Cream of Tomato Basil Soup

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Can you believe we are in our final week of Juice January (well, healthy habits January)?! It has honestly flown by for me, and I hope it has for you as well. For our last week, I am sharing two amazing soup recipes. For one, winter is a wonderful time to warm-up with a bowl of soup, and for another, soup is an excellent way to sneak in those extra servings of veggies. Today, it’s all about cream of tomato basil soup because honestly, is there anything better?

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
Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash
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Go Green with Arugula Ice Cream

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Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not! Today I am sharing a recipe by our workshop chef, Chef Philip Meeker. It’s one of his specialties, arugula ice cream. This dessert is the perfect way to get in some greens while giving in ever so slightly to your sweet tooth.

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

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Fresh Artichoke Salad

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This recipe for fresh artichoke salad is zesty and delicious. I also love how surprising the ingredients are. It makes an excellent side for Juice January, and more details about the salad and its origins can be found in my book, Cocktail Italiano! Tip: make sure that the artichokes are very fresh and tender.

Roberto’s Fresh Artichoke Salad
Serves 8

You will need:
– 2 pounds (about 20) tender baby artichokes Note: you may substitute the interior soft leaves and heart of larger artichokes, but do not use the tough outer leaves
– 2 lemons, halved
– 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt
– 2 ounces Parmesan

To prepare:

Trim away any tough outer leaves of the artichokes to expose their tender pale green interior. Using a knife with a serrated blade, cut off the spiky top 1/3 of the artichokes. (Note: baby artichokes will not have the spikes.) Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layers around the base and stem.

Using a mandolin, slice the artichokes paper-thin and transfer to a medium bowl.

Squeeze the lemon halves over the artichokes, and toss with the oil. Sprinkle with salt, and use a potato peeler to shave the Parmesan over the salad. Serve in small bowls.

 

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Buon Natale! Celebrate the Holidays Italian Style with Fruit Cake

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

Skye McAlpine is a talented friend of mine. A few years ago, she sent over this absolutely stunning (and delicious) Italian fruit cake recipe. On Skye’s recommendation, this fruit cake is lovely with a glass of sweet red wine, like port. If you have a local wine merchant, pick up a port to finish a holiday dinner party. It’s such a fun ending to a fun evening.

While perusing through my archives, I rediscovered this Italian fruit cake recipe and felt like with the holidays in full swing, I should share it again.

Certosino di Natale: Honey, Pinenut and Almond Fruitcake
Serves: 8-10

For the cake, you will need:

– 40g raisins
– 40g mixed candied peel
– 30ml dry red wine or Marsala
– 320g flour
– 30g cocoa powder
– 2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
– 300g honey
– 40g butter
– 70g sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
– 1 tsp ground cinnamon
– 3 tbsps water
– 60g pinenuts
– 200g blanched almonds
– 60g dark chocolate

For the decoration, you will need:

– 2 (heaped) tbsp apricot jam
– 2 tsp water
– 10-12 slices of glacé orange
– 3 glacé pears
– 10-12 glacé cherries
– handful of blanched almonds

To prepare:

Add the raisins and candied peel to a medium-sized bowl and pour in the wine, then leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, grease and line a 25cm cake tin. Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a large mixing bowl and set to one side.

Add the butter to a small saucepan along with the sugar, honey, fennel seeds and cinnamon, then set over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Stir now and then to make sure that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan.

Add the raisins (with all their juices) and pine nuts to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl, stir well.

Roughly chop the chocolate and the almonds, then add them too. Stir again.

Now pour in the melted butter and honey, and stir until well combined. The batter will be quite stiff, so stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. If needs be, add another splash of red wine.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45 mins to 1 hr, until it’s golden on top, and when you press a skewer into the cake, it comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

To decorate, spoon the jam into a small saucepan with the water; set over a low to medium heat until the jam becomes syrupy and begins to bubble. Take it off the heat and use a pastry brush to glaze the cake, then lightly press the glacé fruits and nuts on to the top of the cake leaving no gaps. Brush the remaining glaze over the nuts so that it is all shiny.

For those of you that need measurements in cups see the conversion chart here

Photos by: Skye McAlpine

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Arrivederci Italia 2019

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It’s always hard to say arrivederci, but his year, in particular, was bittersweet because it was such a wonderful season. Our La Fortezza Workshops started off with a bang: 2 styling workshops in June kicked off the season. We had 3 talented instructors and 4 lovely attendees. Joanna and Maren and Sarah, had a lively group and did some really fun projects with their guests. The second styling session was with moi, the Strictly Styling Workshop. I had my BFF Barbara, a stylist from Modena, join me to teach styling. She brought all sorts of foodstuffs from Modena. It was epic.

This workshop also marked the yearly return of PR maven Liz Lapidus she brought her mega bloggerlious friend, Alexandra Darling in the City (although unfortunately she never wrote about her experience at La Fortezza on her blog? 🙁  But she did write about neighboring towns lol) NOTE* bloggers do not bother to contact me about a free workshop and that you’ll post about it. No comping anymore…live and learn…). I digress…

During that workshop I met one of my favorite guests (there’s always an upside to all negative experiences) of the season, the super talented photographer and stylist Alicia, The Chic Shot. You can see some of her amazing shots of La Fortezza on this post. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your amazing talent. I LOVED working with you, and thank you for all the beautiful photos of your experience here. We hosted the fantastic podcast host Heidi Rew, her podcast featured me and Philip and Barbara, and the ladies from our first workshop in June. Listen to it here. It’s a great look into what we do.

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We also had our first ever intern in June and July from Wellesley College, Adri. She was a wonder and delight. She speaks perfect Italian and was energetic and eager to learn. We loved having her help us with guests and chores around the fortress. We loved her so much that we are bringing another intern from the same Wellesley Italian Studies program back next spring. Let’s just say whoever she is, she has big shoes to fill.  Plus Adri learned to drive a stick shift during her 8 week stay – pretty impressive!

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In July we hosted our first-ever Artist in Residence with abstract painter, Steven McKenzie for the month. It was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. Steve was a delightful addition to the La Fortezza Workshop roster, and he brought the sunshine everyday in the studio. Because of Steve’s curiosity, I visited places and experienced things I never would have. Like visiting the antique book archives at our local library in Fivizzano and caving in Equi Terme. Some I loved more than others. (Caving not my thing, go figure) He made jam from our plum trees and filled the studio with his beautiful art inspired by the region. Even during his opening party when we had a torrential downpour, he never lost his bright smile and positive attitude. The Opening Party was amazing, sometimes when the best-laid plans are dashed, and the skies open up, it turns out to be just as great. At his opening, we had visitors from London, Paris, Greece, and the US and of course all of our friends from all over Italy. It was a great July. We had a fun visit with Rue Magazine Editor and Chief Kelli Lamb, and her lovely artist hubby Timmy, Kelli made an amazing video series about La Fortezza.

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In August our son visited with 3 friends; we cooked and toured and ate plenty. Then I visited Pulglia, a place the had been on my list for a while. I experienced the Messors Workshop, which was interesting. read about it here.

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September was filled with great cooking by Chef Philip. There were cooking lessons and artisan food visits with our Slow Food Experience group. We had the lovely photographer Kate Blohm visit again, she was part of a workshop with Angie Mosier in 2018. This year she was our BTS photographer; she’s amazing and will be joining us every year in the fall to document the Slow Food Workshops, something that is close to my heart.

September is the time of year we do our grape harvest, although this year the harvest was a month late, we still had an amazing time with our incredible group. One of our guests were a married couple, PR team Valerie and Garrett, a powerhouse PR team in Atlanta specializing in Chefs and Food, from Via Failla PR and Events  They will be part of the La Fortezza PR team helping to promote La Fortezza Workshops in 2020. I can’t wait to see what they have in store. We also hosted a shopping workshop with Lisa Burnett a whirlwind tour with shop til you drop attendees that left me breathless.

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October was the month of photography with 2 of my favorite photographers joining us. Bill Abranowicz and Ros Atkinson of Her Dark Materials on Instagram. I am honored to call them friends and I am excited to announce they will be back with us in fall 2020. The workshops were not only informative but really fun. We got so many beautiful shots!

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These incredible workshops have proved to be even more wonderful than I had imagined. People gathered around the table, like-minded with so much passion to add to the discussion. Being surrounded by creativity from all creators, from what Philip creates and places on the table, to the interesting creatives from all over the world, (this year we had our first attendee from India) they have so much to offer. It is my idea of heaven.

Although our surroundings are gorgeous, I must say without the people that come to visit, it would be much less beautiful. Thank you to all the support people in our village that take great care of me, and to Chef Philip who is gracious and talented and helpful always with a smile on his face he goes above and beyond. Thanks Philip for all the amazing Pizza Parties!

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To the guests that grace our doors, grazie mille. I look forward to welcoming new faces in 2020. Please check the website November 9th for our new workshops to post. We have limited spots, first come first serve with private rooms. So grab your spot in 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats.

x

Photo Credit: The Chic Shot, Kate Blohm, Nandi Shaw, Ros Atkinson, William Abranowicz

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