10 January 2009

Team Delcious and Nonna Genia's Recipes come to life at Bella Baita

Normally what happens at Bella Baita, stays at Bella Baita, but on occasion I share some of our experiences with our guests, with their permission, of course. This holiday season brought us a group of adventuresome, fun loving, food journalists and photographer, from the Netherlands, who collectively work and free lance for the Dutch food magazine Delicious (in Dutch, naturally). Independently, they have a variety of projects on the trot.
Team Delicious plus Fabrizio, minus Suzanne
Their choice of Piedmont for the Christmas holidays reflected their ongoing love of this area's cuisine as they have been here on numerous occasions for work and play, just as they did this time. Merjin Tol, a food editor for Delicious and part of the Dutch convivium of Slow Food and fellow free lance food stylist, Nadia Zerouali have attended the Salone del Gusto on more than one occasion as well as exploring and sampling other Slow Food offerings here in the Piedmont region. Saskia van Osnabrugge, made up the third of this intrepid trio that ventured up to Bella Baita between our record snow storms, testing their mettle by learning how to get the chains on and off of their transports wheels. A bit of tutoring from Fabrizio and they soon got it down to a fine art. The spark plug in the group was Tariq, Nadia's son who kept everyone smiling and on track. No communication problems there, as he spoke Dutch to us and we spoke English with him and in the end we got there. Part of the holiday they were joined by the delightful Suzanne, another food editor for the mouth watering Delicious magazine. What a line up of talent.
They brought along a copy of the Christmas Delicious edition that featured their visually appealing collaboration with free lance food photographer extraordinaire, Saskia van Osnabrugge, that will have you running right out to buy up all the winter vegetables you can find. Check out Saskia's web site for a sample of her work that will tantalize you to discover more of her work. Merjin and Nadia's sites are in progress, but if you can read Dutch and love Arabic food, then I recommend that you run, not walk, out and purchase a copy of "Arabia", the recently published cook book that Merjin and Nadia's labor of love has produced, along with the gorgeous photography of another of their collaborators, Sven Benjamins, who did not make this trip, but, perhaps next time.

This intoxicating gorgeous cook book, come travel diary, will be a delight to their fans through the Delicious magazine. Fortunately/unfortunately, for me it has only been published in Dutch at the moment. Why fortunate you ask?, because I have had a quasi moratorium on cook book purchases, since I started working and living away from the US. It has been a hard habit to shake, because I love and lust after, beautifully photographed cook books that have wonderful stories to accompany the recipes. You guessed it, this one has all of those elements and whimsical illustrations that ties together this into a must have cook book package. If you have any Dutch friends that love Arabic food, then direct them to this book pronto! I, of course, will undoubtedly be breaking that quasi moratorium, as soon as the English version hits the shelves, and it sounds like that is already in the works. Merjin and Nadia cooked and ate their way thought out the middle east, southern Spain and Sicily with a variety of local experts. Now that I have spent a few days and meals with them I can only imagine what fun it must have been. They have a passion for real food made by real people and an elegantly simple style of presentation that will have you wiping the drool off your book.

Piedmont has been fertile ground for all of them and their foodie adventures, also known as work. This time was no different as they worked on a free lance project for one of my old favorites, the American cooking magazine, Saveur, in between skiing up at Sestriere.
They were working on developing some updated recipes based on recipes from a local cook book from the Langhe region, that I was not familiar with before, called, Nonna Genia.
This classic Langhe cook book is a combination tribute to the authors grandmother's cooking with some additional recipes by chefs of "Stelle del Piemonte" and to the trattoria by the same name in Grinzane Cavour, which I am assuming is run by this family. It is a classic collection of Piemontese recipes and indeed worth tracking down, now that it has been translated into English. It is available in Italian or English from here from in Italy from the Asti library or from Alta Cucina Inc in the US.

Working out in our guest kitchen
Team Delicious cooked up a storm, in our modest guest kitchen, while the snow fell on Christmas day. That kitchen had never seen such activity, even when we have taught some of our cooking classes there over the years. Merjin and Nadia made their interpretation of the books "Polenta with Cabbage" as more of a hearty soup and the "Pear Martine Tart" with the added attraction of on old fashion type of cherry to add another dimension to this delightful polenta based tart.
Saskia plying her craft
How do I know you ask? Well, we all gathered together in our more spacious dining room after they braved the elements and put Saskia through her paces getting just the right angle and backdrop of our neighbors old baita to raise these dishes up to new heights of deliciousness, to share a fine Christmas repast!
Women at work
In spite of braving the elements or because of, the soup tasted heartily wonderful, even with the unintended element of smoky flavor that our pans lent to the dish, as the guests kitchen utensils were not really the best for making a perfect polenta soup. I actually really liked that aspect and even incorporated it into my interpretation of this dish recently. I'll be sharing my results and tweaks on these recipes here in the next couple of days. Do come back as I think you'll find the results worth a try out as an addition to your own winter repertoire of comfort foods.


joe@italyville.com said...

looks like a wonderful adventure... and a very happy holiday.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Looks great, what a wonderful holiday! Will come to read more :-)

Bella Baita View said...

Thanks Joe and Anne, it was I think. We had as much fun as they did I think, although next time we have to fit in some skiing!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful time! Thanks for the photos!

giz said...

A truly great story and now I'm wishing I could speak/read Dutch.

Bella Baita View said...

Thank you Maryann for stopping by and commenting.
Giz, I wish I could too.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow, Awesome Marla!

Bellini Valli said...

This is the life I would love to lead. Travelling all over the world with Bella Betta View on my journey.

maicher said...
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