sabato 26 aprile 2014

La Grotta del Mortale

Off we went the other day for a walk in the woods in the Monti Prenestini. I love this time of year because the woods are full of scented flowers and wild cyclamens. After driving past Castel San Pietro, we turned down the road called Via Valle Pantana, a few kilometers down that road is the entrance to the hiking area. After a quick salute from a group of adorable donkeys, we followed a well-marked path for 2km which led up hill. Along the way, we passed an old fountain and then up, up, up all the way to the cave, which is actually a Roman cistern. It was a short but lovely hike. We even passed a truffle hunter who was training his puppy dog to hunt for truffles; they had actually found some brown truffles! For those looking for an easy hike, this is definitely a good option.


giovedì 10 aprile 2014

And then I discovered artichokes

Growing up in the midwest, I didn’t have many opportunities to eat artichokes. Maybe it was just because my parents didn’t eat them. The first time I saw them, they were in a glass jar swimming in vinegar and I just couldn’t get past the idea that you have to eat the heart. But since living in Italy is all about learning to eat new food, artichokes were among those scary vegetables that I eventually learned not to be afraid of. 

Spring is a great time of year for eating fresh artichokes. In fact, I now actually love eating artichokes (even those in vinegar!), you can bake them, deep fry them, sauté them, even cook them on cinders (see photo below), but my favorite recipe is the following: 

Take off the floppy leaves from the stems, strip the stems of their stringy sides, remove a large number of outer artichoke leaves; cut a straight top on each artichoke to remove all the thorns, separate the stem from the heart, cut the clean stems into pieces. Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves and some fresh parsley (most Italians also add “mentuccia” a minty herb whose scientific name is calamintha nepeta). Put a little olive oil in a pot or sauce pan and add the artichoke heads and stems; sprinkle the garlic and parsley mixtures on top of each artichoke and sprinkle some salt (or, as I do, sprinkle some home-made vegetable bouillon). Cover and let cook for 10 minutes on a low flame, then add a small amount of white wine or water and turn the artichokes over. Cook for another 10-15 minutes...and I promise you will not be disappointed!! 

For dinner tonight…

Every year in the spring friends of ours have an artichoke party and cook over one hundred artichokes over cinders