Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You're Invited! A Meme

Well by golly, Susan over at Porcini Chronicles recently tagged me for a meme. What's this, you ask? A meme? That's right: I was invited to write up my ideal dinner menu for a night with blogger friends at my house, based on the meme passed around by fellow blogger Angelika, over at the Flying Apple. I have never been tagged for a meme before, so I felt utterly flattered and completely unworthy--Susan, did you KNOW that we just bought a new dining room table, or what? :)

Especially now, I like this idea of inviting people from out of town to our house for a dinner, because we are just about to host two wonderful visitors in just a few days. Eric and Corrie are coming, and I've already been thinking about how we'll organize dinners, what I want to make, which restaurants we'll dine at, etc. While we might not do one big dinner of several courses for Corrie and Eric, we will do daily doses of Italian food--bits and pieces all fitting together to make a long week full of festa.

Just like Susan says, I also tend to prepare exotic (read: American) food for our Italian friends, who have never tried, say, a quesadilla with cream cheese or eggplant with tzaziki. It's those American friends of ours who I cook Italian food for, hoping that, if they didn't feel it surrounding them already, they can confirm that they are indeed in Italy now. Their tastebuds prove it.

So, with those ideas in mind--different doses of Italian cuisine for every day--I'm going to put together a multi-regional Italian meal for that first big night of arrival. You're all invited! Buon appetito!

Various vegetables sott'olio and sott'aceto, including:
- hot cherry pepperoncini from Calabria
- local black olives
- marinated cauliflower from Toscana
- grilled onions

Various cheeses from different regions, including:
- From Le Marche: Pecorino di Fossa
- From Puglia: Burrata
- From Lombardia: Gorgonzola piccante
- From Sardegna: Pecorino Sardo
- From Le Marche: Tufino from Acqualagna
- From Val D'Aosta: Tomini with herbs

To accompany the cheeses: marmalade or honey

Plenty of Pugliese bread

Primi Piatti:
From Puglia: Orecchiette al Pugno Chiuso (Pugno Chiuso is a region in Puglia near Foggia)

From Emilia Romagna (Ferrara): Capellacci di Zucca (little stuffed pasta featuring pumpkin, and served with sage butter sauce)

Secondo Piatto
From Friuli-Venezia-Giulia: Frico, a fried potato and cheese dish (normally even better with sauerkraut, but it doesn't quite fit into the rest of the menu!)

Because of the bounty of mushrooms these days: funghi trifolati (mushrooms with Italian parsley, garlic, and a little white wine)

A simple green salad with oil and vinegar dressing

Marinated sliced eggplants with hot peppers (as my sister-in-law made for dinner on Saturday--wonderful!)

Wouldn't a beautiful apple strudel from Trentino be lovely? And perfect for fall! Piping hot right out of the oven, with panna on top?

And then the meal would end with coffee, some Varnelli (Le Marche mistrĂ ), and plenty of conversation and laughter. Because what's a dinner like this without the best of company? Thanks for coming...don't forget to throw some bread out the window when you leave! (long story...)

Who wants to join in the fun? I'm tagging (but don't feel like you have to participate):
-Allora Aspetta's other half: Corrie
-Magician Nites': Lori
-Rubber Slippers in Italy's: Rowena
-Re-Boot, a New Life in Italy's: Cyndi


Monday, October 09, 2006

On the Road in early August

Finally getting around to blogging about that trip up north this past August (I know, it's October now--sorry for the delay). Talk of travel has filled the house lately as we just purchased our plane tickets for a Thanksgiving visit home to the states--we'll be back home in Indiana in a little more than a month. Plus, of course, Corrie and Eric are coming to visit in just a little more than a week--adventures galore as Genova, Florence, and of course Lucca await us! So without further ado, here's the first installment in this series of posts about our summertime trip.

Miramare, Trieste's famous castle

This whole idea of traveling north to Slovenia was my own fault. My husband's ideas had been clear from the start:

"I want to go to Monte Rosa."

These words were spoken at the beginning of the year, in early January, after I had spent parts of autumn in valleys of northern Italy, looking up at mountains and fall colored leaves, and feeling homesick. Monte Rosa became a goal, a little dream of ours. And I nodded vigorously, eager to take part in that dream, to spend our summer in the mountains, to maybe even take daytrips to Piedmonte's northern pocket towns.

I soon learned that my vigorous nodding was made without much of an idea of what I was agreeing to.You can't make such plans in spur-of-the-moment moments. Monte Rosa is one big mountain. I mean big, folks. As in, there's always snow up there. Always. How could we really go hiking on a year-round snow-covered mountain, one of the highest points in all of Italy? How could Indiana-girl, used to plains and grassy fields and farms where not a hill is to be seen for miles, concur with this insane idea?

Perhaps it would have been possible, but we didn't really organize it well. April came, then May, then June, and we hadn't followed our goal of taking long hikes in the mountains, of preparing, of making Monte Rosa a reality. When July came along, the year had passed us by. Monte Rosa was, at that point, completely out of the question.

So, known for my bright ideas, I came up with this one:

"What if we just went to Slovenia instead?"

I knew close to nothing about Slovenia. I knew it was a country that touched Italy's borders, and that, as of recently, had joined the EU. I had heard comparisons between Ljubljana (its capital city) and Prague. But really, my knowledge of this country was quite limited, and how the idea of visiting Slovenia popped into my head is beyond me. But it was close by, we could drive there, and neither of us had ever visited it before.

Tagged onto this idea of visiting Slovenia were other ideas that we came up with together: visiting the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, for example, where Antonello had spend one year of his life in the town of Palmanova doing military training, made a perfect stopover along the way to Slovenia. Plus, we needed a replacement for Monte Rosa, albeit not quite of that grandeur: Trentino was an area that Antonello had always wanted to visit, a mountaneous region in the middle of northern Italy, so we added that to our list of vacation visits too.

We didn't plan out much more than that. We were both looking forward to the kind of vacation where you just take off, getting in the car and, with hope and a little luck, spend the next two weeks in travel, stopping here and there, seeing the few things that were on our list, and then some. For weeks before the trip, we didn't even know which day we'd leave, or how many days we'd be gone. We did last minute stuff--taking the car in for its check-up (our little car had had its share of breakdowns during such vacations), researching our first stop--the city of Trieste in Friuli--and making a list of possible hotels, and buying a mini-guide book of Slovenia.

And then, the day of my birthday, August 9th, we finished up our packing and loaded up the car. With a few guidebooks in hand, a lunch-date organized with our friend Irene in Bologna on our drive up to Trieste, and a plastic container of pasta salad for that night's dinner (in case we got into Trieste very late...who knew how long it took to get there?), we took off. Almost two full weeks of adventure awaited us, and we eagerly drove toward it, with our summertime mix tape belting out the notes of its first song. The summer sky was as blue as a swimming pool, and the sun didn't hesitate to shine.