Monthly Archives: November 2020

And the winner is…

I left everyone hanging on Sunday about which recipe I would make from my Six Seasons cookbook first. The winner is…the Lasagna. Here is last night’s dinner…

It was very good. No meat. It was made of: a bechamel sauce, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed Tuscan kale, all of that fresh ricotta you saw with lemon zest, of course egg noodles, and Parmesan or pecorino romana cheese on top. The noodles we can get here are flat. No curly edges. It is a keeper recipe, especially when I have vegetarian friends over for a meal.
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Stay safe everyone 😷🌈

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch. It was not my normal soup….it was the wonderful goat cheese I bought Saturday. Very yummy, soft and spreadable. I had it with Hjortronsylt. It is a jam popular in Sweden, from a fruit I am not familiar with. It goes very well with cheeses. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a jar from my friend Ava. And I am here to say, it was wonderful. Thank you Ava!

We woke this Monday morning to the first freeze of the year. But it is bright and sunny so that’s cheerful anyway. We have a busy week ahead. Our list of chores has grown. Shopping, a visit to the Poste and the Tabacchi for bill paying, and picking up all the thanksgiving food, to include the turkey.

Stay Covid safe everyone! 😷 Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Let’s experiment!

Here it is blustery and quite cold. Our first cold snap this year. I ventured out to our small, Saturday market. There was some new stuff. One stand was selling only fresh, crisp apples… all kinds. Tis the season for them! One stand with only celery…odd?! May have been the Sedano Nero (black celery) which grows not very far from here. One stand had all local honey.

I bought Swiss chard and onions and fresh ricotta and a small piece of caprino…a fresh goat cheese (for a personal treat) at the local cheese stand. I’ve got a couple of recipes in mind…

Freshly made ricotta.
Swiss chard, yellow and red.

I was again inspired by my Six Seasons cookbook. I had not looked at the late Fall section which is just before the Winter section, which is the last. There were lots of beet recipes, kale recipes, and chard recipes. All looked intriguing. Oddly, we don’t have beets around here very often. We do have cavolo nero or Tuscan black kale, and curly kale. We also have an abundant supply of Swiss chard – bright red and sunny yellow. This is what I bought today.

The three recipes I’m considering are “Spaghetti with Swiss chard, pine nuts, raisins, and chiles” (I’m pretty sure this is a Sicilian recipe), or “Kale and mushroom lasagna” and last a side dish called “Rainbow chard with garlic and jalapeños “.

You will all have to wait and see what comes first! Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Risotto!

Tonight we had a big ole hunk of the zucca (squash) (picture of one of these a few blog posts ago). I roasted it and diced it and eventually added it to my simmering risotto. I don’t use a specific recipe but it’s quite simple. I sautéed a small onion in butter. After it was soft I added the rice and turned up the heat to toast it. Then I glugged in some white wine, maybe half a cup and cooked it until it was absorbed by the rice. Meanwhile I warmed my broth to hot. You can use any broth. Then I added the broth a cup at a time, simmering and stirring as it is absorbed and add more. Maybe halfway through I added the diced zucca and continued cooking, adding broth. Total time is around 25 minutes. The rice gets very creamy. At the end I add about half a cup of Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese. It will thicken the liquid in the rice. But the final product should be pretty soupy. Served in bowls with more cheese. Yummy.

Corona virus alert

I’m concerned that so many in the US are planning to either travel on Thanksgiving, or are joining family and/or friends for the traditional meal. This is a very bad idea. It could kill your friends and family. I hope you’ll heed the CDC directive just out today. Don’t travel. Stay home. Be safe. There is always next year… You need to be very careful so you and your family can get to the time when the vaccine is available. It is totally up to you. Please chose carefully. It is only this one thanksgiving…it is not so hard to wait til next year.💕

Boring things. We all have to do them…

Like everyone on this earth, we all have errands to run to keep our lives ticking along on track. We are happy all the shops are still open and, although we have to stay in our Comune, we have everything we need here.

Our list for today was extensive. First stop. As everyone does, we are preparing for winter. We have a heated mattress pad for our bed. And we have a summer one. So that summer one went to the dry cleaner to be cleaned for next summer…SUMMER ☀️ which I see as a shining light ahead of us! Maybe a new beginning after this pandemic. Spero di si.

Second issue we had been dealing with. Our old printer had died and we ordered a new one from Amazon, after trying to find one locally. We got that on Friday and have semi-set it up. (Don’t get me going on how hard it was!) Of course, as these things go, I had JUST ordered new toner for our previous printer when it died. €80 worth. So I needed to return it. But, without a printer, I was unable to print the mailing labels to do so. So I waited. Today we took the toner to the DHL pickup location to return. Check.

Last week we also had to go to the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Local Health Unit) because our E01 had expired. Our Dottoressa had noticed when we visited her. This is the code that is used here to determine how much you must pay for prescriptions and some tests…according to your income. If it expires, you automatically pay the most. So we got that updated but we didn’t have all of the copies of our cards they needed (of COURSE they need copies!!). At home, we had no copier…so we waited and once we got the new printer – we made the copies and we took them there to drop off. Check.

A trip to the EuroSpin supermarket to order a turkey for thanksgiving was next. This part I liked best. This year I decided to do Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is just for us. Our friend Susan offered to make a pie and I think Gary is making a vegetable. No matter. I will take a pan of turkey, maybe dressing, gravy, and of course, mashed potatoes to them. We will eat alone, alas, but at least we will share the bounty with some friends.

After that we visited the Coop supermercato. I had not been since we went to Code Orange and they are again taking things seriously. We had our temperatures taken before we could go into the mall, of course masks are mandatory everywhere now, both inside and outside, and the spacing between people is being enforced. We bought a bunch of the staples we needed. And also some cat food for our friend who is in isolation. She feeds a mamma cat and her litter from this year and was running low on food. I dropped it by her house so she should be good for a while. She told me they are coming to her house to give her the Covid test rather than making her go to Citta di Castello. One of the few benefits of age 🙂.
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I took a walk Sunday evening. By the time I got back to the Centro the sun was just setting and the sky was pretty. Here are two pictures.

The Rocca, our fortress.
The entrance to the Centro Storico. We have a pedestrian bridge which crosses over from the road.

Stay safe all….andrà tutto bene 🌈

Tuscany is Code Red

It’s getting ramped up fast here. We are still Orange but just a few miles from here is Tuscany, and it is Code Red now. The highest. Pretty much a complete lockdown over there. The map below shows how fast Italy is raising the alarms.

Unfortunately I now know of a number of people in our area who’ve tested positive, or of people in self-isolation after being exposed. It is far worse for Umbria in this second wave that it was in the first.

It is Saturday. It’s cold and damp here. I am not even going outside to our Kilometer zero market. We have the stufa burning so it’s cozy inside. Here’s the foggy view from our terazza …No laundry will be drying today!

I had hoped to clean up some in my ortino. Take a look at my biggest producer. I’ve never had a pepper with so many before! These all ripened in the last 3 days. And these babies are HOT. I freeze them but now they are taking over all the space.

Stay Covid-safe everyone. Wear your mask! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

My beloved Umbertide 💕

I have found out lately one must have thick skin to write a blog. I hope my readers don’t think I am always tearing down my town! A friend has recently told me I am guilty of this. I like to tell my tales and I like to be honest about my life here. I think most people appreciate that. Umbertide is, as I’ve said many times, a “real” town. So it has good things and not so good. But I love it for all of these things. It is no Disneyland. It is a slice of Italian life. 🥰

In my last blog I wrote about the difficulties our bars and restaurants will have in the newly restrictive Code Orange lockdown. I mentioned one of the bars in the Piazza, Cafe Centrale, and that I was worried for the owner, Diego, who had made quite an investment in his bar. I got my information from a friend who said he had talked to the owner who said he may not be able to manage on only day traffic. To set the record straight. It seems this may not be true, and not a problem for the bar after all. I’m happy to hear he will be OK and won’t have to close. His bar certainly brought a lot of life to our Piazza. I wouldn’t want to see it go. It is a class act. I want all of our businesses to survive this latest trouble. Now, I hope my friend tells Diego, that I wrote this.

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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Autumn market

Our weather has been perfect fall weather. We reach the upper 60s in the day. And it chills down to the 40s at night. We almost always wake to dense fog in the morning, which takes until around noon-ish to burn off. Rather dreary starts to our days. I should be used to it, but I’m not.

Town wall and buildings inside — in the fog.

Very suddenly, the fog miraculously begins to burn off and finally the sun shines brightly. Nothing like blue skies and sunshine to lighten the mood.

Despite the new Code Orange lockdown, we have the normal market outside. One of the two bars is closed. The other is doing carry out. Irene was bustling across the Piazza with trays of tiny cups of espresso. I hope this doesn’t hurt them too much. Bar Mary is less of a young people’s bar so it will keep doing the takeout. Cafe Centrale is the bar with the big nightlife which attracts many young people who don’t follow the rules and I’m sure they are one of the reasons our cases are up. I’m sorry for Diego, the owner though. He says he may go out of business. He can’t manage on just takeout, or only daytime traffic. It is too bad because he has poured a lot of money into that bar.

Anyway, we went out to do our shopping. Here are some photos.
In the autumn you will always find mounds of chestnuts. And sometimes one of the stands will have a roaster going. In the foreground is one of the weirdest vegetables I’ve ever seen. It is called Gobbi. Also known as cardoni and cardi in Italian. And cardoons in English. It is a lot of trouble to prepare and I only have done it once. Not worth the work.

These next ones are the winter squashes. The word for all squash is zucca. The second one is the gigantic zucca which they sell by the piece. They lop off however much you want.

And finally the cheese. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the cheese in Umbria is probably 95% pecorino. It is sheep’s cheese. There are a few small artisanal goat cheese places which I want to try someday. But mostly they make pecorino here, and in many styles but it is still pecorino…

Today, for the first time in my life, someone said cheerio to me. A British gentleman who lives in town. I knew OF him but we had never met. Today we were introduced to him in the market — Robin, and his dog Zorro — by Susan and Gary. He is going back to England soon. Driving. It is a long way. He goes up through Switzerland, then into Germany, France and the Low Countries of Netherlands and Belgium, and finally across the English channel. He said he’d take his time. He says the only finicky ones are the French. Susan asked how long they had been like that , he said probably for the last thousand years! I had to laugh. And then he said cheerio! So I will also sign off with a cheerful cheerio to you all — stay COVID safe and wear your masks! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Umbria is Code Orange

Yesterday it was announced that several regions were re-classified as Code Orange in the color-coded alert colors of yellow, orange and red. Here is a map. We are dead center just east of Tuscany which is also Code Orange.

Seeing this graph makes my heart sink.

The new restrictions take affect tomorrow. All bars and restaurants closed except for take-away and delivery. Shops and necessary services to include pharmacies, supermarkets, food stores, and tabbacchi remain open. All theaters, cinemas, gyms, museums, and swimming pools closed. Curfew 10pm to 5am. No one is allowed to leave their Comune unless for work or emergency reasons.

So it goes. Again. All that work in the Spring lockdown was for naught in the second surge. I am sure these new measures will slow it again. This is really difficult for Italy. At least we have the good news from Pfizer that the vaccine they are developing is proving very effective. So soon, we hope, that can be distributed.
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Of course, there is always something better to focus on. For me it is again the Olio Nuovo. You may be getting a little tired of posts about the new olive oil but it is such a part of Umbrian life, it cannot be ignored!

So far you’ve seen the oil which we received from friends whom we helped with the harvest. We had it in a dish with untoasted bread. Then we had it on bruschetta the next day. it is excellent quality oil.

But every year I also order oil from our friend Fabio who has a large orchard and makes his living from selling it. He told us he had gotten 400 liters this year and it is the best he has ever had. He also mentioned it is the greenest oil he’s ever seen. I had already ordered from him before receiving the oil from our friends. I figured out we use around 15-20 liters a year. So we are set until the next harvest. I spoke to our Italian teacher and she told me her family of five uses maybe 30 liters. When it is so good and so plentiful it becomes a big part of the Umbrian diet. It is also very healthy.

Last night we opened a bottle of Fabio’s oil. And it was fabuloso! We had it on bruschetta. Also, for dipping in my dipping dish. It is indeed, GREEN! I also took some photos of the haul. Fabio sells oil. All his oil is non-filtered, and the grove is not treated with any pesticides. His website is Olivoil.bio. If anyone is lucky enough to be here, and need oil, I’m sure you’d love the Olivoil.

GREEN!!

Tomorrow, I think I’ll focus on the autumnal market. Luckily, this lockdown they have not shut down the weekly Umbrian markets. I suppose if we got to Code Red, that might happen. Let’s hope this one will slow it so we don’t get to Red. Here’s hoping the US can get some good policies in place to slow it there as well.
Stay safe everyone! Wear your masks! Andrà tutto bene 🌈