Category Archives: Eating

Thanksgiving – let’s give thanks 💕

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.
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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. 💕

And the winner is…

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.
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Stay safe everyone 😷🌈

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch. It was not my normal soup….it was the wonderful goat cheese I bought Saturday. Very yummy, soft and spreadable. I had it with Hjortronsylt. It is a jam popular in Sweden, from a fruit I am not familiar with. It goes very well with cheeses. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a jar from my friend Ava. And I am here to say, it was wonderful. Thank you Ava!

We woke this Monday morning to the first freeze of the year. But it is bright and sunny so that’s cheerful anyway. We have a busy week ahead. Our list of chores has grown. Shopping, a visit to the Poste and the Tabacchi for bill paying, and picking up all the thanksgiving food, to include the turkey.

Stay Covid safe everyone! 😷 Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Risotto!

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.

Umbria is Code Orange

Yesterday it was announced that several regions were re-classified as Code Orange in the color-coded alert colors of yellow, orange and red. Here is a map. We are dead center just east of Tuscany which is also Code Orange.

Seeing this graph makes my heart sink.

The new restrictions take affect tomorrow. All bars and restaurants closed except for take-away and delivery. Shops and necessary services to include pharmacies, supermarkets, food stores, and tabbacchi remain open. All theaters, cinemas, gyms, museums, and swimming pools closed. Curfew 10pm to 5am. No one is allowed to leave their Comune unless for work or emergency reasons.

So it goes. Again. All that work in the Spring lockdown was for naught in the second surge. I am sure these new measures will slow it again. This is really difficult for Italy. At least we have the good news from Pfizer that the vaccine they are developing is proving very effective. So soon, we hope, that can be distributed.
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Of course, there is always something better to focus on. For me it is again the Olio Nuovo. You may be getting a little tired of posts about the new olive oil but it is such a part of Umbrian life, it cannot be ignored!

So far you’ve seen the oil which we received from friends whom we helped with the harvest. We had it in a dish with untoasted bread. Then we had it on bruschetta the next day. it is excellent quality oil.

But every year I also order oil from our friend Fabio who has a large orchard and makes his living from selling it. He told us he had gotten 400 liters this year and it is the best he has ever had. He also mentioned it is the greenest oil he’s ever seen. I had already ordered from him before receiving the oil from our friends. I figured out we use around 15-20 liters a year. So we are set until the next harvest. I spoke to our Italian teacher and she told me her family of five uses maybe 30 liters. When it is so good and so plentiful it becomes a big part of the Umbrian diet. It is also very healthy.

Last night we opened a bottle of Fabio’s oil. And it was fabuloso! We had it on bruschetta. Also, for dipping in my dipping dish. It is indeed, GREEN! I also took some photos of the haul. Fabio sells oil. All his oil is non-filtered, and the grove is not treated with any pesticides. His website is Olivoil.bio. If anyone is lucky enough to be here, and need oil, I’m sure you’d love the Olivoil.

GREEN!!

Tomorrow, I think I’ll focus on the autumnal market. Luckily, this lockdown they have not shut down the weekly Umbrian markets. I suppose if we got to Code Red, that might happen. Let’s hope this one will slow it so we don’t get to Red. Here’s hoping the US can get some good policies in place to slow it there as well.
Stay safe everyone! Wear your masks! Andrà tutto bene 🌈

The fruits of our labor

We were given six liters of olio nuovo yesterday by our friends Joanne and Mark 🙂. It is a portion of the oil produced from our harvesting effort on Friday. They told us the yield was low but the quality is good.

Look how pretty this is! So green! We just had some bread dipped into the oil today. Bruschetta perhaps tomorrow. The flavor is wonderful. Grassy and peppery and slightly bitter. It will smooth out as it sits but I just love the new oil for its brashness. You can only get it like this one time a year so it is very special.

Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Chicken dinner

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!

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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? 💔
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Stay safe everyone…

Raccolta 2020

Raccolta means “harvesting”. Raccolto, means “harvest”. We participated in the olive raccolta, yesterday. It happens like clockwork every October and November here. We were invited by our friends Joanne and Mark who have 75 trees of varying age.

It is hard to overstate how important…how much a part of the yearly cycle, the olive harvest is to Umbrian life. For people who live here it is a way of life. It is something to look forward to, something that brings people together to work, and after a days work they join together in a meal. It is tradition.

Last week you may have read we visited our local hardware store. At this time of year it is chock full of all things raccolto. Hand rakes, long rakes, beaters (battery powered implements to shake the olives down), nets, crates, and all manner of containers to store it. Everyone is excited, getting ready for the new oil. It is a happy time, lord knows we need some happiness nowadays! The frantoio, or olive mill, is a happy place. It processes the olives 24/7 with the farmers and olive grove owners looking on lovingly as the “green gold” comes out of the spigot after the processing.

The new oil is unfiltered, so it is cloudy. But it is bright, brilliant green. Much greener than the olive oil most of us use daily. And it is only this way for a short time. It must be savored atop bruschetta or tagliatelle during the short time each year we have it. We put it on something mild flavored so the oil is the star! The qualities of Umbrian oil are a grassiness, and a peppery taste in the back of the throat. It has a very strong aroma. There is nothing mild or reticent about the oil from Umbria. It is a brash and in your face oil 😋. I love it completely. I really hope everyone who loves Italy can visit Umbria during the raccolto so they get a chance to experience the new oil. It is spettacolare. Most restaurants showcase it during meals at this time of year.

Yesterday dawned gray and foggy as it does for most of the winter here. We left at nine and drove to our friends house up in the mountains between us and Lago Trasimeno. They have restored an old abandoned farmhouse over many years. They are now retired here. Their property has an olive grove. It seems most properties have a grove if you’ve got any land at all. So in the fall, it is hard NOT to be invited to help in the raccolta. We really love it. Open air, good honest work among friends. In these Covid days it is nice to be safely among friends.

On the drive up the twisty road into the mountains we were first in dense fog. But the higher we got, the brighter it got. Until suddenly, we popped out above the clouds which created the fog below. Are these not spectacular pictures!?

We arrived and got to work. The fog had not yet burned off at this elevation so it was still quite cool. We worked until after two and then lunch was served. I was famished. Most people were pretty tired. Luther and I went back out and finished the tree we were working on and then headed home. Here are some action pictures and pictures of the views.

The fog was just below where we were working. Spooky looking!
Tina and Joanne hard at work.
Carol and Heather.
There was some autumn color across the valley.
One person is using the “beater” . The nets are spread under the tree to catch the fruit.
Just 3 of the 25 boxes that were picked.

The 25 boxes went to the frantoio last night. I haven’t heard how many kilos we got nor how many liters were produced. I will include this in a future post.

It was fun as always to get outside with friends and do some honest work. To be able to participate in an Umbrian ritual that’s been going on almost the same for thousands of years is part of the reason we love living here.
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Around town and beyond

We have been out and about a little the last few days. Saturday we had a long-standing date to have lunch with a couple we had not met in person. Virtual friends. Matt and Zeneba.

We met at one of our longtime favorite restaurants, La Grotta in Montepulciano. Unfortunately it was a rainy blustery day so I didn’t get any photos from along the way. The scenery, being Tuscany and the famed wine area of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – the Noble wine of Montepulciano, was manicured. Many vineyards with pretty vines all in their autumnal yellows and reds. The grapes, long harvested, are in the process of turning into the beautiful wines of the area.

While stopped at a railroad crossing, I looked to my right at this pretty little terrace right on the road practically. I loved the still life of pumpkin and pretty gourds.

Here are the obligatory food pictures. But first the church across from La Grotta. San Biagio.

Sweetbreads with mushrooms.
Luthers lamb chops. Don’t you love the beans? 🙂
It is porcini season and they had them a few ways. Zeneba had them as an antipasto. I had this tagliatelle.
Dessert was pistachio gelato with chocolate cakes. Mmmm.

It was a fun little trip and we enjoyed meeting new friends. We vowed to meet for lunch between us every so often. They live in Lazio, south of Orvieto. We have to wait a bit until our new restrictions ease up.
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Tuesday – we decided to do a few errands. It was a crisp day. The colors stood out brilliantly clear in the bright sun. The sidewalk on our way, covered in leaves.

First we walked to our hardware store behind the train station called Emporio Casa. That sounds very fancy doesn’t it? But it is not at all. It is a long narrow building full to the brim with anything and everything you will ever need for around the house, yard or garden. You can’t browse anymore, due to Covid, but the men working there are very helpful. We got our necessaries and headed to our appliance store nearby.

The store is named Formica, I had always thought it funny to name a store for an insect — Ant. But someone clued me in that the name is the last name of the family who own it! Haha. We had ordered a new refrigerator a little over a week ago. They brought it to our house but it turned out we needed some carpentry modifications to make it work. Lucky for us they had brought a carpenter! They removed the cabinet doors and he did some measuring. Then they took out the old frig and put the new one inside the cabinet sans doors, so we’d have something to use. Last week the carpenter returned and changed out the hinges etc and it all looks great. So today, even though no one had asked us for any money yet, we decided to walk over and pay them. Would that happen in the US 🙂?

Next stop, the Tabacchi. These stores do many things, they sell the tax stamps we often need, tickets for the train or bus, lottery tickets, and you can pay your bills there. I paid my friends electric bill for her today. Along the way to the Tabacchi we passed the elementary school playground which was ablaze with beautifully colored trees.

Last stop, the Carrefour, our closest grocery store to our house. We picked up a couple things we needed and headed back home. It was a nice little jaunt which had the double goodness of getting a few things done. I love that we can do all of this sort of thing on foot within a few blocks of our house.

Have a beautiful day everyone, wherever you are. Enjoy the autumn day. And be Covid-careful as always.