Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sagre Near Guardia Sanframondi

So, I was browsing some Benevento and Sannio links this afternoon and I came across Sannio Turismo. They're dedicated to promoting food & wine and "agritourismo" in Benevento. Not that big a deal, but what really caught my attention was this group of four sagre or food festivals:

That's four food festivals, all within a small area, and all on the same weekend: Food and Wine, Truffles, Porcini Mushrooms, and Caciocavallo Cheese.

Having missed these by one week this year I poked around a little more and from what I can tell they seem to be on the third weekend of September every year.

So what are they like? Here's a video from the Porcini Festival in 2009:

If they have them the same weekend in 2013, that will be September 19 through 22, 2013. Who wants to go?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Pickled Peppers

Sweet And Spicy Pickled Peppers
Recipe by Traditional

  • 2 lb Hot Peppers
  • 1 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup White Vinegar (5%)
  • 1 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 3/4 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • Pickling Spices To Taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Prepare 6 half pint canning jars according to the manufacturer's directions
  2. Slice Into Rings
  3. Wash the peppers, discarding any that are soft or damaged. Stem and seed the peppers. Cut them into rings.
  4. Combine the sugar, vinegar, water, salt and optional spices (I used a few whole black peppercorns, 3 crumbled bay leaves, and a broken up 2" stick of cinnamon) in a medium non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil.
  5. Bring to a Boil
  6. Add the pepper rings, return to a boil, and remove from heat.
  7. Fill Jars
  8. Using tongs, fill the jars with the pepper rings, pressing them down. I got 5 half pints from 2 pounds of Calabrese peppers.
  9. Top Off
  10. Ladle hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
  11. Seal the jars according to the manufacturer's directions and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  12. Cool the jars, wipe clean, label, and store in a cool dark place for at least a week before eating. Store any jars that do not seal in the refrigerator.

Gardening 2012: Summer Wrapup

Today's Goodies: Peppers, Carrots, Swiss Chard
It's the first day of Autumn so I thought I'd look back over the produce page and add up what we got from our 80 square feet of garden space this year.
  • 19.5 lb of Tomatoes
  • 17 lb of Eggplant
  • 15.5 lb Zucchini
  • 4 lb Peppers (so far - there's a lot still on the plants that sontinues to ripen)
  • All Thyme, Parsley, and Basil we need
We also harvested about 6 servings (maybe 3 lb. or so) of Cima di Rapa and have lots of Swiss Chard that will keep producing well into winter. There's even 2 eggplants still producing. We have about 60 carrots we'll be pulling as well as new plantings of beets, Cima di Rapa, spinach and radishes. And there are loads more peppers. We're going to pickle a couple pounds this weekend.

The big mistake this year was underestimating just how hot and dry summer was going to be. We could easily have had 100 lbs of San Marzano Tomatoes if I had put in the drip irrigation system last spring. By the time I finally installed it the tomato plants were already badly stressed and beginning to succumb to (I think) fusarium wilt. Next year we'll have the drip system in place and we'll plant more than one variety.

We like eggplant a lot but next year I think we'll go with maybe three plants. We'll also grow a mix of sweet and hot peppers and stick with no more that 2 or 3 zucchini.

I've learned you can start beets indoors so next year we'll give that a try. We'll also plant way more peas. They're easy to grow, delicious, and simple to freeze.

The Alley - Future Home of Spring Peas

I think we can take advantage of a narrow strip of ground on east side of the alley behind our house. It's about a foot wide and I can use the 40 feet of it that's "ours" as a long narrow row. The old chain link fence on top of the retaining wall will support the plants.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Retirement Planning: The Trip to Guardia Sanframondi

We did it! The planning is done, reservations made, and even with months to go, the nervous excitement is building. So what does a trip from Philadelphia to Guardia Sanframondi look like?
  • Day 1 Monday: Overnight flight Philadelphia to Fiumicino Airport
  • Day 2 Tuesday: Overnight stay at the Airport Hilton
  • Day 3 Wednesday: Pick up rental car and drive to Guardia Sanframondi (about 2.5 hours)
  • Day 3-7 (Wed - Sun): Explore Guardia Sanframondi and check out the houses
  • Day 7 Sunday: Return to Fiumicino and drop off car, shuttle to Termini, check into Hotel Sonya
  • Day 7-11 (Sunday - Thursday): Enjoy Rome
  • Day 12 (Friday) - Return flight to Philadelphia
Day 2 - While we will get to Fiumicino in plenty of time to drive to Guardia Sanframondi we know that we'll be tired and cranky from the flight. So we're going to invest in our comfort and sanity and just camp out overnight at the Airport Hilton. It's very likely we'll head into the city for lunch at least. There are plenty of transportation options including the Hilton's free shuttle bus, Terravision and SIT busses (€4.00/ €8.00) and a couple different trains.

Day 3 - The Drive. Most of the drive is on the A1 autostrada so this doesn't look too tricky. We've got both a printed map and a GPS loaded with a map of Italy (and Greece) so we shouldn't have any trouble. We've also got a Europe enabled cell phone lined up so we'll be able to call for help or advice if we need it.

Day 3-7 - Guardia Sanframondi. Of course we're staying at Arthouse Guardia. Our goal is to get a feel for the town and the available housing. If you're planning a trip, and want to stay at the Arthouse book it ASAP - it looks like the calendar is filling up rather quickly.

Day 7-11 - Rome. After we return the car at the aiport we'll take the train in to Termini. We're staying at Hotel Sonya, favorite of  Rick Steves and his followers and only a few blocks from the train station. It's advantage this trip is that it's a relatively inexpensive place in an area where we want to spend some time. Some of my most popular blog posts have been on under appreciated but historically important areas like the Forum Boarium. I'm going to be gathering material for a few more posts like that (you'd be amazed at all the stuff over by Termini). 

In terms of "must see" things, Beth hasn't been to Galleria Borghese - that's the only event that must be scheduled for this trip. We're going to try to visit as many underground sites as we can. Most are below churches and are either free or cost just a couple euro to visit.

Day 12 - Return flight to Philadelphia.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mario's Sicilian Pizza

Mario's Sicilian Pizza

Recipe by Mario Batali

We caught this recipe on The Chew the other day and decided to adapt it for a 2 person household. I used the wonderful all purpose pizza bianca dough recipe from Gabriele Bonci and cut the other ingredients back proportionately. We also used the tuna we canned a couple months back.

  • 1/2 Recipe Pizza Bianca dough
  • 1 cup Crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz. Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbs Salt Packed Capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup Sicilian Olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Tuna packed in oil
  • Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flakes
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Make the pizza dough according to the recipe and allow to rise for about an hour.
  3. When the oven is heated, turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and spread it carefully into a large oblong. 

  4. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the dough then add the other ingredients: tuna, olives, capers, mozzarella, oregano.
  5. Slide the pizza into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until it's nicely browned.
  6. Slice and serve!

As mentioned we used the tuna we canned a few weeks back on this pizza. If you can possibly do it can your own tuna! The big chunks were firm and moist and the oil, rather surprisingly was not overwhelmed by the tuna. It was a complete success.

We also opened a jar of the melanzane sott'olio from last week and it too was wonderful. The strips of eggplant were tender, with just a hint of acid from the vinegar boil, a breath of garlic and tiny hint of heat from the peperoncino.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gardening 2012: Labor Day Update

Last Harvest?

Never underestimate the power of Italian vegetables! Just when I though the eggplant had finished, I ended up with another 2 lb 3 oz. We even got one last zucchini because I was too lazy to dig up the plants. We've harvested another 1 lb of little red Calabrese Peppers too. Back in the upper bed the Cima di Rapa is up and needs to be thinned and the cicoria and spinach are poking their heads up as well.

Saffron Bulbs
We also planted 45 saffron bulbs. This was a bit harder than it might seems due to the fact that the front area was still laced with old bamboo roots that had to be dug out before we could plant the little guys. Saffron is a fall blooming bulb and according to the directions we should have fresh saffron in a month or so.

We still have to plant root vegetables in the old lower bed and there are hundreds of peppers still slowly ripening. We might even see a few more eggplant.

Retirement Planning: Guardia Sanframondi Update

A couple days ago Clare Galloway alerted her loyal HHI fans obsessed with Guardia Sanframondi to a short article on the town website. I've bolded a couple interesting parts. Translated here by Google+:

Following the telecast U.S. House Hunters International, turned to the Guard in April last year and aired in America on August 14, which had as its protagonist Clare Galloway, Scottish artist who for more than a year living in the town, the municipality Guard received 40 requests for American citizens interested in the quaint village Sunni. Main location of the program was the old town with its beauties, property and places it has to offer and that's where the protagonist of the documentary, said the reasons which led it to change their lives, leaving Scotland and moved Guardia.Meanwhile, the municipality has set up a special office at the Town Hall Sanframondi Guard to respond to multiple requests for information to buy property from abroad and to acquire the availability for sale by the owners of the buildings of the old town. To coordinate the project the architect Luca Sebastianelli, which states: "This is an intervention aimed primarily to repopulate the historic center Guardiese and, therefore, to enhance it in its historical and artistic aspects that characterize it.'s Office has activated this service monitoring of different types of accommodation through the identification of summaries of possible properties to reuse, to include in the initiative and, eventually, to buy. " 
Meanwhile, the Scottish artist Clare Galloway, who through his story in the American television program has generated considerable interest among U.S. citizens, will act as interpreter and coordinator for all those who come to visit the historical center. The Scottish artist, also points out: "After the broadcast is aired in America, I have received many requests for more information on how you live in the Guard, uses and costumes, as they were very attracted by the lifestyle I am living in the town Guardiese, In fact, the atmosphere and the tranquility of the picturesque old town of Guardia, has taken over the chaotic life of the city. "For more information write to the following e-mail:

Although this article makes it sound like Clare has an official role in the business, she really doesn't (see here comment below).

And just to remind those of us who tend to get over-excited... Clare lived in Guardia for more than a year fixing up the Arthouse before HHI came to make the show. Buying and renovating a home that has been vacant for decades would be a huge project in one's home town, let alone Italy.

Update: The Guardia Sanframondi episode of HHI will repeat October 11, 2012.
Update 2: Please see Clare's comment below.


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