Announcing our First Italian Fall Workshop: All About Olives

The premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives!

I am super excited to tell you about our first ever fall workshop in Italy. As always, it will focus on food photography, styling and all things Italian.

We’ve had an amazing summer here at our new location in Northern Tuscany in a region called Lungiana. Our attendees have enjoyed an authentic Italian experience here in the Tuscan countryside all summer long.

I cannot wait to see what this fall has in store!

Here’s what you need to know:

This premiere olive-centric workshop includes elements of the classic workshop we have offered over the years, but with a unique twist: it’s all about olives! The workshop takes place during olive harvest season. The AJ style team photographer Emily Followill will be your photography instructor. Emily will teach you the basics of your camera and for more advanced photographers, you can dig into technical one-on-ones with Emily.

I will be teaching styling in the kitchen and in the studio, with special guest, acclaimed chef Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina who will be in the kitchen teaching cooking lessons. If you have a passion for all things Italian, including Italian food, this workshop is for you. We are a match made in olive oil heaven. If you’re obsessed with olives and olive oil, this is your time to make the commitment and come cook, style and photograph with them.

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Here’s what you’ll be doing for 4 days of olive oil fun: You will partake in foodie excursions. We will visit an organic olive grove and harvest olives. The group will observe and photograph while the olives are pressed and will have the opportunity to taste fresh press olive oil. You’ll enjoy a picnic in the olive groves. Alisa will be teaching cooking lessons with local olive oil including both savory and sweet recipes. Fall is a beautiful time of year to enjoy the seasonal bounty like olives, truffles, persimmons, and even wine tasting.

You’ll have a free day to explore even more of Italy which includes your choice of fall food festival excursions. Post-production lessons in work flow will be offered in the onsite photo studio for those interested.

$2850.00 for shared rooms, $3,275.00 for single rooms

Fee includes breakfast, all lunches (excluding your free day), some dinners, all instruction, and group excursions. Accommodations are also included. Airfare is not included and is the responsibility of the student.

We are selling out fast already, so book your trip now. We look forward to welcoming you to La Fortezza and sharing delicious food, adventures, and drinking the wine from our vineyard.

Reserve your spot!

xx Annette

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Oh, and we have a vineyard…Lunigiana, Italy

our wine

I’ve been known to bury the lede as they say…when we bought La Fortezza, I was so enamored with the house/fortress that I forgot about the property itself. So, here it is: we have a vineyard. It’s 5 acres on the upper edge of the property. Obviously Frank and I know nothing about making wine. Hell, Frank does not ever drink the stuff (he’s a beer guy).

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The vineyard was in bad shape about 5 years ago. The brothers that owned the property were approached by a local winemaker, Manolo (I know perfect name, right?). He was in the process of setting up his wine business. He’s a former teacher, and he and his family wanted to launch their own label. It’s not uncommon here to work many smaller vineyards to produce a label, and that is exactly how he works. You need a ton of acres to produce wine, so working 10 smaller vineyards in the region makes perfect sense. It’s a win win for us, too because we have no interest in working the land, not to mention we don’t have a stitch of knowledge. It is the perfect accidental hobby. No sweat…just vino delivered once a month. He pays rent in wine, and we will take it. For now, it’s the perfect arrangement. We feel very lucky. Manolo was an unknown perk.

Manolo has vineyards all around the area. He and his family cultivate, rent vineyards, and make both red and white wines, although this year he will put up a batch of Rose just for the Joseph label. It’s a win win because he came with the house as part of the deal. Now I am busting at the seams with wine. Some of you have asked if you can purchase our wine. Since this is something new for us, right now it’s our own private stock. However who knows?! Down the road, we may become a wine brand, but for now our workshop attendees and guests will enjoy the fruits of the land at every meal. So if you want to partake, you may just need to join us here for a workshop or retreat in the fall or later next year.

Levi and Frank and Syd in the vineyard

In the meantime our son Levi, a recent business school graduate, has a keen interest in developing our wine label, so who knows? It may become the new family business. It’s all about generations in Italy after all…

I would like to thank my dear friend Penny for the cool label design. We love it. xx

We have a vineyard! I am still pinching myself… cin cin xx

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Tomato Basil Soup Recipe: An Easy Winter Meal

Chilly winter months are the perfect time to whip-up a batch of tomato basil soup. This tomato basil soup pairs well with a grilled cheese, too.

At last weekend’s L.A. style+photo workshop, I whipped up a quick batch of this cream of tomato basil soup for our attendees. They were able to capture the cooking process and style their bowls, too. After all, the best part of a food photoshoot is actually eating the food.

This tomato basil soup pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese. At the workshop we made grilled cheeses with fig and prosciutto, but any sort of grilled cheese would be perfect. Use whatever is in your fridge and embrace an opportunity to be creative with it! There’s no such thing as a bad grilled cheese.

I love soup during chilly months, and since according to the groundhog, there is still a lot of winter ahead of us, store this recipe in your arsenal to pull out when you need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Cream of Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 8
You will need:
– 1/2 medium onion sliced thin
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
 – 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 2  28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 cup fresh basil chopped
To prepare:
In a large stock pot, heat butter and oil, add onions, salt and pepper.
Sauté until onions are lightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, cream and basil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.
Note: The soup may be made creamy by placing it in a blender or using a hand blender if desired. I personally like it a little chunky.
Enjoy!
xx, Annette
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Kale with Sweet Potato and Quinoa

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My friend actually told me about this recipe for kale with sweet potato and quinoa, and I am excited to share it with you. I think it’s the perfect side dish paired with grilled salmon. Just remember that a one cup serving is plenty during a cleanse. It’s a great side for Juice January or anytime.

I usually make enough for a few dinners and pair it with a different protein each night. It’s also great to mix in other types of kale or spinach.

Kale with Sweet Potato and Quinoa
serves 4
You will need:
– 1 cup quinoa
– 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
– 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, tossed in 2 tablespoon olive oil, roast for 30- 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until lightly browned. set aside until ready to toss with all the ingredients.
– 1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 cup vegetable stock
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
– 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces

 

To prepare:

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until water is absorbed.

Bake off the sweet potatoes as described above. *Note I have added my own spin on the sweet potatoes; I like to roast them separately to add depth of flavor to this dish

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Stir to combine. Add the kale and cook for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.

To serve, toss the quinoa with the vegetable mixture.

The Daily Meal is a great resource for anything food and entertaining. Check it out!

{I am a contributor to the Daily Meal, but did not write this recipe}

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Juice January- My Favorite Soup

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Sometimes with juicing, I crave some really bold flavors, and this Asian inspired sweet and sour soup hits the mark. I posted this soup last year, and it was a favorite. So here it is again. Let me know how you like it in the comments below.

Chinese Hot Sour Soup
Serves 4

You will need:

– 1 tbsp oil
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 25g (0.8 ounce/ about 6-7  mushrooms) shitake mushrooms, sliced
– 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes *adjust to taste*
– 3 fresh tomatoes, roughly diced
– 2 cups of chopped kale ( I used the curly variety)
– 1 cup frozen corn kernels
– 4 cup low sodium chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth also)
– A dash of soy sauce *adjust to taste; you may need more if you make your own broth*
– 1 tbsp sesame oil (you can add more if you prefer a stronger scent)
– 2 dashes of white ground pepper
– 3 tbsps cornstarch
– 1/2 cup cold water
– 2 eggs, beaten
– Spring onions, chopped for garnish *optional*

To prepare:

In a large pot (or a wok), heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil and then add mushrooms, garlic and chili flakes. Saute over low heat until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add kale, tomatoes and sweet corn and stir to combine with the fragrant ingredients. Pour the broth into the vegetable mixture and let it simmer with a lid on over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn the flame over to the low and simmer for another 10 minutes after the broth reaches its boiling point. In the meantime, mix the cornstarch with cold water. Remove the lid. Over high heat and while the soup is bubbling vigorously, add the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine with the soup. The soup will thicken as it boils. Keep it boiling until it reaches your desired consistency. Then gradually pour the beaten eggs into the soup in a circular motion (rather streaming the egg in one spot). Allow the eggs to be fully cooked before you start stirring the soup. This is to ensure the eggs do not cloud the soup and they should appear ribbon-like. Stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper. Serve immediately.

Soup recipe and photo from here.

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