This Sunday started out cold and rainy. It is autumn after all so the season is definitely changing. And so is my cooking 🙂. Today I made several things, just because the weather was dreary and it felt right to me.
First I made some of the cheese broth for soup that I periodically make with saved cheese rinds. It makes a nice rich broth. With this broth I made the Spinach orzo soup I posted about last spring. My first soup of the fall! I stashed that in the refrigerator for soups this week.
Then I made a bolognese sauce for pasta. My niece and her husband are arriving next Saturday so I wanted something to make pasta in case we eat at home. That went into the freezer.
Last I made our dinner for tonight which is pork chili verde. A new recipe I wanted to try and it is a nice autumn dish. Luther liked it. I was OK with it.
To be honest the day actually got better around midday. We still had occasional showers and it stayed cool but there was quite a lot of sun. Here is our sunset last night, with some of my flowers in the foreground.
Managed to pay for the refrigerator today. Luther went back, repeatedly (three times) to get the bill to pay. Italy is the only place I’ve lived where you’ve got to chase them down to pay them. The thing is, we buy our appliances from a store here in town called Formica. Family run and they will get anything you want. Yes, you pay a bit more for it but they bring it, set it up and if there’s ever a problem make sure it gets fixed. Plus you support a local family and store. And yes, you’ve got to chase them down to pay them! But it’s all good.😁 ~~~~~~~ I had lunch with a new friend in Assisi today. What a cool location. The hotel, named Borgo Antichi Orti has indeed got an ancient vegetable garden. It sits beneath the basilica of St Francis. The lunch was nice and meeting my new friend for the first time was great.
On the way to lunch I got stopped in a random traffic stop. These are common. The Carabinieri hold out what everyone calls a “lolypop” looks like one, it is red and means pull over. They check the cars papers and your driving license. This was a first for me. Luther has been pulled over three times.
Here is where we ate lunch. The glass doors were the restaurant and looming above was the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi. Amazing.
Scorpion – first one I’ve seen in this apartment. Rocky was playing with it. Luckily they are not dangerous here. But still creepy. ~~~~~~~ Today was a rainy day, the first one since back in the spring. I like the occasional rainy day. I puttered about the kitchen, using up ingredients I bought to make random things. First, I parboiled and peeled some Roma tomatoes from the Saturday Mercato so I could make more of the delicious butter sauce.
Then I spent a looong time chopping 3 bell peppers, 4 cucumbers and 2 onions into tiny dice to make sweet pickle relish. You can’t buy that here so I’ve taken to making my own. Now I prefer it to store-bought. It is easy to make but there is a lot of chopping!
Last I roasted some of the recent tomatoes from my garden which, as is expected, aren’t as good a summer ones. When you roast them with olive oil and slivered garlic it makes a delicious sauce and resurrects a poor tomato. This was dinner tonight. Felt kind of Greek. I liked it but it isn’t a keeper.
Last night I tried a new recipe (of course with some of my own adjustments/additions!) called Spaghetti quadrati con zucchine. Luther subscribes to a website calle Doctor Wine. He is always sending along recipes that he thinks he would like. When he sends one that I ALSO like I save it. This one was one of these.
It was bit unusual. Beginning prep was to cut a large zucchini (I used yellow summer squash), or a couple of small ones, into strips. And chop up a few cloves of garlic. I also added a few mushrooms. Then you sauté in olive oil until brown and crisp. (I also added pepper flakes for some zip). Add the garlic at the end. This is now ready for the spaghetti at the end.
For the quenelles (for two people) you put a couple of big, rounded spoons full of ricotta in a bowl. I had fresh goat ricotta from the market. Add a quarter cup grated pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) and a drizzle of olive oil and mix up. The recipe called for zucchini flowers but I didn’t have them. If you do, then remove stamens and chop them, then mix in now. Roughly tear fresh basil leaves and mix them in. Form into rounded spoons full. Set aside.
Cook spaghetti until not quite done. Save some water. Drain and added to the previously made squash and garlic along with some water and more torn basil leaves [EDIT – also add more grated cheese now]. Sauté and cook until pasta is al dente. Place in bowls and put a quenelle on top of each portion. Drizzle with more good olive oil. Serve.
We visited a caseificio, or cheeserie, today called I Formaggi del Pastore. It is owned and operated by the Monni family who moved here with their herd of 300 Sardinian sheep in 1960. These sheep have milk of excellent quality. Land was scarce in Sardinia but Umbria was full of abandoned farms with lush pastures.
I know them because they sell at our Saturday kilometer zero market and are my favorite cheese source. Besides the Pecorino cheese, from the sheep, they sell goat cheese which is unusual here, also fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta and fresh eggs. They have other Sardinia specialties like cheese filled pasta which makes a quick and delicious dinner. We visited the farm for the first time today. We are scouting out possible places to take our niece and her husband who are coming to visit the first week in October. She would like to see them making the cheeses. We were unable to see the proprietor today so we will try to talk to them Saturday at the market.
The farm is just below the pretty hill town of Montone. The views on the roads to the farm are nothing short of amazing.
Of course we bought some cheese. This one is classic semistagionato Pecorino. That means it has been aged for three months. It is still soft but it is firm. It’s my favorite. Luther likes stagionato, which is aged from three months to one year.
Hopefully, if all goes well we will be taking Rachel and Alex back to the caseificio to see the process. I will, of course, be taking pictures. Ciao!
We are preparing for a new trip. We have house/cat sitters arriving on Sunday. We are meeting up with my sister and her husband for another small ship cruise. Again on the Windstar line. This ship holds 300 people. We will fly to Amsterdam and depart from there and sail down the coast to Bordeaux. Then fly home. I will, of course do a trip report. Right now many preparations are being made. Getting the apartment ready for our sitters is the prime importance. And also, of course packing for ourselves. We are almost ready. Still just need to make up a second guest room since our sitters are two women who want separate bedrooms.
Last night I finally tried the outside wood BBQ. I made a garlic, yogurt marinated chicken thigh recipe. It came out well but I needed either more oil on the grill or not skinless thighs. They tended to stick. They tasted good though. I will use this grill more now.
Stay tuned for my upcoming Trip Report. Buon fine settimana a tutti!
It is agosto, August, time stops here. I read some complaints on Facebook expat groups about the fact you can’t get anything done now because everyone is on vacation. You might be surprised, but really everything does stop. Go to your bank. There are no tellers. All construction stops. Factories close. Everyone is at the beach or in the mountains. My comment to the complainer, who said Italy can’t progress because of this stupid August thing, was to say, Viva la difference. Although it can and is frustrating to live in a culture so unlike the culture in the US. The very nature of the inconveniences make Italy, Italy. I didn’t move here for convenience and US sameness. I moved here precisely for the differences. For 45 years I worked in the “progressive” USA and fought for a work/life balance. Who is to say the crazy work, work ethic of the US is better?
On a lighter note, I walked to and from the Wednesday market and I grabbed a couple shots of this newly created “garden(?)”. I was amused. Snow White and her dwarves, fake grass, fake water lilies! Who says the Italians can’t be tacky? 🤣😂😅
I forgot to mention that we learned a little more about our apartment. Paolo, our cabinet maker, seems to be fascinated with this apartment. He was surprised, as so many are, to find a place like this in this area and in this building. Unexpected I guess.
Anyway, he must have mentioned it to other people and in the process he learned the original owner was a strange one. He had a storefront but did no business, his money sources were not known and he seemed to have no visible means of support. This means one thing to me. And you can probably guess what that is. He ended up bankrupt and this apartment went up for auction. The people we bought from were it’s second owners. I assume they got it for cheap. The original owner is no longer living. It is always interesting to learn about your house.
Again I made pesto. I wish you were here, I would give you some!
The weather today must be one of the top ten days ever on this beautiful earth! Cool breezy, sunny, puffy clouds, crystal clear air. Simply amazing. View from terrace at Calagrana. Am I right? Is it not perfect?
We joined four friends from Canada. One old friend and three new ones. Our friend Karen comes every summer and rents in Tuscany but not terribly far from here. They were blown away by the beauty of the restaurant and it was perfect as always. I loved my starter. In fact four of us got this. It sounded so good. Grilled peaches on a tomato bed with prosciutto.
Next will be some of our pastas. One a tagliolini in a creamy sauce with truffles, the other Fishioni (a type of pasta) with sausage ragù, arugula and pecorino cheese. So good!
The dining terrazzo full of happy diners.
Great seeing friends and sharing a delicious meal. Buona domenica a tutti!
The story of our Italian family is a long one. In a nutshell, it started as soon as we moved into our last apartment. The place was full of the dust of construction and everything needed cleaning. My friend Susan introduced me to Vera, who cleaned her house. A super interesting and intelligent woman from Bosnia originally and then Slovenia. To avoid an arranged marriage (Islamic parents) she fled to Italy and became a nanny. She met her future husband, married and had two beautiful girls. And she began her own business.
Vera cleaned for us and we engaged her to chat with us in Italian after cleaning. Time passing and we became good friends. Eventually we were adopted by Vera and family and we adopted them. We all love good food and relish the different cuisines. Not normal for Italians. So that’s the back-story.
Sunday Lunch was the first in months. I hadn’t seen Vera since February. Now that we have a table and furniture we asked them for Pranzo. I decided an American lunch was the best thing given the heat. The menu was chips and salsa to start, sweet and spicy. Pulled pork sandwiches with hot sauces and coleslaw, grilled hot dogs with the fixins. Potato salad. And for dessert, peach tiramisù.
It was so nice to see everyone again. I had missed them so much. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures. Graziano is very tall and has made some tall girls! And beautiful redheads.
My new, favorite Italian word is….telecomando. Somehow it makes me feel like the captain of a Starship. What power I have here in my hand! I won’t keep you waiting, it is the word for remote control. I guess I’d heard it before, but now I’ve got fans with telecomandi — I assume that’s the plural(?) — so I’m feeling mighty powerful 😁
It’s still hot but it will be slightly less for the weekend. Then it goes back up to 39. But happily, after that it is a more livable 32ish. My salad last night was a burrata tomato salad. Burrata is a cheese made from the byproducts from making mozzarella. To me it is richer than mozzarella. I served it with cold cannelloni beans.
My next salad project will be a Panzanella, probably for tomorrows dinner. It is a classic Tuscan salad which uses up stale bread. Frugal, those Tuscans. It is only good when the tomatoes are at their tip-top in high summer since they are the star ⭐️ in the dish.
I have invited our old friend Vera and her family for domenica Pranzo. We havn’t seen her since maybe February? Vera and I love to cook. I showed her how to make American style ribs and how to cook a whole turkey. I have made Mexican and Indian for them as well. The whole family are very adventurous eaters. This is not the norm for Umbrian Italians. Due to a lack of a convenient upstairs kitchen I’m doing an American style BBQ. We will start with Salsa and chips, one spicy, one mild. I can make pulled pork in the slow cooker ahead of time, which won’t heat up the house. I’ll grill hot dogs. I made homemade BBQ sauce (hard to find here), and then we will have some salads, coleslaw and potato, and finally, a new-to-me fresh peach tiramisù. I’ll try to take pictures. I hope it isn’t terribly hot upstairs. 🤞
Since it is too hot to cook much, we have been eating pretty much all salads, all the time. Last night it was an Insalata all Greco — Greek salad. Can’t go wrong with that. Night before last it was a salad of hard boiled egg, tuna, tomatoes, cucumbers and cannelloni beans drizzled with olive oil. Tonight it’s cold pasta with sautéed garlic shrimp, green pepper, new red onions, pickled zucchini and celery. I topped it with a little homemade ranch dressing with plenty of fresh herbs.
Tomorrow is market day. It is also the peak of the heat spell. So I plan to get up and get to the market bright and early before it gets too hot. Stai fresco!