Today I want to showcase two new products being produced here in Umbertide. We had heard of one of them from friends, but still had not visited. The other we just learned of from our recent dinner guests. I decided to showcase them both here.
First the cheese shop. Caseificio which means dairy is painted on the building. The shop is Fattoria Palazzo Rosa – Famiglia Monni. It is on the small road that crosses the river to Montecorona and the Abbazia di Montecorona which is run by the monks of the Eremo di Montecorona. So it wasn’t surprising to have a monk drop in to buy some cheese while we were there. The Eremo is a hermitage with a number of working monks. They take care of the Abbazia. The Eremo is in top of the 700 meter high mountain behind the Abbazia.
The back room, which you can see through a glass window is chock full of cheeses being aged. We bought a Pecorino peperoncini and some butter. The butter was not made here but I love trying new butter. The cheese was piquante but not too spicy. They had cheeses from other areas as well such as a creamy Gorgonzola. One of my favorites. This was an excellent find.
Then we decided to visit the Pauselli pasta fattoria. Our friends Joseph and Paul brought us three boxes of the pasta last week as a hostess gift. So generous — a box of Gemelli, Penne Rigate, and Linguine Ruvide. It is all made from artisanal grains grown in the area.
We followed the directions they gave us and found the negozio, but it was closed. I checked the hours. They are open 5-7 Wednesday and Saturday.
We tried the Gemelli last night. The name means twins. and each piece of pasta is made up of two pieces. Hence the name. The pasta is slightly darker than usual wheat pasta because of the grain. it has a rough texture and this shape is good for catching sauce in it’s crevices. I served it with a tomato, red and green pepper, onion sausage sauce, with a little sour cream added in. It was delish.
I am happy to live in a place with so many people producing such excellent products. They are just very poor at marketing. I think they could benefit from coming to the Saturday market and maybe even opening a temporary storefront to test the waters. At any rate, we will support them by buying their products. I hope they thrive.
What a beautiful day. We are in a lull in our summer heat. We are totally enjoying it! Last night we had thunderstorms in the wee hours and nice rain. I woke to very cool temperatures — 61 F. And fog hanging in the valley. Refreshing. Here is a picture of the super moon rising over our Piazza.
Yesterday we took a trip down to Etrusco, our favorite butcher. We don’t get there often so we buy a lot when we go. We bought a beautiful Tomahawk steak, two fillet mignons, a flank and a skirt steak (I think? I am never sure), two tomahawk pork chops, sausages and hamburgers. He brought out big tubs of shrink-wrapped meat for us to see. For each piece of meat I bought, the butcher went to great lengths to tell me how to cook it. Mostly it involved holding the fatty edge on a hot griddle or pan and letting the fat sizzle and melt. Then cook one and a half minutes on each side in the rendered fat. He also was super proud of his lamb. I am excited to try it because he explained the lambs were two years old and castrato. This is a lot older than most “Lambs”. Perhaps it is the castrated part…I don’t know. He again told me how to cook it, even to giving me a big piece of fat to use. I know this butcher well. He only sources from local farms and knows that they were raised humanely, and treated well during their life. I prefer to buy meat like this. He wished a buon Ferragosto! Happy feasting.
The Saturday market was abuzz with activity. It’s high summer now and the produce is abundant. I probably got a little carried away. I bought a ton more of the wonderful tomatoes, green beans, baby zucchini, arugula (super bitter to go with the steak tonight), sweet new red onions, a pepper, friggatelli, eggplants and a melon. I visited Angelo to buy prosciutto crudo to go with the melon. A feast for a festa! This picture is only some of the bounty! I love our local market and am really happy I will still be able to walk to it from our new apartment. Not many towns have a market like this. I feel blessed.
I will take a picture of my dinner tonight if I remember. Here is a picture I took of my Rocky-cat helping me out while I am preparing dinner. I am constantly stepping over him or around him. He is very helpful!
Finally, an unbelievably beautiful sunset a couple of days ago.
The weekend was REALLY hot. We made it through it. Sunday dinner was a salad medley. I bought borlotti beans yesterday at the market and cooked them this morning while it was still cool. I also cook hard boiled eggs in the morning. Always good for protein. I bought a sweet cantaloupe which are just coming into season. Luther had gotten prosciutto crudo to put with it. I got some mozzarella, and of COURSE tons of tomatoes. That was our dinner. All cool and delicious. Perfect on a hot summer night!
Thats 102.2 in Fahrenheit. We are hunkered down. To make it worse there are fires. Most in Umbria are small (so far) but there are big ones in Tuscany, Lazio, and Trieste. The ones in Tuscany are said to be arson. I don’t get why someone would do that! It has made it so hazy you can’t see very far. Yesterday when we were driving back from Spoleto the mountains were just shadows.
Tonight we had a salad for dinner. I cooked the eggs, beans and potatoes in the morning while it was relatively cool. It was a perfect dinner. New potatoes, amazing tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, pickled onion (a new thing I tried), hard boiled eggs, avocado, olives and feta cheese. To finish it was drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sherry vinegar and torn basil leaves from my plants. My idea of a perfect summer dinner.
We eat outside and then stay out and watch a movie. Once the sun sets it starts to cool. Every evening massive flocks of rooks fly over us to roost for the night like clockwork at nine pm.
I hope everyone is staying cool. We have no plans for the upcoming weekend, other than the Saturday market. Ciao for now!
I want to explain the mystery of the inexplicable fine from my last post. Turns out, it was taxes due. Plus a fine. I could ask my Commercialista why, but it’s not that much money and I’m not going to bother. Anyway, mystery solved.
We have been very busy getting ready for our trip. We got our health cards extended so we would have coverage on our trip. We have had several people come and look at the apartment. I got my hair cut. We have met some good friends for some nice lunches. Yesterday we finally received our taxes from our Commercialista for the first part of the year. This payment is for half of last year, and we also pay ”in anticipo” for estimated tax for the first half of this year. This is the second document required by the Questura for our application for the EU long term Permesso di Soggiorno. Unfortunately we got it yesterday. Too late for us to get it in to them before we leave. So it will be first on our to-do list when we return.
We attended an art exhibit featuring three Umbrian artists last evening in a small village called Lugnano. Very nice show in Palazzo Luna and our friend was one of the artists. The town is miniscule.
I am madly packing and getting ready for our House/cat sitters arrival tomorrow. We will pick them up at the train station. I want to make them some special pasta dishes. I went to the local Saturday Mercato this morning. We are drowning in cherries now! Look at the varied colors. I didn’t realize there were so many. From almost black, to deep red, to cherry red!
My next post will most likely be about our trip. Travel is so fraught with uncertainty nowadays. I just hope all is uneventful. Ciao for now!
We have a monthly publication put out by the Umbertide Comune called Informazione Locale. I always try to read it. I saw this nice illustration of our Centro Storico and scanned it. I always like pictures of where we live. If it is a poster I will buy one.
We had a bunch of errands to run today. First to the pet store to stock up on cat care items for our cat sitters. Next to the dread Poste Italiene. The third ring of Hell. Now that all restrictions for Covid are off they again let as many people in as want to come, rather than queuing outside. You get a number, according to what you want to do. Then you wait. People watching is the preferred pass time. The board was on number 075 and I got 088.
After the wait I picked up what I thought would be a package. But in reality was a notice of a fine I have to pay. €135,52 – So far I cannot figure out what it is for and why I owe it.
Next we were off to the Bancomat…our two ATMs near our house are very persnickety lately. One says my card is illegible, the other says they cannot connect with my bank. So we stop at another bancomat when we are out and it will give me €500 at a time. More than the other ones will give me for the same fee. My card is obviously legible and my bank contactable !
Last errand was going to the grocery store. Saturday morning is THE worst possible time to go. But we had put it off for a while and really needed to go. While standing in the checkout we realized our friends Tom and Calvert from Montone were right behind us. Tom said to me, we are all retired. Why are we here on a Saturday morning? Good question!
Back to the apartment to unload and then I parked the car. It was just about 11:30 so our local market was still open but the vendors were pretty much wiped out. I did get a few things. Delicious sweet strawberries are here now. And crisp radishes as well as new potatoes which are just in.
Then I visited the lady with the local cheese from Montone. She is from Sardinia and you might recall I bought some of her dumplings a couple weeks ago. They were so delicious, I got some more, but different ones called Culargiones. (Rachel, you can google this one for a recipe 🙂.) They look like big gnocchi but with a leaf-like shape. They only want a buttery, tomato sauce with fresh basil.
Lastly I couldn’t resist some great looking mozzarella. Still waiting for the tomatoes!!
For the first time in nearly three years I had to buy olive oil! I am saving the little oil I have left from our friend, Fabio because it is the best olive oil I have ever tasted and too good to use for cooking. And we used up the oil we got from friends when we helped at the harvest, which was also excellent quality. It was a lot of oil. I may check with friends who may have some to sell. I am spoiled. I don’t want to use oil unless I helped harvest it, or I know the owner of the grove. 🙂 One of those cool things about living in Umbria.
May is the season when the hard work on the Umbrian and eastern Tuscan farms begins, the hard work of the tobacco planting. I can see it around in all the valleys now. Not to mention the planting summer and fall crops and the beginning of the harvest of the spring bounty. The book “The Tuscan Year” by Elizabeth Romer, from which I have been excerpting monthly this year, is all about the planting this month. And when this work starts our hero Silvana has to feed sixteen to twenty-four people every day for Pranzo, lunch. They need a hearty lunch from the hard morning work and to continue into the afternoon and evening. Silvana must serve three courses every day. A pasta, or soup as the primi, a meat or fish as the secondo, and fruit for dessert plus strong coffee to wake everyone up afterwards. Home-made wine is served throughout the meal.
The book spends time explaining that Italians, even farm workers, all have very high culinary standards. It is true. Everyone is a critic. She has a lot to live up to. It is important to balance the meal with different tastes and textures in the courses, and to vary it every day, to keep it interesting.
Fish in Umbria and this part of Tuscany is shipped in from the coasts. But in the area near Lake Trasimeno there are a lot of lake fish. Silvana doesn’t like lake fish. She serves trout from the small river running through their farm or she serves baccalà. Baccalà is salt cod. It has been consumed all over Italy for centuries. Back in the past it was the only available fish in the interior of Italy so it was very important for the mandatory fish on Friday meals. Baccalà served that purpose. It is salt cured and you can buy it just as it is or you can buy it already processed to soften it. Silvana soaks it for 24 hours under slowing running water. I have made it and I just soaked it and changed the water often, every hour or so for at least 24 hours. I thought I would pick a recipe from the book for baccalà which I have actually made and I like.
Take the already soaked fish, about 1 kilo or 2 ¼ lb for six people, 500 grams or 1 lb 2 ozs of potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds, a large tuft of parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper and a little water.
Spread a little olive oil on the bottom of a very heavy and shallow saucepan, then oil and arrange a layer of potato slices, season and trickle on a little more oil. Next sprinkle on an even dusting of chopped parsley, then a layer of baccalà cut into small pieces. Drizzle the oil over the fish, then more parsley and another layer of potato and so on until the pan is full. Add a little water to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan. Let it cook over a very low flame for at least an hour until the potatoes are tender and the fish is cooked through; add more liquid if needed. This dish can also be cooked successfully and more simply in the oven where it will just require olive oil for moisture. To vary the flavor you may put a layer of thin pieces of onion on top of the potato and a layer of tomato slices on top of the fish.
And finally, an excerpt from the end of the chapter. After the work is done and the day’s heat has lessened….
Later in the afternoon Silvana will go out into her garden and do a little work there; she may potter in the small corner set aside for the flowers, mostly dahlias, Sweet William, snapdragons and Michaelmas daisies planted amongst sage bushes and hydrangeas. She goes into the vegetable garden to pick vegetables or salad for supper, and to see what is ripe and what is coming up; the cool late afternoon is also the time when she does her watering. Sometimes she picks up an old sack and a small sharp sickle and wanders off into the fields to pick specially planted vetches to feed her rabbits; they will enjoy the herbage and ultimately the family will enjoy the well-fed rabbits. Occasionally she will take a kitchen chair out into the courtyard and sit in the shade of the house, her hands busy with a pile of mending, while the hens scratch about by the doorway and the old black sheep dog sits companionably by her side.
I love the peaceful feeling this little excerpt evokes. The calm, the smells, the sound of birds, as she sits in her garden with the knowledge that the wheel will keep turning and the seasons will repeat along with the rituals. Or we hope it will continue for all time… if we can safeguard our poor world. I would hate to think of the loss of such beauty.
I guess it is nearly time to say goodbye to May and hello to June. Summer is acoming.’ Ciao! Happy Memorial Day to everyone!
~~~~~~~ From time to time Luther sends me a recipe he likes. Truth be told, he sends me at least one a week. They come from the Italian newspaper or from the Dr. Wine site. He complains that I don’t make many of them. I admit, I don’t. Friday, I made a zuppa that he sent. Zuppa di legumi misti, mais, e orzo perlato. It is a mixture of dried beans, farro, lentils (your choice of the mix) with corn and orzo. This is another oddity. Orzo, in the US, is rice shaped pasta. Here, orzo is barley. Here’s a picture. (I added short pasta and potatoes)
~~~~~~~~ I love this time of year. Gone is the winter produce. Now we see ruby red radishes, piles of fava beans and new peas ready to sbucciare, my new word for today. As in to shell, or to peel. Luther will sbuccia all of them for me, and then I do the cooking part 🙂 There is asparagus in heaps, of course. Beautiful bitter greens like arugula, called rucola here. And lettuces. The baby zucchini are just coming in and the cucumbers. I impatiently await the tomatoes but they won’t be here until July, maybe late June.
Today I bought something interesting from one of our nice cheese mongers. She had in her case containers of Sardinian potato dumplings that she had prepared (she is from Sardinia). All I have to do is boil them and serve with a good tomato sauce with basil. I also bought a container of fresh ricotta.
~~~~~~~~ Lunch out Saturday! With friends. We decided on a restaurant in Montone, a nearby hill town. This restaurant has been there since we’ve lived here but in typical Italian fashion it was never open when we tried to go. I heard from friends that it is open now, under new management. It is called Taverna Del Verziere. One of the best features of this place is the views from the walls across the valley from their terazza. Spectacular and oh so pleasant on a summer day.
It is a family run place and they were all super welcoming. I was glad I had reserved since it was pretty packed. Their antipasto menu was interesting. We tried a couple new-to-us things. I had the papapomodoro with seasonal vegetables. A typical Umbrian recipe using stale bread soaked in tomato juices. The veggies were either roasted or pickled. Susan got the roasted purple carrot Hummus.
We both enjoyed them. Luther and Gary got the tagliata with lardo for their secondo. It is grilled steak sliced and they put a very thin piece of Lardo on top. Lardo is a speciality of northern Tuscany. Pork belly lard, the purest white, is packed with herbs into giant marble boxes and left to cure for eight months. Then it can be thinly sliced. When it is placed on hot meat, it melts and adds wonderful unctuous flavor.
Montone is a walled town with several gates through the walls. I love this one and the view.
On to one of my favorite foods…asparagus in any form. And now is the season when it is plentiful. Happy days!
I am much better now, after a good nights sleep. I went out to the Saturday market for foraging. It happened again. I was standing, awaiting my turn at a vendor with eggs in a big bowl. I watched as each person ahead of me bought the eggs. When I arrived, there were none. The man said to me ”niente frittata oggi”. No fritatta today. Oh well.
But I did get a bunch of asparagus. I cooked it so it was still crisp and I had it for lunch, with, yes, an egg.
So, I promised I would tell you what I bought myself in Verona. You may have guessed already 🙂 asparagi bianchi. White asparagus. Spargel! Here it is! I bought a smaller bunch when we were recently in Milano in a swanky grocery and I paid – gasp – €23 for it. This was a much larger bunch and only €13. Plus the more desirable thick spears.
As you may know, we lived in Germany for 6 years in the 1990s. Our little dorf was called Worfelden. It was situated in the middle of extensive white asparagus (spargel) fields. We moved there in January, not exactly the growing season, but as time when on we observed some very strange farming methods. The sandy soil was hilled up higher and higher until it stood about knee high, and very smooth. We finally got clued in to the Spargel grown there. It is labor intensive. Harvested by hand. They walked the mounds looking for cracks which indicates a spear breaking through. They cut it off down low in the mound and pull the spear out. Then they re-smooth the soil. The spear must never see sunlight or it will not be white.
Springtime is known as Spargel Zeit in Germany. The vegetable is almost holy, the most revered of all vegetables. There are entire menus built around Spargel. The normal way to cook it is to simmer in water and butter until tender. It must cook for longer than green and has a more earthy, less grassy flavor. It is served with new potatoes and sometimes ham or fish with hollandaise sauce. Here is a picture of a spargel field in the harvest season.
Anyway, maybe you understand my love of the vegetable a little more. I miss it.
Unlike green asparagus, the thicker the better as it must be pealed. The outer part is inedible. I have carried around my peeler especially made for white asparagus all these years.
You just hook it around the spear and go down the stalk and a thin layer is removed.
This was our dinner. It was good.
Buona domenica to all. Our weather is amazing right now but I hear a heat wave is headed our way(!)
Remember last market day? Last Wednesday? When I got shut out? Well, today was a new day! Asparagus was available in abundance. And I got some! I also got new garlic(!) and the first local strawberries.