Carpe Barolo!

While I was more than occupied at Salone del Gusto 2012 tasting aged balsamic vinegars, olive oils, chocolates, coffee, cheese, salume, carne crudo and so much more, my wine-loving spouse sampled the wines. And let me just say, there were a lot of them.

In anticipation of the release of the Slow Food Taste Workshops catalog for 2014, I give you his annotated recollections.

If you’re thinking of joining us on our trip to Turin, Salone del Gusto and Piedmont’s wine country this year, remember: June 9 is the date to begin reserving your own Taste Workshop favorites.

The sublime wine programs of Salone del Gusto.

I could go on and on about how spectacular the Taste Workshops are at Slow Foods’ Salone del Gusto food show. But perhaps sharing just a few of the inspired offering from the 2012 Program will whet your palate. Here you go:

Great Reserve Barolos for Aging; Reds from the Loire Valley; The unrivaled cuvées of Krug Champagne; Italy’s young women winemakers; the rise of Southern New Zealand Pinot Noir; the discreet charms of biodynamics.

Still thirsty? Borgogno Barolo vertical tasting (chronicled in a past post here); the exceptional vintages of Charles Heidsieck Champagne; Brunello di Montalciono Poggio al Vento vertical tasting (read the post here).

Borgogno tasting

The wines from the Southern Rhone: Gigondas and Chateauneuf-du-Pape; the sparkling wines of Italy and France; a new profile of Brunello di Montalcino; wines from Spain, Portugal, Greece, the Balkans and Georgia.

A unique tasting of Slow Wine producers, with over 600 labels represented. Additional Taste Workshops featured rums, cognacs, whiskeys, craft beers and much more, all complemented by delicious artisan foods.

These generous tastings are presented by international experts and visiting vintners, many scions of centuries’ old wine dynasties, as well as young rising stars. Together, they offer a unique glimpse into a world few of us have access to.

But access it you will if you join me this fall for a tour of Salone del Gusto, Turin and the wine rich Piemonte region. You can learn morehere.

In vino veritas indeed.

Poggio Al Vento lineup

New deets! Salone del Gusto 2014.

Big news from Italy! The official countdown to Salone del Gusto 2014 starts on June 9. That’s when the long-awaited Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre Slow Food itinerary of workshops, tastings, and programs will be posted online. We’ll want to reserve immediately, to ensure our place at the most sought-after events and workshops.

If you’ve been thinking about joining us, it’s decision time. If you’ve already signed on (lucky you!), time pull up a chair, pour a glass of your favorite wine, buff up your reading glasses, and settle in to imagine yourself at one of hundreds of perfectly curated programs designed to satisfy your every craving for wine, cheese, chocolate, olive oil, coffee, and so much more. Once your choices are made, we’ll sign you up.

Over the winter, I’ve been tweaking the trip itinerary, and am pleased to post the updated details here. By design, our experience will be an intimate, immersive one — I’ve booked only ten rooms, and five are already sold. If you’re on the fence, the time is now to call with questions.

So, take a look, and I hope to hear from you. It promises to be an epic trip.

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Two recipes for friends.


For all the private and circumspect person that he is, my husband loves Instagram.

I can’t keep him off it. It’s become part of the rhythm of his daily life. A quick means to communicate what he’s feeling, thinking about, or simply experiencing. His favorite hashtag? #thereisbeautyeverywhere.

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For him, posting a picture on Instagram has become as intimate and integral to his sharing of himself as a warm hug with a friend chance-met on a street or an invitation to join our family for a home cooked dinner. It’s a gift of his vision, his perspective, his point of view — all finely honed, I must admit, after years of seeing the world through the keen eyes of an ad guy. No filter, indeed.

Cookie_Man_Scanno

So all those photos you see of our nightly dinners? His, not mine. “That looks really tasty,” he’ll say appeasingly, as he grabs my iPhone to snap the photo, part of his strategy to make the minutes this process takes more palatable while the whole family is waiting for him to sit down. “Let me just post a picture.”

I’m at odds with this nightly ritual. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that he loves my cooking, appreciates the effort I put into the flavors, colors, and textures that dress our family table. Or maybe, he simply likes to celebrate that we have a still have family table, a dinner together each night.

In response to my scowl and narrowed eyes, not to mention the wooden spoon I am brandishing, he reminds me that posting is good for my ‘brand.’ Hmmm. That’s true, I admit grudgingly.

Pause_That_Refreshes

The proof is in the pudding. His quick posts of our dinners get lots of likes, and even some requests for recipes.

Herein lies the rub. I don’t cook from recipes. I’m a ‘look in the fridge and make it up as you go based on what you’ve got’ kinda girl. I stock the pantry and take it from there. Writing those recipes, especially free of errors? Takes some time.

But you all are worth it.

So, here you go. For Leslie, the risotto and for Susan, the lobster pasta.

And for Jonathan, my humble thanks. I guess there is beauty everywhere.

If you want to follow Jonathan on Instagram you can find him at @jplazonja.

Risotto with Chicken and Preserved Lemon

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Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, trimmed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • white flour for dredging
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tbs. chopped preserved lemon, pith and pulp removed
  • 1 tbs. preserved lemon liquid
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 3/4 white wine
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3 tbs. chopped flat Italian parsley leaves, stems removed
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the chicken stock until simmering in a large stock pot.
  2. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken cubes in the flour until well coated. Shake off any excess.
  3. Melt 3 tbs. butter in a large heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. When bubbling, add the garlic and sauté until you can smell the aroma.
  4. Cook the chicken in batches in a single layer, until the cubes are golden brown. Remove and reserve.
  5. Add the remaining butter to the pot. When it is bubbling, add the shallot and sauté over medium heat until it is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the arborio rice, stirring often, until the grains become opaque and smell somewhat nutty. Don’t let them brown.
  7. Add the white wine, simmering gently and stirring often until the wine is reduced and all the good bits are scraped from the sides and bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the preserved lemon and preserved lemon liquid.
  9. Add the warm chicken stock, stirring constantly over medium high heat. As it absorbs into the rice, continue to add more stock until the stock is all incorporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
  10. Add the lemon juice, the reserved chicken and the nutmeg.
  11. Add the cheese, stirring until fully incorporated.
  12. Add the parsley, and season to taste with salt and white pepper.
  13. The risotto will take on a creamy consistency, this is fine. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Serves four.

Egg Fettuccine with Lobster, Preserved Lemon and Baby Spinach

Lobster, baby spinach and preserved lemon fettuccine

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces lobster meat, cooked, cleaned and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. egg fettuccine, linguine, or other broad egg noodle
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • I carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, pith and pulp removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbs. preserved lemon liquid
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 ounces  baby spinach leaves, cleaned and dried
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flat Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove on high heat.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan, heat the olive oil and the butter until bubbling.
  3. Add the shallot, celery, carrot and pepper flakes. Sauté over medium high heat until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir often.
  4. Add the preserved lemon, white wine and preserved lemon liquid.
  5. Add the spinach leaves, and cover, allowing the spinach to wilt.
  6. When the water is boiling, salt the water and add the pasta and cook until just before al dente.
  7. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water in a shatter-proof glass container.
  8. Drain the pasta, and add it and the lobster to the spinach mixture in the sauté pan.
  9. Increase heat to medium high, add reserved pasta water as needed to keep the pasta from sticking, stirring to combine ingredients.
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve immediately with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Serves four.

Join me! Turin + Salone del Gusto, October 2014

It’s finally here! The itinerary for Morso Soggiorno’s much anticipated trip to Salone del Gusto 2014, the incredible city of Turin, and Le Langhe in Piedmont.

You can click on each image to make the page larger for easy reading.

Hope you can join me.

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Questions? Email me.

Morso Soggiorno’s annotated year in review: 2013

2013. Morso Soggiorno’s inaugural year.

We visited Abruzzo, Lazio, Umbria, Le Marche, Sicily, Basilicata and Puglia. We ate, we drank, we laughed. We strolled, foraged, hiked, shopped, rolled pasta, hunted truffles, pressed olive oil, picked grapes, cooked with a duchess, picked purple potatoes with a farmer in a fog shrouded field, made more cultural faux pas and grammar mistakes than even Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State could save us from, and still, we were welcomed warmly, with the love, care and attention usually offered only to family.

The only thing we didn’t conquer was the Italian postal service, who still has all the goodies we shipped home. Hope you’re enjoying them, guys.

Here are a bunch of my impressions, visual and verbal, in no certain order, of the first year living my dream. Intrigued? Hope you can join us next year. Keep an eye out for our 2014 itinerary, including Turin, Sicily and Abruzzo, coming in early January.

Bombed out Baroque palazzi and churches on just about every corner in Palermo, Sicily, each more hauntingly beautiful and staggeringly dramatic than the next.

bombed out baroque in palermo

For the Sunday afternoon passegiata in Scanno, the older women do their best to bring the guidebooks to life by dressing in the traditional style: long full skirts, black sweaters and heads covered in a dark fazzoletti. Then, they scowl at us when we take pictures. Huh?

costume sundays in scannoWe walked around a remote farm in the mountains of Le Marche, cameras in hand, while we waited for the sheep’s milk to heat in a giant copper pot, first to make the pecorino, and then to make the ricotta. Behind the barn, we found doves in cages, bees in hives and baby chicks hiding under a bush with their mother.

dovesAn enchanting day spent with Nicoletta Polo Lanza at Palazzo Butera in Palermo, Sicily. We cooked, learned more than a bit of the history of her husband’s family, and lived for a little while like the royalty of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily.

ducal splendorIn the chill fields beneath the medieval hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in Abruzzo, three farmers compared notes. Two Italian, one American, six hands, many seeds and a meeting of the minds over farming grains in harsh conditions. Like Massachusetts. And the mountains of Abruzzo.

Farmers taking crops

Everywhere in Italy, you see them. Great cars. Little cars, big cars, fast cars, slow cars, old cars, new cars. Horns blasting, engines revving, ignoring signals, speed limits, and every parking regulation ever invented. But always doing it with style.

funky fabulous cars

In an old barn in Ofena, Abruzzo, we’re treated to a demonstration of the only “modern” machine available in the region that can separate the lentils from their unwelcome casings. Part winnower, part thresher, very high maintenance but lovingly cosseted, it processes every Slow Food Presidia lentil for miles around.

lentil harvester

Paparazza, Italian style. They start ‘em young. And cute.

paparazzi

The chef of Sapori di Campagna, Ofena, Italy. A woman of many talents, Gabriela taught us to how to make six kinds of pasta, among other regional specialities, then she prepared us a delectable six course dinner. But by far, the best thing Gabriela shared was her 2013 calendar, hanging in a place of honor and inspiration on the back of her kitchen door. Does it feature picturesque photos of the region, you ask? Speciality foods? No. Just beautiful, and scantily clad, Italian soccer stars in all their glory.

pasta maker with calendar The salt flats in Trapani, Sicily. Don Quixote, eat your heart out. Sprinkle on a little salt. We’ve got plenty.

salt flats don quixote style

Whimsical, colorful Opera dei Pupi, the traveling marionette caravans rest in alleys in between performances, a homage to families who travelled from town to town performing, beginning in the 13th century.

sicilian puppet shows

The juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient, both in the service of a sustainable life.

sustainability, modern and age old

“Hello,” he said, a disembodied voice originating high above us. “Do you want to buy biscotti? I can come down, it’s just too cold to sit there all day.” Our answer was a resounding si! si!, yes! to the best chocolate biscotti, and incredible mostacciolo cookies, made with grape must and chocolate. My favorite part? Lifesize photos adorning the walls and doorways, all of his late wife, in her youth, dressed in the typical Scannese costume.the biscsotti man in scanno“Take a Dramamine if you get queasy on switchbacks or have a problem with heights,” I warned my intrepid traveling companions. The drive from Sulmona to Scanno is fraught with both, but the vistas are worth the effort. Like hanging on the edge of Heaven.

the road to scanno When I was 12, my parents took us to Spain. There, we watched a donkey walk in a circle, his movement turning a giant stone wheel that crushed olives for olive oil. It was a sensory delight, but the smell was what I most vividly remember. Fresh cut hay, green grass, both deep, rich, and verdant. Modernization makes the process simpler, but I was transported to another time and place as the vivid green, freshly pressed oil poured from the press in Marsala, Sicily.

there is nothing like virgin olive oil

The men in Italy. Need I say more? When they meet, they kiss each other on the cheeks. Twice. They carry babies, push strollers, walk slowly with aging nonnas, and have been known to make an appreciative comment to a random woman passing by.  At this, the feminist in me shrugs her shoulders. Italian men are demonstrative, and they demonstrate their love for their families, and the fairer sex loudly and often.

three generations

These two women gave us a simple lesson in trickle down economics and caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. We bought garlic, the lady on the left “neglected” to make us our change as she deposited our coins into a well worn leather coin purse. Later, we saw her take the same coins and trade them at another vendor for grapes, and cheese. And so it goes.

trickle down economics Pasta alla guitarra in a simple sauce of wild spinach foraged from the mountainside behind Il Vecchio Ristoro in Rocca Pia. Sweet, tender, deeply hued matte velvet green leaves, almost triangular in shape, have a slight mineral, earthy taste.

wild spinach pasta

Just a thought.

Once, a friend returned from a trip to Italy and brought me a pencil. She pulled it out of the bag, and handed it to me, unwrapped.

“It’s just a thought,” she said, as I turned it over in my hand. It was a singular pencil, made of wood and wrapped in elegantly patterned turquoise, white and black Florentine paper. I brought it home and put it on my desk.

Tomato can full of colored pencils

Twenty five years later it’s still there, in a San Marzano tomato can that does double duty as a colored pencil holder. And every day in the ensuing years, each time I look at that pencil, I smile. I am reminded that someone thought of me, however briefly, however far away, and marked that “thought” with a token.

I’m big on “thoughts.” Until my friend used that particular word, I really didn’t have a name for the impulse, the effort, or the act of thinking of someone else while I went about the business of my life. Now I do, and I try, as often as I can, to mark that thought in a meaningful way.

Take it from me. We’ve all gotten into the very bad habit of letting popular culture dictate our enactment of “having a thought” for us. We act on birthdays, Christmas, weddings, graduations, all of the usual experiences that have given birth to clichéd Hallmark moments. Me, I’m for making my own moments. And having my own thoughts. And marking them as I choose to. Hallmark and the calendar be damned.

Since the “pencil” moment, I’ve tried to mark the occasions when I’m thinking of someone. One year, I made challah bread (yes, challah bread) for Thanksgiving. I made a few extra loaves and delivered them to friends on the day before with unpasteurized honey and salted butter. Another, I collected handfuls of the fresh herbs from my garden, tied them in twine, and passed them out at yoga, to my friends who join me often on the mat.

photo copy

When my high school senior son asked three over-burdened teachers and his guidance counselor to write a last minute recommendation for him (“Yeah, sorry, it’s due Friday”) he took a page from my book. By heaping an additional recommendation upon the several hundred they were already writing, he realized they were expending extra effort on his behalf. In return, he made them cookies. Not just any cookies. Mammoth chocolate chunk cookies. It was a simple, thoughtful gesture to say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me.”

Big cookie Thank you chocolate Chip Cookies

During the holidays, the self-consciousness that seems to overshadow these spontaneous demonstrations of affection wanes. Yesterday, the doorbell rang. To my surprise, my friend Kate’s husband, John, was behind the glass.

“Hi,” he said. “Kate sent this by for you.”

He presented me with a small bag and a card. We chatted, had a hug, and I went inside, impatient to discover what it contained. To my surprise, I found two lovely hand painted wooden Christmas ornaments. Oh, you say, that’s not a thought, that’s a holiday gift. Perhaps. But when you learn what the ornaments are, I think you’ll change your mind.

Under all that white tissue paper, a miniature plump pink prosciutto and a creamy white provolone, like the ones that hang in salumerie all over Italy, emerged. A sweet note confirmed that, it is, in fact, the thought that counts. Kate sent these special tokens to mark the first year of Morso Soggiorno, my immersive food travel business. Now, every time I look at them, I’ll think of Kate and her excitement for me. They’ll have a place of honor in my kitchen twelve months of the year.

Wooden Provolone and Prosciutto ornaments

All of this is a long-winded way of saying it’s always a good time, the right time, the best time, to let the people you care about know you care for them. Any small gesture will do. A pencil, a prosciutto, a provolone….un pensiero. A thought.

“The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money.” –Thomas Jefferson.

Cacio e Uova, the anti-pasta.

Here are the words I never thought I’d utter: I think I will die if I eat another plate of pasta.

Shocking and sacrilegious? Sure is. Heretical, really, since I consider pasta a religious experience. All those old adages about too much of a good thing? Well, they’re true. Just how much pasta must one consume to pass the “good thing” threshold? My marker came midway through the second week of Morso Soggiorno’s Abruzzo Tours this fall. Perhaps you felt it, the moment the Earth briefly stopped spinning on its axis.

So many pastas

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