Yesterday, Italy hit the goal of 80% of people over 12 years old fully vaccinated. It is a BIG DEAL. I will say, life is pretty much normal here now. The latest proclamation has opened sporting events to 100% capacity. Gyms, theaters, swimming pools are all open. Of course, one must show the EU Green Pass (or equivalent proof of vaccination from another country) to enter any of these places, plus restaurants. Also, one must still wear the mask inside. Not a problem for Italians, who are not normally rule followers, but are doing it in this case. They, and us interlopers, all wear masks with no drama. Sad to say, a friend who came over from being in Florence, said he witnessed an American woman tourist in a clothing store there who jumped the line to buy something. She had no mask on. The clerk asked her to put on her mask and she said “no”. The security guards ejected her. Why come over here to visit and be so rude? These are the rules of the country who is your host. I sincerely hope this was an anomaly. She was that one bad apple…
Yes, there have been riots in Rome about the Vaccine mandate here. They are organized by a neo-fascist group and definitely not main stream. I read they may be banned. We don’t need this sort of dissent in the middle of a global pandemic. ~~~~~~ Otherwise it is definitely autumn in Umbria. The tobacco is being harvested, the sunflowers have dried and been harvested, the grapes have been mostly harvested. The fall vegetables are now in the market. If I go to the local Saturday market here in town, no one needs to tell me what month it is. All I need to do is look at the available produce and I know. 🙂
Wednesday mercato today, as usual. My market buy today was these beauties!
Porcini mushrooms only fresh in the fall. Many people go mushroom hunting around here. These are plentiful. I’ll be making tagliatelle con porcini – mmm.
Then I bought this…
Salame al Cinghiale. Wild boar salami. It will be for our Sunday Stuzzicheria to welcome our first guests!
That’s right! For the first time in over TWO years we are having visitors! I’m very excited. I will get into the who, the how, and the why…later. But for now, I’m getting ready for them.
Last week I procured some wild boar, called Cinghiale here. We here in Umbria and Tuscany are pretty much over-run with them. They breed twice a year with from 3 to 13 piglets every litter. They are so prevalent here, and so destructive, that there are no limits as to how many you can kill, in-season. I wrote a blog a few years ago about the Cinghiale hunts around here. Highly orchestrated. Interesting reading. Tis the season of the Cinghiale hunt.
Today, I am preparing cinghiale ragu. It takes hours to cook to be tender. And I can freeze it for an evening pasta dinner. I’m sitting here now and smelling it cooking. Devine!
We won’t eat this now, but I borrowed a picture of what the dish will look like, from the recipe which is an Italian recipe from ideericette.it .
This is our favorite butcher. It is about 20 kilometers from our house in a town called Bosco on the way to Perugia. We wouldn’t normally travel so far since we have nice butchers in Umbertide. But for something special, this is the place to go. It is extraordinary. It is local meat. I’m not sure why it is so special and so much better than other meats…but it is.
We took a trip down on Tuesday. When we go, we buy a lot. Normally, I make my own hamburgers from ground beef here because the pre-made patties are not good IMO. At Etrusco they make them really well. So we got four. Also we got some steaks which seem to me to be the equivalent of flank steaks and skirt steaks. Not normal cuts here. We got some pork sausages and a giant pork chop. But the coup de resistance was the bistecca. We got a T-Bone. But we also got a Tomahawk steak. I hadn’t heard of this cut until a friend in Florida posted a picture (thanks Lynn!) Then, suddenly, there it was at Etrusco. Serendipity.
Tonight I cooked it on the grill. It was raining and a bit of a challenge to cook, but I cranked out our tende di sole (awning) and it was fine. I had worried about the heat and smoke on the awning but it worked OK. The steak was exquisite. I don’t think I’ve had a better steak at home in my life. Picture — you can see where it gets it’s name.
And after slicing for dinner.
Mmm mmmm good. Sorry to my vegetarian friends. We don’t eat a lot of meat but if we do, it must be exceptional. I have complete faith in this butcher in how the animals he sells are raised. I do not buy meat that is factory farmed. Here in Umbria there are so many family farms, with small productions and humane treatment of the animals. If you deal with local butchers you know where the animals were raised and how. Same as your vegetables. Raised nearby, with no pesticides. It is one of my favorite things about living here.
Tomorrow is Ferragosto. The August holiday which is dead center of the month. The month of VACATION!! Big parties tomorrow.
This is a mundane post. I got out early since the predicted high today is 38C. That’s 100 degrees in US speak. Hot. So I was up and out before eight. I did my shopping at our local market first thing. The high summer bounty of fruits and vegetables are beautiful. It was hard to stop buying. Here are a few pics of the deliciousness to come.
I ran into some friends and we had a chat. Mostly about their recent vacation to Como, and the wonderful food in the market. We shared some recipes.
I didn’t only go out to shop. I wanted to get in my walk early before the heat. And like I often do, I decided to combine my walk with an errand. I had finally gotten some more charcoal and was planning to grill. I’ve got a skirt steak that I aim to make into fajitas. It was calling out for an avocado to go with it so I walked to the so-called “Egyptian” market 😁 It is owned by immigrants and I guess people think they are from Egypt so they call it the Egyptian market. I kinda doubt that. But anyway, they have things available there that cater to the immigrant communities in Umbertide and the surrounding towns. Things like cilantro. They have it reliably. And they have avocados that are perfect, and reliably good. So I make a point to get my avocados from them. So, as part of my walk I got two avocados and while there I even decided to buy four ears of corn. I’m sure it won’t be up to my standards of sweet American corn, but I want it so badly, I’ll try anything. I’m going to grill two, for a salad, and boil two, to test how good they are. I asked where they came from and he said Sicilia. I think most of their stuff comes from there.
Here is the corn. All trimmed up.
On my way back, I was amused by this little grill on the sidewalk at our little corner store that sells all sorts of things for the household. The amusing part was that it said it was a barbecue “Professionale”. Right. Looks pretty flimsy for professional use!
That’s about it. I’ll try to remember to post a picture of our dinner tonight. And the corn whichever way I do it.
High summer is time for our favorite salad — Panzanella! This salad is ONLY made with fresh, farm stand tomatoes so it is best in July and August. For us, we get them from my favorite stand in the Saturday mercato. For some reason, his tomatoes taste like summer itself. Brilliant red and juicy. Just like I remember the “home grown” tomatoes of my childhood.
Tuscany tries to take the credit for this salad but many regions of Italy, and the Mediterranean, make a similar salad and have been doing so since tomatoes were introduced from the New World in the 1500s. It was not only delicious, it was a way to use up stale bread so it wouldn’t go to waste. Even before the tomato was introduced a form of this salad with whatever fresh summer vegetables were available was common. The main unifying ingredient for all these salads is the stale bread.
I initially wanted my Panzanella to be the classic recipe so I went looking at the many recipes online. As with most things I make, I used bits of a couple different recipes. The best thing I found was a method to salt and encourage the cut up tomatoes to give up some of their juice to use in the vinegarette. I’m not sure why since either way the juice gets into the salad but somehow it enhanced the tomato flavor to whisk the juice with the oil and vinegar. Essence of tomato! Otherwise I decided to toast the stale-ish bread for better texture and soaking ability. I also added a seeded cucumber for a bit of crunch. This isn’t in the classic recipe. But, really, if you’ve got fresh flavorful tomatoes and a good, fairly dense bread then it’s Panzanella to me!!
Panzanella Salad – 4-6 servings
2 1/2 pounds (1.1kg) summer tomatoes – can be mix of regular, Roma, grape or cherry and heirloom
2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning – only use kosher or check for saltiness
6 cups (340g) firm bread, cut into cubes
1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil 1 very small, mild onion, or 1/2 of one minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (not in classic recipe – optional)
2 tablespoons vinegar – I used sherry vinegar because if find it slightly milder. But you can use white or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small cucumber seeded and chopped (optional, not classic)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
Toast the bread cubes at about 300F for 15 minutes. Set aside. Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces and put in colander over a bowl to catch the juice. Salt with 2t kosher salt and toss. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.
Mince onion and garlic. Whisk tomato juice from tomatoes and vinegar. Add garlic, mustard and onion. Whisk. Add oil in a stream whisking. Alternatively you can put the juice, onion, garlic, vinegar, mustard and oil into a jar and shake vigorously to emulsify.
Toss tomatoes, cucumber and bread with the vinegarette. Let sit at least 30 minutes. Add chopped basil leaves and serve.
This has been a very productive week so far. The first good thing was we both managed to download our Green Passes onto our IPhones and now we should be able to show them if needed to prove we have both been vaccinated. Here is what it looks like. I blurred the QR code and personal information.
Among other things, we also managed to pick up our new Permessi di Soggiorno. As I posted earlier, it was the fastest we have ever gotten them and mine is actually good for eleven months! Amazing.
The other things I mentioned…We got our Italian taxes filed. We visited the Poste Italiene to pay a bill for a friend. Yesterday we got our hairs cut. Did you ever notice only English uses the word “hair” for plural. The word hair can mean a single hair, or all your hair. Not so in Italian, French and German. Those are the only other languages I know. So I’ve taken to saying, I am going to get my hairs cut. 😁
A special thing you can get only at this time of year is friggatelli (pronounced frig with a soft G like George) Little green peppers. They are prepared by frying in olive oil for a couple of minutes then adding minced garlic for a few seconds. Then you add a bit of water and close the pan to let the peppers steam for about ten minutes. You can eat the whole thing to include the seeds. A nice side dish with steak or chicken. I love them and eat them a lot while they are in season..
I’m not sure anyone wants to know the end of the pigeon story. But quickly I will say it wasn’t a happy ending and actually at this time, a full week and a half after the window got shut, there remain live pigeons inside. They will die eventually. I wish it would be soon. A man did come with the cherry picker truck on Monday and opened the window and retrieved 3 dead pigeons from near the window. The live pigeons, naturally wouldn’t try to fly out while he was in the window. So he closed it back up and left. I am glad that window is nailed shut now and I don’t have to go through this again. And neither do the pigeons. There are plenty pigeons left and they will find other nesting places. ~~~~~~~ Tonight I made a seared steak that was marinated in mango purée with habanero pepper and lime juice. I made a salsa of seared tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic and cilantro. I served with corn tortillas and sliced avocado. Most of the more “exotic” ingredients (mango, cilantro, avocado) I got from the “Egyptian” fruttivendolo. Truth be told only the cilantro must be bought there. The regular Coop carries avocado and mango. But almost nobody carries coriandolo…cilantro. I also think his avocado is way better than any other source. Every now and then I must break away from Italian food…I love it..but my taste buds need a boost now and then! 😎
Finally, after a very long wait we got our second vaccination. AstraZenica works better with the second shot around 3 months later. So now we just wait two weeks and we can feel moderately protected. We have a paper copy of proof of vaccine, but with that we can get the EU Green Pass. Some countries (France) are now requiring the Green Pass to be able to go to a restaurant. I’m not sure how the CDC proof of vaccine will work for this. I would hope if one can get into Italy with it, one could dine in a restaurant. But that hasn’t been decided yet. And I did hear Italy will be implementing this.
The Delta variant is very prevalent in Italy. I read today the cases are really jumping here in Italy. 26% higher here in Umbria from last week, but 90% more in Lazio, 60% more in Tuscany, Lombardia and Liguria are soaring too. In the space of a week. Almost all cases are unvaccinated younger to middle age people. I knew this would happen with all this partying, no spacing, no masks. Sadly, all our hard work is going down the toilet. ~~~~~~~~ On a more cheerful note…a long time wish to make Ceviche tonight came true. A couple weeks ago I got two nice sea bass, sushi grade, from my friends at Calagrana. Tonight I made Ceviche. It was refreshing, cool, and totally yum.
We have been having our typical summer weather. Hot but not oppressively so, not humid, cloudless skies, no rain. I’m really enjoying it.
Today was Saturday so our local market was in the piazza. All the summer veggies are here in abundance. Love it! I have been really into salads and things that don’t need a lot of cooking to keep the kitchen cool so I’ve got a picture of one of my salads below.
I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures at the market. Most of them came from one of my favorite stands called 3 Orti or 3 vegetable gardens, over by Montone. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
Luther’s birthday was this week so we went to dinner at Calagrana. To make your mouth water take a look at this, my appetizer, vitello tonno.
I also did some cooking with the rest of my fresh tuna. A salad with seared tuna. A la a Niçoise.
Some summertime pictures from our walk along the river to get pizza from a new pizzeria we wanted to try.
We also had a lovely lunch with two people who subscribe to my blog. He has the distinction to be the only person to have read the entire thing…TWICE! I should have some kind of award for him! We have corresponded and we met them today. They are on a house hunting trip. Always fun!
Tomorrow, Sunday, is the BIG GAME. Italy vs England for the European Championship. It will be chaos in all of Italy, to include… Every. Bar. In. Every. Town. They will all have big screen TVs set up in the squares. Madness. Forza Italia. Azzurri! ~~~~~~~ Enjoy the summer…or if not in the northern hemisphere, enjoy my summer vicariously through my pictures!
I’m sorry. This is not an Italian dish. But it was so hard to accomplish here in Italy I decided to post a picture. I had not heard of a poke bowl until I saw a post about it. It looked so good and so summery and cool I knew I had to make it. Unlike in the US, you cannot just go and buy sushi quality tuna which is what is required. People don’t use raw fish here. I asked our sweet friends at Calagrana if they could get some for me from their supplier. The answer was yes! A kilo of the prettiest sushi quality tuna was my reward today.
I made my first poke salad tonight. It was delicious and cool. A bit spicy and full of vegetables. I understand it comes from Hawaii and has become popular in the US and the UK. Here is my dinner.
Tonight I decided to re-create the Ligurian pasta dish that I had while in Sestri Levante, as best I can. It is called Trofie al pesto, patate e fagiolini. It was very yummy, and very unusual. The only problem I have is I don’t have the special pasta shape called Trofie. If I had thought of it I would have bought some while I was there. But I didn’t 🙁. So I will have to improvise. Here is a picture I borrowed from https://lapenisoladelgusto.it So you can see what it should look like.
I looked through my pastas and picked penne since that’s close in size. The Trofie has many crooks and nooks to hold the sauce, so it would have been better. All regions have their own special pasta shapes and it is hard to get them in other regions.
I had already made pesto from my first basil of the season and it was in the refrigerator. This simplifies the recipe. You can use your own, or a quality one from the store. Genoa is the birthplace of Pesto alla Genovese. They use this sauce liberally in their local dishes.
Other than Pesto the ingredients are simple. Pic of all the ingredients except the pasta.
Here is the recipe:
TROFIE AL PESTO, PATATE E FAGIOLINI – serves 4
500 g trofie pasta (~1 pound) 300 g potatoes (~11 ounces) 100 g green beans (~4 ounces) Pesto – I don’t think you can use too much
Prepare the vegetables: peel, wash and cut the potatoes into small pieces and trim the beans.
Bring water to a boil in a fairly large pot, salt it and immerse the green beans. Let them boil for about two minutes before adding the potatoes with a drizzle of oil. After another two or three minutes, when the vegetables are al dente, add the trofie.
Let pasta and vegetables cook until pasta is al dente, then drain everything, keeping some cooking water aside. Dilute a couple heaping of spoonsful of the pesto with two or three spoons of the water and mix into pasta and vegetables. Having made his once I think you can’t overdo the pesto and it should be quite soupy. Add more water, as needed, and stir to incorporate. Pour the trofie with the vegetables into a serving dish, season with more pesto and basil leaves (optional) and serve.