Friday, August 31, 2012

Retirement Planning - Italian Property Tax

imposta municipale unica

When I read in an update from Clare Galloway that her house was so inexpensive she paid no property tax, I immediately wondered how that could be. It turns out that for ordinary folks like us, the Italian system is amazingly simple.

In Italy, property tax (for real estate at least) is called IMU - imposta municipale unica (it used to be ICI). The problem with getting a handle on what one might pay lies in the fact that the base number is something called "rendita catastale" - a notional "rent" that might be obtained from the property. In many cases this number is very low and it can be reduced further if the house is in a mountainous area or a depopulated town.

Once you've got the rendita catastale for your property, calculating the tax is simple:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Retirement Planning: Utilities Update

Guardia Sanframondi

As part of our exploration of Italy as a potential retirement location we've been corresponding with Clare Galloway, a Scottish artist featured in a recent House Hunters International episode. She's working with the mayor and town council of Guardia Sanframondi to put together a list of available houses in the old part of town and recently sent out some basic information about the cost of living there. But before I get to that...

What's the deal with these places?

In the case of Guardia Sanframondi (and other hill towns in Campania) it's earth quakes. Back in 1980 there was a big earthquake in the region: Terremoto dell'Irpinia. Almost 3000 people lost their lives and 300,000 were left homeless. Rebuilding did not go well. Due in large part to various forms of corruption less than a quarter of the funds spent actually went to reconstruction. As a result, many old hill towns became depopulated, their inhabitants rebuilding on the surrounding plains.  The same process is occuring today in L'Aquila Abruzzo where a 2009 earthquake devastated L'Aquila the city (and capitol of the region) and a number of other hill towns. Reconstruction there is ongoing, but corruption appears to be less of a problem today than in the 80's.

Some of these towns are actively seeking buyers for these very inexpensive houses (in Sicily the town of Salemi tried giving them away!) . Artists like Clare, folks (often from the UK) looking for holiday homes, and even people like us, trying to plan a reasonably comfortable retirement. Most of these places require some work (ok, a lot) to bring up to modern Italian standards. But there are enough that are liveable or nearly so to make it worthwhile to go take a look.

OK, but what about the utilities?

This is what Clare pays:

Real estate taxes: € 0,00 - her house is valued below the minimum taxable amount!
Water: € 15,00/month
Electricity: € 27,00/2 months
Bottled Gas: € 28,00/3 months
Phone/Internet: € 30,00/month
Mobile: € 8,00/month (!)
Trash Collection: € 150,00/year

If I've added everything up correctly that comes to € 1.060,00 a year - about € 88,33 or $110.85 per month. If you read my post on utilities costs you'll be a bit amazed (as I am) at how far off I was. Without knowing anything about Clare's lifestyle it's hard to say where the differences come but it's pretty clear that the Italian lifestyle involves a great deal less electricity.

We're starting to plan a trip in late Januray or early February 2013 (that's when flights are cheapest) so it won't be long until we find out a lot more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Potato Gnocchi with Porcini Mushroom and Sausage

Potato Gnocchi with Porcini Mushroom and Sausage

Recipe by Bill C
  • 1 lb Russet Potatoes
  • Flour
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 6 oz. Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 oz. Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs. Finely chopped shallot
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine
  • 1/2 cup Cream
  • Salt, Pepper, Peperoncini, Parsley
  • Olive Oil

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Melanzane Sott'Olio

Melanzane Sott' Olio
Recipe by Traditional

This is another traditional Italian canning recipe. Water bath canning with only olive oil is not USDA approved. You can add whatever flavoring ingredients you wish. I always add a few bay leaves and peppercorns to the boiling brine and this time I added garlic and dried chili flakes to the jars. 2.5 lb of eggplant will give you 4 or 5 half pints (a little extra head space is OK as long as the eggplant is covered by the oil.)

  • 2.5 lb. Eggplant (I had 2 lb. 12 oz.)
  • 1 pint White Wine Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Fresh Mint, Basil, Garlic, dried Peperoncino to taste
  • Olive Oil

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gardening 2012 - Fall Planting Part 1

The time has come for fall planting.  I'm somewhat disappointed the tomatoes were felled by fusarium wilt but I'm hopeful that with the drip system in place the San Marzanos will be able to overcome next summer's hot spells. Anyway...

Now, the picture above doesn't look like much but what you're seeing (left to right) are:
  • 2 big Basil plants
  • 3 rows of Cima di Rapa
  • 1 row of Variegata di Chioggia Cicoria
  • 2 rows  of Giganti d'Inverno Spinach
  • Swiss Chard we planted a couple months back
The drip system has been modified to use drip line for the fall crops. The 1 gallon emitters and their 1/4" lines have been removed (they just pull out) and the empty holes in the main line filled with goof plugs. Then new holes were punched and the drip lines installed.

The Swiss Chard is big enough to start harvesting.  There's not enough yet to stuff ravioli, so maybe pizza tomorrow.

The old lower bed has another basil plant and a couple rows of spinach. Tomorrow I'll re-work the drip system there and plant the various fall root vegetables:
  • Tonda di Chioggia beets
  • Lungo di Napoli radish
and in a couple weeks, more  Cima di Rapa and Giganti d'Inverno Spinach.

Finally,  I have 45 saffron bulbs to plant. They're going to go in front of the shrub roses. It's going to require a bit of effort to clear that area but fortunately I only need about 3 square feet.

For more on the drip system: Drip Irrigation Part 1, Drip Irrigation Part 2
For what the garden has given us: Garden Produce 2012
Or click the Gardening tab for everything.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Retirement Planning: Utilities In Italy

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that we've been exploring the idea of retiring in Italy. In May I wrote a short post on health care costs, a subject it's pretty easy to get a handle on. Today I'm looking at a topic that's not so easy: utility costs. Fortunately, with a little effort it is possible to come up with some fairly realistic numbers.

The first step of course is to figure out what utilities cost here in Philadelphia. Both gas and electricity come to us from the same company: PECO. As a result it's pretty easy to get an idea of our usage from their website. This is what it looks like:

kWh Ccf
January 720 303
February 538 284
March 385 232
April 353 179
May 383 80
June 1033 30
July 1223 18
August 1936 19
September 1319 18
October 1051 23
November 701 63
December 563 132

9485 1381

It's pretty obvious what's happening. Electric usage skyrockets when the weather warms up and the central air kicks in and gas usage goes up when winter rolls around and the hot water system turns itself on. We pay $232 on a monthly budget plan or $2,784 annually. That's for a poorly insulated 1300 square foot 2 story, 3 bedroom house built in the 1930's.

In Italy we're looking at much smaller houses; something on the order of half that size (60 - 70 square meters), built a century or more ago and having 2 foot thick stone walls. Structurally these houses are basically two or three more or less rectangular rooms stacked on top of each other and subdivided various ways (here in Philadelphia there are brick row houses called "trinities" built on the same plan). Typically there will be a "grotto" on the lowest level, often partly below street level used for storage with two living levels above it.

The first floor is usually a single large room containing the kitchen, (typically with a wood burning fireplace that may be the only heat source in the house) dining, and lounge areas. In unmodified houses the only plumbing in the house is on this level so you often find a small bathroom tucked under the stairway or behind the kitchen area. The top level has one or two bedrooms and if you're lucky a reasonably modern bathroom. There's almost always a balcony off the bedroom with a place to hang your clothes to dry.

So what's it going to cost to supply utilities to one of these little places? It turns out there's a website that documents energy cost all over Europe: Europe's Energy Portal. For gas in Italy the prices are in €/kWh: 0,07 for moderate (15,000 kWh/year) users and 0,067 for heavier (30,000 kWh/year) users. Using the numbers on EEP, 1 kWh of gas is equal to .0933 cubic meters. A cubic meter is 35.31cubic feet so 1kWh of gas equals about 3.3 cubic feet. PECO shows our usage in Ccf - hundreds of cubic feet - so we use about 138,100 cubic feet or 41,848 kWh. 

Yikes! But remember, we have an old, inefficient hot water heating system in a poorly insulated house twice the size of what we're looking at in Italy. We're also looking at towns at roughly the same latitude as Naples, and area where it rarely gets much below freezing and might snow a few inches once or twice a year. So let's make some assumptions:
  • Half the house means half the heating
  • The coldest part of the year is more like November here
  • Summer usage will remain about the same since it's hot water for washing, bathing, etc.
When we do that we get this:

January 32
February 30
March 24
April 19
May 9
June 15
July 9
August 10
September 9
October 12
November 32
December 32


22,900 cubic feet or 6,939 kWh. at €0,07 each that comes to €485,75 a year for gas. In winter we'll get a boost from the wood burning fireplace - they're often integrated into the heating system and of course that big hunk of masonry will retain a good bit of heat over night. Even so, I suspect that estimate is low.

Electricity is easier. Outside the summer months when the big air conditioner is on we use an average 520 kWh per month or 6240 kWh per year. EEP shows €/kWh: 0,2031 for moderate (3,500 kWh/year) users and 0,2485 for heavier (7,500 kWh/year) users. That comes to €1.550,64 a year.

Double Yikes! But look at that first chart. What's different about March/April/May? I think that the increase in electricity usage in the winter months is due to the fact that the pump for the hot water system is operating more or less constantly. So what if we use that average? That's 374 kWh per month or 4488 kWh/year for a total of €1.115,27. Still a lot, but more reasonable.

But wait! Most of our electric usage is washer/dryer/range/refrigerator (We have CFLs everywhere except the kitchen). Smaller and more efficient European equivalents will cut those costs by a third or more. And of course we won't have the 65 inch flat screen and home theater sound system in a 70 square meter house. So I'm going to suggest that our electricity usage is going to be about 60% of what it is in Philly - about €670 per year.

So what's that add up to? €1.155 (about $1,443) per year for gas and electricity. I like the look of that number. With health insurance at about $487 (x2) a year we're looking at about $2,417 per year to keep the lights on and stay healthy. For me, that's about 1.5 Social Security checks. It's also about $600 less than Medicare alone for the two of us.

Note: There's a website here that includes some interesting cost of living information. Although estimate is on the low end of their utilities average, it's for a smaller home and doesn't include water and garbage collection so I'm pretty happy with my assumptions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peperoncini Ripieni sott'olio

Peperoncini Ripieni sott'olio

Recipe by Traditional

WARNING! This recipe is a traditional Italian approach to preserving. It does not meet USDA home canning standards.

  • 2 lb Ripe Red Calabrese Peppers
  • 2 cups White Wine Vinegar
  • 24 oz Canned Tuna
  • 2 or 3 Salt Packed Anchovies
  • 2 Tbs Salt Packed Capers
  • Olive Oil
Cooking Directions

  1. Carefully wash the peppers and discard any that are soft or discolored.
  2. Cut out the green stem cap and remove the seed pod from the peppers. A small measuring spoon or melon baller makes the latter an easy task. Although these are not particularly hot peppers by American standards they still pack a punch so if you're sensitive to capsaicin wear rubber or plastic gloves to protect your skin.
  3. Place the vinegar and an equal amount of water in a non-reactive and bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Optional: Add some aromatic spices to the vinegar mixture: 2 bay leaves, a few peppercorns, cloves or even juniper berries. I've got bay leaves and peppercorns in there.
  5. Carefully place the cleaned peppers in the boiling mixture and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the peppers from the vinegar mixture. Depending on the size of your peppers you may have to do this in a couple batches. 
  6. Place the peppers open end down on a clean towel, cover with another towel and let dry over night.
  7. Prepare the tuna filling: Drain the canned tuna, rinse and clean the anchovies, rinse the capers. Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth but still has some texture.
  8. Using a small spoon fill each pepper with the tuna mixture. Press down gently to enure there are no air pockets.
  9. Prepare quart jars, bands and new lids according to the manufacturer's directions.
  10. Carefully load the stuffed peppers into the jars, packing as tightly as possible without crushing them.
  11. Optional: Add a couple Giganti di Pantelleria capers to each jar as you pack it.
  12. WARNING! The following instructions are not USDA approved.
  13. Fill the jars with olive oil leaving a 1 inch head space. Tap the jars gently on your cutting board to dislodge any air bubbles.
  14. Wipe the rims and seal the jars carefully.
  15. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. Let cool in the water, remove, dry, label and store in a cool dark place.
  16. USDA Hot Pack Method:
  17. Combine 1 1/4  cups white vinegar (5%) and 1 cup olive oil in a non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil.
  18. Fill jars with the hot vinegar and oil mixture leaving a 1 inch head space. Tap the jars gently on your cutting board to dislodge any air bubbles.
  19. Wipe the rims and seal the jars carefully.
  20. Process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. Let cool in the water, remove, dry, label and store in a cool dark place.

Yes, of course you can leave out the anchovies. But don't. They're an extremely important flavor component. Once you start using them nothing tastes right when they're left out.

You'll likely have some tuna mixture left over. Just add a little mayonnaise and some diced celery and you've got tuna salad.  

It took about 1 1/2 cups of of oil to top off the two quart jars I made.

If you use tuna canned in water it will probably be too dry to stay put in the peppers during the canning process and your jars will look like this:

They'll still taste good, but they won't look so great. The solution of course is to mix in enough olive oil to form a coherent paste that stuffs well.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wha'jya Bring Me Mommy?

@Vosges Chocolate!

Well, Beth is back from her Birthday/Cancer Free vacation in Las Vegas with her sister. And it turns out she didn't forget me.  She brought me goodies from Vosges Haut Chocolat from their "library" collection of mini chocolate bars.

What did she get me? Three "library boxes" consisting of:

7 Mo's Dark 62% Dark chocolate, Hickory smoked uncured bacon, Alderwood smoked salt
5 Mo's Milk 45% Deep milk chocolate, Hickory smoked uncured bacon, Alderwood smoked salt
4 Red Fire 55% Dark chocolate, Mexican ancho & chipotle chilies, Ceylon Cinnamon
3 Black Pearl 55% Dark Chocolate, Ginger, Wasabi, Black Sesame Seeds
3 Oaxaca 75% Tanzanian bittersweet chocolate, Oaxacan guajillo & pasilla chilies
1 Naga 45% deep milk chocolate, sweet curry, coconut
1 Bapchi's Caramel Toffee 45% deep milk chocolate, sweet butter toffee, walnuts & pecans
1 Woolloomooloo 45% deep milk chocolate, roasted Macadamia nuts, Indonesian Coconut, hemp seeds
1 Amalfi 36% White Chocolate, lemon zest, pink peppercorns
1 Barcelona 45% deep milk chocolate, Hickory smoked Almonds, grey sea salt

So... 27 half ounce chocolate bars in ten flavors waiting for a tasting. Since Beth deserves to have some I decided to try a couple of the "duplicates": Mo's Dark and Red Fire.

The first thing you notice about the Mo's Dark bar is the intensity of the chocolate followed by the crunch of the smoked salt. We've used coarse sea salt in desserts a few times and even so it's still a wonderful surprise.  The bits of bacon have a little bit of crunch and contribute a nice porky sweetness without overwhelming the main event - chocolate.

A careful sniff of the Red Fire bar reveals a nose rather surprisingly dominated by the smokey chipotle though the chocolate is barely behind. The cinnamon pops out the instant you bite in. Once again the chocolate is a powerful presence. There's a tiny crunch from what I suspect are fragments of the peppers. The chili flavors are nearly as complex as a good mole. While this bar is delicious, I slightly prefer a somewhat simpler chili laced chocolate from Gay Odin in Napoli.

I'll resist further nibbling until Beth and I have time to sit down and enjoy them together!

Coming Soon: The Grand Chocolate Tasting!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vacation Guy Part 6 - Pix 2.0

Park Trail
So yesterday I wandered around the neighborhood and ran a couple rolls through my Holga. Today I got things together and processed 'em. This one  is from the roll of Ilford Delta 400, processed 8 minutes in stock Adox A49. Scanned on my Epson 4870 with VueScan at default settings, it's unprocessed save for a square crop.

I'd completely forgotten my film loading skills, so getting the film on the reel was a pain. I hope it will come back to me without too much more struggle because I'd forgotten how satisfying it is to handle the film, process it and get that first look at what you accomplished (or didn't). Instant gratification is great, but there's still something to be said for the old ways.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cats Laughing - We Were Freakin' Young...

Since Emma's a bit under the weather today I thought I'd do another Cats post. This time I've got a few miscellaneous pictures along with a couple from the infamous Riv gig where we performed (for the first and only time) the kazoo version of One More Saturday Night...

My Copy of the Set List
That was a fun gig. We were, of course, way too loud for the Riv, even playing "acoustic". My boss at the time, Steve Sandness, and a bunch of co-workers showed up. I didn't get fired.

A couple more oldies:

That's Emma in full Prince mode at our first gig - some small con in the Twin Cities. I do recall Neil Rest showed up with nitrous...

And speaking of Prince... our one and only gig at 7th Street Entry. It was about a billion degrees below zero and the green room was about 5 degrees warmer. So when we went on it was impossible to tune...

Be well!

Vacation Guy Part 5: Pix

Eugene Atget, Sceaux, 1925
I've been a sort of amateur photography buff since about 1970 when my mom trusted me with her Minolta SRT-101 on a Junior Classical League trip to Italy. About 12 years ago Will made the same trip (Hurray LATIN!) and Beth and I took the opportunity to visit Paris. There we ran across an exhibition of Eugene Atget's photographs. You can Google up all sorts of details about his life and work - for me his work defines transition from 19th to 20th centuries in Paris. Much of what he photographed would soon be lost to the new urbanism. However, he also spent a good deal of time in the country, photographing trees, lakes, and other natural scenes.

So... since I'm on vacation I thought I'd meander around the neighborhood and make some photographs. Unlike Atget, I don't have a big ol' glass plate view camera (or his talent and skills). But I do have this:

Yep. A Holga. The cheesiest camera ever made. There's a sort of cult following for these suckers and their sister machine, the Russian made Lomo. I'm loading up with some Ilford Delta 400 and Kodak Tri-X that's been in our freezer for years.

We live in an old "first ring" suburb - the border of Philadelphia is about three blocks from here so there's plenty of mature landscaping and interesting buildings within a short walk.

I'll process 'em tomorrow. With a little luck my old Epson 4870 flatbed scanner will work with OS X 10.7...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vacation Guy Part 4: Steak And Polenta

Steak And Polenta
Recipe by Bill C

Beth and Frances are still in Las Vegas. While I was sweating in the yard pulling weeds and mowing the lawn they were enjoying a spa day complete with massages, facials, body scrubs, and champagne at the Hard Rock Hotel's Reliquary Spa.

So I decided to restore the balance of my precious bodily fluids with one of the most savory and simple steak recipes I know.

  • 1 lb Flat Iron Steak
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Meal
  • 1.75 Cup Water or Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • Salt and Pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Let the steak come up to room temperature. From my 'fridge this took almost an hour.This is extremely important - it's what lets you make a succulent rare steak in six minutes.
  2. Pat the steak dry and gently score both sides to help reduce twisting and shrinkage during cooking. That picture shows scoring that's a little too deep.
  3. Lightly season the steak with salt and pepper. Use less salt if you're using chicken broth instead of water for the polenta.
  4. Lightly oil a grill pan and heat on medium high until smoking.
  5. Carefully place the steak in the grill pan and cook for three minutes, turn and cook another three minutes.
  6. Remove the steak to a plate and tent with aluminum foil.
  7. Make the polenta: Place the water in a small saucepan and add the cornmeal in a stream, whisking. Ensure there are no lumps.
  8. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat and whisk frequently to check it's progress and prevent sticking.
  9. When the polenta reaches the "blopping" stage, add the Parmigiano and butter and whisk to combine. Taste and correct seasoning.
  10. Take the polenta off heat and cover.
  11. Place the steak on a cutting board and slice as thin as possible at an acute angle. 
  12. Divide the polenta between two serving dishes and place half the steak on each. Or, if you're cooking for one like me, just pop the second serving in an airtight container for tomorrow's lunch.
  13. Drizzle the juices from the plate and cutting board over the meat and polenta and serve immediately. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vacation Guy Part 3: Zucchini Frittata 2.0

Zucchini Frittata 2.0

Beth and Frances are in Vegas until Friday and tonight I needed something that would keep me fed the next day or so. So I added some pasta to the good ol' zucchini frittata recipe. Now I've got dinner tonight and 3 more servings. This would normally be a #MeatlessMonday post, but I had bacon with my omelet this morning. Sorry...

  • 1 lb Small Zucchini (3 or 4), sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 cup Diced Onion
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 5 Large Eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella, grated
  • 2 Tbs. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 6 oz. Capellini
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Olive Oil
Cooking Directions
  1. In a 12 inch oven proof frying pan over medium high heat, saute the onion in olive oil until it begins to color. Add the zucchini slices and continue to saute until they begin to color. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Adjust seasoning and remove from heat.
  2. Cook the capellini in plenty of boiling salted water until just short of al dente, about 3 minutes.
  3. Drain the capellini and add them to the vegetables in the frying pan. Mix well using a couple forks to encourage the pasta to combine with the vegetables. The capellini won't want to spread out and allow the veggies to mix, so be aggressive.
  4. Combine the beaten eggs, milk, and grated mozzarella, mix well, and pour over the pasta and vegetables. Mix aggressively to distribute the egg mixture throughout the pasta.
  5. Slide the pan back onto a burner, turn the heat up to medium and cook until bubbles begin to emerge throughout the frittata.
  6. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano over the frittata and place under a broiler a few minutes until the top is puffed and nicely browned.
  7. Carefully remove the frittata from the broiler and allow it to cool. Cut into wedges and serve.

Vacation Guy Part 2: Bacon!

So, I was channel surfing a couple weeks ago and came across a reality show featuring Kendra Wilkinson (one of the "Girls Next Door") and her husband Hank Baskett called "Kendra On Top". In the scene that caught my eye Hank was making breakfast and seemed a bit flustered keeping track of the bacon while managing other bits and pieces.

He was, of course, frying the bacon on the stove top. This technique produces perfectly adequate bacon but it's messy, a little dangerous (especially with a toddler running around), and requires constant attention. There's a better way. Use your broiler. Here's how:
  1. Move your oven's top rack to the second or third level from the top. If I'm making breakfast for more than just me, I'll use the third level since the bacon will cook more slowly and I'll have time for other tasks.
  2. Turn the broiler on high.
  3. Three for Me
  4. Lay the bacon in a single layer on a jellyroll or sheet pan with high sides. This one is a "quarter sheet". The larger "half sheet" pan can accommodate a dozen slices.
  5. Second or Third Level
  6. Pop the pan under the broiler, close the door and come back in 5 minutes to check on it's progress. In my oven the first side takes about 6-7 minutes to get to the point I like it. 
  7. Turn
  8. Carefully remove the pan from the broiler and turn the bacon. The flip side will still look almost raw. Try to get it to lay flat. Any bits that stick up will tend to get scorched.
  9. Put the pan back under the broiler this time for about 2 minutes. This is where you do have to pay a little bit of attention since bacon can go from perfectly crisp and tender to burned very quickly.
  10. When it's cooked to your taste, carefully remove the pan from the broiler and transfer your perfect bacon slices to paper towels to drain.
Now... you've got a sheet pan full of bacon grease. You were going to dump it, right? Don't. Grab a clean canning jar and strain the fat into it. Pop on the lid and stick it the 'fridge. Why? Modern breakfast sausage doesn't have enough fat in it to make cream gravy. A couple tablespoons of your carefully stored bacon fat makes a great base for the roux. That recipe will have to wait until Beth gets back from Las Vegas since she's the one who makes the biscuits.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cippoline Sott'aceto

Cippoline Sott'aceto
Recipe by Mary Ann Esposito

Last April we planted about 80 Red Marble Cippoline onions and harvested them late in July. We've already made Cippoline in Agrodolce with some of the medium sized specimens. Today I sorted out the little ones and pickled them Italian style - sott' aceto - under vinegar. This is Mary Ann Esposito's recipe, modified slightly to include canning directions. Although it contains no added sugar this recipe produces wonderfully sweet pickled onions.

Yield: About 1-2 pints
  • 2 cups Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tbs. Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Tsp. Whole Cloves
  • 2 inch Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 Tsp. Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1 lb. Small Cippoline onions, red or white
Cooking Directions

  1. Peel and trim the onions, cutting a "X" in the root ends with the tip of a small knife.

  2. In a stainless steel or other non-reactive sauce pan bring the vinegar to a boil, add the seasonings and simmer for 3 minutes.

  3. Add the onions and return the mixture to a boil. Cook another 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan the the heat, cover, and let the onions steep for three or four hours.
  5. Remove the onions from the vinegar mixture and rub off and discard any loose skin.
  6. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve.
  7. Prepare canning jars according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  8. Carefully pack the onions into the jar(s).
  9. Bring the vinegar mixture to a boil and pour it over the onions leaving a half inch head space.
  10. Close the jar(s) according to manufacturer's instructions and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.

  11. Let cool and leave undisturbed overnight. Refrigerate any jars that did not seal. Allow to rest for a week before eating.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Vacation Guy - Part 1

I'll be in Vegas Tomorrow...
Well now... Beth is off to Minneapolis to grab her sister for a week in Las Vegas. Beth is celebrating her err... 'tieth birthday and her sister Frances is celebrating a cancer free year. So... I'm here in Philly, also on vacation, but with a bunch of stuff to do... house, garden, guitar...

Somewhere along the line I do have to eat. And that means I cook. For myself. Now our tastes have converged over the last couple decades so it's likely that anything I make this week would be perfectly acceptable to Beth. This is one of our "go to" recipes, kicked up with chorizo sausage instead of the usual ham...

Potato and Chorizo Casserole
Recipe by Bill C

Yield: 4 servings
  • 2 lb. Potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 12 oz. Fresh Chorizo Sausage
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups Grated Swiss Cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Peel the potatoes and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Dump them into the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a low simmer and add the nutmeg. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Remove the chorizo from it's casings, crumble it and saute until cooked through. If it looks too dry add a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
  5. Oil a 9x9 baking dish and layer the potatoes, cheese, and sausage. You should get three layers: P/C/S - P/C/S - P/C/S.

  6. Pour the milk mixture over the casserole along with any flavorful oil from the sausage and bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden and the milk has been absorbed.
  7. Serve hot.


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