Italy 2019:: the Arrival

My happy place with my happy cocktail, an Aperol Spritz, the New York Times may be hating on it but there’s nothing more refreshing and Italian than this baby, am I right?

Ciao Everyone! If you’re following on social media , you know Vivi and I arrived in Italy. We had a great flight over. Vivi is amazingly chill on a plane. As long as I am near, she’s just fine. I think that most dachshund owners would agree any anxiety is gone if the owner is nearby. She ceases to need food or water for the entire flight which makes me anxious, but she just sleeps. When we land in Milan, she’s cool as a cucumber and relieves herself for about 4 minutes once we are outside the terminal (how does she do that?). She’s the best.

We arrived and La Fortezza was in tip-top shape thanks to Gian Luca, our master gardener and overall amazing man. Cristina, our house manager, is the best. She caught that there was very little gas in our reserve (thank goodness because there is nothing worse than a cold shower after traveling for 15 hours, am I right?). I am blessed with a great group of people and darling friends in the neighborhood who look out for me (us). It’s country living at its best. I spent the first 2 weeks with friends and neighbors stopping by to say ciao and asking if I needed anything. It’s one of the many reasons we love it here.

fullsizeoutput_653e

Panigacci a local specialty, we call them Italian tacos but they are so much more

fullsizeoutput_6549

I also spent the first 2 weeks here prepping for upcoming workshops and entertaining visitors. First, our mother of the bride joined me for a quick tour and some wine tasting. Sometimes my job ain’t so bad. After the mother of the bride, was Ros Atkinson from Her Dark Materials . She was scouting La Fortezza, checking our gorgeous light, and playing in our studio. We also went prop shopping which was pretty darn dreamy. She’s more amazing than I had anticipated which was a lovely treat. We got along like a house on fire as they say. I love her and cannot wait to host her still life photography workshop. If you are at all interested in creating the most incredible images this workshop is for you. She’s so friendly, funny, and talented. We have limited spots, so check it out.

Still life Caravaggio style, created in the studio at La Fortezza by Ros, she is a master.

I just picked up our workshop chef, Philip and we literally stopped at my favorite shop on the way up to La Fortezza. Love this photo of him fresh off the plane stuffing his mouth with cheese and salami. Have you ever seen a happier guy?! He will be teaching everyone how to make pasta, and so much more this year. It is his second season, and now that he knows his way around the local food scene here, this year will be epic. Don’t forget to follow my stories and see what we are all up to as we launch the new La Fortezza Creative Workshop season.

fullsizeoutput_6572

day_70

Come on summer!

xx

All behind the scenes dream home Entertaining Food styling gardening how to be a stylist Instagram italian cooking italy Meet the Team Notes from Italy Personal photography photostyling photostyling like a pro style lessons Styling The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized weddings Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chef Philip’s Arugula Ice Cream

B34DCA85-691B-42C3-9F02-DDD8C7B405D1

As you know we are about to start our La Fortezza Workshop season. We have the most wonderful Chef, Chef Philip Meeker. You may have seen him on previous blog posts from last fall’s La Fortezza Workshops. He’s a cool guy that speaks Italian and drives a stick shift, but mainly he is super creative with local ingredients. So we all love him.

Today I am sharing one of his recipes. When he told me about it, I just had to share. With the last of the arugula popping up in our garden, it’s perfection for this time of year. Stay tuned for more of his recipes coming up as we cook for and with our workshop attendees. Buon Appetito!

Arugula Ice Cream or in Italian, Gelato di Rucola

Chef Philip says, “This time of year there’s a lot of fresh arugula at the market. Buying it from the farmer is a totally different experience than getting it at the store. The nutty and peppery flavors that you get from farm-fresh arugula are as striking as any herb which to me is a great indication that it would go well in a gelato just like rosemary or basil would. But what to pair the gelato with depends on whether you use cane sugar or glucose to make it. If you use glucose, the sweetness will be so minimal that you can use it in salad, like a carpaccio di fragole (a.k.a thinly sliced strawberries) with balsamic, fresh arugula and olive oil. And don’t worry: while glucose may sound fancy and hard to get, the light corn syrup you use for pecan pie is mostly glucose.”

Arugula Ice Cream

You will need:
– 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
– ¾ cups whole milk
– 1 ½  cups sugar (or glucose or light corn syrup)
– ¼ cup cornstarch
– 3 cups puréed arugula (about 3-4 bunches of field arugula)
– pinch of salt plus salt for boiling arugula
Note: There is no acid in this recipe because it will destroy the green color

Blanching and Puréeing Arugula:

Prepare a bowl of heavily iced water. This will be used to immediately cool down the arugula after it cooks. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Salt the water lightly. Throw in the arugula and let it cook for three to five seconds. Remove it from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into the ice water. As soon as the arugula becomes ice cold, about 20 seconds, put it into a blender. Don’t worry too much about water that stays with the arugula as it goes into the blender. This will help the arugula blend into a smooth purée. Add a couple of ice cubes to the blender before starting to ensure the arugula won’t heat while blending which will allow the beautiful green colors to be , preserved. As you blend the arugula to a purée, add water and ice to the blender as needed to ensure the arugula has enough liquid to blend. Store the arugula purée in the fridge until you are ready to add it to the ice cream mix. Keeping it cool will ensure that its color will stay green and that the flavor won’t weaken.

Making Ice Cream Base:

To make the base of the ice cream, heat ½ cup of the whole milk plus the heavy cream in a small saucepan on high heat along with 1 cup of the sugar. Stir occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. In a bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and cornstarch with a whisk (mixing these two ingredients together ahead of time helps avoid lumps). Mix in the remaining milk.

When the dairy-sugar mix in the saucepan comes to a boil, mix a little of it in with the cornstarch mix. Then pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pot. Put it back over high heat. Mix it slowly while it comes to a boil. When the contents of the pot boil, mix it rapidly, carefully scraping the bottom to avoid scorching. The mixture needs to boil for 1-2 minutes until it lacks a starch taste.

Afterward, pour the mix into a sealed container, and store in the fridge to cool down.

Once cool, whisk the arugula into the dairy mix along with the salt. Spin in an ice cream maker to make ice cream.

*Tip: Make sure the arugula mix has enough salt in it to make it have maximum sweetness but not enough to make it taste salty instead of sweet. You do this by adding salt to the mix, little by little, tasting as you go. It will bring out the nutty, peppery flavor of the arugula.

*Suggestion: Create new flavor profiles by using other herb purées, such as parsley, mint, or tarragon. If a herb seems like it might lack flavor, steep the herb in the dairy mix after the dairy mix comes off the heat. Remove the steeped herb before it starts to turn color to something dead looking. I generally do a five-minute infusion.

Grazie mille, Chef Philip!

xx

Photo credit: Philip Meeker

4th of July All celebration cooking dinner party Entertaining Food styling gardening italian cooking italy Meet the Team photography photostyling Recipes spring desserts The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hearty Butternut Squash Soup

veggiesoup

I love butternut squash soup, the creamy, buttery, nutty kind. However, I also enjoy soup with a little bite to it. Give me a veggie crunch just about any day. This hearty butternut squash soup gives you all the flavors of the season with some extra oomph from the vegetables. Feel free to swap any vegetables with what you have growing in your garden or what you find at your local markets. Or, simply prepare this soup as is.

I think this would be a great way to kick-off Halloween trick-or-treating in a few weeks too. Serve alongside a rustic baguette, and a spinach, apple, walnut salad with blue cheese crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette. YUM.

Hearty Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8

You will need:

– 1 cup cubed butternut squash
– 1 cup rough chopped yellow onion
– 1 cup cubed carrots
– 1 cup cubed celery
– 1 cup cubed parsnips
– 1/2 cup cubed baby red potatoes
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 2 cups kale, shredded
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 15 oz can of white beans
– 1 quart organic vegetable stock
– salt and pepper

To prepare:

Peel and cube squash, onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, and red potato into 1 inch cubes.

Put the vegetables in a heavy cast iron pot, except the kale and white beans

Saute all the vegetables in the olive oil until they are soft and the onion is translucent (about 15 minutes).  Then add the kale, beans and stock, and stir until blended. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Simmer on low heat for 1 and 1/2 hours and serve.

All Butternut squash cooking dinner party Entertaining Fall Food fall menus gardening kids Recipes Uncategorized vegatarian food vegetarian soup : Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti

fullsizeoutput_583b IMG_2559

Ciao Guys! I am thrilled to write about our first Fall Workshop here.

I have admired Domenica Marchetti from afar for a long time. She’s one of those awesome Instagram connections that has been so fantastic. When we met in real life last year, of course we found that we had tons of people in common in the media industry. If you don’t follow her on Instagram, you should; she’s amazing.

She has many books to her credit, but when we met, we cooked up the idea of teaching folks how to preserve. Her book, Preserving Italy, is filled with amazing recipes, and I was excited to have her here at La Fortezza this fall to preserve right from the garden. With tons of tomatoes in the kitchen garden, along with all of the strawberries, figs and herbs, we could pick and choose.

We had a lovely group that was so enthusiastic and hard working. They cooked and canned and picked over 30 pounds of tomatoes for sauce.  It was so satisfying. We now have lots of tomato sauce to use over the winter, and I am thrilled. Domenica is a fantastic instructor, and I can honestly say I learned so much. We are definitely having her back next year. Thank you Domenica for such a beautiful and inspiring, yummy, hands on experience!

fullsizeoutput_57e0 IMG_2530 fullsizeoutput_5805 IMG_2606 fullsizeoutput_57be fullsizeoutput_5841 IMG_2609

All behind the scenes cooking DIY Events Fall Food fall menus gardening Instagram italian cooking italy photography photostyling photostyling like a pro Styling stylist tips The Fortress Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Flavorful Beet Salad

Beets

When you venture to your local market or grocery store, you’re bound to find a wide variety of beets available. There are so many colors, flavors, and types.

As we head closer and closer to fall, I’m beginning to be more and more inspired by the dark, rich colors of the season. This beet salad dish would create a wonderful start to a fall harvest supper. I love beets and marrying beets with goat cheese is one of my favorite flavor combinations. This salad showcases those ingredients beautifully.

Goat Cheese and Beet Salad with Thyme Lime Dressing
Serves 6-8

You will need:
– 6 large red beets, roasted
– 8 tablespoons plain goat cheese
– 6 cups arugula

To prepare beets:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast beets in skin in the oven for 45 minutes

Let the beets cool, then peel the beets and slice into ½ inch disks

* I use gloves or a knife and fork to peel my beets; it’s much less messy this way.

For the Dressing

You will need:
– ¼ cup lime olive oil like O&CO
– ¼ cup lime juice
– ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
– 3 tablespoons fresh Thyme leaves
– 1 teaspoon lime zest

To prepare salad: 

Place all dressing ingredients in a small lidded jar, close the lid and shake until combined

Assembly of the salad: Arrange beets on platter or a plate on top of arugula, dollop with teaspoons of goat cheese, pour dressing over the salad.

Photo Credit : Helen Norman (Maryland Starbright Farm Style + Photo Workshop Photography instructor)

xx

All color cooking dinner party Entertaining Fall Food fall menus Food styling gardening photostyling Recipes : Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,