Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tasty Goodness

The last week or two have been cold. And foggy. And did I mention it was damp? How damp you ask? Well we did have some very pretty frost:
The spider has been missing in action for months but her web is still hanging out on the gate.
In spite of the cold I have been trying to get some yarn dyed and up in the shop. Drying takes forever here and I have been forced to employ the de-humidifiers. Here are some pictures of last weeks work: "Squash Blossom" for Brenda Dayne's Driving Miss Daisy gloves, "Walnut" ( a beautiful rich colour with hints of gold) and "Silver Sage" which is a delicate silver green ... just the colour of the sage brush at home in Idaho.

To combat the chill I decided to make barley soup. I love soups but for some reason barley has never been my favorite ... that is until I had it while I was up in Bolzano in December. They made a soup that was amazing. I had tried to make it in January and came up quite short in both the tasty goodness category and in the filling/satisfying category. And then I read a cookbook that mentioned cheese broth. That was when I realized that the amazing flavor in the Bolzano soup was, in fact, a cheesy flavor. So I dragged all of the cheese rinds that I had stored in the freezer and set them to simmer for 3 or so hours in a pot of water (to cover the cheese) on the stove.

That is the cheese broth in the picture above. The whole house smelled great. Then I strained out the cheese rinds and refrigerated the broth overnight. The next day I used some of the fat from the top to saute the veg for the soup, threw the rest of the fat out and made a very tasty soup. Here is te recipe I came up with:

Bolzano Barley Soup

1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
3 ribs of celery diced
Sweat these in a bit of fat from the cheese broth or (for the unbearably health conscious) in a bit of olive oil
Then add 1 c. pearled barley
the cheeese broth
and 3 or 4 cups of good chicken stock (start with the lesser amount and add as needed)
add a pinch or two of oregano and basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for an hour or so stirring frequently and adding broth as needed. The soup should be thick and creamy. Here, they add a smoked ham called speck, diced fine, but if you want to add meat to it any ham would work. I'd show a picture of the finished soup but to be honest we ate it all. LOL
I am sorry for typos in this or any other post but I have given up trying to convince blogger to run the spell check n English. It is absolutly convinced that I want everything spell checked in Italian. It wins.

Caught in a tree branch
The moon's cloud veil is pulled free
By the morning breeze.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's For Dinner ...

I opend a bottle of CastelVecchio this evening and set down to have a glass. No sooner done than the DH wandered in and ask "what's for dinner?". A deep and abiding silence followed this question and then I blurted out "soup!". So here is a good "emergency" soup to make up when all you really want for dinner is that second glass of wine.

Two Potato Soup

knob of butter
1 yellow onion
1 rib celery
1 t or so of salt
26 oz. chicken stock
1 sweet potato (peeled and diced)
2 or 3 white or gold potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 bay leaf
pinch or so of:
ground thyme
smoked paprika (you can use regular if that is all you have)
black pepper
ground chipotle pepper(you can use cayenne)
1 cup milk or cream

Chop up the onion and celery and put in a heavy pot with the salt and butter and sweat over very low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the chicken stock, the potaoes and the spices and simmer till tender. Remove the bay leaf.
Using a hand blender (or a counter top food processor - being really careful and working in small batches) blend till smooth and thin to desired consistency with the milk. Serve with sour cream and crumble bacon or pancetta.

I totally made this up on the fly. Feel free to tweek it to your hearts content. And here is the culprit that started it all. Not sure where it is available but if you see it give it a try!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Last of the Christmas Holidays

Here in the part of Italy where I live there is a big celebration the night before Epiphany called the Bufana. This is based around a legend of the Three Wise Men ... who, like most men, were able to become so lost on their way to adore the Christ child that they ended up here in northern Italy instead of Bethlehem. Finally a miracle occured and they stopped to ask directions at a small cottage ( I know I know ... go figure). When the old woman answered the door they offered to take her with them to Bethlehem. She showed them her broom and told them she had too much housework to do to go wondering off (with three King who were obviously directionally challeged) but she gave them directions and sent them on their way. A few days later she realized that she had missed an amazing opportunity and so she left her home in search of the Christ child herself. Not knowing how she would be able recognize him she gave gifts and candy to every child she met in the hopes that they would turn out to be the Child she was searching for.
Here she is still giving candy and gifts to the children in the village. But wait! There's more! Here in the Friuli region where I live every village and farm builds the biggest bonfire they can (it's a bit of a competition) with either a cross or ... get this ... a witch on top. Why they want to burn the person bringing the gifts is beyond me but anyway about half of them do. The bonfire comes from the old pagan ritual meant to remind the sun to return but this being a Catholic country they have a priest come out and say a prayer and bless the pile of debris with holy water and voila! it is all ok. Then, while what looks like half the village is burning, the spectators set off firecrackers and drink vin brulee (hot spiced wine) and eat roast pork and a special cake that is a combination pumpkin bread/fruit cake.
It was an amazing amount of fun going out and seeing all of this with my friends. And on the drive home we all kept pointing out the fires along the way. Next year I will have to go and do this again!
Midwinter whiteout
Only the sound of the birds
Hidden in the trees.