Sharing – Food Glorious Food

I honestly dare anyone who lives here for any length of time not to become obsessed with food. In the morning as I munch my gluten-free toast with Calve All Natural Peanut Butter – how ever will I go back to that Kraft Krap I once loved – my mind is racing as to what we will have for dinner. Of course menus change radically when the almost daily visit to the butcher and vegetable stall reveal something that you just can’t resist or when an old favorite has come into its own and you want to grab the first of the season.

In a spirit of sharing I thought I’d provide a few more food photos and a few links to some wonderful food and foodies sites – some I check regularly and one that I hadn’t seen before.

Another antipasti treat from Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba – they are going to have to put me on the payroll soon. Their tower of grilled vegetables was a marvel of fresh grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow pepper with tomatoes and basil sauce.
Zucchini flowers are ubiquitous here in Italy. You will find most trattoria – or at least in the south – have Fiori di Zucca on the menu as an antipasti. Normally these would be zucchini flowers stuffed with a strip of anchovy and a small bar of pecorino, dipped in a batter and deep fried. Michelle over at Bleeding Espresso – or rather her husband’s aunt – has come up with a simple recipe for zucchini flower fritters which sounds delicious. And she has links to a few variations on the standard Fiori recipes.
On my trip up to see Il Trovatore at the Arena I stopped in for lunch at a family owned Osteria Casa Vino where we had enjoyed two meals in Verona last year. The train had been behind schedule and it was 2:45 when I asked about lunch – I was reminded that it was a bit late but when I said I had memories of their polenta antipasti I was shown to a table. Three slices of grilled polenta with Gorgonzola, Lardo and Salmai toppings – shear heaven with a glass of local white wine. And as I recall we had done on our first visit as they finished lunch the couple at the next table made reservations for dinner that night.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Laurent had a wonderful panzanella (bread salad) at Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba last month. When visiting my friend Wendy Holloway’s The Flavor of Italy I was moved to click on one of her links which took me to A Stove with a House Around It and a quick, easy and tasty looking version of Panzanella using a minimum of ingredients. A nice dish to remind you of the tastes of summer as autumn comes upon us.
n the past three years I have acquired a taste for things that were never on the menu at our very anglo-post war home when I growing up. Nothing really drastically unusual but not your standard 1950s fare. Yesterday I had a very good Wild Boar stew at one of our favorite local restaurants and in Pesaro at the Bristolino sampled Bibo’s Octopus carpacio. Paper thin slices of perfectly cooked octopus dressed lightly with oil, peppercorns and green onions.

Wendy at The Flavor of Italy doesn’t post all that often – she has her hands full with her B&B, her cooking courses and a few other pans on the burners. But when something comes into season she passes on recipes to make the most of what’s become available. Her lavender crop was plentiful earlier this year so as a dolci – or just a sinful pleasure – she made Lavender-Honey Gelato. I’m not sure if I’ll try the recipe – I do have some lavender on the balcony – or just make the trip out to see her.

More traditional was the ricotta and spinach stuff ravioli at H2NO but being the sort of place it was there was a twist – fresh salmon in a light cream sauce. That man knows what to do with fish!

Moving away from Italy – about 9000 kms more or less – to the Pacific Coast of Canada and my old friend Dan Peiser sitting at the big picture window looking out over the Gulf in his beautiful home on Galeano Island. I can’t believe its been almost a year since he started posting IslandEat and I don’t think I’ve made reference to it at all!!! Some friend!! As well as food preparation and food talk Dan has been sharing a delightful series of recipes he found amongst his grandmother Jessie’s papers. In his What Would Jessie Dish series he mixes her handwritten – and often cryptic – recipes with family photos and reminiscences. The most recent recipe is for simple Brown Sugar Cookies – and as always with it comes a stream of memories of a lady I would have love to meet.

23 settembre – San Padre Pio da Pietrelcina

Not Your Average Ham and Cheese

I’ve already mention the great dolci (desserts for my friend Dayle) at Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erba. But Stefano and his crew turn out more than just sweets to serve on their tree shaded terrace along one of Assisi’s medieval walls. Their menu is nontraditional for an Italian Osteria – a little bit of nouvelle, a touch of fusion and the Italian flair for unadulterated fresh flavours and presentation. They had come highly recommended in the Gambero Rosso Guide – the Holy Writ of Italian Eateries – and as it has led us to wonderful dining in Spoleto, Ancona, Sermonetta, Firenze, Parma et al we headed there for lunch on the first day of our stay in Assisi. And the first of three meals we had there in three days.

When I glanced at the menu I knew there was one thing I had to try – their Toasted Ham and Cheese sandwich. Toasted Ham and Cheese sandwich? Yep, your good old fashioned croque monsieur as its called in French bistros. Just a bit of comfort food the way mom use to make.

Well okay not quite the way mom use to make. It was described as being a toasted sandwich of local ham, Parmesan gelato studded with cooked vegetables and a saffron mayonnaise. Parmesan gelato? Nope mom never made Parmesan gelato. Hell not even cuddly Leonard at Tropical Ice makes Parmesan gelato.

It sounded so intriguing I had to try it – it was either going to be revolting or a taste treat, I was sure there would be no in between. So taking my taste buds in hand – as it were – I bravely ordered it as an antipasti.

And this tempting plate was set in front of me.

My verdict – a taste treat! Nice contrast of texture, temperature and flavours. And that was just the first of what proved to be a series of beautifully prepared, well-reasoned and seasoned dishes that Stefano put on our table in those three days.


Its a little difficult to find the “bread” in this traditional Umbrian Bread Salad (top) but it was chocked full of fresh vegetables that actually tasted of the sunshine and earthiness. The selection of cheeses (bottom) included some wonderful local soft blue cheeses (my favorite) and one very good aged goat cheese; all paired with fruit relishes – fig, cheery and apple.

I Primi


The pasta is made on the premises and as with most pastas here sauced with a light hand. The orchietti (top) was dressed with wild mushrooms and broccoli with just a dash of spicy olive oil. The cannelloni (bottom) was the traditional stuffing of ricotta but enriched by sun dried tomato.

I Secondi

When asked about his intensely flavourful beef, Stefano said he was ashamed to admit that it came from Ireland. He stressed he wanted to use Italian beef but the quality of what he got was so variable that he couldn’t justify being patriotic over giving his customers value for money. The Beef and Beer combination (top) was an unusual combination of a small glass of beer, a cup of raw vegetables and some beautiful braised chunks of beef – and the idea was to mix them all together. Unusual yes, but our friend Craig was delighted. As was I with my beef skewers (middle) that had been grilled to medium just the way I asked and accompanied by – the only ordinary touch on the menu but no complaint from me – roast potato wedges. Another evening Carol Ann and I had the Chicken Curry (bottom) – the first time I had seen that on an Italian menu. We both agreed that chicken in Italy has a different taste than at home – a more buttery flavour is the only way I can describe it. And that flavour was enhanced by a judicious use of curry seasoning and a jasmine rice.

Then of course there were those deserts I mentioned. And I neglected the lunch time salads that were mosaics of vegetables, lettuces and meats glistening with a fruity local olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. And so healthy!

I’m just sorry that Assisi is a two and a half drive from our place otherwise dell’Erba would become the Sunday pranzo spot of choice so I could sit on the terrace or when it gets colder in the cosy dining room and try a few more of the items on their changing seasonal menus.

12 settembre – San Tesaura Beccaria