Sep 30, 2013

Grape and Olive Harvests in Italy

Sangiovese grapes I harvested at Cecchi Winery
Participating in an Italian harvest, whether it's grapes or olives, is an uplifting experience.

Italy's Autumnal harvest season is one big celebration, beginning in mid-September with the picking of white wine grapes, booming in October with the harvest of the red varieties, and peaking in November, that magical month of olive picking and olive oil production.

Harvests are entertaining because they're not exclusive to local farmers or even the estate's winemakers.

Travelers and enthusiast come from all over to help out. It's a fascinating and convivial experience that shows off the ancient winemaking and olive pressing process, while emphasizing the importance of teamwork. As a bonus, participants get to taste local wine and eat hearty food.  Continue Reading ➔

Sep 20, 2013

Frozen Campari and Raspberry

It started perfect, but I can't say the vacation ended on a high note.

The empty city streets after the holiday exodus; sandy feet and suntanned shoulders; the joys of rustic country living in a beautiful Renaissance villa; my Dad's impromptu visit; the romantic whistling train, the lull of mid-afternoon poolside naps whose tempo was kept by cicada song... all vanished when my entire family was taken ill with a dreadful gastrointestinal virus caught during the last week of our stay in the Tuscan idyll.

We adults all bounced back quickly, having only shed a few timely pounds. Unfortunately my little boy of 7 years and only 30 kilos, had a harder time. He struggled with vomit and other nether end liquid loss for eighteen never-ending days. These were dotted with rushed emergency room visits, intravenous drips, risk of dehydration, many many sleepless nights and copious electrolyte intake. The poor child just could not keep anything solid down. My nerves drawn very thin, I managed to keep my head only thanks to the advice of friends and family, and their reassuring words of parenting wisdom.

We are now out of the tunnel. In order to regain some color on our cheeks we stole to the beach on the weekend, and a wholesome diet of white fish, boiled carrots and potatoes – assisted by lots of seaside splashing and beach activities – brought appetite and energy back to my boy's frail and weakened organism. He lost a total of 4 kilos (that's 8.8 lbs) which on a child is monumental.

The little guy started school two weeks ago and seems to have finally regained all his natural stamina. I can finally breathe.

In a crazy attempt to cling on the last shreds of summer – rain is drizzling down my window panes as I type this – and in order to nullify the down-pointed end of our disastrous vacation, I'm celebrating my child's overall success by posting a super summery treat. It involves booze and raspberries, both much needed and effective rescue remedies for us caregivers and single moms in distress.

Frozen Campari and Raspberry
1 kg (5 cups) wild raspberries
200 gr (1 cup) sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) water
5 tablespoons straight Campari
The zest from 1 orange, freshly grated
Sea or Kosher salt

In a blender combine the raspberries, sugar, water and the Campari, blitzing on medium speed until the raspberries are completely pureed, this should take no more than 1 minute.

Pour the resulting puree through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl, pressing with a spoon to separate the juice from the seeds.

Stir in a teaspoon of orange zest, then add a pinch of salt.

If you have a gelato machine, you can do this easily, following the manufacturer's instructions. I did it by hand. Yes, but don't panic. All you do is transfer the puree to the freezer, placed in a shallow tray, and stir with a wire whisk every 30 minutes for two hours. This prevents crystallization.

Move the slushy mixture to a deeper air tight container, like Tupperware or a loaf tin covered with foil, and allow it to freeze overnight. If you leave it in the shallow tray there's the risk it can harden and become a big popsicle. What you want instead is a soft, granita sludge-like consistency.

Scoop out and serve your frozen delight in individual bowls garnished with an orange wedge and a straw. Or eat straight out of the freezer with a large spoon.