Wednesday, May 16, 2018

VENICE....Small Bites

The palazzos of Venice float on the lagoon and canals, or so it seems.
A city that seems impossible. It is easy to find that you have walked miles, crossing countless bridges over charming canals, that at times are clogged with gondolas. Gondoliers duck under these bridges and somehow negotiate through the other boats.
Narrow alleys lead to open piazza's where people fill cafe's and benches while children kick soccer balls or chase the pigeons.
After all the walking it is good to duck into a bar for  a glass of wine and a bit to eat.

Our favorite place for Cichetti is in Dorsoduro, canal side.
It is called Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi.
A perfect stop for a late afternoon snack.

 If you plan on sitting outside along the canal they will give you plastic.
If you are staying inside (no seats) real glasses and plates are in order.
On this day, we stay inside. Take a look in the case and decide what you want, then order up a glass of wine.

Smoked Swordfish  with a drizzle of Balsamic and a large caper, Tuna with
horseradish and a drizzle of dark chocolate, Whipped bacala, Gorgonzola with walnuts,
Cipolle with Anchovy.......on and on.
 Small bites on toothpicks!

Refreshed! Back out to do more exploring in the magic of Venice.

Cantine del Vino gia Schiavi
Fondamente Nani 992

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Arc of Life....l'Ingresso



James Aponovich
Pencil on paper, 15" x 9"

After a particularly difficult yet successful year at the easel, we 
arrived in Panicale for an extended stay. It was time to put the paint brushes
 down for awhile. However, not wanting to push the 'Project' aside, I
needed to focus on a simple but involved drawing. I chose drawing
because it is the most elementary form of expression, a pencil, a piece of
paper, and of course, an eraser.

While the 'Arc Of Life' project is about people, I felt drawn (pun intended)
to the foyer of our apartment in Panicale. I am including it in
the project because it is void of people yet everything in the drawing was
made by someone. There exists a sense of quiet anticipation that
absorbs the atmosphere .

copyright 2018 James Aponovich

Thursday, April 26, 2018

13 GOBBI ( Tuscany)

I have read about this technique where hot pasta
is put into a  large wheel of Pecorino, but I never experienced watching
this magic happen.....or eating the end result of the show.

We learned from Aldo, of Bar Gallo, that a small ristorante in
Montefollonico was the place to go for this pasta, and his recommendations
have always proven to be very good. James and I
along with our friends, Paul and Betty, decided to take a short
road trip over to Tuscany for lunch.

After sharing an antipasti of Carpaccio, it was time for the main attraction...
Tagliatelli being twirled and whirled  and tossed in a wheel of Tuscan Pecorino. It was fun to watch the bowls of cheesy pasta
  prepared before us, and even more fun to eat.
Betty called it, ' Italian Mac & Cheese!' She's right. The aroma was full and comforting.
 You've got to eat while it's still hot !

Nothing else needed after a bowl of this pasta, except  maybe an espresso and a walk.

Definitely worth a trip to 13 Gobbi where the staff are friendly,
the food is good and the town of Montefollonico is small and lovely.
Next time I want to spend time exploring this medieval town in the Val d'Orcia.

Monday, April 16, 2018


Part 2

A Lasagne is 'stuff' layered between sheets of pasta.
Of course, the 'stuff' is important, be it meat, vegetables or a combination.
But the ultimate success of a lasagna depends on the quality of the pasta.
The sheets must be super thin so that they take a supporting and unifying role,
to the filling, but in reality the pasta makes or breaks the lasagna.


Fave and Artichoke

Take equal amounts of cooked fave and artichokes

Cooked guanciale

Fry as much guanciale as possible until crispy, remove
from pan, leave fat. Fry half of a diced onion and a couple of
cloves of chopped garlic in the left over fat.
( or use olive oil if you are a sissy)


Prepare a white sauce (Besciamella). In a sauce pan melt
2 Tablespoons butter and add 2 Tablespoons flour.
These are equal amounts, if you want more sauce add more butter and flour.
Make a Roux and slowly add whole milk until it's all nice and creamy.
Mash the cooked fave and minced parsley and mint and add to the sauce.
Maybe, ( if no one is looking) add some grated Parmesan cheese.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Mint and Parsley minced

Besciamella with Fave and Herbs


If you are near Castiglione Del Lago ( Umbria), go to The
Pasta Ladies ( next to the Esso Station) and buy fresh pasta sheets.
(Don't mention my name, they won't know who I am).
If not, buy or make fresh pasta. You can used dried, but it's not
as yummy. Pre-cook ( almost al dente) the pasta, rinse sheets in cold water
and place on a kitchen towel and pat dry.
Now in a small baking pan layer besciamella, artichokes, guanciale and
grated Pecorino cheese. Repeat layers until your 'stuff' is gone.
Italians usually have only 3 layers of pasta.

Top with more besciamella and grated cheese.

Bake in a preheated  375 degree F. oven ( 190 C.) for about 30-40 minutes
until golden or you can't stand to wait any longer. Let it rest
for about 10 minutes ( sorry).

Remember to wash it down with Red Wine.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

ARTICHOKE DAZE....From the Studio To the Kitchen

Part 1
From The Studio to the Kitchen

Artichokes Hanging
James Aponovich
Oil on canvas,  20" x 16"

In Italy, artichoke season runs from about January through April.
The Italians ( and me ) go crazy for them.

James Aponovich

They are steamed ( Romana), Fried ( Ebracio), sliced raw into salads, and in this
case made into Lasagne. You never see people dunking them into a bowl of butter, that seems to be an American thing, but it sure is good.
But, first things first, they must be painted.....INTO THE STUDIO!

5 Artichokes
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 18" x 28"

Sort of like 'Ducks in a row'. They all sit very patiently for their portraits to
be painted. Now it's off to the kitchen and


In early April, the first of the Fava Beans arrive in Italian  markets.
They are so tender they can (and are) eaten raw right out of the shell.
One day in Panicarola, I was standing in line waiting to buy some Fava Beans
when a man, who had nothing else to do, very carefully explained to me
the proper Umbrian method of eating Fave.

Pop some Fave Beans out of their shells
Cut a slice of Pecorino Cheese
Put both into your mouth
Wash everything down with Red Wine.

Great, but I was after something else. If this lady in front of me doesn't
wipe them all out, I'll but some for a culinary project.


After buying what was left, I went to Linda's Bottega and picked up a wedge of
Umbrian Pecorino ( sheep) cheese...Stagionata, great for grating.


In Rome, They make a vegetable 'stew' made up of equal amounts
of fave beans, artichokes, peas and lettuce, a little onion and olive oil.
It is all supported ( thankfully)by that great Italian bacon, guanciale
or pig jowl. Add some pecorino and mint...finito!
Hummm.....maybe they are onto something here.

The two Italian bacons : Guanciale on top  and pancetta below.
They may tell you that they are both the same.
Don't believe them.
Guanciale is King!


Monday, April 9, 2018


The hill town of Panicale rises above the flat plain that once was the bottom of Lake Trasimeno  but now is  a green productive agricultural land. From our balcony the farm fields are clearly defined by rows of crops, trees and white roads.

The geometry of the patterns are fascinating while the lake is in constant flux. At times the three island appear to be floating above the green water and yet when  the lake is calm, the still the water reflects the islands and the outcropping where the fortified town Castiglione del Lago  boldly stands.

There are huge Cedar  and Cypress trees growing on the steep slope that leads up to Panicale. Olive trees dot the landscape in neatly terraced rows.
The light is spectacular and on a clear day the blue sky is remarkable in it's depth of blueness!

 In the late afternoon and into early evening before the sun sets is The Golden Hour, the moments when the Umbrian landscape glows with  rich warm light. 

As the sun nears setting
 the shadows grow long across the plain. The green fields brighten in contrast to these dark shadows yet it all retains a warmth particle to Italy.
Cloud formations, like the lake are in constant change.
All I can say is... this is a remarkable place to be.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PASQUETTA.......A Ride In The Countryside { Panicale}

Here in Italy the Monday following Pasqua ( Easter) is a National holiday called Pasquetta.
Although Spring has been held up due to cooler than normal temperatures today was exquisite  with warm sun and mild air.
Since we had to move our car due to the Ruzzolone....the Cheese Rolling competition that happens each is like bocce only with a large wheel of Pecorino. Hard to explain.
Everyone happily moves their car because who wants to find a big dent in the shape of a wheel of cheese in the front quarter panel of their Fiat.

So, since we had to move the car James decided a short drive in the country would be nice. With the delayed Spring the trees are still without leaves, but, the fields are alive with crops of green.

The clear skies allowed the  distant snow covered Sibillini Mountains to show themselves, not a sight we often see.
Fields contine to be plowed and spring crops planted. Fruit trees will be flowering soon with the days growing warmer and longer.

Back up the hill to Panicale, we park the car down below and walk up to the Historic Center, now free of cars.

The piazza was lively with the bar and cafe's full of people basking in the sun and atmosphere of a holiday. James and I  found a free table at Bar Gallo , James had an Aperol Spritz and me a Campari and Soda. This is it. Life is good. We are grateful.