More heat-wave recipes…

IMG_5366Heat or cold on a Saturday and Sunday, You & I tootle up in the FIAT convertible to the bar in Casola for an Italian breakfast of a cappuccino e una brioche. While sipping our mutually tepid & weak caffes assisted with long-life milk… yep, more than ick and for Euro 130 too!!!… and today, as You hogged La Nazione newspaper… I only read it for Barbanera’s horoscope… I found by a happy coincidence to yesterday’s post a delicious article in La Repubblica’s D Magazine with 4 recipes without cooking a thing. Eviva!!! Just chop, slice, or Cusine-art the heck out of fruits or vegetables, and serve as the perfect digestible piatto del giorno in a heat wave. Here below are two of the four to try out…

IMG_5370SPINACH, AVOCADO & MINT SMOOTHIE… enough for 4 able-bodied persons seeking sustenance in the heat…

Ingredients: 120 grams (4 ounces) of washed spinach leaves… 1 small avocado (Hass is the best type)… 1 small cucumber… 10 mint leaves… the juice of a juicy lime… 200 millilitres (3/4 cup) of cool water… sesame seeds… extra-vergine olive oil (evo, for short)… and a touch of salt.

Preparation: crudely cut the spinach leaves… peel the cucumber and slice it… dig out the pulp of the avocado (I save and plant all avocado seeds thinking I have such a green thumb when days later they sprout)… dump all this in a food processor along with the lime juice, mint leaves and salt, flip the ON switch as you gently pour in the water towards a milk-shake like consistency… top the concoction with toasted sesame seeds and a light draping of olive oil… serve immediately.

IMG_5372And for a dolceNUT & FRESH FRUIT COMPOTE (the article’s word did not translate at Google Translate so, I stuck in “compote”)… for 4 persons with a sweet-touth…

Ingredients: 80 grams (3 ounces) of walnuts… 80 grams (3 ounces) of almonds… 20 grams (1 ounce) of pine nuts… 6 dates without seeds… grated lemon peel… 30 millilitres (2 tbsp.) of water… honey… mint leaves… and an assortment of sliced seasonal fresh fruits, Oh, Boy!!!

Preparation: food-process the dried dates & nuts, adding too the grated lemon and water, triggering the ON/OFF button for a compact consistency and without worrying if some pieces are bigger than others (better architecture that way for the resulting compote)… divide this into 4 equal parts, putting each into a single-portion ramichen lined with kitchen-film and pressing each down with the bottom of a wet glass… put them into the refrigerator for about 2 hours… take them out of the refrigerator and right before serving, place the fresh fruit on the compote and then covering them with the fresh fruit, a light draping on top of honey and some mint leaves for a bit of green.

Hope these two work out for you. It’s got to be HOT where you are. And what a luxury not to cook. The heat can be liberating!!! Gads.

 

Italian tips for eating in a heat-wave…

I had dinner last night with My Codiponte English Friends. Come Fall, Winter, Spring or Summer, they rigorously serve a meat and two vegetables. I thought to die later. I am already stressed to the max, what with this heat-wave going on here: I get to sleep only when a half-assed breeze decides to waft down from the Garfagnana… the Switzerland of Tuscany… at about 2AM in the morning. I tossed & turned trying to digest the evening’s meal. Meat was The Culprit.

The Italians resort to a simple recommendation for eating in the Summer. It’s has lately taken on much greater importance, thanks to our six-week long heat-wave:

AAAAAAEat fresh fruits & vegetables, drink a ton of water.

The last element is terrible news to one who daily resorts to drinking an IKEA beaker-sized glass of white wine in the evening. I do drink a ton of water during daylight hours. After 5PM though, I hit the wine bottle. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, I go to the nearest Catholic church and pray to God that He may save my kidneys & liver from going bust. Hey! I live in Italy. Seeking forgiveness for one’s sins is part & parcel here. But, let’s get back to the food & drink…

I may have bad news for many but, I guarantee it will be a boon to your summer-time energy bills… those fresh fruits & vegetables are better eaten crude. Yep, as little cooking as possible. E’ quasi proibito. Reasons of digestion, which slows radically when the thermometer climbs past 25C.

You is a lot better at slicing & dicing crude things than I am. Near religious dedication. Precision too. He’s a surgeon. Keeps him in practice, I suppose. You is pretty indifferent to eating so, I doubt he enters the kitchen to chop because he is famished. I am always thinking of my stomach and it shows with every passing year towards my 65th year. It is dangerously close too. Odd though. I should be thin, thin, thin. I hardly eat a thing, crude or otherwise, and I sweat profusely just sitting in a chair, inside, in the dark, these days.

I do believe it is permitted to boil water for pasta. Here’s typical il Poggiolo recipe:

AAAA Spaghetti-with-Fresh-Tomato-Basil-Sauce-Kitchen-Confidante-8-of-9boil salted water for the pasta… spaghetti is our favourite but, the ones that look long & curled are good too… then, in a large serving bowl, cover the bottom ma non troppo with tangy Tuscan extra-vergine olive oil… peel and smash a garlic clove and toss it in… chop rather crudely a small red onion, slithers of onion not pieces, and throw it in with the garlic… spill in a spoonful or so of red wine or, if preferred, white wine… slice fresh pomodori, either the ones that are shaped like bells or large cherry tomatoes, and in they go… followed by lightly tearing & tossing in fresh basil leaves so there’s balance between red of the pomodori and the green of the basilico… and, as a culinary touch, grate some slightly aged but non troppo pecorino cheese… then, let the thing stew for a couple of minutes before finding and extracting the garlic, ’cause You HATES garlic!!!… and when the pasta is al dente and one can tell by either seeing how the pasta bubbles around in the boiling water, looks & feels cooked with a fork or, the American method of throwing a strand on a wall which is utterly silly when you can just taste a darn spaghetto… drain the pasta and toss it into the serving bowl, mix well but quickly and serve on a plate, for cryin’ out loud, and not in one of those boorish soup bowl dishes for eating oatmeal. Enjoy!!!

Oh, and the water needs to be at room temp. May be a struggle to forsake ice or chilling the H2O in the frig, like my dear paternal grandmother did. Also, the frig was called an ice-box. This meant that the pitcher of water was nearly an Arctic glacier, it was so co-co-cold. Any chilly drink is dreadful for you tummy, according the Italians. Please, make note.

I am bit amazed that no one in America or the UK, both countries crazed for Italian food, has not picked up on the true Italian summertime modus operandi for mangiando nel caldo et al and written an Italian heat-wave cook-book. Might not be a big success though. How many new & different ways can you deal with a cetriolo? Gads.

A Sunday pranzo…

I was unexpectedly invited and gladly attended a Sunday pranzo yesterday. It was down at the ol’ frantoio… or, oil press… in a building cum house situated in the nether-land between the Aulella river, the car mechanic’s cinder-block shack and the Catholic Church of Codiponte. Typical of Italy, the house is multi-functional: work below, living & feasting above and renters above all.

We were 17. A tight group too. Mostly residents of il Borgo Castello and their sundry non-borgo friends. Though they have all known each other for eons, a bond of solidarity was formed while slaving at the frantoio for the Sagra dei Pomi last September. For me, it was wonderful to be a member of the party though a straggler. You has abandoned me and Our Adored Canines for Sardinia, of all places. Crafty fellow too. Warm enough to swim. And, Thursday is the Day of the Dead… or, i Morti… when 3/4’s of Italy hop into their FIATS and clog traffic for hours & hours on end to put flowers on the graves of i nonni, zii, i cari. Boon to the flower industry. All You had to do was tack on 3 days of paid holiday to the Day of the Death one… though on a Saturday, it’s still paid… to the two weekends to get 10-days off. Fantastico, ne?

The food of the banquet was beyond belief or my physical capacity to eat all that was passed under, near or, to my mouth. I will not post photos. Drool without them. Here’s the menu…

antipasto… of pecorino dipped in home-cultured honey, bruschetta di pomodori su pane nero which, is probably the most unimaginative thing to serve these days but, they were out of this world warm yet crisp, sweet yet tangy, tomato-y yet savory with the local olive oil. I half thought some transgenic trick of had been employed. I ate my fill along with piping plastic cups of a very dry pro-secco I had brought as my offering to the feast. Oh! And You & I have tried to ween these folk from the use of plastic but to no avail… darn it!

secondo antipasto… muscoli ripieni which, were to die for, a carpaccio of anchovies, which provoked a 2nd death AND a salad of semi-sweet orange pieces mixed-in with a smoke fish… I know. Sounds ghastly. It was delicious… whose name remains unknown to me but, I had 3 helpings and went over and hugged the woman responsible! Then, I died a 3rd death, happy & full. No reprieve though…

primo piatto… fresh made tagliatelle with muscles and a medley of herbs, one I believe was sorrel. Another is found along Italian state roads. Don’t ask. Got a mountain of this pasta so, I passed on seeking further servings…

secondo piatto… fritto misto di pesce! And done by a local fish expert too. Now, I come from The South and we like our fried stuff done with a heavy, spicy batter. We like our crust, in other words. Not so yesterday’s faire… light, not oily, crisp, tasty too were the gambaretti, acciughe, calamari e totoni. I over did the intake on this. I wanted to kick-back and take a rest but…

contorno… of my absolute favourite feel-good Italian food of white beans, crunchy red onions, black pepper, sale, leggero olio d’olivo and and big leafy prezzemolo too!

dessert… a fig & walnut pie, a chocolate cake with a super-structure of chocolate mousse on top… an architectural wonder, if I may say so… and delightful bignets of such a refined delicacy and balance of sweetness, I had to go over and hug the same woman from the fish salad for her confections from Heaven… and her hands too. Personally, I hate sweet sweets. These bignets were rarefied cream & air and only a hint of sweet. Perfect…

cafe’ and grappa… I took the first, passed on the second and then fled home with the excuse of liberating My Adored Canines. I had been at the table for four and a half hours!!!

While I freed the Dogs from their afternoon’s confinement, I noticed that those remaining were dancing on the frantoio’s huge terrace. And the thought came to me of what an art history professor had once explained about Italian Renaissance entertaining… it was done mostly during daylight hours. Safer to move about than at night, what with armed thugs in tights and other nefarious delinquents with clubs lurking around the piazze. One sat down to a served and multi-course meal at mid-day, and then, there was dancing following. Hunting was most definitely an optional. So, I had just partaken of the remnants of the Renaissance… to my glorious fill too! Gads.

Italian House - Banquets

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Summer’s finito…

It’s official… Summer is over. You spent last Saturday afternoon un-clipping the awning to the gazebo out on the aia. The fabric covering has been washed, dried, folded and put to rest in the focolaio… or, that’s what the Codipontesi call our chestnut drying shed… until next year’s Season of Fun. No more Aia Parties. The Fall & Winter will be passed with the memories of pizze, carne all brace, patate al forno, verdure ripiene and enough sweets to KILL your teeth, happily produced innumerable times by You’s Duo of Girl-friends… Do & Si. Clocks “fall back” this coming Saturday. The mornings & evenings are nippy now. The Dogs do not stir until at least 9AM. The nights are COLD. Blessedly, La Casa Grande remains a warm 18C/65F by night. I AM DEBATING whether to relocate or not up to L’Appartamento Azzurro. Sitting sideways to a good fire in the box since, The Dogs have commandeered as their own the 2 sitting chairs, would be nicer than hearing the hum of the butane burning used to take the humidity out of the air down in the Salotto/BR of La Casa Grande. Means lugging practically everything I own up to the new HQ. December 1, or thereabouts, I will return to Genoa until March 2015. Gads.

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Bowls for fish soup?…

You bet! And how about zuppa di vongole? Well, someone needs to get into the kitchen. While You & I are debating the issue… and may I say, he regularly defers to me on m-e-a-t, since I hail from Colorado, I feel he should definitely deal with f-i-s-h, since he loves the f******g sea… please, feast your eyes on these super-glazed frutti di mare bowls from ARAAMO at the Sarzana street market bought on behalf of Our American Friend…

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Nuts about the chicken salad…

Chicken SaladDear Mary Anne,

Hey! More food news. You know those Virginia peanuts you brought me in July? Well, get this…

An American Friend came to Il Poggiolo to party with us and the locals at Our Big Ferragosto Party and to help out in the kitchen beforehand. No surprise there. She writes cookbooks and appears on American TV talking about foooood. One dish which I have no problem making is a chicken salad. She rallied to The Cause. The recipe is not quite everything out of the refrigerator, but nearly…

chicken quickly boiled in water along with an onion, a carrot and a stalk of celery and when cooled, shredded. I then take and mince a white onion, cut up a couple of apples doused with lemon juice so not to brown-out, dumping into the concoction anything else for colour or taste. This time it was a carrot from the broth. I save a bit of that broth, pour in some plain yogurt, a bit of mayo and a dollop of French moutarde douce… NOT French’s Mustard. You know the kind. They come in oddly shaped yet chic mini-jars… and chopped parsley. I could not find any walnuts at the super-market, My Preferred Nut. I bought shelled almonds.

Before I arrived at the nuts, I had to go help You move the heavy bar table to a new location. When I came back, Our American Friend had finished the job. Wonderful. We shoved the bowl into the frig and went on with other tasks. I had a bit of the chicken salad during the Eating Orgy Phase of the evening, nearly 40 at the proverbial trough, and I thought it delightfully crunchy. Gosh. The almonds?

Last Monday night I had a hankering for Virginia peanuts to swallow down with an exceptionally dry pro-secco. Got the tin can, opened the lid AND THERE WERE NO MORE VIRGINIA PEANUTS!!! That’s what had made the salad so unexpectedly crunchy good. Our American Friend, a cracker-jack cook and food-item huntress had found AND deposited the five mouthfuls left of the Virginia nuts into My Chicken Salad. Success!!!

You now know everything, including The Secret Ingredient. Gads.

Sagra time…

La Sagra dei Pomi si atterra’ Venerdi 6 – Sabato 7 and Domenica 8 Settembre 2014 in Codiponte Toscana Lunigiana Italia sotto il ponte Medievale al frantoio.

Here are the initial preparations… ASL sanitary kitchens for frying long pieces of leavened bread called sgabei serve plain or stuffed with prosciuto e formaggi bianchi, frittelle di mele rolled in sugar and piping-hot plates of asado argentinian cooked ribs & beef accompanied by beans & tomatoes… yum-yum. Sunny weather, please.

IMG_4658IMG_4656SgabeiFritelle di meleAsadoIMG_0106-001

Left-over flour hot stuff…

FrittersOh, Mary Anne! I forgot to say… if you have more flour hot stuff and egg & milk than you planned after dipping and frying-up your zucchini flowers, you can mix what’s left and fry-up some terrific tasting flour hot stuff fritters. You… and I do hope you know who I mean… said Yum-yum, when I served him a plate full of deliciously hot & savory fritters for his lunch of melon & prosciutto, more flour hot stuff zucchini flowers and a salad of baby tomatoes & brown beans & cucumbers this past weekend. Personally, I thought the lunch was well worth considering myself to be in Heaven… a foodie Heaven. Gads.

Southern cooking in Codiponte…

Zucchini flowersOh, Mary Anne! That flour stuff you gave me when you were here is too much. It’s hot. Southern hot. Southern cooking hot! In other words, perfect. Perfect for the fried chicken I made for You last weekend. Sorry you did not get to meet him. He likes to stay undercover. Perfect for an ever so light cream sauce with galetti mushrooms and mixed in with whole wheat pasta for dinner two nights ago. The nice lady of the local Codiponte alimentary gave me a chest full of mushrooms her husband had found the day before. So generous. And today, perfect to fry up a batch of huge zucchini flowers another neighbor gave me. I happened to be moseying past her fruit and vegetable garden with Mr. Moze, who was way behind and the Beena-babe, who was way out in front. By now, those two spoiled canines have registered their own separate spots to dally with during Our Morning Constitutional and what is supposed to be a moment for us to bond. Instead, they abandon me. In a jiffy, my bag was filled with flowers and Tips For Cooking… A) pull the interior pistils out B) drown them in a batter of egg and milk, more milk than egg C) suffocate them in that hot flour stuff of yours D) stick a piece of Fontina cheese where the pistils once were housed E) heat the frying pan with ample oil and bit of butter too and F) fry both sides until golden brown. In no time, I had a heaping plate of flowers per pranzo, swallowed down with, naturally, a very chilled white wine. Yep. My stomach is never ignored! Thank you, thank you, and thank you again! Oh! And come back with more of that hot flour stuff on your next hike here. I’m running low already. Gads.

P.S. I was so greedy to eat the zucchini flowers, I had no time to take a photo. Next attempt I will.

Our Olives…

IMG_3971Every single one of those succulent & dangly olives have lost their green, having opted for a more luscious dark violet color. On Our Last Day at Il Poggiolo before the Christmas Holiday Marathon, way back on the 8th of December, You spent the morning hours diligently harvesting Our First Crop of darkened & ripened olives, so he could prepare them as an item to nibble upon along with sipping a tempting glass of white or red wine at Aperitivo-time. He was very excited, however, there were two opposing recipes from Our Local Codiponte Authorities for buongustiai… or, gourmands, at least, where olives are concerned. They should all know. These folk have done practically nothing else since the 1st of December EXCEPT to harvest olives as they ripen & fall to the nets gracing Mother Earth.
One substantial group dictated with great air of knowledge for the Long Version… put the olives in a pot and cover them with water for 40 days, naturally, changing the water daily. On the 41st day, pour off the water and mix the olives with a heavy dose of rock salt for another week to 10 days, again, draining the water daily. Then… ecco… edible olives! The reaction of You after hearing of this, caused him to blow-off steam and his frustration with a resounding & very Italian UFFA!!! I don’t know why he was upset. It wasn’t going to be him to remember & pour-off the water for those 40 days! Guess who it would be?
As for an hypothesis about why 40 days, I can only hazard a guess by saying it might have to do with making the meat of the olives softer, more pliant or, less acidic to the taste.
You consulted another authority… a Dear Friend from the Famous Olympic-League Dinners we’ve enjoyed this past Fall and prepared by her mother, who was… once-upon-a-time… a cook to an aristo-family in Genoa for 20+ years and close friends of You’s. Small World. The how-to info for the Short Version passed in a jiffy from mother to daughter to You, proscribing… cover the olives with rock salt and when there’s no more water to pour-off… ecco… edible olives… in less than 2 weeks!
Guess which recipe You followed? But, do you want to know something? They ain’t bad. He gently mixed them with olive oil… naturally… and timo e rosemarino for an extra kick. And, the olives now have a wonderfully rich yet, near-black color to their puckered skins.
I’d love to show you but, sadly, and with so much grateful thanks to the Computer Wizards over at Picasa… My Photo-storage App, for cryin’ out loud… who have made My Life difficult by force-feeding My Laptop with an updated program for which the old thing choked on. Apparently, it lacks the proper internal ingredients to have dealt with it. And so, and I do hope this will only be a temporary situation, I cannot now place a photo on this blog. In the meantime, I will assuage My Wounded Computer Feelings by munching on some of Our Olives. Gads.