava (pictured above)
- 120 potatoes (white & yellow)
- 650 onions (red & yellow)

- over 200 garlic (red & elephant) & shallots (garlic pictured above)

- tons of mixed lettuces (pictured above)
- ruccola (arugala or rocket)
- tons of parsley & basil

- TONS of tomatoes (pictured above) from cherry, 'ugly' (or heriloom), san martino as well as beefsteak
- 45 zucchini
- 20 melons
- 24 cucumbers
- 8 types of squash
- and a pumpkin (they call it the 'big yellow American squash')


The ever daunting task of watering - we are currently watering once a day, soon - twice. Watering is a slow process that takes about 2 hours to trickle water on the seedlings, only soaking the base of the plant.

I thought - oh this will be a cinch! just hook up the sprinkler. "Set it & forget it", right!? I had no idea the looks for horror I would receive at such an outlandish proclamation! Of course I should know better, if the leaves or the fruit get wet then this can bring a whole slew of problems & sicknesses to the plant. So... we continue to water with just a trickle.

This week we will start transfering most of the seedlings into the orto and contine starting seedlings for the rest of the plants - greens, cabbages & more!

It really is so exciting - I can't wait to eat'em up!

Saturday, May 9

Photo of the Week - Sausage Prep

We made 30 lbs of homemade sausages the other day in our kitchen with guests Sue & Howie, a few neighbors & friends as well as Vittoria the meat master! Here Vittorio & Dott. Gaggi prep the meat on our kitchen table.
To read about sausage making, click here!

Thursday, May 7

Slow Food Strikes Again

This was our second year visiting the nearby town of Cagli for their big Slow Food 5th annual festival of meat - Distinti Salumi! What a bella festa & a sample lovers dream! It is the National Review of Salume (Salt Pork), the most famous meeting of Taste dedicated to the national handicraft of cured pork meats of quality.




We were headed there on a mission - pork fat - lardo to be exact! We bought it last year & this ohh so good fat spreads deliciously on toast to make the prefect crostini.

Upon arrival (after our welcome wine)
I bee-lined it to the lardo stand & Jason decided to wander a bit & of course make his way to the antique meat slicers - I made my way down to Friuli (each stand is a different region in Italy, featuring their most famous cured meats) & low and behold I bumped into our neighbors the Mochi's!


Fantastico! The whole gang - Giancarlo, Jackie, Mariaellena (who I tutor English once a week) & Sebastiano with their friends.

We we joined their table and spent the evening slowly strolling the streets, smelling grilled meats, listening to jazzy street music, eating gelato & drinking more wine (um how can you say no when the wine is only 1 Euro a glass!)



Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. We are proud Members of Slow Food both in the US & Italy.

Join us next year for the festivities!

Monday, May 4

Beep-Beep! Italia! Beep-Beep!

That is the sound of me, tootin' my own horn!

Well it's official (& I could not be more excited & proud), I have been asked by the Editor to write a monthly column in the internationally sold Italia! Magazine. I will be writing a monthly musings on the Italian way of life as experienced first-hand by ex-pats like us - a fresh perspective on Italian life with my own spin of informative info, humor & enthusiasm!


Italia!
is the world's best magazine about Italian property, travel, food, wine, culture and people. The very same magazine that wrote an incredible 5 page feature story on our move, life & business in Italy in March 2009 (issue 52)

- so go on & order your very own monthly subscription & don't miss a thing! Every issue helps you get more out of your passion for Italy - whether you're looking to buy a holiday home, cook an authentic Italian recipe or just want to see what I'll write about next!

Sunday, May 3

Sunday Morning Pop-ins

I was just sitting down to do a blog entry, thinking...hmmm what to write about today...a recipe, story or festival...And then a story literally cantered right on up to the front door! You just never know who will pop in today - especially on a Sunday; we've had everyone from lookey-loos, the butcher on his bike, truffle hunters, friends & neighbors and today - I looked out the kitchen door & this:


The Mayor & 2 others on horse back in our front yard

just stopping to chat on a beautiful Sunday morning & share a cup of caffe!
Ahhh la dolce vita!
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