Category: cuisine


A Break from the Heat

If you have been following the weather in Europe, you know that it is unseasonably hot in Italy right now. We are little better off in Perguia because there is always a breeze up here. Even so, yesterday we decided to escape the heat in the city and head up into the Sibilline mountains towards the plain of Castellucio. This is another area in Umbria famous for its lentils, farro (spelt), and peas. In the early summer the plain blossoms into a sea of colors. We were a little too early for the flowers this year, but the views were stunning nonetheless.

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There is still snow on the mountains!

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Castelluccio, population 150, 1452 m. asl

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A Day in Umbria

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View of Lago Trasimeno from Tuoro

Saturday we had an Umbrian day: Lago Trasimeno, Roman/Carthaginian battle site, torta al testo, a Lombard tower, an Etruscan tomb, and home-made wood-fire pizza with friends as we watched the sun set against Perugia. June 21 was the 2231st anniversary of the Battle of Lake Trasimene (217 B.C.), an epic disaster for the Romans at the hands of the Carthaginians and not generally commemorated in Italy. Nevertheless, in the morning we set out for Tuoro, the Umbrian village above the battle site (which, diplomatically, now has Lamta, Hannibal’s home town, as a ‘sister city’). From here we followed part of the battle itinerary.

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Asparagi, Carciofi, e Briganti

DSC_0008It is asparagus and artichoke season in Umbria! That means that one also has to be alert for brigands attempting to steal your wild asparagus;  more on that later.

The winter greens have begun to fade from the markets (no more treviso or broccoli rape) and in their place are piles of fresh artichokes and bunches of asparagus.

We are all happy about this situation as everyone in the family loves artichokes. In the States, ‘fresh’ artichokes have such tough outer leaves that we usually steam them whole, discard the stems, and eat them by pulling off the leaves, dipping them in vinaigrette, and scraping off the soft end with our teeth.

In Italy the fresh artichokes still have a tough exterior but once that is pulled off the leaves inside are tender. In the last few weeks we have experimented with cooking artichokes in new ways.

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Auguri Micah!

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This week Micah celebrated his 6th birthday. He had been anticipating this event all year. We tried to keep it small, by Italian standards. Micah has a few very close friends from school and soccer, so we invited them to a meal at Il Cantinone, a restaurant owned by Caterina, the mother of Francesco, one of Micah’s friends from soccer. The restaurant has long been one of our favorite spots in Perugia. The food is superb, reasonably priced, and the service is ‘down-home’ and friendly (TripAdvisor agrees).

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Radicchio

This post is for our friend Tom and his family at Red Barn Farms. Tom just announced the amazing array of produce they are planting this year. We won’t be there to partake of all of it, but we can share a little bit of what our family is eating from the farm stands in Italy.

IMG_2373On Wednesdays, I now make it a habit to stop at the open market in Perugia’s Piazza Matteotti. It is a small market (compared to the Saturday market in the Pian di Massiano). The vendors are local producers of olive oil, wine, and cheese; and there is one family that sells produce. After picking up two pieces of fresh mozzarella and a wedge of pecorino (Jakob likes the sotto vino variety: aged under wine for at least 6 months), I make my way to the produce stand and try to think through the menu options for the week.

For several weeks we have been in the hearty winter greens stage (the only additional color on the table is provided by a few tomatoes that come from somewhere else in Italy and do not taste much better than the supermarket tomatoes we have at home). The Romanesco broccoli that the kids enjoyed is gone and we are now subsisting on rapi (broccoli rabe) and beitole (chard), which comes in several varieties (I am feeling iron fortified). But this week there were some new items on the table, including several different forms of radicchio that I had never seen before. The woman who runs the stand suggested I take an assaggio (taste) of each to see what we liked best.

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MY SPAGHETTI AL TONNO (spaghetti with tuna)

I made spaghetti al tonno and it was yummy; it looks like this:

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This is the video from the chef who taught me how to make it:

And here I am eating it up:

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