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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Easy Nibbles:: Marinated Olives

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With social distancing in full effect still, I’m finding that it’s just as fulfilling to put together fun snacks for one or two as it is for a full dinner party. These marinated olives fit that bill. They’re easy to put together, but really kick the humble olive up a notch.

This recipe also makes the perfect addition to a charcuterie platter. Trust me, though, once you have one, you’ll dig in for more!

Marinated Olives

You will need:
– 4 cups mixed olives
– 3 whole cloves of garlic, smashed
– ¼ cup of olive oil
– 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
– 2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
– 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

To prepare:

In a saute pan, warm the olives, garlic, peppers, and oil. Toss in the herbs with the olive mixture. Serve warm.

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Back to Italy:: Air Travel during a Pandemic

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Some of you might be curious to know how my trip back to Italy was with the pandemic.

First off, let me tell you all how I could enter the EU. So many people commented on social media asking me how. Is there a trick? How can I enter Italy? No trick! The simple answer is that only EU residents and citizens may enter. Everyone must self-quarantine for 14 days. I am an Italian resident, so I was able to enter without any issues.

The tale of traveling here was pretty straight forward. I booked a late flight at 11:00 pm with KLM. I purchased a first-class seat, thinking that it would be a safer way to fly. The scariest part of the entire trip was the Atlanta Airport TSA line. I checked in at the international terminal around 9:00 pm. Not a soul at the counter. I wore an N95 mask through the entire airport. When I entered the TSA, there was only one line with no priority line. Everyone was masked, although I did see a lot of bandanas and buffs (you all know those are dangerous right?).

There were clearly demarcated spots on the floor for distancing and everyone stood on their spot. Well except one guy in a wheelchair with his daughter who was pushing me, so I let them ahead. But once we hit the TSA conveyor belt, it was a free for all. No distancing, grabbing, pushing. It was a nightmare! I did everything I could to step away and wait for a moment where there was no one attacking the belt as belongings piled out. I grabbed my stuff and headed for a corner with no one around to get my stuff together. It shook me up. Once I got to my gate, I seated myself all alone in the corner, mask on at all times and waited to board. Now the boarding process that was marvelous. It was so good, in fact, I hope they never bring back to the old way of boarding.

Here’s how it went: one section at a time, you entered the plane individually, and everyone had to remain seated while they called your name. I boarded alone, walked up to my seat, and no one was seated near me. We had 77 people on giant jumbo jet, so there was plenty of distancing. I quickly changed into a more comfortable cloth mask and waited to depart. I slept the entire way and woke up in Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, everyone in the airport was wearing a mask. I headed to Passport Control to enter the EU. Everyone kept a good distance, and everyone was calm and focused. Security in Amsterdam was well monitored, and everyone was at a distance, filing in one at a time. It was very safe and organized.

I headed to my gate, on the departures board it had a B0 which was different. Usually, the Pisa flight leaves from the C concourse. When I arrived at B0, I realized it was a screening gate. Everyone had temperatures taken. We filled out a tracing form and then headed to our Gate in the C concourse. I sat quietly waiting for my seat and section to be called for the Pisa flight. Everything was very smooth with loading the plane. We all had several seats between us and were not allowed to remove our masks.

When I landed, I was picked up by our car service, Tuscan Drivers, and they whisked me away. The driver wearing an N95 mask I sat in the back. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I was at La Fortezza.  Where I will be quarantining for 14 days.

Lucky for me, the crew finished the new pool just in time, so I have had some relaxing days swimming. Flying and travel will never be the same (well at least for a few years). But here are the things I hope remain when all of this has passed:

  1. Boarding by section and seat (would be extra nice, but I doubt that will remain). Everyone remaining seated until your zone is called. It was wonderful not standing in the giant crowd.
  2. Spotless planes. The KLM plane was brand new and spotless; they cleaned the bathroom every time it was used. YES PLEASE, (sorry but instead of sitting in the back of the plane gossiping, maybe cleaning the bathrooms might be a nice thing for flight attendants to do for the passengers, just saying)
  3. Distancing. All about it.
  4. Mindful lines at TSA. TSA USA could perhaps take lessons from the TSA EU

I am happy to be here prepping for our photo-shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook.

I will let you all know how that went, masking, washing and distancing all while shooting a cookbook in Italy.

xx Annette

 

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Cocktail:: Watermelon Salty Dog

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My Dad used to eat chilled watermelon wedges with salt in the summertime, and this watermelon salty dog cocktail reminds me of that childhood memory. It’s absolutely refreshing and delicious!  I like the little melons for this recipe (pass chunks of watermelon through a fine sieve for fresh juice). Don’t forget to salt the rim! That’s the trick. Try it and let me know how you like it.

Watermelon Salty Dog
Serves 1

You will need:

– 1 cup fresh watermelon juice.
– 2 oz tequila
– Juice of 1 lime
– Sea salt for the rim

To prepare:

In a shaker, place ice, watermelon juice, tequila and lime juice. Shake until fully combined and chilled, about 1 minute.

Strain into a glass, rim the glass with lime half, and sprinkle the rim with sea salt. It’s okay if some of the salt falls into the glass.

Cheers! xx

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Summer recipe:: Fried Green Tomatoes

While it's not quite green tomato season yet, tomato season will be here before we know it. Put this recipe in your spring appetizer arsenal.

Fried green tomatoes are a traditional Southern recipe but are absolutely perfect for this time of year. It’s such a fun addition to any meal, especially with the goat cheese and coulis addition. Make sure to put this recipe in your appetizer arsenal and enjoy them!

Fried Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Coulis 
Serves 6

You will need:
– 1 cup goat cheese
– 4 green tomatoes, sliced 1⁄2-inch thick
– 2 eggs
– 1⁄2 cup milk
– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 1⁄2 cup panko breadcrumbs
– 1⁄4 cup yellow cornmeal
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– Feta and fresh basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

To prepare:

Spread a small amount of goat cheese onto one side of each tomato slice. Arrange on a sheet pan, and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Whisk eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, and salt. One by one, dip each tomato slice into the egg mixture, then the crumb mixture; shake off any excess.

Pour oil into a deep frying pan and place over medium heat until a thermometer registers 350°F. Working in batches, fry tomatoes until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Garnish with feta and basil, if using, and serve immediately with red pepper coulis.

Red Pepper Coulis

You will need:
– 7 ounces roasted red peppers from a jar
– 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 1 clove garlic
– 1⁄4 cup olive oil
– 1 cup fresh basil leaves
– 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

To prepare:
Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

xx Annette

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