The last weekend of summer…

Mamma and Papa got a little something at the MIPAM too…3 cheeses,
2 kinds of salami and the bumpy thing in the back which is an amazingly sweet pumpkin!
Robin want’s to be a statuette of a ballerina on the mantle

Beautiful, tiny ferns grow in every crevice….

the postman lets Robin do some work sticking stamps to letters

Every so often Matthew does take a break from work.

Robin on her second annual horseback ride at the MIPAM in Laveno

Our little cowgirl ;).

We all pat baby pigs (they’re soooo cute!)

Cat makeup (her first face-painting experience) and a helium baloon

MEOWMEOWMEOW! >.<.

Got hot?

It finally got to 95 degrees today! I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much to my Texas friends and family (yes, Dallasites, I know, 105/105/105/105….all week long) but, I have no AC. Not because it’s busted but because there is none. Still, it feels good to close the thick wooden shutters in the house, feel the still air and the stickiness of my skin.
The southern wall of the house is soaking up the heat, in preparation for winter. Sometime in January it will all have leached out and the cold seeped in, weaseled through the brick, mortar, and plaster so that I can feel the winter pushing in the house and the little wood-stove pushing back.

For now I’m enjoying the brief summer here in Northern Italy, especially the light….

Pasta with onions, tuna, tomato and Taggiasche olives

I made this the other day because I started frying one little sliced onion in a dry skillet in preparation for making something else when the smell made me want more onion and the rest of it fell into place based on an Italian dish Matthew has made several times with onions and tuna. Sorry no picture!
(main dish for 2 – double for 4 abundant main serving portions)
200 g bow-tie, fusili, or spaghetti
2 small yellow onions
1 small can of tuna in olive oil (drained)
10 cherry tomatoes (those really sweet oblong ones are good)
1/8 cup pitted Taggiasche or Nicoise olives in oil (if only available in vinegar, rinse and drain)
1 TBS tomato paste
Salt to taste
Pasta water on to boil, two small yellow onions sliced thin and simmered over low heat first in dry (preferably large and cast iron) skillet and then add a bit of olive oil. Keep the onions simmering for about 10 minutes or until they’re transparent and golden, add one small can of tuna in olive oil (drain off oil first), then 10 cherry tomatoes quartered turn up heat slightly and saute a minute before adding 1/4 cup pitted Taggiasche or Nicoise olives. Turn heat way low, add a bit of salt if it needs it. Put the pasta in the briskly boiling salted water, don’t let it get mushy! Keep an eye on the ‘sauce’ you want the sugars in the onion and tomatoes to caramelize but not burn, if it looks right (golden-orange and a bit sticky) add the tomato paste and turn off the fire and remove it from the heat until the pasta is al dente. Ideally the pasta is ready just as the sauce turns carmellish, drain the pasta and toss into the skillet, crank up the heat and add a bit more oil if necessary to encourage the sauce to coat the pasta ;)! Good served with a cool, crisp green salad after to balance out the flavours. Nice with a semi-bubbly white wine, or a dry still one like Oriveto (secco).

More views from a rainy garden…

Lemon Thyme, Dwarf Marigolds, Basil

First let me say that I am from Texas, July is supposed to be hot. The warmest it’s been here since the summer started is the upper 80’s. I miss my summer, the one where you start to bead up in sweat when sitting outside in the shade.
My Texas friends and family are all suffering in the rainless heat of their summer…the grass always looks greener/more parched on the other side of the Atlantic.
I will say that despite the chill and damp of the weather, there’s been just enough sun to keep the garden happy and interesting. I suppose I should just put on another sweater and be happy with what I have.

My coriander (cilantro) went quickly to seed.
Don’t know what the flower
spike is?
perhaps ‘Catalognia’?
Another mystery plant, I like the way
the leaves look like a swirling
tutu.

Greater Celendine

Has an orange sap that an Italian friend explained could
cure warts and it’s true. Apparently it’s also used as a dye.

I’m not surprised! I quickly found that this orange sap WILL stain clothes a DARK olive
green. You can also use it as ink and it gets
darker in the sun rather than fading!

This also was bound to happen…

My daughter (consummate actress) reenacts the wedding.

Cast:
Papa……………………….Matthew Broussard
Mamma……………………….Robin Kay Broussard
Robin………………………….’baby’ Eme.
Grandmother/wedding photographer………………..Bonnie McClellan Broussard
They do make a cute couple!

An American Kitchen in Italy

I’ve been editing a series of cookbooks this week: appetizers, cupcakes, tappas, amuses-bouches…I’ve also been cooking because NOW is the time to get fresh produce in Italy. Honestly it’s always a good time but summer is when classic Italian veg is at it’s peak: tomatoes, aubergines (eggplant), zucchini, bell peppers. It’s all good.
There is another wonderful thing that I’ve discovered since I moved here and that’s veg prepared sott’olio. My favourite is melanzana (aubergine or eggplant). Conserving things (even cheeses) ‘under oil’ is an Italian tradition but I do the ones that stay in the fridge. I don’t have time for canning but a lovely lady from piedmont explained to me how she made her’s (which were delicious) and I worked out my own way to make them at home.

Prep and cooking: only about 30 min!
Ingredients:
2 small Eggplant sliced in rounds 1/4″ thick (before you blanch and stick your tongue out and screw up your face in disgust…they’re GOOD this way; I swear! If you you can’t tolerate the idea use zucchini, or even yellow ‘crookneck’ squash)
2 TBS chopped fresh herbs. I suggest the following combinations: Eggplant / sage; Zucchini / mint; Yellow squash / thyme. Feel free to experiment.
2 cups extra virgin olive oil (it’s alot but you can use what’s left in the dish for the next batch.
3 cloves garlic sliced paper thin (optional – if you don’t like garlic you can replace this with shallot or even sweet red onion)
1 tsp. basalmic or red-wine vinegar.
Salt

Okay, now it’s really easy: slice the veg. sliver the garlic. chop the herbs fine.

Heat a large cast iron skillet until it smokes. Before setting mine on the stove I rub it with 2 TBS seasalt and 1 tsp olive oil and then wipe all of that out with a paper towel. Don’t use stainless steel. Don’t use anything thin. If you’re stuck use a non-stick skillet. I repeat: DRY SKILLET!

 Place the eggplant rounds (or zucchini strips or squash strips) in the skillet (don’t crowd) and let them toast. It will take awhile, they’re full of water (squash and zucchini will cook much faster!).
While you’re waiting, fill a flat, fairly small glass casserole or plastic dish with 1/3 of the oil, vinegar, herbs, and garlic or shallot. Wiggle the tines of a fork around in it to mix a bit and sprink with salt.

When the edges of the eggplant start to turn colour, turn them ;). They should look like the pic below, if they don’t turn them back and let them cook longer.

Let them continue cooking until the under sides look like the tops.

Now, take each slice out of the pan with a fork and set it down in the dish of oil wiggle it with the fork and then flip it over so that both sides are coated.
Arrange them in a fan as you work and squish them down with your fork.

Layer #1

Add more slices to the pan and keep going like this, adding layers as you go along with oil, herbs, garlic and a few drops of vinegar as you go. Remember to coat both sides with the oil and keep pressing lightly with a fork. It should look something like this:

Layer #2 (the white things are garlic slices)

Finish the final layer with a bit more oil and a final sprink of herbs. Let cool on countertop. Cover with plasticwrap (clingfilm) and put in the fridge. You can eat them right away and they’re good, but they’re even better the next day (or the day after). They will keep for at least a week; in our house they never last that long! After resting they will look like this:

These tasty slices are DELICIOUS with soft or aged goat cheese (chevre), fresh mozzarella, feta, or shaved parmesan. Party plating would be to take a tablespoon of or strip of fresh mozzarella, roll-up in one of the eggplant slices, close with a half a cherry tomato and a toothpick. They are also good over a slice of toasted bread with thinly sliced tomato and chevre or mozzarella.

Finding good bread in my own house

Rustic and olive breads from “Artisan Bread in 5min. a Day

My mom gave me this book when I was visiting in Texas. I’d tried their basic recipe before but now that I have the book I’m experimenting with some of the ‘fancy’ things like olive bread. I have successfully halved the recipe since I have a half-sized fridge and it works great! It’s faster than the sourdough that I had been making and the loaves can be tiny if you want them to be (I divided the olive dough into 4 ‘rolls’). Even without the baking stone and the pizza peel  – I let mine rise directly in a pie tin dusted with a thick layer of corn meal and then pop it right in my little oven when it’s hot enough  – and I’ve had not one bad loaf.
If you’re thinking of making bread at home but worried about having time, then try this one just as easy and much prettier than bread-machine bread.

Buon appittito!

Got married?

Yes I did…on April 29th to a fellow I met more than 30 years ago whom I still love. After all these years he is still busy telling me something new and interesting…

It’s the second time around for both of us so we were a little leery of the process but decided to do it in our home state of Texas where it takes 72 hours and a drivers license instead of our adopted country, Italy where it takes 3 months minimum and a lot of documentation that would need to be translated. In the end it felt so light and spontaneous and easy that we managed to relax and enjoy ourselves after all.

By chance and the JP’s schedule we got the the same day as the British prince and princess. We were a bit more casual though: Matthew wore his great-grandfather’s Stetson and a tie that we’d bought at the Mercato San Lorenzo 4-1/2 years ago during one of my many trips to Carreggi for exams during my pregnancy.  I wore a striped silk dress that I’d bought for a trip to Europe that I took with my Mother in 2001 (10 years and one child later it still fits!…just).

We made the bouquets together (though Matthew chose the flowers and put them together, I tied the ribbon:

My gorgeous niece Casey Glynn was my Maid of Honor and my little girl Robin Kay looked beautiful despite her left-over chicken pox spots:
I’m still not quite used to being Bonnie M. McClellan Broussard, but I do have to say that it’s pretty cool that my initials are now a palindrome BMMB. Also, my daughter is ecstatic: “Now we’re THREE Broussards!” So there it is, the name I used to write over and over again on my school book cover until it was illegible…
life is a difficult, strange and wonderful adventure…