Hearty Butternut Squash Soup

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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.

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Preserving Italy Workshop with Domenica Marchetti

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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!

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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

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Summer soup? Why not!

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Even in the summer, I love soup because of all of the readily available, delicious summer veggies. Summer produce is some of the best we get all year, so why not indulge in soup in the summer?

Pistou is essentially the French equivalent of pesto, and with a bounty of basil, there’s no time like now to whip up a batch. Marry your pistou with a variety of summer vegetables like sweet peas, sweet onions, fresh corn, and zucchini. Then bring it all together in a big pot of irresistible soup. Adding Pistou to this summer soup makes it a yummy seasonal treat. You’ll love it!

Easy to make and easy to serve?! That’s my kind of meal!

Summer Soup with Pistou

You will need: 

– 1 large onion, chopped
– 6 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/3 cup olive oil
– 1 lb small red-skinned potatoes, quartered
– 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
– 1 lb kale, cut into ribbons
– 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
– 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, in juice
– 1 15 oz can of kidney beans
– 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 cup thin spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces
– 10 cups vegetable stock

To prepare:

Using a heavy pot, saute onion and garlic until transparent. Add vegetables and saute for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and stock. Add thyme and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Serve with a dollop of pistou on top of each bowl.

For Pistou:

– 3 garlic cloves
– 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare: 

Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until basil is finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. With machine running, gradually blend in oil. Add cheese; process to blend well. Transfer to bowl. *Can be made 2 days ahead , store in a sealed container and refrigerate.

xx Annette

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A Visit to the Enchanted Valley through the Palette of Steve McKenzie

Today I have a special treat for you. One of our guest instructors and one of my dear friends, Steve McKenzie, is sharing a bit about his experience in May at La Fortezza. Steve is a brilliant interior designer, artist, and textile designer in Atlanta. His workshop here in Italy with us is in September, and I cannot wait to welcome him and his students. Enjoy today’s post from Steve, and be sure to sign-up for one of the very few remaining spots for his workshop. Take it away Steve:

My wife, Jill, and I recently had the chance to visit Annette at her magical Fortress in a verdant valley in Northern Tuscany. I wanted to see everything as I prepare for the abstract painting class I will be leading there in September. Inspiration is everywhere, and I cannot wait to return.

The magic begins as you approach her home, and up on the mountain sits her Fortress. They have created beautifully appointed living and working spaces as well as incredibly comfortable guest quarters for the students that are unparalleled. It feels a little like a visit to a monastery where the furnishings and the views take you to a place of contemplation and inspiration.

These cozy places, coupled with a superb cocktail, encourage congregation and conversation.

We were greeted in typical Annette fashion with a delicious, as well as beautiful, Aperitivo of Negroni and nibbles, taken straight out of her new book, Cocktail Italiano. A delicious dinner of pasta and salad followed, reminding me of what a talented cook Annette is.  I am excited that a cooking lesson in the commercial kitchen will be part of our fall workshop.

Day two we had a chance to visit the charming local village, Fivizzano, on market day. It is charming and again, inspiration is around every corner. Following our visit to the market, we visited some of Annette’s favorite vintage and antique dealers. These are a must during the workshop on our free day.

I also strolled over to the La Fortezza vineyards with Annette and Jill. The beauty of this location really spoke to me and inspired me to paint en plein air.  During the workshop, we will take a picnic lunch out here and paint, eat and drink. The colors and vistas are one of the most inspirational places I have visited.

On the journey back to the house, I filled a market basket with wild flowers from the property as well as colorful roses from her rose garden. The most beautiful arrangement quickly came together in a beautiful pitcher from Annette’s copper collection. We will incorporate a quick floral arranging lesson during my workshop as well.

I can’t wait to return and share all the fabulous experiences with my students during the workshop September 19-24, 2018.

There are only a few spaces left, so register now

Thank you for guest posting today, Steve! As always, if you have questions about our workshop, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

xx Annette

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