Clandestine

A sneak-peek of my book "As The Romans Do"

© David Loftus

© David Loftus

Dear reader, my valiant Unknown Soldier, Thank you for stopping by. If you’re reading this then chances are that you’re longing for luscious dolce vita style meals, echoing with imperial ruins and Vespa rides through the side streets of the eternal city par excellence, a panino in your bag.

Rome – a place that’s like an open air museum, disseminated with monumental masterpieces from the Colosseum through Piazza Navona to the 80 years old lady cleaning artichokes – the Holy Grail of the Roman food scene - at the food market. A slice of the historic and a wink at the contemporary gastronomic culture, that’s exactly what the book “As The Romans Do” is about. But that is not all.

This is a cookbook to butter and splatter, that will tickle and invigorate your taste buds. I hope it becomes an integral part of your kitchen and that you’ll fill it with personal notes and tomato sauce stains.

It’s been made with love and its pages spark up with food ideas that you can enjoy simply as they are or freely contaminate with your own touch.

This patchwork of recipes and anecdotes is developed much in the fashion of a day in the life of a Roman, each chapter punctuating a different time of the day. You’ll find crispy pastries to get you started, bringing you the magic of the Italian coffee-at-the-counter routine, vibrant packed snacks (merende) and lunch on the run options – a perfect fit for those busy weekdays. Then come family lunches to feed a crowd and recipes for two if you’re up for romance. I’ll explain to you all about #foodhappiness and the power of organized improvisation, and we’ll indulge in ‘midnight munchies’ with delicious dishes that take just a few minutes to make and even fewer to wipe out.

The images will catapult you right to the very heart of the Italian capital. They’ve been taken by the talented David Loftus and are evocative of an off-the-beaten-track lifestyle. The book contains tons of short stories and tips on how to live Rome like a local. You can share them with friends and family, or simply enjoy reading them while curling up on the couch. I’ll tell you how a Carbonara pasta is reminiscent of those orange splashed Roman sunsets and how Rome is the only town in the world where people of all kinds mix together in an almost contradictory way: you see the vagabond with the prince, the lawyer with the butcher, the florist with that mysterious lady always dressed in black. Just look at the way most people walk, literally trascinati, almost as if dragged by an invisible force, a form of vigorous sloth, just like my dragged savoy cabbage.

I hope to convey to you what Romanity is all about so that, from now on, when in Rome, you can’t help but do…. As The Romans Do.

Want to order your copy now? Amazon has put it at a special price and it's only a click away, if you click here.

Baci & abbracci,

Eleonora

Capri & The Amalfi Coast

You would immediately sense a fragrance of lemons as the ferry boat drops anchor in the island of Capri. But that is just a hint, a prologue to all feelings of reflection and deep restoration to be experienced once you step on top of Marina Piccola and into one of the few bars displaying all kind of tartines, a sort of eternal aperitivo time only to be distracted by a dive into the sea or a stroll through those glorious shops selling coral jewellery and handmade sandals. villagiusso2

I stayed at a small and gloriously charming house - the casetta, as everyone calls it there -  that was once inhabited by Marguerite Yourcenar. Rumour has it that she conceived the first manuscript for "Memoirs of Hadrian" during her time in the casetta. And no wonder: this captivating island has been for centuries a favourite shelter for an intellectual and cosmopolitan, extremely over the top community. I found a telephone bill to her name, which makes me wonder about her, possibly long conversations linking a mature Marguerite to the real world from her buen retiro in the Neapolitan island. In this house, I also conceived part of my debut cookbook, As The Romans Do - going from high prose to food writing I do hope Marguerite will forgive me. But, oh, If I enjoyed this place's voluptuous embrace.

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Giovanna Rispoli is the charming lady behind the good keeping of this typical house - with colorful ceramic tiles (pictured alongside octopus and clams in the photo above) and a blue theme finding its echo in the wild sea approached from the balcony - where al fresco dining is the epytome of a perfect day spent walking and cooking.

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She is also the owner of a masseria, a typical fortified farmhouse (I've already talked about one here) which is located in the Amalfi Coast - on the hill of the delightful Vico Equense town.

At Astapiana Villa Giusso , a former monastery, guests can enjoy a medieval privacy surrounded by 13 hectars of land overlooking the bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula.

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There's nothing more energysing than an excellent night sleep at Annunciata Flat, followed by some initiation to harvesting in the park. You can smart up your breakfast cappuccino with the introduction of some fresh milk , just squeezed. Elevenses couldn't get any better while tasting handpicked fruits and vegetables.

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Then, I loved to immerse myself in the historical background of this unique place which changed so much throughout the centuries: first a monastery, then a crown place, then a factory, finally a manor house. And it's all detailed within the in-house museum where antique furniture and paintings from 17th and 18th century, a glorious majolica kitchen, the family’s chapel, a 17th century wine and olive oil cellar with original barrels and jars, a luxuriously decorated early 18th entertainment room styled in fine gold Damascus silk fabric are all displayed.

villagiusso7

A feast for the eyes and the stomach alike, since I could also enjoy a refined homemade extra virgin olive oil tasting. In the evening, we all made pizza together, and as the dough was rising, I curled up in the living room while reading The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe. Not only #foodhappiness then. To get to what you're good at in the best way, there's a universe of creative inspirations out there, which the Amalfi Coast people are masters at providing. Switch off and get surprised.

Love,

Eleonora

Relais Astapiana Villa Giusso, Via Camaldoli, 51, Vico Equense NA, Italy

Website: www.astapiana.com

For reservations: info@astapiana.com

Hellishly good puff pastries

There you have it. Here is the face of #foodhappiness. When Martini asked me to create a few recipes in order to transmit the concept of the aperitivo, I embarked on a journey throughout the entire Italian boot in order to convey the sense of warmth, precise casualness and festive improvisation that lies beneath this solemn ritual. As you may know, the Italians have a few things that they take very seriously: food and siestas are capital. I previously introduced you to the joys of both mozzarella and polenta panini making. Now I'm onto springy softness by using puff pastry as my base ingredient. Different versions of puff pastry are reknown in Italy as a form of aperitivo animation. No one in the world could dislike such a combination. The puffiness of the pastry meets the melting tastiness of the pear topped by liquefied stracchino cheese (to be found in any good Italian deli). The tinkling acidity of the lemon zest does the rest. Wanna bet? Just try this out by inviting your friends over to enjoy the cherry trees scented evenings of the upcoming weekend (28° are expected throughout Europe!)

Puff pastries with stracchino cheese and pear (serves 4 hungry for aperitivo)

  • 250 gr. puff pastry
  • 50 gr. fresh unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 ripe Conference pear
  • 100 gr. Stracchino cheese/ fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 organic unwaxed lemon

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Then, peel off the pear, cut it in half and make sure to get rid of the seed. Next, cut it in tiny dices.

Let the butter melt at low temperature in a small pan, then add the pear dices with the sugar and the rosemary. Let the whole mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, form the individual puff pastries with a coffee cup. Distribute them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  With a teaspoon, garnish each nibble with the caramelized pear mix.

Let it cook in the oven for 15 minutes. After that time, take the tray out of the oven and gently decorate all the pieces with the cheese. Finally freshly sprinkle with a grater the lemon zest on top of each one of them. Cook for another 5 minutes . Wait a few minutes before serving these cosmicly good savoury pastries with your favourite cocktail .

With love and puff pastry,

Eleonora

Amaretti biscuits with candied oranges

The amaretti biscuits make for a delicious accompaniment for my morning tea or coffee (lately, I've been trying to alternate the two in order to get the best out of their opposite celebrative worlds). Whether I feel stunned by the lack of sleep given by too much overnight cookbooks reading or with so many deadlines in sight that I can hardly hold my breath, let alone my cup, this biscuit has such a personality, perfectly flavoured with crunchy almonds and, adding my own twist, some candied bloody oranges. These lovely biscuits' rounded shape remind me of a small reversed cup, but it's their cracked surface that calls for an instantaneous, indulging bite. Their crisp and rather crumbly taste can be perfectly mixed with other recipes, too. In fact this biscuit is largely used, in the Italian kitchen, for many recipes ranging from the tortelli di zucca, a special kind of pumpkin ravioli from Mantua through to the polpettone (meatloaf), a comfy food for excellence to the most delightful fruit pies and tarts. Sealed in a glass jar, they are the perfect addition to the cupboard as they can come in handy in the least expected combinations.

Amaretti with candied oranges (serves 8 people)

  • 200 gr. blanched whole almonds
  • 150 gr. caster sugar + 125 gr. for the candied orange
  • 2 large free-range egg whites
  • 1 unwaxed organic orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 40 gr. icing sugar

First of all, follow the procedure to achieve the firmest whipped egg whites: break them, separate the yolks from the whites in two different tea-cups, and place the egg whites inside the fridge. Leave it to rest for at least half an hour.

Next, toast the almonds for 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°. In a blender, mix the toasted almonds with the sugar, then sift the whole mixture and put it aside in a large bowl.

To make the candied oranges, follow the method explained in my previous post here. Cut into small cubes the obtained candied oranges.

Then, to avoid splashing of eggs on the kitchen walls, place a bowl deep  in the sink. At this stage, make sure you add a tiny pinch of fine salt before whipping the egg whites until stiff. Next, incorporate little by little with a spatula the egg whites and the candied oranges into the almonds mixture in order to obtain a soft and smooth dough. Cover the mixture with a clean cloth and store it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Once past the waiting time, preheat the oven at 170°. It's now time to resume the dough, that will be solidified by now and, with a sharp knife, cut about 50 balls. Get some icing sugar on your hands and prepare the small, rounded balls. Make sure you crush them lightly in the center with your fingers. Lay them on a baking sheet dusted with icing sugar and covered with parchment paper (you can cook in 2 batches).

Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes; once you take them out of the oven, let them cool on a wire rack before enjoying them.

With love and amaretti,

Eleonora

The End of the World in the Loire Valley

As an Italian person, one of my most developed senses is Smell. Oh yes, we like our aromatherapy in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, what I absolutely love about food shopping in any open market in Italy, is the herbal goodie bag that comes with it: gorgeous thyme, rosemary, curly persil or the inevitable basil, you name it. They'll all be part of the deal. The positive health effects of culinary herbs have been renowned ever since the dawn of civilization. It's common knowledge that Venice, for example, has for centuries been an authentic door of spices interchange between East and West. Lately, I've been wondering around the Loire Valley, and I came across the most exclusive botanical garden & restaurant. Located in Berthenay, near the wonderful Chateau of Villandry (one of the seven wonders of the world), this river estate is surrounded by a garden of aromatic and edible plants. While Benoist introduced me to the wide variety of culinary herbs from all over the world, Emmanuelle would be cooking up a storm inside the adjacent cute little cottage.

I discovered that each region has its own plants that bloom like a symphony depending on the climate. To activate digestion, best served in form of infusion or soup are : fennel, mint, lemon balm, sage (also used as an antiseptic). We went for a walk in the domain, and came upon the wild plants along the Loire: oregano, die, bay leaves, tansy, Moorish. The taste of these herbs is enhanced by sun or humidity. I've been lucky enough to get a full on description of a whole area dedicated to mints. The best flavouring herb? Marjolaine shell. In the workshops run by Benoist, one can learn how to grow these delicate plants in their own gardens or, for the more citizen-types, like me, on the balcony.

Just adding up one herb to an otherwise ordinary meal will bring a whole new meaning and character to it. So have fun, mix up, create, and try for yourself the art of combining herbs with the kitchen. Back in the cottage, Emmanuelle prepared an unforgettable nettle soup. No, it didn't itch.

On the contrary, it was the end of the world.

Consume without moderation.

With love and nettle,

Eleonora

Monday's declarations

What are your perfect Monday resolutions? May I get some time out of the hustle and bustle of my delicious working schedule, here ere are mine:

  • promise to only eat one sweet per day (as if it were easy, living in Paris);
  • get my beauty sleep and make it a plan not to go to bed after midnight for 10 days in order to balance my immune system;
  • practice Yoga Ashtanga/Flow/Bikram at least 4 times without, in the middle of it, finding it irresistible to go test that new recipe I dreamt about last night;
  • reserve those theatre tickets to go see Nos Femmes at Théâtre de Paris;
  • handwrite those letters to the most beautiful friends I've been blessed with;
  • get my heels back on and go back practising some Tango;
  • handmake some Madeleines in full #foodhappiness mode and pay a visit to the permanent collection at Musée Rodin.

With love and madeleines,

Eleonora

 

Harry's Bar in Venice

It's an institution in Venice. Every smart-set occasion, it being the Cinema Festival or the Art Biennal, calls for a stop at this world-renowned bar & restaurant, a highly civil Venitian refuge and a place of rest. Women's rare fragrances and a certain ethereal aura fill up the place, at the counter the reassuring preparation of the most celebrated Venetian drink, synonimous of a decadent and stylish cocktail hour. Created in the '30s by Harry's bar founder Giuseppe Cipriani, he christened this white peach cocktail the Bellini (after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian painter- on the occasion of the artist's exhibition in 1948). Marco, the chief barman today, probably stolen from a 007 movie scene starring Sean Connery, told me - with a decisively assertive yet uberdiscreet manner - many stories as I sipped one fragrant cocktail (which I duly accompanied with fresh water not to get my head turning too fast) and a cheese and ham tramezzino (a triangular sandwich constructed from two slices of soft white bread with the crusts removed) which bread had been cooked in scrumptious butter.

For example, the fact that, to start with, the bar's name had been coined after its founder, Arrigo, it being impossible to be called otherwise as prohibition time was in full swing. Marco told me how the bar counter is kept religiously as it once was, along with all the original paraphernalia, and how Mr. Cipriani decided not to serve beer after an accident occurred causing the cracking of the fine bar's marble in the late '40s and a total change in the clientele target - from then on nothing but the rich and famous, the so called crème de la crème. Ernest Hemingway used to sit at the corner table, its chair as the observatory of a universally glittering micro-dimension that seems to always keep its guard up while entering this timeless place.

As of the preparation of the Bellini, all the elements, starting from the glass, through to the Prosecco and the peach purée, should be as cold as possible.

  • 1/4 peach puree
  • 3/4 Prosecco wine

When the season calls for it, make plenty of white peach (only) purée ahead, but beware: never use a food processor as it aerates the fruit. As strange as it can seem, a cheese shredder might do the trick! Add 1/10 of white sugar to the peach mixture, and you'll have the original Harry's bar effect. Most off all, this is a drink which decoration is the horizon of your imagination, aka don't overdo with additional ingredients like peach schnapps or similar. Less is more.

With love and Bellini,

Eleonora

Pop up your life

I love pop-ups. In fact, as some of you know, I provide my food services (amongst other things) with off the beaten track bespoke pop-up events. This term alone clicks with boosting creativity, raising inspiration, twisting on cared improvisation. This ephemeral concept allows brands to be in uncategorized spaces in order to run free into new customers and opportunities. All in a limited timeframe. It's like having those 15-minutes-only in front of the audience and proving them about the feasibility of one's project. And that I find thrilling. On the forefront of this exciting experience called The Space is the very lovely Julia Tinkerbell Van Hagen who has conceived this amazing reunion idea of fashion talents in a dedicated space over 5 years ago. Since then, she's been hosting pop-up stores in any corner of the (utterly civilised and tremendously glamorous, bien sur) world you can think of, you name it.

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With her in Paris these next few days, in association with Parisian PR wonderwoman Sonia Diop, an array of truly talented artisans of the fine fashion making. Their care in the details and the provenience of the textiles makes me think about its correspondance with products sustainability (the Slow Food chain) and the importance of tradition.

There are  Van Palma and We Are Leone with their handmade crêpe de soie kimonos and hats. Luz Collections is a bio and glamorous South American swimsuits line, whereas Pallome design delightful bags in jeans and cotton while Torula goes for the city accessible luxury version. Very Parisian indeed but mischievously Italian are the handmade hats signed by milliner Veronica Marucci.

Among the edible gifts, a few extraordinarily tasty gingerbreads to take home to your loved one. I got back home with a bag filled with goodies and with my purse not too hurt. Thumbs up to accessible luxury!

The Space Pop Up, December 11th-13th 117, rue Saint Honoré Paris (75001) from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. MÉTRO : Palais Royal- Musée du Louvre SITE : thespace.fr

With love and gingerbreads,

Eleonora

LA FERME SAINT SIMEON – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 1

It’s here in Honfleur, a romantic Normandy harbour, that the Impressionist painters met in the 19th century. Attracted by the light and a stunning view over the Seine estuary and the Channel, they chose to take up residency at “Mère Toutain’s” inn. This home, with timbered walls and thatched roofs, offered cheap lodging and a tasty cuisine to travellers. The mistress of the house, Mère Toutain, was to give the inn its renown. Very rapidly she was to welcome, charm and inspire artists of the such of Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Charles Baudelaire. Today, passed down from family to family, this inn is the Ferme Saint-Siméon, a 5-star Relais & Châteaux. The panorama is sumptuous, and the light indefinable. As we checked in, we were welcomed in an oak walls and traditional tomettes floor decorated lobby to sip a delicious apple grog twisted with a minted infusion and indulge in the unique Normandy apple pie.  The atmosphere was luxurious yet homely, enticing me to linger and daydream. After a jump in the spa, we opted for the gastronomic restaurant in front of a warm fireplace, where we savoured the heritage with views over the Pigeonnier and the celebrated Normandy bridge, the longest in Europe, connecting the region of Calvados with the Seine one. The room, under the roof, was a timeless bubble where I could fully restore, in an harmonious blend of modern equipment and historical touches.

For those of you who know me by now, you are also aware of the fact that I basically worship breakfast time.

In a region that doesn’t particularly cultivate rice, It was such a surprise for me to find the rice-based teurgoule, a region culinary specialty. The reason is to be found in the naval transportation of goods from the rest of Europe to this Normandy port. The sailors would have their wives prepare this nourishing dish in traditional terracotta pots, which can be kept at room temperature for days, for them to face the hard days at sea.

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And I’m proud to be sharing this exclusive recipe dating 1860 with you today.

Teurgoule

  • 1 lt. whole milk
  • 80 gr. caster sugar
  • 5 gr. cinnamon powder
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 80 gr. Carnaroli or Vialone Italian Rice

Preheat the oven at 140°. Cut the vanilla pod in the middle with a sharpened knife, and get the dusty seeds with its tip. Bring the milk to a boil with the sugar, the cinnamon, the vanilla seeds and the salt.

Distribute the rice in two terracotta pots and equally pour the boiling milk in.  Put in the oven at 140° for roughly 2 hours. Verify the cooking process with the help of a knife. The tergoule needs to be firm, just like a crème caramel.

With love and seagulls,

Eleonora

(h)Eden(e) in Paris

I can't quite come to terms to the voluptuous beauty of Paris, how can it be so firm, just like a mother who wouldn't accept a "no" as an answer, yet so harmlessly heartbreaking from its roofs up until its roots, that is its islands to me. As a matter of fact the Romans, who won over the Gauls well over 2000 years ago, decided to provide them with the islands of Lutetia ('Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis) in order for them to be near the water, thus control any forms of commerce. The Romans, on their side, would have kept what is today known as the left bank and that's where and how the Paris, as we know it today, was born. I personally have a soft spot for these 2 floating, somptuous islands in the middle of the city of lights. I love to walk around them, the cold yet gently dry breeze of Paris accompanying my errands. And I love to discover that a legacy is kept alive giving place to evolution even. I'm talking about the oldest Fromagerie in the very heart of Rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, precisely located at number 38. In a place that was once the beating heart and soul of artisanal old Paris, suddenly closed down for the passing away of its owner and cheesemonger charmer, two young entrepreneurs have taken over as of 3 years ago. Experts in the art of selecting epicerie fine, as people call it over here, these twenty something young merchants can suggest the finest food products available on the market. And if you fancy a wine or cheese lesson for that matter, then you're in for a ride, and a treat.

hedene

That's how I came to know the most refinely delicious honey I ever came across. The name of the product alone, Hedene, rings a bell as to a few ethereal concepts: one linked with the first, most perfect garden as told by the Christian tradition and the other connected with hedonism, the argued capacity to live in strict connection to pleasure, as a good friend of Dorian Grey would suggest him at the beginning of the celebrated novel by Oscar Wilde. It appears, there's a honey to accompany any given moment of the day. The texture and smell would change and increase according to the time, season and occasion. Therefore, the acacia would be an interesting alternative to sugar in morning coffees or teas, while a taste of the pine tree would take you straight to a fable involving fairies and magic; to be honest though, the cream of the crop was the Miel Bourdaine, splendid for the festive season. I tasted it with a Comté cheese, which I've been told was produced in the Jura valley, east of France. This scrumptious cheese has been refined in the Charles Arnaud fruitière (a place where milk is processed into cheese).

If you thought that beautiful patterns were limited to textile only, think twice. This teeny tiny deli shop celebrates chocolate by providing the very well wrapped tastes of cocoa beans collected and produced in Saigon (Vietnam). I almost fainted when I had a first bite, luckily it was just before my movie night on my couch, hence I had an excuse I couldn't possibly drop to finish it. No wonder why Marou chocolate has gained many awards for its integrity, in workplace and taste buds alike.

With love, honey, chocolate and cheese,

Eleonora

Breaking Meatballs

Take one Italian and one English woman. Together on a day smelling like chestnuts. In a Roman kitchen. The idea was outrageously simple. Meeting up at Testaccio local market after coffee, which more or less corresponds to the civilized Roman early morning hour, that is 11 a.m; getting our heads and spirits lifted and spinning around grocery shopping with overchatting attention to the selection of delicious ingredients. Later on, run back home to an authentic Testaccio apartment block - with walls painted in orange, just like the colour of those unforgettable Roman sunsents - where I'm sure I've seen the shadow of Pasolini walk past us (but at the time I must have been too taken into considering whether going for a in bianco or rosso - white wine or tomatoes based sauce - for our main course).

I wanted to share a secret with Rachel. This ginger hair, delightfully tall girl from Britain, mother of a tiny 3 years old munchkin boy named Luca, runs a spectacularly well written blog called Racheleats. There, she basically goes through the pros and cons of Italian food traditions, letting the reader have full access to her palpably genuine lifestyle in the Roman neighbourhood of Testaccio, let alone her IG celebrated sink. She also managed to get messy in a few of the most renowned kitchens of the boot, thus embracing the most genuine Italian gastronomic culture. Away from the emotionally constipated view some have of the modern Brits and more in line with a contemporary version of a character issued from Austen's "Pride and (no) Prejudice" Rachel Roddy tries it all. And she tried mine too. I'm talking recipes of course. On our morning together and following her recent article on the Guardian, where she gratifies the reader with the, oh so many versions of the italian polpetta, of which we can find thousands of reinterpretations (I already mentioned in a previous post that each one has their own madeleines, haven't I?), I told her about my own Nonna's meatballs. We made them on a white Formica table veined in green just like Gorgonzola cheese, that Rachel purchased from a nuns' community. Couldn't get any more Roman than that. What a difference between the wine used for cooking, so called vino sincero (sincere wine due to its tendency of making you drunk undoubtedly cheaply) that makes for some fantastic meals and the one usually served in trattoria's tables, slightly more refined and delicate to the stomach.  An up tempo people pleaser and scrumptious, comforting food. There is something dangerously addictive about these mouthwatering pops. Just try to believe, until #foodhappiness kicks in.

Ingredients for 6: - 250 gr. pork twice minced meat - 250 gr. fracosta beef meat - 1 garlic clove - 150 gr. extra virgin olive oil - 100 gr. Parmesan - 150 gr. breadcrumbs - 1 fresh parsley bouquet, finely chopped - 2 fresh free range eggs - salt - pepper - 50 ml. Whole milk - 230 ml. Of white wine

In a bowl, bring together the two different meats with the eggs, the parmesan, the parsley, half of the breadcrumbs, the milk, a tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of both salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients roughly with your hands in order to form a big mountain.

Place the remaining breadcrumbs on a big round plate, and have another ready beside it. Form small meatballs rolling them inside your hands, then cover them with breadcrumbs and position them one by one on the clean dish.

Warm up a pan with  100 gr. of oil and the garlic clove. Once it browns, pour in all the meatballs and let them cook for about 3 minutes each side at medium fire. Close the fire. Prepare a dish with some absorbing paper on top, and let the meatballs off the pan and on the scottex in order to get rid of the excessive oil.

Then, pour the wine of in the pan and let it warm up for 1 minute a high fire, then pour the meatballs in again and let cook for 5 minutes vivaciously. Serve warm and covered with parsley and its sauce.

With love and a mountain of meatballs,

Eleonora

* photo credits @Rachel Roddy

Not at all Pizza e Fichi

"Qui non stiamo a pettinare le bambole" (we are not brushing the dolls) or "Mica pizza e fichi!" (not at all pizza with figs) both sound like highly improbable euphemisms yet, believe it or not, they are very common in the Italian daily language. This last one is a sentence, typical from the Roman slang, especially used when one wants to give importance to something they're talking about, using as a negative and "lower" yardstick the pizza with figs (for example: this is a Picasso painting, "mica pizza e fichi"!). Not that pizza and figs should have some kind of importance within the Two Chief World Systems, but I would say that it is placed on a par with other dishes representing  the backbone in the Italian gastronomical patrimony, such as Risotto ai Funghi, Pasta alla Norma (which I previously shared with you here) and the Sicilian Cassata. At a time where the "cibo povero" (food for the poor) would determine a social status linked with the agricultural background, back until about 30 years ago it was thought as very unbecoming in a big city to consume such simple food. Nowadays all gastronomic codes have been turned around, there's a whole new wave- not a trend but a consciusness raising - resulting in the appreciation of artisanal tradition hence this is a dish hold in high regard, a real delicatessen, even. This is due to its 2 main ingredients: prosciutto and figs. Whereas the latter are to be found over the months of september and october only, the finest ham, with its unscrupulous and only slightly salted taste, is a real chimera for all those who seek #foodhappiness. I will soon visit San Daniele, home of the highly esteemed prosciutto, to tell you a little of this incredible product. For my part I say that this pizza must be tried, it seems like an excellent solution for a snack, a main course on a lazy sunday evening, or a crunchy aperitivo. It's up to your tastebuds. The recipe is really easy, too!

PIZZA E FICHI

Serves 6 people as a starter/main course/snack

  • 350 gr. flour type 0 + some for the working surface
  • 20 gr. of fresh yeast
  • 300 gr. of thinly sliced Parma ham
  • 12 fresh figs in season
  • 50 gr. extra virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of fine sea salt

Dissolve the yeast in half a glass of lukewarm water (70 ml.) while, in another half a glass of warm water, you will dissolve the salt and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Sift the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the middle, pour in the water with the yeast and start kneading, adding little by little the water with salt and oil.

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 15 minutes, then take it back and knead on a floured board by by means of folding it over and over. Repeat the operation for a few times, remembering to sprinkle the work surface with a little flour. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rest in the lower part of the refrigerator (where you put the vegetables) for 24 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and at this point let it rise at room temperature. As the dough becomes swollen (after 2 hours), now pre-heat the oven at 200° before placing the dough on a work surface dusted with flour and roll it out with the tip of your fingers. Place it in an oiled baking pan and place in the bottom of a preheated oven at 200° for 10 minutes. After this time, move the pan to the middle of the oven and cook for 15 further minutes.

Let the pizza cool, cut it into 6 pieces and garnish with prosciutto and figs, cut into wedges.

With love and pizza,

Eleonora

A breakfast must.

For those who know me and have the patience to put up with my joyous unfiltered manners, a quick coffee in the morning it's a no-go for me, since I'm peremptory on breakfast which, in my vision, is the king of daily meals. It being summer, winter, or somewhere in the middle, I like my full, continental style, smart start of the day. In front of a newspaper, a real one, I'm in total switch off mode - that's when the creativity gets going for real, when you're not thinking. Nothing compares the say: "One should eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king and dinner like a beggar". Brioche à tête (or parisienne) is a brioche baked into a fluted round tin with a ball of dough placed on top to form the ‘head’, the tête. Great for brunch with a strong coffee, you'll see many parisians walking around the streets in the early mornings, crunching one of those, thus alleviating the stress of the working day that awaits. These puff delights, though, resemble the Sicilian brioches typical from Catania, also known as "brioches col tuppo". The name of these brioche comes from their shape, reminiscent of the traditional low hair bun that Sicilian women wore back at the day, and that in the regional dialect is called just "tuppo. These magnificent sweet buns are usually consumed in the south of Italy with granita (slush), flavoured with peach, almond, coffee or watermelon. Makes 18 brioches For the dough:

  • 500 gr of flour 00 + flour for pastry
  • 30 gr. sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 10 gr. of fresh yeast
  • 3 fresh free-range eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150 gr. soft unsalted dairy butter + butter for the molds

For the compote:

  • 2 golden fresh apples
  • 1 basket of fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pinch of butter

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Pour the flour, the sugar and the crumbled baking powder in a mixer. Run the hook at low speed and incorporate the eggs; once the dough is formed, add the softened butter to the mixture, little by little. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes, until it becomes elastic. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let the dough rise for an hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl, form a ball, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 2 hours. Divide the dough into 18 portions; shape it into balls with your hands and place them back in the refrigerator. Grease 18 small moulds; roll a piece of dough on a floured surface in order to form a cylinder, then tear off a piece the size of a hazelnut; transfer to the cylinder of dough prepared in a mold and roll it on the bottom then, with your index, form a groove in the center of the brioche and settle the ball of dough in.

Prepare all the other molds in the same way and let rise for further 2 hours. Brush the buns with the beaten egg yolks and bake at 180° for 10 minutes.

Peel the apples and cut them into cubes, transfer them into a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice, cover and cook for 15 minutes. After this time, add the blackberries and cook 5 more minutes in the now uncovered saucepan. Serve the brioche with the fruits preserve thus prepared.

Tales beyond the Alps

Drum roll please!!! I would like to dedicate a special foodie tribute today to a country where I will be exporting  part of my Italian food affair starting from very soon. For those of you who will be visiting Paris, or indeed are based there, I will be coming and going there very often in the upcoming future as part of a clandestine kitchen and pop-up project. Curious? I will be telling you more about it over the next few weeks. If you're interested in joining and get your hands buttered and splattered, don't hesitate to drop me a line here or head over my workshop page. A little comforting food always helps establishing the cross-cultural patterns right. One of the first times I've ever been invited to a parisian diner, I stumbled upon the gorgeous simplicity of the pâté des pommes de terre... A speciality of the Limousin region in central France, it is prepared according to family traditions, thus can be decorated  with parsley, onion, garlic and meat even. Before potatoes started to be greatly used in France at the turn of the 19th century, this dish was made with leftover bread dough, then baked with a simple decoration of roughly chopped garlic, bacon and parsley. Below is the light version. This incredibly fluffy pie (which is oven-baked until golden-brown) was served as a side dish to an orange-glazed duck (just like the one I made at Taste of Roma Food Festival some time ago) but is also perfect for lunches on the run with a green salad, for aperitifs sliced in tiny pieces, for pic-niques in an adventurous panier... not only boulot-metro-dodo.

Pâté des pommes de terre

Serves 6 people as a main course/side dish:

  • 400 gr. of shortcrust pastry
  • 800 gr. Charlotte potatoes
  • 1 dl. of dry white wine
  • 1 room temperature free-range egg
  • 1 dl fresh double cream
  • 80 grams of unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • a sprinkle of grounded nutmeg
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • a sprinkle of pepper

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Peel the potatoes, wash them, put them in a saucepan with cold water and cook for 15 minutes after boiling. Drain and cut into thick slices of around 1 cm. Arrange them in a bowl, season with 70 gr. of butter, the wine, the thyme leaves, some salt, pepper and nutmeg, then stir gently.

Pick up two-thirds of the shortcrust pastry and roll it out with a rolling pin into an oval formed baking paper sheet. Grease an oval baking dish (of around 22x18 cm diameter) with the remaining butter and recline the dough prepared in order to cover the edges. Prick the bottom with a fork and fill with the seasoned potatoes.

Knead the remaining dough into an oval shape and make a 3 cm wide well in its center, then roll it over the potatoes. Seal the edges , making sure to eliminate the excess dough with scissors and use it to decorate as you wish.

Brush the pie with the beaten egg (the very French so called royal) and cook in a preheated oven at 180 °  first in the lower part, for  about 35 minutes, then pour the cream into the center hole and continue cooking for 20 minutes further. Serve warm.

Profitez-en!

Eleonora

Tales from Naples - Scarola recipe

At a time when globalization was a concept as far from reality as it is for me going to the movies without my handmade cherries clafoutis, I used to get out of school and hop on a train to reach Naples whenever I filled like having pizza. Not just any kind of pizza. The really gorgeous, thin in the middle and puffy around the rim one. My favourite combination is pizza and scarola, which is basically a stuffed focaccia. Exquisite on its own as a side dish, the yummy effect of this prickly lettuce recipe is rendered by the aggregation of the capers saltiness with the sultanas tender sweetness. Last june I made it with Anne, author of the award winning French food blog Papilles&Pupilles, who, on this occasion, came to visit me on account of Bouygues Telecom. We spent a whole morning talking food trends and we cut, sliced and finally enjoyed an unforgettable lunch. Filled with vitamin A,  this crunchy chocory is excellent for strenghtening both our bones and immune system (especially useful as we are now approaching the autumn leaves). This veggie, timely option is going to send you to the moon. And back. Totally worth the journey. Serves 4 people:

  • 800 g. prickly lettuce / chicory
  • 30g. raisins
  • 30 gr. pine nuts
  • 5 Anchovies
  • 30 gr. Greek pitted olives
  • 30 gr. salted capers (about 15)
  • 3 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic

Sprinkle a pan with the extra virgin olive and boil slightly, then add the garlic oil. Let the two elements flavor for about three minutes; once goldened, get the garlic out of the pan.

At this point, add all the ingredients that make up the seasoning: raisins, pine nuts, anchovies, olives, capers. Let them stir briskly over medium heat for a few minutes before adding the prickly lettuce.

At first, you will have the impression that the whole of the pan explodes but do not worry: you can keep it under control by covering the pan. Let it do its job on its own for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

Best advice: you understand that your dish is ready when the vegetables water is completely absorbed.

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Enjoy!

Eleonora

Sour cherry ricotta cake - a blog exchange for HautAppetit.com

We met on Instagram. We talked about sharing #foodhappiness together. We planned for a date. Here in Rome. We made it happen.

Elizabeth Minnett is a former model who also runs a deliciously fashionable baking blog, HautAppetit.com. Whether in Milan, London, Paris or New York, cities that she visits regularly in order to keep updated with the latest fashion trends, she made it a mission to translate fashion statements into food ones. Following the historical background behind Italian gastronomy, she wanted me to create a recipe that would embody the colour patterns and the texture of the eternal city. By keeping it light, of course ("feed the models" being her motto). Here is the amusing result of a foodie italo-american affair.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUi3CBphaFCi0teFPDwLc2ZA&v=I4NNBI4TgD0

Have you missed any points? No worries, I wrote down the recipe for you.

SOUR CHERRY RICOTTA CAKE

* Eleonora Galasso’s recipe

120g sugar

4 eggs, plus 1 yolk

135g flour

100mL milk

250g Ricotta

150g sour cherry marmalade (jam)

2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

Directions:

Please watch the video for instructions!

With loads of love and cherries,

Eleonora

Rummo up your life - Mint & lemon pesto

Yes, the summer is over, well almost (I like to hold onto the metheorogical potential surprises of these last 10 days of season still ahead of us), our tanned allure close to be a memory of old good times gone and our new season's resolutions yet to be proven. Nevertheless, we can still keep it light as we face a desirable pasta dish. The freshest and easy on the stomach ingredients are still on the market stalls, reminding me how easy and quicker it is to apply the DIY rule when it comes to matters of the kitchen. Last July I visited the Amalfi coast for 7, precious days, in order to meet the key people & restaurateurs that make it the unique mediterranean gem that it is: the ultimate romantic and foodie destination. And there I was, amongst the most eligible foods on the most spectacular dining spots. Back home, I would take the inspirations grabbed from these scrumptious meals and make a different shape of Pasta Rummo on a daily basis. Its Lenta Lavorazione  - slow drying method - allows me to take my time while the conchiglie are cooking and enjoy the bliss of making a delicious sauce while reading the captivating, last chapter of that summer read I'm so into.

MINT & LEMON PESTO CONCHIGLIE PASTA

Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 320 gr. conchiglie (or other pasta of your choice)
  • salt for pasta water (to taste)
  • 2 unwaxed organic lemons
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic
  • 30 gr. of Pecorino romano cheese (or Parmesan, or Asiago)
  • 50 gr. of blanched whole almonds
  • 4 tbs of extravirgin olive oil

Wash the lemons with a wire brush, dry and remove the rind, the yellow part only*. Immerse them for one minute in boiling water, drain well and place 2/3 in the mixer.

Add the almonds, the pecorino cheese roughly chopped, a clove of garlic, 5-6 mint leaves and a pinch of salt; blend the ingredients until you get a creamy sauce. With the machine in motion add the oil, then transfer the pesto in a bowl. Cut the remaining lemon peel into julienne strips.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, add a ladle of its starchy water to the pesto sauce and stir. Drain the pasta al dente, mix it with the pesto and lemon, add a few mint leaves and the julienne cut lemont zest and serve.

*Remove the yellow part only of the lemon peel because the white one, the so-called albedo, is bitter. To facilitate the process, you can use the special tool called zester, alternatively a simple vegetable peeler will do. Remember that when you have to use the zest, not only of the lemons but of all citrus fruits in general, it is very important to buy fruits that haven't been treated with pesticides, which are harmful substances very difficult to remove even with a thorough cleaning.

With love and summer pesto,

Eleonora

At home in the Amalfi Coast - part 3

And then you want to enjoy the view, or at least one of the best perspectives, since it’s all about breathtaking sights around here, in the Amalfi Coast. bruno1

The cosiest yet stunning foodie spot to do so, along with some good old fashioned people watching, is Bar Bruno. “It’s not a bar, it’s a restaurant” – insists Ornella, the owner, who runs this place, open 18 hours a day, along with her husband and her children, three handsome guys in their twenties who crack up jokes with the young ladies and are the epitome of the Neapolitan chap.

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Haut couture designer Giambattista Valli comes every day during the month of August, and when he’s not around, his friends are: Lee Radzivill (sister of Jacqueline Kennedy) as well as Hollywood stars of the likes of Meryl Streep are all returning customers. The peculiarity about this small place located on the public road is that it’s not only about Amalfi Coast dishes.

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Some people may fall for them, but others, who are seaching for fuss-free gastronomic purity, would like to enjoy some simple Italian standards, and that’s where they’d come, certain to be in for a treat.

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When I've been served marinated fillet of fish with oranges, vegetables, Parmesan cheese and rocket I couldn't believe my senses as I tasted the latter one. The rocket here grows as an erba spontanea (spontaneous herb), and is particularly bitter, almost peppery. Excellent on its own, it was a sublime indulgence in front of the wild horizon.

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And then there's Lemon. Definitely the king around here, you find it on top of your drink, inside out any kind of food, on granita (lemon slush), it’s transformed in candles, home & personal scents. I wouldn’t’ be surprised if people would even pray in front of it. Honestly, one never gets enough of it.

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Fillet of fish of the day & seafood au gratin on a bed of lemon leaves is one of the most audacious and well achieved food ideas I've seen around here these last days.bruno10

A gentle breeze welcomed the evening in, and the clouds layered with the sky. The Sfoglia alle Fragola, the signature dish of Bruno, is fragile and filled with antioxidants. Every meal seems effortless and successful. Maybe because of this lack of stress, that put me in a delightful state of #foodhappiness.

With love and the sea in front of my eyes,

Eleonora

At home in the Amalfi Coast - part 2

Suddenly yesterday it started raining. I'm talking pouring down like nothing else. Raining cats and dogs. Since I'm always at the right place at the wrong moment, just about ten minutes earlier I decided to take a walk, unaware of the possible meteorological shift. I obviously found myself in the middle of it all without the occasional umbrella, so I started to dance with it. I opened up my arms and drank the tears of water. I couldn't quite believe it but they tasted something like limoncello (the typical lemon liqueur produced in this area), probably because they went through the terraced lemon groves before touching the ground. The smell of citrus fruits literally filled the air. That’s when I started to be hungry. arienzo3

A few minutes later, I found a clearing along the coast, with a pretty little beach in the middle. An indication on the road pointed towards “Bagni d’Arienzo”, but didn’t precise exactly how long or what would it get to finally arrive there: 243 steps later, I had my feet on warm sand (it was sunny again), and I met Amalia. arienzo2

This young, extremely kind woman (who is obviously already married and has her husband working with her in the premises) is the daughter of Ada, the cook and behind the scenes queen of this family run snack bar turned restaurant on the way between Positano and Praiano. This immaculate beach is nestled under the splendid former Zaffirelli’s holiday villa now turned 5 star resort Treville. arienzo4

You can either access the Bagni  by foot or, more simply, there’s a free boat shuttle service departing from the pier of Positano every half hour.

foto-224There’s only a few umbrella on the beach, sorted out by Peppe, Ada’s husband, who is also the one who makes sure all the guests get on and off the boat safe and sound when they reach this paradisiacal destination for a scrumptious meal.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

These tentalising little anchovies were served to me on a bed of fresh lettuce and wild rocket salad, the very bitter and crunchy kind, to be found only when organic cultivation applies. While Ada is busy producing hundreds of ravioli (a Neapolitan fresh pasta typically filled with cheese) every morning for the hungry customers, Peppe goes to their 16 hectares plot of land, located just on top of the bay, to pick up the daily vegetables. A perfect family team, which I’m  starting to understand, seems to be the winning rule around this area.foto-225

People from all over the world greatly appreciate this kind of informal, warm hospitality, so much so that they come every year for more. Peppe gracefully showed me a stone sculpture representing their whole family, a creation offered to them by a Russian kid who spent a couple of weeks here last year. Upon his return a few days ago, this young boy couldn’t believe his eyes as he found out that Peppe had kept his gift with such care – “We remember people, and they remember us”. This sentence alone tells a lot about the incredible humanity that one breathes around here.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As I breathed out, here came the desserts (two for me, oh yeah!): a delicious pastiera napoletana (a typical festivities cake – but then again here is always a celebration!) and freschezza amalfitana - Amalfi style freshness, a trumphal chocolate sponge cake topped with almonds mousse. An unmissable spot near the path of the gods. Wanna find out more about my Amalfi Coast project run in collaboration with Pasta Rummo? Click here to enjoy the first episode.

With love and a hint of lemon zest,

Eleonora

On the heel of the boot

What I'm about to share with you today has got a deep connection with who I am. Here is an irresistible well kept secret that I couldn't help but share with you, my lovely readers, finally. It's been three years since, twice a year, I spend unravelled quality time in this corner of heaven, in my very land of origin, the Salento area in the south of the Apulia Region, there where the heel rubs against the soil. And I come home. 66

The first thing that I like to do when arriving to this place where food, nature, and white raw linen meet with the unique intention of releasing the senses from the cares of the world,  is having a good talk with Maria Grazia, the heart and soul of this one of a kind mind & body escape. She would first treat me to a snack (which, in her language, is a table set with all kind of local delicacies and her worldy renowned marmalades - if only this computer could transfer that perfumed texture!) to then show me to my room, a lovely suite with a four-poster bed nestled in an arcade of tuff stone. The sheets, as if out of a chest of drawers, are of immaculate linen finely embroidered with laces and the Toile de Jouy curtains, which softness I go through with my hands, have a scent of lavender. We sit down in front of the private arabic garden, where Maria Grazia start cutting some calla lillies to present as a gift to my grandmother, that I would see later in the evening.

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Maria Grazia, what is a masseria?

Masserias are ancient buildings, typical of southern Italy, particularly diffused in Apulia and Sicily. In the past these estates were exclusively devoted to agriculture with a rich extension of land owned by local nobles. In addition to the residence of the wealthy landowner, there were also the homes of farmers, stables, stores, forage and crops.

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Maria Grazia, what is your masseria like?

My masseria, the Tenuta Potenti, is a place of rebirth. It has its roots deep in the ground, carrying within itself a long history of traditions, warmth and humanity.

It is both the dream and desire of my husband Paolo and I to transfer the love for our land of origin, Puglia, to our children, Chiara and Walter, along with their friends.

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In fact, it’s nothing but our inextricable attachment to this land that led us to the purchase of the farm over ten years ago now. In the early days we solely dedicated ourselves to reclaim the uncultivated land and make it productive. It's about 4 years ago that we started to renovate the property with the idea of creating a place of welcome and absolute peace, a farm we would like to find on our way, had we been travelling from afar.

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And so here I was, looking in every possible corner to create an atmosphere of hospitality for my guest, the weary traveller who stops by with the wish and curiosity to learn.

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Is it true that you dance the pizzica (a typical southern Italian folk dance) for your guests? Tell us about the typical events occurring in an evening at the masseria.

I love to move to the sound of pizzica because it’s a traditional dance belonging to my roots. Dance for me is music for the body and dancing the pizzica puts me in connection with this wonderful land as well as with my fondest memories.

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Yes it is true I dance the pizzica for my guests because in addition to my enjoyment of it as a moment of liberation and source of pleasure, I also like the idea of wrapping my guests into music and the compelling pace of our cultural dimension. It's nice to see that these feelings, that go way beyond cultural and language barriers, are able to get us closer to our guests, thus making them feel at home.

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The evening is for me a sort of game with my imagination, when I create a unique atmosphere, which can arouse emotions and a feeling of well-being. What I love about the evenings at the masseria is the idea of always being able to create different ambiences in different areas , taking care of floral decorations and illuminations myself, strictly candlelight. I propose atmospheres that I seek for myself and I love to share.

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What are the products that the land offers you in this spectacular estate?

We produce extra virgin olive oil and beautiful white and red wine, plus all kinds of fruits and vegetables.

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What are the best times of the year to visit the Tenuta Potenti?

Each month has a peculiar fascination for nature lives through different colors and phases in each season. I love May’s awakenings, the silence of June, September’s nostalgia, the wintery resistance, emblematic of October.

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What are the pasts and future projects you’re most proud of?

Looking back, the achieved project to have transformed an abandoned farmhouse, a ruin, into a big house where people can get to know my food and my wonderful land of origin.

122The farm has thus become a large container of my passions, starting from the kitchen, through the love for nature.

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Additionally, I find it irresistible to share my immense love for antiques and forgotten objects such as trousseaux and antique fabrics with a wonderful crossroad of old and new friends.

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Last but not least, can you share an original recipe with us?

Eleonora, I would be glad to give you the cake you most enjoyed during your last stay with us so much so that it never lasted on the table for more than a few minutes!  (And I may add, it's one of the most extraordinary pleasures to indulge in for an all year round breakfast. Just try and see for yourself).

Ricotta tart with candied orange and dark chocolate

torta

  • 500g organic ricotta cheese
  • 200 gr. sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 1 tbs of cinnamon
  • 50 gr. dark chocolate cut into small pieces
  • candied oranges

Mix all ingredients until a smooth cream is created.

Take a cake tin with a diameter of about 20 cm, butter and flour it and then pour the mixture previously obtained.

Bake at 180° degrees for about 25 min. Please note that it is essential for the ricotta cheese to be as fresh as possible. It 'an appetizing and tasty pie, but also quite dietary since it has no flour.

Enjoy!

Eleonora