Category Archives: cooking

Spinach soup

I made this soup that is now one of my all time favorites. I am not sure if the broth I made, made it special. I will make it again without that broth to see. We save cheese rinds in the freezer. And when I get a big bunch I boil them for an hour or so. The kitchen smells like cheese. I strain out the solids and use the broth in soups. I don’t do it often because it takes a while to save enough rinds. Anyway, this soup used this broth. But any broth would do. All you do is chop an onion, carrot and celery and sauté until soft. Add broth. I used chicken broth and the cheese broth and then some water. I cooked it all together for about 30 minutes. Then I added pasta. The rice shaped one. (Did you know orzo is barley here! I wonder how the US started using that word for rice shaped pasta?) Anyway, I cooked the pasta and then put in a huge amount of washed chopped spinach. I did not cook it. It just wilted into the hot broth. Even a huge amount will practically disappear into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. The soup was delicious, and so comforting…felt like chicken soup for the soul. Except…no chicken!

This is our picture window in our living room. It probably was the reason we bought this apartment. It brings real meaning to the phrase “picture window”. It changes by the minute. It looks like a painting. I never tire of it. I should have taken more photos like this. Oh well…

Capodanno!

Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.

In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.

So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.

This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!

Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.

Buon anno a tutti and Auguri! 🎉🎊

Broccoli romanesco

A couple posts ago, I talked about buying one of the alien looking broccoli romanesci. It is a very delicious vegetable. And amazing to look at too! Romanesco broccoli is a stunning example of a naturally forming fractal, recurrent throughout the natural world. It is a mystery why…but I just wanted to eat it! 😁

I decided to try an Italian recipe. I used a head of the broccoli. I separated it into florets. Then I boiled it for ten minutes and drained it.

Then I placed it in a pan lined with carta forno, or parchment paper. I preheated the oven to 200C (400F). I sprinkled it with bread crumbs, grated pecorino or parmesan and chopped almonds. Then I drizzled our amazing olive oil over it.

I roasted it for 25 minutes. It was perfect just like that but the recipe said an option was to put cubes of cheese on it and put it back into the oven to melt for 5 minutes. I thought that sounded nice, and I had scored some white cheddar this week so I grated some on top, instead of the cubes. Then I put it under the broiler. It was terrific. It could be a main for vegetarians. It easily could be for me too. But we had it as a side dish.

After roasting

Even Luther liked it! 🙂 I hope you give it a try.

Closing date — finally!

The weather is still vile. Not terribly cold, in the 50s in the daytime. Not cold at night. We did get down to 3C last week. I see next week it will become a deep freeze with temps to -3C at night. Time to cover the lemon tree!

We have been entertaining (!) ourselves getting some needed things done as you know from the last post. Yesterday we went to Città di Castello to Mailboxes Etc to mail a package to my sister and send Luther’s Passport off to the Embassy in Rome for renewal. What an ordeal. The instructions were to specifically “go to Mailboxes Etc” to mail and get a return envelope. The woman at the shop had no idea how to do this. Doesn’t seem they actually “have” return envelopes! So why would the Embassy website specifically instruct us to go to Mailboxes Etc? We hope what we did will work. Hopefully the embassy will call us if there’s a problem. We can always go to Rome to pick it up.

Then we drove past the Poste again, and it was again very crowded. So we skipped that. Finally we stopped at the little shop which does stuff for cars and drivers licenses etc. My license will expire on December 28 so I got the ball rolling to renew.

Later in the afternoon we were off to Perugia to have an adjustment done on Luther’s new hearing aids. They do seem to help. It is bad enough when you can’t hear well, but not hearing well in a foreign language sure doesn’t help with comprehension! We drove back along the E45 super strada. Bad traffic jams. Rain and dusk and road construction didn’t help. After we broke free we admired the trucks as they approached us on the other side of the highway. Some of them are amazing with all kinds of lights. A lot have lights in green red and white of the Italian flag. Many have the drivers name in neon lights in the front window. We oohed and ahhed. Luther said it was like looking at Christmas lights! Hah! It was!
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Now for the BIG news…we got our closing date on the new house. January 23. A little longer away than we thought but it will work out ok. Now at least we can DO some things to prepare. We contacted the moving company and they gave us dates of 23-25 January to pack and move us. I decided I cannot pack the entire house myself. They will pack for us but it is an extra cost. So we opted for that and now I will stop packing. I sent out a request to reserve a place for us to stay for a couple days during the actual move. Someplace to take the cats where they will be out of the way and safe. And we need to order two beds and a mattress from our old friend Mr. Tiziano. We bought quite a bit of stuff from him when we moved here in 2014. If we’ve got beds, then at least we’ll have a place to sleep. It feels better that I can start working now!
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They put the lights in the Christmas tree on Monday. Now it awaits it’s grand lighting ceremony tomorrow on L’Immacolata.

Lunch today was my old friend Zuppa di Cicerchie . You may remember this pea from previous posts. Here is what Wikipedia says about it: “Lathyrus sativus, also known as grass pea, cicerchia, blue sweet pea, chickling pea, chickling vetch, Indian pea, white pea and white vetch, is a legume commonly grown for human consumption and livestock feed in Asia and East Africa.”

Who knows how it came to Italy. It is common in the central Italian areas of Tuscany and Umbria, parts of Lazio and Abruzzo and the Marche. It fed the poor when nothing else was available. It is essential that it be soaked for at least 24 hours and the water be changed several times. It removes the toxins in the grain. It does make a delicious winter soup!

Alla prossima! 💚💚

Carbonara

I am sure you all know I am taking one-on-one lessons in Italian every week. We are now using a book called L’italiano per la cucina. It is at the B1 level and focuses on the traditional cucine of Italy.

Today’s lesson was on the traditional recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The legend goes that the origin of the dish was from when the American soldiers during WWII were occupying Rome. They had rations provided but to make them more interesting the soldiers gave them to local restaurants and asked they make a pasta using the ingredients. The rations had powdered eggs, bacon and cream. Carbonara was the result. The traditional recipe now does not include cream. [there are other legends about the origin of the dish, but this one is the most accepted]

I got so hungry during the lesson I was nearly drooling. SO…tonight I just HAD to make the recipe. It is super easy. Only four ingredients. Guanciale or pancetta, egg yolks, pecorino cheese and spaghetti or rigatoni. I whipped it up and it was delicious.

😋

Zuppa di bietola e cannellini beans

I bought some pretty greens for my next soup. They are called bietola here. When I put them in the translate app they say chard. But they also have what I call Swiss chard here, in red and yellow varieties which is different — chisa! Here is a picture of what I used. I am sure you could use the colorful chard as well.

I cooked a batch of dried cannellini beans yesterday. Today I used them with the greens. You can also use cans of cooked cannellini. It was a truly delicious soup. I will make it again.

Here is the recipe which I will also include on my recipes page.

Bietola and cannellini bean soup

2 carrots chopped
1 large stalk celery chopped
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
Handful of dried mushrooms (like porcini), soaked and chopped, saving the liquid
2-3 cans cannellini beans or cooked dry beans
1 sprig rosemary
1 bunch bietola, washed and chopped, including stems
Water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
A little vinegar (optional)

Sauté carrots, onions and celery in oil until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add chopped mushrooms and their water, strained for grit, beans, rosemary, bietola, water or stock and/or vegetable cube and salt. Cook 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and add pepper. Off heat. Add a splash of vinegar to brighten it a bit if desired. Buon appetito!

A special gift from friends

On Saturday we had lunch with one of my long-time friends who was once my boss many moons ago. She and her husband are visiting Italy and are staying near Cortona. We met in the middle at a restaurant we have passed by a million times, but never have we eaten there. It is on the top of a mountain and has a view to die for of Lago Trasimeno. It is called Lo Scoiattolo which means the squirrel.

She brought me a couple of things from home — first, some always much appreciated ziplock bags. Between Shirley and other friends I think I am now set for a couple of years! But she also brought me a package of Alaskan smoked salmon which she had bought while on a cruise in Alaska. What a great thing to get! I haven’t had this for donkeys years, which, trust me, is a long time!

So, I decided to make a recipe I have been waiting to try. Pasta with pistachio ”cream” and smoked salmon. The pistachios are not a cream. They call them a pesto, but not a normal pesto to me. It is just ground up pistachios and olive oil, and a little salt and water. It becomes very creamy.

Pistacchio pesto
The salmon
Final dish.

It was yummy. It was also super rich. Feeling full!

For those interested, my knee is much better. Seems the olive harvest perked it right up! My calf muscles were sore, probably from standing on tiptoe. But the knee is pretty good now. YAY!

My green tangerine…

I make a good deal of Mexican food and Asian food. Limes are something that I use often. To me, they have a distinctly different taste from lemons. Italians seem to think they are interchangeable. In fact, I have a very difficult time finding lime juice too. Only a couple of stores seem to have it. The last two times I went shopping I spied piles of nice limes. Of course I bought some and both times I got fooled.

You would think they were too, wouldn’t you? Well, it turns out that they are…

Yep! Tangerines. Green tangerines. I looked them up and they are Miyagawa mandarines. They are successfully cultivated in Italy in the citrus groves of Sicily, Basilicata and Calabria. Originally thought to be from China and/or Japan they thrive here. They ripen in September and October so they are the earliest of the citrus fruits. I don’t know why this is the first year I have seen them, but they are everywhere. They are sweet and good. It is not that I don’t like them, but they don’t work in my salsa or my chili.

🎶 And to top it all off, now I have that old song stuck in my head…you remember? ”My green tangerine 🎶 ” 😉

This n that

Short post – not much going on in Umbertide. One of the bars out in the piazza was closed this past week so it was quiet. The weather has been spectacular. One of the best Octobers I have seen here. The light has gotten that beautiful slant which makes the autumn so beautiful.

We went out to the market today. There were fresh porcini mushrooms so I had them for my lunch. Scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms.

We have finished a number of the chores on our ”to do” list. We still have a number of things to get done. We had our caldaia (heating system) inspected, mandated by law yearly. We still wait for the stufa (pellet stove) cleaner. We got our booster vaccines this week. We did some financial stuff. We need to buy a new light for our bathroom. And we need to see if we can get two screens replaced. This week we expect the gutter cleaners back to finish the job. I think they will build a scaffolding in the street to get to the top of the house. I assume they will need police permissions to block the street. I will report on the work as it continues.