Tuesday, October 30, 2007

November (and some December) Events in Italy

Here is the line-up of events that I find interesting in Italy for this November. Are you surprised they are all about wine and food?:

#1: Voterragusto in Volterra, Tuscany. Through November 25. Not only is it dedicated to that great tuber - the white truffle, but also to olive oil, cheese and chocolate. What is there not to like about that? http://www.voterragusto.com/ for more info.

#2: Gli Antichi Sapori di Valle di Non/The Old Flavors of the Valley of Non, now through November 11. Gather in the stunning region of Trentino/Alto Adige for a celebration of the ancient flavors of the area. Hotels and restaurants offer special deals during this time. See http://www.valledinon.tn.it/ for more information.

#3: Riesling Tage/Riesling Days, Naturns, Alto Adige, November 10-12. You can hit two festivals in the same region at once! This one celebrates the great Riesling grape with tastings, speakers and educational seminars. http://www.rieslingtage.com/

#4: Roma Wine Festival, Rome, November 16-18. Another wine festival! This one shows off many of Italy's best wines with tastings and seminars. http://www.romawinefestival.it/.

#5: Mostra del Gelato/Gelato Show, Longarone, Veneto, December 2-5. In case you are tired of truffles and wine, you can head to Northeast Italy to indulge in gelato from all over the world. http://www.nostradelgelato.com/.

One notable Italian event in New York City:

"Vino e Cucina", Cipriani, NYC, November 13. This is the annual fundraiser for Gruppo Ristoranti Italiani which is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering and promoting authentic Italian cuisine in America's Italian restaurants. This event features wine and food samplings from the association's members. http://www.gruppo.com/ for more info.

And a bit of self-promotion:
Don't forget if you are truffle lover, I will leading a November 2008 trip to Piedmont during the famous White Truffle Festival in Alba (through Passionate Palate Tours). We will be visiting many great wineries, having meals with winemakers and of course, learning about and eating truffles. Email me if you are interested in more information (price to be announced soon): passionatepalate AT gmail DOT com.

Happy Travels!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Passionate Mondays

With apologies to my friends and readers outside the U.S. who will have to make their Tuesdays passionate by the time they read this...

Nevertheless, we should aim for making everyday passionate, shouldn't we?

Today, despite the black cloud of grief hanging over my head, I feel passionate about many things, but mostly the simple things. I am basking in the love and support that I feel from my husband, friends and family. That, alone, is invaluable. Where would we be without family and friends that love us unconditionally? Thanks to my husband for his undying support ...

...and my dogs. Where would we be without the relationship that humans have with their loyal, canine friends? On my most difficult days, they are just about the only thing that can put a smile on my face. They are a constant source of cheer and unquestioning love. I heard a quote once that went something like, "I hope that someday I can be the man my dog thinks that I am." Isn't that the truth? They think we walk on water.

I have so many wonderful friends who have come through for me with words, hugs, distractions, and unfortunately I don't have pictures of them all, but I wanted to share a few...

Janie - for being there through thick and thin. (Double J...wink)

Tricia, for the solid friend that you are...you are my touchstone.

Letia, for your constant luminous and adventuresome spirit.

Ron, for your sense of humor and big heart.

And all those others for whom I don't have pictures - Rebec, Debbie, Deena, and on and on...

I count myself so fortunate to have wonderful friends all over the world, including many blogging friends who have been so supportive - Inge, Michelle, Scarlett, Maryann, Katie, Chris, Ilva, Joanna, Frida, Kelli, Rowena, Christina, Jannis, Ambra, and others.

I'm also feeling passionate about solitude. I was able, after many demanding months of caregiving, to get away for two nights on my own to one of my personal "power spots" - Santa Cruz. I did all my favorite things - walking, writing, sitting in cafes, reading, eating, thinking, soaking in hot tubs and just loving - loving every minute of it. I had a spaciousness of thought, without worry, that I haven't had for years (since before my mom got sick). I'll share a few photos of my little getaway...

"Melting Pumpkins"

"Pumpkins by the Sea"

The Beach at Davenport in the Morning

"The Rage of the Sea"

That's about all I have the energy for today, except leaving you with promises of more inspiring "Passionate Monday" posts in the future.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"My French LIfe" Party at "My Melange"

I love a party, especially one hosted by someone as passionate about Italy (and France) as I am. Robin over at "My Melange" writes a very entertaining blog about infusing European culture into your lifestyle - something very close to my heart. She is hosting a "My French Life" party in which she is giving away a copy of the beautiful book by the same name. Hop on over to her site and show her some blogging love by participating in her event. While you are there, catch up on her recent posts from Paris. Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Individual Quiche or Torta

As the cooler weather sets in - okay, except for Southern California where we have been having 90+ degree and smokey weather - I crave fat. Yes, I'm not embarrassed about these cravings. As my friend George used to say as I would be filling my tummy with fattening cheeses in the fall, "Jeni, you are putting on your winter layers!" Good thing I love George like a brother; it never bothered me, especially because it was true.

One of my "fat" cravings, besides cheese, this time of year are tortas. I make all different kinds, with various crusts and fillings, but this one is definitely the easiest. In reality, I don't think it is very fattening, but it satisfies that craving for something hearty and filling.

This recipe is for individual tortas, and these happen to be very much like a quiche. You can make as many of these as you like, one for each person, or multiply the ingredients for a larger baking dish to make one large torta. This is great to make when you have to use up leftovers like stale bread, cooked greens or other veggies, little bits of cheese, etc. You can also make this with fresh vegetables, either way works.

Individual Tortas or Quiche
ingredients for one 4" ramekin

bread (I prefer baguette or Italian Ciabatta) about 4-6 very thin slices
1/2 cup ricotta
1/8 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (or other hard cheese)
1 beaten egg
about 2/3 cup vegetables (leftover cooked greens, green beans, or freshly sliced zucchini - preferably use a mandolin to slice so that they are paper thin.)
salt and pepper
some small chunks of prosciutto or ham (optional)

Lightly coat ramekin with olive oil and line ramekin sides and bottom with the slices of bread. (The bread is also optional).
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Pour filling in ramekin, making it very full.
Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.
This is delicious for lunch served with a little green salad and I highly recommend drinking rose with any egg dish!

Buon appetito!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Carote a la Salvia/Carrots and Sage

This is my entry for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, being hosted this week by Susan from The Well Seasoned Cook.

Here is a simple fall vegetable dish that I threw together the other night. The caramelized carrots are almost like candy and disappear quickly! This would make a lovely and easy Thanksgiving side dish.

I just discovered that sage, one of my favorite herbs, has calcium, vitamins A and C, and also has some amazing healing properties. Sage works as an anti-oxidant and can be used to treat indigestion, poor circulation, depression, anxiety, excessive perspiration, reduce night sweats (especially in menopause) and female sterility. It also supports healthy functioning of the liver and is an excellent memory enhancer. Wow!

Most of you already know that carrots are packed with beta-carotene, but did you know that they also have a good amount of dietary fiber, and are rich in anti-oxidants and minerals? Did you also know that carrots probably originated in Afghanistan and that Holtville, California promotes itself as the "Carrot Capital of the World"? I particularly like the red and purple varieties that one can find at farmers' markets; they have more of an earthy flavor. I also found out through Wikipedia, that the purple-skinned with orange flesh varieties are better at fighting cancers.

In summary, SAGE + CARROTS = One healthy dish!

Carote a la Salvia/Carrots and Sage
Carrots - sliced in bite-sized pieces (approx. 3 carrots per person)
Sage - chopped (approx. one leaf per carrot)

Toss carrots and sage with salt, pepper and olive oil or butter (they don't need much, maybe 1/2 tsp. per 3 carrots) in a baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees until the carrots are caramelized, or about one hour.
Buon appetito!

Please hope on over to Susan's page after October 21st to check out the other entries.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stufato di Borlotti, Cavolo Nero e Salsicce/Cranberry Beans, Kale and Sausage Stew

This combination screams of fall to me. There isn't much more of a satisfying and warming dish for a cool, autumn evening. Serve this with crusty bread, a salad and don't forget the wine* for an easy dinner.

Borlotti (Cranberry) Bean, Kale and Sausage Stew
Serves 3-4 as a main course
1 1/2 cups dried Borlotti beans
2 mild Italian sausages
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
3 carrots finely chopped
1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 bunch kale or chard, chopped
salt & pepper

Soak Borlotti beans over night.

The next day, drain the beans and cover with fresh water, 2" over the beans. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about one hour, or until tender.

In the meantime cut sausages into bite-size pieces and fry in a skillet. Remove to paper towels and let drain.

In a soup pot, saute' onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and carrots. Saute' all for about 5 minutes.

Add rosemary and saute' quickly.

Add the broth from the cooked beans along with about 3/4 cup of the cooked beans, chicken broth, bay leaf, kale or chard, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Puree the remaining beans and add to the pot. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 15-30 minutes to reduce to desired consistency.

*Wines to serve with this: I like a fruity red wine with this like a Cru Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, a light Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Barbera d'Asti, Refosco or a simple Rioja.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Passionate Mondays

Here it is Monday again, and time for a dose of something passionate.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of catching up on life to do and need some time off from blogging. I will resume with my regular doses of passion next Monday.

In the meantime, find something to be passionate about and have a Passionate Monday.

Apples and Thyme ~ a celebration of mothers and grandmothers and time spent with with them in the kitchen

For the last few months, Inge at Vanielje Kitchen and I have been going back and forth about creating a blogging event to honor our mothers and grandmothers and the traditions and recipes that they left us. I see so many posts from all kinds of blogs referring to "my grandmother used to make this" or "my mother taught me this", etc... These ties to our predecessors are universal and obviously strong. As we were tossing this around, my mother's health took a turn for the worse, and she passed away last week (see my post about her passing.) While spending much of these last six week's at my parents' house, I have been surrounded by memories of my mother's love of cooking. From her well stocked kitchen, with every cooking gadget and apparatus a gourmet could ever want, to her bookshelves overflowing with recipe books and binders of collected recipes with notes, her passion for food was strong. Her palate and olfactory senses were some of the best I've ever known, and I've been surrounded by professionals in the wine and food business for years. Her mother cooked fairly traditional southern foods, much of it cooking of the poor, relying on foods that they had grown, raised or caught or picked wild, but all of it delicious. My mother was raised in a community full of immigrants from all of Europe. She would tell countless stories about eating in many of these different households, savoring the different smells and flavors, and loving everything she ate. It was through those experiences that her curious palate was born; she would try anything. I never heard my mother say that there was a food she wouldn't eat. My mother did not follow in her mother's footsteps, but only took up cooking out of necessity once she was married, and then tried to cook everything but what her mother cooked. She was also trying to please my father, who was accustomed to the fairly bland Swedish food of his mother and was not willing to experiment in the way her palate wanted. Over the years, my father's palate broadened, a bit, and she delved into learning how to cook cuisines from all over the world, including some of her mother's tried and true dishes.

After returning home, just yesterday, I have been busy catching up on life's necessities and hadn't found the time nor energy to put our thoughts of a blogging event into action. So, it was a real blessing that Vanielje Kitchen took hold of the reins and got this idea off the ground.

Please see African Vanielje's
post to read her thoughts on the idea behind this round up. In short, she very sweetly dedicated her post to my mother, and thought the announcement of this event was timely in honor of her passing. I couldn't agree more.

The event which African Vanielje has named Apples & Thyme (which I love) is a celebration of time spent in the kitchen with our mothers and grandmothers (or anyone else you wish to blog about) and what they did or did not pass on to us that influenced how we cook and eat today. We would love you to enter and share with us a person and a dish that celebrates your relationship with them. The closing date is 10th November, with the roundup being posted on 15th November, the first monthly Apples & Thyme Day. Event rules are as follows:

1. Post on your blog before 10th November about your mother or grandmother (or any other person special to you) and time spent with them in the kitchen that influenced how you cook and eat.

2. Include a dish which reflects the relationship.

3. Take a picture of the dish and/or person.

4. Include the words Apples & Thyme in your blog title.

5. Add a link to this post.

4. Please send an email to
passionatepalate@gmail.com with the following details: Your name, URL of blog, URL of your Apples & Thyme post and a 100 x 100 pixel picture for your entry in the round-up.

You can also enter through Inge's blog
African Vanielje.

Have fun sifting through your memories. We look forward to reading all your stories and recipes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Feeling the Love

After the rough last six weeks it was with much joy that I received the "Nice Matters Award" from Katie over at Thyme for Cooking. This award is for bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you've been awarded, please pass it on to 7 others whom you feel are deserving of this award.
I am honored that I fit that description.
It's at times like this that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that NICE does matter. In the last month I have received an outpouring of love, thoughts and prayers from so many nice people in the blogosphere. Every single comment has made me feel better. So many of you are deserving of this award, but I will have to limit it to seven. (There are a few others I would have named who have recently been tagged with this – Amanda at Figs, Olives, Wine; Ilva at Lucullian Delights, and Joanna at Joanna’s Food.) I hope I didn't tag any of you that have already received it, but if I did, that means you are doubly nice!

Wanderlust Scarlett at From the Shores of Introspect and Retrospect
Maryann at Finding La Dolce Vita
Sognatrice at bleeding espresso
Kelli at African Kelli
Ambra Celeste at Quasi Italiana
African Vanielje at Vanielje Kitchen

Don't forget to pass this on to the seven bloggers you deem "nice". Oh, and spread the nice feelings by being extra nice to someone today.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Passionate Mondays

Today I am passionate about MOTHERS.

My mother did pass away on Friday morning, surrounded by her family. Those of you who have been reading my posts know that she had been in pain and suffering from Lewy Body Dementia for 6 years now. Her release from this life was also a release from her terrible state of health. It couldn't have happened in a more beautiful way, with all of us holding her and encouraging her to let go and move onto a more peaceful place. Once she finally was able to let go of life, her immediate peace and relaxation was apparent. Her face looked 10 years younger, and it was the first time we had seen a tension-free face on her for 6 years. We couldn't get over the contrast. As much as she is missed, we are so happy for her release from her pain.

When I wrote my last post on "doors", little did I know how much that imagery would stay with me through her dying process. Every minute, day and night, one, two, or all three of my mom's daughters were at her side, or curled up on the bed next to hers. Every time it was my "watch", I felt like a guard dog at the doorway of death. (My shepherds lay by doors to guard us, or wait for us to come through.) My mother was not going to cross that threshold of death without me knowing so that I could hold her hand as she passed through. And, now, I too have passed through that other door I mentioned before, the one marked "Life Sans Mother". It is different. I will leave it at that because I have too many emotions going on to sort out how it feels exactly without going off in too many directions.

I want to dwell in the good and happy thoughts as much as possible because the sadness is there anyway, coming in waves. Looking back on my lovely relationship with my mother, for which I count my blessings, I must say that I will miss most her touch, her smell, her friendship and her unconditional love - only the kind a mother can give. There is so much that she passed on to me that I carry on, and remember her by daily, leaving me with much to celebrate.

For those of you out there who have already lost your mother, I know you know what I mean already. For those of you who still have your mother, cherish her while you do so that when she leaves this life you are left with no regrets and no unspoken words or expressions of love.

One of the many great gifts my mother passed on to me - genetically and purposefully - is a love of cooking and a passionate palate. Oddly enough, I didn't realize until this minute that the name of my blog and my company really could be a tribute to my mom.

This is my favorite photo of my mother. It was taken in Mt. Zion, Utah in 1993. She is on a stage singing "Home, Home on the Range" with her 4 year old grand-daughter, Lauren. She was shining like a bright star on that day.

Barbara Ann Weaver Bloom 1934-2007

So, on this day, and every other, don't forget to celebrate your mother and the good qualities, habits and passions that she passed on to you.