26 August 2010

Selleries Rifugio Outing

Just up the hill to Sellleries Rifugio
Recently, we were able to go out for a walk in the upper Chisone mountains. For me that is always a high water mark of the summer. I have spent a lot of time hiking in a variety of mountains over the years and find it invigorating and restorative, soothes my soul and mind. There is nothing quite like sweeping mountain vistas, wild alpine flowers, tumbling water, crisp air and a destination that offers a satisfying lunch that I don't have to prepare. Don't get me wrong, picnics are very enjoyable, but having hiked in the Colorado rockies and well actually, any of the mountains in the US, you need to make sure you have brought along plenty of fuel on your back in order to keep the body and mind going. Walking, or hiking as we Americans like to call it, and was promptly corrected when I worked for the British tour company that I would scare off my potential walking guests if I called it hiking, as it connotated serious mountaineering, with just water to a mountain rifugio is quite the treat. Oh, well then, walking it is. It didn't take me long to then be rebuked by my walking guests with, "I thought you said this was an easy walk". It is, it is an easy walk, it's just in the mountains, not on the flats or rolling hills. Mountains are mountains.  Enough about that and on with the spectacular walk from Villaretto/ Selleraut to Rifugio Selleries.
View of Val Chisone from Selleries Rifugio with their small chapel 
The day was gorgeous, not too hot  with a slight breeze, blue sky, great company and not a care in the world. The walk was pretty straight forward after we made our way up in the car around many narrow hairpin turns till we found a shaded parking spot and away we went.
Path from Selleraut to Selleries Rifugio
The path not only was well marked, it was well worn and I found myself wondering as I often do, what it must have been like back so many years ago to live in these hills and not venture too far from the old homestead, except for supplies and perhaps to sell or trade some of your cheese and such for other goods  that stored well and added some interest to an other wise simple meal. I'm thinking in particular about salted anchovies. I've always found it most peculiar how important they are to the Piemontese cuisine. It made a bit more sense to me when it was explained how they not only stored well and added a bit of zip to the soup, they also brought along precious salt at a lower than usual price due to the anchovies being packed in the salt and the bottom of the barrel seem to have more salt than anchovies and the salt tax was lower on anchovies than salt, which, in those days was quite dear. Learning that that the word salt or sale in Italian is the latin derivative of salary, which gives the old saying of worth your weight in salt, a whole new meaning. But I digress yet again, as I am wont to do....
Val Chisone
Anyway, we arrived on the top of our Alpi Cozie walk up to the Selleries Rifugio and stopped in to visit our friends the Agu cheese making family of Villar Perosa, in their summer time digs high above us all. what a gorgeous place to spend the summer. The cows have plenty of roaming range and wildflowers to munch on. I can attest to some delicious cheese is made up in these alps, and I was looking forward to it by the time we arrived.
Alpine Dairy building
Cow bell 2009 prize
We were rewarded for our effort with not only spectacular views and perfect weather, we ran into one of our friends who produces polenta who had ridden his bike up and joined us for some genuine mountain fare. You can always count on simply prepared and high quality food at Selleries, and we weren't disappointed. Smoked prosciutto crudo, pancetta, aged plaisentif and fresh ricotta, all made by the neighbors, Agu and certainlytook care of the hunger spot. The polenta with sausage helped Ben keep up his strength for the trip back down the hill. 

All in all a great day in the mountains. Good food, drink, friends in a wonderful setting in the Italian alps.
We hope you'll come visit and discover what this area has to offer.

It certainly doesn't lack in natural beauty, do you think?

13 August 2010

Fruit Dazed

The market is bursting with color and vibrant with all the delightful fruits and vegetables here at the height of the season, as the produce stacks up and the shoppers become laden down. We've gotten enough cool weather to make even the most listless renew their interest to do more than just eat prosciutto crudo and melon or figs alternated with mozzarella and ox heart tomatoes(cuore di bui). Now people are beginning to cook a bit more, but there is still just so many fruits and vegetables to choose from, what's a girl to do.

Get to making stuff, time's awastin.....

So I have been peeling, slicing, dicing and baking; canning, freezing, gelato making and eating, eating and eating as much of this luscious fruit as I dare. 
Apricots, plums, the first of the pears, 
and berries of every variety.
Rose currants, blueberries, blackberries and red gooseberries
Did I say gelato making? I actually meant sorbetto. What a delight and revelation making fresh fruit sorbet of every persuasion has been this summer. The freezer is stuffed, we need some eaters!
Strawberry kirsch sorbetto

Before  and after...
Strawberry sorbet with a chorus of berries

And Peaches
to make a southern girl not even think about missing the peaches back home.

The little green ones are actually ripe and a local favorite variety, i persi d'le vigne, or the peaches of the vineyard. Who knows? it's a local dialect name. What I know is that for looking green and under ripe, they are quite tasty.

Huh?  Smashed peaches?
No, they are called Pesche Tabacchiere, or peach snuff boxes. Perhaps they are called this because they are small enough to fit in your hand and sweet enough to take away the sweet craving that hits frequently when we have these in the house. They have been around for a few years, but it took me awhile to get past my suspicion of their unusual shape and price to actually try them. The insistent urging of one of our market vendors finally had me giving in and now I almost regret it, as I can hardly resist them when I spot them in the market. They tend to be a bit pricier and most come from the south of Italy, but some of our local growers have started to have added them to the delectable array of peach varieties to tempt and treat us. Peach Blackberry amaretti crisp has been a favorite lately.

Then we get to the apricots and plums, yum...yes yum.

Ramasin and Claude Reine
We have the first of the local plums coming in, our Piemontese Ramasin, as a harbinger of all the colorful ones to follow before the end is nigh with the Santa Claras. Not ready for that just yet.
The greenish golden one on the right of the Ramasin are named after a queen of France. Silly me though they were named after the person who cultivated them and at one point even thought they were named after a before my time actor named Claude Rains. 
And what is summer with out tarts tarts and more fruit tarts. 
Sunny side up brioche apricot tarts
I just can't make enough of the variety of  tarts there are to make, individual, free form, galettes, pies and on and on..
Apricot Thyme Almond Tart

and  last but not least

Apricots in local moscato wine. 
Divine, just divine.
To finish off all those apricots after so many tarts and sorbets.
We will so enjoy this when these become a distant summer memory.

That's what I've been up to, what about you?

06 August 2010

Sad Day in Villar Perosa

I usually try and keep it light here at the BB View, but I just couldn't let this pass with out comment.  Two Italian soldiers were killed last week in Afghanistan while they were attempting to disarm an improvised bomb. One of the two soldiers, Warrant Officer Mauro Gigli, resided in Villar Perosa, the town just a couple of miles down the road from us.  As we were coming home from the market Saturday I noticed a few small groups of people lining the street midday in Villar Perosa when normally most people are inside having lunch and it was hot enough out to make most people scurry for shade. It slowly dawned on me as I noticed that some had flags and the towns flags were all at half mast that this was indeed people waiting for him to be brought home. It was truly touching knowing that they were all waiting in the heat when it was unclear exactly when his body would be arriving from Rome and his home town funeral wasn't scheduled until that evening. I admired their respectful vigil for him, his sacrifice for all of us and for his family left behind with a hole left in their hearts that won't ever be completely mended. Once again this type of scene has played out not only throughout Italy on more than one occasion, but of course, way too many times in America and England as well as other countries, nor should we forget the innocent civilian casualties either.  It brought the distressing reality of the war on terror ever closer to home and piqued my frustration that we never seem to be able to find another solution or even to try other methods of resolving our differences. War just makes everyone one a loser, even when someone wins, the loss of life and peace is so great and  usually unclear if it really ever is worth those losses. If it's your loved one, I think not. I really respect and appreciate the people that put their lives on the line for the rest of us. A simple thank you is never enough, but it is all one has in the end. So thank you Warrant Officer Mauro Gigli and Corporeal Pierdavide De Cillis. May your sacrifice  not be in vain. Thank you.
Bookmark and Share