Category Archives: Foods

Celebratory lunch at Calagrana

What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.

Calagrana on it’s hillside.
View from in front Calagrana.

There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.

Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.

It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!

So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.

What a productive week!

First I want to mention that we had a good hard rain Thursday night/Friday morning last week. First rain in weeks. I was up checking the gutters and all looked fine. Draining, no more waterfalls. And best of all, no leaks inside. Whew. Glad to have gotten that done thanks to Fabio and Mario. Excellent workers in a difficult situation.
~~~~~~~
Our friends and buyers of our apartment, had a bit of a mishap. Jane fell off her bike hitting her chin and cheekbone on the ground and breaking her thumb. She and Christie walked over to the Pronto Soccorso (emergency room) where they gave her a temporary cast and made an appointment to visit an orthopedic doctor in Citta di Castello yesterday. Meanwhile, our signing of the Powers of Attorney was scheduled for Tuesday.

We did manage to get the signing done, even with Jane’s right, and main, hand in a cast. It was somewhat amusing. The Notaio’s office is in a former Palazzo built in the 1600s. It is just next to an enormous green space which Jim told us it was once the main Piazza of Castello, and a formal garden. Now it is just an immense lawn. The office is just as I remember it. Grand but threadbare in a pleasing way. I took a couple photos.

Ceiling. Probably 20 feet high.
Ornate door into the room.
Cool fireplace, obviously unused.

So, Jim can now sign for Christy and Jane to close on the apartment. And he can close for us on our new place. That way we don’t need a translator. Saves a bit of money. The deal is not quite sealed…but a step closer.

Because we weren’t sure what they would do at the hospital in Castello I drove them up for the appointment. We went to the hospital and found the orthopedic department where Jane was seen pretty quickly. But she had to endure the pain of resetting her thumb…no anesthetic. The norm here. She said is was REALLY painful. Then they put on a cast and we went to get an X-ray to see how the set was. It took us 45 minutes to FIND the Radiology department. They are very short on signage. On the good side, we got our steps in. 🫤 We returned to the orthopedic docs who viewed the X-rays and told us to make an appointment to come back in a week. Making the appointment at the ASL (Azienda Salute Locale).

To give ourselves a reward for our ordeal…more for Jane than Christie and I, we decided to have lunch! We tried a new place called Grace. It opened in the space where Patrick’s Enoteca used to be. It is a bit of a sad story. Grace was the wife of the chef. She was a 28 year old American. She and her husband were involved in an accident in which she was killed. The restaurant was opened in her name.

We had a delicious lunch. They have half portions of almost everything, so we decided to do three half portions each. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

Zucchini carpaccio with walnuts.
My ravioli with black truffles
Jane and Christie got this zucca stuffed pasta. Zucca is the big orange winter squash they have here.
Inside – mmmm.
The zucca main course Jane had. She and Christie are vegetarians.
Being an equal opportunity eater I tried the venison. I eat a lot of vegetarian but like to try meats too.

This week we also got our guy to come to arrange to replace two window screens, the electrician is coming to replace two lights, and Luther had a hearing test today. I gotta say…I am OVERWHELMED at all the progress we are making! So un-Italian! 🙂💕 Ciao a tutti!

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!

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.

Beautiful day, nice lunch

Yesterday was a beautiful day! In fact, we have had a nice long run of beautiful September and October days. The Germans call it Goldener Oktober. We, in the US, call it Indian Summer. No matter what it is called…I am loving it!

We had a planned lunch with our friend Doug who just moved here a few months ago. We were meeting in Gualdo Tadino, a town in eastern Umbria which lies on the slopes of the Apennine mountains. The really big ones that run from the top to the toe of Italy. I had not visited this valley. It runs north and south along the mountains from Foligno to Gubbio.

The restaurant is Terrazza di San Guido. It sits high above the town on the mountain. I would have thought it would take advantage of it’s position to showcase the view. But it does not. It has an unpretentious interior dining room, and a few tables outside. The service was good. They have an unusual offering on the menu which I had not seen before. A whole section devoted to Crescia. It is a flat bread specialty of Umbria and Le Marche which they use to make sandwiches. I think it is the same as what I know as Torta al Testo.

Doug ordered one as his starting course. It looked tasty. We also had a chance to sample the bread as they brought out bags of it, soft and warm. I had Caprese insalata to start and it was good. The October tomatoes were still decent. Then we had pasta, and Luther, ever the meat eater, got the mixed grill. Doug got the Tartuffi Lasagna — Lasagna with truffles. I got a taste and it was great. I ordered Cannelloni al Sugo di Carne. It was good…but not great. Here are pictures.

Truffle lasagna
My Cannelloni
And…the mixed grill.

On the way home I took a couple of pictures of the bodacious day and the beautiful scenery.

We will continue to enjoy this wonderful weather for as long as it continues. I am now seeing many pictures of the olive harvest which is just beginning here. Umbria is known for its oil. It is robust, grassy, and peppery in your throat. I am smitten with it. To me it is the best of all. Love the green green color of the new oil. Photo from my friend James Lupori.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Pesto!

The weather is fine and warm right now. Highs at 25C which is 77F. Nice! Now that it is October it’s time to think about harvesting the garden. Another last in our casa in the sky. Our last garden. It was a good one this year.

Basil, mint and tarragon
Sweet peppers
Piccante peppers.

The basil was very prolific this year. Carefully harvesting throughout the year before it can bloom keeps it growing. But alas, the time has come to use it all before it frosts.

That can only mean…it’s pesto time! It isn’t difficult. You probably know that Pesto Genovese originated in Genoa. To make it in the traditional way, you use a mortar and a pestle with which you grind all the ingredients into a paste. I use a food processor as most people do. Someday I may try to make it the traditional way. Here are pictures of the ingredients I used.

I fill the bowl with basil leaves packing them in.
A few cloves of garlic
Parmigiano, Grana Padano or aged pecorino cheese and olive oil.
Ground nuts. I use all different kinds, not always the traditional pine nuts. These are hazelnuts.

I also add a little water if I want the pesto thinner without using too much oli. I prefer it not too oily. The final product. I divided it and froze part of it for the wintertime for a taste of the summer during the bleak months.

And finally, some of the flowers are still pretty.

Artisanal products Umbertidese

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.

Glorious sabato!

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.

Buona festa a tutti!!

It is HOT 🥵

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!