Monday, November 29, 2010

High school snickerdoodles

I was thirteen when I had my first taste of snickerdoodles; junior high school cooking class. Loaded with butter, shortening, and sugar and then rolled in a sugar-cinnamon mixture, those first cookies were like none other I had ever tasted before. Never thought that they could be improved or made even more addictive, but somebody out there decided to add cocoa to this vintage recipe. When you bite into a chocolate snickerdoodle, brownie is the first thought that comes to mind. A very rich cookie, this recipe will have to be filed under 'the once in a blue moon' category.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random Italia

Had lunch with a very dear friend today; Italy came up and for a few minutes I relived the excitement, the frustrations, and the sheer bliss of our trip.
One of my favourite days - my last day in Roma wandering from one fountain to a piazza to a church to a ruin all in the matter of hours with just my map and the sun to guide me.
To the very quiet countryside where time passes gently.
At a train station we sit on the edge of a koi pond. As the train approaches we all get up with dripping wet jackets.
What is with my fascination with corks?
This bench was in front of a pub which we never got to in Levanto. Something to look forward to.
Just across from the convent in Orvieto, a palazzo. Maura has such an eye for detail.
One of my favourite actors of all time.
We watched this twice in Italia; once in Orvieto in Italian with no subtitles and then again in Roma in English with Italian subtitles.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jenny in Venezia

I had no desire to go to Venezia on this trip but I'm so glad we did. Walking through the garden and home of Peggy Guggenheim was an unforgettable day. My favourite room was the dining room - a dark, heavy, and smooth to the touch table (yes, I ran my hand along the wood)was centered in the room with mismatched chairs. The table had more prescence then the Picasso hanging on one of the walls. But in the garden I was drawn to a bench - from far away it looked like an ordinary stone bench but as I got closer I realized that it was a great art piece.

So glad I went to Venezia.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Little packages

This time of year it is not unusual to find the mailbox full of letters, cards, and little packages. I suppose it is a bit early for presents but for those who live by ' it's Christmas everyday' and 'why wait for a special occasion' and 'life is short', sending a little something in the mail tells us that this person was thinking of us and knows exactly what we need and desire to make us happy. Every time we use her gift, we will think of her and send thanks her way. And what makes this gift so special is that we can enjoy it as much as we want, knowing full well that, when we least expect it, we will look in the mailbox and there, to our surprise, is another little package for us just because.
This is what we found in our mailbox last week, a mesh bag full of all different kinds of garlic straight from the farm down south.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Snow day

It was blowing snow and minus 8 as I walked up the hill, head down, barely able to breathe. But I walk in the door and am rewarded with bruschetta before dinner - a little taste of summer in winter. With fresh basil from my very own plant, these finger licking good morsels were gone in a heartbeat.

This is the new kid in town - an earthy and well sized bowl made with clay from the banks of the Fraser River, the leaf design reminding me of where it began it's life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Baking day

It was cloudy and drizzling today but I was still up early to check out my favourite junque store's big sale. Too wet to clean up the garden so I baked a batch of soft pretzels from The Harrow Fair cookbook by Moira Sanders and Lori Elstone. After baking they smelled like popcorn which I love and these were great dipped in honey-mustard sauce.

Last time we were in Naramata we bought a bag of fresh walnuts from an old Portuguese lady - she had a huge orchard of all kinds of fruit plus the nut trees. So I decided to make walnut bread - I can't remember where I got the recipe from but it did not double in size even though I let it rest for over an hour. But the bread tastes great - all the walnut chunks are nicely roasted and the bread is purpley and chewy. Will be something to look forward to for breakfast.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lidia's gnocchi

As I put the butternut squash, glistening with olive oil, into the oven to roast I could not imagine that this funny shaped vegetable would transform into the best gnocchi I have ever tasted.
This recipe is from the October 2010 issue of Bon Appetit from the cover story - Lidia's Friuli. I made sure that I followed the recipe exactly especially the note about not working the dough too much and adding as little flour as possible.

With help from Maura and TG we managed to make four trays of the little dumplings. The dough was soft and a little sticky but each puffy pillow was easily rolled over a fork to give it texture and a cute little dimple.

We chilled the trays for over an hour before cooking them in boiling salted water.
TG made a butter and sage sauce using the sage from the garden. Sprinkled with lots of extra Parmesan, when I tasted this I thought I was still in Italy.
Served on my lemon platters from Positano this was a feast for the eyes. We paired it with a Primitivo del Salento - first time we have tried this wine and it was perfect with the gnocchi.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The perfect dinner

It's dark, it's cold, and you just took the bus home but you walk in the door and the aroma of Persian meatball soup greets you along with a chorus of hello's. A generous sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and Moms' homemade bread made this the perfect dinner.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Italy

Could not resist taking a picture of these cute little cars.
This is the view from our hotel room in Roma.
Piazza Navona
The Pantheon
The door to our kitchen in Casperia.
I could have spent a whole week at the hotsprings.
The foyer of a bank in Siena. How can you tell I am a quilter?
Il Campo in Siena.
The fountain in Siena.
Cinque Terre - this was a fantastic beach.

Cinque Terre - the hiking was brutal but the views were rewarding.
The view from our hotel room in Venezia.
One of my favourite piazzas in Roma - Piazza del Popolo.
The door knockers in Italy are incredible - I could do a whole book about them.
Our favourite trattoria in Firenze.
Civita di Bagno Regio - we were very lucky to visit this incredible hilltop town before the tour groups arrived; we had the place to ourselves.
Caira - after an arduous hike we stopped at this bar for 'refreshments'.