Tuesday, May 1, 2018

History

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Editor's Note:  I try never to post anything political, but this event is historic and with so many not even knowing why Korea is divided, I felt the need to write about my own experience and why this event is so meaningful. 

Last week, I watched as the Presidents of North and South Korea shook hands, and crossed into each others' countries for the first time.in decades.  Historic, and poignant and most of all encouraging to me.  I have many South Korean friends, and I also was born during the Korean conflict.  
Hunters Point, CA, we lived in a Quonset hut
As a matter of fact, I didn't get to meet my dad until I was about 4 months old since he was on a battleship involved in the conflict; you see it wasn't called a war back then, it was just a conflict, and there was no peace treaty, there was only an armistice.  Armistice is defined as "temporary stopping of open acts of warfare by agreement between the opponent."  So in essence, the Korea's have been at war since I was an infant and that's a lot of years.  


The Seoul Hilton
When our family was living in Japan one of our favorite destinations was South Korea; we loved the people, amazing food and the countryside was breathtaking.  Plus, the shopping was awesome!
On one trip to Seoul, as we were getting ready to go out in the morning, the housekeeping crew came to our rooms, and took away the flashlights, and informed us there would be a black out that night, and that the room shutters would be taped closed at all times during the black out.  Yes, they were practicing for war.  


Black out in Seoul
At 9 p.m. that night sirens blared in the city, and all activity in the city stopped.  Lights in our rooms went out, and the entire city was enveloped in darkness.  Our children, then 5 and 9, were curious to see "what it looked like" outside, so we peeked out from behind the shutters, and the scene was dark, and eerie.  Taxis and cars stopped, with no signs of life anywhere.  This went on for 1 hour. Being in the dark for 1 hour with no signs of activity on the streets or in the hotel gave us an idea of of what life was like on the Korean peninsula
Last weeks' historic meeting gives me hope that the Korea's can live in peace with one another and eventually those from the North and South can travel freely between each country to see their relatives.  I'm not naive enough to think that this will be easy, or will happen overnight. For now we are witnessing history in the making, and that gives me hope for the Korean peoples as they watch their leaders and hopefully move forward towards peace. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Who Needs Crust?

I love pie, and a great pie crust is something to savored.  Crisp, buttery and contrasting with the sweet filling, it's one of my favorite things. But give me a savory pie, and I'm really not all that enamored with the crust.  I feel like it gets in the way of the savory filling, adding nothing to the final product.  Quiche Loraine is a favorite of mine, but I've never been all that jazzed about the crust, it gets in the way, sometimes soaks up the filling in a not so pleasant way, so when I make quiche I usually make a crust-less quiche, this probably wouldn't make the French happy, but I'm happy and it's really all about me, right?
Today one of my dearest friends came for lunch and I made two different kinds of individual crust-less quiche, and they were awesome if I do say so myself.  The custard part can be made ahead, then plopped into muffin tins, and baked.  If you under-bake them a bit (by about 2 to 3 minutes) you can cool, then freeze them to reheat.  They really are a great lunch or brunch dish and there isn't any crust to make.

Bacon Wrapped Spinach Quiche
Makes about 12

12 slices thick cut bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 pound baby spinach, washed and spun dry
salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
8 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (or imported Swiss)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a baking sheet with parchment, aluminum foil, or silicone.  Put the bacon onto the baking sheet, and bake until the bacon has rendered its fat, but is not crisp.  Drain on paper toweling.  
  2. Coat the inside of  12 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange the bacon in the muffin tins so that it lines the muffin tin.  Set aside.  
  3. In a skillet, melt the butter, saute the shallot, for 3 to 4 minutes until the shallot is softened.  
  4. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg.  Saute until the spinach is wilted.  
  5. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.  
  6. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream and cheese.  Add the cooled spinach and stir to combine.  Using a portion scoop, scoop the mixture into the muffin tins inside the bacon ring.  
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed, set in the center and golden.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tins.  
Artichoke, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Quiche
Makes about 12
These delicious quiches can be made into mini muffins, and served as an appetizer--just one bite.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
One 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
8 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
4 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of 12 muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. 
  2. In a skillet, heat the oil, swirl the garlic in the pan for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add the artichoke hearts, zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes, until the artichokes are dry.  Transfer to a cutting board, coarsely chop and allow to cool completely.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and goat cheese.  Add the artichoke mixture, and prosciutto, stir to combine.  Using a portion scoop, fill the muffin tins and sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed, golden and set in the middle.  Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 


And so, this is what they look like when they come out of the oven.  I didn't take any photos while making these since I didn't think I'd be posting this, but the power of Facebook and Instagram had me promising recipes for these little gems.   Not only are they simple and easy to put together, the custard part can be made the day before, refrigerated and then scooped into the muffins tins just before baking.   With the holidays coming at you, these little gems are a great recipe to keep in your repertoire.  Feel free to substitute your favorite vegetables (think cooked butternut squash for the artichoke hearts, or broccoli for spinach) in the quiches.  
As I write this, San Diego county has wildfires burning 15 miles north of us.  People have lost their homes, pets, and livelihoods.  If you are feeling generous this holiday season, donate to charities of your choice to help those less fortunate who have endured natural disasters this year.  Ciao for now.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hot Enough for You?


Dr. C. and I are living in a rented apartment in a palazzo at the top of the hill in Spello.  It is beautiful, with a gorgeous terrace, and yard, frescoes on the ceilings, and huge bedroom.  At the beginning of October, it is legal to turn on the heat here in Italy...don't ask.  So our landlord who is a heck of a nice guy came over, and programmed the thermostat.  But that night, no heat.

So we told our rental agent, and she told the landlord, he came back again, but this time with a hammer, and he hammered on the furnace (I couldn't look) and we got heat that night, but the next morning, nothing.
This little dance has gone on for about 2 weeks, with our landlord coming over, hammering on the furnace, and saying, speriamo, meaning, "we hope".  So far nothing had worked, we'd get heat immediately after the hammering, but then nothing in the morning.  Dr. C. decided it was the pump in the furnace that was bad, but that got lost in translation.


On Monday we were promised we'd have heat, a technician was coming, and he had the magic solution (hammer).  I wasn't home when they came, but Dr. C. said there was a lot of hammering, and there was heat when I got home that evening, and the next morning it was so hot in the house, I had to open up the windows.  The thermostat was set at 24 degrees C, that's about 78 degrees F.
So, we have heat, and now we have to figure out how to tell the landlord, we don't need that much heat!  Every day here is a new adventure, with interesting predicaments, and solutions.
During our no heat phase the landlord said he'd send over the gardener to mow the lawn.  So a guy came and pushed the lawnmower through OUR LIVING ROOM, and out to the yard.  And, yes, he pushed it out through the living room again, since there is no other access to the yard.  This is life here, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Ciao for now. 




Monday, October 16, 2017

Of Birthdays, Love and Surprises

For almost a year, our children and I were trying to figure out a way to surprise Dr. C. for his birthday this year.  Since we are usually here in Spello for our birthdays, our daughter and son decided that the celebration had to be here, since, who better than our Italian family to celebrate with?  Ryan and Carrie flew in on Friday, with Carrie and her daughter Poppy arriving early, and surprising Nonno at our apartment.  We all headed down to the enoteca, and while we were sitting having an aperitivo, Ryan walked up the hill to surprise his dad.  Dr. C. was stunned and it was a great day to be with our family here in Spello to celebrate that we were together.  We definitely missed Carrie's partner, Eric and the rest of the tribe.
On Saturday morning we headed to Gubbio, the town where my grandparents came from and where our Italian citizenship was born.  Gubbio is a beautiful walled medieval city and we had fun exploring the upper part of the town, then driving up to the top of the mountain to the basilica of St. Ubaldo.
Poppy and Uncle Ry-Ry

Palazzo dei consoli

Everyone in the same room---my favorite place!
After that it was off to lunch at Il Panaro, where everything is made fresh including the pappardelle that we had for lunch. 
Saturday night we were having a party at the enoteca catered by 1 star Michelin chef Marco Gubbiotti from CucinaA in Foligno.  Of course, the wines were some of the most delicious we've ever had, because....it's Enoteca Properzio and Roberto indulged us with the best.
Poppy is ready for the dinner




Chef Marco, un grande chef

Roberto, the birthday boy, Irene and Andrea

Poppy with Chef Marco

risotto con funghi and white truffles



slow cooked pork, Jerusalem artichoke puree, and radishes

Wagu beef

Gelato cake--amazing!

they roll up the sidewalks here at 10 p.m.
Friends from Deruta, and Perugia joined us, and it was an incredible night with us falling into bed at 1 a.m.


46 years later, and many hair colors later (for me!)
Which brings me to love; I have known Dr. C. since 1969, we were married in 1971 and that means I've been with him for 2/3 of my life. He's been the constant in our lives, the glue that holds us together, and the man that our children look to for guidance. Our kids friends are also our kids, we are blessed by their presence in our lives. 
I could not be prouder of Dr. C, and when we got married,  this life we have together was not what I'd pictured at all---we make plans and God laughs!  As we age, we realize that spending time with the ones you love, and not wasting time is more precious than ever.  It's a privilege to share this life with this guy---they threw away the mold when he was born, and I've been blessed to share my life with the extraordinary man.  Happy birthday Dr. C., and many more especially if there is wine involved!
Famiglia
Ciao for now.

Monday, October 9, 2017

In Search of the Stelvio Pass


Waking up early on Sunday morning in Bormio, making sure we hadn't left anything in our hotel room, we took off for the Stelvio Pass.  This road links Bormio with Merano, and 2 weeks ago when we rented the Alfa we'd thought we'd be driving it but the weather wasn't cooperative.  This time we are in the rented Audi A-4, with seat belts! 
We drove out of Bormio, and began the climb to 9,000+ feet.  As we climbed I realized that I'd driven half of this side of the pass, and pulled over for Dr. C. to take over, after all this was his bucket list we were checking off. 


We pulled off for some photos and then Dr. C. took off to the top.  At each hairpin (and there are more than 60) there is a marker telling you which one you've passed. 

As we climbed the mountain, it began to snow, and the higher we got the snowier it was.  Although we grew up in snowy conditions, we hadn't been in them in a long time. 


This is the end of the Bormio to summit side, then we had to go down the other side to reach Merano.


The road has been described as lengths of spaghetti.  We saw bicyclists, motorcycle riders, and some antique cars while on the road.



Reaching the top, we made a pit stop, I looked for non-existent souvenirs (it was too early for anyone to be open) and then we got back in the car, hoping the snow would stop the farther down the mountain we went. 
I thought this was the last turn on the way down, but we had several more, before the road evened out.

This road cuts through some of the most majestic scenery, we felt blessed to be here. 
This is just a sample of the drive, and this was 1/2 way down the mountain.  We think that at this point we were in Switzerland, as you do pass into it and then out again to Italy.  So Dr. C. got to check this one off his list, and if truth be told when we mistakenly drove the Gavia Pass, it was worse, the Stelvio at least is a 2-lane road, with side barriers for most of the drive, the Gavia is a straight shot off the cliff, never to be heard from again.  I also got to cross off another UNESCO World Heritage sight with our ride on the Bernina Express.  It was a great weekend.  We are now back home in Spello enjoying gorgeous fall weather.  Ciao for now.