Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like winter!



We are starting to have a real bona fide winter here in Val Chisone. The prediction by my father in law that the natural indicators, such as an abundance of walnuts and other folksy type of farmer's almanac wisdom seems to be on the money. Since I have lived here, which is only the last 6 years, we have had early winter dumps of snow, but they usually melted right off as it was too warm to sustain the snow. This year all the conditions are right for this to stick around for the winter. To be honest I don't mind, having come from Colorado high country and use to a long winter season, it's always been some what of a winter tease here at our house. I enjoy winter activities if I can make sure to get out and enjoy them, as opposed to just the never ending prospect of shoveling as a winter discipline. I much prefer, Alpine and Nordic skiing as well as snow shoeing and ice skating, although it's been quite a long time since I slid around on that slippery unforgiving surface. Naturally, further up the road at the ski areas, Prali, Pragelato, and Sestriere, they usually have enough white stuff to keep everybody happy. In fact Prali opened 2 weekends ago and
Sestriere of the Via Lattea, opened this weekend.
Both areas are fun and varied and I do love the buzz that a ski resort has first thing in the morning when the anticipation for powder or simply sliding down the white stuff again is palpable.
Believe me when I say that Prali, is a well kept secret.
Especially when the name of the ski area is Nuova 13 Laghi

This small ski area is everything I like about small areas. Usually, not too crowded, high above tree line with spectacular views of pristine alps, most of them are in protected parks and enough varied skiing to keep me happy. The top to bottom run is a long thigh burner. Have a look at the runs here on their map. I do love this area summer and winter, especially when the price is so right! Winter lift tickets will run you 15€ mid week, when they open full time closer to Christmas and 20€ weekends and holidays, with a 12€ late risers rate that starts at 12:30pm. Summertime they have the main lift open in July -August and weekends in September, for a mere 8€ to get you up and back if you like, with ease to enjoy that high country "Heidi" feel without so much effort. Save it for getting up to where the Genepy grow.
Of course, if you need a break or if not of the ski inclination, there is a mid mountain house that you can get to with a single lift ticket up and down, that affords you a fabulous panoramic view. Enjoy with Italian style hot chocolate so thick you need a spoon to shovel it in or a vin brulé and enjoy catching up on your knitting or favorite book. You can of course wander around in the small village of Ghigo, at the bottom that has a few shops and several bars and plenty of dry walk ways, roads or set Nordic tracks to keep you from sampling too many vin brulé.


Oh well, I need to baking the bread that is about to overflow the bowl that it is rising in and think about strapping my rock skis on a it bit later on. Maybe I'll add some cookies to the game plan as well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful


Click to play Thanksgiving Greeting
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox greeting

Monday, November 24, 2008

Got Milk?

Milk straight from the......,

noooo, not straight from the cow, but from a self serve dispenser in town.
I had heard rumors of this coming to Italy, but was pleased to find it on offer in Pinerolo a few weeks ago.

For one euro you can get a full flavor, and I should also say full fat, liter of milk.
Notice the cream on the top of the milk?
Exciting stuff indeed.

When I worked in Austria about 9 years ago I was a bit baffled upon discovering a new cubicle, about the size of a pay phone booth, on the street, where you could purchase a variety of sizes of fresh milk, from a cup to a liter, for a few shillings. I found it extremely interesting to say the least. The Austrians have been very forward thinking with regards to recycling and reduction of packaging in my experience in the Tyrol. I'm glad to see Italy join in the custom. We can only hope there are more bulk products coming to a store near us soon, to continue to reduce, reuse and recycle! We have found a steady stream of people using this facility every time we have been there. As our closest outlet doesn't offer you a brand new bottle on demand for a mere 30 centesimi, like our neighbors in Cavour, I noticed most folks had an abundance of bottled water empties. That's a step in the right direction, especially as Italians are the number one consumer of bottled water in all of Europe, which to my mind is not a wonderful mark of distinction! Now if we can only get our council on board with the recycling with a bit more conviction and get a few of these type of dispensers here closer to home, then we will be heading in a direction we all need to go, together! First our battle with the council over trash removal is just heating up, but that's a story for another day


Why is this man smiling?
Could it be because he's fondling a mechanical udder?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ancora Tortelloni


One more post before I move on to the next subject.
We ate the last of the tortelloni today. These had fresh pureed chestnut mixed in with fresh ricotta. It was the most subtle flavor of the three.
Rowena of Rubber Sippers in Italy made the suggestion of pancetta with apples for a sauce and a hit sauce was born.

Hard to see the crispy bacon slivers in these photos,
but I sauteed thin batons of pancetta that I just happened to have on hand.
Removed them from the pan and set aside. Drained off some of the grease.
Tossed in some diced apples and sauteed till soft, added some vegetable stock I had.
It would have been nice with a small amount of apple juice I think as well.
When soft, I added some parsley as I had quite a lot on hand, and a small dab of butter.
Mixed the cooked tortelloni in the pan with the reserved pancetta .
Topped with some fresh grated parmigiana.
I gave it's close up with our balcony view as a back drop.
Then we gobbled them down as fast as we dared!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tortelloni alle Mele


We had a gazillion other things to do, but we went back to Tutto Mele anyway, lured by the fascination with tortelloni with apple inside. We were in luck as they had a fresh made supply of plump tortelloni. I'm glad we made the effort as they were were fabulously delicious.
The small family pastificio (pasta only shop)in nearby Barge, a small farming community just outside the mouth of our valley and hugging the feet of the mountains, created and produced these fabulously plump tortelloni. Most of us are familiar with the smallish tortellini that are readily found in the US. Here it's not unusual to find these larger fresh fat boys, that are always delish. The pasta for the 50/50 blend of apple and ricotta was a sturdy semolina egg dough with beets added to give it a wow factor. The young woman behind the counter, the daughter of the shop owners and creators of these unusual creations, suggested that a light touch with an accompanying sauce should be used to strike the right balance so as not to cover the delicate flavor. The local favorite of butter with sage or walnut was one suggestion or a light Gorgonzola sauce struck me as the right contrast. So we settled on the festival special of 11 tortelloni for 6 euros and mixed up the purchase with 4 apple, 4 truffle and ricotta and 3 chestnut and ricotta.

As usual, when you simmer colored pasta, it loses it vibrant, inviting color, making it a little difficult to get a gorgeous photo with a layer of Gorgonzola oozing over, but in spite of the challenges of the final finished product, I can say that they were outstanding. The suggested 10 minutes to cook them was a perfect amount of time and the sauce was just right. I would say that when I give this idea a go, I think I will increase the amount of apple. My preference would be a slightly more pronounced apple presence and maybe even an apple inspired sauce to boot.

Apple Tortelloni with Gorgonzola sauce

Then there were the ones with then truffle mixed in with the ricotta.

They were superb!
Toss the cooked pasta directly into your pan with the melted butter and fresh slivered sage, that has been gently sauteed till fragrant and gently mix. Plate and garnish with freshly shaved or grated parmigiana, topped off with a drop or two of truffle oil. It was divine.

Hum? I wonder what I should toss the chestnut ones in tonight?
Any suggestions from any of you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

29th edition of "Tutto Mele"

While we we're on the subject of apples here are a few photos of the 29th edition of this November's Tutto Mele. It opened last Saturday in Cavour, to the pomp and fanfare of the round up of the usual local dignitaries and politicians. It was a gorgeous day, much warmer than last year as we reminisced with others who had been there as well.

It is a fabulous display of all the many varieties of local Pinerolese fruit growers hard word, each vying for recognition, more fans and points of sale. Every year there are always so many different things to see and sample. The offerings vary widely from year to year aside from the massive amount of apples and quite a few kiwi to boot. Piedmont is the main producer of kiwi in all of Italy and they are coming in strong now. You can usually always count on finding kiwi and apples for the whole of the winter in the Pinerolo market, like steadfast friends. Right now they are crisp, fresh and quite a bargain.


This year they are featuring quite a few other interesting features, like Tutto Gusto, Tutto Eco, Tutto Sposi, or all things flavor, ecological and wedding. Interesting combinations if you ask me. I must admit that as we made our way through the serpentine displays of Sicilian desserts, cheeses, cookies, olive oil, Torinese chocolates, fur coats, hot tubs and got to the bridal fashion section, I thought perhaps we were lost, but of course, when we popped out at the heavy equipment of diggers, tractors, and other big machines that I had no idea what exactly they did, then I knew that we must still be in Cavour.
Now were were we with those apples?

Ok, so these aren't apples either, but what a great display of gigantic turnips and how about that giant squash at the bottom of the photo.

Then we found the tortelloni filled with apple and the pasta made with apple as well. There was a bit of a crowd around this stand and I forgot to go back later to make a purchase to try this unusual offering. Might just have to make our way back over before the end of the weekend. Luckily the festival goes for 10 days, so there's still time to get back over before it ends on the 16 of November.

Especially as I didn't get to try the "Mele in Camicia,"
apples in jackets or apple dumplings as we called them.

And on one last bittersweet note.
A fond farwell to our "Stagista" friend, Rachel, who is back home in Colorado after her 6 month stint working in the kitchen at Maison Verte Hotel
in Frossasco, Italy.
It was certainly our pleasure to have met you and enjoyed a few outings and laughs together.
We wish you all the best in your journey as a chef, as you explore the multi faceted world of cuisine.
Buona fortuna!
We look forward to meeting up again.

If you're looking to check out Tutto Mele here's a google map.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Everyone loves a baked apple...especially with a twist



We continue to be busy (like everyone else), in spite of this being the slow season for us. Catching up on all the things we couldn't get to or keep up with have now snowballed into a list too long to even mention. Oh well, keeps you young I suppose.
I thought I would share my latest favorite apple dessert, the perennial favorite, baked apple, with a small twist. I took the core out, peeled the whole apple halfway and filled the cavity with a small amount of butter, brown sugar and amaretti cookies. folks around here are fond of using amaretti cookies for a wide range of uses that you wouldn't ordinarily think of, like pumpkin and amaretti cookies as a filling for ravioli, but I digress.
It's apple season and we have many apples to use and experiment with, but right now I have been happily baking our stash off as fast as I can stuff them. We have finally gotten the pipe sorted out for our new wood fired oven and we are slowly tempering the oven with small fires and a few baked apples. A pizza party is coming soon, but in the mean time we're enjoying a bounty of baked apples, a variety of ways.


Mele Ripiena con Amaretti Al Forno
Yield 6

6 Apples, tart and firm
juice of one lemon,
and perhaps a little zest from the skin to add a bit of zip to the filling
cinnamon sugar to taste or color
6 soft macaroon type amaretti biscuits
Handful of hard amaretti biscotti (approximately 6 per apple)
1 Tb brown sugar
1- Tb Butter, softened
Walnut, almonds or pine nuts to garnish
Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or caramel sauce or warm out of the oven just on their own.

Preparation
• Wash apples
• Remove the core from the center of the apples if you have a handy corer. Other wise, carefully cut the center out in circular fashion carefully removing the core. Scoop out most of the apple, leaving enough to hold the apple intact
• Peel the apples top half only going round in a circular motion.
• Dip the top peeled part in the lemon juice or if not enough juice, spread the juice on with a brush.
• Dip the top into the cinnamon sugar, or generous coat.
• Crumble the biscuits/macaroons with the brown sugar and nuts.
• Press a spoonful of the mixture into the center, filling the cavity.
• Press a few pine nuts or almonds into the top.
• Place in a single layer in a paper lined baking dish and cook in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes depending on how large your apples are.
• Serve warm with your favorite garnish , like ice cream, cramel sauce, whipped cream or warm out of the oven starring themselves as they are!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Salone del Gusto & Terra Madre 2008

To say it was sensory over load would be putting it mildly!
A week has come and gone, more guests have come and gone, and yet the buzz of Slow Food's Salone del Gusto 08 still lives on. That is, at least for me, especially when I break out some of the delicious foods and products that I bought during my long day out. I continue to attempt to do something with all of the photos of and videos of the music that sprang up spontaneously through out the massive series of halls. The sounds are great and give a good feeling for the event even though the videos all seem to be out of focus. It's clear I haven't used that feature much. I have enjoyed reading about others experiences and thoughts on this event. I will list a few links at the end of the photos to some others blogs.


We came in with our friends the Bernards whose Genepy and Barathier are uniquely flavored mountain beverages enjoyed throughout the Italian and French alps. They were the only producers to receive the Slow Food's Maestri del Gusto award this year.


Sampling oysters and smoked fish from northern Germany as well as Beba Beer's newest seasonal brew


Colorful pasta from Torino

Chocolate from America, Boston in fact, well actually via central America.
Taza Chocolate
buy their chocolate directly from certified organic farmers. They process their chocolate minimally using Mexican stones to grind their chocolate to give a very unique chocolate. I found the 85% bar to very sweet and flavorful and unlike any their type of chocolate I have had. Their chocolate nibs were extremely tasty, which reminds me, I need to go find the bar and nibs I put away for a rainy day.
It's been raining all day, so you know what that means.


Gorgonzola

The many ways with Pork



And of course the many ways of cheese.



This aged French cheese drew and maintained a crowd throughout the day and night. All of these cheeses were aged at least 2 years and up to 5 and with it's unusual gray exterior it generated much interest.
Even though I spent the entire day and evening there, I still felt like I really didn't do it justice, as I found I just wandered around and maybe didn't dig into the products as deeply as I would have liked. Oh well, there's another chance to in 2 years. Maybe by then I'll have a better camera as well.
David Liebovitz summation of his first visit to Slow Foods Salone del Gusto, captured my feelings on the event quite succinctly.
...."this isn't an elitist opportunity to congratulate ourselves on our ability to appreciate organic arugula and lardo, but the opportunity to taste foods from all over the world, meet the people who produce them and learn about their cultivation. And in many cases, rally for their preservation."

Related Links
Salone del Gusto 1 (David Liebovitz)
Salone del Gusto 2 (David Liebovitz)
Slow Food's salone del Gusto (Ms. Adventures In Italy)
Slow Food Fair (FXcuisine.com) I can't seem to make it link
Salone del Gusto 2008 (YouTube )


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Flower Frenzy Wednesday and a Pistachio Roulade

Wednesday's market was a riot of color and chrysanthemum display with a frenzy of shopping for bouquets or pots of mums. It had a different buzz to it in the market and had a holiday feel with out any sadness particularly involved. In fact it had more of a celebratory feel perhaps even life affirming, to be here and enjoying an autumn day out. Saturday was lovely weather and today is dreary, rainy, and cold. However my purchase of a small pot of golden asters surrounded by mini gourds and a couple of mini pumpkins add a colorful lift to a gray autumn day.


Yesterday was Il Giorgno dei Morti and today is Il Giorgno dei Santi.
Day of the Dead and All Saints day as they are more commonly know in English.
Two bank holiday days that this year falls on the weekend, so no one really got out of work, except that our regular Pinerolo market was held on Friday instead of Saturday, making for a confusing schedule for those of us who didn't grow up with such holidays. Halloween for most Americans, was a kids day for parties and an excuse for dressing up in lots of your parents old clothes or scarves and jewelry and extorting candy from your neighborhood.
Here in Italy, it is a day of taking colorful autumn flowers to the cemetery with your family and going to a special mass. Also it usually means lighting candles for your loved ones and generally remembering all that have passed on. It may also include eating out for a special meal as well. It is a time for marking the change of the seasons with the passing of loved ones as well as the end of the growing season and harvest time, and moving on into the winters quiet. Good rituals to make the transition of the natural rhythms of the year.
We had a birthday to celebrate, so we enjoyed a special meal and cake to mark the occasion.
A Pistachio Roulade with a coffee white chocolate cream filling. It was moist, colorful and a nice change of pace.
So, you see, I do on occasion, still make cakes. There was a time on my life where I made a lot of cakes. Now they are occasional and I think more of a special treat. Now it's on to the next cake, as it's my father in law's 70th birthday tomorrow. I have a special hazelnut cake in mind for him.

Bookmark and Share