As most of you already know we tend to spend our weekend escapes up in our country house which is conveniently located close to the city of Milan by car (roughly an hour and fifty minutes from door to door).
Now that Fall is starting to bless us with its wonderful colors and fantastic temperatures we tend to go in the vast woods that are right behind our house for long treks and exploration. We also tend to feel a certain optimism towards trying to find that sacred delicacy that everyone here talks about: The Porcini Mushroom!
You cannot imagine how many time we have picked and found mushrooms that we believed were close to being edible only to later find out upon inspection from the local experts (folks in their late 80s) that I could serve these up for my wife over dinner and in the early morning call the insurance company to collect on her insurance once I provide the appropriate death certificate!
Along with this the constant invitations to us city folks that they will take us early in the morning and show us how to get Mushrooms the correct way. I have to say that after 12 years since we bought the house I am still waiting for that invitation to come forward! Not holding my breath to tell you the truth! These “fugaioli” experts love to keep their secret spots to themselves!
Yesterday morning we decided to head on over to our friend’s place for coffee passing through the woods and Betti said…why don’t we try to go to that place where we found the Ovuli mushrooms last year? I said sure let’s give it a try.
Let me remind you that Bett’s sense of direction is a bit off and I tend to be the guy with an enclosed compass in my brain for which I pretty much knew where to start the trek. To tell you the truth I was more centered on finding the Ovuli type mushrooms so I started exploring the vicinity of the place that we had found those last year. Nothing!
I have to say that hunting for Mushrooms is a bit like Fishing. Long periods of waiting and walking till you stumble upon something is that is decent.
We sort of started giving up when heading a bit to the left of where we were I noticed a brown specimen that to me seem quite interesting and similar to a Porcini mushroom. I picked it up and handed it over to Betti but since we had already been through this process before (with rejection and jokes regarding how city folks love poisonous mushrooms) we placed it in the sack and decided to hold our enthusiasm.
As is typical they say that when you find a Mushroom you typical can find others close by and Betti stumbled upon a smaller one close by so that one also went in the sack.
We came back home in the afternoon and started looking at photos of Mushrooms to try to identify the specimen in hand but our enthusiasm was starting to flounder. Than Betti says: “We need to bring these to the old folks even if they make fun of us” as opposed to throwing them out which was my suggestion.
Alas! This morning we went to visit “la signora Fernanda” who as soon as she sees them burst out in celebration and confirmed that they were Porcini Mushrooms! She even brought out her scale and confirmed that we had 2 etti worth of precious mushrooms. Obviously Betti was ecstatic and we fully trust “signora Fernanda since she once owned a famous trattoria in Voghera and she knows her Mushrooms!
So in conclusion! We finally found the Fockers!!! Betti is bringing them over for a dinner invite we have tonight for all to enjoy! Bellisimo!
Roughly 13 years ago we had the fortune of coming across a small abandon country house up in the town of Ca Bazzari (Bazzari) which is our paradise for relaxation when the city of Milan gets to be a bit too much. A small old three-story barn with a patio and no landscaping to deal with but which offers wonderful views of the Val Tidone valley which is considered quite close to the Tuscan hills in beauty and nature (with less tourist!)
Right behind our house is a vast wood area which is covered with Chestnut trees (that tend to arrive in October) that provide fertile ground for the growth of Mushrooms (especially of the Porcini variety). We constantly stumbled upon our neighbor’s descriptions of how many Mushrooms they had found in the past years but in our constant walks in the woods the constantly ran into mushrooms that when we brought them into town they were the joke of the town and suggested to use as poisonous solution to get rid of the spouse. Betti obviously did not appreciate.
This weekend she decided to put a stop to that and dragged me into the woods in search of the always elusive Porcini mushroom. I suggested we try to go as far up and away from the main paths as possible and with Betti guiding the way we stumbled upon a whole field of diverse mushroom from which immediately Betti saw these orange colored variety called Ovuli which are way more rare than the Porcini mushrooms and hard to find.
Upon re-entry from the woods, we brought our bag of mushrooms which obviously contained the typical set of poisonous-looking Porcini but included in the pack we had these two gems
This time Ms. Fernanda and the local mushroom experts dropped their jaws and told us that they are the hardest to find since they are considered a delicacy which gathers a price of 50 euro per kilo!
Betti immediately got on the phone with her Mom to inquire on how to cook them and the final conclusion was just to brush off the dirt, slice them thin and pour a touch of olive oil and lemon drops over them and to dispense of them raw. A true delicate taste and a great way to put a highlight on the weekend.
One of the fun things which I have indulged in with the passing of time and along with the fact that I have lived in Italy for the last 26 years is a passion for Italian Food. Ever since I was a young kid growing up in Venezuela, I had a constant fascination for those loud and full of live restaurants that my Dad use to take to me. The mysteries of spaghetti cooked in a thousand variations or that first rabbit “alla cacciatore” still are stuck in my subconscious.
Once my parents got divorced and my mother dragged me to that wonderful capital of the world called New York, weekly visits to Mulberry Street and Little Italy along with a yearly San Gennaro fest love relationship solidified my passion.
So then comes along a move down to Miami and that no-man lands of Italian Cuisine (I still remember with anger my first visit to an Olive Garden in Orlando which I consider a true nightmare that haunts me till this day). I always had a visceral attraction towards Europe in general and considering that my Dad was from Barcelona I was not a bit surprised that my first visit to Rome when I was fresh out of University was the stuff of dreams. A simple hotel (which no longer exists by the way) close to the Spanish Steps culminated in venturing out and eating, by myself since my German girlfriend at the time had still not flown in to meet up with me, the most magnificent “spaghetti alla carbonara” that my eyes had ever encountered. The restaurant, recommended by the bell hop of the hotel, had a simple open garden in the back and was off the typical tourist trap list which back in 1982 was still quite small in nature.
The beauty of the day, the food, and wine, the friendly service sold me on the greatness of the country that I had envisioned in my childhood dreams. That week I was quite serious about planning yearly trips to explore the rest that Italy had to offer and tempt me with.
Obviously once I got on the plane that took me back to the sunny shores of Miami, that plan hit with the reality of finding work (which I did shortly after) and bogging down into the 9 to 5 grid (in those days it was more 9 to 10) in one of Miami’s most successful architectural firms at the time.
But as we all know life has its mysterious way of not forgetting about the small pleasures that we indulge into from time to time. And right after the relationship with the German girl dried up, a common friend (Italian of course) decided to do a match making a proposal to me over a dinner party that I had the coincidence of going to. Bear in mind I hate match making or any sort of effort on the behalf of people to try to solve the complexity that we call life (and in that case human relationships).
But as I walked into that party and was drawn towards a sophisticated girl from Milan sitting on a sofa and acting nonchalant about the fact that she was eating overcooked Gnocchi far away from home. I was immediately entranced and decided to invite her out. And so began our story, one that evolved towards a wonderful wedding on South Beach and my subsequent move to that country which was always teasing me and tempting me in the back of my mind as a child.
Bear in mind that I am a terrible cook in comparison to Betti, but with that passion, I decided to embark on creating and moderating an Italian Food Community on Google+ which has grown exponentially. If you love Italian Food as much as I do I would love to have you check it out. Grazie,
You can find the Google+ Italian Food Community link here: Google+ Italian Food Community
The month of July is already here and what better time than to launch a new project?
We have decided to set up a brand new and shiny Eshop in which we will be offering a series of Ebooks which are directly derived from Elisabetta’s book Eating Heart which can also be purchased at the store.
Every two months we will be offering a new publication which will revolve around the themes that are close to our heart. Food, Italian Living, and travel tips. For now, you can purchase Eating Heart either on Amazon in a printed version or as a PDF which you can enjoy on your desktop or mobile devices (Ipad, Android Tables, and Mobile phones)
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#ebook #italianfood #recipes
After spending more than 23 years commuting between Milan and Genoa due to work I was always fascinated by the old tales of the traditional “tripperias” that existed in this magical city which is Genoa.
For those who might be a bit nervous of Tripe as food to consider bear in mind that it is a typical staple in traditional Italian cuisine although it is a bit of an acquired taste since we are basically talking about the inside of the cow’s stomach.
Obviously after so many years and with the thought that such a long, long tradition had faded with the wind it takes somebody like Betti to come over one afternoon, pick me up at the office and surprise me with a quick visit to one of the last one’s still existing barely 3 blocks away from my office: Tripperia La Casana
A place stuck in time which dates back to 200 years ago run by Francesco Pissani and Gabriela Colombo we proceeded to stock up on fresh cuts of tripe to take back to Milan and put in the fridge for the coming winter season which is when this staple gives out its best. Look for a future recipe from Betti in the coming months.
If in Genova they are located at:
Tripperia La Casana
Vico della Casana, 16123 Genova
Telephone: +0039 010 247 4357
Yesterday we went for a stroll in one of our favorite Italian Street markets which are roughly 5 minutes away from our house in walking distance (Ah! The pleasures of not having to drive in this great city that is Milan!).
I had the pleasure of encountering this funny lady that later explained the tradition of eating Eel on the night before Christmas in certain regions of Italy. As you can see from the video below the Eels are live! Not my idea of a fun dish to cook in this Holiday season but it was quite fascinating, to say the least!
If you feel up to it and can locate some fresh Eels in your neck of the woods here is the recipe:
Capitone in bianco or Anguilla in bianco is a very traditional recipe that is very common in most parts of Italy for the day before Christmas when, in theory, you should not eat meat. Ingredients are for 4 people.
1 kg of eel (anguilla or capitone)
56 fresh bay leaves (yes, 56, it is a symbolic number etc)
Some rosemary (rosmarino)
23 juniper berries
2 cloves of garlic
1 small glass of dry white wine
1 tablespoon brandy
6 tablespoons of olive oil.
Wash, gut and skin the eel iI. Cut it into 3-inch pieces, flour them and fry in a frying pan in which you had heated 4 tablespoons of oil with garlic. As soon as the fish is coloring, put salt and pepper and pour the wine, lemon juice, brandy and a ladle of water. Then add the bay leaf, rosemary and juniper berries. Cover and cook over moderate heat for about 30 minutes, adding a little bit of water should the gravy dry up a bit. Add 2 tablespoons of oil prior to turning off the heat and serve.
Last week we were in Parma visiting and preparing new material for Casa Chiesi (nice stuff I must add) and I must add that with the beauty of this great city…the food is to die for! Since we did not have much time to enjoy a nice restaurant I decided to hit the local cold cuts supplier! Check out this small video teaser….Food porn at it’s best!