Category Archives: Mercato

Seafood

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.

Cozze
Vongole
Shrimp
The mystery crustacean.

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!

Sights of the market

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.

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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!

Il Mercato della Terra in Umbertide

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 says “Save the biodiversity. Save the planet”

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!

Before and after the storm

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 🙂

Whoo hoo!

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.
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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!

Ciao for now!

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!