Milano. Italia. A long glorious weekend spent with my family.
It’s part of what makes my life so enchanting. I, yes me, I get to experience what many people only dream about, live and breathe life in Italy as a local. It’s my born heritage. In fact, it’s even my birth certificate. I am an Italian citizen.
So, what and why does this even remotely have to do with a “spoon rest”?
It’s a Saturday. My mom, zia, cugini, and I go to the market in Milano. Not just any market but this is the market http://www.fieradisinigaglia.it/ Arts, food, crafts. The market followed the river for a mile or two and then back again crossing the bridge. So many vendors. So much to see.
It was difficult and enchanting going from artists to farmers. Chefs to winemaker. Difficult, because I wanted to sample, buy, collect ideas. Enchanting to hold each moment in a memory. Hear a story, taste a cheese. Breathe in a market so far away from home. Wanting each moment to stand perfectly still.
But I always wait for the piece that speaks to me. It’s a connection. It’s the passion. It’s so simplistic. It’s a spoon rest for my kitchen.
It’s this small symbol each and every day that bonds me to my family that is an ocean away. Each and every stir in the pot, sauté in the pan and delicate hand wash after the meal is done connects me to me. Yes me. The person who is part of a life far away. To a place where others romance and dream. For me it’s part of who I am.
So every day. Breakfast, lunch or dinner I create a meal, simple or complex and connect myself with my family using my simple spoon rest.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to bringing out my inner farm girl. No, I’m not digging, planting or harvesting. I am going to meet my friend June at one of our local Farmer’s Markets. We’ll mingle with hundreds of people as we get to select from the winter’s bounty from our local farmers and vendors.
I feel so fortunate we can buy the freshest ingredients from local farmers year round. This time of year there are lots of leafy greens, beets, brussels sprouts, lemons and herbs. To name a few. My Bon Appetit magazines are organized by the month so I can grab all of the January issues I collected through the years and look for recipes calling for seasonal ingredients. There are times when our coffee table is covered with my cooking magazines and cookbooks. I could spend hours looking through each page, reading ingredients, and getting ideas from different techniques. It’s a bit of an obsession.
At this point of the evening before market day, I’m still not sure what I have in mind to cook but once I get to the market, all inspiration cuts loose. So grab your recycle bags! Let’s go!
Pull up a chair and chat with me for a few minutes. I just came home from Trader Joe’s and put a bottle of Pinot Grigio in the freezer. It should be nice and chilled soon!
It’s been a long while since I’ve done any writing. One of my friends fired up on Facebook and said too many people were just sharing recipes and not saying anything about life. Guilty as charged. I am one of her friends sharing away all the recipes I hope to try one day. That is if I can ever get my nose out of the insanely amount of cookbooks and Bon Appetite magazines I have surrounding my desk. Yup, it’s an addiction!
So what’s up? What brings me back from the writers block?
A move. Many of you know my blog was born in Santa Barbara, CA. Who couldn’t be inspired to write being surrounded by paradise. It was a big leap for me moving from Napa. But wine country to wine country can be very inspiring. I learned a lot and made life-long friends.
The decision to move back to Arizona was a long and thoughtful process. So, John and I moved (gradually) from the middle of December and finally finished in February. Whew! Fires, mudslides, and all kinds of changes thrown into the mix.
So here we are, and I’m really excited to bring myself back to life in Scottsdale!
I feel so blessed to have experienced so much while we lived in California. From Orange County to Napa and then Santa Barbara. The adventures we had, the food we ate and the wines we drank. Oh. My. Goodness! But most of all I will say again, the amazing life-long friends that we will always have in our hearts and minds. The door is always open when visiting the beautiful Sonoran desert.
After 8 years away, we come back to what feels like a more vibrant culinary scene and vineyards are north of us in Cottonwood. Wilcox has grown leaps and bounds in wineries. The wines we’ve tasted so far have been really good. John and I have barely scratched the surface exploring the terroir of Arizona, but we definitely will be heading out soon to check them out.
So here I am. Back at it again. Excited for changes and looking forward to sharing our adventures in California and our next journey in Arizona. Stay tuned!
Wine is chilled and time to make dinner. Cheers!
Let’s face it, zucchini is versatile because on it’s own it has very little flavor. This is why it is a perfect vegetable that we can add to cakes, muffins, stir-fry, pasta etc. I’ve even had it on pizza…I loved it!
Yesterday I made one of my favorite zucchini recipes from The American Academy in Rome VERDURE cookbook. Verdure is the Italian word for Vegetables. The Academy is yes, actually in Rome. John and I visited this wonderful institution a couple of years ago while I was attending the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone. The Rome Sustainable Food Project (RSFP) was founded by Alice Waters in 2007. It is an Academy for Artists and Scholars and a beautiful setting. The RSFP uses seasonal produce from it’s gardens as well as local farmers and organic suppliers. My little VERDURE cookbook is divided by the seasons so for “ESTATE” (summer) you can imagine the zucchini being in abundance. This recipe turns the blah into ah! Wine recommendations would be a vivacious Sauvignon Blanc or even a slightly creamy Chardonnay.
Zucchine Saltate Con Gremolata
Pan-Fried Zucchini With Garlic, Parsley & Lemon Zest.
- 20 sprigs parsley – picked & finely chopped, about 6 tablespoons
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 lbs zucchini cut into 1-inch dice
- In a small bowl, combine parsley, garlic, and lemon zest. This is your Gremolata. Add salt and pepper, set aside.
- Heat olive oil and add zucchini in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute zucchini for about 15 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
- Add Gremolata mixture to pan and toss well. Let Gremolata sizzle in pan for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
On a recent Friday late afternoon, we sailed on a Catamaran Sailboat cruising along the American Riviera. Perfect weather, a special birthday celebration for one of our friends, and of course clinking glasses of fine wine.
Riding the waves and feeling the salty air fill my lungs once again reminds me of how blessed John and I are to be able to experience God’s wondrous graces. How often we buzz through life without those special pauses. The captain motored around and then lifted the sails throwing caution to the wind.
I’ve never been on a sailboat or a catamaran. It was so much fun, relaxing and I can’t wait to do it again!
Pasta, the ultimate comfort food. I have several years of Bon Appetit magazines filed by month rather than by year. So for instance all of my May issues are all together etc. I like to arrange my cooking magazines this way so I can look through recipes that will be seasonal to our local Farmer’s Market produce. I had this brainstorm a few years ago and it’s worked out really well. So this month I am seeing lots of recipes for Fava Beans. It’s a fun way to organize and categorize.
So the other day I was perusing through the May issues and saw a recipe from Sardina which is an island in the Mediterranean and known for their love of Pecorino cheese.
This pasta dish is hearty and almost like a comforting goulash. Is perfect accompanied with a green salad.
The ingredients are actually pretty basic and pantry friendly. With the exception of the Saffron threads, I bought mine at Trader Joe’s that didn’t break the bank. What’s missing from my mise en place are the bay leaves. Oops, I caught that after I took the picture and it was too late to take another one. Oh well, it’s in the recipe to follow.
After my pork was browned, I did take away most of the grease. The recipe does not say to, but we try and stay away from as much of the rendered fat as possible.
Yum, just hanging out in the pan for a bit to blend the flavors and then add the pasta.
Paired with a bottle of Sangiovese, it was delicious comfort food.
Saffron Pasta with Pork and Tomato Sauce
Sauce can be made 2 days ahead
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
– 1 pound ground pork
– 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
– 2 bay leaves
– 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
– 12 ounces gnocchi-shaped pasta, orecchiette or medium pasta shells
– 1 1/2 teaspoons saffron threads, crumbled
– 1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta; saute until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion and parsley and saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground pork and saute until brown, breaking up with back of fork, about 8 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes bay leaves and sage. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce thickens and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and saffron and cook until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and 1/2 cup cheese and toss to blend. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and serve.
Good morning! It’s really early and soon I will be ready for my first cup of coffee. This blogging thing is new to me so bare with me as I figure this out.
First of all, I want to name my blog “The Flannel Shirt Chronicles”. It’s not like I have a closet full of flannel shirts. I have two. Both of them I bought at Costco. They are like a warm hug in the morning and sometimes all day long. It may sound strange blogging about a flannel shirt but there you go. I have to start somewhere.
Today is May 10th and I live somewhere in Santa Barbara. We call the month of May, “Gray May” followed by “June Gloom”. It’s a beautiful time of year when the marine layer covers the coastal cities like a warm blanket. It makes that hot cup of coffee or tea taste that much better. It’s cozy, chilly and a perfect day for my plaid flannel shirt.
I’ve truly been blessed to live in some amazing places. Santa Barbara is beautiful, historic and has a lot of one way streets. The coastline is unique as you face south to look at the ocean. The nickname for Santa Barbara is called the American Riviera. It’s really beautiful. As my mom would describe it, look one way to watch the waves, turn around and see the mountains. Not too far are vineyards. Now that’s where I get really excited. I definitely have a passion for wine! Look forward to many conversations about wine and food. You’ll see photos of homemade goodies, sweet and savory as well as culinary creations while dining out. Cooking is my form of relaxation. I love cooking for friends and family. Hopefully you will enjoy my blogging journey. Cheers!