Sour Cherry Liqueur

Things have settled down around here. After a hectic month, we finally have a little quiet time which is welcome.

Before our workshop chef departed, literally 10 minutes before he had to catch a train, Chef Philip decided he needed to ferment a ginormous batch of cherries from our sour cherry tree. He had originally put up a small batch by picking a tiny batch of cherries a few weeks earlier and putting them in sugar to break them down. Then he placed the tiny jar in the window sill to ferment.

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here’s his instagram post about the first batch

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Then about 2 weeks later, he and our intern Adri decided to climb the old cherry tree and harvest basket loads of sour cherries. I’ve never seen a happier Philip. We grabbed a giant glass jar and loaded it with the alreadly fermenting cherries from the window sill and the new cherries they had collected. Adding more sugar and a few liters of pure alcohol, Philip covered the batch and left it to ferment.

Much to my surprise, literally, as we were heading to the train station, Philip decided to harvest more cherries, and quickly added them to the fermenting batch and then added much more sugar and more bottles of alcohol. The giant batch now sits proudly in the middle of the commercial kitchen. I can only surmise that this was a subliminal way of letting us all know that Chef Philip will be back.

For this recipe and so many more, join us in September not only to taste Philip’s Sour Cherry Liqueur but to explore this incredibly rich region on our Preserving Italy : Slow Food of the Lunigiana Experience. Head to the link to preserve, explore, harvest and cook with us. Learn to make local dishes and handmade pasta with Chef Philip and other local experts. Harvest our grapes and visit the winery where we make our wine. It’s going to be a dream.

I cannot wait to taste our Sour Cherry Liqueur; our first batch of many in years to come.

Grazie and Cin cin! Philip, you’re crazy, and we love that.

xx

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Sunday Supper:: Sausage and Peppers

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This easy sausage and peppers one pan dinner is the perfect one pan meal. It’s especially wonderful for a weekend after hosting friends and family (hint, hint – if you’re hosting Easter brunch, I’m talking to you!). You put everything on one dish, pop it into the oven and forget about it.

If you’re not hosting this weekend, tuck this recipe away for the future. This comfort food favorite is a great Sunday Supper option as it’s easy to prepare, delicious, and serves a crowd. Add some crunchy bread and a salad, and you’re all set.

Here’s my recipe from Picture Perfect Parties, my cookbook. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Sausage and Peppers One Pan Dinner
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausages
– 2 red peppers sliced
– 2 hot banana peppers sliced
– 1 jalapeno pepper minced
– 2 green peppers sliced
– 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
– 4 cloves of garlic minced
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the peppers and the sausage into bite size pieces. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours and serve warm. Garnish with assorted herbs like rosemary, parsley, oregano, or chives.

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My Pesto Recipe:: Spread it on anything!

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fullsizeoutput_6184 For a quick weeknight dinner last week, I made my first pesto batch of the season. I often say pesto is my version of peanut butter because I can spread it on anything.

If you follow along on Instagram, you probably saw me post a few stories about this easy pesto recipe. It’s a family favorite that I found in the New York Times while living in NYC. It’s originally a Silver Palate recipe, and it’s been one of my go-to meals ever since. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been cooking it for years.

Pesto is a pantry staple in my house, and I almost always make my own because it’s so easy. If you do want to buy a prepared version, I like the Cibo brand from While Foods.

When I made dinner last week, I was reminded of this awesome recipe and knew I had to share it with all of you again, along with this video of my pesto recipe process. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Pesto Recipe
serves 6-8

You will need:
– 4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
– ¾ cup olive oil
– ½ cup pine nuts
– 4 garlic cloves
– ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + 4 tablespoons for the garnish
– 1-teaspoon coarse kosher salt

To prepare:
Combine basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil leaves.

After blending, pour oil into the mixture and blend until smooth.

This can be made 1 day ahead. Stored in a sealed jar, it can last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Squash and Pesto Tortellini 
serves 8

You will need:
– 3 yellow squash cut into cubes
– 3 cloves garlic minced
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 16 oz. box tortellini pasta , either dried or fresh work great
– 1 cup toasted pine nuts
– 1 cup pesto
– 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
– salt and pepper

To prepare:
In a large skillet add minced garlic, olive oil and cubed squash. Saute until the squash is golden brown. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the pasta water then drain. In a large serving bowl add the cooked squash, the pesto and toasted nuts, 4 tablespoons of the pasta water, the pasta, cheese and salt and pepper. Mix throughly and serve with extra grated cheese.

 

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2018 The year in highlights!

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Wow what a year 2018 has been! It marked the conclusion of the Italian renovation of La Fortezza which was a milestone indeed.

Our second season of the La Fortezza workshops were a huge success. We had the opportunity to delve into our region in Italy more deeply, and we welcomed 40 guests this year.

We also welcomed our new chef, Chef Philip Meeker, to our workshops. We cooked in the kitchen with Angie Moser, preserved, jarred and canned and cooked with Domenica Marchetti and enjoyed showing James Beard Award winning Chef Rebecca Wilcomb our region. We introduced Rebecca, Angie and Philip to some local slow food artisans and purveyors. We harvested our vineyard and pressed olive oil at the local press with students in tow. We seasoned our new pizza oven and cooked with all the local products with locals. We ate every single thing out of our kitchen garden. We hunted truffles and sampled our wine (non stop) it was amazing.

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Testaroli tasting

Testaroli tasting

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Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

Truffle huntiing followed by a 4 course truffle lunch, left us stuffed and sleepy.

We had Steve McKenzie paint with our guests. Lucky for us, he will be returning in 2019 to stay for a month and paint a collection that will conclude in our first ever Art Exhibition at La Fortezza.

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It was a rewarding year, and with rewards naturally come some challenges. After all renovating a 12th century fortress in the Italian countryside can be bit daunting, but if you know me, you know I love a challenge. It’s great fodder for my next book, my third book, Italy is my Boyfriend.

Speaking of books, this was the year my passion project, Cocktail Italiano, was published in April. I was overwhelmed by the support and how much everyone loves the book. We’ve put it up for a Book Award, so keep your fingers crossed, and I will most definitely let you know if it wins. To all of you who came out to various book signings, know I loved meeting all of you, chatting about my favorite subject, Italy, and hearing all of your travels and impressions of my adopted country.

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me with Penny Randolph who illustrated my map

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

Me mixing up a Campari Shakerato from my book

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Here’s to hoping that 2019 will be filled with new adventures, and new friends. I look forward to meeting all of you at our workshops, and of course, I am excited to send my 3rd book off to the publishers in the spring.

Happy and healthy new year to everyone, and big grazie to all that made 2018 a perfect year. Cheers to La Fortezza and many dinners and drinks on the terrace with all those we love.

xx Annette

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…leaving Italy 2018

 

2018 has been the year of renovation. We switched into full gear this year, renovating the rest of our fortress. We added a kitchen, a lounge area next to the kitchen, 6 guest rooms, a kitchenette and a new outdoor seating area outside the dependence (the out building that serves as 3 guest rooms).

It was challenging in a way I have never been challenged. That is saying a lot as I have built and renovated many residential and commercial spaces, but this one was a beast. It was challenging but not why you think. Our contractor, project manager and geometra (the architect/engineer, that is required for any construction in Italy) were incredible. The electrician, painter, plumber and marble guy were top notch. Mostly, everyone working on the project was really efficient. However, the mere  scope of the project was daunting. Resurrecting a medieval fortress is not for the faint of heart.

I am happy to say that it’s all behind us. It is finished. We still have many projects ahead, but the idea that the majority of the renovation is history is quite frankly the best feeling in the world.

I loved all the workshops this year. The privates were fulfilling, and everyone who attended this year had a special point of view. I loved doing our wedding shoot; it was fun to imagine a wedding at La Fortezza. Frank and I really had a blast with all of our guests and loved showing everyone our little part of Italy.

La Fortezza guest rooms were a hit with all of our guests, too which was especially rewarding after all of our hard work. Everyone loved all the special touches, and it was really fun hosting everyone. All the aperitivi and all the suppers and discussions around the table were exactly how I imagined it would be. It warms my heart that I made so many new friends and got visit with old friends as well. I hope everyone comes to visit us again. Such precious memories make all the work the past 2 1/2 years so worth it!

Many ask if I am sad to leave Italy. I am sad, but being back in the US with my family and friends is great. I will be back next spring and in the meantime, I am enjoying all the peace of not making renovation decisions every day, but I will miss all the group dinners under the stars and the moon. Until next year…

xx I will miss you Italy. cin cin

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