25 December 2008

Merry White Christmas to All!

It's snowing again and the snow is starting to pile up, so we're having a white Christmas here at Serre Marchetto. We wish you a peaceful and memorable 12 days of Christmas!

I've left you some cookies to tide you over till I find the time to do some more posting, and my Pan d'Oro that turned out pretty nice. My in laws thought so a well.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a great close up shot of it's best side, so you'll just have to imagine it. I adapted an old recipe by Paula Peck and the recipe from the label of my pan. I was pleased with the results. We'll see how the Pannetone turned out tonight. A tiny bit more tweaking for next time. Which I think might be for New Years with some fresh ice cream to go inside. Hmmm...

Buone Feste!!!!!

20 December 2008

Back to Normal

The sun has return for an extended stay, warm balmy weather is melting a little of the over 5 ft of snow we received this past week. The road up to the ski areas are open and it's a beehive of activity here.I don't have time to post a couple of recipes that I had hoped to before Christmas so here are a couple of neighborhood photos.

Nothing like trying to tie up loose ends before the guests arrive.
What that means is that we're running around like crazy trying to get all of the nagging things done in record time. Fabrizio is putting up the last of the stone on the arches in the Olympia room that we have been waiting on materials to finish for the past 3 months. They arrived Saturday and now all that cleaning was for naught as the dust is flying again. Heavy sigh, i'll just keep the baking and prepping going in our flat and whistle while I work and be glad for all when it's done. His parents have the local window installer doing his thing, putting in the double set of doors on their flat that they ordered months ago and arrived for installing today. More dust. Poor guy that had to carry them up our stairs. He definitely broke a sweat. Luckily, they will have their new doors before the next wave of cold weather arrives in a few day as predicted.

How are all of your last minute details going?

17 December 2008

Gift Idea and Acciughe al Verde for the Seven Fishes Feast

Just reminder if you need a last minute gift that you don't have to wrap and ship and will make a difference in someones' life be sure and have a look at Mercy Corps' Mercy Kits!
Choose between food, health, or garden kits and others that help people help themselves. Today the 18th is the last day to insure a gift card arrives in time for the holidays, but you can choose this option all year long. You choose the amount you want to spend and the gift will keep on giving long after the holiday season.

On another note,
I hate to miss a party, so even though I am down to the deadline with little time to spare, I did put a little something together for Maryann of Finding la Dolce Vita, and Joe of Italyville's, Seven Fishes Feast. Do head over and sample all the delectable dishes there and pick up a few ideas and recipes for your holiday celebrations!

The Feast of the Seven Fishes isn't generally celebrated up here in landlocked Piedmont, although fish is an important part of the Piemontese cuisine, especially anchovies. They are so very fond of them, fresh, marinate, fried and cooked in all sorts of dishes as that little subtle, or not, "je ne sais quois" element to the dish.
I found it peculiar that anchovies were such a frequent ingredient in so many of their regional dishes, especially as it it he main ingredient of the much beloved and somewhat revered, Bagna Cauda. We are 3 hours away form the coast, which is a heck of a lot closer to the coast than where I grew up, but I still was surprised by its popularity. When I came across the tale of salted anchovies arriving over the alps via the salt trail, it shed some historical light on the ardor of the locals for these small salty fish. As the tale goes, large barrels of generously salted anchovies were in actuality a lot more salt than anchovy. Salt was a such precious commodity back in the day and was quite heavily taxed by the state, that in true Italian fashion, clever people found a way to get more salt for less taxes paid. With an abundance of anchovy the addition of anchovy to many dishes came to be the norm. At least that is how the story was told to me.

Acciughe al Verde doesn't really go by a firm recipe, but there are a few tips.
You must use the best quality of anchovy that you can find. My in-laws, insist that it can only be salted anchovy. They are not fans of anchovy in jars, as they they say they aren't the true anchovy. They will use them in sauces where they will need to break down completely in the cooking, but not if they are going to retain their texture. I have to admit after having had my palate educated, I do agree with them as well. High quality, salted anchovy are a far cry from anything I have ever had that you buy in oil. I was never an anchovy fan until moving to Italy. I wrinkled my nose up as well, but once you have some done well, especially fresh ones, I think you might change your mind about this much maligned fish. Give them a go.

Acciughe al Verde
6 salted whole anchovies,
figure 1 -3 per person depending on your crowds ardour for them
2-3 garlic cloves, more if everyone is having them and loves garlic
fresh parsely, maybe a whole bunch
Extra virgin olive oil, a flavorful is nice
First clean your anchovies, by pulling the tail off and then run your knife or finger down the inside of the center of the fish pulling out the spine, keeping the two sides intact.
Place all of the fillets in a bowl and rinse a few times, ridding the rest of the odd bone or two left.
Let the fillets soak about an hour and rinse. If you let them soak too much or rinse them too thoroughly you lose some of the salty flavor that you want to keep.
Now place rinsed dry anchovies in a bowl.
Grate on a micro plane or mince very fine, you garlic into the anchovies.
Chop the parsley very fine and add.
Cover all with oil to make a nice saucy green mixture.
Adjust amounts as needed.
Cover and let sit overnight or up to three days.
Serve at room temperature, making sure to adjust garlic, parsley or salt as needed.
This sauce usually has a big garlic bite to it.
Best if everyone enjoys some at your dinner party for every one's sake!

15 December 2008

Almost 6 Feet Under and Marmelatta di Zucca

They say it was over 1.6 meters in 24 hours, that's 5 ft or a bit more.
It cleared briefly last night but there is more snow on the way.

Our entrance to our flat.

In the neighborhood

Digging his way to to get the chickens

Disappearing chicken coop

The road beyond us toward the garden.
Another Val Chisone extreme weather event.
2 years ago we didn't have any snow or winter and the spring arrived almost a month early. This year we had a fairly normal winter and then we had a very soggy late spring and everything has been arriving very late this year. Now we have a very early winter with record snow.
Latest update. Now it's raining on top of our 6 ft of snow. The rivers are overflowing and they are watching the Po in Torino and all the way down to Rome, where it has been raining non stop whilst we were getting snow. Strange days indeed

So nothing left to do make Pumpkin Jam or Marmellata di Zucca.
Once done, slather some on your favorite tea biscuit or do like Fabrizio's grandmother, and make a sandwich of Pavesini biscotti and dunk them in for tea, or for a more grown up addition, vin santo, marsala or something along those lines.
I actually double this recipe as we have quite a bit of pumpkin and the moment and it made a delicious crostata filling.

Marmellata di Zucca
  • 500 g (1+pound) pumpkin or butternut type of solid squash, cut up in medium pieces
  • 200 g(1 cup) sugar
  • zest of one lemon
Other optional additions
  • 50 g (1/2 c) toasted walnuts or pecans
  • 100 g sultanas or dry cranberries softened in a splash of warm cognac,
  • Vecchia Romagna, comes to mind

Combine the sugar, lemon zest and pumpkin in a large heavy bottom sauce pan. Gently simmer until soft. I usually smash the mixture after it starts to soften to encourage to break down and cook a little faster. Stir occasionally. Add additional ingredients just before the mixture is done.
Cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
I never bother to jar it as it usually gets used up rather quickly.

09 December 2008

Pollenzo visit and Maestri del Gusto in Val Chisone

Last month we made a visit to Slow Foods' University of Gastronomic Sciences, in Pollenzo, Italy to meet up with some of it's students that had shown some interest at the Salone del Gusto 08, in learning more about our friends the Bernards' liqueurs and their whole operation. And so to that end, Fabrizio, Enrico Bernard and I made a visit to the the ancient Roman city of Pollenzo which is located just out side Bra, the spiritual home of Slow Food.

For those of you not familiar, this university is the culmination and synthesis of many ideas and efforts to create a unique approach combining "the academic and scientific world and the traditional knowledge of farmers and food producers." This international school was founded in January, 2003 by Slow Food, and the regions of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, as an international research, training center, a protector of biodiversity, as well as working to renew farming methods, while maintaining an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science.

The day was overcast, but didn't detract from the beauty and stately charm of this collegiate setting. The school is located in an area of Pollenzo, that has been restored and designated as a World heritage site. It is very picturesque and impressive setting. What they are trying to accomplish there is amazing and comprehensive. Our time ran out before we really were able to explore the whole area and do it justice, so I do fore see another visit in store in the future.

Caro of Germany and Heva of Quebec, Canada had set up a meeting with a group of interested students to meet with us and sample some Genepy and Barathier. Unfortunately most of them had to hurry off to classes but the rest of us made our way over to "La Banco Del Vin0" to sample a bit of liqueurs and a tour of the Wine bank. This recently renovated 50,000-bottle wine cellar in the century-and-a-half-old cellars of the restored Pollenzo estate was created by a consortium of about 28o wine producers from all over Italy in collaboration with Slow food to insure their safe keeping in this climate controlled environment. They study the wines here at the school and will give tours and tastings for about 18 euros for 3 wines, some difficult to find.

So from this outing another was conceived, one to visit us in Val Chisone and visit our area and learn about what our mountain region has on offer. It didn't take me too long to think about all the different interesting operations they might enjoy visiting, some more suited to different times of the year, but a few jumped out at me. Slow Food in collaboration with the Province of Torino have an annual designation of quality, Maestri del Gusto, or Masters of Taste, that they bestow on some our province's finest gastronomic producers. We are honored to have 4 Maestri del Gusto, in our valley, producing high quality products in traditional ways, so we put them all on our list of places to visit as well as a few others on their visit up here last weekend.

The group of Pollenzo students were a mix of countries representing, the US, Canada, Germany and France and reflects the international flavor of the school.
We enjoyed taking them to one of our favorite Pinerolo outings.

First stop the Orto Frutticcolo Mercato
and the requisite chocolate fix, at Cioccolato Puro

Dora Vini is always a fun place to sip some tasty Pinerolese Wine

Beba Beer
One of the first and certainly one of the finest microbreweries in Italy.

Bernard's family home brew for over 100 years
Seems we have an ample supply of traditional well crafted drink in our valley.

Livio Ribetto's award winning Mustardella

Cheese from Val Germansca

That's some aged cheese

We all learned a lot while having fun sampling everything of course.
We look forward to future outings planned, as the seasons and interests dictate.
Stay tuned, future adventures to follow.

01 December 2008

Torta di Nocciole, Piedmont's and Dante's perennial favorite!

Piemonte is famous for it's cuisine and has an impressive list to call it's own that I like to feature in my quest to make our region more familiar to the general public outside of Italy. So today I have an easy and also a perennial favorite in this house hold that features our beloved native Hazelnut, know in Italian as Torta di Nocciole. it has long been one of my favorite nuts, especially as a baker. It has a delicate and to my mind very elegant ans sophisticated flavor. It's versatility makes it ideal for a variety of cakes, tarts, chocolates, cookies, well, I think you get the picture.
This hazelnut cake has special place in my in-laws hearts and is their latest, favorite of my offerings, as you can see from the photo that I didn't get a picture before we all had devoured a slice.
You find this cake throughout the area, but I tend to associate it with the province of Cuneo and their famous hazelnut groves that not only supply Ferrero Rocher for use in making their Nutella and other chocolate delights, which you will find at every check out stand in Italy during the Christmas season, incidentally, but also for the famous truffles found lurking underneath them.
This recipe comes courtesy of Kyle Philips' Italian Cooking recipe collection and was given to him by one if his friends that he has made in his many years living in Italy. Kyle's blog is a wealth of information on Italian cuisine and culture, with many collected recipes from most of the regions of Italy. Worth checking out when you are stuck for ideas on what to make for dinner, what wine to chose to go along with, or if you are looking for a specific recipe you can't find.
my friends over at who

I am sending this recipe over to BloggerAid, where my blogger friends Val, of More Than Burnt Toast, Ivy, of Kopiaste, and Giz and Psychgrad, of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, have cooked up a wonderful place to share ideas for raising awareness of world hunger and raising money to help alleviate this concern .
Please click on the link, BloggerAid, to find out more about their mission, and how we all can help. We all know this isn't an easy time for anyone in the world these days, so it is important that we join together and do all that we can to help each other and make sure there is enough food on the table for all. I'll be sharing some of my other favorite suggestions in the next couple of weeks, during this season of giving that doesn't take a fortune to help out others and will make a difference in people's lives, maybe even your own.

So on to this deliciously easy cake that is special enough to serve over the holidays. Original recipe here. As is the case here in Italy anything that rates as a dessert for dinner is fair game for breakfast and this cake fits into that category as well. I completely agree with Kyle's suggestion that the recipe goes by weight and you may find it easier to calculate it, rather than convert it to volumes.
I finish my cake once they have completely cooled with a dusting of powdered sugar using a stencil to make a decorative pattern. You can also use doilies to a similar effect or make your own stencil for a elegant finishing touch.

Torta di Nocciole or Hazelnut cake


  • 10 ounces (250 g) toasted hazelnuts
  • 4 ounces (100 g) Oro Saiwa Cookies (Graham crackers or Petit Burre will do as a substitute)
  • 4 ounces (100 g, 1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces (150 g, 3/4 cup) sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dark chocolate at least 65%, rough chopped, but somewhat fine


Whirl the nuts and cookies in a small food processor or blender, until they're a fairly fine powder.
Combine it with the crumbled chocolate.
Cream the sugar and butter and then add the egg yolks, whisking until the mixture is pale yellow.

Preheat your oven to 360 F (180 C).

Whip the whites to soft but firm peaks.
Combine the nut and cookie mixture with the butter mixture, combining thoroughly.
Fold in the whites.
Transfer the batter into a prepared greased and floured, cake pan of sufficient size for the batter to be about an inch deep, around 25 cm or 10-12" pan. I use a cheese cake type pan allowing the sides to be removed. You can also cut a round of baking paper to fit in a non removable bottomed pan for insuring your cakes come out easily.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool partially before moving.
Cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.
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