Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Live the Authentic Truffle Hunt

Picture this, clusters of autumn colored crackling leaves. An emerald whorl of fronds susurrating in the breeze. A flowing river echoing nearby. A far-off whistle and the thud of swift paws from happy dogs. The smell of earth, the aroma of truffles. The sound of silence and the liberating feel of nature. This is just part of an exciting experience you can have during a weekend with Andrea, the expert truffle hunter, Zara and Briciolo, his two loving dogs, and us Barbara Toselli and Elvira Zilli with the company of Antonella Renelli at la Fattoria di Vibio in Umbria. 

Join us for an Authentic Truffle Hunt and Cooking Experience on October 22-23. 

Book Now! 

For info, tel. +39-333-69-03741 or email:


Provate ad immaginare: foglie croccanti colorate dall’autunno che scricchiolano al vostro passaggio, la brezza che fa ondeggiare spirali di fronde color smeraldo, il gorgoglio delicato di un piccolo fiume che scorre in lontananza. Un fischio leggero e il suono dello zampettio veloce e scattante dei cani. L’odore della terra umida del sottobosco, il profumo del tartufo. Il suono del silenzio e la sensazione di totale libertà, immersi nella natura.

Questo è solo un assaggio delle sensazioni che potrete provare nel corso di un week-end dedicato alla scoperta del tartufo umbro, in compagnia di Andrea, esperto cacciatore di tartufi, che ci accompagnerà nei boschi con i suoi cagnolini Zara e Briciolo svelandoci i suoi segreti. E in compagnia di Barbara ToselliElvira Zilli per cucinare insieme i frutti della preziosa caccia. Il tutto in compagnia di Antonella Renelli nella splendida cornice della Fattoria di Vibio.

Il prossimo 22-23 ottobre, unitevi a noi per vivere la vera esperienza della caccia al tartufo.

For info, tel. +39-333-69-03741 or email:

Friday, October 7, 2016

changing the topic

Draw a slit down the middle, lengthwise, from ear to ear. Not all the way through but deep enough so that the bottom remains intact and the top opens to welcome fresh whipped cream. I warn you, it will be a messy affair no matter what. Unless you don't feel comfortable slurping around the corners of your mouth you might want to consider using a napkin, if you really think it's necessary. You'll probably have to lick your fingers a couple of times too. In any case there's no user's manual, your instinct drives you to that voracious bite you were waiting for, whether it's messy or clean.

Soft, sweet, with bits of candied fruits and pine nuts, this bun is known in Rome as Quaresimale similar yet different than the well known Maritozzo, which I'm sure you may already know all about. This, is a treat you can find in Roman bakeries and cafes when entering the Lent season - the solemn religious observance that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approx. six weeks later, before Easter. In Italian, Lent translates to Quaresima and from here the name Quaresimale. Now, I'm expecting the question and before you even ask, here's the answer.  The reason why I'm proposing this glorious bun of all sorts in October - when it's not even Christmas and far from Easter - is simple.

So, let me explain.

Every morning, for years, and more than once a day I go to my favorite cafe, Moma, right next door from where I work. You can imagine how many times I head over during the day even if it's just for coffee. The first morning stop is the one I prefer most because Pino, my favorite barman, makes a cappuccino that deserves a separate solemn observance right there. Then, there's Franco, one of the owners, the man who makes all the pastries and cookies you see lined up on the counter every morning. The same pastries and cookies everyday, nothing more nor less than the-exact-same sweets you've seen the day before and the day before that. I've tried them all. Yes, every single one.  The Quaresimale, which Franco makes year round, is my favorite, not too sweet, not too dull, not too much candied fruit, not too many pine nuts.  Everything meets my morning desire in a bun made of two-three bites. He doesn't accompany it with whipped cream, I think it's not even meant to be but I always thought to myself that it would be just perfect with some. No matter how many times I've asked Franco for the recipe, he'd always end up changing the topic and I'd forget reminding him. Years have gone by and I still have not been able to get that recipe from Franco. The trick of changing the topic keeps distracting me and so you know what?  I looked it up on the web and made it a point to make my own Quaresimali, take a picture and show Franco the Monday morning of the following week. I showed him this picture and trust me they look just the same! Franco looks at the picture and says "where did you get the recipe?"

Guess what?

I changed the topic :)

But I have to admit that even if they do look the same, Franco makes such a delicious kind that I'd rather just eat his than make my own. So, for those of you that can't go to Moma, here's the recipe I used.


1/2 kg bread dough
a handful of raisins
2 heap tbsp pine nuts
1 heap tbsp candied orange peel, in small diced pieces
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 heap tbsp of powder sugar

Flatten the bread dough on a clean surface. Add the raisins, the pine nuts, the diced candied orange peel, the powdered sugar and the extra virgin olive oil.  Knead the dough to work in all the ingredients.  Divide the dough in small equal pieces, the size of a small bun.  Place them on a lined baking sheet, cover with a clean cloth and let them rest in a warm corner of your kitchen.  When they've doubled in size, bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for about 20 minutes.

Glaze the buns hot out of the oven.

For the glaze, mix some powdered sugar in very little water, enough to dissolve the sugar,  Once you've glazed the surface, put the buns back in the still warm (but turned-off) oven.  Leave them in the oven just a few minutes, enough to dry the glaze.

If you decide to try these with whipped cream, allow the buns to cool completely before filling them with fresh whipped cream.

Or eat them as they are, nice a warm.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

bringing a piece of Sicily home with me

Busiati & Pesto Trapanese
Like every year, I need to bring something back from my summer vacation. Usually it's a recipe, something that really impresses me and knocks me out at the first bite. It happens quite often I admit, you know how I am about good food. But when it happens in a way that preoccupies my husband as I get up from the table, swing back the chair and walk straight into the kitchen to meet the chef, well, be sure that will be The Recipe I literally bring home with me. Sacredly stored in the back of my head with hints scribbled in my mind I go home and try it for days until I get as close as I can get to what I ate that day I felt those goosebumps running down my back.

The recipe I'm talking about is busiati pasta with Trapanese pesto. I tried it for the first time this past summer in Sicily. The pasta shape itself is good with many different types of sauces, it twirls and swirls within the sauce and keeps a good al dente texture. It's made with durum wheat flour and water. You can see how I shape the pasta on my instagram by clicking here. The web will show you so much more. Of course you can always go buy them ready made.

But what I really love is the Trapanese pesto, it is totally different from the pesto Genovese yet similar in its preparation. You don't necessarily need to use busiati pasta for this but as they say in Italy, è la morte sua, it's to die forFirst of all, do not use a blender, I know it's much easier but just don't. Get yourself a pestal mortal, I used a wooden one and it came out a charm. Secondly, use fresh in season ingredients. As you know tomatoes grow in the summer, so don't make this at Christmas, you know what I mean. September is a good time because tomatoes are still around and since it's the end of the season you can find really good prices.

So let's get started with this recipe.
 Busiati & Pesto Trapanese
Busiati & Pesto Trapanese
Busiati Pasta with Trapanese Pesto
serves 4 people

500/600 gr pasta busiati

500 gr ripe peeled and deseeded tomatoes, preferably cherry tomatoes.
40 gr peeled raw almonds
150 gr grated pecorino cheese
8 fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
extra virgin olive oil

In a pestal mortal crush the garlic and almonds, then add the basil leaves and grind until you get a rough paste. Add some extra virgin olive oil and you work the paste.  Remove the paste from the mortal into a big wide glass bowl and without rinsing add the peeled tomatoes and crush to get a rough paste. Now add the crushed tomatoes to the bowl with the almond-basil paste.  Add the pecorino cheese. Add more EVO, enough to form a creamy texture, don't overdo it.  Add a pinch of salt and taste.  Add more salt if necessary but keep in mind that the pecorino cheese is already very salty itself. Mix well.

Cook the pasta al dente, drain and add to the bowl that contains the pesto. Quickly mix with a wooden spoon.

Tip: with the use of a knife, cross an X on the bottom of the tomatoes.  Throw them in a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute.  Remove from the pot and into a bowl of cold water.  Peel back the skin, it will come off easily.  Keep the water used top blanch the tomatoes, you can cook your pasta in it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I'll bring the cherry pie

cherry pie
I wish I had a cherry tree in my garden.  One of those big old cherry trees.  I'd hang a hammock right under its shade and there within the reach of an arm I'd lay relaxed eating cherries as if there were no tomorrow.

Whether it's cherries straight off the tree or from the market, I can't resist, I'll never say no and I'll go get as much as I can. Now in the full bursting season and when cherries are as juicy and sweet as they could be, I make my cherry pies. Lots of cherry pies! Actually that's all I've been doing these days. I stop only when cherries are no longer on trees and then, I wait another year to make more. So go get your cherry pitter friends, it's time now!

... and when a delicious pie is served on a pretty ceramic, like the one you see up there, it becomes even more irresistible.

Giorgia Brunelli is the artist of this lovely plate.  She lives in the woods and is inspired by the nature that surrounds her. Each of her objects have an intrinsic poetic spirit that brings a lovely atmosphere on your table. When you see her work you can tell she puts her heart into it and these are people I admire.  Those that do things with a passion.  Go take a look for yourself  .
cherry pie
Cherry Pie

Cherry Pie

1 kg fresh cherries, stoned
2 heaped tbsp sugar
1/2 lemon juice
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp maize starch

350g flour, plus extra for rolling
200g cold butter
2 tbsp sugar, plus extra for finishing touch
1 egg

Put the cherries, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about 4 minutes, add the lemon juice and cook 1 minute.  With the use of a colander, drain the cherries over a wide bowl so that the juice is separated from the cherries.  Allow to cool.

Make the pastry either by hand or with a food processor.  I used a food processor.  Blitz the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the egg while the food processor is running.  As soon as the mixture starts to come together, transfer to a working surface and quickly form a ball, without kneading. Divide the ball in two pieces, one should be slightly larger. Place in the fridge for about 5 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out the larger ball to fit and slightly overhang a 23 cm round pie dish.  Fill the pie with the drained cherries.

Add the maize starch to the juice you've previously separated from the cherries and whisk until the liquid absorbs the starch, leaving no lumps behind.  Pour the juice evenly over the cherries within the pie shell.

Roll out the smaller ball and gently cover the pie.  Make a small hole in the center and glaze with the beaten egg and sprinkle some sugar on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes at 200°C.

Allow the pie to cool before serving or serve cold.
Cherry Pie