Sunday, February 7, 2016

DUTCH BABY




Our Sunday morning breakfast.

It is not Dutch and hardly a baby, but it makes for an incredibly delicious Sunday morning treat.
At various times we make popovers, Yorkshire Puddings, and pancakes. A Dutch Baby is the best of all three of those baked into one, puffy, crispy, chewy, buttery, eggy....but then words fail this experience. This is truly food of the angels, at least those who aren't on the Atkins Diet. 

Scattered berries on top? A drizzle of honey? This is New Hampshire. To help forget the most recent political debate, this morning nothing is better than a drizzle (or more) of David Lamb's maple syrup to top it and a rasher of Vermont Bacon on the side.


DUTCH BABY

All ingredients should be at room temperature

10" cast iron skillet .

3 eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup flour
1 teasp. vanilla
1/8 teasp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

4 tbsp. unsalted butter ( for pan)

Preheat oven 400 degrees

Place skillet in oven to get hot.
Beat eggs until light in color then add the remaining ingredients ( except butter).
Mix until smooth.

Carefully remove skillet from oven, then add butter, let sizzle and melt then add the batter to pan.
Return  skillet to oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Do not open oven door while it's baking.
Remove skillet from oven, sprinkle the Dutch Baby with powdered sugar and serve at once!




Next time, we will make this with strawberries and serve it as a dessert!







Monday, February 1, 2016

New Kitchen.....well, almost!


A burner on our 1980's era electric cooktop gave out. The big problem was that it was the last of the four that was sort of working. This, my friends, for the two of us who like to cook was an issue that had to be dealt with.



There it is the cooktop and as you can see work has begun, the demolition of a once dreadful granite back splash. I took this just before the cooktop was ripped out as a reminder of what once was.
And, by the way, who puts a cooktop in a corner? Farewell ye ol' cooktop!







The old sink, bye-bye!

The cooktop....gone along with the granite countertop. Did I mention our sink  and faucet and how much we disliked it?  With the corner freed up we planned on putting a new cooktop into the island.
That was not going to happen. We called in David Dubois, a cabinet maker we have worked with in the past. James and I designed a pantry to add storage to the galley kitchen we were creating. As far as we know when this house was built in the 1950's there was a galley kitchen, so, in fact we are just going back to the original concept.


The entrance from the dining room was made smaller to retract the open concept plan, and Mr. Dubois designed a long counter that would accept the range top we wanted. Yes, it is a six burner gas Wolf with red handles and all! Now, we also needed a vent hood and a counter top for this baby !
The snowball was rolling and getting bigger and moving faster daily.



The upper cabinets were coming down and would be repurposed in the pantry. In the meantime everything had to come out. John Kendall, friend and our builder fit us in his schedule for this unexpected project, so we never quite know when is would and will show up. So when we he showed up to remove the  upper cabinets we had to clean them out in haste! It looks like it, and it stayed this way for weeks.


There's John at work putting in the vent hood.


David's lower cabinet installed and it's beautiful along with the new range top.
This was prior to the gas line being hooked up, so we could only admire the new gas beast and please  notice our plywood countertops that we lived with from Thanksgiving through Christmas!


The oven was the same 1980's vintage as the former cooktop. This kitchen was designed in 1983 by a Boston designer. We could never understand why this oven was installed so low. It was backbreaking to get a heavy cast iron pot out , not to mention a sixteen pound turkey at Thanksgiving. James and I could only surmise that former owners used the microwave above the oven, which we never use.


In the dictates of the 'might as well' we decided to take the plunge and buy a new oven, that turned into double ovens. We are really home cooks and prepare almost all of our meals here in our kitchen, so it was easy to justify 2 ovens!

( Excuse the interruption but John just showed up, really! We had to 'conference' for a few minutes on what he was working on for the next two hours!)

Turns out he is here to put another skim coat on in the pantry.


The pantry in the rough.
The black box on the wall, that I insisted be saved, is the maids call box. Each room in the house has one. The problem is that when you push a buzzer no one comes with a tray of tea and little cakes.
So unfortunate!


This is how the pantry looks now. Just a little more work on the walls and then James and I will prime and paint them. Love this work space and now we can begin to reorganize and clean up the mess.


Counter tops being installed. James and I had decided on Carrera marble. The same marble that Michelangelo  chose to carve out his masterpieces.
James woke up in a panic one night with a fear of Carrera marble being stained by red wine or etched by lemon juice after hearing so many dire warnings of marble's demise.
We went back to RE Granite and Marble and since they had not gotten to the point of making templates for our counters there was time to make a change.  James and I selected Absolute Black granite.
Go ahead James, open that bottle of red wine!


We must not forget there was an electrician, Tim Twitchell, involved in all this and a plumber too.
The snowball keeps on rollin' gaining size, cost and momentum.



This is where the kitchen redo is to date. At last, new counter tops, new range top, ovens, and a big single sink and faucet. David refaced our old cabinets with cherry ....still waiting on the corner lazy Susan.  We kept the existing tile floor, and as I mentioned reused the cabinets in the pantry.


The best part is that we can cook again, together.

There is still work to be done. Slowly, slowly, or as they say in Italy, "Piano, piano!"

I will keep you posted on the progress, but for today.......

Soup's on!



Minestrone.





Saturday, January 9, 2016

WINTRY SATURDAY



The world outside our windows this Saturday morning was one of sugar-coated trees and completely still. This is when winter in New Hampshire can be beautiful, especially when the snow is not deep enough to plow!


The landscape of gray and white dominates here broken by very little color in the winter. The remainder of a grass and greens of conifers do add interesting punctuations to this winter world. 






It was just cold enough in the early morning hours, with a mix of snow and misty rain to have the white stuff stick to the tree branches. Snow outlining the dark branches of this Stewardia. When this happens I cannot help but think of some of Mondrian's tree paintings... patterns in nature.



Green tarps also add color to the winter landscape in New Hampshire. And, talk about patterns, how about the design of our wood pile! Pretty nice! We hear that tomorrow there will be rain, a gully washer , but the temps will be mild. None the less, James brought in a boat load of wood to keep it dry, after all, the green tarp is merely a decorative element!


The house is warm, , the wood stove is on in the atrium, music is playing and orchids grow in the north west light of the dining room.




Clementine's are one of the great foods this time of year and about the only reason I look forward to winter! They are bright in flavor and a visual bang!



There have never been so many lemons on this tree, I counted 19. The lemons, well, it is hard to pick them! They are such great yellow ornaments on the tree! But, we have been using them for salad dressings, lemon chicken and soon a lemon curd.
Saturday morning is generally the day all the plants get watered when they are indoors for the cold months.



Always fresh flowers here, even when they are not from the garden.



When we are home on Saturday's in winter, the kitchen is a busy place. I made soup for lunch and James is dicing carrots and celery for a stock that will have a role in our dinner and also be part of another soup for the week.







Thursday, December 31, 2015

WHY ITALY? ( Part II) MAY MEMORIES 2015

In New Hampshire the landscape has turned a frosty white and gray. The wintry mix that fell, and continues, is like concrete mixed with slush on the ground. The snow that clings on tree limbs 
creates a lace like and lovely view from our windows.

At last, we have a new range top in our kitchen so we can really cook once again! A duck ragu is simmering on the flame...............that takes me back to Italy 2015 and a pasta we had several times while we were there. I am not one to pass up a bowl of pasta!

PIENZA ( Tuscany)


I don't remember exactly where I had this dish of pasta, but since the pasta looks to be pici it was likely in Tuscany somewhere. My guess is Pienza at Latte di Luna.

Pienza, as it turns out is a favorite town of ours with it's Rossolini designed Renaissance piazza along with the Piccolomini Palazzo and garden with its commanding view over the Val d' Orcia of Tuscany.

This year our friend Stew, took us to a place that we had never visited, just outside of the town center. Biagiotta is a workshop and  retail shop, that we might call artisan blacksmiths.




It was fun to go back into the workshop and watch pieces being created in this family run business.
The answer to the question is yes, we did buy two sconces and one hanging light for our house here in New Hampshire. A reminder of our Tuscan adventure and in the evening a beautiful addition to the lighting in our home.


UMBRIAN COUNTRYSIDE


We made it a point to spend a large amount of time out drawing on site. We were both attracted to the 'ruins' that dot the landscape around Lake Trasimeno and the small villages that surround Panicale.



James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 2015



 James Aponovich
pencil on paper, 2015

I left my sketchbook in Panicale. I must return so that I can add to it!


PANICALE


a Birthday/ Garden Party


SALUTE!


Music in every piazza , park and church!


Panicale's Campanile at the top of the town. A landmark that in profile defines Panicale.
A sight that always stops my heart.


Photo op....... James and Stew on our way to  Sant Antimo and Montalcino. Just love Italian road signs. And these two look like they are ready for some mischief, no!



 Stew's photo......Montalcino through the wine glass. No, not Brunello on this day.


The landscape that surrounds the church of Sant Antimo. Things are greening up and days are warming up in mid May. The church was "closed for a feast day" but a service was going on so we all stepped in and there was a mitre capped bishop speaking. We somehow found out he was the Bishop of Siena??? Quite an animated speaker and to top of the ceremonial quality there were Carabinieri in their finest uniforms flanking him!



BAGNI VIGNONE


And, while I have Tuscany on my mind, we made a couple of visits here to Bagni Vignone, a town we had not visited before. There are thermal baths here that have been an attraction for centuries.



A perfect place for a coffee and with warmer weather we are dining outside more often.


James Aponovich
Pencil on paper, 2015
Bagno Vignone



FRIENDS

The people of Panicale are kind and we grown  quite fond of them and their piccolo paese .
We have made friends here, Italians, Americans, Brits, Canadians, etc., some live here others return as we do.



Sharing Prosecco before dinner is an often repeated ritual.



Hanging around the piazza just socializing.


Friends, Katia, ( with bambino and Massimo..a great family! Bar Gallo and the piazza are family gathering places as well as a meeting place for friends, or a quiet corner to yourself (sometimes!)



Cin- cin Janelle! and Johnny!




A COOKING CLASS IN CORTONA



For James' May birthday I gave him a cooking class at Il Falconiere in Cortona ( Tuscany).
The instructor was Chef Richard Titi , master chef here at the Michelin Star restaurant  and resort.


A lesson in making pici pasta. Perfetto!


The end result...pici with fresh tomatoes and fave.



And, can't forget the glass of wine that came with the lesson.......and the lunch that followed!





We didn't know that we would be served  a lunch of all 4 courses we prepared in the lesson, paired with wine from Il Falconiere's vineyard, but we were pampered and enjoyed every sip snd bite.



Here is "our" Fiat 500L parked under an arbor of wisteria with a vineyard beyond.



BACK IN PANICALE....


The terrace at Masolino's is open at last!
Yay...time for an outdoor dinner there, hope Bruna made duck ragu!





At Masolino's Andrea refers to this as 'James wine!"




Flowers appear throughout town.
It was so colorful and welcoming.
This is where we do much of our shopping, at "Linda's!"




HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JAMES!


Katia and Massimo planned a surprise birthday party for James!
So sweet and fun.




 

We spent much time in this kitchen cooking meals here in the "Pink Palace!"
Cooking and shopping for food is one of the things we love about Italy.
Food is so seasonal that seeking out local ingredients is not difficult...in spring it is wild asparagus, artichokes, fave beans......it is all fabulous.
Ciao! Panicale
ci vediamo in primavera.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 ROME



 We spent a couple of days in Rome before leaving Italy. Lately we have been staying in the Monti neighborhood which is close to the Colosseum and Forum.





Many good restaurants, small shops and tiny streets to explore in this ancient neighborhood.




Arrivederci Roma......and Italy.....for 2015


BUON ANNO a  TUTTI!

HAPPY 2016 !





 Montalcino and Garden party photos: Stew Vreeland