Category Archives: cooking

This and that

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.

My hand is included so you can see they are big!

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. 🌈

Lunch with friends

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.

Pronto soccorso (emergency room)

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. 🌈

Sunday dinner

I made a wonderful dinner tonight and I thought I’d share it. The recipe is called “string beans, pickled beans, tomatoes, and olives on Tonnato”. It is from the Six Seasons cookbook. It has started to get hot and we have at least two weeks coming up of very hot weather so salads are nice.

I read the recipe a few weeks ago and made a jar of pickled beans. They’ve been curing in the refrigerator for a while and I thought they were ready. I added a few things, like endives for crunch, and a soft boiled egg. The description of the recipe said it had evolved from the Salade niçoise. The egg added a little more umph so it wasn’t “just a salad”. The tonnato sauce underneath the salad was great and you could get some with each forkful. It was quite filling. I’d make this one again.

~~~~~~
🌈 mask up everyone! 💕

Old lady carrello

I have a friend, who shall remain nameless 🙂, she calls these “old lady carts”.

I admit, the little old ladies here DO use these for their shopping. They don’t have cars so these are a big help to them. But…. I say defensively…. I have also seen younger people, and even (gasp) men with these. I decided to get one. The one above is mine. Sitting in front of our door. Deluxe model. You may note it has the high tech, coolio, triple wheel action, handy for curbs and stairs. Note to my anonymous friend (who lives in Perugia, a hill town 😳), you need one of these!! 💕

~~~~~~~~
The weather has turned gorgeous. Not at all hot. Brilliant blue sky with no clouds. It gets very cool at night. The Saturday market is going strong. I got my shopping done. The peppers on the left I harvested this morning from our own pepper plants. They are all spicy.

~~~~~~
Dinner tonight will be from a recipe from Italian Food Forever. It is called Summer Spaghetti. So easy, and so good in summer with the beautiful tomatoes. No cooking, so it doesn’t heat up your kitchen. You put it together and let it sit 4 or more hours. The flavors meld. You cook and toss the spaghetti into the sauce while it is hot, saving some sauce to put on top. A little pecorino cheese and it is summertime heaven. Mmmm. Nothing makes me happier!

~~~~~
I have been watching the US news, as I’m sure we all are. It is so sad that if people would just wear that damn mask they could almost stop this Virus in its tracks! Please stay safe and wear your masks. 🌈 😷

Trivial issues and tomato sandwiches

In the grand scheme of things, considering the really dire state of the human race on our earth, my small problems matter not a whit. It is true. And truly, if I never get Saran Wrap again but the Corona Virus is vanquished, I am more than fine with that.

Last night I used the last of my Saran Wrap. I can manage with the Italian plastic wrap, but Saran is much, much better. During normal times I would be traveling home to the US once a year or so. And I always stock up on all the things I like from there (I bring an empty suitcase). Needless to say we won’t be going home anytime soon. And we won’t have any guests from the US anytime soon, so I will make do.
Dead soldier…


~~~~~~~
Tomato sandwiches were a staple of my childhood lunches. My mother adored in-season tomatoes. She would have called them “home grown”. She would make a sandwich with Wonder bread, mayonnaise and thick slices of tomatoes with salt and pepper. That’s all. And I grew up eating these. Since “home grown” tomatoes are only around a couple of months I tend to eat them everyday here. How? You ask? Watch me work!

First, and don’t you people be shouting about this because it is in all the Supermarkets here, I buy a nice loaf of American Sandwich bread. Just like Wonder Bread 🙂.

Then, I slather on lots of mayonnaise…and not just ANY mayonnaise but the real thing! Hellman’s! Also available here at selected supermarkets.

We don’t have what Americans call Heirloom tomatoes in our markets, but what we have are outstanding!

The Romas on the left are destined for Gazpacho. The basil will be pesto! Mmmm I love summer.

So, using all these fine ingredients 🙂… I make my daily Tomato sandwich. Mmmmmm. Sorry…half eaten 😋

~~~~~~
I also got my haircut this morning. First time since lockdown. Whew. Nice to get it cut. I drive around 40 kilometers from Umbertide to Sansepolcro. Nice small city in Tuscany. I love Stefano, my hairdresser.
~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone! 🌈

July 5 — Luther’s birthday

Special day for Luther. We were invited to a BBQ up in the mountains. Our Italian friends who are our Italian famiglia invited us. It was a beautiful, breezy day. Not at all hot. We were nine people. The family of four, two young girls and their parents, who own the lovely property, and her father from Slovenia. Me and Luther, and another couple with a house in Umbria. They are Polish and live in Colorado and also in Puerto Rico.

The meal was wonderful. We started with a guacamole dip and a tomato salsa and chips. Wine flowed right from the start. I brought chocolate chip biscotti, the Poles brought a hunters stew. This property has a great pizza oven and BBQ in it’s own stone structure. We had grilled sausages, pork, beefsteaks. Also a very spicy eggplant dish which took me by surprise by its spice 😳 and also salad.

After a short time frozen vodka flowed as well as lemoncello. There was a cake for Luther to cut. My cookies and chocolate we brought rounded out the desserts.

View of had
View of the yard and oven.
Picnic Pavillion
Pizza oven.
The group
Outside dining
Vera and Luther
Dessert. Luthers cake, my biscotti, and a chocolate bell.
Birthday boy.
Me, Luther and Vera.

Tuesday – Day of the Republic

Today is a national Holiday — Festa della Repubblica. June 2nd. In 1946, it was the day Italians voted to abolish the monarchy, and the Republic of Italy was born. So it’s called Republic Day.

After an 85 year monarchy, which had for the most part been very popular with the people, a referendum resulted in the end.  All male members and future heirs of the ruling House of Savoy were deposed and exiled.

The monarchy had ruled since Italy’s Unification in 1861. Its final monarch, Umberto II only got to be king for a month, earning him the nickname ‘Re di Maggio’ or ‘the May King’.

Umberto had actually been acting as head of state since 1944; after Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime – to which the monarchy had been allied – collapsed, King Victor Emmanuel III transferred his powers to his only son in the hope it would give the monarchy a popularity boost. It didn’t work.

The constitution now forbids a monarchy. In 2002, The House of Savoy family formally renounced their claim to the throne so they could return from exile. Umberto refused the right to return to his homeland, dying in Geneva in 1983.

There you go! Your Italian history lesson for today 🙂
~~~~~~~~
Last night I made a new recipe from “Six Seasons” cookbook. It was a faro salad with salami, cheese, and fave.  I added new peas, arugula and basil to the mint called for. Lots of good Umbrian olive oil. Very yummy. Luther loved it. 

Sabato!

Today, Saturday, dawned gray but cleared by midday after rain all night. Last night the young people partied into the night at Cafe Centrale. The rain made them pack into the cafe. Maskless. I guess we wait a week or two to see if we get spikes in the virus.

I had errands. First, we visited the market where I bought fave beans, tiny zucchini, the crisp cucumbers, rucola, and fresh eggs! The last five uova! I also took some pictures. Then we paid a bill for my friend. On the way back we visited the newly opened, Carrefour supermarket for the first time. There were far too many people in there. All masked but still… I didn’t feel very comfortable. The store itself is OK. Better than the old Conad but still nothing much different than all small Italian supermarkets. It does stay open all day, unlike the old Conad. We recognized all the checkout women from the old store 🙂. Finally to the farmacia. So much for our errands.

The last thing was to see if the Porsche would start after it’s dead battery issues. We had received our battery charger a couple days ago and it had been hooked up and charging for a couple days. Crossing our fingers we started her up. Vroom! We took a spin. Luther added air to the tires. All is well. It is due for a servicing so that’s next.

~~~~~~~
We went to Bar Mary for Aperitivo. I complemented Irene on her pretty flowered mask. She said she got it at the Tabacchi. Next thing I know she had bought me a mask…just like hers! She is so sweet. We are gemelli! Twins.
~~~~~~~~

Tonight we are having a pasta primavera. Sautéed pancetta, peas, asparagus, fave. Mmm perfect for this time of year.

Covid 19 – Phase 2.1 – Day 6

228,658 positives in Italy. Up 0.3% – 32,616 total deaths since beginning of the outbreak.

There are 1,429 positive cases in Umbria. 74 total deaths.

1,590,349 cases in the US – 95,495 deaths.
~~~~~~~
Sabato – Another bright sunny day. And it’s market day!

But I get ahead of myself. We got out for our first Spritz yesterday at Bar Mary. They have big new tables. Really big. Lots of space between people. The piazza was hopping. Almost like old times except for the masks. After our drinks we had our Friday night pizzas and later in the evening I took a picture outside. I could hear a babble of voices. Many young people. Some staying apart, most (but not all) wore masks.

So, back to Market day. I made a point of getting out at about 8:30, after the vendors 8am set up. Specifically to get eggs. Rats. Missed out. Only one stand has them. I guess I need to go out even earlier! But I did buy fresh asparagus, the first new peas!! And some pretty red onions, some new carrots and a cucumber, also the first of summer. It cost 7€. 

After my early morning foray we had errands to run. First the, ever needed, cat liter. Seems we need it more than we should but we have this one cat, Rocky, who has fixated on the bathroom sink. We have to run the water for him and he sits very still and studies it until it stills. He is completely engrossed by it. After a bit, he steps in it, it is shallow. And swishes it around. Then drinks copiously. Which in turn, makes him pee…copiously…which in turn means we need a LOT of litter. A day in the life! I will have to get a photo of him at the sink.

After the pet store we went to the Green Thumb…Pollice Verde…which has all manner of stuff. We were looking for plants. A tip from my friend Angela told me they had an array of hot pepper plants. And sure enough! They did! So we don’t have to drive all the way to Citta di Castello anymore. We got two, a jalapeño, and a habanero.  We improbably ran into friends from Montone there, buying big terracotta planter boxes. 

We passed by the Eurospin market and were amazed that the line went across the parking lot. Hoping against hope our Coop grocery wouldn’t have a line, we stopped. We saw parking places, and even two carts! So we went in. No line. First time we’ve shopped together in almost 3 months. I will say, they are definitely NOT social distancing in there. They are letting too many in at a time. Everyone had to wear a mask though, thank goodness. We saw Gary, and our Montone friends again! Hah! So, we managed to get the shopping done and headed home. 

While out we drove past the new Carrefour market. We are all so excited about it opening…on Wednesday! They are stocking it now. Sign is up outside. Can’t wait to check it out. 
~~~~~
One pretty picture for you…

~~~~~~
Happy Memorial Day weekend. Please observe it safely. We have a holiday on (a week from this Tuesday) too, Day of the Republic, June 2. 🌈