Sunday, October 30, 2011

Donating to rebuild this beautiful corner of the world just got easier thanks to the Italian Red Cross:
The instructions are in english and donations can be made by credit card.
Your help is greatly appreciated!

Friday, October 28, 2011

ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA (and beyond)...

On Tuesday, October 25, Southern Liguria and NW Tuscany were violently hit by a freak rain storm that turned into horrid mudslides and floods, in some places more than 3 meters of water and mud.  The count of today is 7 dead and still several missing.  This is a miraculous number considering just how bad the damage is.  The famous seaside villages of Monterosso and Vernazza were virtually destroyed.  It will take a very long time to rebuild, but please help us to do so...
The town of Monterosso has set up an account for donations:
IBAN: IT64W0603049870000046275829
HEADING: “Un aiuto per Monterosso e Vernazza”
CAUSAL: “Alluvionati 5 Terre”
IBAN: IT11 Y061 7501 4000 0000 3452 080
CAB: 01400
HEADING: Società Edizioni e Pubblicazioni (S.E.P.) Spa
CAUSAL: “Alluvione Spezia”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zuppa di Zucca e Porri
(Pumpkin & Leeks Soup)

It’s that time again.  The weather has taken its turn into fall with crisp days and low sun.  This is when I love to make soups!  One of the best things about soups is you can make big batches and freeze part so that you have some for the next time you have a craving.  I tend to make 3-4 of them over the course of two weeks and then use them throughout the month.  This week started off with Pumpkin & Leek soup as the “zuccas” are in season, and so yummy right now.

One medium size zucca (about 2 kilos or 4.5 pounds)
2 leeks
3 springs of thyme
1.5 liters of broth (I prefer vegetable)
olive oil
red pepper flakes
Pre heat the oven at 200° celsius (about 400° fahrenheit).
Cut up the pumpkin into 2 or 3 inch wedges and place on a cookie sheet (with carta al forno).  Bake the pumpkin wedges for about 45 minutes.  You can do this even hours beforehand as you want the pumpkin to cool a bit before adding to the broth.

While the pumpkin is in the oven, cut up the leeks down to the green part.  Add them along with the sprigs of thyme and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pot.  Simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the leeks do not burn.  The add your broth, some red pepper flakes and let the whole thing come to a mild boil.

Once the pumpkin has cooled down enough to do so, scoop out the pulp and add it to the broth.  Let the whole thing come to a mild boil once again for about 30 minutes.

Cover and let cool.  You can do this part in the morning and leave all day as the flavors just become more intense.
Before serving, first taste to see if you want to add some salt (usually a little as the pumpkin tends to be quite sweet).  Remove the sprigs (mostly likely all the leaves have fallen off) and then take your handy-dandy hand mixer (cuisinart will do too but imo is a bit messy!) and blend into a creamy mixture.  Reheat and serve warm  with a dollop of robiola cheese or creme fraiche. Some other nice accruements include fried bacon pieces and chopped chives on top.


Friday, October 14, 2011

My Top Ten Places in Italy

People ask me this all the time and you know what, it’s not an easy answer!  There are so many places that I love in this country, the list really could be a few pages long.  But last night, I decided to take the first ten that came to mind (in no given order):

1. Portovenere, Liguria

My bias is big here as it’s where I met my husband, but the place is just magical.  An 1000-year old + seaside village characteristic of Liguria and its “pirate-like mentality”  Anyone who visits the region should spend a day here.

2. Mendolia Beach, Sicily

A simply beautiful cove just down the hill from Taormina where you can swim in crystal clear waters, soak up a little sun, enjoy a good meal ( the beach clubs makes some of the best canoli I’ve ever had!) and even visit the villa of Isola Bella.

3. Mercato Centrale, Florence

Built in the 1860‘s, this is a considerably new addition to Florence.  It was my “life line” when I first moved to Italy as a student.  I would get up early to do a little shopping before school, when it was full of little old ladies fighting over the produce!  You can find just about everything here, food and drink wise.  It’s an attraction all on its own.
With over 800 km (500 miles) of coastline, one is bound to find that perfect little beach spot. Be it on a white sand beach or craggily rock formations, the Adriatic sea will command you to enter her sublime waters for a swim or two.
5. Rooftop at Rinascente, Milan

Whenever I’m in Milano, this is one of the first things I do...head to the top of this department store for a caffè or glass of wine overlooking the Duomo.  The view stuns me as it feels like you could actually touch it!

6. Da’Adolfo, Positano

This private, little beach can only be reach by boat (look for the one with a red fish on it in the Positano harbor).  Here you can take a lounge chair for the day and enjoy a fantastic lunch right on the beach at it’s little shack restaurant (try the pasta with clams and pumpkin or spaghetti with calamari and tomatoes). Make a day of it - you will really feel as if you are on vacation!
7. Ortisei, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol

Charm does not even begin to describe this mountain resort village with its cupcake like building set in a dramatic valley surrounded by steep peaks and ski slopes. Additionally, you do not want to miss their fabulous breads and desserts such as “Le Fanziëutes da mëiles” (fried pastry with apples inside) and “Crafons da pavè” (krapfen with poppy seeds).
8. Salina, Sicily

Basically anywhere on this island could be summed up as paradise for me.  In my dream world, we would have a second home there.  Lush, rustic, lively, relaxing, beautiful beyond words and home to my favorite hotel in italy, Hotel Signum.  And there is nothing quite like the granite with gin you can get on this island!
9. Piazza di San Marco, Venice

I know, I know, it’s so popular and it can be a zoo, but is there anywhere like it (or Venice on the whole)???  In my opinion, no.  I love to sit down outside in one of the bars with a “spritz con aperol” and enjoy the music and atmosphere.  Despite its hefty price (at least €10 per drink), it’s a priceless scene.

10. Solaro di Lerici, Liguria

Where you might ask?!  That would be my borgo on the hill above Lerici.  To be specific, our terrace.  In the summer, it becomes my office, my refuge from the heat, my inspiration for meals, and our hand holding sanctuary after a long work day.  There is something hypnotic about it.
What about you?  What are your top 10 favorite places in Italy?  
Would love to see some other bloggers out there come up with their list!

Friday, October 07, 2011

La Spezia Train Station Parking

Good news for visitors of Le Cinque Terre arriving by car. After an extensive 3 years of construction, I am happy to report that the new parking lot at the La Spezia train station is finally open for business.  This will make a day in Le Cinque Terre much, much easier for those coming from farther afield (Lerici, Tuscany, etc.)

There are 116 spaces and a very nice, well-kept structure. Even with clean bathrooms as you have to use a code on your ticket to enter them and well as the parking area.  While a bit pricey (about €13 for 8 hours), you are able to use credit cards as well as cash, and the convenience outweighs the cost in my opinion.