Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Golosaria to you too!


We went, we sampled, we schmoozed, Golosaria but we didn't turn into total gluttons. Thank goodness. We arrived in Torino, Monday morning at the the Palazzo Isozaki and had an immediate flashback to the 2006 winter Olympics, when the now unlit torch was in full form and I had arrived for the closing ceremonies with a dear friend from the states. It was a magical night and even though I have passed by this plaza more than a few times when making day trips to Torino, walking in the plaza and arriving in the foyer of the ice hockey rink for Club Papillon's 2007 edition of "Golosaria", I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me.
Golosaria   Provolone ReccoGolosaria Provolone Recco
Paolo Massobrio, native Piemontese from Asti, is a journalist, food critic and author of several Food and Wine guides though out Italy. He established Club Papillon as an association dedicated to promotion and support of the extraordinary food and wines of this area. Golosaria came into being as an annual event to celebrate showcase the top 100 producers of the year through out Italy, with the main awards going to different categories for all of the individual provinces of Piemonte. Not exactly the academy awards, but something along that lines.
Golosaria Veronica Maya and Paolo Massobrio
Paolo(on the right) and Marco Gatti, his co critic and Club Papillon, associate, are always easily identifiable at these events by their trademark bow ties(papillon). We arrived as Veronica Maya arrived. She is a RAI Television presenter, whom has taken over the co hosting of one of my favorite TV programs, Linea Verde, which is a weekly program showcasing all the interesting and fascinating nooks and crannies of Italy, sampling their way around the area, while the whole town, family or factory turns up in costume or with the family's favorite recipe and the show rolls on to the next town the next week. Anyway, she arrived just steps in front of us and took her place on the platform to join in the discussion of how to encourage the growth of Enogastronmic Tourism in north west Italy, adding a fresh vibrant voice to the discussion .
Food and wine shows in Italy are far more interesting than the trade shows I use to attend in the states over the years, mainly due to the fact that here the emphasis is on genuine food, usually coming from small producers and factories. It's not to say that they big food shows of America weren't without interest, as there were always a few small gems that I usually sniffed out in the sea of convenience products that has become the standard way of feeding the masses. I must say that the quality of mass produced food has definitely improved over the years, but honestly the soullessness of mass production is something I am happy to have left behind in the dust. Humm I digress.
Golosario  Gli Aironi Rice nd Jamie O Monday at a big food show in Torino is always a fun time and usually we run into people we know in the business and meet new people making it all the more fun. This year was no exception. (see last years Golosaria at the Stupinigi) The producers were more accessible as the crowds of Sunday were gone and it had more of a club feeling. I discovered that my favorite organic rice producer Gli Aironi has been picked up by Jamie Oliver . Well, if he thinks it's good, I probably won't be able to afford it soon. Just kidding. The owner was so friendly and gave me some brown and red rice to try as I hadn't seen it yet. I can't wait to try them as their Carnoroli rice which I used in the zucca risotto the other day is excellent and the black rice is so flavorful. We also ran into our friends who own Lago Laux up by Usseaux and Domenico Clerico, a premier Barolo vintner and general character from over in the Barolo area. It was good to catch up and talk shop a bit. Our friends from the acclaimed Flipot restaurant in Torre Pellice were there to receive an award as one of the top restaurants in the Province of Turin. The food was interesting and some were exceptional. Yet, I found myself just feeling like being more of an observer than really wanting to take a lot of food photos. There was no shortage of delicious things to sample, which we did. So I took a few photos of some of the more unusual things like this car completely covered in Chocolate. Interesting but I can't say it made me want to sample it. I kept thinking what a waste of good chocolate. Now I would say that the chocolate bra and thong were photo worthy, although difficult to get a good shot through the cellophane.
Golosaria  chocolate undiesGolosaria necklace

Very humorous. They've gotten a fair amount of views on my flickr account.



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Monday, November 26, 2007

Smile and a coffee

I have a a number of posts I would like to do, but they are a bit long and involved and I'm short on time for the next couple of days. I thought I would put this up as I take a coffee break. I love the decorations that most decent Italian bars go to the trouble of making for that little extra something that makes an ordinary cappuccino extraordinary. I enjoy my cappuccino all the more. This little bar, Cafe Smile, (I love the way Italians like to throw an English word in randomly sometimes in naming bars, stores, clubs etc, whether it makes complete sense or not) is in Villar Perosa, the next vilage down that we stop in some times when we are out and about. Fabrizio went to school with the woman that owns the bar and we sometimes stop in for a chat. I loved the coffee shaped sugars and the brilliant yellow table. It put a smile on my face. Hope it will do so for you too.
Ciao Belli

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankfulness and Risotto di Zucca

Today is an "over the top" feeding frenzy in the states. I can't say I miss the overindulged feeling after the grand feast, but I must say that I miss the warm cozy get together with friends and family and reflections on all the many blessings that we sometimes forget to verbalize. I am grateful for all the magnificent feasts for holidays, birthdays, weddings and simple gatherings of friends gathering together "potluck" style that rumble around in the memory of loved ones once so close and now separated by the miles and the years. Happy that Fabrizio's parents are still healthy and living next door. Grateful for all the guests that have not only stayed with us here at Bella Baita, grateful that they have become friends and part of the family over these past few years. What a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, have them choose to spend their holidays with us, share meals, laughs, stories and anecdotes on their travels here and hopefuly have a better understand and appreciation for this part of the world. When it's all said and done, we call this work. It's a labor of love and it's oh, so satisfying. I'm grateful for the opportunity to cook and bake almost every single day and share that passion with eager eaters. Even if we don't have guests there is still my eager eater Fabrizio and that is truly a joy to share our meals as well as our lives together. And now, I'm really grateful for all the interesting people that have found their way into my view here at Bella Baita. What a journey of discovery in this virtual world that brings people to your doorstep that would have never found their way other wise and by the same token, has taken me into the kitchen and lives of people bumping by on our way around the blogosphere. I'm extremely grateful for high speed internet connection up here in the mountains for bringing the wonders of the world closer to home at the click of a mouse. So, while American are enjoying roast turkey and copious amounts of everything else, a lot of Italians will be watching the lastest installment of the serialization of "Il Capo dei Capi". The story of mafia don "Toto Riina"and his close friend and partner for many years, Bernardo Provenzano, both of Corleone, Sicily. "Toto" allegedly was turned in so Bernardo, could take over the territory and title, "Boss of Bosses"and eluded capture for 43 years till 2006. Their story has been brought to the small screen to the extreme fascination of the whole of Italy. It is a riveting, glamorized, bloody account of Italian mafia history and something that I'm thankful for that I didn't have to live through in my life. It still is a nightmare for many people today.
Anyway, even though we're not making a Thanksgiving meal, I got to thinking about the traditional use of winter squash and pumpkin, that sees its use spike this time of the year, and thought I might add a suggestion to your winter squash repertoire, risotto di zucca. This is a perennial favorite up here in Piedmont where some of the best arborio and carnaroli rice
is grown and makes wonderfully creamy risotto without a lot of additions. The Po river valley is an abundant producer for the rest of Italy with our favorite grains of rice, corn and wheat found and used religiously here. The addition of some cubes of your favorite winter squash to the traditional Piemontese risotto, which keeps it simple with onion, garlic, rice, and white wine cooked very al dente (much more than most Americans are use to) and finished with a pat of butter and a generous grating of fresh Parmigiano and black pepper, served immediately. Risotto makes for a very comforting dish on a cold blustery day? Using a good quality risotto rice sauted in decent olive oil, you will find that you relly don't need to use the butter as it is quite creamy on it's own. I like to sometimes add a fresh grate or two of lemon peel on top, to intensify the squashes flavor for a bit of a subtle zing. this recipe is easily adjusted up to serve more.
Risotto di Zucca
serves 2 generous portions

1 clove garlic minced
1 small onion or 2 shallots
2 cups cubed smallish winter squash, like hubbard or even pumpkin
1 1/2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice (usually 1/2 cup rice per person for a serving in a larger meal)
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive to saute
1 -1 1/2 liter, very flexible amount vegetable or chicken broth, unsalted if you make your own
if salted, be careful of how much you use as it can sometimes be too salty, use a bit of water instead
Parmigiano to season at the end
2 T of butter to add at the end for added richness, if desired
Salt to taste
fresh grated pepper
grate or two of lemon peel ( optional)

Chop the garlic and onion and squash.
Have your broth at boiling temperature before starting to saute.
Begin to saute the onion in the a couple of T of olive oil over a medium heat.
The key is not to have any of the vegetable or rice to pick up any color, just gently saute.
As the shallots get transparent add the rice and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the squash cubes and additional oil if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan
Saute till the rice begins to be a nutty fragrant aroma, being careful not to pick up any color.
When the rice is aromatic , deglaze the pan by adding the white wine.
Cook until all the wine is absorbed before you begin to add the stock
Once all the wine is absorbed, add a generous amount of stock, so it's well covered.
My Italian family, who ran a successful restaurant for years, don't adhere to the little by little amount of stock method. I find their rice delicious and have had good results, so use your own judgement. If uncertain, add a cu at a time and wait, stirring regularly, waiting till the stock is absorbed before adding the next amount. Usually the process from the beginning of the addition of the liquid takes about 16-20 minutes depending on how al dente you like it.
When the rice reaches the proper creaminess and doneness, ie a bit of resistance when you bite into it.
Taste and quickly adjust your seasoning after the addition of any butter or olive oil and serve immediately as they rice will continue to cook in the pot.
You can also add the parmesan now if you find that the rice lacks salt but you don't want to keep adding salt
Serve and garnish steaming rice with freshly grated parm, pepper and lemon peel.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Tutto Mele" Everthing Apple

Continuing on with the apple theme, this past week has been the 28th edition of Cavour's Tutto Mele (all about apples). This charming village pulls out all the stops to show case the local produce which is the main source of income in this part of our province. This festival is one of it's main claims to fame as the home of the Count of Cavour, Camillo Benso, who was instrumental in pushing forward the unification of Italy into a united Kingdom and later a sovereign country. It's geography features a huge hump of a hill that dramatically juts out of the plains at the foot of our mountains and yet it isn't part of the Cottian or Maritine alps, it's a separate entity and an interesting physical landmark.

    Fabrizio spent last Saturday, representing our B&B association, ScopriPiemonte, in our Turin Province booth, promoting our B&B's. this Saturday, we just had a stroll around for the day enjoying all the food and drink that was on offer. I like this festival because it reminds me of the apple festivals from where I grew up in southern Illinois. Autumn was always about apples, small town parades and carnival rides that tested your nerve and stomach's ability to keep festival food where it should be, in your stomach.
Tutto Mele 07 folk dancers.jpg

Tutto Mele is a lot like the festivals of my younger days, perhaps just a tad more sophisticated. Instead of corn dogs and caramel apples, we have creamy polenta with sausages or Toma cheese and fresh roasted chestnuts all washed down with the tastiest apple cider. Apple cider where I grew up meant unfiltered fresh pressed apple juice and you could taste all the different varieties blended together. Here the cider is delicious but has a has a bit of a kick, that was not really appreciated in my world growing up in the thick of the tea toteling bible belt.

In addition to seemingly endless varieties of apples, there were plenty of pears and kiwi to burden ourselves as we wandered around through out the village sampling all sorts of tasty offerings.Italy is now the number one producer of Kiwi in the world and naturally all of the provinces are fighting to say they are the most prolific and produce the finest.We came away with several bags of apples, pears and kiwi for under 10 euro. Quite the deal. These varieties are all ones that store well, so we have a nice supply for awhile.
Cafferel our local chocolate factory in Torre Pellice, passed out complimentary(chocolate hazelnut).

We sampled polenta, pasta meliga (rich cornmeal) cookies, grissini, roasted chestnuts, cider, organic apple juice and cider from our friends at
Frutta Permesso along with several varieties of olive oil from all over Italy. Fratelli Carli were one of the sponsors this year and offered a very interesting olive oil tasting with complimentary plates and blue glass for doing our own tasting at home. It was a very interesting lecture, if a bit hard to keep up with the technical and rapid Italian. We enjoyed seeing our dear friend,
Caterina Bruno's latest series on a pilgrimage she did in Spain. She's a home grown talent that's realizing her dream to paint and paint and paint. Her watercolors were shown in a small chapel that has been turned into a Sacred Art Museum. It was a lovely setting and added to the diversity of the festival. Cavour's many bakeries graced their windows with tantalizing apple pastries to entice and satisfy your taste for apples, if you didn't find enough to fill you up throughout the day. It's a pleasant day out and worth the effort if you find your way here next year for all things apple, Tutto Mele!





Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You know it's the Holiday Season because?.....

This time of the year if I recall correctly the ads on TV in America have started for the holiday season and it seemed to me to start earlier every year. I have noticed a similar trend here albeit much more subtler than the US blatant consumer advertising blitz which starts around Halloween, steadily picking up momentum until after Thanks giving when all the stops are pulled.
Here in Italy, I know we're moving into the holiday season by the arrival of the TV food ads, most notably the chocolates, led by our beloved Alba based Ferrero Rocher and by the eternally popular Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I'm adding a video I found on YouTube of the very catchy tuned ad that has had me humming it once again this year. They haven't rolled out the Christmas version yet, but it can't be too far down the line when the battle of the Pannetone hit the airwaves. I particularly like when the Gerard Depardieu lookalike breaks out of the the big cheese and the grated cheese falls like rain. Hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Apples & Thyme" A Foremothers Celebration


Well, today the Bella View is taking a bit of a journey out of Italy.
Although I do try to religiously stay on my subject of Italy and particularly about this area if I can, I do occasionally slip off track. Today I'm joining in a celebration of our mothers and grandmothers who have inspired or lead the way in our journey with cooking. Although, I am not a food blogger per se, (lack of discipline), I am passionate about gastronomy and a food blogger groupie to boot. Jeni of the Passion Palate Tours and blog found her way to my site, as we have a common interest in Italy, and invited me to join in this special tribute to our original cooking inspiration with whom we grew up. Jeni and her co host, Inge, of Vanielje Kitchen have put this event together. Both of these women have very interesting lives and blogs, worth having a good read through. I couldn't resist this invitation as my mother was definitely the homemaker in our home growing up and always had something aromatic and delicious going on in our kitchen. These days Fabrizio's mother has become a source of cooking inspiration as her Piemontese specialties were famous for many years in this valley from the 30+ years of running "La Baita". It's always a treat to eat her cooking and even better to learn a few tricks. That, of course, is another post or two.
Today, I am going to share a pie recipe that has been a perennial favorite for many years not only in my family, but I even put it on the menu of our Irish restaurant O'Sheas, that operated at Copper Mt ski resort for many years before changing into something else. My F&B director put it on the menu as "Grandma Kirkpatrick's Sour Cream Apple Pie." That was a nice touch. My grandmother Delsie, would have been so please. We sold a lot of pies over the years and I had quite a few requests for the recipe. Grandma K was a decent cook, quilter and chicken farmer. I remember her getting up before it was light to fry a chicken to put in grandpa's lunch bucket so he'd have a decent meal at the coal mines. Grandpa did all of his chores before and after his shift at his mines and grandma did all the chores in between. They all worked very hard and my mother did her fair shore too.
My mother, Dora Ada,(pronounced as one word, Dorada, or there was heck to pay) though, really is the inspiration for this post and she really was the "pie queen supreme". The title of this event, "Apples and Thyme" is appropriate for me because apple pie was my mother's old faithful standby recipe that never failed to please. The rest of us in the family had our different favorites, mine was fresh sour cherry and my youngest brother's was blackberry. Not sure about my the other two brothers, but I think peach was in there and I know coconut cream, chocolate, pecan, pumpkin and lemon meringue were highly regarded also, but often times it was just humble double crusted apple pie filled with some of southern Illinois's finest sweet and tart apples. Apples that were in abundance during the winter when the summer's fruits had to be brought out begrudgingly, one by one, from the freezer on special occasions when we had company until the spring and summer rolled back around and the strawberries and rhubarb heralded a new fruit pie season. I learned early on about how to be organized so that when unexpected company arrived you could whip up a Dora Ada Gulley highly coveted pie and be loved even more than she already was. You see my mother's pie crust was tender, light and flaky and always the first to disappear at the church pot luck, as was her fried chicken and pretty much anything she brought to the table. I remember vividly on more that one occasion her being asked which were her offerings and then hearing it discussed in detail about the merits of making sure you got to sample something that she brought. there always seemed to be a buzz about which ones were her dishes and a beeline to the buffet table. My mother was quite modest, even painfully shy when she was younger, but when it came to her cooking and her pies, the light came on her face and she glowed with the adoration she received from her appreciative family and friends. She wasn't a fancy cook, just a good cook. She made sure things were presented appealingly ans season well. She had lots of practice over the years. She never failed to tell me how she could put a meal on the table by the time she was 8 years old. I, of course, never really got much of a chance to help out in the kitchen, other than making the ritual uninspired green salad. Mom was in her element in the kitchen and didn't have much patience for those of us that weren't focused or an overnight sensation. I really only found my way around the kitchen when I got a bit older and she was ill and Dad was fairly hopeless in the kitchen, other than sampling, so I started to find the cooking actually quite interesting and fun. I think my desire to cook for a crowd gelled, when my mother had to fly out to be with my older brother for unexpected surgery just before Thanksgiving one year when I was about 16 and we had a house full of guests coming over for the feast. I had had some other take charge group cooking experiences at summer camp so when Mom and Dad decided that "the show must go on", I rose to the occasion. Mom painstakingly put together the involved Turkey dinner set up and I got to help along the way with lots of instructions and even more of her expertise back up preparation, so that when the crowd showed, the feast came off quite well and I finally understood what it felt like to be the center of adoration for all of that good food, even though I knew it was Mom's signature on everything. I merely orchestrated, but it felt good.

Mom and I discovered a common interest during those turbulent teenage years and one that bound us together ever after. We talked a lot about food after that, about canning, whole whet bread, about what it was like growing up on the farm and all the work involved with that. I gleaned a lot of information and we had an endless supply of conversation. A few months before Mom died, I was visiting from Colorado and made her and my brother's family a fresh strawberry and kiwi tart with a layer of dark chocolate ganache on the bottom and sliced fruit arranged on top and glazed to shine. I had been working professionally for a number of years and Mom had seen me in action and had eaten my cooking, and quick with a compliment. This time when she ate my tart after complimenting about how fancy it looked and how special it was, I waited with baited breath till she took that first bite, because with pie crust or "pate brisee," you can never be too sure that the end result will be the perfection that you were striving for till you eat it. She ate it and commented, "well, Marla Sue, you don't have to take a back seat to anyone else's pie crust. Your crust is flaky and delicious. " I was so proud, and still am for such high praise from my mother, the Maestra! So the trick that she taught me that made my results become consistent winners with pie crust is handle the dough as little as possible, use cold water, and refrigerate the dough before you roll it out and that has made all the difference. I have used a variation on her recipe, using all butter as she used vegetable shortening as it yields a sturdier crust that froze well. She use to have a stack of pie crusts that she had made production line style and kept in the freezer next to the fruits of the summer to put together a fast and easy dessert. If she wanted a double crusted pie, she partially thawed one crust in order to get it out of the pan for the top. Since the pie pans were all the same size, it fit perfectly on top of a piled high fruit pie.

The following recipe makes 2 - 9-10 inch pie crusts even though you only need one for the filling. Freeze the other in a flattened disc for another time or used it in a day or two for a savory crust. I'm making an Alsacien onion tart tonight. My "pie" in the picture is in a small fruit tartlette pan, because I don't have my pie pans here in Italy and I thought we would go for smaller potions as there are only the two of us tonight. It makes a very impressive pie, but don't let the lack of the right pan stop you. Enjoy this pie and a tart another night.


Sour Cream Apple Pie
Crust
2 c (200g) all purpose or pastry flour
15 T/ 1 3/4 stick (220g) butter, cold, but not hard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c (118g) water

Cut the butter into the flour mixed with the salt, till crumbly. The finer you make the crumb the easier it is to mix and roll later. Too big of clumps of butter can make weak and greasy spots in your final crust. You can handle the flour and butter now a fair amount, but work quickly so the butter doesn't get to warm and start to smear. Add the water and mix quickly and gingerly with a rubber spatula till just clumped together into big clumps. Gather together pressing together till it starts to take shape. Loosely divide into two equal parts and form into a ball and flattening into a disc. Yo will find that it is quite crumbly and difficult to keep together. Lightly press together till it holds together. Some loose bits left are OK and wrap both pieces up in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour before rolling. You might find that you are more successful if you roll your discs out between two sheets of plastic wrap. work quickly so the dough doesn't get too warm and the butter doesn't smear. Roll to slightly larger than your pie pan. If it is too warm and sticking to the plastic wrap, slide the dough onto a cutting board and place int the refrigerator for a few minutes, until the plastic peels away easily. Lift the plastic wrap and flip over into your ungreased pie pan and peel the remaining sheet of plastic off and fill with the filling, before topping and baking. If you haven't prepared your fruit yet, refrigerate your dough until ready to fill. You could also refrigerate over night and fill the next day, or freeze the dough, but I do prefer the dough fresh for the best flavor.Topping
1/3 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 c butter, cold not hard

Blend the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together.
Cut in the butter till crumbly. This time big clumps are good.
I usually use my fingers after the initial cutting in to get the correct coarse clumpy texture.
Set aside till ready to use.
You can refrigerate or freeze this topping to use on top of all sorts of pastries, danish, muffins, coffeecakes. It's a great thing to have on hand for a quick finishing touch.

Filling


6 medium sized tart apples ( Macintosh, Granny Smith,etc) , peeled, cored, quartered, sliced
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sour cream (no such thing here, thick yogurt works nicely, and creme fraiche)
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
2 Tb flour

Mix the egg, vanilla and add the sour cream till blended.
Blend the sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt together.
Add the flour sugar mix to the sour cream mix and thoroughly mix.
Toss the apple slices in and mix to coat.

Assemble
Fill the pie shell with the apple mixture, making a tall mound in the middle. Cover liberally with the crumb topping. Bake in a preheated 375 * F (190*C) oven for about 50 minutes, or till brown and bubbly underneath the topping.

*I usually place a cookie sheet tray underneath, as most pies can boil over before you know it and it is easier to clean a pan that an oven. I also have a silicon sheet that I use between the pan and sheet tray for an even easier clean up.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just a couple more truffle pictures


Well it does seem as if I am obsessed with truffles this year, but perhaps it's a bit more of interest to me this yer, as I have been in closer proximity to them than in years past. Usually I have have just been reading about them or watching them being featured on different programs on the TV, where as this year we actually went to one truffle festival in Montiglio.


When we were in Torino for the Salon del Vino and another Regional presentation, I found myself finally able to explore the very enticing "Eataly". " Eataly " is a large super mercato style store in an old Torino Carpano liqueur factory just across the street from the old Lingotto Fiat factory. It features a vast array of Italy's finest gastronomy, food, drink, books and places to sample them all. I'll be writing a blog on my adventure there shortly but just wanted to share some of the fabulous truffles they had in their truffle corner when I wandered through the other day. The aroma was strong and intoxicating. Wish I could convey that on this blog. Guess we're still not quite on to scratch and sniff blogging yet.


Do note the price difference in the pictures. The one above features the white one for 800 euro per kilo and the black ones directly above here to the right are 80 euro per kilo. Quite a difference eh? Now we know why you usually find the black ones in the bottom of the bottle of truffle oil(or not at all). And if you need a little something to wash them down with there's always some nice sparkling wines from Asti to go along with. Buon apettito!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Puff Pear Tartlettes to the rescue!


What to do when the dinner guests arrive that your husband thought had canceled?
Pull out the home made ravioli that I try to always have tucked away in our freezer for just such occasions, while he makes his much loved standard cinghiale (wild boar) stew. Fab's mother contributes some porcini for pasta sauce and we're almost covered. What to do for dolci? Fresh out of the semi freddo I try to keep on hand also for the afore mentioned situation. Fab doesn't normally get mixed up that often, but we do have hungry guests drop in with little or no notice, no problem. We try to be prepared, as you do in the hospitality business. I certainly got more than my fair share of practice when I worked for Copper Mt Resort, where there were more last minute surprises to cope with than one could possibly imagine, unless you have been in the food business yourself. In a large resort with multiple restaurants, cafeterias, banquets and John Q Public, you can find yourself scrambling to facilitate birthdays, anniversaries, allergies, celebrities and ballooning banquet numbers at the drop of a hankie. Responding calmly and quickly has been a skill honed over the years and quite frankly, I tend to thrive on the challenge or at least don't get too ruffled,.... "e cosi".

So one of my favorite life savers is the fruit puff pastry tarlette.
Depending on the time of the year or what you have on hand I have found pear or apple to be a consistent winner. You can make your own puff pastry as it isn't as difficult as one thinks,
merely time consuming and the results are tasty and satisfying. I added a very easy to follow"How to Make Puff Pastry" video ( if you can just get past the introduction) from
Ms Glaze's Pomme d'Amour.
I do sometimes make up fresh past sfolgia into sheets to freeze, just like commercial bakers, but have found it to suffer a bit more from freezer burn a bit quicker than I like, so I tend to make it when I know I will have a number of occasions to use it within the period of a couple of weeks. Other wise, commercially made frozen sheets will work beautifully and offer a decent result especially when served warm.

So to that end I took one sheet of puff dough cut it into 6 rectangles,
thawed but cold sheet of puff dough, roughly about
9"(23cm) by 12"(30cm).
When using your own home made dough, you want it about a 1/4 inch thick (1/2 cm).
1 tablespoon of jam, I use my apricot or plum usually, but chestnut cream is delicious also. Spread jam in the middle of the dough into a diagonal mound.
3 pears or apples (tart ones are my preference) peeled, halved, cored and very thinly sliced diagonally is nice, keeping the shape of the fruit as you place it on the prepared dough and fan he fruit out slightly.
Be sure to leaf sufficient dough uncovered to allow the dough to puff up around the fruit when baking.
Brush the edges of the bare dough with a bit of egg wash, (egg white mixed with a splash of water)
Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top of the fruit and bake at a 375*F 190-200*C till puffed and golden. Serve with vanilla or caramel gelato or sauce and serve.
Wait for the oohs and aahs to commence.

How to Make Puff Pastry






Friday, November 02, 2007

Unknown Fruit, Italian Aubergine? No try Calabrian Zucchini

Hello out there. I purchased this in the market the other day out of curiosity. I hadn't really seen one of these before and was intrigued. When I inquired about it I was told that is was a aubergine. Hmmm? And when I asked how to prepare it, I just got a shrug. I was with a group of women, whom were a whole lot less intrigued than I was and several had already wandered on , so I never really found any one to explain and naturally haven't seen it in the market since. I thought it was a chayote but when I started looking around on the internet, It does indeed look like a chayote but with prickly spines, so perhaps it is the family, but I haven't found any thing resembling this
So I am appealing to any of you out there who might know what this is and how to prepare it.


I'd be very grateful and intrigued.
Mille grazie.

Update, a couple of sources call them
Calabrian Zucchini or cucuzze spinusi or zucca centeneria.
This from Michelle of Bleeding Espresso
and originally from Rowena of Rubber Slippers in Italy

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bella Baita View



After having pretty off and on weather for a few days we have some glorious weather today showing off our bella view, so I just thought I would display a few pictures from our balcony.


Our sunset the other evening



This view is actually from Pinerolo last week after all the surprise snow we received.
"Bella Baita"
is located on the upper left of the photo where the green meets the white.
This view of the Grandubbione area is located at the end of our road.
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