Red in Ortigia

March 15th, 2013 / comments 2

Sky is 03 sm Red in Ortigia

Coffee is smooth…

tomat sm Red in Ortigia

tomatoes are local….

red od sm Red in Ortigia

table is waiting.

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Easter Monday

April 9th, 2012 / Comments 0

Everything, except cafe’s and the sea seems to be closed today because it’s Easter Monday. We moved from one flat to another yesterday, and emptied the fridge as well. An empty fridge and shuttered markets presented a bit of a challenge at lunch time. fortunately we were able to get a loaf of bread from our favorite cafe on Via Roma.

lunch sm Easter Monday

Charles sliced the bread, I toasted it in a bit of butter in a frying pan, (we are ‘roughing it’, making do without a toaster or an oven), and then we had to decide between wild berry jam or  honey blended with hazelnuts. I chose some of each.

palm sunday 02sm Easter Monday

Although Palm Sunday has come and gone I thought you might like to see the handmade palm decorations that are sold in the piazza on the Sunday before Easter.

palm sunday 01 sm Easter Monday

Check back, I’ll be posting more interesting bits soon.

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2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

December 26th, 2011 / comments 9

I’m reposting last years list of favorites for a few reasons, first because I’ve been busy working on my first eBook Bread and Crackers that is for sale on  Amazon – Here’s the link.

bread cracker kindle listing cover 190x305 2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

Second because there are free prints in this post that you can download and print as a little gift from my studio to you; and the third because this is still a list of my favorite things.

This is the time of year for lists, not shopping lists, but lists of virtually everything else – lists of the most important world events, top fashion trends of the year, the biggest storms, the sexiest man, the best movies, the most popular celebrities, the most reviled despots, the biggest disasters, the best selling books, and even a list of  top time-wasters.

tree winter c egbert 2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

Print Winter Tree

With these lists as inspiration, I’ve compiled my top ten list of food favorites for 2010, and in a nod to Mr. Letterman, they are listed in reverse order of delight. To celebrate the New Year, I’ve created four prints that celebrate the seasons of the year. They can be downloaded and printed by clicking on the links below each image.

#10 Butter Poached Rhubarb – Combining the best of Julia Child, butter, and the best of James Beard, cream, I melted a stick of butter in a skillet, sprinkled in one cup of granulated sugar and cooked it for about five minutes. When the sugar had begun to caramelize and turned a light brown, I added four cups of rhubarb, cut in two inch slices, shook the pan vigorously to coat the rhubarb and cooked it until it was starting to fall apart. I took the pan off the heat, stirred in two tablespoons of dark rum, and transferred the rhubarb to a bowl set in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Topped with List Entry #4, whipped, it made a gorgeous dessert. This would be closer to #1 if fresh rhubarb were available from my garden year round and if this recipe were not loaded with sugar, butter and cream.

#9 Carrots – I’ve been eating lots of carrots this year, in soups, salads, in fritters, cakes and muffins. Organic carrots, scrubbed and slow roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil complement most any meal. Any leftovers can be mashed with a bit of mayo and garlic and spread on toast for lunch or a rustic hors d’oeuvre.
tree spring c egbert 2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

Print Spring Tree

#8 Cappuccino – Alas, this is one thing on my list that I don’t make in my kitchen; but, the adventure of searching for a café and finding a perfect cappuccino with just the right amount of foamy milk on top merits a place on my list.

#7 Recipe Police – When I wrote about the absence of fish in my pot of chowder I boldly proclaimed that the recipe police would not come to my kitchen to give me a ticket. Little did I know that a Recipe Policeman, in the form of a phone call from an anonymous reader, would phone me and issue a warning that I had neglected to add thyme to the pot. I got away with a warning but I have been careful to add thyme to chowder since then.

#6 Pasta with Raisins and Pine Nuts – So simple, so quick, so delicious! While I waited for the pasta water to come to a boil, I sauteed one clove of garlic in a large frying pan with one tablespoon of unsalted butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. When the garlic had softened but not browned, I added a quarter of a cup of pine nuts. When the nuts where toasted, and the pasta was al dente, I drained the pasta, reserved a quarter of a cup of pasta water, added the pasta, generous handfuls of chopped flat leaf parsley and raisins, and a splash of the pasta water to the pan. I topped the pasta with the mere suggestion of ground cinnamon. Finito!

#5 Chickpea Flour – I discovered that I could make a crisp flatbread by baking in a 450º oven a batter of one cup of chickpea flour, one and a half cups of water and a teaspoon of salt in a cast iron skillet with three tablespoons of oil. Seasoned with salt and a bit of curry powder, an ho-hum soup and toast dinner was transformed into a praise-worthy meal.

tree summer c egbert 2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

Print Summer Tree

#4 Heavy Cream – My favorite comes from local dairies and is not ultra-pasteurized. I like it on oatmeal with brown sugar, whipped, with no sugar added, as frosting on deep, dark, moist chocolate cake, and as a cold topper for broiled apricots, (a treat I learned from my dear friend Didi).

#3 The Open Air Market in Ortigia, Sicily – Chatting with Angelo Cappucio about fish for dinner, choosing blood oranges, smelling the smoky roasted artichokes, sampling wild strawberries, olives, salami and chocolate from Modica is the best way to figure out “What’s for dinner?”

#2 Making Cheese in Sicily – Near the top of my list is the morning I spent in the cheese shop in Ortigia, making cheese with Andrea Borderi. I was welcomed into the small kitchen in the back of the shop, wrapped in an apron and put to work. I learned how to cut, ladle and knead curds as we made ricotta and mozzarella. I make a simple breakfast of a bowl of ricotta cheese, topped with a drizzle of Vermont honey and slices of orange when I’m wishing I were in Sicily.

tree fall c egbert 2011 Top Ten List & Free Prints

Print Fall Tree

#1 Contact from Friends – I am cheered and delighted when I hear from friends, whether old or new, by email, telephone and even snail mail. It doesn’t matter if the message is lavish praise, a complaint, or a correction – you are there, reading what I write, cooking what I cook, improvising, improving recipes and sharing your discoveries. You bring me joy. Thank you and please stay in touch.


Musing on Sicily

May 17th, 2010 / Comments 0

As our airplane circled Mount Etna and descended into the airport at Catania, groves of dark green citrus trees came into view. We were landing in Sicily, an island that we would call home for two months. We had left four feet of snow and sweet Rosie, our golden retriever, in Virginia with our son Noah and his family. I was looking forward to learning new ways of cooking familiar and unfamiliar food. I had traveled to Europe but never lived there. Living in Sicily meant that we would not be tourists.

residence barone 01 Musing on Sicily

We looked out to the sea from the two balconies in the upper left corner of the creamy yellow building

We had rented a flat in Ortigia, a small island attached by a bridge to the city of Siracusa and surrounded by a sea wall built in the fourth century BC by the Greeks.

We spend part of each day getting lost. It wasn’t difficult, the narrow lanes, many impassable except on foot or scooter, twist and turn. There are ancient ruins, medieval, art noveau, art deco, and Mussolini era buildings. Each time I thought I was hopelessly lost, one of two things happened. Either I saw the sea or turned onto the via Roma. Since our apartment faced the sea and we were on an island, I knew I would get home eventually if I didn’t cross a bridge. If I found via Roma, I knew that it led to the Piazza Duomo, a sacred space with a cathedral that was originally a Greek Temple, and also the location of the best gelato shop in Ortigia.

piazza Duomo from cafe minerva Musing on Sicily

A view of the Piazza Duomo from via Roma

The ruins of the Greek temple to Apollo, near the Archimedes Fountain and the market, were where Charles and I met so that we could go to the market together after he had spent the morning writing at the library.

oranges Musing on Sicily

Along with heaps of lemons, blood oranges, and mandarins, there tomatoes and peppers that are grown in Sicilian versions of hoop houses, olives of all sorts, and local wines in recycled, two liter plastic bottles. There was also a wide variety of fish and seafood from the Ionian Sea.

I went to the market every day and just as my first friends in Vermont were the vendors at the Norwich Farmers’ Market, my first friend is Sicily were the vendors at the Ortigia market. . Click here to see the  vendors at the Ortigia market.

fish vendor 02 sicily2 Musing on Sicily

I met Angelo Cappucho who like his father and grandfather before him sold all kinds of fish including swordfish, tuna, cuttlefish, squid, eels, and shrimp. When a genuine troubadour appeared in the market, all of the men at Cappucho’s joined in singing Sicilian folk songs with him. For a glorious hour, we were part of a Sicilian opera. Angelo and his son Marco insisted that all of the nearby vendors put food into a large bag as payment for the music.

ricotta basket Musing on Sicily

A traditional Sicilian ricotta basket.

Click here to read about making cheese with Andrea.

It was Andrea Borderi who stole my heart. Andrea made fresh ricotta and mozzarella each morning. The cheese was the best I’ve ever tasted, but even more astounding than the cheese was his generosity. He fed people. Andrea’s knife had a twenty-inch blade that was in constant motion. He cut cheese and offered samples on the tip of his knife to passers by. He made sandwiches and insisted that shoppers sample them. He fed cannoli to giggling students and serious Nonna’s. He never stopped smiling, and his blue eyes matched his blue satin necktie.

Our lives were quite simple in Ortigia. We had a small apartment, a tiny kitchen and no car. We watched the sea, had small dinner parties, ate gelato every afternoon after a walk around the island, read and wrote each day.

The day before we left, I went to the market and said goodbye to Giuseppe who sold the best olives, Mario with the small plum tomatoes I liked best for pasta, Joseph who offered grilled peppers and artichokes, Francesco who sold traditional chocolate from Modica and of course the musical Cappucho fishermen. It wasn’t easy, but I managed until I saw Andrea. He smiled and offered me a piece of cheese. I began to cry. He put down his knife, kissed my hand, and I wept as we said arriverderci.

Making Do – Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

March 24th, 2010 / comments 10

Charles and I have been in Sicily for nearly a month and we continue to discover new corners to explore in the winding lanes of Ortigia.

vv gaetano elefteria cheese Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I shop daily in the open-air market and my feelings about it have changed. Initially it was inspiring and fun to shop at the market and that hasn’t changed.

vv salvatore marco friend Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

What has changed is that I am no longer a stranger in the market, a tourist with a camera passing through.

vv angelo fish Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The vendors are my friends. I know that Angelo Cappuccio is the best singer at my favorite fish stall.

vv francesco olives Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I always buy olives and capers from Francesco and I got the grumpy vendor with the best lemons to smile.

vv mario olives 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

This is my market – my community of fellow foodies.

My modestly equipped kitchen is quite serviceable and I manage to cook with many fewer tools and ingredients. Except for a battery-operated scale, I have regularly used all of the tools I brought from home. Occasionally, I wish that I had a cast iron grill pan, a food processor or a particular cookbook.

making do words 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen Other than purchasing a toaster oven and a pepper mill, I have tried to “make do” with what I have. A frying pan works as the lid for the large pasta pot. A wooden orange crate from the market, topped with a coarsely woven cotton dishtowel, is the side table for a cup of tea. At a construction site I found a piece of wood and a ceramic roof tile that are now a cutting board and a fruit bowl, respectively. Gelato is impossible to resist and the small plastic bowls it comes in are a good size for serving honey or olives. Charles cut off the tops of empty plastic water bottles to make storage containers for dried herbs, garlic and leftover pasta.

olive branch Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen I used part of a small, plastic egg carton as a divided antipasto dish for olives, pickled mushrooms and artichoke hearts. A slotted plastic ricotta tub worked both as a basket to drain cutlery and as a colander for cherry tomatoes. Stems of parsley in an empty tomato paste tin, in the center of a rough weave cleaning cloth, lit by candles in ad hoc aluminum foil candle sticks made a decorative centerpiece for a cocktail party. Unbleached dish towels with bands of green and red stitching served as place mats and a piece of terrazzo picked up on a walk made a trivet for a hot pan.

vv fruit vendor Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The unglazed foot of a porcelain dinner plate doubled as a knife sharpener. When a guest brought a handful of irises, I wrapped the stems in a collar of aluminum foil so that they would stand up in the only vase we had.

Along with make-do hardware, I have been using make-do ingredients. A limited pantry from a limited market has been an opportunity for creativity. Fish filets dusted with chickpea flour, the only flour I had, were an innovation I will repeat.

ven chocolate guiseppe Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

Honey and fresh lemon juice stirred into a cup of boiling water made a warming drink when there was a downpour between me and the closest tea bag. I have used the herb blend from the market to flavor marinades, salad dressing, and a cannellini bean spread.

Share your most creative make-do in a comment by May 15th and win a white cotton cloth from Sicily like the ones I used as place mats for a make-do dinner party.

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Carota – Carrot in Italy #3 – Roasted Carrot Appetizer & Competition

March 19th, 2010 / comments 10

We had been invited to a gathering on Sunday afternoon and I roasted the last of the carrots as a base for a hearty carrot spread I took to share.

carrot on blue c egbert Carota   Carrot in Italy #3   Roasted Carrot Appetizer & CompetitionI haven’t figured out what to call it but it was delicious. Here’s how I did it: … read more

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