*** a little fun from the archives, this is one of a series from my trip to Italy last september… thought you might enjoy it…. Appologies for the bad typos and punctuation, i had been typing in some rather dark hotel rooms! lol***
Guys. So much to catch you up on from the last few days I hardly know where to begin! I’m going to start you off with two recipes that are easy and great for this time of year, and then I’m jumping into tonnes of travel notes. Hold on- lots of fun to come. (btw, appologies for typos…. writing late at night in dark :) ) A note to my friend Naomi who has asked me to take pictures of random beautiful italian guys. There are too many. And I suck at taking pictures of strangers. Will try a few pics soon lol).
First Recipe- Roasted Peaches in Red Wine Reduction.
How pretty is the photo eh?! Sometimes simple is best. Letting food speak for itself is often better than the fanciest plates or effects…. although, I’m still a sucker for cute plates. :)
Roasted Peaches in Red Wine Reduction
- 2 firm peaches
- 1/2 cup strong red wine
- pinch cinnamon
- tsp olive oil
- Peel the peaches with a sharp knife, and cut them in 1 inch thick slices.
- Put a spot of olive oil in a pan, and heat it up on medium. Sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on the peaches and put them cinnamon-side down. Cook until the undersides are thoroughly browned and caramelized, then gently flip over. Brown the other side.
- Pour over the red wine, and turn up the heat to reduce it. You want a thickened syrupy consistency. Move the peaches or shake the pan a bit to prevent them from sticking too much.
- Done! Serve hot with the sauce drizzled over and if you MUST have more sweetness then use the sweetener of your choice. Personally, I like as is. And uh…. a little dairy free ice cream on the side is also nice ;).
Next up- Orange Fennel Salad, a Sicilian style dish…
- 2 oranges
- 1 head of fennel
- olive oil to taste
- salt to taste
- 2-3 anchovies cut into 4-5 pieces each (Vegan: Omit)
- 4-5 sliced dark Kalamata olives
- red wine vinegar to taste (or fresh lemon juice)
- Peel the oranges and remove as much of the white pith as possible. (I was at the grocers in Ischia and she brought the oranges straight from her garden– The Absolute Delight! And the olives were from her garden and she preserved them herself…. so lovely.).
- Cut the oranges in thin-ish rounds, or leave the sections but remove the thin membranes over top.
- Remove the tough outer sections of the fennel bulb and remove the fronds. Slice in thin rounds as well.
- Toss all the ingredients together. Thats about it. :) A wonderful way to get the tastebuds going before a meal, I’m telling you. :)
- mozzarella- soft milky globes with a buttery cream interior that almost burst out buttermilk when your fork glides blissfully though them.
- asiago- creamy, softer than cheddar but thicker than cream cheese. slightly sweet with a very faint smoky edge. melts delightfully in risotto.
- olive oil- a brighter green. incredibly fruity and light- adds sweet notes instead of heavy plant- light flavours. i could drink it like a spoon.
- ricotta- very sweet, very fluffy, especially the sheep’s milk ricotta. its almost like it has been whipped. i tend to eat it with a drizzle of lemon and honey for breakfast.
- and the mascarpone- i can’t digest that one very well, but i did splurge the other day and use it instead of butter. oh the glory. i fried bananas in it till i had this golden caramelized hot and sweet ugly glob of deliciousness. honey and lemon on that too. i recuperated in the sun afterwards. i admit i was quite sick. i won’t do it again. but i had to do it once.
- smoked mozzarella- i rather prefer smoked provolone. mozarella is so delicate, it really only needs a little olive oil and salt.
- gelato- chestnut gelato, pistachio, dark chocolate, pine nut, hazelnut (oooh what a good idea), and affogato. Never had it? LOOK BELOW
- AFFOGATO RECIPE : Get a martini glass. Put in half shot of a hazelnut or coffee liquer. Then put in 1/4 cup scoop of vanilla ice cream. Then pour a shot of steaming hot espresso overtop. HEAVEN.
- chestnuts- in piazza di spagna, freshly roasted. the italian ones are smaller and more flavourful, and when they are roasted just right they are like soft potatoes lightly sweet and have a very faint hint of cinnamon. i was so excited to finally have safe carbs!! I’d take the bus all the way back out across the city just to get more!
- oranges- incredibly juicy. Light in colour, very soft thin skin and almost no pith. Not very acidic. Fresh from the grocer’s backyard… wonderful.
- olives- home preserved ones , dark- super round, firm, meaty, slightly spicy. One or two will fill you, their flavour is so intense.
- bright green fresh olives- i had never eaten those before. they are delightful. they are firm, and smooth inside, with a light flavour, and kind of a creamy yet firm interior. delightful.
- prosciutto. di parma. crudo . Oh so delicate, so thin, so perfectly dry and salty and semi transparent. The freshest and the best i can ever remember having since last being here. Why do we have such crappy stuff at home ? lol i swear it changes itself on the boat over to north america, just in rebellion at being transported away from its place of origin.
- i saw balsamic vinegar flavoured with a fig reduction and a cherry reduction (heavens!!). All kinds of beautiful artisan products. One of the lovely english ladies suggested i investigate pasta made with coco powder (chocolate type pasta) or with lemon zest when i get to Tuscany. How good would either of those be with a light sprinkle of parmesan, butter and sage? sigh. I must figure out how to make those in safe allergen-free versions.
- IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING GRAIN FREE- i highly suggest “Ruth’s Chia Goodness” (www.ruthshempfoods.com). It saves me in the morning as a breakfast replacement. My fave is ginger cranberry.
- Although italians seem chaotic the way they holler about things or crowd around services and busses instead of nice straight lines, they are very, and i mean VERY intent on good manners. They always introduce themselves, they always greet those familiar as they walk by, and politeness to the elderly is very important. On the bus in Ischia, it was packed, so the driver didn’t stop at the stop where there was one older lady who had been waiting over an hour. The crowd in the bus went into HISTRONICS. One young man started yelling at the driver that how dare he leave the poor older lady and what if it were HIS mother and he was going to go right down to that seat and take him outside and give him a piece of his mind. The tirade lasted an eternity. Rudeness to the elderly, especially in smaller villages, is seen as artrocious.
- Cutting through a lemon in Ischia is different than at home. The skin and pith are soft like butter. You slide right through isntead of sawing and hacking . The lemons are so big and juicy.
- I’ve quite fallen in love with my English friends. Their company in Ischia was a beautiful respite. I’ve noticed the company of the English is what i enjoy most, even more than the Italians. It seems my ingrained mental colonial roots run deep, i guess. I feel i understand, and am understood, best by their quiet, measured company. The italians i love, but they exhaust me. i understand their ways the way i understand my relatives, and they have a beautiful familiarity in their tendencies, but honestly, its the English that make me feel like i am at home. I never would have expected that. I imagine i might feel the same way about the northern italians given their greater reserve, i am not sure. The southerners have bright hot sun and salty sea in their blood and it brims and spurts to the surface of their skin often. I miss the gently warm polite autumn of canadianness. it makes more sense to me.
- On the note of being canadian. Last night i informed my cousin Alberto that I think the Abbruzzese are the Canadians of Italy. :) Rustic, not quite the reserved northerners not quite the spicy southerners, quieter but warm, lots of green aroun, snowy winters in the mountains, and both the Northerners and Southerners seem to feel neutral about them. They pass peacefully under the radar. I rather like it. Its kinda Canadian, don’t you think? :)
- Amerigo the host where i was staying at La Rotonda Sul Mare was more like a hilarious cousin than the owner of the building. Constantly joking wiht me and asking if i was ok, and good natured sibling-like ribbing. I’ve just reserved 4 more days there at the end of September. I can’t wait to go back. He cares so much about his guests- he reads every comment on TripAdvisor.com and takes them to heart. “Sometimes i cry”, he says “what the people say is so nice. I feel it right in my heart. It makes me want to take care of everyone”. He, friends, is a lovely human being. You must go.
There is a beautiful white stucco opening from the reception area to out on the terrace and the sun sinks liquid into the ocean exactly there. The first time i saw it my knees got wobbly. beautiful.
Sometimes i see Amerigo standing outside at the edge of the jetty looking into the sunset. You can see on his face how much he loves his home. Would that we could all love our jobs and our homes so much. (it makes me think of sunset over beloved cornfields and pasture at home in Navan.)
- Hillarious moment. So i’m at Sant’ Angelo, the GORGEOUS town in Ischia. Browsing around in one of the tourist shops (remember, i’m brown now so i pass as a decent local ;) ) , and a bus full of tourists unloads and walks by. the shop keeper mutters under her breath “Effing tourists are getting fatter every year! They keep splitting my extra larges! How do people get so big!!” I looked at her and laughed, and laughed, and laughed. I said out loud- I’m actually canadian. I admit we’re bigger people (hahaahah the look on her face!)
- Everyone complains about the weight of my suitcase. 3 taxi drivers and one train porter have ever so kindly ‘expressed’ themselves. Dramatics with hand waving and “Oh my GOD!” and “Mamma Mia come fai!!” and (the best) a roman taxi driver asked me if i had two cadavers in pieces in side. HAHAHAHA. this is italy. ;) ( i admit. i do suck at packing. this is entirely melanie’s fault. she was supposed to streamline me! hahaha).
- A word of advice. Do NOT eat or drink ANYTHING at least 3 hours before taking the fast ferry anywhere. DO NOT. Last time i did that i threw up. So not pretty. And WORSE- enter italian drama- all the italians freaked out and started yelling and berating the captain for bad driving!! Arms flailing, pointing at me, shouting, more shouting. I thought i was going to die of embarassment. So yah. Save yourself the agony. Don’t eat ahead, and travel on the deck upstairs :)
- Also- don’t wear cotton. You will look like a tourist. And it soaks in the heat anyhow. Get the thinnest linen or lace you can find and seriously, get the smallest thinnest undies you can find. no joke. there are parts of you that just don’t enjoy being THAT SWEATY!!
- Rome has a Zara Home. Be still my heart. and Glenfield knits! and Etam! And Intimissimi! And Promod! the shops are on crack. Especially Piazza di Spagna for the expensive stuff, but also via Ottaviano near me. My credit card is getting rug burn. :D Maybe it can be a business expense?? lol
- Rosticceria- if you are gluten free, go to one of these!!! Everything is grilled and you can get lots of healthy and filling meal options (just make sure to ask about flour- meatballs, and stuffed meat rolls or meatloaf often have a bit of flour in them). Its particularly good for the paleo diet. I don’t know how to travel vegan in italy- it doesn’t look too easy. All this talk of how advanced italy is with their gluten free products? I’ll be honest. its still REALLY HARD to find GF food. I befriended the guys at the rosticceria- they are hillarious. Suddenly everyone is breaking into their broken english telling me stories of “Visiting Toronto. You not order beer? But Canadians they drink so much beer!!”. hahaha. *sigh*
- Gross things i’ve seen tourists do (come ON people) – filling their water bottles and drinking from public fountains. DIS-effing-GUSTING. Seriously!? you need to save 1 freaking euro and pick up the Ebola virus? *gags* Also- eating pizza at breakfast!? Cappuccinos at lunch?! Anywhere that will serve you this, trust me, is a tourist trap and the food you’re getting is crap. Generally plastic chairs and red checkered tablecloths will also give you a good hint to that. Oh, and ANY restaurant that serves dinner before 8 pm is also an indicator of a tourist trap. Be an italian. Go for an apperitivo and tramezzini (snacks) or gelato around 5 or 6 pm. It will last you to 8pm when you can have a nice leisurely dinner.
- I did a walking tour last night with a national geographic photographer. it was very, very cool. I learned so much. and the photos! the photos! Night shots of the coliseum were so lovely. http://www.imaging-in-italy.com/tours.htm
- Every night i try to find a gelateria where only italians are ordering. Thats the good stuff . Last night i had chestnut and pine nut gelato. ahhh mazing. I’ve been stuck on pistachio for a while, and dark chocolate. Every time i come i’m stuck on adifferent flavour the whole trip. Last time in italy i ate coconut gelato and mango gelato constantly. Now its pistachio and dark chocolate. (and of course trying new flavours i find. the chestnut was delicious!)
- this morning i had my first fresh chestnuts while strolling in piazza di spagna. soo happy. Apparently there’s a way to candy chestnuts? I need to check that out. I’m thinking I need to try to make my own dairy free chestnut ice cream. :)
- clean, beautiful, affordable place to stay in Rome: http://www.colorshotel.com
- maybe i’m a dork but super posh Russian tourists scare the heck out of me.
- intersting how changing to a big city (Rome), has the effect of masking any larger thoughts about life by getting caught up in the “To Do” and “To See” and the “To Buy”. i haven’t read any of my books. I haven’t asked myself any tough questions. Two days of this is fine but i am looking forward to getting back to being myself.
- I have so many more photos to edit! I need to get on this. :D Tonight i go for apperitivo with my cousin alberto in rome, and tomorrow i meet up with my cousin paola in ladispoli (the sand in ladispoli is black! no joke- how crazy eh!) then its on to san gimignano.