Finished… Finito…All Done, the last photoshoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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The Dapper David Loftus, photographer and fashion plate sipping the Rosé named for him.

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Chef Leo, garnishing the local dish, in an authentic Lunigiana cast iron cooking vessel, called a testa.

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Me at my new bar, that was a delivery saga let’s just say I was happy it arrived and was in one piece.

Ciao everyone!  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am done with La Fortezza Cookbook. The manuscript? Check,. The recipe testing? Check. Edits? Check. Photo-shoots per season? Check.

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La Fortezza, capture by David, his POV is perfection.   92DA59CE-8F04-440C-BA52-740073A6C28D_1_201_a

As you can imagine, shooting a seasonal cookbook in Italy has been a challenge. We had to cancel the very first shoot for the winter Chapter in February 2020. We were finally able to shoot the summer chapter August 2020, and with lots of restrictions and hurdles, we managed to shoot summer with me and my local chef Leo, then in October. I brought our workshop chef from the US which was no small feat. He, unfortunately, was going through some personal issues which did affect the quality of his work and the food which was another challenge on top of the other challenges was a lot for me to process. We soldiered on in March, hiring a new food stylist from England, the incredible Rosie Scott. All the while David Loftus, my photographer, was truly brilliant and consistent and created the most beautiful images. Rosie, our stylist from London, joined the team in March, along with our local chef Leo. We tackled the re-shoots from October’s shoot, as well as the new images for winter (yes, winter at the end of March. We lucked out with some unseasonably cold weather). Rosie and Leo knocked it out of the park. We had the crew back from London last week to shoot the final chapter, spring. With London lockdowns, endless covid 19 tests, daily temperature checks, travel restrictions, and tons of paperwork, we made it happen. My friend and superstar producer Barbara Pederzini was one of the reasons the shoot went so smoothly. She was my rock, to say the least.

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Daily temperature checks, Rosie and Charlie doing their temperature checks.

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With endless playlists, espressos, market runs, sunshine, heat, rain, and cold days, we had a great time. There were many many challenges, but I am beyond pleased with the recipes, and the images are outrageously gorgeous. This book, as we referred to it, will be “the most beautiful book in the world”. I am delighted that all of our local slow food purveyors’ stories are included, and the rich history of this little-known region of Italy, The Lunigiana, will be the star. I am proud and so excited to share it with all of you. Endless thank yous to David, Rosie, Leo, Barbara and of course, Charlie, Rosie’s lovely and helpful husband, who saved my ass driving to see the Shepherdess in Zeri…that’s another story for another time… dream team does not begin to describe this crew. Fin…xx

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Strawberry and Mascarpone Tart

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Strawberry season is in full swing, and this strawberry and mascarpone tart is a great way to show off spring berries. It’s from Kieth Robinson’s feature in Atlanta Magazine’s Home from a few years ago when I was the entertaining editor. Trust me, it is as delicious as it looks!

Strawberry and Mascarpone Tart

For the crust, you will need:
– Crust – 2 cups AP flour
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup unsalted butter softened
– 1/2 cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling, you will need:
– 1 pound mascarpone cheese (two cups)
– 1/4 cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 teaspoon lemon zest
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– Three cups of fresh berries, cleaned

To prepare:
Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl.  In the bowl of the mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add vanilla. beat in the flour mixture until just incorporated, do not over mix. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Press the chilled dough into a false bottom tart shell, prick the bottom with a fork.  Place it into a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, cool completely in the pan.

Mix together all ingredients for the filling, smooth into the cooled unmolded tart shell. Top with fresh strawberries.

Photo: The Raftermen

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Fireside Paella Party

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I have always been intrigued by cooking over an open fire. There’s nothing like burning wood to infuse every dish with a lovely smoky flavor. A few years ago, when I was the entertaining editor of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME, I hosted a fireside paella party that was featured in the magazine, and I thought that with people itching to get outdoors, it would be a great time to revive the recipe.

While paella is a labor-intensive dish, prep time accounts for most of the work, making the dish relatively easy for the host to assemble once guests arrive. I love giving even the most casual event an exotic flair. Low-slung tables on top of layered Moroccan rugs transported guests to another place. I gathered arty props, including golden Moorish lanterns with delicate filigree cutouts, to decorate the table. A collection of colorful Moroccan tea glasses with votives added twinkle, and for a pop of color, I snipped bright flower heads and scattered them down the table’s center. Hot pink peonies were especially dramatic.

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As the fire pit blazed and the sun went down, we sipped pink sangria and watched the flames lick the bubbling paella pan. If you are looking for an excuse to gather an intimate crowd without the fuss of a big meal, paella is your answer.

Annette’s Fireside Paella
Serves 8

You will need:
• 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
• Olive oil
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 green bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons saffron
• 1 pound chorizo, cut into 3-inch pieces
• ½ onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 4 cups Bomba rice (a specialty Spanish rice)
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes
• 2 cups haricots verts, trimmed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
• 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut crosswise into ½-inch rings
• 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
• 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
• ½ package frozen lima beans
• 2 cups fresh or frozen peas
• 2 lemons

To prepare:

Place chicken in a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and ½ teaspoon salt; turn chicken to coat. Cover chicken and let marinate, refrigerated, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Remove stems, seeds, and ribs from peppers and cut into quarters. Cut quarters crosswise into ¼-inch strips; set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind saffron. Put saffron mixture in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of warm water. Whisk until well combined; set aside.

If using a charcoal grill, make a fire in your grill. When the briquettes are completely covered in gray ash, hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grid and count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there. When you can only hold it there for a second or two, you have high heat and are ready to cook. (Alternatively, you can cook paella on a stove over high heat.)

Place a 20-inch paella pan with 3-inch sides over heat source. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil and heat until pan is very hot, about 5 minutes. Add chicken thighs and cook, turning, until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add chorizo and cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and set aside.

Add onions and garlic to pan, and saute until onions are caramelized.

Add rice and saffron water to onion-garlic mixture and stir to coat; cook about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, peppers, and haricots verts. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Add chicken, sausage, calamari, and shrimp, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more. Add clams and mussels. Cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, adding more stock as necessary.

Add lima beans and peas and cook until tender, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice; serve immediately.

Photography by Sarah Dorio

First appeared in Atlanta Magazine’s HOME

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Oysters with Lemon Mignonette

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m reviving a recipe from the archives for you today.

This past weekend, my husband and I took a quick road trip to Apalachicola, Florida. Once upon a time, Apalachicola Bay produced 90% of the state’s oysters and 10% of the oysters served across the country. Oyster farming in the area is currently on pause, but we were able to have an abundance of oysters from nearby waters several times throughout the weekend. They were fantastic.

I’ve never tried to shuck oysters on my own, but after this weekend and after digging up this recipe, I think I might have to give it a try. This recipe is from the archives of Atlanta Magazine’s Home.

 

It calls for fresh oysters from your local fish market and includes a fantastic recipe for a lemon mignonette, the tangy, vinegar alternative to cocktail sauce.

Oysters with Prosecco & Preserved Lemon Mignonette
24 oysters, 8 guests (3 per guest)

You will need:

– 2 cups coarse sea salt
– oysters, 2-3 per person*
– 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon shallots, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
– pinch of sugar
– Chervil leaves for garnish, optional
– salt

*Oysters available at your best local fish market; these are from Atlanta’s Star Provisions.

To prepare:

To make the mignonette, remove the pulp from the preserved lemons and rinse well to remove any excess salt. Mince the lemon finely, but leave enough texture for color. Mince the shallot and add to a bowl with the lemon. Add the vinegar, prosecco, sugar, and salt. Whisk until blended and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, so flavors can integrate.

To serve:

Mound 1/4 cup of sea salt on each salad plate. Carefully open the oysters, checking for any pieces of shell fragments. Arrange the oysters with the bottom shell intact on top of the salt. Top each oyster with the mignonette. Garnish with a small leaf of chervil.

Note* You can easily make your own preserved lemons, but they take time to mature before using. Bella Cucina makes preserved lemons which are available at select southeast Whole Foods stores. You can also substitute preserved lemons with chopped lemon zest if preserved lemons are not available in your area.

xx, Annette

Recipe: Alisa Barry

Photo credit: John McDonald

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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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