Next Year’s Garden


This is how I want my garden to look next year.  Aren’t these the most amazing rows of zinnia and iris that you’ve ever seen?


Look at the color!!


This woman plants the same thing every year and her flowers last for a ridiculously long time – she’s got blooms from May through the end of October.  *So jealous*.  I don’t know how she does it because she doesn’t even live that close to her garden – I always see her going to and from her flowers on an old orange Vespa with her harvest basket precariously balanced between her knees.

I hopelessly abandoned my garden this year after planting herbs, rhubarb and tomatoes.  The cuore di bue (ox heart) tomatoes below are about the only thing we harvested – they were really good, but most of them ripened while we were on summer vacation.  Here we prepared them with garlic, olive oil and basil and ate them with rustic bread and fresh ricotta that our mountain neighbor made.  I think always having colorful flowers would be a great incentive to pay more attention to what’s going on in the garden.


Va beh (oh well).  Better luck next year.

Franco’s Funghi


Pictured above is Luca’s Dad, Franco with his harvest of the day (our dinner tonight!)  It’s mushroom season here in Piedmont and we’re lucky enough to have an expert scavenger in the family.  Not to brag or anything, but these were the most flavorful mushrooms I’ve ever eaten.  They were so freaking good (of the porcini variety).  We’ve actually been eating them all week (apparently when the mushrooms are out, they’re OUT).  On Monday with steak, on Tuesday in Ratatouille, and tonight baked in the oven with sliced potates, onions and rustic pancetta.  Too bad for you that Internet isn’t more multi-sensorial, or I’d send you all a whiff and a taste.  You’ll just have to use your imagination (or come visit!).

The area we live in is actually internationally reknowned for it’s mushrooms – we’re five minutes outside of Alba in the Langhe region, which is the White Truffle Capital of the World.  It’s always pretty easy to get truffles around here in season – they’re still expensive, but in these parts there are no added shipping fees, so that helps.  There are actually two truffle seasons – Fall is the more important White Truffle season (late September through mid December) while Summer is the Black Truffle season.  Experts say that the white truffles are more fragrant and flavorful, but we’ve had some extremely awesome black truffles that were much better than many of the more expensive white truffles.


Here’s Franco in October of 2005 with the fruits of a successful mushroom scavenge:


American Girl Doll Halloween Skirt


 Witch skirt for Sydney’s American girl doll

I decided to sew a bunch of American girl doll clothes for my neices for Christmas this year, but couldn’t resist making a special Halloween outfit (pictured above).  I didn’t use a pattern, just got the AG doll measurements and winged it.  I’ll try to post the template I used later on – basically I cut six six-inch long and 2 inch wide strips out of an old black shirt and sewed them togheter.  Then I added five layers of orange and black tuille and sewed them all together with a  folded piece of orange satiny ribbon.  The trickiest part was adding the velcro to the back, but it seems to have come out alright.



This is the back view – velcro closure

Shirts are a little out of my sewing ability at the moment, so I’m bidding on a hot Hallowen knit sweater on Ebaysweater

and I ordered some cute converse sneaks to complete the outfit.


Old Country Ambiance and Avocados

seedsOne of the best things about living abroad is the old-country ambiance that seems to have infiltrated the entire nation. Admit it, when you think “Italy” you think stone streets, gondoliers in Venice, old people with gold teeth and spaghetti with meatballs.  And to an extent these American stereotypes of the Italian way of life are on target: most roads in city centers are stoned and not paved, there are an awful lot of rowed boats in Venice, 4 out of 5 people have at least one gold tooth if not a whole set, and…well, I hate to break it to you, but nobody actually eats spaghetti and meatballs in Italy.  It can be romantic, but in many aspects, Italy is a backward country.

Take the mail for instance, I only get one English language magazine subscription, but in the two years that I’ve subscribed, it hasn’s once arrived on time.  Now, you may think that getting culinary news a month late could be a real disaster, but it’s really a blessing in disguise because by the time you get your Bon Appetit or Cook’s Illustrated, all of the featured foods are in their prime!

This was definitely the case this month when I tried out Bon Appetit’s recipe for Salad with Avocado-Lime Viniagrette and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds.  It is so incredibly awesome that I’ve already made the salad twice and the spicy pepitas four times in the last two weeks.  Their “viniagrette” is more like a garlicky spicy green goddess dressing than a viniagrette.


Luca mixing things up

The method for the pumpkin seeds is so much easier than the oven-baked version I usually make – BA made the recipe way more complicated than it needed to be – I mean who has chiles de árbol laying around in their pantry?  I used some cayenne and a mix of other random spicy things I found in our spice cabinet and they came out great.  I made the same substitution in the salad had great results too.  I also switched the cilantro that the dressing called for with parsley, which is way easier to find here.  Had to leave out the cucumber (Italians DON’T do cucumbers, at least in our neck of the woods) and the jicama (yeah…never seen that around here either…), and I switched the cotija cheese to parmigiano instead.

I guess I made more changes than I thought, but it was still an incredibly wonderful salad – the dressing and the spicy pepitas are the key ingredients, you can change up the other ingredients without any real problem.

I’ve also made some interesting crepe recipe discoveries lately, but that’s another story…


My Finished Avocado Pepita Salad

The Herb Garden

I started working in the garden a couple of weeks ago – turning the earth over (what’s the term for that in English? tilling by hand?), pulling weeds, removing debris and hoeing. I also built a little wall using old floor tiles from the 1800s. Today I’m going to have a bonfire to burn all the old branches and whatnot and our friend, Gianluca is coming this week to till with his tiller machine! Then, finally it will be time to plant. As you can see in the pictures below, I’ve already started some seeds inside. Mostly flowers and basil. After planting almost everything by seed last year I’ve decided it’s easier to buy the seedlings that are already a couple months old. They cost like 50 cents and save so much time.

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