Monday, October 31, 2011

Sagra della Castagne

Raw chestnuts

Close to the seaside town of Marina di Massa is the slightly inland town of Montignoso (more mountain views, but also peek-a-boo sea views.)  We went to a chestnut festival there on Sunday.  There were numerous foods made with chestnuts ranging from gelato to fritters.  Even so the most popular way to eat them was roasted.  It felt very much like fall with a bit of chill in the air.

Traditional pan used to roast chestnuts (castagne)
Chestnuts while being roasted
Roasting barrel
Luna eyeing the chestnut fritters
Freshly roasted chestnuts ready for consumption

View from Montignoso at sunset

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fluro Fun

I don't care how one would go about washing them....I want to make my own gradient silver!

I recently came upon stylist/designer/author, Sania Pell.  Totally enamored by her work, I plan to purchase her book "The Homemade Home."  I am impressed with crafty people, but have never really been one myself, but Pell's work makes being crafty look cool and modern!  Check her out:

Please see Pell's post about vintage ex-votos....really interesting collection

She simply painted on some berries and flowers to obtain this great modern + organic effect

Friday, October 28, 2011

Foodie Friday

So I am slowly but surely getting back to my regular blog posts.  This Friday I am featuring my husband.  Many of you who read my blog know he is Italian, (very much so.)  Some of the food he speaks of here I have taken the liberty to link back to some blog posts of those exact dishes/places.  Being Italian he is not extremely open to other cultures food, in fact after living in Southern California for almost ten years he has just started to really like Mexican food...enjoy!

Name:            Massimo Frascella
Affiliation:     Husband 
Occupation:      Designer
Location:        Marina di Massa, Italy (right now)
Birthplace:      Massa, Italy

1.) What recipe do you consistently make at home?
Kimchi.  Just kidding...I obviously love cooking pasta, by far my
favorite dish.  Any kind of pasta, although rigatoni, tortiglioni, paccheri are the ones that stand out.
I grew up with pasta everyday, sometimes even twice a day and if for some reasons I stay without it or 2 or 3 days, I become a very difficult person to deal with...
I love the simplicity of pasta and the best dish in the world, and I really mean pasta al pomodoro, with a touch of extra virgin olive oil.
I also often make pizza for me and Amy.  We bought this little oven which does miracles!  Again, Pizza Margherita is my absolute preference!

2.) Name three items you have in your refrigerator?
Parmigiano Reggiano, milk and tomato.  Just outside, extra virgin olive oil...

3.) Tell me about your most memorable meal.
I had many memorable Italy.  I remember trenette al pesto in Portofino, or a pizza da Gennaro in Torino.  But I have to say nothing comes close to my mom's penne with mussels or penne con fungi porcini freschi.

4.) What are your favorite restaurants and what do you order there?
In Southern California my favorite restaurant is Madeo in LA.  It's an amazing restaurant, with a casual and refined atmosphere.I took several people there and they all were impressed at the end of the dinner.  I usually order rigatoni al pomodoro con mozzarella fresca or penne ai porcini.  But anything I order is absolutely excellent!

5.) What is the most unusual thing you have ever eaten?
Because I appreciate food, just like any other thing in life, for its simplicity, I never got to try anything unusual and I probably never will.  Maybe the closest I got to eat something unusual was in Korea, at least the first trip.  From my second trip on, I carefully avoided...

6.) Of all the places you have traveled, which has the best food?
Outside Italy, Mexico.

7.) What is your drink of choice (alcoholic)?
A good Brunello di Montalcino or if I can't, Jack and coke.

8.) What is your ultimate dessert?
Tiramisu', home made with no cream (just mascarpone) and with Pavesini.  NO LADY FINGERS!!! Another one I really love are home made bomboloni, very similar to donuts.

9.) What is a food/dish that reminds you of your childhood?
Uova al Pomodoro and stracchino for dinner.  But the best memory of when I was a kid is taglierini pasta e fagioli that my grandma or my aunt used to cook.  By the way did I mention that my aunt Iso' is the best cook God ever created on Earth?  Her dishes go beyond imagination!

10.) What is your go to meal for a dinner party?
I love this question...thanks Amy!  Well, I have to say I would prepare crostini di Polenta Fritti with Gorgonzola, a mussel salad with olives, bell peppers, capers, cocktail onions and extra virgin olive oil to start with.  Then I would serve a creamy plate of lasagne al forno (stay away from ricotta!!! and I would finish with a delicious tiramisu' or a salame di cioccolato, very easy, very rewarding...I forgot to mention, this is pretty much the menu I served in a very famous cooking competition against my wife, I won.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Isola D'Elba

Last week we took two days to visit the Tuscan island of Isola D'Elba.  No, I didn't know that Tuscany had an island either.  Literally being on the island felt just like being on the mainland with the exception of the gorgeous views.  (Same roads, same modern conveniences as in Tuscany.)  We stayed at a great place called Hotel Dino, we lucked out as most hotels are closing for the off season.  A very easy excursion as the ferry ride only took about 30 minutes to get to the island.

Ferry boat we took to the island, we loaded our car which was great to have on the island
View of Isola D'Elba as we approached on the boat
View from hotel room
Little restaurant on the beach
If you look closely you can see Hotel Dino in the photo
A local wine we had for lunch
Gnocchetti al salmone and linguine with clams....yes they were as good as they look
A sunset view from a friends terrace (Capoliveri area)
My new favorite side dish alici (small fish in olive oil and oregano)
One of the many small ports

View of the island as we left on the ferry

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Santa Maria Novella

I recently visited one of the oldest pharmacies in the world: Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.  Located in Florence, established by Dominican Monks shortly after their arrival in 1221.  (Yes way before America was discovered.)  The monks began making medicinal herbs in order to prepare medications, balms and ointments for their small infirmary.  The products made by the friars became famous so in 1612 the pharmacy became open to the public.  (Apparently the products were so renowned even Russia, the Indies and countries as far as China knew of them.)  Today the pharmacy still operates using the same artisanal procedures established by the monks.  Many of the products available from colognes, liqueurs, soap, face and body care, room fragrances, teas, etc. have great history and stories behind them.  The "Acqua della Regina" is an essence that was created for Caterina de'Medici.  After becoming Queen of France she took the fragrance with her and introduced it to the court where it became popular.  This same fragrance is available for purchase today....amazing to think one today could smell the same as Caterina de'Medici.  I purchased the Acqua di Santa Maria Novella, Sapone Tabacco Toscano (for my Lucky Strike smoking, Tuscan husband) and a ceramic dish with the crest of S.M.N. on it.

Entrance to S.M.N
The large desk in the main room of S.M.N....this is where you order from the list the products you wish to purchase
A partial view of the main room ceiling
The Green Room (Sala Verde) was the reception room until 1700, where beverages like hot chocolate were once served

Boxes waiting to be filled with product....I really love the crest of S.M.N
The Herbal Shop which was once the Old Pharmacy (Antica Spezieria) where products were displayed and sold between 1612 and 1848
Another beautiful ceiling
Products from the Herbal Shop

Area with liqueurs and fruit spreads...packaging and bottles are just stunning

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pepperoni Perfetto

Roast bell peppers in oven until they look like least 30 minutes

These days I have been watching my mother in law cook.  Albeit in bits and pieces as she generally wakes up early to begin cooking for the day.  For this recipe, she waited to show me from start to finish as it is one of my husband's favorites and he wants me to learn.  This dish is very simple, but very tasty and beautiful.  Great for antipasto with bread or crostini or as a side dish for a meal.  Sometimes for dinner we will eat this with bread, cheese and wine, very simple but satisfying.

My mother in law has lots of clever kitchen solutions, here she is taking the skin and seeds off the roasted peppers on a piece of foil...this way clean up is very easy

After peppers have out skin and seeds removed

A second cleaning removes missed seeds and cuts the peppers down to bite size pieces

Cleaned roasted peppers

Another great tip....freeze fresh cut parsley and remove chunks as needed for dishes

She mixes the parsley and peppers with mostly olive oil...quite a bit, but about 10% of the oil should be corn oil to keep the oil from solidifying

Finito....serve this either cold or at room tastes better the next day!