Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fettuccine al Limone -- (fettuccine with lemon)

We interrupt this series of vacation photos because, I promised to submit the photos of a dish that I had while romping through Tuscany. So, my first confession is: it wasn't really my dish; it was actually Arlenes dish in Bargo...but I digress.
I heard that Marcella Hazan passed away while I was on my trip and I had to get a cookbook of hers since it seems she was a quite famous chef.  I don't know how she managed to NOT show up on my radar, but that is indeed the case. I am now finding out about her and her fabulous cooking postmortem and that really stinks. I found in one of her cookbooks a recipe that is very close to a dish we were served in Bargo, Italy. I only had a taste of it, but that was enough for me to try this recipe and pass on the ravioli dish that I originally bargained for. 
So without further ado:

Fettuccini with Lemon
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of heavy cream
the grated peel, but none of the white pith of 4 lemons
Fettuccine (I confess I used Buttoni linguini --I was just too lazy to make my own)
1/2 cup of freshly grated parigiano-reggiano

 Grate the lemon zest and get all the other ingredients ready. Put the water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce takes only a few moments!
Put the butter and the cream into a saute pan large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta when cooked.  Bring to a boil. Then stir in the lemon juice.
 Then add the zested lemon and stir till smooth and the mixture reduces just a little.

 Keep an eye on the pasta, should take only a few minutes, at most.  I did not drain the pasta, I just used tongs and grabbed it and transferred the dripping pasta to the sauce...
You may notice in the background that I added 4 spears of cooked asparagus (this was an idea from another meal I had in Italy)
 Toss the pasta in the sauce and add the 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Toss thoroughly. And then...
It was pretty darn good!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Two Abbeys: Monte Oliveto Magiore and L'Abbazia de San Galgano

The second day of our hiking program brought us to two very different abbeys. The first, Monte Oliveto Maggiore was clearly isolated, well-maintained and had a portico that depicts the life of Saint Benedict in 36 frescoes; each indicating a notable time in the saints' life. They were all in very good condition and it was easy to understand the story as portrayed in art.
 We never just drove up to a spot and walked in to see it. Always, we hiked and here is a shot as we approached the first abbey; we still had a good half hour before we actually got close to it. You can see it in the background.
 This is a shot of one of the 36 frescoes. Here Benedict delivers a possessed monk by scourging him.

Lunch consisted of more riboletta, a vegetable platter, spinach souffle (somehow I missed those shots!) and Tira Missu

The Second abbey, L'Abbazia de San Galgano had only walls remaining. When one enters the body of the abbey and looks up -- only sky is visible. Perhaps that, more than anything expresses God visually. It was quite moving to experience this building too. The thing that brings most folks here though is the sword, sunk deep into a stone by San Galfano (similar to the King Arthur story) It is located in another building up on the nearby hill, and very much worth the walk up to view it.
Sadly, though I remember distinctly taking many pictures, none of them made it to my hard drive so that is a mystery that I am still trying to solve.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Voltera, Tuscany, Italy -- The Start of My Sierra Club Hiking Program

Life can REALLY be hard when you're on the road. But not here! Our first few nights were spent at Poderi Arcangelo Agriturismo Farmhouse located in the quaint village of San Gimignano; a few miles from the walled city, out in the rolling hills of the countryside. I suppose pictures would be a better way to show it...

After checking in to my room, I wandered around the property and drank in the gorgeous scenery. I did not have to work too hard to get a good photo. Almost anywhere I looked was a great view!
I moseyed down to the pool area and found that Barbara had already laid claim to the hanging chair next to the endless pool. I could have begged for it, but there was too much going on to even think about where to sit.
The sun started slipping away practically the moment I got there. See how the pool seems endless? that far side just seems to fall off the earth. It was truly fabulous.
All the hikers met at the pool for introductions and a little get to know you better meeting. Our leader, Mary brought a few bottles of wine and as you can see, we knew exactly what to do with them! The producer just happened to be the agriturismo that we were staying at. The wine was very good.
Before long we gathered in the restaurant area to discuss the next days plans and to partake in the first of many delicious dinners served family style. First the Ribolleta soup--a thick tomato, bean and bread concoction that was the best I had ever tasted.
Then the pasta. It looks like simple spaghetti with tomato sauce...it was so much better than that. The pasta is different in Italy. I think it is the flour.There were meat and vegetable dishes also, but I apparently was not thinking about photos at that time!

The next day we started the drive to our hiking place at 8AM. We drove a bit and then we got off the bus and hiked the countryside for four hours. Vineyards, farmhouses, back roads and fig trees to fill our visions as we hiked near to the village of Voltera.
We met the bus and rode to the entry of the city and had the afternoon to ourselves to wander the streets, museums, churches or whatever else caught our fancy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Florence, Italy --- Tuscany at Last!

It started as a gentle longing and grew over time, my desire to see Italy. Originally it was simple. My mission was to eat my way through Italy. But time can affect many things and after dreaming about this trip for some years, it worked its magic on this as well. Yes, I still want to eat my way through Italy but I also want to drown my vision in the vinyards and countryside that can only be Tuscany. I want to hear the conversations in Italian and most of all I want to see the old, not quite elderly, couples walking down the street hand in hand proud to be sharing their life and love. 

This year I finally made that dream come true. I spent seventeen glorious days in and around Tuscany; some on my own and eleven with the Sierra Club hiking from village to village. While on my own I found an inexpensive room in Florence. It wasn't in the downtown tourist section, so I got lots of walking in, but it was where the Italians live and that was worth everything.

At first I felt a bit guilty, yes, I know, that is very unusual for me, but I had no desire to visit a museum nor art gallery nor churches. My senses were saturated by the streets, the shops, the doors, the balconies, the sky everything but those two indoor very touristy activities. Before long I settled in and began to enjoy whatever it was I wanted to do. And...I have to say, I was very happy with all my choices.

I did arrange a few tours before I left home through a website called Viator; it was a great way to fill my days and I highly recommend any of the four tours that I did while there. So, here you see I am all smiles and enjoying my first Gelato. It was the first tour I was to take and it was a 2.5 hour biking tour of Florence. I am quite experienced when it comes to biking and I thought this would be  a great way to see the 'sites' and generally get the lay of the land. It did all that but be warned, the foot traffic in Florence is dense along with the cars, taxies and buses. It took all of my biking skill not to hit anything or to be hit by something. If you want to do this, do so with caution.
In case you think I may be exaggerating, this is a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, the historical bridge over the Arno River, and yes it is this crowded and yes I actually did bike through the crowd.
In Tuscany the wild boar is held in high esteem; by that I mean folks really enjoy eating it.
After my adventurous bike tour, I went back to an area that we rode through to grab my first of many delicious Italian meals. It was an outside cafe in an area that pulsed with life and enjoyment. So I leisurely enjoyed my feast of prosciutto with tomatoes and string mozzarella, wine, bread and olives.
Then they brought grilled pork and oven roasted potatoes
I had the gelato before dinner, so I skipped dessert.
But for the eyes, I had to get a shot of a typical street in Florence...or anywhere in Tuscany actually.