Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chiusi, Nonna Rosa's, Kamars and the Real Fagioli Toscani

Ceramica Kamars Being such a ceramic fanatic, she wondered why in all the years she had spent near Chiusi, she had never ventured into this Etruscan jewel. Founded in 1958 Kamars takes it’s name from the ancient Etruscan name for the town of Chiusi. They export unique place settings all over the world and provide the tableware for a few of the Etruscan restaurants in the old part of Chiusi (such as, La Solita Zuppa). The artist’s reproductions of antique forms, colors and shapes are a refreshing contrast to the infamous Deruta collections. Everything is hand painted of course, and with his small oven capacity, he produces these wonderful pieces in a very unhurried manner. If you ever have the chance to be in the triangle of this area, Chiusi, Chianciano Terme, Sarteano, stop in to see his wares and have dinner next door at Nonna Rosa’s located in the Hotel Rosati; you will be enormously satisfied.

Nonna Rosa is one of those surprises one does not expect in a “hotel” zone let alone, a three star hotel. This family owned and operated affair offers a step back into the past with wonderful vintage and antique pieces from the 1900’s (to note his collection of Lambrettas).

They are warm and welcoming doing all they can to accommodate needs. Within this environment lies a fabulous restaurant run by the family of course, offering not just local fare, but a creative v
ariation on a theme (the classic Tuscan fare with a flair). The restaurant is decorated in every angle lending the feeling as if in ones own home. There is a wonderful fireplace, sconces rendering soft lighting, candlesticks and candelabras here and there on various tables, chandeliers and lovely drapery not just on the windows. Once the ordering is complete, the time between dishes disappears while studying all the vintage pieces, which in turn, spurn many a conversation as memories related to some of the pieces arise.

Do not be shy when ordering, the portions are not huge and they are fabulous about giving half portions for pasta, you will probably pay for a full one but at least you do not have to throw away half of it. You must have an appetizer (one of their best is the tagliere with pecorino, bruschetta in varying flavors, mini onions, homegrown honey, and fabulous cinta senese cold cuts), a pasta course and main dish. The portion size of the main dish is small and really, just the right size allowing a little bit of room for desert; definitely try their chocolate fondue.

Fagioli Toscani – Simply the Best About Tuscan Cannelini or (White Kidney Beans). Beans must always soak overnight no matter what you read. Before cooking, rinse and add fresh cold water for cooking and do not salt the water until the very end.
For 6 500 gm or 18 oz or 1lb of Cannelini beans 10 Large leaves of Sage, or more if small 20 gm or, a tad less than 1 oz Butter salted 2 Soup spoons of hearty flavored olive oil 2 Soup spoons of tomato sauce Bring the beans to a boil on medium heat, as soon as they begin to boil, turn down low. Cook uncovered until done, not mushy, they need to hold their shape. When done, drain reserving a few spoons of cooking liquid and set aside.

Melt butter and oil together in a large saucepan, (large surface area)
When the fats begin to bubble, add the beans the sage either as whole leaves or cut with scissors into three, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté and when almost all the liquid has been absorbed, add the tomato sauce. Stir together well and cook for another two minutes (If the mix seems too dense, add a few spoons of the cooking water from the beans). Serve hot as a side dish, garnished with olive oil and accompanied with crusty bread either plain or toasted and rubbed with garlic.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wine Bars Italian Style

Wine by the glass posted daily on the chalkboards; a really nice way of tasting without having to buy the bottle. This is one of the places we can wander into and have a glass with a taste of local salami and such as well as, the place we go when the "gang" gets together for a group dinner of Bagna Cauda, or Beef Bourgogne.

So what is next on Snow White's menu? With these days indoors, she is working on some super duper special cheese tartlets from the Alps.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out and About in the Veneto

Casa del Parmigiano is a must see while traveling through Marostica, check out their site. Next to this shop is the Casa del Café where you may have a macchiatone that will knock your taste buds for a ride. A macchiatone is an espresso with a bit more steamed milk than just a caffè macchiato (or colored with a dash of milk and a teaspoon of froth); the coffee used here is a genuine treat. Next to these two shops is a good bar/coffee house where one may sit outside on the piazza and soak up the view with Illy coffee and fabulous pastries from the local pastry shop just a few minutes from the bar. Where to eat. There is also a incredibly quaint hotel not far from these three spots, Albergo Due Mori; nestled within the “land of grappa”, this modest hotel is a tiny distillation of emotions.

For those who wish to dine in history, a must-do is the Ristorante al Castello Superiore. High above the town of Marostica is a wonderful taste treat as well as, one for the eyes. Be sure when driving there to take a small car otherwise you cannot make the sharp turn up the castle drive to park above near the water well.

This restaurant makes one of the best Baccalà alla Vicentina I have ever had although the polenta is not true in presentation as it should be, the dish is still an authentic delight. Be prepared for a well stocked cellar with prices to match.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Peace in Times of Great Unrest

Wishing a peaceful Easter to all...

Compound Butters for Cheap Meat

With these economic times, my kitchen is feeling the pinch so it is time to dig out those standby recipes for compound butters to help flavor the cheaper cuts of meat some of us are having to purchase. My favorites are Bercy Butter, Matre d’hôtel in two versions, Marchand de Vin, Garlic Butter and Paprika Butter. When making these compound butters, allow about ½ ounce per serving and make sure these dollops are placed just before serving o top of the piping-hot meat or fish.

Matre d’hôtel Butter

Cream 4 oz or 113 gm of unsalted butter
Add a teaspoon or a little more of chopped parsley the juice of ½ lemon, salt and pepper to taste. A variation of this is to substitute the parsley with chopped chives for great chive butter.

Bercy Butter

Cook 2 teaspoons of finely chopped shallots in ½ cup of dry white wine until reduced to about ¼ of the original quantity: cool. Cream 4 oz of butter with 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley and the wine-shallot mixture, season with salt and pepper.

Marchand du Vin Butter

This is the same as the Bercy Butter except a good red wine is used instead of white.
Garlic Butter
To avoid too strong a taste, or overpowering, the garlic should be cooked first. Peel 6 cloves of garlic and drop into boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, cool, and cru sh thoroughly, then cream with ½ cup of butter.

Paprika Butter
Melt 2 oz of butter and in it sauté 2 Tbl of minced onion until light brown. Remove from heat and add 2 tsp of paprika, mix well and let cool. Add 2 oz of creamed butter and cream well together. This may be forced through a fine sieve if desired, great on Veal.

Some other ideas for flavorings are: mustard, chutney, tarragon or other herbs, anchovy paste, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. An assortment of these butters works well with fondue Bourguignon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Just Any Bookstore...Bassano del Grappa

While roving the streets of Bassano del Grappa, this little day-tripper stumbled on an extraordinary bookstore fashioned as a library in an ancient palazzo. Art and culture have been joined in a meticulously restored edifice called Palazzo Roberti. The building dates back to the 1600’s and thanks to painstaking restoration, the palazzo presents a bookstore of the 21st century cradled in the essence of the past. Just browsing books one has the prospect to admire the high intrinsic value of the architecture, the gardens, the statues and frescoes. Flanking the staircase is a banister, a superb work of art in and of itself; the fat hand wrought wooden rail is supported by forged iron pieces resembling snakes. Today the cultural center, situated on the "piano nobile," allows us to live literature in the past during invitations and meetings with writers and artists of today. This lovely palazzo conquered her as it also did for Napoleon, who chose to reside there twice during his lifetime.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Embarassing Offer

OK, I am disgusted with Obama’s embarrassing monetary offer to Italy for the earthquake victims and damage. 50 thousand dollars is an insult and, on the heels of this “lovely” economic crisis caused by America, it makes the offer even more obscene and absurd. Condolences would have been enough, a little kiss-ass political style letting everyone know that the US is concentrating on recovery of it’s own especially since money is just a matter of sending the "invoice" farther down the line to our children and grandchildren. On top of that, his request or demand to have Turkey be a part of NATO is another insane imposition. Why make the European countries pay our tab, for prostituting Turkey with our airplanes? There are way too many immigrants in the European countries and they have no desire to add Muslim-Turkey legally to their worlds and I do not blame them! Good Lord, where else is Obama going to insert his foot? He never ceases to disgust me with his unbelievable lack of experience and ignorance to common sense.

Did you all hear about how Michelle is not going to concede to classic First Lady dress codes as well as, not wanting to give up her prowess in the kitchen? When will she figure out the importance of her position as a representative of our country and take on the role of that representation versus making a strong statement about maintaining her home-style habits? She should have taken the $ 50K offer of her husband to Italy (the price of a car) and put it towards her wardrobe. While in Europe she was out classed in dress by all the other ladies.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Truth about who Works

A Russian arrives in New York City as a new immigrant to the United States.

He stops the first person he sees walking down the street and says,

“Thank you Mr. American for letting me into this country, giving me housing, food stamps, free medical care, and a free education!”

The passerby says,

“You are mistaken, I am a Mexican.”

The man goes on and encounters another passerby. “

Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in America.”

The person says,

“I not American, I Vietnamese.”

The new arrival walks farther, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand, and says,

“Thank you for wonderful America!”

That person puts up his hand and says,

“I am from Middle East. I am not American.”

He finally sees a nice lady and asks,

“Are you an American?”

She says,

“No, I am from Africa.”

Puzzled, he asks her,

“Where are all the Americans?”

The African lady checks her watch and says,

“Probably at work.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dirt-Poor Soup

Stealing this recipe from the Piglet, I thought this was appropriate for the times, a dish one could whip up on a budget stretched to the limits. Now with Fiat and Chrysler together, we might be seeing a few more of these in the states besides the Cinquecento clubs and finding replacement parts a tad easier. Gotta love that new 500!

The origin of this peasant soup, from what she garnered via the Piglet, is somewhere on the Spanish continent. Honestly, this is a super easy dish, a great belly warmer and just plain good when using genuine ingredients.

1 liter or quart of chicken, beef or vegetable broth (for one person use half that amount). Old crusty bread (older than a day or two) cubed or just torn into pieces (be sure to use the crumbs as well).

Hearty flavorful extra virgin cold pressed olive oil (Tuscan if you are able).

2-3 cloves garlic cut in half or quartered 1 egg per person Sauté on low bread pieces in plenty of oil with the cut garlic; sauté until the bread is well toasted ad crunchy.

Heath broth to almost boiling turn down when add the eggs).

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl as if preparing for an egg drop soup.

Add the eggs to the hot broth while stirring then add the bread, oil and garlic from the sauté.

Serve hot. If desired, may add a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano (not Kraft!) to make it a bit “richer.”

Just Thinking...

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same…