Category Archives: Mercato

Buon Ferragosto!

Tomorrow is Ferragosto. The August holiday which is dead center of the month. The month of VACATION!! Big parties tomorrow.

This is a mundane post. I got out early since the predicted high today is 38C. That’s 100 degrees in US speak. Hot. So I was up and out before eight. I did my shopping at our local market first thing. The high summer bounty of fruits and vegetables are beautiful. It was hard to stop buying. Here are a few pics of the deliciousness to come.

Zucchini, borlotti beans, eggplant, sweet red onion, greenbeans
Every week we go through quantities of tomatoes. And I’ve not even gotten to making sauce.
What’s better than a Caprese salad when the tomatoes are at peak? This is locally made near Montone

I ran into some friends and we had a chat. Mostly about their recent vacation to Como, and the wonderful food in the market. We shared some recipes.

I didn’t only go out to shop. I wanted to get in my walk early before the heat. And like I often do, I decided to combine my walk with an errand. I had finally gotten some more charcoal and was planning to grill. I’ve got a skirt steak that I aim to make into fajitas. It was calling out for an avocado to go with it so I walked to the so-called “Egyptian” market 😁 It is owned by immigrants and I guess people think they are from Egypt so they call it the Egyptian market. I kinda doubt that. But anyway, they have things available there that cater to the immigrant communities in Umbertide and the surrounding towns. Things like cilantro. They have it reliably. And they have avocados that are perfect, and reliably good. So I make a point to get my avocados from them. So, as part of my walk I got two avocados and while there I even decided to buy four ears of corn. I’m sure it won’t be up to my standards of sweet American corn, but I want it so badly, I’ll try anything. I’m going to grill two, for a salad, and boil two, to test how good they are. I asked where they came from and he said Sicilia. I think most of their stuff comes from there.

Here is the corn. All trimmed up.

Doesn’t look so appetizing but we’ll give it a go.

On my way back, I was amused by this little grill on the sidewalk at our little corner store that sells all sorts of things for the household. The amusing part was that it said it was a barbecue “Professionale”. Right. Looks pretty flimsy for professional use!

That’s about it. I’ll try to remember to post a picture of our dinner tonight. And the corn whichever way I do it.

Ciao for now…buon Ferragosto wherever you are! 🌈

Tis the season for Panzanella! 🍅

High summer is time for our favorite salad — Panzanella! This salad is ONLY made with fresh, farm stand tomatoes so it is best in July and August. For us, we get them from my favorite stand in the Saturday mercato. For some reason, his tomatoes taste like summer itself. Brilliant red and juicy. Just like I remember the “home grown” tomatoes of my childhood.

Tuscany tries to take the credit for this salad but many regions of Italy, and the Mediterranean, make a similar salad and have been doing so since tomatoes were introduced from the New World in the 1500s. It was not only delicious, it was a way to use up stale bread so it wouldn’t go to waste. Even before the tomato was introduced a form of this salad with whatever fresh summer vegetables were available was common. The main unifying ingredient for all these salads is the stale bread.

I initially wanted my Panzanella to be the classic recipe so I went looking at the many recipes online. As with most things I make, I used bits of a couple different recipes. The best thing I found was a method to salt and encourage the cut up tomatoes to give up some of their juice to use in the vinegarette. I’m not sure why since either way the juice gets into the salad but somehow it enhanced the tomato flavor to whisk the juice with the oil and vinegar. Essence of tomato! Otherwise I decided to toast the stale-ish bread for better texture and soaking ability. I also added a seeded cucumber for a bit of crunch. This isn’t in the classic recipe. But, really, if you’ve got fresh flavorful tomatoes and a good, fairly dense bread then it’s Panzanella to me!!

Panzanella Salad – 4-6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds (1.1kg) summer tomatoes – can be mix of regular, Roma, grape or cherry and heirloom
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning – only use kosher or check for saltiness
  • 6 cups (340g) firm bread, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil
    1 very small, mild onion, or 1/2 of one minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (not in classic recipe – optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar – I used sherry vinegar because if find it slightly milder. But you can use white or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small cucumber seeded and chopped (optional, not classic)
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Toast the bread cubes at about 300F for 15 minutes. Set aside. Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces and put in colander over a bowl to catch the juice. Salt with 2t kosher salt and toss. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Mince onion and garlic. Whisk tomato juice from tomatoes and vinegar. Add garlic, mustard and onion. Whisk. Add oil in a stream whisking. Alternatively you can put the juice, onion, garlic, vinegar, mustard and oil into a jar and shake vigorously to emulsify.

Toss tomatoes, cucumber and bread with the vinegarette. Let sit at least 30 minutes. Add chopped basil leaves and serve.

Cannara onions

At the Wednesday market in town, one of my errands was to buy some more of the “famous Cannara onions”. I keep a string of these sweet onions available all the time in my kitchen. They work used any way, raw or cooked. A young man, maybe 20s or 30s comes in a van with braids of the onions, dried legumes and, in summer, fresh things they grow, like fava beans. I drop by to get these onions often. A little information about the “famous” onions follows.

The onion of Cannara is a protected product of Umbria, earning the title Traditional Product Agribusiness from the Minister of Agriculture. This commemorates not only the goodness and versatility of this onion in the kitchen, but also it’s historical roots in this area. Besides this prestigious award, the Onion of Cannara also won the coveted title of Slow Food.

The traditional cultivation and harvesting of the onion of Cannara is carried out by small producers called “cipollari”, often handed down from father to son for generations. The word cipollo means onion so cipollari means something like ”onioner”. It has been cultivated since the 1600s in and around the small village of Cannara which is situated in a vast, fertile plain that, back in Roman times, was a shallow lake. The entire process of growing and harvesting is closely monitored to guarantee the quality standards and origins.

The onions cultivated around Cannara are of three distinct varieties: red, golden and borrettana (flat disc type), but all three are characterized as sweet, soft and easy to digest. To me, the red type, with its beautiful red-coppery skin is by far the most tasty, delicate and sweet. They are most often sold in the characteristic braids.

The town of Cannara, in normal, non-Covid times, has a famous festival which is held during the first two weeks of September and is called, the “Feast of the Onion.”

Too pretty to eat!

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I took this next snap of a pretty house painted in one of the traditional colors used around here. Almost orange. I was taken with the duvet airing on the balcony which went so well with the house color.

Sentence for today. “ho ricevuto il mio pacco da amazon oggi.” — “I received my package from Amazon today”. Pronounced — oh rey-chay-vu-toe eel me-oh pack-co dah amazon ohg-gee.
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Stay safe – andrà tutto bene!🌈

Moonset – times two…

I was up at 6am Saturday and from the window I saw the full moon setting with a reflection in the Tiber. I went out in the cold in my nightgown to snap a picture. Brrrrr. Mornings are still very cold here.

But, Saturday was sunny and warm in the Piazza. We headed out to do some errands and visit our local market to see what was to be seen. I bought a few things at the market. Broccoli/broccole and Cauliflower/cavolfiore are always around this time of year. Some fresh eggs. And I got the ever present Cavolo Nero or black kale. Luther bought six bottles of vino bianco from our local winery. The nice lady there is always so excited when we come. I don’t think she sells much 😞 So we are happy to support them and the wine is good!

We also drove to a store and bought some pellets for our stufa, and visited the grocery for some supplies. I bought carciofi romana…artichokes …because I saw a picture of someone cooking them and it made me drool…🤤
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Carciofi Romana Why have I never made this before! It is so good. And really not so hard. I had four artichokes and I cleaned them and prepped them for the pot. Then I rubbed them in garlic, mint, salt and pepper.

I put them into a pot and poured the olive oil over them, then added the water and brought to a simmer. I put a lid on the pot to let it cook.

After thirty minutes they were done. Very yummy and garlicky. I served them as a first course before our hamburgers 🤣😂

The ingredients are few. I did four artichokes but you can do as many as you want. You can look on the internet to see how to trim them if you haven’t done it before. You’ve got to be pretty ruthless. Most of it goes in the trash. If you’re not cooking right away put them in a bowl of lemon water so they won’t discolor. Chop about a tablespoon of mint and garlic fine, add a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Rub the artichoke cut parts in it. Put them face down with stems up in the pot. Put the heat on medium. Pour about half a cup of olive oil over them. Add about a cup of water. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Serve warm.
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Moderately good news. Umbria has gone back the Orange Zone. This does very little for us except people can sit outside a cafe for coffee, and the dress shops will be open again. I think that’s about it. We still can’t leave our Comune. I don’t mind telling you, we are all bored out of our gourds here. If they’d let us go into a Zone Yellow we could at least travel in the region of Umbria and the restaurants could open for lunch. Maybe soon 🤞🤞
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Italiano for today. “Ho incontrato un amico in piazza e abbiamo fatto due chiacchiere” In English, “I met a friend in the square and we had a chat.” Pronounced — oh in-con-trah-toe un ah-me-ko in pee-ahtz-zo A ahb-bee-ahmo faht-toe dew-ay key-AH-key-err-ray. The word Chiacchiere is a really hard one for me to pronounce. They really accent the second syllable. And they roll all their Rs. Really roll them which I cannot put in my pronunciation. Many English speakers have difficulty rolling their Rs. When I was little I used to do a lot of sound affects with my toys. So rolling my Rs is natural! 😁
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Stay safe everyone, buona domenica! 🌈

Mercato

I looked outside this morning, as I do whenever there is a market. It was larger than usual and set up around the Christmas tree. I headed down around eleven, hoping it would be warmer. I’m here to say, it felt like Christmas. Very cold.

I like the feeling of excitement as we get closer to Christmas. There were several new booths. And there was a Slow Food tent. They show up from time to time. Often they have samples so I’m always checking them out. Today, no samples. They were taking orders for Christmas baskets. And they were selling the things individually that would go in the baskets. I bought two bags of dried 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. I love that they are trying to save these old varieties.

The Roveja is 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.

Courtesy of Slow Foods

The Fagiolina del Lago Trasimeno is also 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 again, the cultivation and harvest is a 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 tasty.

Courtesy of Slow Foods

Slow Food tent

Gift basket at the wine tent.

Wine tent

We bought a big chunk of the Capra Stagionato. Aged goat cheese.

The chocolate tent! I admit, I bought some. Come on! It’s Christmas!

I dropped off a few things at the Libri per i Cani (Books for Dogs) shop. If I buy something that either doesn’t fit me or isn’t what I expected, I give it to the shop to sell. On the way back I liked this view down the passageway to the market and the Christmas tree.

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I also finally got a break in the rainy weather. Enough to stack the wood in the rack.

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Stay safe 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!! 💕

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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.

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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!

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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…


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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 😋

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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.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Market day

It was a beautiful Wednesday. Cool and breezy. I went out for a bit of shopping at the big market. I got tomatoes, which are so good right now. I got eggplant, little peppers, garlic, red onions. Beautiful produce. Also I bought some mozzarella…the little balls. So good with the beautiful tomatoes and basil.
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I am upset at what is happening with the CDC and Fauci. To me this kind of sums up the issues in the US. I love Fauci.

From the Washington Post.

On Fauci.
“What he cares most about is not his influence, but what’s happening — that things are going so badly and it’s going to cause so much disease and death,”

Four months ahead of Election Day, Trump wants to “reopen and move on,” said another senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Those who disagree with that approach are out of favor, the official said.“

It is not possible to just “move on”. It is not going away if you don’t look at it. If you try to ignore it. If you don’t test. If you open up. 😳 So, I guess it is STILL all about him. And his election. Screw the country. Who cares that people are sick and dying. Who cares…Fauci does.
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Things are still going well here in Italy. Inside of businesses we all still wear the masks. I noticed at the market this morning the Protezione Civile folks were chucking folks out who weren’t wearing masks. Good for them! Life is fairly normal here. It could be so in the US if everyone would wear a mask, distance, and mostly stay home and out of inside spaces.

Latest news is that US tourists are still not allowed to come to Italy. I’m in agreement until the US can get the virus under control.
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As always, we enjoyed our dinner on our terrace. So beautiful. I could not live without this view and outside space.

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Be safe. Wear your masks. It is the easiest way to slow this virus.🌈

Activities on the weekend

Summer weekends have always been a very busy and active time here and it has become so again. Friday and Saturday nights the young people come to the bars which oftentimes host rock bands. Last night the band set up on a narrow walkway, or maybe you could call it a balcony above San Giorgio, the best restaurant in town. The band was one of the better ones I’ve heard here. My picture didn’t come out too well but you can get the idea.

Here are a couple of the crowds. Not a lot of masks to be seen and little distancing. Luckily Umbria has very few cases. Unless someone from outside comes in I suppose the danger is minimal.

The band quit at midnight but the partying went on until nearly three. Luckily, our bedroom is in the back and we can’t hear the noise.
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Saturday, kilometer zero market. Today for our added entertainment we had a visit from the Briganti. They are the bad boys from our annual festival. Don’t know why they decided to serenade us but they stayed for most of the market. This video is a little slow I hope you can see it. Just click the arrow…

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Please stay safe everyone! 🌈 Wear your mask.

Home, and enjoying summer weather!

What lovely, hot weather we are having. It is in the 33-34C range or around 93F. I went out yesterday morning and enjoyed a coffee with a friend at Bar Mary. I’d call her a new friend except we’ve known “about” one another but never had a face to face chiacchierare (chat). Her name is Elizabeth. She wrote a book called Sustenance which I really enjoyed. She just managed to return to Umbria from San Francisco where she has been trapped for months due to Covid. What an ordeal. 22 hour flight with two changes! Only because she has a Permesso di Soggiorno and a medical reason was she able to return. And then she had to quarantine for two weeks. She is just freed. She said she would never leave Italy again! She used her quarantina to plant her garden, which is going gangbusters already, she reported. Anyway, it was lovely to get to know her and I’m sure we will meet again soon.

I went out to the Saturday local market today. Pretty day, a bit cooler with a nice breeze. The early summer produce is abundant now. I got beans, fennel bulbs, zucchini and zucchini blossoms, and lots of tomatoes which I “hope” will be good since it is coming onto the best time for them. I also took a few pictures 🙂

Bar Mary is always busy on market days.
Cafe Centrale too.
There is always this man with his Prosciutto. He cuts it so thin it’s almost transparent.
Market
One of the streets in Centro.

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A friend posted these two graphs from Worldometer. Excellent way to see the differences. Pretty scary.

So, there is danger out there, everyone be careful. Safe Fourth of July to you all. I miss that here! 💥 🧨