madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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market treasures

Antiques Fair in Arezzo, Southern Tuscany

My husband and I have an inordinate passion for flea markets. When we lived in Zürich in the mid 90s, we spent all our free time rummaging through dusty boxes of wonders.  “Normal” people would run home or to the café after a long day of work. We, on the other hand, would meet in some icy cold warehouse to try our luck with the day arrivals. A few times we even woke up at the crack of dawn for the opening of a liquidation sale.

Spring was particularly hectic, with all the outdoor markets, no time for a romantic picnic on the Alps. As a result we collected enough stuff to furnish and decorate our home here in Umbria as well as all the guest rooms of our B&B.  We probably have in storage enough stuff for another house!

For me, going to a flea market is like walking into a fairy tale. It’s a window open on the life and strangeness of others. It’s a study on the definition of beauty and necessity. I mean, who needs a rabbit shaped tureen? A porcelain octopus? A spare pair of wings?

But that’s how it goes: you throw away something which I find valuable and attractive. Still, there cannot be that much demand for the life-size ceramic dogs, can it?

The video below is about the Antique fair in Arezzo, probably the largest in Central Italy. It’s held on the first Sunday of each month and its’ a fabulous place for dreamers. Do go.  If you don’t buy too much you might have  enough money to see the splendid Piero della Francesca frescoes.  Really, a dream day.

PS. For more information and beautiful pictures on Arezzo please visit my friend Sandra’s blog


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cooking on a sunny day

Over the years our guests have given us the gift of many beautiful images. Images of ourselves, of Umbria, of cooking classes, of fun and relaxation, of greetings.  Moments in which the lives of others have crossed ours here, atop our magical mountain. Moments for which I am grateful.

 

 

This video is a gift of Chris Honeysett, a very talented photographer who visited us 3 years ago, make sure to visit his fabulous website


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I’m going eggplant

Eggplant, aubergine, has been around the Mediterranean for more than 500 years. No wonder this luxurious vegetable of Indian origin became a staple of Sicilian cooking. In a land too dry and warm to support large-scale cattle breeding, meat was an expensive rarity. Peasants in Southern Italy lived on a basic diet of olive oil, pasta, cheese and vegetables, occasionally fish. Eggplant, enriched by cooking in oil, must have been a welcome addition to their simple dishes.

Later in history some unknown gastronomic hero conceived the heavenly combination of tomato and eggplants. Fried eggplants are still used for a number of spectacular – and virtually vegetarian – dishes like eggplant parmesan,  caponata, pasta incasciata. I promise recipes for all these.

In my memory, the aroma of fried eggplants permeates images of luminous Sicilian summers. Memories of  green shutters closed against the heat. Tiny whitewashed alleys where you don’t see anybody but someone is cooking something magical somewhere. Memories of fragrant spaghetti with the sweetest tomato sauce piled high with slabs of golden aubergines and a sprinkle of baked ricotta, pasta alla Norma.

Yes, you can use grilled eggplants instead of fried, I know. But for a real bite of Sicily, please just try, even if only once. Fry and be happy.

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