27 January 2010

Guest Blogger Cherrye Moore on Winter time ex pat life in Calabria

Today for your reading pleasure I have the lovely Cherrye Moore, as a guest blogger here at Bella Baita View. My compatriot Cherrye hails from the opposite end of the bel paese, and is a fellow B&B owner, "Il Cedro", travel consultant and blogger at "La Bella Vita". 
We've bumped into each other on the blog-o-sphere with our common interest of Bed and Breakfast life and she even featured me last summer in her Expat in Italy-owned Business Series. You can read that interview here.
Do have a wander round her site as she has a charming tale about how she and her husband met and she offers up a variety of useful information on her "Travel Tips Tuesday" series.
If you want to win some Perugian chocolate straight from the source, do have a look at the contest that Cherrye and Tina Ferrari of Tina Tangos  along with AffordableCallingCards.net.
having going on. You still have time to enter. Check out all the details here for
Blogging from the Boot: The Best of 2009

Without further ado...

Ahh … the Christmas rush is over, New Year’s Eve celebrations have come and gone and sleepy Calabria has quietly slipped into-and in fact, almost through-the first month of 2010.
As has been the case since we opened our B&B Il Cedro a few years ago, the first few months are often plagued with cold, wintery days and rainy nights. It is dangerous ground for a normally busy B&B.
As opposed to other, more tourist-friendly regions in Italy, January and February tend to be lazy months for us in Catanzaro, so much in fact that some B&Bs (ok, yea that would be us) close for half of January and take a winter break.
We are lucky, though, in regards to the location of our bed and breakfast.
Catanzaro sits smack dab in the middle of Calabria and since we are the capital of the region, our B&B business doesn’t rely solely on the sand and sole.
Many of our regular guests are professors at the university, pharmaceutical representatives and salespeople who travel to the city.
We fill our rooms with Calabrian-Americans, Calabrian-Canadians, Calabrian-Australians who venture to the south of the boot-regardless of the season-to trace their heritage and walk in their grandfathers’ footsteps.
But it is only the summer months-June, July and August-that my Calabria, and in fact, my Catanzaro, see tourists. They come to explore the coasts, swim in the Ionian Sea and trek through the nearby Sila mountains. They want to explore Old Italy, enjoy an afternoon nap and take a passeggiata  through a medieval village on a moonlight night.
I often wonder how different my Italian experience-and my job!-would be if we lived in northern Italy, if we lived in a place that welcomed year-round tourism and catered to the needs of foreign visitors.
And some day, I might know.
I have a feeling Calabria is on the brink-just moments away from the big tourism boom that will propel her into international stardom. But until then, I’ll just sit here, in my hidden corner of the Mediterranean, sipping my espresso and gazing at the stars … and waiting to share this piece of Italia with the rest of the world.

Cherrye Moore is a southern Italy travel consultant, My Bella Vita  and B&B owner living in Calabria, Italy. She is currently hosting Blogging from the Boots: The Best of 2009 - the first annual expats in Italy Affordable Calling Cards's blogging awards. Submit or nominate your favorite expat-written blog posts today!

26 January 2010

"Museo del Gusto" Sunday afternoon with Chef Walter Eynard

Antique Piemontese kitchen display,
Museo del Gusto, Frossaco

Sunday brought a welcome outing for us, along with my in-laws, over to the nearby Roman village of Frossaco.  It was off to a demonstration of Torre Pellice's favorite Chef, Walter Eynard, owner and chef of the 2 star Michelin restaurant, Flipot. As times change here as in other parts of the world, the restaurant has shifted from actively being open to now being open for private dining upon reservation. Times are changing everywhere. Chef Eynard has lost any of his touch and  produced  several stunning plates that lucky for us we all got a taste of in spite of the fact that the room was filled beyond capacity, spilling out into the wine tasting room.  The Museo del Gusto is a wonderful small  museum celebrating the many different origins and aspects of food and drink, down through the ages.  They have some wonderful antiques and  educational displays of the origins of local foods, but to me the best part of this museum, is that they are always offering a variety of interesting lectures, films, speakers and sampling. What's a food museum without some real food? To that end they opened a small shop inside featuring our wines of the Strada Reale dei Vini Torinese and locally produced food products, like honey, fruit preserves, fruit in moscato wine, polenta, digestivi and many other tempting treats. A great place to pick up a few items for yourself or for that special food basket for all occasions.

Back to Sunday's demo...

Chef Walter Eynard
 demonstrated 3 delicious plates

Delicious and eye appealing

Rollata di cavolo e trota salmonata in a saffron fumet
Savoy cabbage and trout rolls in a saffron fish sauce

This antipasto  plate was paired with 2 selections of white wine
Barge's Azienda  Le Marie's Blanc di Lissart
Erbaluce di Caluso Azienda Orsolani

Piatto Unico

Filetto di Cinghiale, con
riduzione salsa di vino
  Gnocchi e barbabietola, acciughe
e fonduta con pepe nero

Single plate of
Wild boar tenderloin in a red wine and juniper  sauce
with potato gnocchi in a beet root and anchovy sauce
and a side of cheese sauce with black pepper
paired with
Barge's Azienda Le Marie's "Debarges",
 a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes

Bavarese all'Arancia

Chocolate flecked genoise trunk
filled with a light orange mousse
candied orange peel sauce
and pomegrante seeds and chocolate decoration finish the plate

There was a wonderful pairing with the very more-ish
Malvasia dell'azienda Balbiano

The museum's director Ezio Gaij
presenting Le Marie's "Debarges" Barbera wine

Chef Walter Eynard ans Ezio Gaij

It was a truly a delicious experience and made for a interesting Sunday during the coldest of winter days.
What more could you ask for, fresh local food,  lessons on how to prepare it, tasty local varietals of wine,  great turn out of people and samples of all, for all, compliments of Museo del Gusto. A hearty thank you for all that you do.

23 January 2010

Rustle up some Brussels, sprouts that is

Back to my regularly scheduled post about a wonderful if not somewhat maligned vegetable, Brussels sprouts. I read on one of my friends posts that she had stuck to her new years resolution to try Brussels sprouts and was surprised to find she liked them. I actually did like them as a kid. Can't say they were as favored as, say asparagus, but I certainly liked them more than regular cooked cabbage. That was of course before I discovered Savoy cabbage, but that is a different story for a different day.
This combination of sprouts, mini onions and whole chestnuts is done in the classic and very popular tradition of what is called agrodolce, a sweet and vinegary way of adding a touch of pizzaz to a wide range of foods. There are a variety of types of Agrodolce and that take into consideration personal tastes and is so second nature to Italians, that the recipe from "Sale & Pepe" magazine, didn't bother to give any kind of amounts or proportions. If you don't have chestnuts available or prefer some other combination, I think mini carrots or parsnips would be a nice addition or substitution. The strong flavor of the sprouts and onions pairs well with the vinegar and  brown sugar. If this combination doesn't appeal, you can fall back on my most favorite way with Brussels, which is to toss the hot and freshly cooked sprouts into some coarse ground prepared mustard, just to coat and you're good to go. 

Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Agrodolce (Vedure e Castagne in Agrodolce)

300g peeled, pearl onions (10-12oz)
300g brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, left whole and scored at the base with an x to cook faster, or if they are large, cut them in half (10-12oz)
200g chestnuts, whole cooked (7-8 oz)
40g Olive oil, or a combination of butter and oil or just butter (3Tb- 1.5oz)
1-2 T Brown sugar, I used a demerara, with fine sugar you might use 1 T
1/2 -1 c or glass as they say here in Italy hot water
4 T Vinegar, more or less to taste., white wine, apple or balsamic, young not an aged one I used a combination of apple and balsamic
  • Bring a post of lightly salted water to a boil and drop your peeled onions in, boil for 5 minutes. You want them to turn slightly translucent but to still maintain some firmness. Remove and allow to drain on the side.
  • Drop your brussels sprouts into the same water and again boil approximately 5 minutes. I like them to be al dente. They both will cook longer a little later. Again remove sprouts and allow to drain.
  • Heat your oil or butter, in a saute pan that will fit all of your vegetables and and chestnuts.
  • Add the brown sugar and heat to disolve the sugar. Keep your heat low.
  • Add the onions and shake to coat and cook till they start to carmelize slightly.
  • Add your cooked peeled chestnuts. Mix to coat
  • Add your brussels sprouts and stir to coat.
  • Add hot water as you need it to make a sauce to simmer it all in, but not water log 
  • Cover and let simmer 15-20 minutes however done ou like your veggies.
  • Add your vinegar till you reach the right note of sweet and vinegary.
  • Adjust amounts of oil and vinegar if you need more liquid to cover all or to get the correct balance
  • Serve

18 January 2010

When you least expect it....

Sometimes life just happens.
I have been meaning to post a few recipes here for while. I try to always stay on topic here because I started this blog to try and bring a bit more recognition to our "off the beaten path" part of Italy's alps. But today I'm going rogue.  I will return to regularly scheduled programming about life in the alps, the food and drink of Piedmont, people, places, and fun events shortly.  However, today it's about my all American  family, the Gulley kids from southern Illinois.
You see, all of my big brothers have always meant the world to me and have all not only been my protectors, they have oftentimes, teased and tormented me, as you do when you are kids.  I imagine they will tell you a different side of the story, being that I managed to hold my own. They might even tell you a few other tales about me, being the baby and all, but you know how unreliable those childhood stories can be!
They, along with my parents who are no longer with us,  have been my guides, teachers and inspiration thoughout my entire life. Individually, they are unique and compassionate strong men that live their lives with integrity and honor.  They alongside their spouses, children and grandchildren and my the ever expanding extended family, cousins, aunt, in addition to my assorted family members, are an interesting and talented group of individuals that enriches my life in ways that are difficult to express, though clearly, I am proud to be a part of our far flung, multi-layered, loosely knit family.  I've always said that we are close in a loose sort of way, since we are scattered around the US and me over her in the outpost of Italy.
This rest of this post's focus is on my middle brother, who was known as Jimmie when we were growing up, became Dr. James L Gulley as a professional, but to most of us, he's Jim, Jim Gulley.

Jim, Dallas. Gerry and me, Marla squirming

When you least expect it something so unimaginable happens that it's almost hard to comprehend what life was like before the event, especially in the middle of it happening.
Wednesday morning January 13, I awoke to the news there had been an earthquake in Haiti. It didn't take long for the panic to set in.  I knew my brother, Jim was to have flown down there for meetings with representatives of other international organizations, strategizing to improve various humanitarian services in Haiti and on this occasion, health. I didn't know much more than that, at the time. I learned quite a lot over the course of the next few days, when it became clearer that he was indeed missing and most likely in the Hotel Montana where many international conferences and meetings regularly take place.
I'm not going to tell all of his story, as he can and has been doing so, far better than I could, since we learned that he was indeed alive, truly alive. It truly is a miracle beyond our brightest hope that he has survived with very minor injuries, when so many others, including some in his immediate group were not so fortunate. He has returned home and is recovering in the comfort of his home with his family. Our joy is tempered by the heart crushing loss of life and seeming inability to get relief to such an extraordinary amount of people. It is really almost beyond comprehension. Jim's survival and rescue is miraculous and has touched Fabrizio and I along with many others in a way that reaffirms the resiliency of the human spirit and faith that we need each other to not only survive but to thrive.  My brother, with the unflagging support of his wife Nancy, along with their 3 sons, has spent his whole career, working towards nurturing other people's ability to help themselves, overcoming obstacles, providing information and tools, creating opportunities and support systems to encourage the most disadvantaged people to be able to thrive under the least likely conditions.

A brief synopsis of the events which doesn't do full justice to the anguish that they experienced, is as follows.  My brother and four other associates arrived at the Hotel Montana and were chatting and catching with one another as they walked across the lobby of the Hotel Montana to dine in the hotel's restaurant, when the earthquake hit. In the blink of an eye they were buried under rebar and concrete beams as the ceiling collapsed on top of them pinning some of them and confining all to an extremely small space. They spent the next 55 excruciating hours in utter darkness, passing the time speculating on their rescue, praying, singing together and fervently hoping that they would be found, and please, heavenly father, please please, be rescued.
We, his extended family were doing the same, via email, shared news reports, skype and obsessively watching the news and trolling the internet for information and tidbits of hope. There are still many families who are doing these same things, even now as the glimmer of hope diminishes with each passing day. Others who have been given the news no one ever wants to hear and the most unimaginable amount of people that are suffering from the lack of the most basic of human needs, clean water, food and shelter, are still living and many not, as the time passes, through this catastrophe.
From this horror our loved one has been spared, and we are exceedingly grateful. Our suffering pales in comparison, and we are mindful of this along with the sheer indescribable joy we feel to have Jim still in our lives. I know that he still has much that he expects to accomplish and will, of this I am certain, as his whole adult life has been centered around development work.
Short and partial list,
Missionary in Nigeria focused on agricultural development,
IITA , in Ibadan, Nigeria, in the field training to promote sustainable agricultural practices, traveling through out a good portion of Africa, nurturing these programs.
More recently he has helped establish an on going West African project in Summit County alongside his consultancy role with GWGM, in which he has on going development projects in both Cambodia and Haiti.
You see, I can't him sitting still for too long.

Jimmie and Marla S
at Bonnie church camp most likely

My brother and two of his colleagues, Rev. Clinton Rabb and Rev. Sam Dixon, who were also trapped under the rubble, all worked for GBGM, the United Methodist church's Global Board of Global Ministries,  a comprehensive umbrella organization, supporting numerous programs for community and human needs. UMCOR, is the relief branch of GBGM and has had a long and continued relationship with Haiti. They work in cooperation with many other humanitarian agencies, like IMA World Health, for whom, Rick Santos and Dr. Sharla Chand, were representing and were the other two of the trapped group.
UMCOR is mobilized and providing aid in Haiti now.
If you would like to contribute to UMCOR's  immediate or long term commitment to provide relief to those in need, you may confidently do so by giving to  

Jim, Marla Nancy
Halloween and celebrating Nancy being 1 year cancer free

Friends Ayla  and Anda Gulley
(Jim & Nancy's granddaughter on right)
 Independently decided to raise funds for Haiti
by selling cookies and origami penguins
They raised $100.06 to donate
Very impressive indeed

Here is my list of stories about, Jim Gulley, my brother's, experience:

Video from ABC "Good Morning America" shortly after their rescue
Video of ABC interview
The Guardian

Denver Post
Summit Daily News
Denver Post article when they arrive in Colorado and details of their rescue
    Summit Daily News accounts of his return home
    United Methodist Church website
    MSNBC article on Dan Wolley, who was nearby them in the elevator shaft

        09 January 2010

        Italian Style Winter Laundry

        Last night  about 10 pm, when I saw my mother in law hanging out some laundry I had a little chuckle. I knew and she did as well, that the forecast was for snow today.  For whatever reasons, mostly known to herself, my mother-in-law loves to wash clothes by hand and hang them to drip dry no matter the weather conditions. When asked she shrugs and says she just thinks they get cleaner and enjoys it. Perhaps it is a wee bit of frugality that she won't spin them out in the washer just to remove the major part of the water, but usually they are just hand wrung. Apparently she's not in any hurry to get them dry as the forecast is for snow for the next few days.
        It's a winter wonderland out there right now and not too cold, so I think I may need to put the snow shoes on when there is a break in the flakes and wander around the neighborhood.  I think today maybe another nice day for either a thick cup of hot choclate or a Turin classic drink, a Bicherin. We shall see which one wins out.
        In the meantime here are a couple of  photos from the balcony.

        06 January 2010

        Away with La Befana and Caramelle di pasta per la Befana

          The calender says it's the 6th of January, also known as 12th night, or twelve nights after the birth of Jesus, when the 3 kings arrived to pay their respects. Here in Italy,  today is the last day of the Italian festivities. On the night of the 5th, La Befana flies around on her broom to everyone's house and brings either candy or coal to place in your stocking depending on if you have been naughty or nice. Sound familiar? So it's a day for children and to indulge in yet more sweets, treats and another round of gifts.
        When she goes, so do the decorations and the festivities. If you are interested in  some of the lore around this holiday, check out my post here.
        In general, I find the whole La Befana festival most interesting. as it is such a melange of traditions, beliefs, some religious and others pagan till is quite the stew. The news today seemed fixated on the coal or candy question, like it was some new development and the Addams family has been playing for the past couple of nights on TV. Watching the Pope's St Peter's square festivities, decorated with massive and lavishly decorated Christmas trees, with the 3 kings on hand, and La Befana handing out candies to the faithful, just struck me as weird. I do enjoy the holiday is just seems to be such a mish mash. So the inspiration for this recipe came from another classic Italian TV cooking show, La Prova del Cuoco.  The dish features potato salami filled pasta, in the shape of a wrapped candy, which are called caramelle  over a bed of lentils shaped as a stocking. Lentils and a special sausage called cotechino are a favorite combination for New Years an La Befana as lentilsare to bring good luck and the shape of the lentils are like small coins, like the magi brought to th Christ child.
        My smaller version  of the stocking,  isn't quite as recognizable as a larger version, but the taste is definitely there.
        We gobbled ours up like greedy children falling upon lusted after caramelle. I hope you do as well.

        Caramelle di pasta per la Befana
        Serves 4-6

        For the pasta
        4 eggs
        400 g flour
        Mix together and knead till smooth. Cover with plastic or damp cloth to keep from drying out and set aside while making your other ingredients.

        For the pasta filling
        200g cotechino or  salami or sausage ( I used a combination of spicy and mild salami), chop very fine
        400g potatoes, boiled till soft ( I used a combination of sunchokes and small crumbly  and boiled them in their skins and peeled before smashing)
        50 g grated parmesan or other hard type of cheese
        Mix them all together and season if desired. Set aside.

        For the sauce
        100g Lentils dry or already cooked if you prefer
        1 onion, chopped fine
        1 carrot, small dice
        1 stalk celery, diced
        3 tomatoes, diced or half a small can of tomatoes

        For the cooked pasta
        1 sprig of rosemary
        1 garlic clove smalshed
        olive oil to lightly saute

        Cheese to garnish when serving.

        Start your sauce for the pasta.
        Saute the onion, carrot, celery in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, till translucent, 5 minutes or so
        Add the lentils and enough water to cover the lentils and a bit more for when they absorb
        Simmer the lentils till soft, maybe 1/2 hour, adding more water when needed so they don't dry out.
        When the lentils start to soften, add the tomaotes and simmer another 10 minutes. Season with salt.

        While the sauce is simmering, make your caramelle
        Roll out your dough till very thin.
        Cut your dough into rectangles about the length of your middle finer to the knuckle.
        Let sit on a well floured surface a little while before filling, 5-10 minutes

        Place a teaspoon or so in the middle of the dough.
        Fold the dough over the filling and press the dough on three sides to insure they don't come apart.
        Pinch the dough together on either side if the filling 
        Once you have them all made. Let them dry for 10-15 minutes before boiling in salted water.
         When you are about ready to serve, make sure your sauce is ready.

        Place the sprig of rosemary, garlic clove and 1-2 Tb olive oil, in a saute pan.
        Heat till hot and is aromatic.
        Cook your pasta al dente. It should take less than 5 minutes, as it is fresh pasta.
        Toss the cooked pasta in to the oil and shake to coat the pasta in the oil.
        Arrange your lentils on a large oval platter ideally to look like a stocking.
        If you have some cherry tomatoes, place tomato halves at the top of the stocking and a few sprigs of rosemary sticking out.at the top.
        Gently place your caramelle on top of the lentils.
        Garnish with some shredded hard cheese and serve.
        Scoop up the lentils and pasta.
        It is an excellent combination and worth the effort.

        04 January 2010

        Thanks a lot! Menu for Hope 6

        Thanks to all of you who donated to Menu of Hope 6. The bidding is closed and the results of the raffle will be announced on Chez Pim's site January 18, 2010.   Because of your generosity
        Menus for Hope 6 has raised $77,900.00 which will go towards the UN's World Food Programme.
        "We're highlighting a new initiative at the WFP called Purchase for Progress (P4P).  P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation.  P4P helps farmers improves farming practices and puts more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops.  This will also help buoy local economy by creating jobs and income locally.  We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world.  More on P4P at http://www.wfp.org/purchase-progress."
        So a big shout out to all of you for joining in this years event. You can see exactly what everyone bid on at Firstgiving and even use this site for your own fund raiser.

        Fabrizio and I are looking forward to hosting the winners of our contribution. It will be a delightful experience I am sure. You'll be staying in our Inn, located in the above photo close to the top of the saddle of the ridge in the pines.  We've got a bit more snow at the moment and the view from our balcony looks more like this.

        01 January 2010

        Buon Anno 2010

        As I sit listening to the crackle of my ciabatta crust cooling beside me and the last of the winter sun quickly disappearing behind" the view" on this first day of 2010, I still feel reflective and forward thinking all at the same time. I'm grateful for living in such a beautiful part of the world and having enough. Enough clean water, delicious food to eat, health, love and work to keep me focused and growing. This year has been another journey of discovery and satisfaction, with the usual hiccups to keep things interesting. I think I'll put some links here to some of the highlights of the year for you to peruse, while I pull together more recipes and posts of current events and maybe even a few that I didn't quite get to about life as I experience it here in the Italian alps. As always the most interesting part of it all is the people we meet and get to know along the way for such a variety of reasons, many pass through our world, sharing their interests, stories and usually appetities and many pass through here on this blog and I through many others. It's an expanded world now with the miracle of the interenet and I am so delighted to keep meeting people here along the way with many faithful commentors and many who just peruse. Always glad you dropped in. Looking forward to meeting more of you out there in 2010.
        In the meantime perhaps you might find a few of these posts of interest and there are the links to my recipes and there are quite a few links to other blog sites, some food oriented, some Italian travel and some quite random... Enjoy, thanks for being out there and see you around this year. Feel free to make a comment, it's always nice to hear from you.

        Food Outings
        Pollenzo Visit and Maestri dei Gusti in Val Chisone
        A Tomini for you and me
        Euro Gusto 09 Tours, France
        Trek To Torino to Eataly
        Club Papillion hosts"Golosario" at the Stupinigi

        Summer outings
        Tredici Laghi in a short day
        Refugio Selleries
        Castello Di Razzano Wine Trip

        A few Winter Recipes
        Rib Sticking Polenta with cabbage
        Valdesian Soup
        Chestnut Pappadelle with Fresh Artichoke, Leek and Speck
        World Nutella Day 09

        That ought to keep you busy .......
        Ciao for now.....Marla

        Bella Baita is located in the trees towards the top of the saddle in the above photo.
        This a view from our cousins house.
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