Tag Archives: resources

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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Fresh Pasta Recipe:: Pasta Puttanesca

La_Fortezza_Kate_Blohm_2019-363 Over the past few weeks, our workshop chef, Philip Meeker and I have been hosting cooking demonstrations on Instagram LIVE. In fact, we had another one last week!

Each lesson utilizes our quick and easy handmade pasta recipe found here. It serves as a great base for any pasta recipe, including pasta puttanesca.

Famously named for Italy’s “ladies of the night” who quickly made it between clients, this fast, easy and delicious pasta puttanesca recipe is an ideal weeknight meal and is perfect for the warmer spring weather that is upon us. It’s from the archives, and trust me, you’ll love it. It calls for lots of jars, including jarred marinara. What’s not to love about that?!

You will need:
– 1 pound fresh spaghetti or linguini
– 2 teaspoons anchovy paste (don’t skip this!)
– 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
– 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
– 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 jar Marinara sauce
– 1 cup jarred olive tempande
– 2 tablespoons drained capers
– 2 tablespoons dried basil
– Optional 2 tablespoons lemon oil

To prepare:

Cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling water until barely al dente.

While pasta boils, cook garlic, anchovy paste, red-pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes.

Add jar of marinara to garlic oil along with olive tempande and capers and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is ready.

Drain pasta and add to sauce. Simmer, turning pasta with tongs, until pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and lemon oil.

*Note: for a touch of protein you can stir in canned tuna to the pasta.

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Handmade Pasta Recipe + Join me LIVE for a demo

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Ciao Guys! I wanted to post our basic pasta recipe for you all today. While we are all at home, our La Fortezza chef, Philip Meeker and I are doing LIVE La Fortezza Cooking Classes on Instagram. It’s a great way for you to try your hand at pasta making while also giving you something to do. Grab your family and make some pasta together!

Making your own pasta is so worth it. This is a recipe that will appear in my upcoming cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook, (Rizzoli NY) Fall 2021. I hope you will join us for our first class TODAY on Instagram at 2 PM EST for a demonstration on how to make your own handmade pasta.

Let me know how you like making pasta by hand.

Stay well. x

Handmade Pasta: Basic Egg Pasta Dough
For 4 Servings

You will need:
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3 eggs

Directions for the pasta:
Mix the flour and salt in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Add the eggs to the bowl and mix them in to the flour to form a dough. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap, and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes to 4 hours before rolling out. Any longer and you risk the dough oxidizing and turning a dark color.

To prepare: 

*Use semolina flour for sprinkling or all-purpose flour for dusting*

To prepare your pasta via a machine:
Set the pasta machine rollers on their widest setting. Cut the pasta dough into quarters. Leave three of the pieces under plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Lightly dust the other piece with all-purpose flour and press it into a rectangle with almost the width of the rollers. You’ll want to maintain this width as you roll. Feed the dough through the machine, fold the dough in half crosswise. Repeat twice. Then without folding, feed the dough through the second widest setting. Repeat on the next thinnest, setting the rollers one notch thinner each time until you roll the dough through on the second to thinnest setting. Trim the two ends with a knife so that they are straight, and put on a lightly floured surface. Now your dough is ready to shape in to many types of pasta.

Note: You can also cut the pasta sheet into strips making Tagliatelle, by rolling the sheet loosely like a jelly roll into a 3 inch roll. Cut into ¼ inch strips, starting on the right side of the log, cut 6 cuts then toss the strips unfurling them into pasta nests, repeat until you have cut all rolls.

Hand cut: Dust a wooden board with 1 tbsp of flour.

Unwrap the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin. Roll out the dough into a thin pasta sheet, to less than 1/8 inch thickness. To cut the pasta sheets into tagliatelle, You can cut the pasta sheet into strips making Tagliatelle, by rolling the sheet loosely like a jelly roll into a 3 inch roll. Cut into ¼ inch strips, starting on the right side of the log, cut 6 cuts then toss the strips unfurling them into pasta nests.

To cook:
In salted water in a 5 quart pasta pot at a rolling boil add the pasta, cook until pasta rises to the top of the pot, pull one out to sample, it should have a bite or al dente. Serve with your favorite sauce or topping.

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Easy Flower Arranging

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While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme like pink or even white. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

However, if you want to give it a go, follow these steps. For this arrangement, I selected a few colors that go well together like pink and lavender.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers. Pro tip: this pitcher from Ikea (one of my favs, as you know) is an ideal flower container!

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Here, that’s ranunculus and hyacinth. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty!

xx Annette

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Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy

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It might seem hard to wrap your head around, but the time to book your summer travel for Italy is NOW. As a result, I am reviving an older post which includes everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy.

I think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one-stop-shop for all of the information you need to know. It’s a FAQ page of sorts, and you can use it to reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2020 summer workshops are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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