Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2023 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
In France and many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets that I have visited, the selection of spices always draws me to photograph the alluring colors and take in the wonderful aromas. I buy small packets, take them home, and enjoy trying them in meals that I prepare. They even encourage me to experiment with new exotic recipes. The best part is that it brings me back to the places I visited for the evening.
It is autumn and the sunflower fields have been newly plowed leaving about a foot of stocks protruding above ground.
The plows have made a pattern across the rolling hills emphasizing rows of yellow stocks contrasting with the brown earth.
The clouds roll over the landscape swallowing up the sun as they go. Rays of sun struggle to keep the earth lit and warm creating brilliant shadows over the hills.
It is so serene that you can hear a bird chirp or a roster crow.
It is stunning and I pull over alongside the road to take in the view and renew my love of the French countryside.
I am in the Chablis of the Burgundy region heading to the Jura. It is taking me longer then usual because I want to take mental pictures and also photograph these romantically beautiful scenes.
I want to be able to close my eyes and remember the light, shadows and shapes.
I sit there in my car and wonder who created this, where do they live, do they see the beauty that I see in what they must consider laborious, tiring work.
Do they know they have created a tableau that moves the senses and fills the mind with peace and wonderment.
How can I tell them that I appreciate their work of art.
Maybe by just recalling those autumn days with you.
As we drove through the countryside towards the Burgundy from Paris, we noticed a chateau on a hill in the distance. We decided to investigate and drove up the winding hill past beautiful pastures to a small village. The large blue arched doors to the chateau were closed. My husband dropped me off on the side of the raod so that I could take some photos when a man open the large door to reveal a courtyard covered with grass, wildflowers and a chateau in various stages of renovation. I asked him if I could photograph the property in my elementary French and he happily waved me in. I gestured to my husband to join me, as he speaks French fluently and there was so much I wanted to learn. We began a conversation that lasted well over an hour.
M. Arbousse Bastide, a retired antique dealer owns the 14th century chateau that has three buildings overlooking a valley covered with pastures. Looking down over the misty fields, white Charolais cattle spotted the landscape and quite sounds of the country occasionally broke the silence from time to time. His passion is restoring antiques and he had completely rebuilt one large turret and was restoring another by himself, stone by stone. As he was telling us his story, we walked over a wood plank placed over the moat to the chateau when a lovely woman stepped out. Soft spoken, wearing a long printed shirt, ruffled white blouse and green sweater with long silver hair pulled back with a comb, she began to tell us about her friend’s efforts and love of antiques. A researcher who had worked translating Chinese Scriptures and still living in Paris, she spends the summers in this idyllic setting visiting markets in search of antiques with her friend. She was soft spoken, confidant, a woman at peace with herself and a delight to talk to. Speaking excellent English, she pointed out that there is no heat in the chateau but Monsieur doesn’t mind the cold as only huge stone fireplaces provide warmth. She said that there was a lot of property available in the area that badly needed to be restored. Many foreigners had bought ruins and taken great efforts to give these ancient structures new life and were now living in them permanently.
Monsieur, who had disappeared into the chateau to take a phone call, reappeared and immediately was joined by a crow who flew onto his shoulder and then sat peacefully on his hand. The bird loves to torment him she said, and stole two 50 Euro notes that day giving him a hard time trying to retrieve them. It was obvious that the Monsieur and the crow were friends and enjoy each others company. To our astonishment they invited us into the chateau and we walked into a time passed to an amazingly warm but ancient environment. A horseshoe shaped table facing a huge stone fireplace had church pew for seating and a red table covering. Beamed ceilings and stonewalls with antiques in different states of repair filled the rooms. Fruit and flowers in a multitude of vessels made the stone dwelling feel warm and inviting. Light penetrated the rooms from the windows creating shadows and a glow highlighted antiques. They explained to us that these chateaus were noble men’s homes that were responsible for collecting taxes and performed local jurisdiction.
The chateau is lovingly being restored it to its original state. Well, this might take him the rest of his life, but I don’t think he cared much about that. He was joyful at my amazement, as I wanted to photograph everything I saw, in every space, in every room. As we said goodbye, we gratefully thanked them for letting us snoop into their life. They gave us their email address saying computers kept them connected to the world. In this environment it seemed a contradiction as computers sat on an ancient table in an ancient room, but they were clearly also living comfortably in this century.
Connecting with people of a country has always been the most memorable part of my travels and this encounter will take its place among the many interesting people I’ve been privileged to meet.
I’m always searching for markets where I can find unusual items we like to have from time to time but are not available in your neighborhood markets. As I mentioned in previous posts, there are times when we have our special TV dinners such as when watching a special sports event or concert especially during the Olympics. I try to make these dinners interesting and when possible a small, easy to prepare meal, such as caviar with chopped egg white, egg yolk, onions, toast and a glass of champagne. Always helps when watching Federer, who sometimes keeps me on the edge of my chair a little easier. Or maybe it is a duck terrine magret, saucisson de canard (duck sausages), or foire gras with a light salad and a glass of Sauterne. For dessert I might prepare Vermicelles mit rham (pureed chestnut with cream) or on a scope of vanilla ice cream or meringue. In Switzerland you can buy Vermicelles in a tube and when squeezed out it looks like spaghetti. One of our favorites is a selection of French cheese with fresh fruit, a nice crisp baguette and a bottle of Bordeaux. Sounds a little extravagant, but on occasion having these foods at home is far less expensive then in a restaurant and actually very easy to prepare.
For your special guests you might want to include bit of exquisite to your dish and add shavings of truffles, black or white from Italy or France over a dish of freshly made pasta. And I love risotto nero made with squid ink. So where to get these items became an obsession as soon as I arrived in Florida. I was sure that with such a large population of Europeans, I would find what I was looking for. Although I’m far away from these foods that I use to enjoy in Europe, I have at least found a supplier that will make it possible to bring back some of those wonderful dinner memories and hopefully add a few more to the list.
Marky’s specializes in French, Spanish, Russian, Italian and other International foods in a warm and inviting environment with service that is accommodating and knowledgeable. They will not only answer your questions but will also pack you up with your selections and a bag of ice. If you can’t get to Miami, you can place an ordered on their website and have it delivered. A side benefit to visiting the store however is that the Marky’s location is in an area that has many small ethnic restaurants. These small family owned establishments look so interesting that going into Miami late in the afternoon once-in-a-while and discovering some delicious place to eat after shopping is an added adventure.
I was thrilled when I found Marky’s – International Food Emporium, which has a Russian connection in Miami. You can read more about Marky’s on their website and if you visit the market, try out some of the small restaurants in the neighborhood. I will write about them as I also discover them.
Marky’s 687 NW 79th St, Miami, FL 33150
Authentic French cuisine prepared by chef owner Madame Caroline Poussardin in the style of Aix-en-Provence is a sweet find. The food is beautifully presented and an evening at Côté Gourmet is as if you are sitting in a lovely little village in the Provence. It is a family owned establishment where her husband runs the front of the restaurant making people feel as though they are in their dinning room. Côté Gourmet is a little bit of France in Miami Shores. As in many small restaurants in France, the chef and her husband enjoy talking to guests and making their dinning experience memorable. If you speak French, a big smile will come over their face and they will be delighted to communicate with you in their native language.
Fresh ingredients of the season are prepared by Chef Caroline in typically French country-style with specials prepared such as crêpes on Wednesday evening and a special soirée dinner on Thursday. They serve lunch and if you should show up early in the morning and would like breakfast, she will accommodate you. A small menu is complimented with daily specials and is a nice selection. When I tasted the polenta soup with shrimp, I was in France. The soup was seasoned perfectly, smooth and light, amazing for polenta. The lamb chops were prepared exactly as I had requested, rosé with chèvre sauce. I couldn’t resist dessert, the warm pear tart with chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream on a beautiful flaky crust was a perfect ending. The wine selections compliments the menu and you can order it by the bottle or glass. I almost never order a three-course meal, as it is often too much food. But I made an exception in this case.
Madame et Monsieur owned two restaurants in Aix-en-Provance before moving to Miami to start a restaurant with their daughter. They have been serving their guests for 5 years in a neighborhood local in Miami Shores. The atmosphere is typical of many small restaurants found all over the French countryside. Space for about 30 guests, it is decorated with white crisp tablecloths, white napkins tied with a large golden ribbon, fresh flowers and candles burning, creating a warm romantic atmosphere. When you walk into Côté Gourmet, you walk into France for an evening and you walk out feeling you have returned to your favorite little neighborhood place.
Having lived in Europe for many years, I must admit that finding a good French restaurant that doesn’t compromise itself and is unmistakably French was not easy to find. When it comes to maintaining the meaning of Provence French cuisine, Madame Caroline delivers exactly what you expect.
Côté Gourmet French Restaurant
9999 NE 2nd Avenue
Look for them on Facebook
We set off Sunday to watch “Who’s Bad” concert in honor of Michael Jackson at the Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach Florida. Our “Meet up Group” enjoys hiking in South Florida but arranged this outing. Sounded great to me – listening to the great music of Michael Jackson next to the harbor among new friends.
We were beginning to have a serious cheese need so we headed off to “The Boys” in Delray to select some cheese to take along. It is always a difficult decision, as we adore cheese. The Boys has a nice selection and we decided on Reblochon (French), Emmentaler, (Swiss) and some Vermont Cheddar. With a bottle of Prosecco, (Italian wine) and a beautiful loaf of Ciabatta bread (Italian), how much more international can you get, we were all set for a late afternoon concert in beautiful sunny surroundings and great music.
When we go to these kinds of events, I like to keep it simple and cheese is always a good bet. I always pack cheese in foil as it doesn’t hold the moisture, which is damaging to cheese. I put a cold pack into a plastic bag and then the cheese and cold pack go into an insulated bag. I like to take the cheese out about 10 minutes or so before eating it as it should come to room temperature. Even in warm climate hard cheese will fare quite well. In this case I also choose Reblochon, one of our favorite, which is a creamy cheese. Packed this way it withstands the warm temperature very well. Of course you can’t just leave it sitting in the sun or it will melt, so don’t take it out until you’re ready to eat it.
Luckily my husband always carries a Swiss Army Knife, which has a corkscrew. You can’t imagine how many times people forget to take one and come looking for someone to rescue them. Well Bruno is always there, uncorking bottles and meeting new friends and enjoying a glass of wine with them.
Some fun photos
Candied fruit are made by cooking and soaking fruits in sugar syrup. The fruit is saturated with sugar which conserves it. They have been prepared by many cultures worldwide for centuries. Depending on the amount of sugar absorbtion, the fruits can last for years.
In Italy they are commonly used in desserts such as Spumoni, (Sicilian ice cream), Panettone, (a sweet bread commonly made at Christmas), preserves, Florentins, Cassata, (a Sicilian cake), gelato, tarrone, and biscotti.
Baskets of candied fruit are traditionally given during Christmas. This time of the year you can find stands in Christmas markets all over Italy filled with all sorts of colorful candied fruit selections.
We make candied fruit biscotti as part of our Christmas biscotti tray. These biscotti are colorful and are also very pretty in a Torta di Biscotto di Nozze (Italian wedding biscotti cake). It needs no frosting and is very easy to make.
Candied Fruit Biscotti
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes @ 375º F
Yield: 5 Dozen
2 cups sugar
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup of walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup candied fruit, chopped
2 teaspoons anise extract
2 sticks butter
Cream the eggs and sugar, and add the butter and extract and beat until smooth. Gradually add the flour and baking powder. Fold in the nuts and chopped candied fruit. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Form the dough into long cylinders about 12” long. Place the loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Teflon mat.
Bake at 375º F for 20-25 minutes. Remove them from the oven and slice the loaves diagonally when cooled. Place the slices on their side and return them to the oven. Bake for another 2 minutes on each side.
Stephanie Tatin was the chef in the family-run ‘Hotel Tatin’ and is known for first creating this dessert in 1889, and it became a French classic. I remember the first time I ate it in a restaurant overlooking the ocean in the South of France. I guess that should tell you how much I love this luscious apple tart. As beautiful as the environment was, I totally fell in love with tarte tatin.
I have seen Julia Child make tarte tatin several times as late as when she was in her 80”s. I decided that I had to master it and make it one of my classic tart’s
It is an upside down caramelized apple pie that is easy to make but on the other hand hard to make. The reason for this is that the ingredients are easily assembled, but the caramelizing can be dangerous. When cooking and spooning the caramel over the top of the apples so that they get completely covered and when turning the hot tart from the pan, one must take great care. I recommend a no-stick pan and heatproof oven gloves to protect you hands if some caramel should drip out.
Tarte Tartin is typically an apple tart, but it can be made with other fruits.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes on the stove/25-30 minutes in the oven at 400º
Yield: 8 slices
1 9” pastry crust, pâté brisée or store bought puff pastry
8 apples (dry and apples that will hold their shape i.e. Granny Smith)
3/4 lb sugar
1/2 lb butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of one 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place the sugar and butter in a 9” oven pie plate or frying pan that can be placed in the oven. Cook the sugar and butter on high heat until it becomes a deep golden brown caramel. Do not stir, as it will form crystals. If crystals do form, wipe the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in water. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and blend. Add the apples, which have been peeled, cut in half, and the seeds removed.
Toss the apples with the cinnamon and place the apples next to each other in a circle outside down. They should overlap in the caramel mixture. Allow them to cook for about 10-15 minutes scooping the caramel over the top of the apples with a spoon. Caramel is extremely hot and dangerous. Extreme care should be taken.
Place the pastry over the top of the pan and carefully tuck the edge into the pan. Place the tart into the middle rack of the oven and bake according to the directions on the pastry package. If using a home made crust cook about the same time or until it turns brown. It is usually about 25 minutes at 400º F if using a packaged puff pastry.
My trip took me to San Remo, Ospedaletti, Bordighera, Ventimiglia, the Alpe Liguri, the Côte d’Azur to Cagnes-sur-mer and Haut de Cagnes. The beauty of the villages, the purity of the Mediterranean light reaches out to the horizon, where the blue colors of the sea and blue-red sky meet.
The splendid villas against the succession of ancient stone villages built along the hillsides leaves you in awe of the architectural achievements of past peoples. The sun shines on this area providing the perfect environment for agriculture and floriculture. The greenhouses dominate the hills, the abundance and size of fruits and vegetables in the outdoor markets overwhelm the senses. The villages preserve their antique traditions celebrating events of the past and adding the culture of today in festivals and religious celebrations. Only a few miles from the sea the difference in the cuisine is noticeable. Unlike the seafood served along the sea, the aple village’s cuisine is rich in hearty stews, pasta’s, porcini and game. There are many day itineries you can take and selecting a base location depends on if you would like to stay in the hinterland or by the sea.
Life is very different by the sea; San Remo is a large town with a casino and lots of shopping, very chic! Bordighera and Ospedeletti, are smaller towns with beautiful villas, artistically planted flowers and palms throughout. Between San Remo and Ventimilglia they are a little less crowded and more personal. Ospdealetti seems to have a large renovation project along the beach and at this time I would not recommend it if your interest is spending time on the beach. Ventimiglia is a very busy place, with a large medieval town where many people gather along the bridge and enjoy the beaches and entertainment provided in beach communities during the summer. But it is hectic and be prepared to deal with a lot of traffic. The advantage is that it is on the French boarder and visiting Menton and Monaco is an easy day trip. If this is not the kind of environment you want to spend your vacation in, there are may medieval towns just a few miles from the sea towns like Dolceaqua just 4 km away.
I am drawn to the markets held all along the beachfront passagati where there are stalls for as far as you can see that sell goods from clothes and kitchen tools to colorful and huge vegetables, fruits, fish, salumi, meats, olives, spices and breads made and grown in farms in the region. I search out markets and can spend hours picking out things I’ve never seen or tried before and some of my all time favorites. I have found many unusual pasta cutters in stalls in these markets, and every time I go, there is always a new discovery I’ve never seen before. I like to live there and not just be a tourist. I am stopped all the time and asked questions or for directions. I do not have a compass in my brain and get lost all the time, not always a disadvantage, as I’ve had some very interesting experiences. The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter what country I’m in, I guess I must look like a local everywhere. The advantage of renting an apartment is you can intermingle with people on a more personal level. But a word or caution, rent in areas you know because you can really have an unhappy experience. Back to the markets, which are in Bordighera on Tuesday, San Remo on Thursday and Ventimilglia on Friday. Be aware that these markets are only open until about 1PM so get there early. I never get tired of photographing markets and local scenes. The slide show is of some of the views along the way.
(hover cursor over picture to stop slide show)
Hunting season starts in September in Switzerland and the locals look forward to the hunt (Jagd). Switzerland strictly controls the hunt by setting limits to each species. The season lasts only about 3 weeks. Hunters bring their catch of mountain goat, wild boar, elk or deer to local butchers (Metzgerei). He prepares the animals into steaks, roasts, racks, bunderfliesh and hirschpfeffer, venison meat marinated in wine and a specialty here. It is not unusual to see a deer sitting in front of the butchers’ door waiting for him to arrive in the morning. After the hunter takes what he wants, the rest is sold by the butcher. If you are a good friend of the butcher, you can make your selection early in the season and have him store it for you in his freezer for the rest of the winter. When you want it, just give him a call and he will have your selection ready and waiting for you.
This is the start of Fall and the Alps are amazingly beautiful with the trees turning yellow and rust tones and light dusting of snow on the mountaintops. The anticipation of winter on its way moves people here. Winter is the bread and butter season in the Alps. The excitement begins with the hunting season, when the slow summer goes back to sleep and the cool air means getting the hay cut and into the barns, grapes harvested and the hotels and ski operations start preparations for the winter tourists.
Venison is traditionally served with spätzli and caramelized chestnuts. Spätzli is a thick batter that is scraped off a wet board into boiling water. It is similar to dumplings except looks more like pasta. Spätzli is a Swiss specialty and I can’t imagine venison without it. It also goes well with other meats and once you have learned to prepare it, you will find that when you are looking for something different to take the place of pasta or potatoes, spätzli is a very good substitute. The Austrians, Germans and Italian have their version of spätzli, but they are all pretty much the same except maybe for the size.
There is a gadget that is available to make spätzli but it is so simple by hand that I think it is a waste of money and effort to use it. I like the old fashion way.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: In boiling water approximately 2 minutes per späzli batch
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons butter
Prepare a large pasta pan of boiling salted water. Mix the flour, egg, and water, milk and salt. The batter should have the consistency of thick pancake batter.
Dunk the board into the boiling water so that the board is wet.
Place a ladle full of the batter on the wet cutting board.
Holding the board over the boiling water, scrap small amounts of batter about the size of ziti macaroni into the boiling water. When they float to the top, which takes about 2 minutes, remove them to a dish. Toss them immediately with some butter to prevent them from sticking and continue finishing each batch.
When you are ready to serve, put a tablespoon or two of butter into a frying pan and toss the spätzli with the butter until they are warm.
Note: You can mix mashed beats, spinach or carrots etc. into the batter to make different colors and flavors. Broth can be substituted for the cooking water.
Schools of anchovies run twice a year in the Spring and September along the Ligurian Sea. They are cleaned and the innards are removed and layered in mer de sel (sea salt) in cylinder forms along the entire maritime region. Anchovies are the king of the Ligurian Sea.
The tradition of conserving anchovies in salt goes back to ancient times when they provided a stock of food in the cities and because anchovies and salt were used by the fisherman as merchandise to barter.
The quality of the anchovies is very important; they must be very fresh. Remove the heads and the innards, rinse them in running water and dry them with a cloth. Put a layer of salt at the bottom of a round container. Place a layer of anchovies and then a layer of salt paying careful attention to press them one against another until you reach the top. Finish the top with a layer of salt.
Close the top so that it is airtight and put a weight of least 3 km (7 lbs.) on the top. Store them in a cool place controlling them every two days removing any liquid that forms. Let them stay for 40 days and they are ready to eat. At this point if you wish you can scrape the salt off and transfer them into extra virgin oil.
Anchovies are used to flavor meats, sauces, in stuffing’s and stews. They are eaten fresh marinated in oil, fried, on pizza, in salads, and pasta sauce etc. Anchovies add flavor and give a unique aroma to dishes. Often it is not noticeable in a dish and you wonder what it is that gives it a flavor you never seem to be able to achieve in your cooking. Because it was used to salt dishes as stated above, it is still today a main ingredient in Italian cooking. Anchovies are your friend in cooking and will give you a unique advantage in creating that special flavor to your dishes.
I buy them salted, then clean off the salt and store them in a glass container or in a storage bag and keep them in my refrigerator. When using them, take them out and allow the oil to clarify. They have a more pungent flavor then the anchovies already put up in oil in cans. They can be found at most Italian specialty stores. Or buy fresh anchovies and try salting them yourself according to the recipe of San Remo.
The pebble-paved streets wind through Haut-de-Cagnes’ narrow alleyways past stone houses, artist’s studios, restaurants and a few shops. The Chateau Grimaldi, a fort built around the 1300 dominates the village overlooking the sea. Replicas of canvases by well-known artists who painted this romantic place are stationed at the locations of the scene. The clay colors of the roof tiles, grays of stone walls, colorful vines creeping up the sides of the ancient buildings seem to be growing where ever they can find a little earth. Haut-de-Cagnes is a heritage site, classified as a “Monument of France”.
When I first walked up the pebble streets some 30 years ago, I thought I was stepping into a Renior canvas. Brush strokes and pallet knives created this village from the imagination of a genius painter I thought. Of course it must be, because Renoir lived and worked in Les Colette just around the corner from Haut-de-Cagnes. The panorama over the hills and blue Mediterranean gave him inspiration and his canvases reflect the colors and vegetation of the region. So this must be where I am, in one of his paintings. Then, when I came back to reality, I saw that Haut-de-Cagnes was a real place, with real people, and real stone buildings and flowers and I was going to stay here forever. Well I almost did and have visited it many times.
Painters lived in this region of France such as Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Erté, Rodin, Bonnard, Matisse and Modigliani who spent time with Renoir – just to name a few. All conspired and enjoyed each other’s company in this medieval world. The village reflects the romanticism of the past and you wander through the streets appreciating the beauty that they saw. Today you can visit Renoir’s home, now a museum where you can see why he was in love with Cagnes-sur-Mer.
In recent years there has been a revitalization of Cagnes-sur-Mer and in many ways it has improved along the sea. A boardwalk goes on for miles all the way to Nice. Restoration of the beaches and buildings has brought new life with little seaside restaurants that serve both French and Italian specialties. The city is charming in the area of the market place where people seem to be stationed all the time in the café’s. Maybe they are really sculptures by Renior who probably joined in this typically French pastime of café life. Sometimes I feel they are purposely placed there so visitors think that relaxing and drinking espresso or a glass of wine is all people do here. There are many new apartments in the center of the city, which I suppose is to be expected, and in some ways nicer architecture then some other towns. The town has all the shopping you need with outdoor markets and excellent boulangeries. Years ago it was possible to find small boulangeries and boucherie (butcher shops) in Haut-de- Cagnes, but they are long gone. Many foreigners have bought apartments and live part-time here making it difficult for small shops to survive. But they have also renovated the apartments and have played a role in keeping the village alive and free from commercialism.
There is a parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer, a paid parking garage in Haute-de-Cagnes and parking along the streets, but the chances of finding parking is slim. The public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer is a quarter the price of the parking garage and with very good bus service to Haute-de-Cagnes. The shuttle bus leaves every 15 minutes from June to September from the Castle and can be taken from several places along the route to Cagnes-sur-Mer. From here you can catch buses to other destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The shuttle is free and the bus service is inexpensive and a good alternative considering the lack of parking in Nice or Cannes.
By some stroke of luck Haut-de-Cagnes has survived tourism. You quickly appreciate this when you visit St. Paul de Vance. It hurts to think that such a beautiful village that inspired so many famous artists is now a big commercial mess. The people of Haut-de-Cagnes and all those who settled there saved this magical place from the sickness that takes over when people only see dollar signs. This could have easily happened here, but instead it has stayed the same and you feel like you are going home every time you visit. This is the village where I could easily see myself getting lost in forever and many new residents have. It’s simplicity and charm just carry you through life as though you have nothing else to worry about except stepping around the palate knife and paint strokes that created it.
Vance and St Jennet are easily reached and are a nice side trip. Vance has done a lot of restoration and in fact has replaced its fountains with ones dating back to its origins. Many guests visit the perfume factories in Grasse. Collectors search for perfume bottles that are now collectables at some of the weekly outdoor markets.
I will only mention two restaurants in the village and one in Cagnes-sur-Mer that we found worth visiting. Le Fleur de Sel we did not visit because it was closed for vacation, we have dined here in the past and I was told that it was good and under new management.
You won’t find many restaurants in the village but a few stand out. Chef Stephane Francolino, owner of Entre Cour et Jardin, told us that many Italians fled to France during WWII and settled in the region mostly in Grasse to work at the perfume factories. Since we had just come from Dolceacqua, Italy, his hometown, it was an interesting connection for us. The region’s culture is intermingled with Italy and its cuisine reflects this. Entre Cour et Jardin is a lovely little restaurant decorated in the style of the village with paintings adorning its walls and in one corner a typical French fireplace. The chef’s menu reflects his love of travel and his creativeness in combining his roots with his cooking. He is the cook, waiter and owner and takes pride in his relationships with his customers, who he calls his family. Stephane and his restaurant are as enchanting as the village and exactly what one would expect to find here.
Thank you Stephane for this lovely recipe.
Entre Cour et Jardin
102 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 04 93 20 72 27
Fax: 04 93 20 61 01
Crème de foie gras et fruits
(Cream of goose liver and fruits)
Yield: 40 glasses
Bake: 15 minutes @ 212ºF
250 g (9 oz.) of stuffed goose liver terrine
1 egg yoke
90 cl. (3 1/4 oz.) cream
Pimient d’esplette (Basque chili pepper)
Mix all the ingredients.
Put a raspberry and some raspberry coulis (puréed and strained raspberries) at the bottom of the glass, and then add the preparation.
Bake approximately 15 minutes in the oven at 100º C (212º F)
Put them in a cool place for 2 hours. They can be refrigerated for a few days.
La Goutte d’Eau
108 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes
Phone: 04 93 20 81 23
La Goutte d’Eau has contributed a wonderful typically French “tarte au citron”. I will test the recipe and post it at a later date. I loved it because it has a light citron flavor, not overwhelming, with an Italian meringue topping. The little outdoor eating area is very pleasant in the evening and owners run back and forth to the restaurant to serve its guests outdoors. They are fun and it is a casual restaurant with an atmosphere so typically French.
23, Place Sainte Luce
06800 Cagnes Sur Mer
The restaurant is located next to the left of public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-mer. Its contemporary setting is a surprise, as the outside looks quite old with a small outdoor terrace seating area. The food was very good and even on what one would have considered an off night; it was completely booked with locals.
Le Cagnard Hotel
Rue Sous Barri
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes, France
Le Cagnard Hotel, our choice for many years has come upon some difficult times. Still beautiful, it’s one time one star Michelin restaurant has been closed. But I remember my first encounter with Madam Barel showing me each of the 4 rooms and 2 apartments so that I could choose my favorite room (They have many more rooms now). There were huge tulips on top of the antique chest and on stools placed around the hotel. It had a small elevator that never seemed to stop at the right floor and has a beautiful restaurant with its painted ceiling tiles (now opens to view the stars). I remember the New Years Eve we spent here with a fire glowing in the large fireplace and the huge selection of chèvre for dessert. This is where I was introduced to chèvre. On our 10th anniversary of visiting Le Cagnard, Madam came into the dinning room as we were having breakfast and insisted that we join her for a bottle of champagne to celebrate our 10 years of visiting her. We never made it back to Switzerland that day and she has remained in our memories of Haut-de-Cagnes. This year we opted to rent an apartment which we find a more interactive and interesting way to enjoy a place that is a home away from home.
The basil of Liguria is intense in aroma. They produce small leaf basil that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The essential oils of basil are in the veins of the leaves. I was told that making pesto requires patients and love. The motion of the wooden pestle against the stone mortar brings out the oils. Add the leaves a little at a time, listen to the sound of the pestle as you move it against the mortor. The aroma is intoxciating. I love the way Italians talk about food, it is always so sensual.
I make Genovese pesto without cheese, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it for soups or sauces. I store it in a glass jar, topped with olive oil and refrigerate it. Top it off with oil each time to assure it doesn’t oxidize. It is at my disposal whenever I want to add it to a dish such as chicken salad or drizzled over fish and always ready for pasta.
Often in Liguria the cheese is left out and used to flavor many other dishes. Soup, sauces, vegetables, topping for pizza, tossed with pasta, drizzled on fish, salads, a little pesto wakes up the flavors.
Mix the pesto with cheese such as Ricotta or Pecorino are also used. One of my favorites is a soft fresh chèvre with freshly ground pepper tossed with pasta. There are some lovely formaggi di capra made in the Alpe Liguri.
Trofiette Liguri is the traditional pasta with pesto and is served in every restaurant and household. Thank goodness you can buy trofiette packaged because hand making this pasta would truly be a labor of love.
Yield: 4 Servings
4 oz. fresh basil
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pinoli nuts (pine nuts)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (light in flavor)
Salt to taste, (Don’t use large grain salt)
Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them on a towel. With a marble mortar and wooden pestle pound the garlic into a paste. The garlic should not overwhelm the basil. Add some salt and grind it into the garlic paste. Add the basil a little at a time and with a gentle swirling motion grinding it into the garlic. You get the best taste by gently grinding the leaves. At this point add the pine nuts, a handful at a time. When the nuts are soft and incorporated start adding the cheese. Begin to add the extra virgin olive oil. It is important the flavor of the oil is light so that it doesn’t overwhelm the flavor of the basil. The light olive oil of the Luguria blends perfectly with the basil mixture.
The preparation should be done at room temperature and as quickly as possible to avoid oxidation.
Trofiette Liguri is served everywhere and is a specialty of this region. Boil the water salting it sufficiently and drop in the trofiette. It will take longer then most pasta to cook, about 19 minutes. Toss it well with the pesto and serve the grated cheese either Parmesan or Pecorino on the side. Drizzle the same light extra virgin olive oil over the top.
We started out in Dolceaqua in search of more medieval stone villages and came across Pigna just a few miles from Apricale. The village is beautifully restored with many apartments renovated into full time or vacations getaways occupied by dwellers in search of the past. Many people had witches (le streghe) hanging above their doors or in the apartments. This of course coming from New England was rather strange. I assumed that it must be that they are meant to keep evil away. As we walked through the narrow caruggi (paths) we met up with one of the locals who was entering his apartment and had a witch hanging above his door. He explained that the witches bring good luck to the family. An odd concept we thought as they are considered shadowy figures working their potions and strange ideas in dark rooms somewhere to us. But not here, as the village of the witches here is Triora he told us and suggested we visit this interesting stone medieval village. So off we went in search of the story.
Back to Pigna for a moment as it is too pretty to just pass by. The large spa of The Grand Hotel Pigna Terme is cradled just below two medieval villages with breathtaking views. Hidden just below the Toraggio mountains the views of the ancient villages of Pigna and Castle Victorrio, the green plateaus and centuries of history and art are surreal. The Grand Hotel Pigna Antiche Terme offers just about everything for relieving stress and beauty treatments in harmony with nature.
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From there we headed up winding roads, sometimes hairpin turns into the mountains with views covering miles of forests and olive groves out to the sea to Triora. The small village is truly fascinating, as the world’s technological advances have not reached it as yet. Some locals and a few vacation apartments have been renovated, but if you want to get a true idea of what life must have been like during the 14 century you can find it here. It is hard to call the spaces apartments – they are really caves carved out of the mountains with walls built of layered stone. A simpler construction then their neighbors, it reaches down into your physic with wonderment of what life must have been like and how lucky in many ways we are today. Hard to contemplate living in this cold yet imaginative environment. The village was very poor as we were told by one of the local woman. She went on to say that the women were the center of life with great power over the family. As in many cases the mystic overtook reality and those who didn’t understand their world considered the women witches. They were burned alive during the Inquisition; Troira was the site of the last witch trails. Today the witches are thought to bring good luck to families. Troria has a witchcraft festival in August and Halloween. It was selected as “I Borghi Piú Belli d’Italia”, (The most beautiful villages in Italy). We didn’t find any witches, but I’m sure there are some behind the old wooden doors along the caurggi.
As usual we were taken up with what we were doing and lost track of time as we began our decent to San Remo. We needed to find a restaurant before 2PM when the restaurants close for the afternoon. As we entered Moiline Di Triora we came across a very small restaurant along the side of the road. We know that they usually don’t have a menu but this has never stopped us in the past, and we always enjoy the interaction with the local people. This was no exception as we listened to the two main courses and the pasta of the day, we made our selection and enjoyed some wine as we waited for the fresh tagliiatelle with pesto Liguria, now going on at least 3-4 times we have ordered it. The homemade pasta was delicious (pesto Liguria is made without cheese) and shortly came the Cinghiale di Liguri (wild boar) and the Coniglio di Liguri (rabbit) that my husband ordered. These are typical dishes of the Alpe Liguri and we had to try them at least once.
The stews were simple and the meat just fell apart. Knowing that not many people would have access to wild boar, I asked the owner for the rabbit recipe. This is always interesting as everyone in the restaurant usually has his or her idea of how to prepare a dish. As she explained how to prepare the rabbit and left to serve another customer, our neighbors began to explain that she had not told us the most important part. The rabbit must be browned to a crisp and not to add too much olive oil or wine as it should not be steamed or it will get too dry. The conversation went on for quite some time as they ate their panna cotta with chocolate sauce and a shot of Vodka poured over the top. Seeing that I was a little surprised, they explained that this was how people in the mountains eat – they drink a lot! We had a good time talking to them except by the end of the discussion we had eaten all the boar and rabbit and I forgot to take a picture. So here is the recipe without the picture.
Cinghiale Bianco Ristorante
Molini DI Triora
Via Regina Margherita 77
Coniglio di Liguri
1 rabbit cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
Vegetable bouillon, as needed
Mixture of herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, chopped
Black Taggia olives
Large grain salt
Extra virgin olive oil, light
Other things needed:
Terra cotta pot
Put a small amount of olive oil in the pot and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the rabbit pieces and brown until a crust has formed. This step is very important, as the rabbit will dry out during the cooking if it is not properly browned. Add the herbs and wine and salt and pepper. About 1/2 hour into the cooking add the olives. Let the stew cook for about 40 minutes. Add the broth as needed.
The medieval village rests on a small hillside 7 km from Ventimiglia in the Val Nervia dominated by the ruins of the Chateau des Doria. The medieval bridge stretches over the Rio San Rocco river connecting the two sections of the town and is a symbol of Dolceacqua. Terraces (fasce) are carved into the hillside where olive trees, vineyards, flowers and eucalyptus grow. Art and history create a visual feast of beauty that caught the eye of Claude Monet who painted Dolceacqua and said that it was an “extraordinary picturesque village”.
The sunny Piazza Garibaldi acts a theater for feasts and events in the village such as the Festa dell”Olio Nuove (Festival of the new oil), and is lined with restaurants where you can enjoy the famous pizza made with local light olive oil. Stone pathways with arches connecting the buildings called “caruggi” (narrow paths) wind upwards through the stone village that protected its inhabitants from invaders and the weather. Small shops tucked along the caruggi house workplaces of carpenters, electricians, galleries, small B&B’s and agriturismi that cater to today’s residents and guests. Each day as we passed we could hear the sound of classical music combined with workmen’s tools as they go about their tasks.
The ancient village is slowly being renovated into charming apartments and rough stone spaces still await a loving owners to bring them back to life. Many French come over the boarder to enjoy the views, the famous pizza at one of the 15 restaurants, and mountain breezes that provide a naturally cool and pleasant environment during the summer months. This is mountain life and the pace is slow and peaceful. People meet in the café’s, drink cappuccino reading the newspaper in the mornings, and socialize with friends over a glass of wine in the afternoons. The fish man comes along in a small truck selling fish from the sea as people go about their business working in the shops or greenhouses that ramble along the hillsides and olive groves that seems almost impossible to reach.
The region has a culture of roses and floriculture with tangerine trees lining the streets and the sweet aroma from the multitude of flowering bushes. Although the region has been deeply affected by difficult economic times, 80% of Italy’s flowers are grown here.
Dolceacqua means “Sweet Water” maybe named after the very nice red wine called “Rosses di Dolceacqua” that has the deep red color of roses. Made from grapes grown in vineyards where their roots cling to the hillsides, it was highly revered by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Paul III who made sure that casks were shipped home.
Maybe it is the olive oil that is the sweet water of Dolceacqua. The silver green leafed olive trees covering the hills produce light yellow oil perfect for fish, wild boar and rabbit dishes typical of the cuisine of Liguria. Beer is also brewed here, and is deep yellow, served very cold in glasses similar to a Bordeaux glass. The beer is a perfect accompaniment to the thin-crusted pizza made in wood fired ovens covered with local dried salumi, porcini, fresh vegetables or shellfish, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy.
Just up the road about 4km is Apricale, one of the” Rock Villages” certified as the most beautiful villages in Italy. Stone houses and alleys lead around the castle housing artist’s workshops and painted murals. Paintings and stone carvings can be seen along the caruggi and doorways decorated with flowers that add color to the grey stone structures.There are a few B&B’s and restaurants in the center of the piazza where there is a washing trough and along the caruggi you can see the old village central oven. The village is also well-known for its summer theater. A local Balu tournament is held in June and July with 16 teams taking part. A popular Ligurian game using an elastic ball is played against the walls of the ancient village. The local players are even more popular then football players.
Sun showers light into the dark covered caruggi during the day lighting the painted and carved murals walls. At night it is the stars that light the ancient village, which seems to sit just below the sky. The villages were owned by the Counts of Ventimiglia, captured by Grimaldi until Andrea Doria liberated them. Apricale even has an American history as Giovanni Battista Martini fought at Little Big Horn and was the only living survivor.
Both Apricale and Dolceacqua belong to the prestigious “Associatione dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia”, (The Association of beautiful villages in Italy) and there is no doubt why many foreigners have bought apartments in appreciation not only of the villages but the life style of the mountains.
Ventimiglia is 7km, San Remo is 14km and the French border is 16km from Dolceacqua making this little village a perfect base for visiting the Alpe Liguri – the backdrop of the Riviera dei fiori is a refuge from the crowded beach towns along the Riviera. There are many apartments for rent by the week or weekend. Renting an apartment offers you the opportunity to experience village life and select some of the local cheeses, salumi, wines, foccica, bread and pastries to enjoy at home. The local merchants are very helpful and always happy to recommend local specialties. French and Italian are mostly spoken here and even though only a few people speak English you can always find ways to communicate with the friendly locals. There is little night life except for the restaurants and a few clubs, yet you are a very short distance to the sea side towns.
Cars are not allowed in the old villages anywhere along the Riviera, so be prepared to walk up hill or steep steps to reach an apartment or B&B. Villages have parking lots; some are free at the entrance of the village. Summer months are crowded with heavy traffic clogging narrow roads through the towns along the sea. The best time to visit the area is in May to Mid June or from September through the fall.
Pizza Verde Dolceaqua
Cook time: 200c (400ºF)
Time: 20-30 minutes
500g flour (1.1.lb)
5 tablespoons extra virgin ‘Taggiasca” olive oil
250gr water (1 1/4 cup)
40gr yeast (1 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole eggs
750gr chard (1 lb. 10 oz.)
150gr Parmesan cheese (10 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Black Taggia olives
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Pour the flour onto a work surface and add the yeast mixture, and salt to the flour. Bring it together into a ball and knead it. Let it rest under a clean cloth, preferable woolen, of a bowl until in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Take the risen dough and knead a second time until you have soft dough and let it raise again under the cloth for another 2 hours.
Roll it out and put it onto a pan greased with olive oil and let it rest again before covering it with the greens.
Chop the uncooked chard and add the oil, salt, eggs, onion and cheese. Spread the prepared mixture onto the dough and sprinkle olives and whole cloves of garlic over the top. Cook in the oven at 200/300º (400ºF) for 25/30 minutes.
Michetta, The sweet bread of Dolceacqua
The story of michetta:
The Marquis Doria sent a young bride who refused to give herself to him to prison to die. The population of Dolceacqua rose up and forced the Marquis Doria (1364) to stop his abuse of power and on the 16th of August there is a festival to celebrate the event. The women of the village created the “michetta” now the symbol of love and freedom.
1kg flour, (2 lbs 3 oz.)
100g yeast, (3 1/2 oz.)
350g sugar, (13 oz.)
250g butter, ( 9 oz.)
Grated lemon zest,
Warm water and Marsala
Bake time: 200ºc (400ºF). until they puff up and have alight brown color on top.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and add it to the flour. Add the eggs, butter, lemon zest, salt and Marsala. Let the mixture rise for one hour and knead it. Shape it into an oval or knot shape. Place the michette on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200ºc (400ºF).
Dampen the tops with a little water and dust with remaining sugar.
The polenta, porcini and truffles and Genovese pesto spaghetti were dishes we had for lunch at Locanda dei Carugi, Via Roma 12/14, Apricale, a small little inn and restaurant – they were excellent.
It almost seems like a computer special effects studio created the make-believe villages for a movie. Narrow cobbled stone streets with neatly situated half-timbered houses form little villages in the middle of peaceful vineyards. Flower boxes filled with weeping red geraniums and flowers gardens disperse color everywhere. An annual competition for flower beautification in Alsatian towns takes place with a town being named the “Village Fleurie”. Giant weed nests settle snugly on chimneys and roofs with large white long necked storks perched atop. The white stork is protected here and takes up residency along with the rest of the population. Life seems simple as if to say don’t bother us with the trivial. Surly this can’t be real, it must be in the animator’s imagination – but it is real and this is the Alsace France.
Read the full article on the following link.
Years ago I had these succulent stuffed calamaritti in a small Italian restaurant in Monaco and have been making them ever since. They are so simple, but whenever I make them for a grill party, they are the hit of the meal. Calamaretti are a little difficult to stuff since the openings are so small and the mixture doesn’t go through a pastry bag very easily no matter how fine you chop the mozzarella. So you have to stuff them by hand. But the advantage is that you can prepare them before your guests arrive and put them on the grill for a little something special with a glass of cold white wine, and you will be rewarded with “special thanks to the chef”.
If you don’t have the time to stuff them, just clean them, grill them, lightly salt after grilling, and drizzle with a little good balsamic vinegar.
Involtini di Calamaretti con Mozzarella e Basilica
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes, as soon as the squid will shrink and begins to brown. Do not over cook.
Yield: Antipasti-12 calamartti
12 very small squids
2 medium size mozzarella balls
Several basil leaves
Salt, to taste
Put the mozzarella and several basil leaves into a food processor and chop until the basil and cheese have melded together. Or you may chop both by hand very finely.
Remove the tentacles, sac, beak, eyes and spine and wash any sand off the squid. Fill each tube with the cheese and basil mixture and close the opening with a toothpick. The opening of the squid is very small and is a little difficult to fill.
Place the filled squid on a hot grill and cook for only few minutes turning them on all sides. Any longer and the squid will be very rubbery.
Salt them immediately after taking them off the grill and serve them immediately when they are hot and the mozzarella is still stringy.
Veneto is the third most important region in Italy in terms of the quantity of cherries produced. The others are Puglia and Campania. Over 15 varieties are cultivated in the IGP district. They are harvested from the end of May to the end of June. The Festa della ciliegia, Sandra, Italy (Sandra Cherry Festival) is held during the first or second weekend of June (check the tourist office for exact dates). Last year we visited Montebelluna during June and feasted on beautiful cherries for breakfast and picked them off the trees at our hotel during the day as we enjoyed our afternoons at the pool.
The climate is suited to viniculture and orchards are grown along side the vineyards producing peaches, kiwi, plums, apples, and apricots and of course cherries. Marostica cherries are large, deep in color, sweet and firm. During this time of year you can stop and buy large baskets of them in stands alongside the road.
This region is well known for the Prosecco vineyards but also for Grappa. The Poli Distillery has a museum with the history of distillation of Grappa in Bassano del Grappa where we made it a point of tasting Grappa. We tried some unusual ones such as chocolate, coffee and strawberry Grappas. I found them a little sweet and preferred the Mascato, Cabernet and Merlot Grappa.
Grappa has been made commercially since the eighteenth century. A colorless, high-alcohol eau de vie is distilled from pomace-the residue (grape skins and seeds) left in the wine press after the juice is removed for wine. There are hundreds of highly individual, markedly different styles of Grappa, which have wonderful character and depth. The flavor is determined by the variety of grapes used. There are also aged Grappas, some so complex that they’re aged in a series of different woods including acacia, oak, birch, and juniper. The ultimate Grappa is a golden-colored. Grappa usually is about 40% alcohol. In Italy it can be found at 90º alcohol.
Living in a wine growning region, we see piles of grape skins ready to be distilled at the end of the grape harvest. Often the distilation column is set up along side the winery and we have even seen them along roadsides where locals can bring their grape skins to be distilled. Many people make their own liquors at home from lemoncello to fruits put up in liquor such as Ciliegie Sotto Spirito.
If you have never had Ciliegie Sotto Spirito, you are in for a treat. It is very easy to make and serving a few cherries in a large brandy glass along with the beautiful red colored Grappa to friends after a dessert as a special treat adds a very lovely touch to end of dinner. I use Grappa to make Ciliegie Sotto Spirito, but other liquors can be substituted.
Ciliegie Sotto Spirito
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1/2 gallon
2 lbs. of fresh dark sweet cherries
4/5 quart Grappa, or other liquor of your choice
Distilled water, optional
OTHER THINGS NEEDED
1/2 gallon latched glass jar with a rubber gasket seal
Wash the cherries and remove the stones (removing the stones is optional; however I find that the absorption of liquor is better). On the other hand, the cherries will become mushy in time. If you want the cherries to hold their shape, do not remove the stones but crush the cherries slightly with the flat part of a knife. This will allow more absorption but they will hold their shape better.
Place the cherries in a large latched glass jar with a rubber gasket seal. Fill the jar with the Grappa leaving as little room for air as possible. Seal tightly and place it in a dark cool place.
If you want to reduce the strength, or to make it sweeter, add some sugar to the distilled water and heat it until the sugar has melted making sugar syrup and add it to the Grappa. With 40% alcohol this step is not necessary; however this is a matter of taste. The sweetness of the cherries is sufficient and the flavor is natural.
Allow the cherries and Grappa to stand for at least 4-8 weeks before drinking it. The longer you let it macerate, the stronger the taste will be and the pigments of the fruit will deepen the color.
Note: Pour into smaller bottles. Design your own label for your homemade Ciliegie Sotto Spirito. You will have a very special gift to give to friends and family.
Note: Other types of liquor can also be used such as high quality vodka, Kirsch, and brandy.
It is impossible to imagine French cuisine and culture without the baguette. Baguette is a staple food in France and is usually bought many times a day in neighborhood boulangerie. Going to the boulangerie for a baguette for breakfast was just part of what made life in a small village romantic and typically French. The Boulanger wraps a piece of paper around the middle and off you go to enjoy your baguette with a pat of butter and maybe if you are lucky some homemade jam. In some villages, the locals still bring their bread to the community ovens to be baked.
Djibril Bodian, a Senegal-born baker at Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses (38 Rue des Abbesses; 33-1-46-06-41-81) has won the Best Baguette prize in Paris. Mr. Bodian will supply Nicolas Sarkozy’s residence, the Élysée Palace.
See the full article on NowPublic.
Making fresh pasta used to be a labor of love. Many Italians consider rolling out the dough by hand an art. I took a cooking class from a couple in Italy, Marco was a restoration architect and his wife Monaca was a child psychiatrist. They were passionate about food and their classes were a lot of fun. But anyone else rolling out the pasta dough was just out of the question as far as Marco was concerned, this was his and only his to make. This sounds unreasonable for a cooking class, but you have to understand how serious this is to Italians who consider rolling out the dough all-important to the quality of the pasta. After several classes, one of my classmates, a dentist from Michigan decided he just had to roll out the dough and proceeded to try to convince Marco to let him do it. We all sided with our classmate including Monica and won the battle, somewhat. Marco started the process and rolled the dough out to a huge size on the very large kitchen table and then let my classmate finish the process. Unfortunately for our classmate, he made a very small hole in the dough. It was a comedy I will never forget, as Marco just simply couldn’t deal with a hole in his dough. It took all of Monica’s humor and professional training to calm Marco down and convince him that the piece of noodle that had the hole in it would be discarded. We hand cut the fettuccini, but I’m sure none of us met his expectations. Never the less, it was delicious and we all left that evening with an appreciation of the importance of rolling out pasta dough.
I have to admit; I have also taken great pride in making dough, rolling it out to the thinnest sheet, and cutting it by hand. However, I am also a fan of kitchen tools that make cooking easier and allow us to still get good results in the least amount of time. Today we are not all at home worrying about how thin we can roll out our dough, or even making pasta by hand at all. But with a few tools we can cut the time down and make it by hand more often. Fresh pasta has a quality and flavor that you just can’t get with boxed pasta. Having said that, I feel that in the case of spaghetti, a good quality boxed spaghetti is often better then handmade.
I use to have a hand cranked pasta machine but have invested in an electric machine. I have a Puglian Chitarra (the spaghetti comes out better on this then the machine) and you can make troccoli, taglatelle and fettuccini. There was a time when you could only find these in Puglia Italy, but today I have seen them in Sur La Table and Surfas. I’m sure other kitchen supply stores carry them. It is an inexpensive simple box with wire strings strung across the top. You roll the dough out and then run it over the strings with a rolling pin and watch the pasta fall in strips into the holding tray. Kitchen Aid mixers have a dough rolling attachment. These tools and a few pasta cutters (I search for old pasta cutters in flea markets and Italian markets) along with a food processor give very good results. It takes very little time and the quality far surpasses anything you can buy.
The following is a recipe for garganelli, and some examples of other types of pasta you can prepare when rolling sheets of dough. The dough ingredients will vary according to the type of pasta you are making.
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 3-5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups flour
Tepid water (if necessary)
Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be dry, or it will not go through the pasta machine without adding flour. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out when you are working with it. Cut a piece of dough off the ball and roll it through the pasta machine in each slot until you have rolled it though the second to the last slot. Cut 2” squares with a clean-cut cutter. You can use a pizza cutter for example or a knife. I find that the pizza cutter works very well.
Using a spindle or the end of a round handle, fold each square from one corner to another. Roll it over the back of a folk or a grooved tool, which are sold in kitchen supply stores especially for this purpose. You can also leave them without grooves, but the sauce adheres better to the pasta with grooves.
Allow the garganelli to dry. Cook them for about 3-5 minutes; the pasta should be al dente. Fresh pasta cooks faster then boxed pasta so watch carefully and don’t over cook as they will be very soft.
The first sign of spring in Europe is when asparagus begin to show up on restaurant menus. Asparagus are considered the king of vegetables and some restaurants open only during the season serving asparagus with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit Sauce Hollandaise), slices of ham and fresh strawberries for dessert. Once the season is over, these restaurants close.
Having lived in Germany for several years, we would see fields of white asparagus packed in dirt with the tips peeking out of the ground during the spring. They are deprived of light, which keeps them from turning green.
White asparagus are thicker and juicer but I think more fibrous. Some restaurants in Germany serve them in their water, not my favorite. A chef friend of ours, Rolf Messmer, owner of the Au Major Davel Restaurant & Hotel in Cully Switzerland (www.hotelaumajordavel.ch/), tells us that when he started his apprenticeship he cleaned tons of asparagus. He is meticulous in making sure that the skin has been neatly removed from the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, he turns the stalks slightly with every stroke removing all the skin. He adds sugar to the water to bring out the flavor and slightly undercooks them, wrapping them in a towel for the final cooking. His asparagus are perfect and his restaurant is filled with people enjoying the king of vegetables as they watch the steamboats pulling up to the dock on Lake Geneva.
There are special asparagus pans where you stand them in a rack in about 3” of water. But you can cook them lying down in water also. Don’t overcook them, as they will become soggy and uneatable. Prick them with a knife to judge if they are beginning to get tender after about five minutes. As soon as the knife starts to penetrate the stalk remove them to a clean kitchen towel as suggested by Chef Messmer.
Green and white asparagus are interchangeable in recipes, but I feel that due to the amount of water in the white variety, they are not as good if added to pizza for instance. I also prefer the green the variety in pasta or anything where the heat continues to cook the vegetable.
When choosing asparagus, make sure they are fresh and the ends are not dried out. When they are old, they will begin to show ridges along the stem – the stem should be smooth. Store them covered in the refrigerator for a few days only. When you are ready to cook them, snap the bottoms off – they will break where the tender part starts. Discard the hard bottom parts, as they are woody and fibrous.
Asparagus are a versatile vegetable and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, made into soup, tossed with pasta and so on. The white variety tends to be a little more expensive and are not as easily found in the US as they are in Europe. I prefer the green variety, as I think they have a more intense flavor but this is a matter of taste.
Place several on a warm plate and add some hollandaise sauce over the top or on the side. It is acceptable to eat them with your hands holding the ends and dipping them in the sauce. A good chardonnay, or a light burgundy goes well with this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Yield: 2 people
12 green or white asparagus (remove the outer skin with a peeler)
Salt & sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
Juice of one lemon
Boil the peppercorns, wine vinegar and chopped parsley until it is reduced to almost nothing, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of water. Run it through a sieve and pour it into a cold double boiler. Add 2 egg yolks, whisking them into the pan. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, at this point put the double boiler onto medium heat and begin whisking little pieces of butter until the it has melted and thicken. Wisk constantly – this is very important. If the sauce separates, put chilled water, and if necessary add another egg yolk.
Prepare the asparagus by peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler. This is not necessary if you are using green asparagus, but it has to be done with the white asparagus. Remove about 1 inch of the bottom of each steam. You can simply bend the stalks and they will break at the point where the hard stalk separates from soft stalk. However, if you want all the stalks to be the same size, cut them where you think the hard stalk ends. Boil them in salted water (add a little sugar, which brings out the taste of the asparagus), for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the water and wrap them in a kitchen towel to finish cooking.
Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus.
Your hobby gives you the space you need that is all your own. It becomes part of your life and love of life. It is your place to go when the stresses of everyday life begins to weigh you down. It keeps you centered and you are good at it. People around you are drawn to the excitement and pride you project. Or maybe its your family heritage that you want to pass down as I did. Whatever drives you to pursue this, friends and family recognize the enjoyment you get out of it. It is a passion that everyone around you shares and suddenly people are saying, “ You know you should start a business”. What could be better then making money at something you love to do.
The ideas begins to keep you awake at night and you can hardly do anything else but think about how you can make your hobby a paying business where you can work on your own time, stay at home, do what you love and even make money.
Starting a business must start with a detailed business plan and a clear description of what your goals are. For me making Italian biscotti was not the goal, but the means to keep family traditions and recipes alive. We talked and joked about it for many years, Each time someone told us that we should sell our biscotti because no one makes them like we do anymore, the desire became more of a passion. Then one day, out of the blue my sister got laid off from her job and in this devastating moment, we said why not, lets do it.
We started down the path of making our dream become reality. Creating a business plan, baking every cookie that was in our family’s hand written cookbooks and pricing out the ingredients, timing each step along the way. When we made them for family events we didn’t consider the cost at all. The first decision we had to make when we realized how expensive they were was what compromises were we willing to make. Do we go for trying to make them less expensive or do we say this is what they cost and we are not going to compromise quality. We put everything down in an excel workbook, set our prices and took a shot.
First were the permits, licenses, packaging and administration as we started our business at home our overhead was less costly but not zero. The costs began to mount and we began to look again at ways to make our product price friendly. We wanted to keep our product authentic, the way our family made and packaged biscotti. We found a packaging manufacturer (Italian packaging), who was willing to sell directly to us eliminating the middleman and sell at lower volumes. Many of these companies sell huge volumns that most small business can’t afford or keep in inventory. Searching out wholesale prices, sales and discounts became an obsession. We buy items we need after the holidays when they go on sale for example. We now kept awake at night worrying about costs; quality was first and foremost so we had to diligently work at cost control, the key to any business success. Since my sister and I have had careers in business, we were already aware of the pitfalls and the things we had to consider from a business perspective. Our family has been in the food and restaurant business ever since our grandparents immergrated from Italy in 1912. We grew up in the business and know how difficult it is.
One other important finding was that all those people that pushed us to turn our hobby into a business were there for us in the beginning. We quickly found out however, that you can’t depend on your friends and family to be your main support and customers. People love the biscotti and buy them, but you can’t sustain a business with friends and family alone. You have to move this business into the market place. This means advertising, sales, insurance, administration, bookkeeping etc. Cost control becomes harder and harder as you enter the world of business and your pride and joy hobby begins to take on more pressure. Your dream hobby job is another reality.
It became clear that we needed something to help us keep costs in check. The excel workbook worked fine for a while but became cumbersome as we began to increase product varieties and production. We needed something easier and faster to make quick quotes, print labels, keep track of our customers, send invoices out and make bookkeeping easier. Reality kept creeping in.
My husband who has a software business offered to write a program for us based on the very detailed excel sheets we had developed over a two year period and the experience we had gained. He had prepared the basis of our excel program that led us in the right direction considering all aspects and factors that had to be considered, always allowing us to know every cost factor and what our profit margin was with every order.
As I began to communicate with others and read articles of people wanting to turn their hobby into a business, I realized that we had some experience that would help others and maybe prevent them from making costly mistakes. The program he developed is the cornerstone of our business and we decided to offer it to home and small to medium size businesses – an inexpensive program that was easy to use and affordable. The Bakers Pricing Software is the result of this effort and we hope it will help others like us reach their dream of bringing their hobby to the market place successfully.
We are currently developing an accounting program that will be integrated with the Bakers Pricing Software.
THE BAKERS PRICING SYSTEM
The Baker’s Pricing Software is a system that stores all essential data to price a product in a database. The most basic data is raw material information. It stores the name, description, vendor and price information and raw material properties such as whether it is perishable, the density if available in order to accommodate volume and weight input for recipes. The system allows quick updates to take care of changes be it price or vendor. Other key information needed for price calculation is stored in the Preferences: Labor cost, energy cost, overhead percentages, material loss percentage and last but not least the profit targets for retail and wholesale. These cost items and the raw material are the foundation for all subsequent calculations and it is extremely important that this data is not only entered carefully but also maintained on a continuous basis as most of the prices fluctuate!
The next step in the process after establishing the basic cost factors is entering the recipes for your products. You select from the list of raw materials available, add quantity and dimension for each ingredient, the amount of labor and the energy used. The cost for individual item wrapping is also added. You will also be asked whether the product can be used on a tray (the basic building blocks of an order) or not. For example a recipe for frosting would not be available for trays but could be entered as raw material and be available for other recipes. The last information to be entered about recipes are the yields, i.e. the number of items you get per recipe and per pound.
Trays of one or multiple recipe items are the building blocks to fill orders. Trays may be actual trays, but also boxes or more generic, sets of items that can be used for different orders. You can assemble trays by units or by weight (if you sell a pound of a recipe item for example). You can add packaging and transportation cost to the trays. The system will then calculate the retail and wholesale price you should charge to meet your profit objectives. You then fill orders using trays. An order is a customer-oriented record. You not only enter a unique identification and the client’s name but also the delivery date, the actual sales price and any additional delivery costs. The system then provides you with a sales and a reimbursement summary for the different expenses incurred. Last but not the least are the cumbersome health permit labeling requirements. The Bakers Pricing Software automatically creates labels for individual products or summary labels for trays.
Page examples and downloads can be found at http://www.pturo.com/
Annecy is in the southeastern part of France. It lies on northern tip of Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie surrounded by mountains where goats and cows quietly graze in alpine pastures. Farms along the route produce and offer chèvre for sale and beautiful chateaus can be seen behind tall majestic trees.
During the 1400 hundreds, it was in the possession of the Genevois and the Princes of Savoy and later under Sicilian, Sardinian, Spanish, Austrian and finally French rule. You can clearly see the influence of these countries in the cuisine. The production of salami can be found in shops and farm stands throughout the region. Some stuffed with hazelnuts or rolled in crushed peppercorns and herbs. Large ones, small links, soft and hard varieties are produced by small farms in the area.
The old village (Annecy-le-Vieux) rambles along the Canal du Thieu where passages along the streets are lined with colorful houses and flowers. It is a strange beauty in a way, as many of the houses look as if they will crumble into the canal at any time. Paint clings onto the buildings, but losing its battle. This tableau of colorful buildings precariously leaning in all directions is simply charming. The arcades are lined with shops with traditional crafts, antiques, dried flowers, and chocolates. The small restaurants that are tucked into these houses serve foie gras de carnard, fondue Savoyarde, salade du chèvre chaud or poisson du lac. You think, should I chance walking up the narrow stairs; the scent of the Savoie specialties lures you up to small restaurants with views of the canal and cafés below.
There is a farmers market on Saturdays with vendor stands throughout the old city. Along the street crowded with people waiting to make their purchases, you can find local specialties such as kraut and saucisson cooked in large copper pots, fromage melted on large crusty pieces of bread, freshly made local breads, pastries as well as fresh fish, fruits and vegetables. There are many antique shops and once a month there is an antique market along the arcades (check the web page for exact dates).
Locals fill the large park located at the lakeside on the weekends. Children enjoying the carousel beg to go on again and again. There are ball games and people just taking in the sun or enjoy the day with friends and family outdoors. Artists painting the unique village create memories for tourists of Anncey for many years to come.
Brasseries line the narrow passages along the canal and the specialty of plateau fruits de mer is our favorite. My husband and I actually enjoy going to Anncey on a grey day and even light rain. Sitting in a brasserie with a large plateau du fruits de mer and a bottle of local white wine is one of our favorite ways to spend a rainy day.
Anncey is a romantic resort town. If you are visiting France or the French region of Switzerland, take a side trip to Anncey. It is about 1 hour from Geneva and 5 1/2 hours from Paris.
Check the Anncey tourist web site for more history, cultural events and markets.
The recipe below is from France Monthly.Tartiflette is a typical “Savoie” dish. www.francemonthly.com
Preparation time: 50 minutes
2 1/2 lbs of potatoes
1 medium onion (larger or smaller according to your taste)
1/2 lb Canadian bacon
1 Reblochon cheese (or 1 lb of Swiss Gruyere)
3/4 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons oil
Salt and Pepper
The recipe recommends that you use a cheese from the region, called “Reblochon”, and a white “Savoie” wine. This wine is very difficult to find in the United States and we therefore advise you to use a bottle of white Burgundy (Chablis, Saint Veran, Macon Village) or of Muscadet (from the Loire region).
If you cannot find the Reblochon, or prefer a milder cheese, Swiss Gruyere can be used. To accompany this dish we recommend a green leaf salad.
Peel potatoes and boil or steam for 20 minutes. Peel onion and cut into thin slices.
Heat large frying pan with the oil and sauté the onion slices. Cut bacon into small cubes and add to pan. Cook on medium heat until onion slices are soft (10 minutes). Stir as needed.
Add potatoes that have been diced and pour white wine over it.
Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cut the Reblochon in two halves across its thickness. If you are using Gruyere, slice in thin strips.
Put half of the potato preparation in a round ovenproof dish.
Place half of the Reblochon (or Gruyere) cheese side down, on top.
Cover with remaining potatoes and finish with the second half of the Reblochon (or Gruyere).
Place in 350º F oven for 20 minutes
As early as 1291 according to documents from monasteries, Wilhelm Tell called the cheese “Bratchäs” and Raclette cheese was born. Raclette is a Swiss cheese specialty that is made by melting Raclette cheese. It is believed that it originated in the Valais Canton of Switzerland.
Old tradition has it that farmers took the cheese up into the mountains when they tended to their herds. They placed the cheese over heated stones, the cheese melted and was scraped onto cooked potatoes. Of course as legend goes, it is also believed that they put the cheese too close to a fire and it melted. Whatever the story, it is one of the most popular Swiss dishes.
Raclette is a pungent mountain cheese that is creamy, powerful, full-fat, semi-hard cheese made from whole milk. The maturity period is about 4 – 5 months. It can be bought in a wheel or a square. The original cheese is made in Switzerland but you also get cheeses from Italy and France. The Italians also use Fontina.
The key is to get the cheese when it is perfect and this is the challenge. If it is too young, it is to mild and doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Too mature and it tends to be oily and very strong and the rind is sticky. Still I lean towards the more mature. The cheese should have a dark beige rind with no cracks or reddening. The texture should be creamy and it should have a pungent aroma. Raclette stores very well in the refrigerator. Cut it when it is cold and bring it to room temperature before serving.
Today most Swiss prepare Raclette with electric machines. They can be bought from 1 to 8 servings and come with wooden scrapers and small non-stick palettes. The cheese is cut into squares the size of the palette and placed in the Racelette oven. The cheese melts and is scraped off onto a waiting hot plate. The biggest advantage to this method is that everyone can eat at his or her own pace and no one is slave to the preparation. A metal grill or granite piece covers the grill and keeps the plates warm. If the machine has a grill, meats or vegetables can be grilled at the same time. However, traditionally this was not part of the original dish.
Another version of the machine holds a half wheel of Raclette cheese. The cheese is secured onto a holding tray. The heating element is placed over the cheese and when the cheese melts it is scraped off with a knife onto a hot plate.
We have both machines and I prefer the half wheel machine, as the cheese tends to get slightly crispy on top giving it a smoky flavor. The disadvantage is that this machine is not inexpensive and is hard to find. The person preparing the cheese has to be dedicated to the preparation eliminating him/her from joining in the party. This type of machine is used in the mountains for large groups and during festivals and adds a lot of atmosphere to a party.
Boiled potatoes (Charlotte) and cornichons (French pickles) always accompany the cheese. A twist of a pepper mill is ground over the top. Small pickled onions and small pepperoncini peppers can also be served. I love the pepperoncini, which adds a little Italian twist to the dish. Covered cloth bags or baskets are specially made for holding and keep the potatoes warm. Dry white Swiss wines such as a Fendant or Lavaux (Epesses, St. Saphorin) is an excellent compliment to the cheese.
Most people tend to have this dish in the winter. It is perfect for an après ski dinner and we have had many evenings sitting around the table with a fire blazing after a day of skiing enjoying a Racelette dinner. But we have found it is a wonderful summer meal as well sitting out on the balcony enjoying the view of the mountains.
I always look forward to enjoying a dinner of Raclette. But be prepared to air out the room. When you’re enjoying this meal and savoring a glass of wine and good conversation, you don’t notice the aroma. Once the meal is over the smell of the cheese is overwhelming. Never-the- less, there is a block of Raclette in my refrigerator at all times during the winter.
While living in Cully, (Lavaux) Switzerland, I shopped at the farmers market in Vevey. There I noticed bottles of dark syrup for sale. A vendor explained that this deep brown/purple syrup was made from grapes and is used in the preparation of fruit tarts. This is a wine-growing region with many small vintners. During the vendange (harvest) I would see mounds of grape skins stacked along the side of the wineries. I thought they were to be discarded. Not so, with such an important product every last part of the grape is made into wonderful surprises, such as Grappa or Raisinée au Vincuit. The mystery of this syrup is of course dependant on the type of grapes used. You will find a different flavor in each wine-growing region, so it is worth it to buy a bottle wherever you find it. The syrup can be sprinkled over cakes or ice cream, or mix it with fruit to be baked in tarts and glazes for meats or fish.
In the French part of Switzerland it is called Raisinée au Vincuit.
It is also made from very ripe fruits when the sugar is most concentrated. It is a reduction of fruit juices and pulp or skins until the liquid becomes thick and syrupy, the consistency of honey. It can also be made from pears or apples or as in Italy figs and raisins.
In Italy it is called mosto cotto or vino cotto, and it is also called sabe. Sugar was so expensive and grapes grow all over Italy, that they made the syrup and used it to replace sugar. It is used in the preparation of desserts, or whenever a sweetener is needed. As in Switzerland, it is sprinkled over cheese, breads and cakes or ricotta, yogurt or cookies. Mosto cotto not only adds sweetness but an exotic flavor.
You will not find grape syrup on your grocery store shelves, but if you happen to find it on a visit to a vineyard region, buy a bottle and keep it in a cool place. A supplier in the US of Vino Cotto is http://www.vinocotto.us/
I have experimented with Raisinée au Vincuit in fruit tarts and love it especially mixed with plums in the tart recipe below. Serve it with a little sweetened ricotta or crème fraîche.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 410ºF oven for 30 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups all purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon Raisinée au Vincuit (grape syrup)
1/4 cup ice cold water or less
2 pounds plums cut in half, stones removed
1/4 cup Raisinée au Vincuit (grape syrup)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
1 1/2 cup Raisinée au Vincuit (grape syrup)
1 tablespoon Grappa
Prepare the piecrust by mixing the butter, flour and salt in a food processor. Add in the egg yolk and a tablespoon of Raisinée au Vincuit. Add about 1/4th cup or less of ice water and form a ball. Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Remove it from the refrigerator and roll out the piecrust and put it into a false bottom tart pan or tart-baking dish.
Wash the plums and cut them in half removing the stones. Prepare the filling mixture in a bowl. Place the plumbs in the filling mixture and toss them gently. Layer the plumbs overlapping them in the baked tart shell.
Place it in a pre-heated oven at 410ºF for 20 – 30 minutes.
Remove the tart from the oven and brush the plums with the glaze while it is hot.
Allow the tart to cool and serve it with cinnamon or vanilla ice cream or Crème fraîche on the side.
NOTE: The dough can be made a day in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
NOTE: Fruit tarts should be eaten the day they are made, as they don’t store well.
NOTE: You can substitute Raisinée au Vincuit with Current Jelly.