I received an email this morning that begins "Ciao Carissima", I broke into a smile and opened the note that I immediately knew was from our new friend Katia.
This got me to thinking about our most recent visit to Panicale and 'The Pink Palace".
Panicale is a hill town in Umbria south of Lake Trasimeno and quite close to the border of Tuscany, a location that gets us to Montepulciano, Cortona, Assisi, and Siena quite easily, plus it is a good old medieval hill town.
It is through Katia that James and I rented Sogno Panicalese a.k.a. The Pink Palace, for our stay, mind you, James and I normally stay in a small one bedroom apartment, nice but cozy. This time, with the thought that our daughter and her husband Chris might be joining us for a week we wanted something a little more spacious. Did I say a little more spacious?
As usual, we wanted to stay within the walls of the town and required a workable kitchen, washing machine, two bedrooms and hopefully two bathrooms
Sogno Panicalese is an entire in- town villa that is spacious and pink, but pink only on the outside.
Yes, it had several swell bathrooms with tile showers and fitted with tubs to lounge in, but it was in the kitchen that we loved and where James and I spent so much of our time. Face it, anyone that loves to eat and cook loves Italy, but if you are staying in a hotel without a kitchen in sight how in the world can you go to the markets to face the temptation of all the wonderful ingredients and not want to buy them and make a meal. Impossibile! Baby artichokes, porcini mushrooms, guinea hens, wild asparagus and phenomenal pastas speak to us as we shop at the frutta e verdura or at Linda's, Marconi La Bottega.
To be really happy we need a well equipped kitchen at home and away. This villa was so much fun and had so many plates that we were even able to have guests for dinner. I can still hear Cecila Bartoli signing Vivaldi as we prepared dinner for eight one night.
Time for a picnic, but first a cappuccino at Aldo's, then some shopping at the La Bottega for a few ingredients.
Vorrei un po'di pecorino e un ette di salumi, e un po di proscuitto, per favore..... I would like a little pecorino.......
Linda asks," affettato a mano o a macchina?", sliced by hand or machine?
" A mano," I reply, "e meglio, si. " By hand, it's better, yes.
We also needed a can of tuna, neither of us knew how to ask for that in Italian. We looked around and found it, but how about the capers? James somehow came up with the Italian word for capers, and we were on our way.
Everyone is tolerant of my slow Italian and fortunately they politely correct my errors that I am certain to repeat.
We had bread, leftover roast guinea hen from last night's dinner, and tomatoes. All we needed was the tuna sauce to create an unbelievable sandwiches for our picnic.
1 3oz. can of Italian tuna in olive oil (drained)
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, diced
stock, such as chicken stock ( a small amount as needed)
1 anchovy ( optional) mashed into a paste
You can blend this in a small food processor but for this amount by hand is better.
Shred the tuna then mix in all ingredients leaving the stock until last. Use as much stock as needed until the tuna sauce is the consistency of heavy cream.
For sandwiches use it as you would mayonnaise.
The classic preparation for this sauce pairs it with poached or roast veal. We use it with poached chicken and roast turkey as well. It also is a nice sauce on sliced tomatoes or artichokes hearts.
A picnic in Umbria. The perfect sandwiches. An afternoon drawing. Does it get better? yes it does.......
Back at the villa we pour two glasses of Montefalco Rosso and talk about the day and about *Pietro Perugino and Luca Signorelli and their paintings. James asks, " How about dinner?" After a glass of wine, and by the way the clock on the wall with the dead batteries always reads 4:45, we go out for our evening passeggiata around the outside of the walls, then come back through the gate and walk to the top of the town for a look over Lake Trasimeno where we can see as far as Cortona on this clear evening.
As for dinner, a walk over to ask Andrea if he has a table for the evening on Masolino's balcony so we can dine and watch the sunset over the lake.
A day to dream about.
Man, that sandwich with the tuna sauce was really good!
Dinner at Masolino's was delicious
and James did at last put the new battery in the clock on the kitchen wall.
A few notes:
*Pietro Perugino ( 1446-1524), born in Citta della Pieve.
In the church of San Sebastiani, Panicale, there is a fresco by Perugino, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian.
Luca Signorelli ( 1445-1523), born in Cortona ( Tuscany,on the north side of Lake Trasimeno).
We recall a climb to the top of Cortona to see a Signorelli painting in the tiny San Nicolo. The painting, hanging over the alter, is also painted on the reverse side. If you are fortunate there will be someone there that can push a button to move the painting away from the wall and reveal the painting on the verso.