Tuesday, December 13, 2016

cracking nuts for Christmas

Every year, since I can remember, this pangiallo has found its spot on our Christmas table. There was a time that my grandmother, mother and aunts, had a family reunion just to crack the shells of the nuts that went into it, and let me tell you, we’re talking about piles of nuts for copious amounts of pangiallo. After delivering those that went to one family, and to other, the ones to our next door neighbors and those that needed to go to our doctor, our dentist, the bus driver, the milkman and the guy that sold us the nuts, we still had enough pangiallo to cover the Christmas season and more for months to come. You can understand why my sister and I couldn’t stand the sight of it anymore, I mean, really, not even from afar, especially when we found slices in our school snacks, almost everyday. 

Nonetheless, the years went by, my sister and I married, the family expanded, and the pangiallo never failed to make its appearance around Christmas.  We stopped the nut cracking reunions when my beloved mother and nonna passed away, we also stopped making our own pangiallo because there was always someone that would gift us with “their” pangiallo anyway. Until we began to feel a sort of nostalgia for the taste of “our” pangiallo, the nut cracking, the aroma of roasted nuts, the nutmeg, the family gatherings and all. Somehow I found myself buying nuts again, cracking them  with my nonna’s personal nutcracker, roasting them and making copious amounts, almost like a beautiful nightmare, if that makes any sense to you as it does to me. Suddenly the pangiallo saga was back and not only for the nostalgic memories but because, for us, it simply isn’t Christmas without it.

*measurements are for shelled nuts
*makes 4 medium size pangialli

300 gr almonds
300 gr walnuts
300 gr hazelnuts
100 gr pine nuts
800 gr raisins
850 gr honey
zest of 1 untreated organic orange
freshly ground nutmeg (1)
500-600 gr flour
200 gr good quality dark chocolate
2 tbsp. dark chocolate cocoa powder
Melt the honey and chocolate in a microwave or in a pot over a low flame, pour over the mix of nuts. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the nuts are covered with the honey and chocolate mixture.  It should be of a fairly hard consistency. Mix the chocolate cocoa powder and flour and stir it in the nut mixture, a little at a time. At a certain point you may need to use your hands, make sure to wet your hands with some vegetable oil before you do so, it will be easier to work the nut dough.  Divide in 4 equal balls and shape into round or oval loaves. Bake for 40 minutes up to 1 hour at 140 – 150 ºC.

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: info@fattoriadivibio.com


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: info@fattoriadivibio.com

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.