Thanksgiving is tomorrow. In Italy, the holiday doesn’t exist except sometimes in the American and foreign community. In any event, there can be no big celebrations here this year with friends, because gatherings aren’t allowed. Having a non-pod member into your home is also taboo. I say pod — all people in your normal household are your “pod”.
As you know, we are celebrating on our own. A normal Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and all the trimmings. I’ve even got a small container of frozen cranberry sauce left.
We ordered our turkey last week. From our local EuroSpin supermercato. These are the bargain basements of food stores. They all have the same pattern. The center of the store is canned, boxed, and bottled goods. Cheap, and I don’t buy any because they have off brands and the quality can be iffy. BUT around the middle, along the walls are individual stands owned by independent contractors. They provide produce, cheeses, prepared foods, bakery goods, meat and fish. These people have great stuff. Here, we get our turkey from the butcher. Italians like turkey but never, ever whole! We carefully explain we want — tacchino femmina intera. Turkey female whole. Here they have two sizes…male and female. Male is 15 kilos and up (~35 lbs+) and females 6 kilos and up (~15 lbs+). My oven can barely fit a smaller one. So we asked for it to be as small as possible. We picked it up today and it weighs 7.1 kilos or 15.6 lbs. This should be enough for us and the friends we are sharing with.
We are celebrating it on the Thursday, not that I have to do it on the exact day… yet… I want to. I’m needing that right now. Things in their proper place and time. The normality of the Before Times. I’m going to miss my sister this year. We try to celebrate at least one holiday together. We usually fly to the US. But this particular year we had planned a Windstar cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon. It would have encompassed Thanksgiving and since it’s an American line I assume they would have had a “turkey with all the trimmings” dinner. Sigh. Maybe in a future, unseeable now, it will happen. But meanwhile we celebrate how we can. And we stay safe, and we keep our families safe. We’ll always have Paris…ooops wrong movie! 😁
The fact that we can’t celebrate Thanksgiving like normal, doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t stop and think of what we ourselves have got to be thankful for. And we have a lot. Think on it. We’ve got food. A bed to sleep in at night. Running water. Toilets. Plus first world extras like WiFi and computer… and wine or booze (probably). There are hundreds of millions of people in this world who do not have the basic things. They are hungry most of the time, they sleep on the ground or floor. They don’t have plumbing or clean water. We are the winners in the lottery of life. So, let’s stop our kvetching and remember WE are some of the lucky ones. Let’s not forget. And let’s be thankful. And hopeful. ~~~~~ I’m heartened to see more State Governors are mandating masks in the face of enormous numbers of cases. Keep Covid-safe everyone…Andrà tutto bene 🌈 and Happy Thanksgiving. 💕
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. ~~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone 😷🌈
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.
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.
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 🌈
I have a go-to roast chicken recipe that I’ve been using, and sharing, for a few years. It is a Thomas Keller (of the French Laundry) recipe and so simple it is ridiculous. I made it last night for the bazillionth time. It is no-fail and always delicious. When you can get a plump chicken at the store for €3 or about $3.50 it is very economical. We can get two, plus, meals out of it and still have the bones left to make chicken stock for soup. Here is what you do, and a few pics.
Put the chicken on the counter and pat it as dry as you can get it. The lack of liquids during cooking helps the skin crisp up perfectly. Let it sit on the counter for an hour or so to dry even more. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F or 250C. Put chicken in the pan (no oil in the pan) and salt it generously. I read someone say, “salt it like the road” 🙂. Put it in the oven for one hour. Do not baste it — do not open the oven. Resist the temptation. See, I told you it was easy. 🙂
After an hour remove and sprinkle with dried thyme.
I usually cook this ahead of time and just leave it sit until dinner. It’s good at room temperature or warm. Cut into quarters to serve. For a nice extra touch mix some mustard with some of the juice in the pan (use juice sparingly because it is very salty). Serve the mustard on the side with the chicken. Easy peasy!
I also saw a recipe from ItalianFoodForever.co posted on Facebook for roasted sweet onions with balsamic. It looked so good and since the oven was hot already I decided it would make a nice side. I always keep a rope of the sweet, red, Cannara onions on hand. I peeled and halved them. I used a small pan which could hold the onions snugly. In the pan I melted some butter, added a little olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar and mixed. Then I put the onions cut side down in the oil/butter and placed in the oven for 20 minutes. Flipped the onions and went another 15 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of the onions. They came out all sweet and carmelized and went well with the chicken. Mmmm!
~~~~~~~~~ I don’t need to tell you what day this is…but I will — it is ELECTION DAY! 🇺🇸 I stay away from politics on this blog for the most part. I don’t mind telling you, though, that I am on pins and needles here. The wait is unendurable. We, being 6 hours ahead of the East Coast, won’t really know much until Wednesday morning…so we will be up early in the wee hours watching. I love my country and I hope the election goes smoothly and without incident. I hope the aftermath is not violent. I am worried about that. I know a lot of people are. I saw pictures of the stores in the big cities boarding up like a hurricane was coming. How can this happen in the USA? How could violence be a part of our (once) free and fair elections? 💔 ~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone…
As you may remember, we are in the midst of many chores. I mentioned to Elizabeth I still needed to send our ballots and she volunteered to take me to Mailboxes Etc. She had something to mail as well. We drove to Citta di Castello and in the industral outskirts found the shop. Formerly it had been in the city. This is much more convenient with parking right out front. Ca-Ching! Sent our ballots UPS, should be there in two days.
While we were out Luther was running errands too. All told, between the two of us we got the ballots mailed, duplicate trash can keys made and more floor polish for Vera.
But life is not all about errands! Elizabeth and I went on to visit a ceramics place I’ve had on my list For-ever to visit. It is called Bizzirri. And wow. It is a great place. Beautiful and very different from Deruta ceramics. I would bring guests here. Very nice. I bought, in their giant seconds room, a little yellow bowl, and I got a nice trivet, which I’ve been on the lookout for.
After that we headed for a farm which specializes in truffles. As you probably know, truffles can’t be cultivated so they don’t “grow” the truffles, rather they search out and harvest the truffles with specially trained dogs who sniff out the fungi. But Tartufi Bianconi is much more than that! They host truffle hunts for people who are interested, they offer cooking classes, and they process and sell their own products, along with other artisanal products from the area in their shop. They even have a truffle museum! Among some of the famous people who have come and participated in a hunt here is Gwyneth Paltrow.
Sadly, the Corona Virus has severely affected their business. They are struggling to keep their six employees paid. They hope maybe 2021 is a better year. I do too.
When we walked into their little shop, we were inundated with the earthy aroma of truffles. It is such a heady smell. I often think the truffles smell better than they taste! In the museum, I learned a few things about the truffle seasons in Umbria. Umbria is famous for both its summer truffles (black) and its winter truffles (white). The best IMO are the winter white ones. They have just begun to come in for this season and will be better in November and December. White truffles can be sold for €2,000 a kilo. Bianconi also exports to the famous Alba truffle market in the Piedmonte.
Below are some of their products.
Here are some of the gigantic fresh white truffles they have found. WOW.
This is Gabriella.
I am thinking this is a bucket list thing…yes! Go on a truffle hunt. I hope some of my readers may want to do this as well in the future. Please keep Tartufi Bianconi in mind.
We got back home on Friday afternoon. Our cats were very happy their full time staff was back. Outside in the evening they had a concert in the Piazza. Very nice classical music. The chairs were well spaced for the social distancing, for both the spectators and the musicians.
Today I made a big pot of soup. I hunted and gathered in the kilometer zero market on Saturday. I bought a big bunch of beattole aka, beet greens. And a butternut squash. Among other things. Here’s a picture of one of my favorite onions. I was talking about it with a friend yesterday so I thought I’d include it. They have enormous piles of them and they are mild.
Otherwise, I’ve still been watching the Covid cases in both Italy and the US. A friend of mine seemed to imply we, over here in Italy, are being mislead about the severity in the US. That it is not that bad there… That is not true. I‘m watching the US news, and I’m watching the statistics on the Johns Hopkins, WHO, CDC, and Worldometer websites.
I know it is bad in the US. People say it is because of population differences. But many stats are adjusted for that. The figures I’m seeing on the news, CNN and Fox ( I try to be bi-partisan 🙂) say taking into account population differences – the US is 4% of the world population with 23% of the worlds Covid cases. And The US death toll is more than twice as high as that of the country with the second-highest death rate, Brazil. So that says a lot.
There is still a ban on people traveling from the US to most of Europe until they can get the infection rates down. The magic number is when the US has an average of 15.3 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days. I have noticed US numbers are slowly coming down which is good, but it still has a ways to go. ~~~~~~ — Italy has around 60 million population with 1,458 cases on 9/13 — US has around 350 million population with 33,506 new cases on 9/13
Doing the math. The US has about 6 times the population of Italy. So if you multiply 1,458 x 6 = 8,748 new cases which would be how much the US would have on 9/13 if their infection rates were the same as Italy. That is 24,758 more cases than Italy in one day, adjusted for population.
It tells me the much harder lockdown in Italy has succeeded. Life here is quasi normal. I don’t think the US can say that yet. Masks are key. They are still here everywhere. Masks help a lot but the real help will be a vaccine. Here’s hoping 🤞 ~~~~~ Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene. 🌈
Nowadays we are careful about getting together for just about anything. We have space on our terrazzo for only four to dine together. So I can only invite two at a time. Today was the second time since lockdown that we’ve had friends over for a meal. The weather couldn’t have been better. Sunny, breezy and the perfect temperature. I set our round table outside.
My menu was: Bruschetta with avocado, gazpacho with mozzarella, shrimp risotto, peach cobbler. Some pictures.
~~~~~~ Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutti bene 🌈 And so it will. Ever hopeful.
Today I visited the Pronto Soccorso for the first time. It is a weekend and I am unable to see my doctor. Yesterday we decided to give our two cats their yearly bath. Simba objected. And at one point he went totally nuts and while struggling with him he bit down on my thumb, right through it and for a moment I wondered how I was going to get him to let go. And it hurt! A lot!
I know a cat bite is one of the dirtiest bites you can get. I’ve also heard horror stories. I asked a friend of mine who used to work with animals and she said a veterinarian she knew lost her thumb due to a cat bite. That kind of lit a fire under me. I am never anxious to go to a doctor or a hospital, or worse, an emergency room. But we live in Umbertide. We have a hospital and we can even walk there. So we walked over to the Pronto Soccorso.
We rang the bell and explained why we were there. I had to fill out a form about how I was feeling today (Covid related) and they took my temperature. Then I got to go in. I had to go alone as they won’t let more than one at a time. I was pleased I understood everything they asked me and could answer all the questions. My Italian has improved quite a lot I’m happy to say.
The doctors were nice, interested because I am American. One even looked up Virginia on his phone and started listing the states all around Virginia. I showed them my Tessera Sanitaria, my health card enrolling me in the system here. They were surprised but I explained I live here and am in the health system.
There was no discussion about the cat bite. It seemed almost a given that one must get treated for a bite from a cat. They examined my thumb and redressed it. Then they gave me a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics and dressed my wound. I have to return in 6 weeks for a booster tetanus shot. The visit cost nothing. I do love the Italian health care system 💕.
Afterwards we walked back and I drove to a farmacia to get my prescription filled. All in all a painless (mostly 🙂) visit. I’m glad I broke down and went. I won’t be so reticent in the future.
~~~~~~~ Yesterday and today I made pesto. The Basil is going wild. I harvested these two. They aren’t so pretty and bushy now. If you want to keep your basil producing you must cut it back as it starts to flower down to just above the juncture with two small leaves at the intersection of the stem. These small lives will grow into new, robust basil branches. I have regular basil and violeta.
Here is the jar of regular pesto I made.
This one is an experiment. Thai basil pesto. It has a dark color because of the purple leaves, and it has Thai flavors like fish sauce, sesame oil, etc. I haven’t eaten it yet. I will report back.
I have more to report as today was a busy day, but I will save it for tomorrow 🙂
It is still ungodly hot but supposed to break on Tuesday I think. Stay safe y’all. 🌈