Aug 30, 2011

Peach Tiramisu recipe

For some they're called Saturn, an Australian friend names them "donut;" here in Italy they're tabacchiere, because they resemble snuff boxes. Whatever their moniker, the small, flat and white perfumy peaches are the star ingredient in today's particularly droolsome summer tiramisu. Light, quick and easy to make, this particular dessert is magic: it has the power to disappear seconds after landing on your plate.

Ingredients for a 9' x 12' baking dish:

1 lb plain yogurt
1 lb mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 family-pack of Pavesini cookies (or lady fingers)
10 Saturn peaches (or 4-5 regular round, white peaches), peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup peach nectar

In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, mascarpone and sugar with a wire whip, until well blended.

Quicky dip the cookies in the peach nectar (I didn't say soak, just quickly wet them, they should not go all soggy on you) and line the bottom of the baking dish with the moist cookies.

Slather a thin layer of creamy yogurt + mascarpone mixture, and cover with peach slices.

Spread another coating of creamy mixture, and continue layering moist cookies, cream, peaches, cream, moist cookies, cream, peaches... and so forth, completing with a final blanket of cookies.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours before diving in.

Aug 29, 2011

Amuse bouche recipe

amuse bouche appetizers

amuse bouche appetizers

To keep our guests busy while last touches were being made on the gargantuan Ferragosto meal, we offered these tiny amuse bouche (French for small, savory items served as an appetizer, literally 'amuse the mouth') presented in lovely little china dipping bowls.

We made deviled eggs and tuna-stuffed cherry tomatoes; and dressed each respectively with a minuscule Salina caper, and a pitted olive. We decorated each serving bowl with some baby lettuce and, voila smiles on faces.

Buon appetito.

Aug 22, 2011

Whistle while you work

Wine tasting

Pizza bianca with speck, smoked mozzarella. lettuce and pistachio pesto

Bufala + semi-dried tomatoes

Goat cheese and ricotta gnocchi

Oh shucks, vacation is over. Time to go back to work :)

Aug 21, 2011

Pomodori al Tonno recipe

I'm a hard worker, but not in summer. In summer I'm lazy.

Even in the kitchen.

Plus it's hot, and working by the stove–or even worse, the oven–in this weather, is torture.

Like today, for example. I wasn't feeling too good, I had no appetite (a bad sign for me), and I didn't have the desire to even swim once. What I did do was take a nice walk in the property's orto (vegetable garden) with a large basket, and returned home with inspiration.

And lunch.
Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

The good thing about spending time in the country is that you don't have to bother going grocery shopping. The produce is all home-grown, and every family has a ridiculously well-stocked pantry. Olive oil, wine, jams and preserves, canned vegetables, honey, bottled sauces, eggs, sausages, herbs, bread... everything is sourced or made right here, on the premises.

When I rinsed the field dust off these tomatoes, they were still warm from the sun.

I whipped this dish up in 10 minutes, and it managed to restore a smile on my face.

And a grumble to my tummy.
pomodori al tonno recipe

6 small Vesuvio tomatoes, halved
200 g (1 cup) oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked
2 ribs of baby white celery, diced
3-4 tablespoons of light mayonnaise
Pinch of salt

Scoop out the pulp from the tomatoes, removing seeds and watery parts, and set aside.

Chop the tomato pulp, toss in a mixing bowl with remaining ingredients, and stir to mix well.

Divide the mixture and scoop it into the halved tomatoes. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

Uncork the chilled Sauvignon and put your feet up, it's summer and you deserve a break after all this hard work.

Buon appetito.

Aug 16, 2011

Villa Rucellai

Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

Villa Rucellai in Tuscany

This is where I'm staying. A beautiful agriturismo farm called Villa Rucellai in the hills between Pistoia and Prato.

WiFi and willpower are spotty, so I check email and post erratically. Right now I'm writing this as I enjoy a glass of Franciacorta in the garden.

The orange and wine braised wild pigeons are simmering on the stove, and the mosquitoes are coming, so I better go inside and get out of this wet bathing suit.


Aug 11, 2011

Golden slumbers

Summer vacation in Tuscany

I'm lying under the cherry tree, damp grass between my toes.

Dappled sunlight through the branches, I breathe in the sweet aroma of afternoon green.

A small powder-blue butterfly dances with a dandelion.

I lie still, careful not to scare her away. I close my eyes. 

Distant children's cackle, I recognize my son's among other joyful voices. The train down in the valley whistles––then suddenly mutes––as if swallowed by a tunnel.

Someone is burning dry leaves somewhere.

Or am I already dreaming?
Summer vacation in Tuscany

We are in Tuscany on vacation. And lazy afternoons like these are the norm.

I feel a little bit guilty: markets are dropping, cities are rioting, politicians are at each others' throats, and I'm here, dozing under a peaceful cherry tree, fully relaxed. And happy.

Aug 8, 2011

Abruzzo for the weekend

17th century church in Rocca Calascio
Santa Maria della Pietà, 17th century church, half way up the hike to Rocca Calascio

My dad, stepmother and friends came to visit us last week, and we were very excited to have them over. Without much planning, we decided to go to Abruzzo for the weekend. Here are just a few images of those two magical days.

Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo
the Rocca Calascio fortress

the view from Rocca Calascio, Abruzzo
panorama from Rocca Calascio, 1460 m elevation (Castel del Monte in the distance) 

Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Abruzzo
View from my room ~ Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Abruzzo
our room is called "Camera sul campanile" – room overlooking the belfry 

sunset in Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Sunset at Santo Stefano di Sessanio

After dinner the restaurant serves homemade digestive bitters

Smiles. Plenty of them.

Aug 6, 2011

Seafood restaurants in Rome

Image © Andrea Di Lorenzo

If you can't make a coastal getaway this summer, dining in Rome calls for fresh seafood, plenty of chilled white wine, and an early sunset buzz. Here's my shortlist of pesce musts (consider applying for platinum credit card before booking a table)...

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