Blessed Easter Abundance in Umbria

April 18, 2011

Driving through the Umbrian countryside during the week prior to Easter, you'd note whiffs of smoke drifting up from the outdoor stone bread ovens fired up by the farmwomen. Holy Week for the Umbrian farmwomen is a busy one, an exhausting one: making the torta di Pasqua ("Easter cake") or pizza pasquale, as it is often called, in the stone bread ovens is a major task. The traditional Easter "cake" or "pizza" is a raised cheese bread, make of eggs, flour, olive oil, salt, pepper and three kinds of cheeses: parmigiano, pecorino and groviera... read more...

“In vino veritas?” …Maybe

February 20, 2011

Wine and its sharp-tongued sister, vinegar, are certainly sacred in rural culture, if not harbingers of truth. Our wise farm friend, Peppa, told me that when her family farmed, weak baby chicks were strengthened by wine... read more...

Frittata Flipping – and other Joys

January 31, 2011

February 4th is just around the corner: D-day for me: "Departure Day". My U.S. cooking lessons/lectures tour starts in Los Angeles again this year - and then I'll be cooking in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Phoenix. Houston follows.....and then on to the Midwest (Chicago). I'll lecture at MIT in Boston - and also cook in the area. I'll have a Connecticutu stop - and my 2011 our winds up in Washington, D.C... read more...

Mediterranean Diet: from Art to the Table

December 13, 2010

What do the Acropolis, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall of China, the Old City of Havana, Dubrovnik, the Great Barrier Reef , Yellowstone Park- and pasta, tomatoes and olive oil have in common? They've all been cited by UNESCO as world heritage treasures. The places named are World Heritage sites, but there is another part of the World Heritage list that is less-known. It is called the "intangibles" and includes cultural traditions such as dance, song, textile weaving traditions, religious processions, and festivals. Italy's two "intangibles", Sardinian pastoral songs and the Sicilian marionette theater are now flanked by another one: the Mediterranean diet. Requested by Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, UNESCO recently declared the Mediterranean "intangible cultural heritage" due to the important role it plays for health. read more...

MOSTRA/MERCATO or “Show-and-Sell”

November 30, 2010

Not "show and tell" but "show and sell" is the theme of the Italian mostra mercato. These markets - generally open-air - can feature just a handful of vendors or hundreds and anything on display can be bought - and in some cases, tasted. For us, no better way to warm up a chilly November night than at the Mostra Mercato del Tartufo near Valtopina... read more...

Umbria’s Coveted Gold

November 23, 2010

Umbria, "Italy's green heart", is green all year thanks to the non-deciduous live oaks blanketing the mountains and the silver-green olive trees which cover our hills. Umbria boasts about 56,000 acres of olive trees in the region and 27,000 producers of top extra-virgin olive oils. This is a golden year for our liquid "gold"... read more...

Monteleone di Spoleto: Chariots, Chickpeas and…. Farro

November 16, 2010

Monteleone. The picturesque hilltown's name, "Mount of the Lion", denotes force, domination and greatness. The name might seem pretentious for this tiny mountaintop village in the Val Nerina area of Umbria, not far from Spoleto, nearly abandoned, with two cafés and one restaurant But the sixth-century B.C.gilded bronze biga (chariot) - unearthed here in 1902 - and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York - "was certainly owned by someone powerful," local "chariot expert", Roberto told us proudly. The chariot - of possible Etruscan workmanship - embodies a glorious past. read more...

Corn Harvest, Past

November 5, 2010

Like bent over old men, dried cornstalks stand forlornly in fields joining our farm land. The corn has been picked and who knows if it has been pulverized for chicken feed or for the corn mash which will fatten the pigs, turning their rear thighs into tasty prosciutti? Then again, the corn might have been ground for corn flour for polenta or brustengolo, one of the few sweets which highlight Umbrian rural cuisine. read more...