Friday, December 07, 2007

First Snow

We saw our first snow of the season in Indy on Tuesday night! There was at least three inches on the ground here and another couple inches fell last night. I'm enjoying the festive, wintery scenes now since the forecast promises warmer temperatures and chances for rain over the weekend.

The colored lights on this pine were finished just in time to catch the first flakes. After trimming the tree, Bowden and I worked on an annual Christmas puzzle.

Many years ago, my Lego-loving Babbo gave me a collection of holiday Legos. I still have the directions for the elf and elf-ette, and I have a vague memory that the rest of the pieces come together to build Santa and a reindeer, though I either lost the directions or took apart these one-of-a-kind pieces and lost all memory of how they should go back together.

So each year, I pull out the Lego decorations and am filled with new confidence that this is the year a proper Santa and reindeer will join the elves. Alas, even with Bowden's help, this was the best we could come up with. Santa seems to have a good start, but the poor reindeer ended up, um, well, "less than aerodynamic" is a nice way of saying it. We did use all the pieces though!
Thanks, Babbo, for a fun holiday tradition. Hurrah for snow and Legos!

Cheese of the Week: Fromage Blanc de l'Indiana

Hoosier cheeses are making a name for themselves. When I was at school in Italy, some of our faculty members associated my home state not with that silly race track or its proximity to Chicago. They knew Capriole Farms and its line of delectable cheeses produced by Hoosier goats. Stateside, Jackie found a great article from San Francisco that referenced another Indiana fromage, Traders Point Creamery’s Fleur de la Terre. Both I and the Fleur are excited about Jackie’s holiday visit to Indiana, so I’ll leave that cheese for her tasting and write up. But another Traders Point cheese has crossed my plate lately.

The Creamery packs three versions of its fresh Fromage Blanc into square plastic tubs that are quite plentiful for the $5 a piece price. The pure variety isn’t plain. I haven’t had it in a while, but my taste buds remember its similarity to Traders Point milk: grassy with a pleasing hint of the cows’ stable and a subtle buttery richness. I haven’t tasted the Fromage Spicy yet, but recently, I took home a tub of the Fromage Blanc Garden Herb.

The thick cheese can press out its own moisture so I like to mix it up after it sits at room temperature for 15 minutes or so. Then it’s easy to spread and seems extra lush, spiked with big flakes of green herbs.

On its own—on top of a cracker or spread on warm toast—this batch was a little too heavy on the garlic for my taste. I’d encourage the talented Traders Point cheesemakers to remember that garlic powder packs a more concentrated punch than fresh garlic. A more delicate dusting of the powder (or a tiny bit of roasted fresh garlic) could keep the cheese from tasting too much like a version of Lays potato chips.

The herbs seemed balanced, though, and those Traders Point grasses came through under it all. So my favorite way to taste the Garden Herb variety is to ask my fiancé Bowden to cook with it. My Love is a master with eggs, fried and scrambled. He mixes in a spoonful or two of this herby fromage blanc with eggs from the Traders Point farmers market. What he serves up is a rich, royal version of scrambled oeuf (the fromage is translated for the egg!). The dark orange yolks ease the sting of the garlic powder and the herbs and cheese melt delicately into the scrambled bits. A recent serving was so delicious, I cleaned the plate before I remembered to take a picture. I'll have to rely on my memory, and you can use your imagination to envision this and other tasty ways to incorporate Traders Point Creamery Fromage Blanc Garden Herb.

- Corrie

Monday, December 03, 2007

Macerata Monday: The Gold-Lit Gardens and Paths

It has been all of the sudden warm here in Macerata, and when I stepped onto our balcony this morning, after hearing what seemed like hours of furious winds, I noticed that, not only had the wind stopped, but it was almost warm weather--I even considering shedding my jacket. It has been like this for a couple of days, although I am still expecting cold weather. In the meantime, I'm thankful for this bit of springtime in December.

Last Wednesday was warm too, and I took the opportunity to take some pictures in the city centre, to gather up some images of Macerata. This photo was taken near the middle school where I work, and it's one of those tiny viccoli that you almost forget about until you turn your head to really look. If you do find it, though, you're in for a little discovery. It's so small and narrow that it feels like you're walking through the hallway of house, and above you people are hanging up their laundry. I didn't stay long, as I had work to get back to, but it was fun to wander around on an oddly-warm Wednesday, and enjoy the quieter side of Macerata.