Summer Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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As you all know, I am back in Italy. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1. Check on our house, La Fortezza.
2. Shoot the summer and autumn chapters of my next cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, Spring 2022.

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This project, for me, is a passion project. The book will be an epic and a beautiful depiction of the region we live in, in northern Tuscany. The book will be filled with local recipes and delicacies, gorgeous travel shots, typical local flavor, and purveyor portraits.

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These photographs will all be captured by the incredibly talented British Photographer David Loftus. I have been an admirer of David’s work for many years, as he has shot for some of the most famous chefs in the world; Jamie Oliver just to name one. His work is insanely beautiful. His discerning eye and recognizable style sets him apart as one of the world’s most respected food photographers. I was thrilled when he agreed to photograph my book.

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My sweet friend and producer, stylist Barbara Pederzini, agreed to help me with the prop styling. She brought all sorts of amazing serving pieces and plates to play with. I used a local chef to help prepare the dishes. It really was a magical team.

Without giving too much away, I believe that this book will take you on a journey and leave you with the lasting memory of a trip to our little piece of heaven. We will be shooting the autumn chapter starting October 5th, so be sure to follow the journey on my insta-stories. I can only tell you this is one of the best projects I have ever worked on. The love I have for this place, La Fortezza will shine through on every page and you will taste the love in every bite.

Until October, stay well x

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From Her Perspective:: Alexandra Korey, ArtTrav

Alexandra Korey in Florence – Photo by Christine Juette

Alexandra Korey runs a successful travel blog, ArtTrav. There, Alexandra reviews temporary exhibitions, wineries, museums and luxury hotel experiences.

A few months ago, Alexandra interviewed me about Italy is My Boyfriend for The Florentine. She had such great insight, I asked her to contribute a little something about the state of tourism in Italy for the blog. Below, she shares her insights and offers us a way to escape to Italy without leaving the comforts of home.

What does tourism look like in popular destinations in Italy so far this summer?

Summer 2020 has been a constant evolution, and as we make our way towards August, tourist destinations seem to be seeing greater numbers, and people seem to be becoming more confident about going outdoors and traveling.

What I have seen is that beach destinations here in Tuscany quickly have become rather crowded, and although regulations have been put into place for greater distance between “ombrelloni” at the bathing establishments, these spaces look and feel almost as full as usual, and masks (which are currently obligatory indoors, and outdoors only where distance cannot be maintained) are few and far between. Although all studies show that keeping a distance outdoors is much safer. The numbers remain low, so safe to say there is less infection floating around. So some things can get back to almost like normal. Like at the seaside.

Friends who have visited Venice and Rome have commented that they are pleasantly empty. Florence feels quiet and in my opinion quite pleasant. Tourists can easily be spotted; there’s a few with maps or speaking another European language, and you look at them and think “Hello tourist! You must be so happy here. Welcome!”. I don’t know what it feels like for them, but I think it must be marvelous.

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On Florence’s main shopping streets between the Duomo and Piazza Signoria, there are people walking but never as many as before, and there’s an absence of a loud buzz that I never really realized was there before, but now that I do, I realize it was one of the things that made the centro storico a stressful experience for me. I wrote about overtourism on The Florentine a few years back, and comparing the photos I took for that article to ones I took last week, it’s a whole other story. Tourism was a big problem. Groups, on a set route, not bringing value to the city. What I pray for is a shift to a kind of tourism that brings real value, both to businesses and to travelers.

What are some experiences that Americans can look into for the future, that they might not have thought about before? For example, I saw your post on your website about visiting (and even staying) at wine resorts.

I’m a big fan of wine resorts, which I have lately billed as the perfect post-COVID experience. These wineries offer a type of experience that tends to appeal to independent travelers, and by their very nature, they have a ton of space. From May through October, wineries and wine resorts offer mostly outdoor hospitality that represents some of the best parts of our culture – products of the earth, presented by locals. That’s authentic!

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If cities remain less crowded, what I hope is that people will stay longer and travel deeper. And also explore beyond the usual cities and regions. I’ve got my eyes on Abruzzo for example, somewhere I’ve never really thought of visiting. During the lockdown, I interviewed Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun about her newly released book, Always Italy, in which she travels to all 20 regions. She suggests we discover lesser-known centres, regions we’d never considered. Many have artistic, cultural, and enogastronomical treasures just waiting for you to discover.

How are some of the museums in Florence adapting to social distancing? Are any museums offering virtual tours?

Museums, as inside spaces, follow social distancing and mask-wearing laws. The museums in Florence have been slowly reopening, with special, limited hours and online booking is mandatory. A free app offered by Mibact, the ministry for culture, can be used to buzz when you’re too close to other people (like when you’re gazing in awe at a work of art). I’m not sure if everyone is using it, though I think they ought to!

The Uffizi has really ramped up its digital content during lockdown and continues to create new material on a daily basis, on social media (including tik tok, an account they recently opened and are totally killing it!) and for their website, which they claim is receiving record viewership. Few museums have the forethought and budget to produce digital content like the Uffizi, so this is the one that stands out the most. Palazzo Strozzi has also produced a regular deep-content newsletter and videos with artists from the current and recent exhibitions, and some smaller museums have put one or two online exhibitions up.

How can we, as Americans and other non-EU residents, “visit” Italy this summer without leaving our homes?

Good question! There are lots of ways you can visit “virtually” and keep your love of Italy alive.

  • Museums: as above, check out what the Uffizi and other museums are doing
  • Travel through Instagram / follow Italy-based bloggers (I’m at @arttrav if you’re interested!)
  • Wine: many wineries are offering virtual tastings that you can complement with a box ordered from them. It supports their business and keeps you closer!
  • Food / Italian cookbooks are the perfect complement to food either ordered online – some specialties from Italy – or purchased locally, maybe at Eataly or if you have a “little Italy” in your area you might have access to small-scale-sourced Italian foods. Some tour operators are offering Italian food tours or cooking classes online.

Thank you for your insight, Alexandra! After looking at Alexandra’s suggestions for cooking classes and virtual offerings, I found a few great resources for you to check-out:

Portrait of Alexandra by Christine Juette.

Other photos via Alexandra Korey for ArtTrav.

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Summer Recipe:: Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

Whenever you order a cocktail at a bar in Italy, there is always food involved. Simply brilliant. I think it may be my favorite part. Full disclosure: I love seeing what bars choose to serve with their cocktails. Sometimes it’s just olives and the humble potato chip, and sometimes it’s the most lovely fresh focaccia with sublime charcuterie, a veggie frittata or mini salad. Poached shrimp, rice salads, and fried calamari are some of my favorites.

Here is a recipe for olive oil poached shrimp, inspired by the tradition of aperitivo. This recipe serves up a true summer delicacy!

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp

You will need:
– 3 cups olive oil
– 3 large fresh rosemary sprigs
– 18 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 Lemon wedges

To prepare:

Add 3 cups olive oil into heavy large saucepan, and add rosemary sprigs. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of saucepan and heat oil over medium heat until thermometer registers between 165°F and 180°F. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to hot oil and poach just until shrimp are opaque in center, adjusting heat to maintain temperature between 165°F and 180°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve at room temperature, garnish with lemon wedges.

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Home Bartending:: Aperol Spritz

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The Aperol Spritz is a classic summer cocktail. It’s refreshing and quintessentially Italian – the perfect drink to whet your appetite before a meal. Let me know if you add it to your classic summer cocktail arsenal. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making this delicious drink.

Cin Cin!

Aperol Spritz
serves 1

You will need:
– 3 ounces prosecco
– 2 ounces Aperol
– 1 ounce soda
– 1 orange slice

To prepare:
In a glass filled with ice, pour Aperol and prosecco, and finish off with the soda. Serve in a large wine glass. Garnish with a slice of orange.

xx Annette

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Easy Appetizer:: Eggplant Camponata

 

If you have your copy of Cocktail Italiano, you know that it’s not only filled with cocktails but also delicious appetizers. In the section on Imperia, an industrial town along the coast, you’ll find three classic cocktails and several nibble recipes. This eggplant camponata is one of them. Camponata is one of my favorite, stand by appetizers. It’s creamy, spicy, salty, and of course, eggplant-y. It’s divine.

I like to serve mine with thin crackers or crostini, along with arugula and grape tomatoes. Plate it all with a touch of grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of the best olive oil you have. Enjoy!

Eggplant Camponata

You will need:

– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 small red onion, finely chopped
– 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or coarsely chopped
– 4 cups of cubed eggplant, skin on (1″ cubes)
– 1 cup chopped tomatoes
– 1 cup chopped fresh basil
– 1/4 cup capers
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 cup tomato sauce (from a jar is fine, unless you have homemade hanging around)
– 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste
– Parmesan cheese for garnish
– Crispy crackers or flat crostini (find this recipe in Cocktail Italiano, too!)

To prepare:

In a large pan, saute chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add all other ingredients, except Parmesan cheese. Cover and stir frequently, so camponata does not stick. Saute on low heat until combined and soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Serve as a warm appetizer on crisp crackers and plate with arugula and tomatoes. Enjoy alongside cold white or sparkling wine with friends.

xx Annette

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