LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN.....
While we were gone we heard through the grapevine that some of our friends were anxious for us to return to Italy so I could start blogging about wonderful Italian adventures and post new recipes. Now I'll admit that our time in the states wasn't exactly news-worthy, nor was it what the blog is really all about. I only posted for two reasons: 1. just to let everyone know that we were still around, and to tell those who were interested about Art's recovery from surgery, and 2. to keep my blog somewhere in the blogoshpere just because our house for sale info is on it.
Other than Art's hip replacement surgery and our discovery of how important it is to floss EVERY SINGLE DAY, I guess the biggest news was the weather. After having a few days that felt like spring we also had days where the temperature dropped to 0ºF - that's ZERO Fahrenheit, or about -18º Centigrade. And then of course there was the ice storm that paralyzed the entire region, completely shut down the city of Louisville and delayed our return to Italy by nearly a week. By the time we got back to Italy we were definitely ready for some Italian-style adventures ourselves, but once again the weather is conspiring against us.
If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I'm convinced there is no such thing as 'normal' weather anymore, and I doubt whether anyone under the age of 50 has ever experienced four distinct seasons - at least in their proper order. Just as temps in single digits and ice storms aren't normal for Louisville, neither has the weather here in Italy been normal either. We've had one of the wettest winters in recent history, and that's saying something since winter is when we get most of our rain. After last year's relatively dry and mild winter, this year is of course the total opposite with cold and rain - even hurricanes, or at least hurricane-force winds in the south of Italy. Tonight the temperature is expected to drop to 28ºF, which is about -2ºC - not exactly normal for us. Did I mention that the wind seems to be blowing a lot here too? I guess that's what keeps bringing us more rain, and trust me, with weather like this you don't exactly want to visit a medieval hilltown where the wind is blowing the freezing rain right through you and those charming streets of stone are indeed slippery when wet!
In the week we've been home we've made a few forays down to Marsciano for some shopping and to take care of business. We've checked out the new PENNY MARKET, a German grocery chain with incredibly cheap wine and selected bargains if you know what to look for. We also had lunch one day at the newly re-opened and relocated Nestor's Pizzeria. As you may recall Giuseppe and Mara were unable to come to terms with the former owners of the pizzeria (who we ran into at the Post Office the other day), so that old location now sits empty and Nestor's was forced to find a new location, remodel, then wade through all the bureaucracy that Italy is so rightly famous for.
The new Nestor's is right on the main street of Marsciano, just before you get to the hospital, which is a great location. Unfortunately it's also a tiny little place so there's no inside dining, just take-away. In addition to pizza they do still offer some pasta dishes, fish, chicken and a selection of drinks, but what we went there for was more than just the great food, we went for the ambience, for the camaraderie. We're glad that Giuseppe and Mara have finally reopened and wish them the best, but we're so sad that we won't be able to take our friends down to Nestor's for a pizza and some great hospitality.
As for recipes, well, nothing too adventurous yet. I roasted two chickens so that I can make Chicken Salad With Pecans and Craisins, and I made a big pot of ragu, (meat sauce). I used some of the ragu with spaghetti for lunch today, and the rest I'll save for a nice big pan of lasagna for a dinner party. Lasagna is one of the few pasta dishes that doesn't require me to be up and down during the meal cooking and draining and mixing the pasta with the sauce.
After the chickens were roasted I made broth from the carcasses and I think I'll try a new soup recipe I've been saving for a while. (Did you know that when making chicken broth if you leave the skin ON a yellow onion the broth will be a much richer color? I just learned this little secret a few weeks ago!) Although I haven't made this myself, we originally had this soup at a friend's house and liked it so much I requested the recipe. Some people love soup as a winter dish, but unless it's a really hearty, substantial soup I don't have much use for it. This soup, with the addition of the beans, should warm you AND fill you. With a rostisserie chicken and store-bought chicken broth this dish will be even quicker and easier.
2 tsp Olive Oil
2 leeks, cut into 1/4" rounds (about 2 cups)
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage (or 1/4 tsp dried)
2 - 14 oz cans chicken broth
2 cups water
1 - 15 1/2 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4-6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1- 2 lb roasted chicken, skin removed and meat shredded
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the leeks, onion and garlic, stirring often until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the sage and continue cooking another 30 seconds. Add the broth and the water, increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Add the beans, chicken and sun-dried tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Until the weather warms up and/or clears up, I don't think they'll be too many adventures to write about, but I hope whereever you are you're staying warm and eating well.