Copyright Piacere - Food & Travel without rules! 2021 - Theme by ThemeinProgress
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
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
I look forward to the spring and fall not just because of the beautiful colors, but because it is artichoke season. This is a vegetable that many people are not familiar with and don’t know how to prepare, maybe even find them a little daunting. Artichokes are prepared in many ways in Italy from raw artichoke salads, with pasta, risotto, marinated, fried, grilled and one of my favorites stuffed.
Italian markets are stacked with neat rows of artichokes and rows of people clambering around to buy them. They can be bought whole with long stems, which are by the way also eatable, or cleaned ready to fry or just the hearts sliced and tossed in a salad with shavings of parmesan cheese scattered over the top dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. However you prepare them they are a beautiful and delicious vegetable.
There isn’t a week that goes by during the season when we don’t have them at least twice. If I can get them more often, I’m likely to make them several times a week. The season is short, so I have to get my fill in as long as it lasts.
Try to buy them with the stems still attached if possible and make sure you check that the bottoms are not dried out. Don’t buy them if they are brown around the leaves. They should be clean, tightly packed, fresh and green.
Follow the recipe below and then sit down to a delicious and satisfying dinner of stuffed artichokes.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings
6 large globe artichokes
1 lemon cut in half
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick pepperoni, half chopped finely, the other half in thick slices
5 cups loosely packed white bread crumbs, chopped very fine
4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large egg
1/2 cup pine nuts
Salt and ground pepper to taste
Cut the pointed tops of the artichokes with a scissor and rub them entirely with lemon. This prevents the leaves from turning brown. Remove the smaller lower leaves, and cut the bottom stem so the artichokes are flat.
Combine the breadcrumbs, finely chopped pepperoni, garlic, grated cheese, parsley, pine nuts and salt and pepper together. Taste the mixture to make sure you have enough salt. Add the egg and some olive oil to the mixture and combine until it holds together in you hand when you squeeze it.
Stuff the artichokes between each leave. If you chose to just stuff the middle, you must clean out the leaves and hay in the middle of the choke and fill the cavity. In our family we prefer to stuff each leave.
Place them in a very large pan of water reaching up to just below the first set of leaves. Add the chunks of pepperoni.
They will take at least 45 minutes to 1 hour cooking time on medium heat. They are done when you can pull a leaf out of the coke easily. Be sure they are completely cooked, as the bottom of the leaves will be hard if undercooked.
Don’t forget to eat the heart, which is the best part.
Bologna is a food city, well there are many other things to do and see, but it is known for its wonderful small restaurants, markets and some of the best food in Italy. While every region in Italy boast the best food, Bologna is a serious leader. There’s a special touch, a feeling, an inner sense and understanding of cuisine that is hard to describe. They expect the best quality and they can find it in Il Mercato de Mezzo everyday of the week. Bologna is not a fish town, meat and game are their specialty.
Alimentari Tamburini in the region of IL Mercato di Mezzo is one of Italy’s most celebrated food shops. They also have a cafeteria-style lunch packed with people everyday enjoying a large array of hot freshly made dishes continuously coming out of the kitchen and a large wood burning rotisserie producing juicy flavorful meats. This is no ordinary cafeteria, it is famous and I got to eat there every afternoon when I was studying Italian just down the street. I just couldn’t wait to be part of the atmosphere at Alilmentari Tamburini. Cafeteria-style restaurants are very common in Italy and serve good local specialties at very reasonable prices. But this combination of market and cafeteria is special as you can lunch there and walk out with an arm full of cheeses, freshly made pasta, vegetables, and a large variety of salumi for later.
On of my favorite little trattoria is da Nello al Montegrappa (via Montegrappa 2). Their signature dish is Torelllone or Tortellini Montegrappa. This pasta is served in cream-and-walnut (or meat) sauce with white truffle shavings on top. The restaurant is also known for its grilled Porcini mushrooms and one of our favorites stuffed zucchini flowers (zucca fritti) that are light and crispy, absolutely delectable. The restaurant is small with a room crowded with tables on the ground level, a down stairs dinning room and a very small outdoor dining area. You feel a little packed in at times and this might be very uncomfortable to some tourists who are not use to Italian restaurants at lunch time. Italians eat out and crowded restaurant are not at all unusual. Even though the restaurant is in the center of town where there are many tourists, locals swam da Nello. Some may consider it touristy but I’ve been going there for many years and have never been disappointed. The fried zucchini flowers are among the best I’ve had in Italy and their grilled Porcini mushrooms are succulent.
As you can see in the photo below, my granddaughter is in her glory with a dish of their fried zucchini flowers.
I have tried to recreate Tortelloni Montegrappa and came up with my own version. Of course I don’t have white truffles to my dismay.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as a first dish
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
12 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the flour and salt on your counter or cutting board and make a well in the middle. Place the eggs in the middle and with a fork begin to combine the flour into the egg. The dough will be a little dry, but if you are using a pasta machine, it must be dry in order to roll the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and set it aside in a kitchen towel for 1 hour to rest.
Cut a piece of the dough and roll it through the pasta machine beginning at the widest section. Roll the dough through each section until you have rolled it through the second to the last slot. If the dough is too moist, rub a little flour into it with your hands. The dough should be somewhat dry. Lay it out on the countertop and cut 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” squares.
Mix the ingredients until it is well blended and smooth. Taste for salt, it should be a little salty.
Place a full teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle of each square and dot the edges with water then fold them over into a triangle. Dot the two ends of the back of the triangle with water and fold them to the back overlapping the ends. Fold down the top of the tortelloni slightly. The water acts as a glue and seals the pasta. But do not use too much or it will become slimy.
Note: The tortelloni can be frozen for up to a month; they take about 5 minutes cooking time if frozen. Do not place them on top of each other when putting them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can remove them and put them in a plastic freezer bag lying them flat.
Walnut and Mascarpone Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 container Mascarpone cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
3 tablespoons walnut oil
Slightly cook the walnuts in the walnut oil with the garlic. Remove the garlic when the walnuts have released their oils and are slightly toasted.
Place all the rest of the ingredients in a blender and pulsate just enough to blend well. Add the chopped toasted walnuts and place the sauce back into the pan and heat slightly.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of hot salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Taste for doness.
Pour the sauce over the hot pasta and put a handful of whole walnuts over the top for decoration.
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.
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.
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.
The markets stalls are neatly stacked with artichokes of all varieties and sizes during this time of the year in Italy. People gather around two and three deep to make their purchases and the vendors scrabble to keep up with the demand as people clamor to get their attention. Artichokes are in season – a vegetable with a lot of versatility.
A fresh artichoke salad with ribbons of parmesan cheese over the top and a lemon and olive oil dressing, a creamy soup, marinated in olive oil – Carciofi o carciofini sott’olio, boiled and served with a vinaigrette, Carciofi alla Giudia, Stuffed artichokes, Tagliata con carciofi – sautéed and spread over grilled meat or fish, are prepared at home and in restaurants all over Italy.
Artichokes take a little effort to clean, but once you know how to do it, it goes pretty fast and the effort is well worth the time. If you are lucky and live in Italy, you can find them in some markets already cleaned. When I find them this way, I buy enough to prepare meals for the week and get our fill of them as long as the season lasts. They can be bought frozen, marinated, or in cans, but they don’t compare to fresh artichokes.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi or Fettuccine with fresh artichokes is a fast and easy dish to make. The artichokes have a delicate flavor and just using fresh tomatoes and a little wine results in a flavorful sauce that compliments the pasta. If you are willing to make fresh pasta, you will be rewarded with a wonderful dish you will prepare again and again.
Spaghetti con carciofi freschi
Prep Time: 30 minutes for fresh artichokes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. spaghetti
16 small artichokes, cleaned and sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped or 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup white wine
1 pepperoncino, broken in half
1/2 lemon plus juice
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, as garnish
Clean the artichokes by cutting the top off about 1/4” of the way down. Remove the outer leaves by pulling them down and snapping them off until you reach the white/yellow leaves. Remove the stem and cut around the bottom to remove any dark, hard or stringy part. Cut the choke in half and clean out the hay with a melon ball scoop or a small spoon. Cut the halves lengthwise into 1/8” thick slivers.
In a frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepperoncino and sauté, add the artichokes for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer until the artichokes are slightly soft. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the speghetti or fettuccini and add it to the pan with the artichokes and finish the cooking adding a little pasta water as needed. Garnish the pasta with freshly chopped parsley.
Note: You can serve this dish with a little Parmesan cheese or a side dish of red pepper flakes. I prefer a little heat and no cheese, as I think the cheese overwhelms the flavor of the artichokes.
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.
Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna region is a city known for its food, culture, commerce and beauty. It always amazes me how often I meet people who bypass Bologna. It is buzzing with activity within its famous and beautiful medieval piazzas built between the 12th and 14th Centuries. Piazza Maggiore with its Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), Palazzo dei Banchi, Basilica di San Petronio and San Domenico form the heart of the city where in summer many concerts, art exhibitions and street entertainers fill the piazzas with locals and visitors well into the early morning hours. Shopping is an art in Bologna where street markets straddle the sidewalks side by side with exquisite boutiques. People linger in cafes drinking their many expressi of the day in deep conversation oblivious to the activity going on around them. It is all encompassing and draws you in like a magnet. How can you pass the aromas of a bar without stopping in for an espresso? The city is seductive and you quickly find yourself joining in the excitement that surrounds you day and night.
One of the most alluring attractions of Bologna is its 38 kilometers of porticoes lining the streets and a 4-kilometer-wall built in 1674. The Porticoes add shelter from the weather and are one of the main architectural features of this beautiful city, (read more about Bologna’s famous porticoes on http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5010/).
When taking an Italian language course I lived just outside of the wall and walked home each night about 1 1/2 miles under brightly lit porticos passing bars bustling with people well past midnight. The yellow light flooding the terracotta stucco buildings casts a mysterious dimension to the ancient walls leaving you with the feeling that you are living in ancient times.
There were up to 180 towers in Bologna but today only 2 still exist, the most famous being Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower still stand, leaning precariously.
Il “Mercato di mezzo” is situated within ancient streets originally where the cities craftsmen conducted business. Meandering off in all directions, stalls filled with fish, fruit, cheese, salumi and just about everything else fill your senses with delicious aromas and a noisy and colorful collaboration of activity. It is all so natural to Italians, this life in il mercarto. For the tourist, it is overwhelming and a confusing interaction between vendors and their probing customers. Italians are very discriminating about their food buying nothing but the best. This is where I spent everyday before and after my Italian classes held just around the corner. I spent many hours studying the activity, the process of being Italian and interacting with the locals. Il mercarto is the center of life in an Italian city and it is where you find the real people of the city. Day after day I studied the Italian women making their selections and having rented an apartment, I had no other choice but to cook for myself. As I sat there at a café, I had a discussion with a woman about this special activity that seems to be some sort of ritual. She told me that the trick was to ask the vendor what the right product was for the dish I was making. The vendors pride and knowledge of food would prevail and taking their advice would render your dish exactly as you expected. With my newly acquired Italian language skills, I took her advice and totally became part of the scene almost to the point that I think they took me for a local, (at least I like to think so). It helped that my heritage is Italian and I look Italian. These days were some of the best memories I have of my time in Bologna. I became part of the chaotic activity and for a short time even I began to believe that I was Italian.
Bologna’s markets are crowded and be advised to prepare yourself for some serious shopping. Many clothing, textile and shoe manufacturers are situated on the outskirts of Bologna and you can find fantastic things with a little patient. This is where the locals shop and many fashion trends start right here in the market. Be sure to check everything, as there are also lesser quality items for sale especially the leather goods. Often different pieces of leather are used where it isn’t noticeable and a jacket for example may be a patch work of leather.
Mercato Coperto – Via Ugo Bassi 2, Orefici Market – Via dei Orefici, open daily. La Piazzola – Piazza VIII Agosto (clothes, kitchen goods etc. open on Saturdays and Sundays), Mamanca Market – Via Valdonica (antiques and books), Mercato di Antiquariato – Piazza Santo Stefano (antiques and art) held on the second Sunday of each month. This is one of my favorite markets where beautiful antiques and art are displayed and the most interesting collectables can be bought. I loved spending the afternoon strolling around the tables and display areas filled with unique items. Somehow being in Italy it seemed right to be surrounded with art and antiques.
Via Rizzoli and via dell’Indipendenza are the main streets for shopping. There are also many boutiques on Via Farini, including an arcade of top designer shops in Via Clavature and via d’Azeglio. Situated under the ancient portico covered streets these shops sell the elegant creations of Italian designers.
Situated in the North, in the Po Valley, Bologna’s cuisine is mainly cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami, as well as cheese, such as the world renowned Parmigiano Reggiano. Tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce, i.e. the famous spaghetti alla Bolognese), tortellini served in broth, mortadella and Zampone (boned stuffed pigs foot) are among the local specialties. Tortellini (small, stuffed ring shaped pasta), Tagliatelle (ribbon shaped pasta), and the spinach pasta verde are typical pasta varieties. Wonderful small restaurants can be found everywhere and the food is outstanding. Pasta with white truffles, beautiful grilled porcini mushrooms, wild meats such as venison, mutton and bore are seasonal specialties. Don’t forget the desserts. One of my very favorite is sfogliatelle (crispy pastry layers stuffed with ricotta). I was lucky enough to have a pasticceria just across the street where I could go for my morning cappuccino and savor a warm, just out of the oven sfogliatelle. I couldn’t wait to get up and out to the pasticceria and sometimes I had to wait, as the first trays weren’t out of the oven yet. Zuccherino montanaro, biscotti flavored with anise and frosting infused with anise liqueur and Zuppa Inglese made with pan di Spagna soaked in liquor and filled with a pastry cream are famous. Dolce di San Michele, a cake in honor of the city’s patron eaten on the 29th of September, La Pinza, a pastry filled with raisins, almonds, and prune jam and Torta di riso, Bologna’s rice cake are waiting for you in every pasticceria. Crocante con mandorle can be found all along the streets in huge sheets sold by vendors. This is similar to brittle but harder and thicker using whole roasted almonds and/or hazel nuts. I love this candy, but am very careful, as it is so hard that you can easily break your teeth. (My recipe can be found on my blog).
Pignoletto dei Colli Bolognesi, Lambrusco di Modena and Sangiovese di Romagna are the wines produced in this region. Lambrusco is a slightly sweet effervescent wine and is often served as a dessert with peaches when in season. It is probably the most famous wine coming from this region.
The University quarter is northeast of the two towers, along the Via Zamboni. University of Bologna is Europe’s oldest university founded over 900 years ago it attracts students from around the world. As in any city the university adds youth and deep sense of the seriousness as well as innovation. Theaters, book stores and seminars draw in young and old and give the city a buzz of activity. I spent 2 evenings per week here taking a seminar in 17 century Italian opera. I immersed myself in Italian taking a cooking course every week at the home of a couple that made these evenings delicious fun. We learned to cook amazing Italian recipes and communicated about our cultures, politics and anything else that was happening in the world in Italian.
Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum) located next to the Palazzo dei Banchi, occupies the building of an old hospital and is one of Italy’s most important collections of antiquities. This museum should not be missed and allow a good amount of time for your visit. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Picture Gallery) houses masterpieces worthy of an art lover’s time.
Teatro Comunale di Bologna is one of the most important opera venues in Italy. Presenting operas since the 17th century from Vivaldi, Gluck, Piccinni, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Wagner and conductor Arturo Toscanini. We were lucky enough to have an opera singer studying Italian in our class and a visit was arranged for us to tour the opera house including the back stage and learn about its history.
I visit Bologna for shopping or just to be there enjoying this lovely city whenever I can. Bologna is an ancient city, but in every way modern. When you visit plan on spending at least a few days.
Note: Some of the photo’s & information were provided by the Bologna Tourist Office.
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
It is quite amazing how people swam around vendor stands in the markets in Italy when funghi porcini are in season. The king of mushrooms are as impressive as they are delicious. They are tossed with pasta, cooked in risotto, are simply delicious grilled with herbs – a meal in itself, served fresh as a salad, sautéd with olive oil and herbs or baked, they can be marinated in olive oil or topping on pizza.
When selecting porcini the gills should not be yellowish-brown, which means that the mushrooms are becoming over-ripe. Do not buy them if they have dark under-caps or black spots and also check for holes in the stems where there might be worms. The short round stems should be firm and white. They have a rich woodsy rustic flavor and are simply beautiful to look at.
Brush off any dirt you may find and wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. Store them in a paper bag, not in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic wrap. You do not want mosture to form on them. Prepare them as soon as possible when fresh or they will dry out.
Porcini mushrooms are also dried, found year round in supermarkets and must be hyddrated and have a more intense flavor when cooked. When making risotto or pasta sauce you can also use the hyddrating liquid in the sauce adding a deep concentrated flavor.
Porcini can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Fresh Porcini are not as popular in the US as they are in Italy where they are almost over harvested and the collection is regulated. Taking pictures of Porcini is a passion as they are such a beautiful mushroom.
Risotto Funghi Porcini
Risotto With Porcini Mushrooms
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as first dish 2 servings as main course
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups broth (homemade or store bought, vegetable, chicken)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. fresh Porcini mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium chopped onion
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
Freshly ground pepper
Put the butter and oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the rice and allow it to cook until it becomes opaque. Pour in the wine so that it just covers the rice. Stir and allow the rice to absorb the wine on medium heat. Heat the broth and begin to add it in by just keeping the rice covered with liquid. As soon as the rice absorbs the liquid, add a little more. Stir constantly, continue this process until the rice is almost done (has a bite). Add the mushrooms and allow them to cook in the rice for another 2-3 minutes. The entire cooking process takes about 20 minutes. Remove the rice from the stove and add the grated cheese, stir and add a little freshly ground pepper. Stir in the cold butter.
Note: Risotto cannot be leftover. It must be served immediately as the rice will absorb all the remaining liquid and it will be uneatable.
Note: You can substitute fresh Porcini with about 2 oz. dried Porcini mushrooms, which can be found in the most markets. Soak them in tepid water for 30 minutes before using them. Add some of the hydrating liquid to the risotto giving it a more intense flavor.
We often shop in 2 markets in Como, Italy; one is the main market in the center of Como and the other is the Ipera in Grandate. Very near to this market is a little local restaurant called Ristorante Arcade. There isn’t much about the curb view of this restaurant that would make you look twice and stop for a meal. However, this restaurant has some different dishes specializing in snails not often seen in Italy. On one of our shopping trips, it was lunch time, and we were very hungry with not too many restaurants around, we noticed Ristorante Arcade. Having had many wonderful meals in small local restaurants, we stopped in for lunch. I had Funghi lumache e salsiccia con polenta taragna. It was not like any dish I had eaten in Italy and I not only loved it but asked the chef for the recipe. He was good enough to give me the recipe and a bag of Teglio-Valtellina polenta. I have featured this dish on Foodbuzz.
Smolak Farm is surrounded by preservation land in a country setting in North Andover, Massachusetts. A distinct seasonal personality of New England set in a green valley surrounded with vivid warm autumn foliage.
As you drive down this quite country road you are drawn to this lovely farm framed with stonewalls and fruit orchards. Driving closer your pallet begins to salivate as you are pulled towards the sent of cinnamon, sugar, apple cider and the aromas of homemade doughnuts, pie’s and muffins. Without even noticing it you are standing in front of the counter trying to decide which of these desserts you will enjoy. It is impossible to resist. I select some cinnamon sugar doughnuts to take home for breakfast in the morning and look forward to making a warm apple pie for dessert this evening.
Apple picking is a family tradition and we are off to the apple orchards with rows of trees all marked by the variety of apples grown; this is what we came for. As usual we select the largest bag and fill it with several varieties especially good for baking apple pies, apple crisp and apple muffins. Our eyes are bigger then our stomach and we think what are we going to do with all of these apples.
Within a few days they will all be smothered with spices and baked into apple dumplings, pies and crumble and shared with friends and family. Then we head for the pumpkin patch. It is a treasure trove of gourds. We select several for carving and some for baking pumpkin pie. This is New England and the joy of filling our home with autumn scents is a tradition we look forward to.
The passion of the New England farm is alive and well throughout the region.
Cook Time: 60 minutes – 15 minutes @ 425ºF, 45 minutes @ 350ºF
Yield: 8 servings
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening (one cup of shortening if you eliminate the butter)
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (the butter makes the crust flaky)
2/3 cup ice-cold water
USING A MIXER OR PROCESSER
Mix the flour, shortening, and salt until it looks like a crumb mixture. Add the butter to the crumb mixture. The mixer or processor does a good job of crumbing the mixture. The butter should only be pulsated a few times to assure it isn’t over processed. The original recipe calls for a total of 1 cup of shortening; you can use a mixture of butter and shortening. Remove it from the mixer or processor and mix 2/3 cup of ice-cold water a little at a time until the dough forms. You may not need the entire amount of water. DO NOT OVER PROCESS OR OVERWORK THE DOUGH. Once you have brought all the ingredients together, cut it in half and form a disk shape by patting it with your hands and put it in plastic bags. Refrigerate them for at least 1/2 hour.
If you are mixing the dough by hand, place the flour in a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Cut the shortening into small pieces and crumble it either with you hands or with a fork. Cut the butter in, but in larger chunks. Add the ice-cold water and bring it together into a ball, the same as the directions above.
Roll half of the dough out and place it into your pie plate. Fill your pie with whatever filling you are using (follow the directions according to the recipe you are using in the Pie Section). Roll the second piece of dough out and place it on top of your filling. Evenly cut the dough around the edges and crimp the dough according to the directions in the recipe. Return the pie to the refrigerator for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to cool down before baking. The crust should be kept cold. This will make the crust flaky.
12 large apples (mixed varieties, see apple varieties list)
1 cup sugar (the sugar quantity depends on the sweetness of the apples)
4 tablespoons butter, cut in quarters
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
Prepare the dough and cut it in half. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
Retrieve 1/2 of the pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough to fit a 9” pie plate. The dough should overlap the plate.
Peel, core and cut into sections all the apples and put them into a bowl. Add the flour, cinnamon, sugar and lemon zest and toss the apples until they are completely covered with the ingredients. Put the apple mixture into the prepared cold pie crust and return it to the refrigerator.
TOP PIE CRUST
Retrieve the remaining dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out. Retrieve the pie from the refrigerator. Cut the butter into cubes, dotting the top of the apples in different places. Cover the apples with the second pie crust. Cut around the edges evenly so that it falls uniformly below the rim of the plate; about 1 inch. Roll the dough under all around the rim by hand and crimp the edges. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut the top crust with a sharp knife in decorative cuts. This allows the steam to exit. You can make some decorations with the dough, for example in the shape of leaves etc. and put them on the top before you put the egg wash on. Sprinkle with a little sugar and place the pie in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to cool down the ingredients before baking.
Bake in a very hot oven at 425º F for 15 minutes. This will set the crust. Turn down the oven to 350º F for 45 minutes or until done. You can put a skewer into the slit in the piecrust to test if the apples are soft. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a rack to room temperature.
Apple pie is best served warm. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or a slice of good cheddar cheese compliments the pie.
EXAMPLES OF APPLES GOOD FOR PIES
Cortland: Mild, tender
Red Delicious: sweet, crunchy
Jonathan: Tart, juicy, crisp
McIntosh: Slightly tart, tender, juicy
Rhode Island Greening: Tart, firm
Yellow Delicious: Transparent, tart, soft
Granny Smith: Green, tart, crisp
NOTE: You can add raisins, or walnuts and also some fresh ginger or a shot glass of Calvados (Apple Brandy) for an exotic flavor.
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.
The local markets are the center of life in Italian towns and villages. Usually the markets are located in the heart of the centre of the village.
A multi-sensorial experience that you cannot miss as it offers the opportunity to enjoy the local taste and the exclusive food specialties of the cuisine of the area. The most fascinating atmosphere with vendors yelling out their daily produce, “carciofi, melanzane, pomodori” and locals closely inspecting every fruit, vegetable and herb stacked perfectly on the stands. The peppers, eggplants, melons and flowers create a patchwork of color and spark your senses to want to partake in all the activity. It is where the real people are and the specific tastes and gastronomic traditions can be found.
While studying Italian in Bologna I spent everyday visiting the market and little local restaurants located within the market district. Most markets have a coffee bar where you can just sit and enjoy an espresso and people watch. Having rented an apartment, I found myself in the midst of what seems to be a lot of confusion and activity. The hustle of Italians and vendors can be intimidating and I could never seem to purchase the right thing. But one day having an espresso at a bar in the district, I met a woman who told me that the key is to let the vendor advise you on what is the best product for the dish you plan to prepare. They are proud to help you to select just the right tomato for a sauce or tell you how to prepare a vegetable or fish. I tried this and Surprise! Surprise! I never bought the wrong thing again. I have since gotten recipes and advise on restaurants from market vendors who are more then happy to help. In fact you probably will have several vendors all giving you their view and recipes at the same time.
One market that I go to about every 4 weeks is in Como.The city is famous for its charismatic street cafes and wine bars that serve antipasti, snacks and aperitifs. The lake promenade and views are what attract most visitors to Como. But I go to the market. Here I find the most beautiful artichokes, Porcini mushrooms, huge red peppers and produce from all over Italy. Here is where you will see the real people of Como. You can purchase and sample prepared foods, select fish from a large array fish from Italy and other parts of Europe. Vegetable, fruit, herbs, nuts, cheese and meats are stacked in perfectly arranged stands in 3 different halls. A large area of flowers and plants fill another hall with color and scents.
Next time you visit an Italian town, don’t miss the experience of the local atmosphere. Visit the local “Mercato”.