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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eating with the Seasons in Italy

I met Ashley and Jason Bartner on line. We connected through our love of cooking, good food, and travel. I read about their new life in Italy and I am very jealous. Not that I want to trade places--I love our life in Pacific Palisades--but I would definitely enjoy a long weekend or even a month staying at their farm house in Piobbico in the Marche region, just below Emilia-Romagna and east of Umbria on the Adriatic Sea.

They were generous enough to send me a description of their life and a few recipes which I can't wait to try
. fyi: A "glug" is roughly 1 tablespoon.

After years of travel and eating our way through every city, state and country we visited, we decided to share our love for food with others in an unique way in the Marches, Italy and opened La Tavola Marche Agriturismo & Cooking School. We took a leap of faith and traded in the hustle bustle of life in NYC to slow down in every aspect of our lives & started growing our own food in the Italian countryside!

Jason is a professional Executive Chef & I am a customer service/hostess extraordinaire and currently write a monthly column for Italia! Magazine. During our travels to Italy, we felt at home & really enjoyed the diversity of recipes in each region combined with the atmosphere of staying on a working farm or agriturismo - plus the Italians & their passion for life & good food!!

We love connecting our guests to the people, land & culture of this little known-region through the food! That is exactly why we decided to work for ourselves & open an inn, farm & cooking school in Italy! We were ready for a change...Why not?! We thought we were just crazy enough to pull it off! It took us a year & a half from our first trip to Italy to living here! And we've never looked back ~


Slow Food & slow living is huge for us! Here we live it everyday- we have slowed down in all aspects of our food & life here in Italy! For us, Slow Food philosophy translates to celebrating traditional Italian country living by eating locally & seasonally and becoming s self-sufficient as possible. This is a complete shift in our 'previous life' in the States.

We are so lucky that our neighbors & friends have taught us the ropes: from age-old family recipes to plucking chickens! It's all new to us and if we can do it - so can you! In the winter Jason makes sausages & salami by hand & hangs them to dry in the rafters of the house and in the summer months, since I can't cook, I contribute by creating home made liquors! It is such a kick to create these homemade treats!We jar, jam & preserve fruits & veggies in the summer extending their season -we even make our own homemade liquors! The most full-filling aspect is that we grow our own fruits & vegetables - from apple, cherry & plum trees surrounding the house to our enormous farm garden with over 600 onions, 400 tomato plants, loads of lettuces, spinach, garlic, cucumber, pepper, eggplant, melons, zucchini, pumpkins, radishes & more!!

Wild game, mushrooms & truffles as well as strawberries, blackberries, asparagus, wild dandelion greens & much more are collected from the woods behind our house! We are really excited because this spring we are adding CHICKENS! And this coming from two city kids! Our neighbors are in awe by "young Americans" with the most beautiful garden! Locals stop by to eye the goods & leave with an armful of gifts from the garden!!

The most incredible part for us is being accepted into the small farming community of Piobbicowhere we live, making a world of difference in our their experiences. As always in Italy, the conversations turn to food as neighbors pop in to say hello & see what's cooking! At first the thought of an American Chef cooking traditional local dishes did not blow over well - they figured all he could do was hamburgers & hot dogs! But that has all changed!

Now Jason is thought of as kin in the kitchen - grandma's are always sharing their secret recipes and he is trusted with cooking for big holidays & family events - for Italians! As testament - opening day of hunting season was celebrated at our farmhouse with a feast of wild game with a huge group of hungry local hunters!

We just love sharing this experience/connection to food with our guests - we specialize in Cucina povera (peasant cooking) with farm to the table cooking classes. Each cooking class starts with a walk through the garden to collect the night’s dinner.

Jason is so very proud of what he has created & loves sharing that with our guests - and it seems to be contagious! Many guests return home with a longing to eat locally, start a garden, join a CSA & all around become more connected with the food they are eating & understanding where it comes from!


Here you will eat what your fed, there is no menu options & the guests love it! This gives us the freedom to work with what is at the height of the season & best looking at the market each day. Guests are surprised by every dish, with whispers of 'what's to come next...' Jason enjoys the time he spends at each table explaining the dish, it's history & ingredients or where the meat is from. It helps connect them to the food they are about to eat.

"We hope our guests take home a taste of la dolce vita, the simplicity of good cooking, great stories to share, and an appetite to return."

RECIPES FROM OUR FARMHOUSE

I wanted to share 2 recipes that are easy to recreate, tasty and represent our area in the winter.

Yield 6 servings

Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 chicken livers, trimmed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Scant 1/2 cup dry white wine
2 egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
4-6 whole-wheat bread slices, lightly toasted
Sea salt & pepper

Method

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Dip the chicken livers into the vinegar, pat dry with paper towels and add to skilled. Pour in the wine and season with salt & pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Remove the chicken livers from the skillet and chop finely, then return them to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes more. Beat together the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the egg yolk mixture.

Spread on slices of lightly toasted bread. Serve immediately.



Yield 4 servings

Time 2 hours

Ingredients

4 pieces of osso buco--veal shank
A nice size carrot, chopped finely
A nice onion, chopped finely
A couple cloves of garlic, smashed & remove the skin
1 bay leaf
Any aromatics you like - rosemary, we used juniper berries because we have them in the woods
A little flour for dusting
Sea salt & pepper
A good handful, about 5 oz, of canned tomatoes, skins removed or fresh tomatoes with skins & seeds removed
Olive oil
Butter
White wine, a couple of glugs
Half a cup of water or stock

Method

Salt & pepper the osso buco & then dredge in the flour. In a good size casserole or roasting pan, on med-high heat, add a glug or 2 of olive oil & a pad of butter.

Sauté the osso buco for 2 minutes on each side.

Then add the vegetables & continue cooking the osso buco, turning frequently until it is nice & colored.

Add the white wine cook until the wine is reduced by 2/3. Add the tomatoes, aromatics, crack of pepper & salt, water or stock & bring up to a simmer.

Remove from stove & place in a 350 degree oven, uncovered for about an hour & half or until the centers of the bone have melted away & the meat is falling away from the bone.

If you need to add a little more water or stock towards the end, do so.

Serve over polenta, potatoes or rice to soak up the juices.



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