AJS Team in Quarantine:: Laura Giannatempo

Laura Giannatempo Photo

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Hello, Everyone,
My name is Laura Giannatempo, and I’m Annette’s travel concierge. When you take one of her future workshops, you can ask me for advice about where to go, what to do and where to eat if you want to extend your trip in Italy.

Right now, I’m not traveling, of course. I’m based in Brooklyn, and the hardest part of this quarantine for me has been not being able to return to Italy. I usually travel there several times a year to scout the best hotels, eateries, artisans and small, local businesses that are hard to find on your own.

Since I can’t travel, what do I do? I “dream travel.” I go over old photos of trips I’ve loved on my phone or in photo albums—yes, photo albums. I took some of my earliest trips before digital photography and smartphones, so the memories are captured in good, old-fashioned prints. Reliving these past travels not only brings up great memories, but it also gets my juices flowing for planning future trips for when we’re able to travel again.

Also, I cook. A lot. Short of being there, there’s nothing that channels a country or a region better than to cook something special from there. As you might have guessed, I cook a lot of Italian food. But I also like to dabble in other Mediterranean flavors and South-East Asian-inspired dishes.

I’ve been cooking a lot of Ligurian food, lately. I’m originally from Piedmont, but Liguria is my second home. My aunt and uncle live in Genova, and I used to spend entire summers in a small town not far from Cinque Terre when I was young. I always loved the food: the incredibly fresh seafood, fished just the night before; the creative use of vegetables and herbs, even wild ones; and the ability to create amazing flavors with very few, simple but great-quality ingredients.

One of my go-to Ligurian foods is farinata. With only 5 ingredients, if you count water, salt and pepper, fainata is one of the most versatile and satisfying snacks—and a true Italian street food. It’s hard to believe that mixing and baking chickpea flour and extra-virgin olive oil can turn into something so delicious. if you don’t believe me, you can try it yourself! Here’s the recipe. Buon appetito!

Farinata (Chickpea Flatbread)
Serves 4 to 6

You will need:
– 2 cups chickpea flour
– 3 cups water
– 1 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– Freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Place the chickpea flour in a large bowl and slowly add the water, whisking constantly to prevent clumps from forming. You’ll end up with a fairly liquid batter.

Add the salt, stir, and let the batter rest, covered with plastic wrap for at least 4 hours at room temperature.

Preheat the oven at 425F, With a large slotted spoon, remove any foam that might have formed on the surface of the batter and stir well.

Pour the olive oil in a 17×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (preferably nonstick) and pour in the batter. Spread it with the back of a wooden spoon to cover the pan and to incorporate the oil. The batter should form only a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the farinata turns a nice golden yellow. Let it rest for a few minutes and sprinkle on some pepper. Use a pizza cutter to cut it in slices. Serve warm and enjoy!

Photo (shot on film): credited to Michael Piazza

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NOW AVAILABLE: Italy is My Boyfriend

Copy of Confetti Annette (1) 71eEt76QB3L I am thrilled to announce my memoir, Italy is My Boyfriend, is finally here! I am so excited to share my adventures in Italy with you.

To celebrate, I am hosting a giveaway on my Instagram page. The winner will receive all three of my books, signed. Head over to my Instagram feed to enter!

Frances Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, will be joining me on my Instagram Live, Thursday May 28th at noon. We will be discussing her latest book, Always Italy, as well as my book, Italy is My Boyfriend. I cannot wait to chat all things Italy with Frances! Grab your lunch and join us on Thursday.

Additionally, plan to join me and editor in chief of Atlanta Magazine, Betsy Riley for a virtual talk in partnership with the Atlanta History Center on June 18, 2020 at 7 PM. Find more information here. 

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Barbara Pederzini

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Ciao a tutti,
This is Barbara, Annette’s friend and Italian member of her team, and I live in Modena, Italy. The global pandemic that hit us a few months ago shook up my plans for spring, and Annette thought it would be interesting for you to read how I dealt with what happened.

When I’m not collaborating with Annette on one of her projects, I am a freelance marketing consultant and a stylist. The first big impact Covid-19 had on my life was that all the events I had lined up for the season were either canceled or pushed to the end of the year. Meanwhile, my beloved home (that had housed my office for the past eleven years) had to be repurposed to accommodate working space for my husband Max (who’s a product manager for an international corporation) as well as homeschooling space for both my children, aged 15 and 9.

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Here’s how I organized our space (a medium-sized flat of around 1560 square feet) and our days to weather out the pandemic:

Everyone got their own ‘work’ space, complete with device and closing door.
This was my number one priority. The week Italy went in full lockdown (on March 8), we brainstormed what we needed to change to achieve this; we moved around some furniture, repurposed a few props I had stored in our garage (since Ikea shipments were delayed until the end of April), and we managed to create work stations for everybody in different rooms. This way, we can all have conference calls, classes, or Intercontinental aperitivo without disturbing or being disturbed. Having well-defined working areas has also helped with keeping healthy boundaries. My husband and I “go into work” and “come back home” at designated times, and I reckon this has been a great way to reduce overwhelm at a time when work is often frantic to make up for the long-distance mode.

We got to work on our home improvement list.
Before Coronavirus hit, I had a long list of home projects I wanted to tackle—some organization ones and a few adjustments that required Max’s technical expertise. We usually have a hectic life, as we both travel for work, and we frequently visit family in another region, so the projects had piled up over the years. Tackling them one at a time, making clever use of what we already have (since shopping opportunities are limited), has been a great way to take our minds off things we can’t control while allowing to make the space we live more functional and purposeful. Plus, ticking the projects off the list enables us to feel productive even on days when it seems we are aimlessly wandering around.

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We wrote down routines, meal plans, and chore lists for everybody.
Lockdown means no cleaning lady, no restaurant meals, double the meals we eat at home and double the mess and dirt. Drafting a routine for everybody, allowing time for cooking, cleanup, and laundry, might seem like a control-freak approach to a shake-up. On the other hand, doing it with common sense allowed us to have guidelines to follow when we felt lost while empowering everyone in the family to do something for the others. Make no mistake, we NEVER follow routines and chore lists to a T. We are a very imperfect bunch. But having that mainframe in place has inspired us to do better, and it has helped us feel more in control of the situation.

I lowered the bar.
As I said, we were never perfect in the first place. But pretty soon after we started sheltering in place, I realized we couldn’t expect too much from ourselves. At this time, concentration is shot, moods swing wildly, and I think we have a stronger need to feel comforted. So there are days when the kids are allowed limitless screen time, others when we splurge on delivery from our favorite ice cream place, others when I take a day off, and binge read a book I love. It would be putting unnecessary (and way too much) pressure on ourselves to expect to perform at our best at these extraordinary times.

The truth is we were very lucky; as far as we know, nobody in our family was infected by the virus. Last Monday, Italy inaugurated phase two of the pandemic, so businesses that had closed will gradually reopen, and the real new normal will take shape. Restaurants will reduce their seats to allow for a safe distance between patrons; shops will implement queues and booking times to protect shoppers; sanitization procedures will be compulsory for all businesses. So far, people seem to be acting responsibly, and we are hopeful we will be able to keep the curve under control (if not flat) until a vaccine has been developed. To be honest, in our family, we haven’t gone outside much so far, aside from finally resuming exercise (Max is a runner and a cyclist) and longer walks. We are still working from home, and we will be for the rest of May, at least. If people can keep adhering to distancing, mask-wearing, and hands washing, I reckon most of Italy will have reopened by June. That should give us time to learn new routines and new ways of socializing while relieving the stress on our economy and our hospitals at the same time. It is not over, but I think we are better equipped to deal with it now. Also, I like to think this was a wake-up call to all of us to craft more sustainable ways of life.

Best,
Barbara

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AJS Team in Quarantine:: Philip Meeker

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Hello! I’m Philip Meeker, the chef at La Fortezza. Some of you might know me from the cooking classes Annette and I do on her Instagram or from pictures of all the cool things we explore in Italy.

I hope you all are doing well as possible during this time of social distancing. For me, it’s been a mixed experience. Nothing really bad has happened, and I’m thankful for that, but the world has changed in a way that’s left me feeling more uncertain about how to move through it. Being forced to pause also forced me to pay attention to many things I was ignoring. It added to the discomfort of distancing, but it’s given me more self-awareness and has strengthened some of my relationships.

As part of that awareness, I’ve made sure to try to do a few things each week to keep things playful and my spirits up.

Wake up & Dance.
This may sound goofy, but I love to dance. It also gets me to pay more attention to my body and to be comfortable being aware of my feelings there. I’ve been tuning into DJ DNice’s quarantine mixes and have also had Beyonce’s Homecoming on repeat. She’s the Queen B.

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Date nights.
Sarita, who is my partner, and I love to have a night out. Since that’s off the table, I’ve been surprising her with coursed meals, from pasta to octopus salad to pistachio cakes. Sometimes, I feel like I’m unconsciously or deliberately trying to recreate our experience at La Fortezza. If you have a yard, and it’s still cool where you are, I highly recommend an evening picnic next to the fire pit. As the sun goes down, we will lounge about on our blanket in the grass, looking up into the stars, sharing our hopes and dreams. May sound a little saccharine but it’s relaxing. (I made sure to get her permission to share this.)

Nature.
I’ve mentioned this a little in my date night rec, but the outdoors have been bringing me much needed serenity. Whether it’s a jog through the nature-preserve trails near our house or a walk with Louis Harris, our Bichon, I find I start to breathe a lot deeper when I get some exercise while listening to the birds and feeling the sun on my face.

Yoga.
It’s been my centering practice for the last 8 years, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to get myself on my mat much during this quarantine. But as my yoga teacher advises, I’m not going to focus on what I’m not doing with my practice, and I’m going to accept where I am.

Cooking Classes with Annette.
Planning, prepping, and co-teaching these classes has been a welcomed project these months. Cooking with Annette, though virtually, brings back a lot of memories of cooking, dining, and exploring Italy with her. I’m planning to be back there this September with her.

Thanks, Philip! Find Chef Philip’s bolognese recipe here!

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Focaccia La Fortezza Instagram Live Cooking Lesson

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Ciao Everyone!  We had a big demand to do a La Fortezza Virtual cooking lesson on focaccia, so we are answering your wishes! Join Chef Philip and me on my IG Live Wednesday at 5 pm EST. Below is the recipe we will be preparing.

We will be making the authentic Liguria-style focaccia. We will tell you all about the focaccia that you will find all up and down the Italian Riviera, and we’ll show you how to make it yourself. I hope to see you on the ‘gram!

Focaccia
Serves 4

You will need:
– 4 cups double zero flour (super fine flour) flour for kneading if needed.
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1/3 cup warm water
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for the cookie sheet + 3 tablespoons for finishing before baking, 1 tablespoon to finish after baking
– 1 tablespoon coarse salt + 1 teaspoon for finishing

To prepare:

Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1/3 cups water and let proof in a large bowl allow to bloom for 5 minutes. Place flour and oil and salt and water, combine until it forms a sticky dough, it should be very sticky. Flour your surface and turn the dough onto floured surface. knead gently for a minute until dough forms a soft dough.

On an oiled cookie sheet with a lip, spread the dough out to fit the cookie sheet. With your index fingers poke dimples into the top of the dough you may need to oil your fingers a bit to do this.

Let rest for 1 hour, then repeat by poking dimples into the risen dough, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Before placing in the oven, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil immediately and cool and eat warm or at room temperature. The key is to let the oil soak in as the focaccia cools.

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