Foraging and Cooking – Local Delights

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. This silly old girl broke her wrist last week. Yes, I fell in the house and have three fractures and one break. hurts like crazy, but mostly it is frustrating. Difficult to function with one hand. Typing one handed is something I never thought I’d have to do! Anyway…..

Let’s get back to food! I purchased some very cheap, local red chillies on Monday. Don’t they look delicious? I had enough to make five small jars of picante sauce, which goes great with any Italian pasta. The only ingredients were chillies boiled in olive oil, garlic, and salt to taste. Delicious!

Yesterday I was given a bag of wild spinach by the little lady who lives down the steps from me. We see her foraging often walking the country paths with her walking stick over her shoulder and bags full of wild greens dangling from it. It seems to keep her fit and healthy. Today I picked out the grass and weeds and chopped off the thick stalks, before chopping and washing the spinach. Now I’m going to wilt this in olive oil with garlic, pesto (made from my own basil) and serve it for lunch with chicken.

I think I’m quite daring. I think foraging the countryside to use what is available is a great idea, and there is a lot available. Wild spinach, asparagus, artichoke, pomegranates, plums, apples, olives, persimmon to name but a few.

The good people of Abruzzo live cheaply, what can’t be foraged is bought local, it works well.

Food for all Tastes

The past few days have been filled with rain and writhing mists. Lovely to watch from my window. I don’t mind days like this, it gives me time to reset myself and take care of indoor chores I’ve been putting off for too long. My kitchen now much more user friendly in preparation for my son-in-law, who likes to cook. He will be here at Christmas…got to have the kitchen ready for him.
Yesterday (Sabato) wasn’t so bad and we met some friends for a fish and chip lunch. British fish and chips are not a regular cuisine in Abruzzo, but a lovely restaurant close by called Osteria Livornese, was serving them as a special for two days. They were delicious. We drank a little too much wine, but oh well. The chief was Irish and cooked the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. He was pretty amusing also…oh wait, of course he was, he’s Irish. We’ll visit the restaurant again and try out their specialty which is a fish broth called cacciucco.
When I opened my eyes at 7am this morning I thought it was still night time. The rain was heavy and has barely let up all day. I’d love to go for a walk, but not a chance. Instead I practiced Italian (as always), and then decided to harvest some of my basil and make pesto sauce. It turned out great!
I cooked Lancashire Hotpot for lunch, with Parmigiano Reggiano sprinkled on top, just to give it an Italian twist.
It’s still raining so I’m going to open one of Mr. King’s books, (Stephen to his friends) and laze away the afternoon in front of the fire.
Enjoy your Sunday everyone! (Buona Domenica a tutti)

Walking!

There is one thing I’m really enjoying during retirement, and lockdown, and that is walking. It clears my head. The views around Colledimezzo are spectacular. Yes, I’d love to see the Adriatic again, but good things are worth waiting for, we won’t be restricted to a 30 kilometer radius forever.

Today we had fibre installed. Our internet has been awful for the last few months, but today that changed. Small steps to make my life easier. As a writer and blogger, I’m always doing research, and a slow internet speed was awful.

I’m doing heaps of cooking and baking. I never had time to play and experiment in the kitchen when I was working, but now…there is no holding me back.

Learning Italian is fun too. A little frustrating at times, but a sixty three year old brain takes a little longer to remember new things. (or am I sixty four now?) I’m getting there.

On the downside, it seems like the hierarchy have forgotten about distributing the vaccines to some of the rural areas in the Chieti Province of Abruzzo. Several small communities similar to Colledimezzo have been overlooked. The mayor’s of those communities have written letters to get this fixed. Fingers crossed they’ll remedy the situation.

Meanwhile I plan for the future, and think about my first trip when we’re free again. Abruzzo is beautiful, but I think I’ll run away to Ravello, just for a few days.

Ravello is calling me.

Reflections

We invited friends to our home for lunch yesterday.
I set the table ahead of time with glasses, bowls and napkins, then stood back to see how it looked.
It was a table that invited lively conversation. It was a table set for five friends to sit and enjoy good food and wine.
I reflected on how my life has changed this year.
I no longer have crystal glasses, with matching decanters, or fine plates and bowls. I left those in the US for my my daughter to enjoy. She’s young and will appreciate them for many years to come.
My glasses don’t match, nor do my pans.
The wine is no longer $30 a bottle, but seven euros for a five liter box from the local Cantina, and much more enjoyable.
Yesterday was the first time I’d invited one of our Italian friends to eat with us, and I was terrified. We’ve enjoyed meals in his kitchen on several occasions and he is an excellent cook. Of course he brought one of his culinary masterpieces, which made our little soiree even more enjoyable. I sighed with relief when he complimented my risotto!
“You’re a good cook.” He said. I was thrilled.
Here in Abruzzo, it doesn’t matter what your glasses look like, or whether or not your plates match. What does matter is the people who sit around your table and share your food. People come first and foremost here, and thats the way it should be.
I still miss my daughter, she should have been here with us for Christmas…next year!

Thanksgiving in Abruzzo

My first Thanksgiving in Abruzzo!
Although I lived in Colorado for 25 years, I’ve never truly celebrated Thanksgiving the way Americans do. I enjoyed cooking. Getting together with friends and family was lovely, but the “Holiday” never held a special meaning for me. Not like Christmas.
2020 is my first Thanksgiving in Abruzzo. We didn’t go out and buy a huge Turkey, or make pumpkin/pecan pie, so it was very low key. Social distancing due to COVID has taken over the lives of everyone.
We celebrated with a huge polenta, Italian style. I’m not going to take credit for this gourmet delight, our good friend created it. It was delicious! On Black Friday I had a dental appointment in Lanciano. I completed two “self certifications”, one for the dentist, and one allowing me to stop off at a large Supermarket. There weren’t many people shopping, because of the Red Zone rules. I shopped for things I can’t buy locally and picked up some Christmas lights along with one or two tree ornaments. It was a gorgeous day, so on the way home I took photos. I can’t wait for all of this to be over so we can travel again, itching for a road trip, but until then I’ll make the most of my beautiful surroundings.
Happy Belated Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

Baking – Cooking – Living the Dream

I never tire of the views here in Colledimezzo. Even if I walk the same path every day, I find a different angle to photograph. The light varies by the hour. Later in the day the mists make my photographs magical and surreal. I lived in Colorado for 25 years, and enjoyed the beautiful Rocky Mountains, but they didn’t boast the colors of Abruzzo.
Photography, travel and writing are my big hobbies, but my other passion is cooking. I adjusted my recipes from England to the US back in 1995. I learned to measure in cups, became familiar with the different products and even adjusted to high altitude baking, although my Yorkshire Puddings weren’t always a success!!!
Here I am living in Italy, with new challenges. Grams/Kilograms…no cups and ounces like the US. I’m beginning to master the flour…so many to choose from and your bread/cakes/pizzas will be a disaster if you don’t get it right. When we used to visit for vacation, an Italian friend always asked me to bring baking powder from the US, now I understand why. There is no self raising flour and no baking powder the way we know it. Baking power (which has a completely different name) comes in little sachets, usually infused with vanilla. There are different instant yeasts, and if you choose the wrong one, the result is inedible. Yes, I learned that from experience. I’m taking the safe route now and using fresh live yeast.
Thats enough for today. I’m still loving the Italian way of life. Miss my daughter terribly, but when Trump and COVID are history and she can come to visit, everything will be perfect.

It’s been a while!

It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve been back from Abruzzo for one week now, but my heart is still there. I didn’t leave the way of life behind, but brought it with me, in the cooking especially. I miss the simple, flavorful food so, I make it here in the US.

It doesn’t taste quite as good because the produce isn’t as fresh, but it will get me by until I return.

Retirement is on my mind!

Keeping up with the Italians

 

Retirement was always something I dreaded.
It meant I was getting old.
Only two weeks ago I was in my sixteen! Now I’m in my sixties.
Last year we bought a home in Abruzzo, Italy. It changed my whole prospective on retirement and now I think about long lazy days in Colledimezzo with a goofy smile on my face. I have a few years to go yet, time to practice my cooking. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to compete with the fabulous traditional dishes that have been passed down from mother to child, but I can start with the sweet treats. So far these have been a success. On the left, Almond cookies, on the right, Italian breakfast cookies, which are very good to dip in your morning cappuccino.

Gluten Free January!

January has both flown and lasted FOREVER! Christmas seems so long ago, but only yesterday. Is this what happens when you get older? Or maybe its just peculiar to January. Both myself and my son-in-law had a Birthday smack bang in the middle of the month. Nice for my son-in-law, but not for me. I’ve never liked my Birthdays for reasons I’ll not bore you with, but I put on a brave face and get through them.

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I know just how he feels!

I found this photo on Deserts with Benefits and had to share it.

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember I haven’t been well. I got tired of CT scans, needles and being prodded and poked so after talking to a very matter-of-fact gastroenterologist I decided to give up gluten. Since January 1st, I’ve been completely gluten-free. After a few days I felt better, much more awake. I was both thrilled and excited at the difference and expected miracles to follow. The miracles never happened. Another two weeks passed and I wondered if I’d willed myself to feel better because I wanted an instant cure.

Then early last week I realized that when I touched my stomach in the places that had been tender, it didn’t hurt anymore. It didn’t feel uncomfortable and bloated. I looked at my reflection in the mirror (not a pretty sight), but prettier than it looked a couple of months earlier. My tummy was no longer swollen.

Maybe gluten is the problem, I know I have a long way to go before I know for sure, but one month gluten-free has certainly made me feel better. My energy is returning.

I haven’t bought ‘gluten free’ breads, crackers, cookies etc. I gave up processed food a long time ago. Instead I’ve eaten much more fruit and veg, baked with almond, coconut and semolina flour and bought rice noodles instead of pasta. It hasn’t really been a hardship. When I used semolina and almond flour to make my husbands favorite cookies I didn’t tell him. He took a bite and looked at me.

“These taste good,” he said, “what did you do different?”

I think cutting gluten from my diet has been a good thing. Not out of the woods yet, but I can see the sun piercing the trees. I’ll give you an update one month from now. Fingers crossed I’ll be healthy and full of energy. New lifestyle for 2016!

 

Goulash, Dirty Rice and Pouilly Fume

Very cold day in Colorado, but I didn’t let it beat me, I wrapped up in several fleecy layers, and went for a walk.  So glad I did. I enjoyed the lovely winters day.  A couple of miles was all the temperatures would allow.  My face was frozen by the time I got home, but I felt better for being outside in the fresh air.

I started cooking when I got home, it’s a cooking sort of day. Hazy sunlight outside now as the sun tries to pierce the freezing mist. Quite lovely to look at.

The rice, mushrooms and french beans are in the pan along with the rice. To heck with healthy, I’m cooking them in bacon fat. Goulash is simmering and smelling fantastic. I should drink beer with this, or red wine, but there was a bottle of Pouilly Fume in the wine fridge calling my name. Who was I to argue? Happy Saturday everyone.

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