Category Archives: Umbertide

Pici, fatta a mano

I bought a bunch of big fat pasta called Pici. It is the special shape common in Tuscany. Our special shape here in Umbria is Strangozzi. So I have to keep it a secret that I’ve gone rogue and am cooking the evil pasta Toscana. Just kidding! I bought it here so it must be OK.

Years ago, on my first trip to Tuscany, we were traveling with my sister and her husband and stopped in a village outside Montalcino. During dinner a nonna carried her small table over beside our table at dinner and began making pasta by hand. I didn’t know at the time that is was the special pasta Pici…fatta a mano…made by hand.

Pici
Pici alongside Strangozzi.

For dinner tonight we had pici con funghi misti. Very yummy.

Italian phrase. “stasera, ho cucinato la pasta” in English, “tonight, I cooked pasta”. Pronounced… sta-sera o cuch-in-atto la pahs-ta. 🙂
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Say home. Wear your masks. Be careful. The vaccine is coming.💕

Smokey lentil stew with potatoes and leeks

My friend in Virginia sent a recipe for this stew that is from the NY Times. I am a big lentil fan and even though I make soups with lentils often I thought this one sounded a bit different.

And how! It was it different. The key ingredient is the smoked paprika. It adds a big smokey taste. I made it today for lunch and we both loved it. I will make it again as a dinner meal and add some sausage. It is a perfect winter-time stew.

I made quite a few changes to the Times recipe. First off, I simplified things. For instance they used three (!) pots to make it…I reduced that to two. I didn’t put the onion in with the cooking lentils but added it in with the leeks. I totally took out the saffron. It was such a small amount in a huge and highly spiced stew. You never could’ve tasted it and besides, it is an expensive ingredient. Waste. I sautéed the spices in with the leeks and in the oil to bring out their flavor. Anyway it was a hit with us! I put the recipe in the recipes in the top menu bar. Tap the title twice if it doesn’t come up with only one tap.

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We’ve also gotten some much needed errands finished. Every January we have to renew our enrollment in the National Health. It involves obtaining a stamped and signed statement from the Social Security office in the American Embassy in Rome. I wrote in early December and received the statements. We had to call the health department for an appointment this year because of Covid, and that was on Monday at 9AM. Before we went though, I had to copy all of our cards and documents. That included our expired Tessere di Sanitaria, our Codice Fiscale, our Permessi di Soggiorno, our Carta d’Identita, our passports, make an extra copy of the social security statement, convert the amount to Euro and then compute the amount we owe for the year and print that out. Whew. At the appointment we met with Laura. Once our nemesis, she either has gotten used to us or she has mellowed. So she isn’t quite as scary as she used to be. She took all the papers and checked our calculations and sent us off to the Poste to pay for the coverage. There were about 8 people ahead of us in line where we all waited outside. Did I say it was frigid? Well, it was. Finally we got that done and returned to give Laura the receipt. She had everything done and we signed multiple times and – tada! We were finito. Of course they would only give it to us until April because we are STILL waiting for our new Permessi from the Questura. Seven months and counting. When we get it we visit Laura again and get the Tessere extended…to June. Which is when our NEW cards expire AGAIN and then in June I am sure we will have to go and get them extended to the end of the year…eyeroll. We pay for the whole year in January. They know we are getting our Permessi, so why not give us the card for the year? So much less work for us AND them!

Today, we took the VeeDub to the shop to get its oil changed and get its every other year inspection renewed. We will pick it up tomorrow. So the beginning of the year errands are sorting themselves out slowly.
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A friend asked me to include a sentence in Italian with pronunciation with my blogs. So I am starting that today. Here goes! “Abbiamo fatto le nostre commissioni!” It means “We have done our errands”. Pronounced abbey-yamo faht-toe lay noh-stray com-miss-see-oh-nee 🙂
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Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene! 🌈

Epifania

Today is the last day of the twelve days of Christmas. Epiphany. The story goes that the three wise men arrived at the stable where the baby Jesus was lying in the manger on this day. It is a holiday here. Growing up Protestant we didn’t celebrate this day. Our Christmas season ended on January 1. After tonight our beautiful tree won’t be lit anymore and it will be chopped into pieces and carried away in the next days. Always sad. Especially sad this year because it is such a pretty tree. So I took a short video last night. We can watch it twinkle forever now.

Stay safe everyone…the numbers in the US are terrifying. Here, we slowly get them back under control. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Carte Jaune

A vaccine yellow card? Carte Jaune, is a medical passport issued by the World Health Organization. It’s an official record that some countries require for entrance, and it can document vaccination against diseases ranging from cholera and yellow fever to such childhood illnesses as rubella. So, will a “Carte Jaune” be required for Covid?

What will happen? No one knows. Airlines can require a coronavirus vaccine because they are private companies. Also, cruise lines. Countries may also make vaccination a requirement for crossing their borders. Within the United States, it’s highly unlikely that the vaccination would ever be required for travel, according to experts. So, I suppose this means you can remain in the US and travel, which I agree with. But there may be restrictions and requirements for vaccination to travel to other countries. It is early days yet…

We learned yesterday, our age group here in Italy, should be getting the vaccine from March to May. They are having “traveling gazebos” (whatever they are!) to administer the vaccine or we can go to our medico. Or we think we can. This is the latest plan and they seem to change often. Again, we will wait and see.
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It’s funny. I bought the New Year seafood 4 course meal for us from Calagrana. The menu was: antipasto – Salmon Carpaccio, primi – tagliatelle with mixed seafood sauce, secondo – two sea bass filets cooked with a buttery tomatoey sauce and contorni (sides), and dolce – bread and butter pudding. Luther and I decided there was no way we could eat it all at once and truly enjoy it, so we ate the carpaccio on New Years Eve. Then the sea bass with the Brussels sprouts and the potatoes on New Years, then the tagliatelle last night. And the pudding over the whole time. Parts of three meals for us that were supposed to be one. I feel we enjoyed them more this way. I shared this picture on Facebook. Thank you Calagrana! It was delizioso!

Bread and butter pudding

Stay safe everyone… Andrà tutto bene.🌈

Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I’m blessed (?) to be a Christmas baby…and my sister is too. Her birthday is today…happy birthday sis! We are both used to sharing with Christmas and New Year…and each other!

This year, being 2020 and one heck of a year I think we all agree, I was not expecting any celebrations. But our good friends, Susan and Gary invited us for lunch. So, we broke our social distancing rules…although it was perfectly allowable to have two people into your home…none of us had been with people for many months. It was a surreal experience 😳 for us all! And quite moving for me, to be honest. I really miss people.

We walked from our house to theirs, all of 2 blocks and normally a nice stroll. But we were enduring some of the worst weather I’ve seen. Strong winds and heavy rain made for sideways wetness. No matter the coat, the hood, the umbrella (inside out for the most part) it was horrible. We arrived and shed our coats and wet shoes and went into their cozy family room where they had built a lovely fire, which I was allowed to tend the whole time I was there!! In German it would be called gemütlichkeit. 💕

They prepared a beautiful lunch with soup to start, and then pork roast and trimmings… at the end a pretty cake, just the right size. We had some nice Spumante to start. And then a white (Vermentino) and a red (Rosso Piceno). All lovely wines.

Afterwards I was asked to choose a movie and I picked one of my favorites… Moonstruck. I thought it was perfect because we had all seen it but we could enjoy the Italo-American culture in New York. It is similar to here, but very different as well. Fun to watch from this perspective.

My cake!

Stay safe everyone!

Family 💕 friends 💕

Our Christmas was special in so many ways. Although we were alone, physically, we had several wonderful FaceTime or Facebook calls with friends and family.

First call was from good friends in Florida. It was really nice to see their smiling faces and catch up.

Then my sister called. The ability to chat with her happily and without constraints is liberating. Like we are actually together. Not as good as being there, but pretty good.

Then a call from Luther’s family. Oh my! This made my day. This family is special to us. We don’t have children so seeing the nieces and nephew and Luther’s brother and his wife, Anne made us happy. We love those kids! So much happening with them. We miss out on all that. Rachel and her husband Alex. Rachel is a nurse at Johns Hopkins on the Covid wards. Dave and his wife, Shira who is “roundly pregnant”. I love that descriptor! She is due to give birth to our grand nephew, Daniel, in late January. And Sarah, the youngest and a free spirit. 🙂 It was happy-making for us to see them all and catch up. They were all coming last year to see us but Covid nixed that. Maybe this coming year they can come…but even if they all cannot, I hope Rachel can come for some much needed RnR from the sadnesses she must have seen. If anything can help her heal…Italy can 🥰. The good news is, she is changing jobs in the hospital and will no longer be working on the front lines. And she will have regular hours. She is also getting her Covid vaccination next week..yay!
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Christmas dinner. Peking duck. Spectacular fail! I cooked it using a recipe I’ve used before. But this time the meat was pretty desiccated. I was able to salvage enough from the underside of the duck for our dinner. The pancakes I made were pretty good. I made the hoisin sauce which was nice and spicy. Here is one of our pancakes. So, although the duck was mostly a loss, our Christmas dinner was good enough. Win some, lose some!

Stay safe everyone…andrà tutto bene….🌈

Buon Natale!

The end to a very stressful year is in sight. We will spend Christmas and New Year at home of course. And we will eat alone. But we will still have yummy things….just not Italian. Italy it is all about the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve, and then lasagna with ragu on Christmas Day. These are the traditional festive meals. I love these traditions but this year I decided to go against the norm. I think, in honor of the fishes I will have fish tacos on Christmas Eve! 😁 And I was gifted a duck for a Christmas present from my friend Vera, so that will be our Christmas dinner.

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I have hopes that 2021 will be a much better year. It can’t be a lot worse, that’s for sure!

Christmas season restrictions

Yesterday, the government in Italy issued the rules we will follow for the Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany time period. They are ridiculously slow about these proclamations. For days before they “sign” it, we get all kinds of conflicting information. I’ve come to ignore the whole thing until the pen is on the paper.

Our three zone system here in Italy has managed to help reduce our new case numbers by almost half, and our positivity rate to below 10, which is the goal. But, as we all know from human nature, and also from concrete examples over Thanksgiving in the US, people feel a need to gather on these holidays. Natale in Italy is a family holiday. It will be very hard for people to not get together with their families. I completely get this. But if they do, they will inevitably spread the virus to their friends and families. Best to bite the bullet and stay home this year…for everyone’s good.

Here is the diagram showing what we will be doing here for the holidays from Corriere della Sera. Yellow means the restaurants and bars are open in the daytime until six. There is a curfew from 10pm-5am. We can travel between other yellow regions. Orange means bars/restaurants are open for take-out only and we are restricted to traveling in our region only (Umbria). Same curfew. Red means we must stay home unless for buying food, medicines, for medical reasons, or necessary work. Shops are closed. We are allowed to have two people visit in our home. This is our calendar.

I am happy to comply with these rules. I don’t feel anyone is infringing on my rights. I am appreciative of the Italian government for trying to control the virus. After all, the vaccines will be available to us all in the next six months. We merely need to wait and stay home. For everyone’s good. As I’ve said before…there is always next year. We just need to do this for this one year. How hard is that in the grand scheme of things?
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Stay home. Stay safe. Stay well. Stay alive. It will all be better soon. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Slowly, slowly…our supplies dwindle

I’m sure you’ve all read here in the blog if you’ve read for a while, that there are some things we love to get in the US and bring home to Italy. Things like spices and ethnic ingredients not available here. Although many things ARE available here and I’ve learned over the years how to find stuff, there are still a few things that MUST come from home.

Last week I used the last bit of my “Fish Fry” coating for fish. I looked it up, as I always do, on the internet and are there are many recipes for “do it yourself” fish fry. So OK maybe I can make it. We will try it and see. But I’d rather just have a new supply from the US 🙂.

Today, I opened my penultimate bag of Carolina Gold Rice, also called Charleston Gold. I keep it in the freezer until I need it. And there is one bag left. Italy, of course, has many very good rice varieties. Most notable are Carnaroli and Aborio rice. A short grain rice used in risotto. I also use it for regular rice. There are also readily available, basmati, brown and multi-grain rice. All good. But none are Carolina Gold.

I learned, years ago, about Carolina Gold rice from a Low Country cook book. Of course I ordered some to try. It was probably the original rice brought from Africa by the enslaved to America. These people also brought the knowledge to grow it. The labor it took to grow, was intense, and were it not for the enslaved, it would never have been possible to cultivate it. A hard life. So it wasn’t surprising when the rice died out after the Civil War. Until the 1960s, when a couple of people bought old plantations and slowly revived the rice. It is now cultivated and sold by these plantations.

What? you may ask, is so special about this rice? Rice is rice, right? But not this rice. It is nutty, and buttery, and has a distinctive aroma when cooking and when on the plate. It doesn’t need any gravy or enhancement to be enjoyed. Both Luther and I adore it and I never have to say “this is Carolina Gold” Luther always knows. It is the aroma.

Anyway. We really love it and bring back pounds of it in our suitcase (much to the amusement of the TSA). Just another casualty of the Corona virus. Unable to go home, and having no guests to bring some we will carefully nurse this rice and hope it can be replenished in 2021. Believe me, there are many other things that are going on my shopping list for when we can go home. 🙂

We rejoice there is now a vaccine, and it will protect our health care workers. And then, later, the rest of us. A light at the end of the long tunnel we’ve all been traveling this year. I have very high hopes for next year. I am itching to have some guests! My guest room has lain fallow for more than a year. It wants friends to come. And we are excited to also begin to plan travel. All in good time. First a quiet and lonely Christmas for most of us. It has to be. We will live to see NEXT Christmas…Stay COVID safe…live to see another year! 🌈