Category Archives: Umbria

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! 🌈

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.🌈

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 🌈

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!

Parade of Christmas trees

Our first tree here was in 2014. We had not yet moved into our house so we were in the little apartment in the building next to ours owned by our friends Susan and Gary. From this apartment we could see them bringing the tree down a tiny street. They don’t truss trees here — it was bushy and big! They had to be careful not to knock the street lamps off the buildings or the flowers from the balcony!

Coming through! See that lamp on the right? They had to bring a cherry picker to allow them to keep the branches from knocking it off the wall.
2014 – nice tree.

And just for the record, shortly after the tree arrived we moved into our own home. Here is our itty bitty tree in our brand new home in 2014.

Here are the trees from subsequent years. Some from ground level, some from our window. Somehow I don’t have a picture from 2017. 🥺

2015 – this one was smaller than the others but they had the extra lights strung across which made it nice. From underneath it was magic,
2016 – right after they erected the scaffolding on the Comune building to renovate it. Also one of my favorite trees.
2018 – one of my favorites.
2019 – this one wins the contest for ugliest tree! What were they thinking?!

Now in 2020 our tree has arrived and people have been busy with cherry pickers decorating it. I am told it came from a farm in Montecorona which is in the Umbertide Comune just beneath Monte Acuto, our big mountain. It is a nicely shaped and tall tree.

In normal times, the tree is lit on December 8, Immacolata or Immaculate Conception in English. There are big crowds to watch the scheduled lighting of the tree, and Babbo Natale, Father Christmas, or our Santa Claus is there for the kids. But these are not normal times. Susan told me the tree would be lit tonight. Sure enough, once it was dark I went to look and there it was…all lit up and beautiful. No crowds…no fanfare. It was rather sad. Look at some of the older pictures to see the normal crowds. Anyway, here is our 2020 tree…at least one thing is beautiful in this strange year.

Stay Covid safe everyone 😷…andrà tutto bene🌈

Bits and pieces

The weather has been vile. Very cold and rainy. But some things needed doing. I took a trip, out of Comune which is not allowed except for necessity. My thinking was, I need to mail packages to the US and the only place is in Citta di Castello. There is a Mailboxes etc there. So I chanced it and breathed a sigh of relief when I crossed my Comune line on my return!

I also picked up a meal kit from Calagrana and a couple of pasties. It felt very christmassy up there. They are making Christmas baskets for gifts.

Tonight I made the meal. Very yummy Indian spiced lamb chops with a ginger infused rice and a salad of cucumber and sweet red onion. Excellent meal.

I put up our own Christmas tree today. It is pretty but I find I get sad when decorating it because all of my old ornaments are back in the US in storage. I miss them. They were collected from all over and have great meaning to me. One day I will get them over here. Here are my boys next to the tree.

Stay safe everyone. Andrà tutto bene 🌈