Monday, October 26, 2015


Dr. C. and I are down to 3 more nights in Spello, and we need to use up what's in the fridge, so I thought I'd make us a crostata, an Italian jam tart with leftover sauteed apples, and apricot jam.  I'm working without a net here, so measurements are sketchy at best, and I'm just throwing things together, but this little baby turned out really well, and was delicious for breakfast this morning. 

Leftover Crostata
Serves 6
This is not the traditional pasta frolla, that is used for a crostata here in Italy. That dough uses eggs, and lots of sugar, almost like a cookie dough.  This is more like an all-American pie dough and was easy to work with.. 

For the Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup ice water with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

  1. Put the flour into a bowl.  Using your hands work the butter into the flour until it is incorporated.  
  2. Add the water a bit at a time, until the dough begins to hold together like wet sand.  Form into a disc and refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze while making the filling)
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Cut the chilled dough in half, and roll out on a floured board to fit into the baking dish.  Press into the the baking dish, and spread the filling over the crust.  
  5. Roll out the other piece of dough and cut it into strips, and lay across the filling, in a lattice pattern.  No need to weave the dough, just lay on top of each other.  
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Allow to cool a bit before serving. 
For the Filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Granny Smith or Fuji apples, peeled cored and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup apricot jam

  1. In a skillet, heat the butter, and add the apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon, and cook down until the apples are tender.  Taste for sugar/lemon/cinnamon and adjust.  Cool and add the apricot jam.  
Cook's note:  you can do this with firm pears, and match with your favorite jam, cherry is a good choice, or plum. 

As we get ready to leave Italy, I am feeling myself getting into re-entry mode.  I'm not ready for the 24 hour news cycle or the incivility that we left.  I'm working on Dr. C. to spend the election cycle here in Italy next year, my rationale is that in Italy we know that the politics are crazy, but the food is so much better!  Until next time, Ciao from Spello. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wine Tasting in Montefalco

Another day, another day trip to the country.  With home base in Spello, we can easily visit beautiful hill towns within 20 to 30 minutes.  Today, we decided to visit Arnaldo Caprai, the largest producer of Sagantino wine in Umbria.  With our entry reservation arranged by Enoteca Properzio we arrived at 11 a.m. and were blown away by the color of the vineyards, beginning to turn autumn colors.  The landscape here in Umbria is breathtaking: look one way you see a brilliant pink stone city on a hill, look the other and you see nothing but the feathery grey green leaves of olive trees dotting the hillsides, and look farther and you see the bright yellows and rusty reds of the vineyards planted on the hillsides. 

Caprai is famous for their Sagrantino; originally only a dessert wine, or passito, in the late 1990's they decided to age it to see how it would taste.  Working with the local universities, they came upon the right way to age the wines, and the rest is history, with the wine being crowned the number one wine in Europe. 

We were taken to the fermentation rooms, where the wines were just at the end of their cycle, and then the to aging rooms.  Then up to the tasting rooms, where we sampled the white Grecchetto, and the reds.  There is a DOC wine in the area called "Montefalco Rosso", predominantly Sangiovese, with a bit of Sagrantino, Merlot and possibly other grapes, it is one of my favorite wines.  The 100% Sagrantino is the jewel in the crown here, and for good reason.  A wine with tannic flavors, it mellows out after aging, and is delicious paired with many dishes.  Grazie to the Caprai winery for such a beautiful morning. 
After tasting all these wines, we had to have lunch, so headed to L'Alchimista in nearby downtown Montefalco; I mean downtown in that it has a central piazza with a few restaurants surrounding the piazza. 
With our reservation made by Roberto at Enoteca Properzio, we decided to have the specials of the day.  Again, I'll let the photos speak for themselves. 

Since it is the celebration of the black celery, we had celery Parmigiana

Creamy celery soup with black truffles, olive oil and cippolini onion souffle
Gnocchi in Sagrantino
Fresh Strangozzi pasta, with black celery, sausage, and pumpkin

Pork Tenderloin braised in Sagrantino, with grapes (Mama Mia!)
Lemon sorbet with peaches poached in rosemary
After they rolled us out of here, we were on the road again back to home base in Spello.  What a beautiful way to spend the day. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Truffle Extravaganza

Imagine winding through tiny hamlets with no more than 3 houses, twisting and turning down a mountain, and coming across this inviting room, reserved just for you.  That's what happened to Dr. C. and I with our friends visiting from California. 
Our friend Roberto Angelini from Enoteca Properzio arranged for a special lunch of truffles, at La Cucina di St. Pietro A Pettine.  They opened just for us.  With a beautiful table laid and a fire burning in the fire place, we were greeted by Jack, who spoke impeccable English, and he began the meal with sparkling wine, and then our first course.  I will let the photos speak for themselves, but this was an unforgettable meal in a beautiful setting. 
Loosely translated, we love truffles, we're passionate about food, and we will serve you with honor.

Bruschetta with salted butter, anchovy and shaved truffle
Salad of Spanish pear, provolone, spiced hazelnut, black truffle and traditionally aged balsamic vinegar
Beef tartar with truffle bubbles (they look like caviar made from the juice of the truffle) pistachio oil, black celery quenelle, mayonnaise and smoked paprika

Risotto with white truffles

Passarelli, a pasta povera; made with bread, pecorino cheese and pepper, sauced with truffles

Poached eggs on mashed potatoes, with tallegio fusion and white truffle---can you see I've been taking notes?

Warm creme brulee with sage
We drank a local Sagrantino reserva with each course---amazing!  The restaurant is located near Trevi, about 20 minutes away from Spello, in the country.  If you want to come, make a reservation, and then use the directions on the website--it's not easy to find, we did a few illegal U-turns on the way. 
In the summer, this must be a beautiful place to enjoy a meal. Today, the warmth of the fire and hospitality inside made the day

In the distance the town of Trevi

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cooking With a One Star Michelin Chef

Every day here in Spello is different.  Today, Dr. C. and I had our usual cappuccino and cornetto, then headed down to Enoteca Properzio to see what was happening there. Most of the time, we don't have plans, and just follow our noses. We were told that 1 star Michelin chef Marco Gubbiotti would be coming to give a cooking class.  I volunteered to write the recipes so that the students, two good friends from the States, could take them home and make them again.  I also love watching other chefs work!
The first course was similar to what I had for my birthday dinner, a poached egg with anchovies and thyme, served on a bed of crushed bruschetta, with shaved black truffles.  You will notice a theme since it is truffle season over here.  This is really a simple dish, and can be made ahead, the eggs take 5 minutes in boiling water; when they come out of their plastic pouches, they look like a lovely flower. 
The second course is a pasta that is from Spoleto called frascarelli.  It is made with flour and egg, and when the flour and egg begin to form small pieces, Marco used a sieve to separate the pasta from the flour.  It is boiled for 1 minute.  The sauce is a combination of shaved truffles, garlic, olive oil, and sauteed asparagus.  It's a lovely dish, again garnished with beautiful black truffle shavings. 

The main course was a slow roasted beer marinated pork tenderloin served on a bed of fennel and apple chutney.  The pork is served at room temperature with a grape juice reduction sauce. 
As the class went along, Roberto Angelini from Enoteca Properzio served wines to pair with each course.  At the end everyone had had a wonderful experience, and they smiled for me!
If you are interested in a cooking class at the enoteca, e-mail them through their website to make reservations, since Marco is in demand. 


Monday, October 5, 2015

A Day in the Country

Picking herbs for me to take home to use
When our pal Anne Robichaud, a certified Umbrian guide invited us to join her small group for lunch at her friend Giuseppa's house outside Deruta, the town famous for ceramics, we jumped at the chance.  Giuseppa and Paolo raise everything themselves,  with the exception of sugar, coffee and flour, all the dishes came from their farm. 

Sharing the bounty of her garden with me

Discussing how to use the onions and garlic--using different colored onions for different purposes
Aging their prosciutto

Outdoor oven for baking bread
After showing us around the farm, as well as their bread oven, and the prosciutto that has been aging, we were invited inside to partake of a delicious meal.  She had baked traditional Umbrian cheese bread known as crescia (traditionally served at Easter and festivals) for us to try with the home cured cappocolo.  (no photo since I scarfed it down in no time!)
Pasta for lunch

Wild boar ragu

No one goes hungry in Italy!
Giuseppa served us a delicious pasta dish made with wild boar ragu.  It was the best I've had in a very long time, and reminded me of my grandmothers' home made pasta. 
Paolo told us that he was going to hunt wild boar in the next few days, and was scouting locations
Fresh shelled bean salad, deliciozo!

Not only was the food incredible, the company was awesome as well, 2 Americani, one from the UK, and 2 from Canada
Our friend Anne with Giuseppa, helping with dessert:  traditional crostata with cherry jam, and chocolate chip pound cake
My bouquet of herbs which I used yesterday to make Dr. C. some soup
The recipe for Crostata is here, and I'm sharing the recipe for the Umbrian cheese bread that was given to me by my mother's cousin many years ago.  It is delicious and should be eaten within a few days after baking.  Giuseppa uses a little Parmigiano in hers, and I would recommend that you split the cheese, 1/2 Pecorino and 1/2 Parmigiano, since the Pecorino that you will find in the US is pretty strong, or shake things up and use the Pecorino studded with peppercorns.

 Crescia---Traditional Umbrian Cheese Bread

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup warm whole milk (105°F)
8 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable shortening (I prefer Crisco--the Italiani use lard)
6 shakes of Tabasco sauce
1 1/3 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • Coat a 10-cup tube pan with non-stick cooking spray and set it aside.  
  • In a 4 cup measure, stir together the yeast, sugar, salt, and milk. Set aside until the mixture begins to bubble, about 10 minutes.
  • With an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, shortening, and Tabasco in a large bowl until light and fluffy and the shortening is incorporated into the eggs. Stir in the yeast mixture and continue to beat until thoroughly combined.  
  • Gradually add the flour and beat for 4 minutes.  The dough will be sticky and loose. 
  • Transfer to the prepared pan, cover, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. 
  • 4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. At the end of the rising, bake the bread until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely and remove from the pan.   
  • Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 6 weeks.
 I've been invited back to learn how to make pizza in her outdoor oven, and cannot wait!  Grazie Annie, Giuseppa, and Paolo for an unforgettable afternoon. 

It began to rain when we left Deruta, but as we came home to Spello, we were greeted by a rainbow; a perfect ending to an amazing day!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy Birthday To Me

On Tuesday, I walked into the Enoteca and found these gorgeous flowers, gifts from our kids in NYC, and the family that we have here in Spello.Feeling thoroughly loved by those that sent them, and then my Facebook page filled up with well wishes,  I was overwhelmed.  Little did I know that more was in store.
Roberto Angelini pouring champagne for our son Ryan
Our adopted family here, the Angelini's, owners of Enoteca Properzio had arranged for a special dinner prepared by Chef Jurgin Kulli.
Having worked with Chef Jurgin before, it was such a treat to have him prepare this special dinner

First course, olive oil mashed potatoes, with sous vide poached egg with truffles
Secondo:  Egg pasta in the style of Spoleto, with pumpkin and truffles----oh my
Primi:  Pork Tenderloin on a bed of fennel salad, with sous vide pork, wine reduction and plum jam
And someone knew that I LOVE birthday cake!  
When people ask what we do when we come over here, they can't imagine just staying in one place, and enjoying the moment, but every moment is different.  From the cappucino and cornetto in the morning, throughout the day, we are constantly surprised by joy, with how full our days are meeting new people, and reuniting with old friends.  I'm grateful for this time, and the ability to enjoy every moment with Dr. C. and our family.