Spring Tour USA 2016 - Events Schedule

Seattle Events February 5-12

Feb 5 - Delaurenti - Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 1:00 - 6:00
Feb 6 - The Shop Agora - Terre Margaritelli wine & Trampetti Olive Oil Tasting, from 2:00 - 6:00
Feb 9 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 10 - PoggiBonsi (Renton) - cooking class with me, wine & olive oil tasting 6:00 - 8:00
Feb 11 - Barnacle - Terre Margaritelli & Trampetti wine & olive oil tastings 3:00 - 6:00

Nashville Events Feb 15-17
TBA

Washington DC Events Feb 19-28 at Via Umbria in Georgetown:

Feb 19 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 20 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 24 - Trampetti Olive Oil tasting
Feb 25 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 26 - Cooking Class with me & Terre Margaritelli tasting
Feb 27 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner
Feb 28 - Terre Margaritelli winemaker dinner

Grand Cayman Feb 29-March 11
(ok, this is vacation, but if you are there and want to organize something or just hang out, let me know!)

Philadelphia & NYC Events March 13-23

March 15 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
March 16 - Boffi Soho showroom (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting
TBA - Urbani Truffles (NYC) cooking demo & Terre Margaritelli wine tasting

rest of dates TBA


Spring Tour USA 2016!

As some of you already know we are planning our big US Tour!  In each city we will be holding private dinners, Terre Margaritelli wine tastings, Trampetti olive oil tastings, cooking classes and much more!  Below you will find the dates for each city, if you would like to organize a private wine dinner (minimum 8 people), send me an email and we will do our best to accommodate you.  Follow along on my social media for our upcoming event calendar!

Seattle: February 5-12

Nashville: February 15-17

Washington DC: February 19-28

Grand Cayman: March 1-11

Philadelphia/NYC area: March 13-23


The Rite of Winter in Umbria: La Spolpatura!

IMG_0001Nothing makes an Umbrian's eyes light up like hearing that there is going to be a pig roast!  And I'm not talking about throwing a few ribs on the grill... this is a full head to tail operation!  Every winter, families get together to butcher a pig.  The smaller cuts are put aside to be cured under salt - they will be ready in a few months (hint...just in time for Easter breakfast!), and the legs will be cured to make Prosciutto crudo... but we won't see those for another 18 months or so..... which leaves us with, well, everything else!

The first step is to boil the head.  I know this is a rough one for the unadventurous, but let me tell you, the tender meat from the head is really the best part!  Some is packed into sacks  - this will be chilled and henceforth known as Coppa di Testa (head cheese).  The other half is shredded, mixed with a little orange zest, oil and vinegar and tossed with some salad greens... henceforth known as heaven...

Next, the major cuts for grilling are broken down (ribs, pork chops, steaks, etc) and the rest is ground up, and mixed with a heavy dose of salt, black pepper and garlic to create that glorious Umbrian staple known as Salsicce (sausage). 

Last, but certainly not least.... the innards!  The liver is cut into chunks, wrapped in caul fat and skewered alongside fresh bay leaves.  These will be caramelized on the grill - who needs dessert when there are sweet fegatelli?!?  But we are not done yet!  The heart, lungs, kidneys, and other bits are chopped up and quickly stewed with a little bit of onion and vinegar to make Coratella.  Here we usually eat lamb coratella (again, see Easter breakast), but the pork coratella is even better!

Enjoy the photos below and think of an excuse to visit Umbria next winter!

Pictured below: the various cuts of pork, antipasto: prosciutto & coppa di testa, warm coppa di testa sald, bruschetta & sausage on the grill, sausage & coratella, fegatelli on the grill, fagioli con le cotiche (beans cooked with the skin of prosciutto).

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Italian Soups: Stock, Broth... or Water?

IMG_8635In my cooking classes and private dinners here in Umbria, my students & clients are always shocked to hear that the main ingredient in my soups is, well.... good old-fashioned pipe stock.... otherwise known as... water!

Most Italian regional cooking, especially that of Umbria, is a very rustic, peasant style cooking, and making stock just doesn't fit into that equation.  Stocks are part of French haute cuisine, which is what most chefs (especially those on TV) learned as their base in cooking school... and therefore, it is what they preach to everyone at home.  Not that there is anything wrong with that... but it's not Italian!

Stock is when we put bones and vegetables in cold water (no salt), bring it to a boil and then let simmer for a few hours until all of the meaty essence is leached from the bones.  Stock can then either be reduced to form a glace (French) or added to sauce bases (again, French) and soups.  But you will hard pressed to find an Italian recipe calling for stock! 

Broth, or Brodo in Italian, is when we bring a pot of water to the boil first with vegetables, aromatics and salt.  Then we add meat such as a stewing hen, capon or off cuts of beef:  tongue, belly, and leg muscles to the boiling liquid.  The meat is then simmered until tender, and becomes a dish known as Bollito (boiled meat).  The remaining broth, or brodo, would be used to make soupy pasta dishes such as Tortellini in Brodo (tortellini with broth) or Stracciatella (basically the Italian version of Egg Drop Soup).

To make up for the lack of a meaty stock, Umbrians add their favorite ingredient to almost every soup in the book: pancetta.  Pancetta is cured pork belly - similar to bacon, except that it is not smoked, just hung out to dry with a heavy dose of salt, garlic and black pepper.  If pancetta is not used, we might see lard ground up with onions, carrots and celery as a base, or even the extra skin and fat cut off of a prosciutto, as in Fagioli con le Cotiche (Beans cooked with prosciutto skin).

Zuppa di Lenticchie (Umbrian Lentil Soup)

1 cup of Umbrian brown lentils
extra virgin olive oil
1 thick slice of pancetta, cubed
1 med. onion, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 stalk celery, diced finely
2 cloves garlic
1 small hot pepper
1 bay leaf
4-6 sage leaves
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree or 2 Tbs tomato concentrate
salt

Heat a medium sized pot,  add a few tablespoons of olive oil and pancetta, and brown.
Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, hot pepper, bay leaf, sage leaves.  Cook until they become translucent.
Add lentils.  
Add tomato puree.
Add 4-5 cups of water.
Salt to taste.
Cook until lentils are tender, adding water if necessary.
Serve with bread and extra-virgin olive oil.


Fun on the Funicular in Gubbio!

-6Gubbio is great for a day trip in Umbria.... that said I rarely go... and when I do go, it is either in the evening or freeeezing.... which means that I have never been on the Funicular, or Funivia... the main reason many go to Gubbio in the first place!

 

 

So today being a rare, balmy, sunny November Sunday, we decided to take a drive out.   -1 To be honest, the real reason that I had wanted to go was because there was a festival called Quinto Quarto, celebrating the secondary and tertiary cuts of beef.  This is usually right up my alley, but alas, this festa was sort of a bust as they didn't have a lot of variety and the food was so so.... the lampredotto was inedible.... but they had a polpette (meatball) making class for my kids, so they were happy.

On to lunch... we stopped at Ristorante Bosone Garden because 1) it was lunchtime and we were walking under it (kids were at T minus meltdown) 2) it had rare outside seating on a nice day in Gubbio 3) I hadn't done my advance research as I was not planning on eating in a restaurant during a food festival.  We didn't order a lot because we had already had our antipasto of rubbery lampredotto and mediocre meatballs, so we just ordered pasta all around - tortellini in brodo for the kids and tagliatelli with goose ragù for us.  There were no seasonal options on the menu and the only antipasto on the menu that looked interesting to me, of course, they did not have.  The pasta was fine but not good enough to justify the outrageous prices.  I don't mind paying for an exceptional plate of pasta, but it better be hand made, in house, and this was obviously store bought....

Onto the funicular, the highlight of the day!  We arrived at 2:30, just as it was reopening - check their website for seasonal operating hours.  Now, when you first see the lifts for the funicular, your instinct will probably be to just turn around and walk back down into Gubbio.  But, trust me - it's really not so scary!  I was mostly worried that my sometimes timid 5 and 2 1/2 year olds would protest.  Also because, as our good friend Sir Newton says "What goes up must come down".... my translation, "What screams all the way up will scream all the way down."  However my kids were surprisingly game and they had a great time.  The hardest part is jumping in and out of the cages as they move fairly quickly, but the operators have it down to an Italian science and everyone moves along.

Once at the top, the main attraction is the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo, the patron saint of Gubbio and home to the famous Ceri, used in the Corsa dei Ceri in May.  However, my kids immediately spotted the bar with ice cream and seeing as how I had already had them traverse Gubbio and they were without much needed naps, we stopped there (and never made it to the Basilica, a mere 20 feet away - next time).

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The Birds & the Bees of Zucchini Flowers... or... Everything you always wanted to know about Zucchini Flowers (but were afraid to ask)

It's that time year when zucchini blossoms are everywhere here in Italy... and they happen to show up frequently in my cooking classes and private dinners... ;-)  But there is more to the humble zucchini blossom that meets the eye! For instance, did you know that there are both male and female flowers on each zucchini plant, and that each serves a different purpose in the culinary world?

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Let's begin with the female - she is easy to recognize as she can be found on a short stem close to the center of the plant literally 'birthing' the zucchini.  In fact, they are frequently sold with their little zucchini offspring attached.  The flower is bulbous near to the stem and the stigma inside is composed of tiny 'fingers' to catch pollen from the males.  The females tend to be softer and wither rather quickly after harvest, so I use them to toss in pasta dishes and frittatas. 

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Our friend the male zucchini blossom, on the other hand, stands at attention (hee hee) on a long slender stem.  Inside you will find a single stamen, which one could correlate with a part of the human anatomy (ahem).  The male flowers tend to remain, umm, firmer (insert joke here)... so I use them for stuffing and deep frying as they can better take the heat.

Here is my recipe for Fiori di Zucca Fritti (Fried Zucchini Blossoms)

I0U1BKtbpFnx-VCg5dNZuPWTWUZpeR1uoFeztgQxhVcTNFqYJPKiY5FEZvh4Ro79j0miVJYR9DNAItFC1MzdHL06afs-tBj-zv4P1uKq8PW5LPZRe3hsOJmg8A973F93H1b1-tQzHBk7dgMXFlRtj-DElzIFqq4cfrdx3PFwgnExr1C3gmmqbpPbMZklw4omGfZr91Fm9PsH2LWuca8KEgP76qiPJjMale zucchini blossoms
Mozzarella (a type made for pizza – drier than traditional buffalo mozzarella)
Salted anchovies (de-spined, rinsed and cut into small pieces)
All-pupose flour
1 ice cold beer (I use a mild tasting beer like Peroni)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (sometimes I cut the oil with organic sunflower seed oil to cut down on the cost)
 
CzirVDO2i0Hud8g3Ld0dFkamMA30iM-Qh9MXtDq1s0_BCu78UtQuk3x57iuOsWfo14-FSARpIdqA2TQnf7tmxIgmAy3eIjB18Oo-MkU8QdsS9TqHxENOYREugORYmicuM4RWT-hYrkh79A2LAly1lBopopNK7W2sutGN1cRZWYzdlv1DvD2z2s72pNRaU_dQtVXTMDrouwVa7WQRq-99l5uwqsq4hKCarefully remove the stamens from the zucchini flowers. 
Then stuff each flower with a piece of mozzarella and a piece of anchovy and twist to close.  
Whisk the beer into the flour, should be like pancake batter.
Pass each flower in the batter.
Drop into hot oil to fry, will be done after 2-3 minutes, when the bubbles start to slow down.
Drain on paper towels and salt while hot.


Chickpea Flour Torta

IMG_5736Monday night dinners usually mean a 'clean-out-the-fridge-frittata' in my house, however, my son was recently diagnosed with a (hopefully temporary) egg allergy.... so the frittata is out.  Perusing the (gulp) vegan blogs I found a lot of recipes for chickpea flour 'eggs.'  Umbria is legume country, especially from the area known as Colfiorito, meaning we have no shortage of chickpea, or ceci, flour.... so I thought I'd give it a try... and what do you know? It was great!  Mind you, it has nothing to do with eggs now matter what the vegans and vegetarians will have you believe, but it is delicious all the same (and I know that because my 2 year old devoured it). It is reminiscent of a baked version of Sicilan panelle, which are basically fried chickpea flour patties.  Here is my version:

  • 165g chickpea flour (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 cups water
  • chopped spring garlic
  • 1 med zucchini, small diced
  • 1 cup cooked swiss chard, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • heat oven to 400F/200C

In a cast iron pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. 
Add garlic, zucchini, chard and cook until zucchini starts to turn golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, slowly whisk together the water and chickpea flour until smooth.
Pour the chickpea mixture into the pan and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes, season well with salt.
Then, put in oven to set, about 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly before cutting.

 


100th Rave Reviews on TripAdvisor!

I'm proud to announce that we have just received our 100th outstanding review on TripAdvisor!  Thanks to my partners and travellers to Umbria for making each experience unique and fun! Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 16.02.26

 


It's a Beef Stew kind of day...

-1It's a drizzly, February day here in Umbria... a beef stew kind of day... 
One day, like today, when I had my restaurant in Foligno, I decided to make an Italianized version of Irish Beef Stew... Low and behold, what I had really made was classic Umbrian Spezzatino di Manzo - and it was a hit!  I had to leave this dish on my menu all winter, because for my Umbrian clients, spezzatino was a comfort food, a dish that takes time to prepare, and few have that time - except for me, of course!

Spezzatino di Manzo

  • 5o0g cubed beef for stew
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 -2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery or 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small hot pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs chopped rosemary
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 Tbs course sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot.  Meanwhile, dust the beef with flour.  Brown the beef in the olive oil (over medium high heat) and remove from pot.
Add the diced onions, carrots, celery, garlic, pepper, bay leaf, rosemary and sweat for a few minutes.
*If you want a red stew, you can add some tomato paste or tomato puree at this point, and subsitute red wine for the white.
Add the beef back into the pot with the potatoes.  Deglaze with a glass or so of white wine. Salt.
Add enough water to come about half way up the meat.
Cover and turn heat to low, or cover and put in oven at 325/165 and cook slowly for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender.

 

 


Ricotta Frappe for Carnival!

-1Many of you are preparing for your Superbowl party, but we here in Italy are in the midst of the Carnevale season, which means we eat a lot of fried sweet dough (there is always an excuse!)!

Here is a recipe for Frappe aka Chiacchiere, which, with the addition of ricotta cheese, turn out like the lightest most fluffiest funnel cake you have ever eaten.  Try them as they are very easy to make!

Frappe alla Ricotta

  • 500g flour (about 1 lb)
  • 15 g brewers yeast (a little more than half a cube), dissolved in 25 ml warm water
  • 25g (2 Tbs) butter, melted
  • 120g (1/3 cup) ricotta, well drained
  • 2 heaping Tbs sugar
  • pinch salt
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 Tbs Mistrà or anise flavored liquor
  • 125 ml milk, just warmed
  • 1 liter sunflower seed or peanut oil for frying
  • 1/4 cup of warmed honey
  • powdered sugar
  1. In a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook (or just mix very well by hand), add flour, yeast with water, melted butter, ricotta, sugar.
  2. Mix well on low speed for a few minutes
  3.  Add salt, zest, mistra, mix well.
  4. Slowly add milk, mix well for a few minutes.
  5. Turn dough out onto a wooden cutting board and knead with your hands for a few minutes.
  6. The dough should be soft and pliable and not too sticky.
  7. Place the dough in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  8. Once risen, turn out the dough onto a large wooden cutting board and roll out with a rolling pin until the dough is about 2-3 mm - the thinner the better
  9. Cut into strips about 2 cm x 8 cm
  10. Twist the strips into any shape you like
  11. Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok (gives you depth and surface area) - you are deep frying.
  12. When the oil is hot, drop in the frappe, 4 or 5 at a time, they will puff up.
  13. The oil should be over medium heat. Hot enough that the frappe float immediately the oil bubbles, but not so hot that they burn.
  14. When they have browned on one side, turn them over and fry until the bubbles diminish.
  15. Drain on paper towels
  16. Drizzle with warmed honey and sprinkle with powdered sugar

For my Castagnole recipe (another Carnevale treat) read my post Lolita's Carnevale.

 

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