Now we are back to everyday life after our big vacay. It is really hot. This weekend will be a record breaker.
Our first BIG thing was to go to the Questura with our final documents for our long term Permessi. But while we were gone our printer bit the dust. So we couldn’t print what we needed to take today. With some help from friends (thanks Paul) we got it printed. Friday morning we headed to the Questura. Sigh. Their hours changed. They were not open. We must go back next week. Back to normal Italian life! One step forward, two steps back.
While we were gone tomatoes happened! Yes they did! I had my first tomato sandwich yesterday.
Growing up with a Southern mother, I lived on these sandwiches when I was young. At my mothers knee. She loved them too! Luckily we have American style white bread here, see picture, so I am all set!
Today is the Saturday market. If I don’t get out early I miss out on fresh eggs and the tomatoes that I get from my favorite stand. Everyone has tomatoes, but only one has the tomatoes that are the ”right” tomatoes. The kind I remember from home, the right shape, the right kind of red.
…and eggs. I got eggs! The word for eggs is uova. The word for egg is uovo. This is opposite of what you’d think. Usually if something ends in “A”, it is a singular, feminine noun. In this case it is not singular, it is plural. I am told it is because it derives from a Greek word. Anyway, the man I get my eggs from held up one very dark egg as he was choosing mine. He asked if I wanted il cioccolato? Here is my basket of eggs. Il cioccolato is on top. I love the pretty hues of different browns and tans.
We have a monthly publication put out by the Umbertide Comune called Informazione Locale. I always try to read it. I saw this nice illustration of our Centro Storico and scanned it. I always like pictures of where we live. If it is a poster I will buy one.
We had a bunch of errands to run today. First to the pet store to stock up on cat care items for our cat sitters. Next to the dread Poste Italiene. The third ring of Hell. Now that all restrictions for Covid are off they again let as many people in as want to come, rather than queuing outside. You get a number, according to what you want to do. Then you wait. People watching is the preferred pass time. The board was on number 075 and I got 088.
After the wait I picked up what I thought would be a package. But in reality was a notice of a fine I have to pay. €135,52 – So far I cannot figure out what it is for and why I owe it.
Next we were off to the Bancomat…our two ATMs near our house are very persnickety lately. One says my card is illegible, the other says they cannot connect with my bank. So we stop at another bancomat when we are out and it will give me €500 at a time. More than the other ones will give me for the same fee. My card is obviously legible and my bank contactable !
Last errand was going to the grocery store. Saturday morning is THE worst possible time to go. But we had put it off for a while and really needed to go. While standing in the checkout we realized our friends Tom and Calvert from Montone were right behind us. Tom said to me, we are all retired. Why are we here on a Saturday morning? Good question!
Back to the apartment to unload and then I parked the car. It was just about 11:30 so our local market was still open but the vendors were pretty much wiped out. I did get a few things. Delicious sweet strawberries are here now. And crisp radishes as well as new potatoes which are just in.
Then I visited the lady with the local cheese from Montone. She is from Sardinia and you might recall I bought some of her dumplings a couple weeks ago. They were so delicious, I got some more, but different ones called Culargiones. (Rachel, you can google this one for a recipe 🙂.) They look like big gnocchi but with a leaf-like shape. They only want a buttery, tomato sauce with fresh basil.
Lastly I couldn’t resist some great looking mozzarella. Still waiting for the tomatoes!!
For the first time in nearly three years I had to buy olive oil! I am saving the little oil I have left from our friend, Fabio because it is the best olive oil I have ever tasted and too good to use for cooking. And we used up the oil we got from friends when we helped at the harvest, which was also excellent quality. It was a lot of oil. I may check with friends who may have some to sell. I am spoiled. I don’t want to use oil unless I helped harvest it, or I know the owner of the grove. 🙂 One of those cool things about living in Umbria.
~~~~~~~ From time to time Luther sends me a recipe he likes. Truth be told, he sends me at least one a week. They come from the Italian newspaper or from the Dr. Wine site. He complains that I don’t make many of them. I admit, I don’t. Friday, I made a zuppa that he sent. Zuppa di legumi misti, mais, e orzo perlato. It is a mixture of dried beans, farro, lentils (your choice of the mix) with corn and orzo. This is another oddity. Orzo, in the US, is rice shaped pasta. Here, orzo is barley. Here’s a picture. (I added short pasta and potatoes)
~~~~~~~~ I love this time of year. Gone is the winter produce. Now we see ruby red radishes, piles of fava beans and new peas ready to sbucciare, my new word for today. As in to shell, or to peel. Luther will sbuccia all of them for me, and then I do the cooking part 🙂 There is asparagus in heaps, of course. Beautiful bitter greens like arugula, called rucola here. And lettuces. The baby zucchini are just coming in and the cucumbers. I impatiently await the tomatoes but they won’t be here until July, maybe late June.
Today I bought something interesting from one of our nice cheese mongers. She had in her case containers of Sardinian potato dumplings that she had prepared (she is from Sardinia). All I have to do is boil them and serve with a good tomato sauce with basil. I also bought a container of fresh ricotta.
~~~~~~~~ Lunch out Saturday! With friends. We decided on a restaurant in Montone, a nearby hill town. This restaurant has been there since we’ve lived here but in typical Italian fashion it was never open when we tried to go. I heard from friends that it is open now, under new management. It is called Taverna Del Verziere. One of the best features of this place is the views from the walls across the valley from their terazza. Spectacular and oh so pleasant on a summer day.
It is a family run place and they were all super welcoming. I was glad I had reserved since it was pretty packed. Their antipasto menu was interesting. We tried a couple new-to-us things. I had the papapomodoro with seasonal vegetables. A typical Umbrian recipe using stale bread soaked in tomato juices. The veggies were either roasted or pickled. Susan got the roasted purple carrot Hummus.
We both enjoyed them. Luther and Gary got the tagliata with lardo for their secondo. It is grilled steak sliced and they put a very thin piece of Lardo on top. Lardo is a speciality of northern Tuscany. Pork belly lard, the purest white, is packed with herbs into giant marble boxes and left to cure for eight months. Then it can be thinly sliced. When it is placed on hot meat, it melts and adds wonderful unctuous flavor.
Montone is a walled town with several gates through the walls. I love this one and the view.
Remember last market day? Last Wednesday? When I got shut out? Well, today was a new day! Asparagus was available in abundance. And I got some! I also got new garlic(!) and the first local strawberries.
A lot of people who retire complain that they can’t keep track of what day it is. Here in Umbertide that is never a problem. Our two weekly markets bracket our week nicely, and give us anchor points on Wednesday and Saturday. The town is very quiet on Monday and Tuesday, but gets more lively from Wednesday onward. Today, being the big, main market, I decided to go out and do a little hunting and gathering. Exiting my front door I am steps from Bar Mary and the Mercato.
There are almost always these musicians playing. They always bring their dog. Today it was some blues and then traditional tunes. They are good, so I always contribute a euro or two.
Here are a few pictures of the produce where I bought my items. The young man is from Cannara, famous for its onions. He used to just have onions and some dried legumes. Now and then he would have another crop. Suddenly, he has everything.
Here are a few of the spring veggies growing around this area now. I’ll put captions under the photos.
I was so disappointed. When I got to this stand there was a bucket with a few handfuls of asparagus. I wanted some and this was the only place I had seen it. There were three ladies ahead of me. The first one bought around 8 spears. Still plenty left. The next one bought half of what was left. But what was still there was enough for me. So, one more lady. She got carrots, onions, lettuce, and was just about to pay, when she took the rest of the asparagi!! 😱 Sigh. Oh well. It is early in its season. I will go out earlier on Saturday. Anyway, I bought two bunches of radishes, four artichokes and some arugula.
Tis the season for planting gardens.
There are always two or three really big stands. They bring much of what they sell from down south, Sicily, Calabria. Sort of like Florida and California produce in winter what people north cannot yet grow. So we are seeing strawberries here now, but not local. Artichokes are here all winter from the south. Apples and oranges are just about done for the season. These stands sell things really cheap. Here are a couple examples.
I strolled back and took these final two pictures. One of the wall and all the plants that manage to dig roots between the stones. And of the old church tower with the four bells that ring for Mass, but also the hours of the day.
Next on my to-do list is buy the plants for my terrace. While we are still trying to sell our apartment I am still going to plant my flowers on the terrace. who knows how long things (like closing and us finding a new place) would take — and that is IF we sell it! Things move veeerrrryyy slowly here. Italian time…piano, piano.
Big project tomorrow. Il Brodetto alla Termolese on the menu for Pranzo. Two friends will join us. you might remember my friend Jen and I had this special fish soup in the town of Termoli in Molise on our trip together (see post about the trip). We have been craving it ever since.
I went out to the big Wednesday market to see if my normal fish truck was there. It was missing last week and, alas, it was missing again today. Probably because of the holidays. So I decided to visit the other fish truck. I don’t know why I don’t normally go to him. Maybe because the lines are always so long. Today, I was out early, even before some of the stands were set up. So there was no line at all. As I looked over the large amount of very fresh seafood, I noticed about 40% of it was still moving. Now, THAT’S what I call fresh! It was really beautiful stuff. He even had oysters. I wanted to buy some, but I didn’t.
I bought all the food for our feast tomorrow. Two whole spigole, which are sea bass in English, shrimp, mussels (cozze), tiny clams (vongole) and the funny crustaceans they have here to make stock…not much meat and a pain to eat but for stock they should work well. I forget their name.
The mussels, clams, and the mystery crustaceans are all still alive. I remember once, long ago, I bought mussels at Whole Foods. They are always sold alive so you must let them breath. When I got to the checkout counter, the checker, a young girl, tried to tie the plastic bag, which held the mussels, closed. I told her not to do that since they were still alive and must breath. The shock on her face was priceless! She obviously didn’t know!
Tomorrow, the Brodetto. I will post the finished product after we make it. And hopefully I remember to take pictures before we eat it!
Today was the last market before Christmas. It was quite festive. Many “buona festa” “buona natale” “Auguri” greetings. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t Catholic, or even Christian. Even our Muslim citizens were out and about and festive. Here are some pictures I took. First a bunch of the buskers and people who sit and ask for money. We have our share of them as probably everywhere does.
This fellow below is a regular. I always give him a coin or two. He sits politely, and waits.
The entrance to the main piazza.
~~~~~~~ On a different note. I took some pictures of the Christmas windows around the piazza and adjacent streets in the Centro.
The shopkeepers care and work to make their stores attractive for the holiday. I enjoy seeing their efforts. Ciao for now!
Today I had a number of errands to do. I could hear that it was extremely windy. It was whistling around the house. It sure didn’t make me feel really good about going out!
My first errand was a test at the hospital but turns out no one told me their hours so that was a bust. I will go back Monday. I proceeded to visit a friends apartment to check that all was well there as it is empty.
Once those two, less than fun, errands were done I visited my friendly Ceramica shop and then the Slow food market, Il Mercato della Terra in Umbertide, or our kilometer zero market. The SlowFood people had a booth set up. I also noticed most of the stands had taken on, as a new, temporary, employee, a handicapped young person. So sweet. I’m not sure nowadays how to say this in a politically correct way. But they looked to be mostly Downs Syndrome young people who did seem to be enjoying this new and stimulating activity. I was happy to see it.
I decided to buy a bag from the SlowFood booth. Here is a picture. It included four products which are considered rare since they are produced in small quantities with much manual work in the process.
It included many interesting things to include my favorite legumes. One, Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno. The other Roveja di Civita di Cascia. Both of these come from Umbria and the nearby Marche. Both are ancient beans. They also gave me recipes to try.
The Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno is a very local product grown near the big lake in Umbria. It is unknown outside of the area. Once it was widespread around the lake but the cultivation and harvest is long, tiring and still entirely manual — from sowing to harvesting to threshing. The maturation is gradual. The beans must be harvested every day for a couple of weeks. The plants are brought to the farmyard and dried, then beaten. Afterwards, using sieves, the beans are separated. It is a bean with an oval and tiny shape and can be of various colors: from cream to black through salmon and all shades of brown, even mottled. When they are cooked, they are tender, buttery and reminiscent of black-eyed peas.
The Roveja is also very difficult to cultivate and harvest. It grows at high altitudes in the Sibillini Mountains. To harvest them, you have to work bent down and it takes a long time. This has discouraged the cultivation of roveja and has helped to ensure that almost no one today knows this small pea.
The next item, Grano Saraceno Decorticato, is translated as buckwheat. I looked up the producer. The Tamorri Vera farm is located in the Chiavano plateau which is 1000 meters above sea level, in Valnerina, on the border between Umbria and Lazio. It is family-run and in its third generation. The farm covers about 65 hectares where it grows its own cereals and legumes, in addition to fodder for cattle and sheep. The production of the products is organic and is part of the Slowfood Presidium of the buckwheat of Valnerina. I tried this out last night. I will show the result below.
The next item is also new to me. It is produced at Macelleria dell’Allevatore in Trestina, a town very nearby. It is a cured sausage. The word fegato means liver. So I assume it will be a liver sausage. I will have to report back. I do like most liver, Luther does not, so we will have a taste test!
I also picked up some fresh produce. As usual, I’m planning a hearty soup. I found turnips! Not a usual product.
My side dish for dinner last night was made from the buckwheat. I cooked half a cup in a cup of water for 20 minutes. It absorbed the water and got a lot bigger. I steamed some broccoli until crisp tender. Next I smashed and peeled a garlic clove and put it in olive oil until browned. Then discarded it. I sautéed mushrooms in the oil, then added the broccoli and last the buckwheat. To serve I sprinkled it with grated pecorino cheese. It was quite good. The grain has a distinctive flavor which I remember from Normandy France where it is a very popular product. It also is gluten free for those folks who don’t eat it.
This is a different Christmas than last year, which was a very sad and lonely Christmas. Everyone seems to be happy we are free to gather and do some of the traditional activities common to the season. Of course caution is advised so we all wear the masks and we do much outside. I see there will be many concerti and choral groups in the churches and museums around here. Ho Ho Ho!
Saturday morning. It was sunny and no fog. Always a good start. But it is chilly. And windy. We are headed to our first freeze on Monday. During the night the wind had come up and it was rattling the shutters, which I had to partially close to stop the banging. When I looked out our big picture window I saw, across the horizon to our north, a large cloud bank. I thought nothing of it. I looked out at the piazza to check the mercato. Half of the vendors didn’t have their tents erected because of the strong winds.
I did some chores and returned some time later … the cloud bank had crept closer. I checked the weather report. Sure enough, Città di Castello was getting a storm. In a short time the cloud was looming ominously. I took a picture. Such blue sky ahead of the storm.
Suddenly, the rain came lashing down. I could hear it pounding on the high, terra cotta ceiling in the living room. I worried about the vendors. But they had figured it out and had gotten their tents up in time! The rains lasted only a short, but violent, time.
I was cooking a pot of black beans on the stove but as soon as they were done I headed out to the market with my big camera to shoot some photos. I also visited the stalls and purchased some nice produce. I dropped in on Books for Dogs. They weren’t busy so I chatted for a bit. Next I visited CeramicArte, the Deruta ceramics shop here in town. Laura Tomassini is the proprietor and incredible artist. I had purchased a small luminary which I wanted to pick up, and I also wanted to take some pictures of her beautiful works for sale. I plan a blog in the next day or two about Laura and her shop. Here is a picture of my luminary. A candle goes inside.
So without further ado…enjoy the photos. First, the clearing after the storm…
Just some of the veggies in the market.
The extremely huge green vegetable below is not a big celery, although it looks somewhat like it. It is called gobbo in Italian and cardoon in English. I made it once but decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.
I took a little stroll and noticed the oak tree in the parking lot was loaded with acorns. Too bad there are no squirrels to eat them. These oaks do not lose their leaves in the winter, unlike the ones I am used to on the US east coast.
Our new path behind our house and down to the river is finally finished. New cobblestones and lighting the whole way. It WAS awfully dark back there. So nice!
I went to the Egyptian vegetable stand for avocados. They have consistently the best. I am making chilli and wanted them to go with it. I stopped into Angelo’s Alimentari downstairs from our casa as my final stop to grab some cans of tomatoes, they are also for the chilli. I love a good chilli on a cold night. I told Angelo about it. He and I like to exchange recipes. Like all Italians, he loves to cook, eat, and talk about food. And he speaks no English…so I get to practice my Italian 🙂
Yesterday, Italy hit the goal of 80% of people over 12 years old fully vaccinated. It is a BIG DEAL. I will say, life is pretty much normal here now. The latest proclamation has opened sporting events to 100% capacity. Gyms, theaters, swimming pools are all open. Of course, one must show the EU Green Pass (or equivalent proof of vaccination from another country) to enter any of these places, plus restaurants. Also, one must still wear the mask inside. Not a problem for Italians, who are not normally rule followers, but are doing it in this case. They, and us interlopers, all wear masks with no drama. Sad to say, a friend who came over from being in Florence, said he witnessed an American woman tourist in a clothing store there who jumped the line to buy something. She had no mask on. The clerk asked her to put on her mask and she said “no”. The security guards ejected her. Why come over here to visit and be so rude? These are the rules of the country who is your host. I sincerely hope this was an anomaly. She was that one bad apple…
Yes, there have been riots in Rome about the Vaccine mandate here. They are organized by a neo-fascist group and definitely not main stream. I read they may be banned. We don’t need this sort of dissent in the middle of a global pandemic. ~~~~~~ Otherwise it is definitely autumn in Umbria. The tobacco is being harvested, the sunflowers have dried and been harvested, the grapes have been mostly harvested. The fall vegetables are now in the market. If I go to the local Saturday market here in town, no one needs to tell me what month it is. All I need to do is look at the available produce and I know. 🙂
Wednesday mercato today, as usual. My market buy today was these beauties!
Porcini mushrooms only fresh in the fall. Many people go mushroom hunting around here. These are plentiful. I’ll be making tagliatelle con porcini – mmm.
Then I bought this…
Salame al Cinghiale. Wild boar salami. It will be for our Sunday Stuzzicheria to welcome our first guests!