Monday, April 16, 2018

ARTICHOKE DAZE (Part 2)

 ARTICHOKE DAZE
Part 2
THE LITTLE LASAGNA ALLA VIGNAROLA  (sort of)





A Lasagne is 'stuff' layered between sheets of pasta.
Of course, the 'stuff' is important, be it meat, vegetables or a combination.
But the ultimate success of a lasagna depends on the quality of the pasta.
The sheets must be super thin so that they take a supporting and unifying role,
to the filling, but in reality the pasta makes or breaks the lasagna.



THE CAST OF CHARACTERS


Fave and Artichoke

Take equal amounts of cooked fave and artichokes




Cooked guanciale

Fry as much guanciale as possible until crispy, remove
from pan, leave fat. Fry half of a diced onion and a couple of
cloves of chopped garlic in the left over fat.
( or use olive oil if you are a sissy)




Besciamella

Prepare a white sauce (Besciamella). In a sauce pan melt
2 Tablespoons butter and add 2 Tablespoons flour.
These are equal amounts, if you want more sauce add more butter and flour.
Make a Roux and slowly add whole milk until it's all nice and creamy.
Mash the cooked fave and minced parsley and mint and add to the sauce.
Maybe, ( if no one is looking) add some grated Parmesan cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.





Mint and Parsley minced




Besciamella with Fave and Herbs



THE ASSEMBLY

If you are near Castiglione Del Lago ( Umbria), go to The
Pasta Ladies ( next to the Esso Station) and buy fresh pasta sheets.
(Don't mention my name, they won't know who I am).
If not, buy or make fresh pasta. You can used dried, but it's not
as yummy. Pre-cook ( almost al dente) the pasta, rinse sheets in cold water
and place on a kitchen towel and pat dry.
Now in a small baking pan layer besciamella, artichokes, guanciale and
grated Pecorino cheese. Repeat layers until your 'stuff' is gone.
Italians usually have only 3 layers of pasta.




Top with more besciamella and grated cheese.




Bake in a preheated  375 degree F. oven ( 190 C.) for about 30-40 minutes
until golden or you can't stand to wait any longer. Let it rest
for about 10 minutes ( sorry).





Remember to wash it down with Red Wine.
BUON APPETITO!










Wednesday, April 11, 2018

ARTICHOKE DAZE....From the Studio To the Kitchen


ARTICHOKE DAZE
Part 1
From The Studio to the Kitchen



Artichokes Hanging
James Aponovich
Oil on canvas,  20" x 16"



In Italy, artichoke season runs from about January through April.
The Italians ( and me ) go crazy for them.




Artichoke
James Aponovich


They are steamed ( Romana), Fried ( Ebracio), sliced raw into salads, and in this
case made into Lasagne. You never see people dunking them into a bowl of butter, that seems to be an American thing, but it sure is good.
But, first things first, they must be painted.....INTO THE STUDIO!




5 Artichokes
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 18" x 28"


Sort of like 'Ducks in a row'. They all sit very patiently for their portraits to
be painted. Now it's off to the kitchen and
OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!







THE FAVA PHASE

In early April, the first of the Fava Beans arrive in Italian  markets.
They are so tender they can (and are) eaten raw right out of the shell.
One day in Panicarola, I was standing in line waiting to buy some Fava Beans
when a man, who had nothing else to do, very carefully explained to me
the proper Umbrian method of eating Fave.

Pop some Fave Beans out of their shells
Cut a slice of Pecorino Cheese
Put both into your mouth
Chew
Wash everything down with Red Wine.


Great, but I was after something else. If this lady in front of me doesn't
wipe them all out, I'll but some for a culinary project.



A HAPPY COUPLE

After buying what was left, I went to Linda's Bottega and picked up a wedge of
Umbrian Pecorino ( sheep) cheese...Stagionata, great for grating.






VESTAL VIRGIN VIGNAROLA

In Rome, They make a vegetable 'stew' made up of equal amounts
of fave beans, artichokes, peas and lettuce, a little onion and olive oil.
It is all supported ( thankfully)by that great Italian bacon, guanciale
or pig jowl. Add some pecorino and mint...finito!
Hummm.....maybe they are onto something here.



The two Italian bacons : Guanciale on top  and pancetta below.
They may tell you that they are both the same.
Don't believe them.
Guanciale is King!



END OF PART 1





Monday, April 9, 2018

A LITTLE BALCONY with A GRAND VIEW {Panicale}


The hill town of Panicale rises above the flat plain that once was the bottom of Lake Trasimeno  but now is  a green productive agricultural land. From our balcony the farm fields are clearly defined by rows of crops, trees and white roads.



The geometry of the patterns are fascinating while the lake is in constant flux. At times the three island appear to be floating above the green water and yet when  the lake is calm, the still the water reflects the islands and the outcropping where the fortified town Castiglione del Lago  boldly stands.




There are huge Cedar  and Cypress trees growing on the steep slope that leads up to Panicale. Olive trees dot the landscape in neatly terraced rows.
The light is spectacular and on a clear day the blue sky is remarkable in it's depth of blueness!




 In the late afternoon and into early evening before the sun sets is The Golden Hour, the moments when the Umbrian landscape glows with  rich warm light. 






As the sun nears setting
 the shadows grow long across the plain. The green fields brighten in contrast to these dark shadows yet it all retains a warmth particle to Italy.
Cloud formations, like the lake are in constant change.
All I can say is... this is a remarkable place to be.










Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PASQUETTA.......A Ride In The Countryside { Panicale}


Here in Italy the Monday following Pasqua ( Easter) is a National holiday called Pasquetta.
Although Spring has been held up due to cooler than normal temperatures today was exquisite  with warm sun and mild air.
Since we had to move our car due to the Ruzzolone....the Cheese Rolling competition that happens each Pasquetta...it is like bocce only with a large wheel of Pecorino. Hard to explain.
Everyone happily moves their car because who wants to find a big dent in the shape of a wheel of cheese in the front quarter panel of their Fiat.




So, since we had to move the car James decided a short drive in the country would be nice. With the delayed Spring the trees are still without leaves, but, the fields are alive with crops of green.




The clear skies allowed the  distant snow covered Sibillini Mountains to show themselves, not a sight we often see.
Fields contine to be plowed and spring crops planted. Fruit trees will be flowering soon with the days growing warmer and longer.

Back up the hill to Panicale, we park the car down below and walk up to the Historic Center, now free of cars.






The piazza was lively with the bar and cafe's full of people basking in the sun and atmosphere of a holiday. James and I  found a free table at Bar Gallo , James had an Aperol Spritz and me a Campari and Soda. This is it. Life is good. We are grateful.







Tuesday, March 13, 2018

DREAMING.......Of Umbria


Here in New Hampshire it is snowing.....again. Yet another Blizzard.

So, we dream of Italy, of Umbria of Panicale and it's beauty and warmth 
despite rain or clouds, the people are always warm and kind.

We dream of our friends.



We dream of cappuccino, prosecco or and apertivo at Bar Gallo and everyone there.





We think of the food....the pasta, wild asparagus and artichokes that are so wonderful.




And soon, if all goes as planned, we will be living in the dream.



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

BEYOND COLD

-9 Degrees F.

When the  morning temperature is -9 degrees just as it was yesterday and the day before yesterday, it becomes rather strange. The air is dry, the snow squeaks if you dare step out on it.
 It is ridiculously cold.





Since Christmas we have been living in this Arctic blast of sub zero temperatures.
And....there has been snow and ice to add to the mix. This deep freeze is not ending anytime soon.
We are living in an inhospitable world of gray and white.




If I can say anything positive about this, the snow cover is like a blanket and is beneficial for the garden to help protect it against these temperatures. 








Ahhhhh! Some color! Clementines are a must this time of year for Vitamin C and for their vibrant color to help those winter doldrums of the colorless environment outside our windows.



James has a cure for the winter blues....


A  glass of wine as a warm fire blazes. Although,
he admits to being tired of having to deal with cord wood, he loves the romance of a fire burning in our fireplace.
In the kitchen there is an Amatriciana sauce simmering and a duck breast roasting in the oven.
Winter cooking aromas fill the house.  All morning a chicken stock was becoming the basis of a soup for the week. This weather demands soup.



We did not leave the house today except to bring in wood.
We both work in our studios in the daylight hours, which are shortened by the winter season.
I have been studying Italian during the dusk hours hoping that my efforts will lead to longer conversations.





No end in sight for this cold.
Neither James nor I can remember a time when the world we live in here in New England was so frozen for so long. Climate change, yes.

As the full moon rises above our tundra we hope that the New Year 2018 will not only bring us a thaw, but on a global scale, civility, brotherhood, peace and respect for one another and the planet we all live on.









Friday, July 21, 2017

Daylily Season......and more



Many of our day lilies started life here as models for one of James' paintings.
Some were here when we purchased the house.
We have divided them and moved them around the garden, finding places that needed a burst of color in late July.



James and I like the combination of the Globe Thistle's texture and blue color 
in contrast to the warm yellow of this Daylily right outside our back door.





Yet, it is not all Daylilies grabbing our attention. This Astible is tall and
glorious and its placement outside our window makes for easy viewing, even when on 
hot and humid days, like we have been experiencing, we prefer to stay inside!





Echinacea blooms along with Russian Sage, Poppies, Globe Thistle, and the long lasting Yarrow.
For leaf contrast we have planted a dark purple foliage Cimicifuga, Tall Phlox, with
 variegated leaves, a yellow grass,
 Sea Holly with it's silver leaves and thorny blooms, as well as the evergreens, 'DeGroots', arborvitae  and boxwood.





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Daylily, 'Elizabeth  Salter' is one of our all time favorites and I cannot tell
you how many times she has ended up in a painting. We first found her in Maine where she held 
a spot at the head of our stone walk. When we moved back to New Hampshire 
this  special Daylily moved with us.
Sadly, our last move was in the winter when here in the New England  States the
ground was frozen.

A couple of years ago we went looking for a daylily for James to include
in a painting that he was working on. As we wandered around the Daylily farm we
noticed 'Elizabeth Salter' was on their  plant list.
So, once again, she adorns our garden border!




Daylilies dancing above Coreopis ,'Moonbeam' and  Cranesbill Geranium, 'Rozanne'.




An array of greens in the shady end of the border.
A cool spot for an early morning cup of coffee.





A lovely pair gazing into the porch window, along with my shovel 
that I left outside today.
I best go retrieve it!