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October…..sweet memories

At the beginning of the month we spent an entire weekend with the family of my daughter boyfriend, in town for a few days. On saturday we had lunch in a very good restaurant, in the hills near the city, where we tasted the real parmeasan cuisine….

After lunch, enjoying the very good weather, we had a walk towards the near Castle of Felino.

Built by Marquis Luppone in 890, this square shaped castle encircled by a deep moat and stately bastions rises on a steep ground in the valley between the torrents Parma and Baganza. Through the centuries the manor became, among intrigues and wars of succession, the only unchallenged fortress of the area and powerful families such as Rossi, Sforza, Pallavicino, Farnese, Lampugnani left their marks on it.
The building was enlarged and modified up to 1483, when Ludovico the Moor trickily won the manor to the powerful Pier Maria Rossi, the lord of over 40 strongholds all over Parma territory. The Rossi had been ruling Felino since the 14th century, giving the castle its greatest splendour. Since the end of their reign, transformations took place especially inside, as the role of the manor turned from a defensive into an aristocratic and entertainment residence. The castle has however kept its quadrangular layout, the four corner donjons and a watchtower characterized by a double row of crenels and deep grooves on the facade.

Nowadays, after two centuries of negligence and following restoration works, the castle has returned to its ancient beauty and has become the suggestive scenery to celebrate parties, cerimonies, exhibitions, conventions and gala dinners. Facilities include a bar and a restaurant, halls available for meetings, banquets and gala dinners.

The courtyard of honour is accessed via a bridge over a large moat. The bridge is now fixed; however, until the 19th century, it was used as drawbridge, as the castle‘s last line of defence in an attack. The great dark bronze door opens up to reveal a white, light filled courtyard surmounted by the porticoes and walkways which have replaced the ancient openings to the castle battlements.

A large foyer featuring a ramp section which once served to drag canons to the top of the battlemented tower gives access to the two Vescovi rooms. Both rooms look out onto the forest on one side and the magnificent courtyard on the other.

The Sforza room is called after the family who shaped the destiny of this manor house for fifty years. In 1448 Alessandro Sforza stayed in the castle and set off from it to take on il Piccinino, Parma army captain, in the battle of Collecchio. Its large windows open out onto the natural world of the chestnut forests encircling the castle and flood the room with natural light.

In the basement the kitchens of the castle were lodged. Now these spaces house the “Saleme of Felino Museum”

(below: mom checking the oven….)

Dedicated to the most famous salame in Italy, this is one of the three food museums in the province of Parma.
Divided into two sections, it displays the tools of pork butchers, showing how this delicious uncooked meat is preserved by curing, airdried and seasoned.

Salame Felino: According to the tradition, the salami must be cut in a diagonal way of 60°, to emphasize the grain. The slice has an irregular shape, red or pink-coloured and a round and delicate taste.
Qualitiesthis salami owes its name to the village on the Parmesan hills where it has been produced for over two centuries. The Felino salami is made only with pig meats, whose cuts come from the lean trimmings of the “coppa”, hams and “spalla”. The perfect mixture of fat meat (75%) and lean (25%), white and pink, is grinded in big pieces, then salt, pepper and nitrate are added.
At the moment of the casing in pork intestines, you put pepper and garlic pounded in a mortar and diluted in dry white wine. At this point the salami is seasoned for at least one month or two in specific places.
During this period it does take its characteristic cylindrical form slightly swollen at one end, and the typical white-grey color. To protect the Felino Salami it has been required the IGP brand, the European acknowledgement of Geographic Indication Protect.

(Below, we all sit down to watch a video explaining how this delicious excellence is made….)

On sunday we met behind the Cathedral, in the city center…..

Near the Monastery with the same name, stands the Church dedicated to St. John the Apostle.

Works for the abbey and church were started in the 10th century over a pre-existing oratory associated with St. Colombanus. In 1477 the whole complex was damaged by a fire. The abbey basilica was rebuilt from around 1490, with the present design by Bernardino Zaccagni dating from 1510. The construction ended around 1519. The design included since the beginning a thoroughly painting decoration of the interior, and a contract had been signed with the young Correggio, who a had already worked in another Benedictine monastery, in the Camera della Badessa of San Paolo. Correggio executed five frescoes groups. The first includes the lunette with St. John and the Eagle (c. 1520), followed by the dome, with the Ascension of Christ and the drum and the four pendentives decoration. The third work was the decoration of the vault and the apse ceiling of the Cappella Maggiore, partially destroyed in 1586 when the choir was prolonged: today the central fragment with the Coronation of the Virgin (now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma) has survived. The fourth intervention was in the choir’s walls, which were totally destroyed during its reconstruction. Finally, Correggio added a painted frieze which runs for the whole internal perimeter. Preparatory drawings show that also the parts executed by his pupils were designed by Correggio, such as the candelabra in the presbytery’s vault and the puttos on the cross-vaults. Around 1524, Correggio also painted two canvasses in the Del Bono Chapel, now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma: the Lamentation for Dead Christ and the Martyrdom of Four Saints. The marble façade of the church was designed by Simone Moschino in Baroque style in 1604, and completed in 1607. The bell tower on the right side, perhaps designed by Giovanni Battista Magnani, was completed in 1613. With a height of 75 meters, it is the tallest in Parma.

The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles covered with cross vaults, and a dome at the crossing. The grooved piers are Renaissance elements of classical inspiration. In the nave is a frieze by Correggio and his workshop (c. 1522-1524). Is a long strip with monochrome paintings (with few red details) on a dark blue background, including also some tondoes with portraits of Benedictine popes, cardinals and monks. The main feature is a series of puttos in actions symbolizing the importance of the Christian mess and sacrifice. The grotesque decorations on the semi-piers and the vault decoration (with candelabra, puttos and symbols of St. John the Evangelist) were also from Correggio’s pupils, in particular Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1520).

Outside, the day was still warm enough to enjoy a walk…..with our noses up….

Mid-october….time for the annual bikers’s lunch, to have a good time all together and to dream about (and to plan) next season trips and meetings……

I invited a couple of collegues/friends and their partners for dinner one saturday night….goat cheese and speck filled zucchini, wrapped with bacon….

ricotta and mushrooms pie…………

mini pizzas and “bocconcini” filled with feta cheese and parma ham….

giant rigatoni with ragù and bèchamel sauce, covered with pecorino…..

a plate of cheeses………….

served with honey, jams…………

and fruits…….

The next day was hubby birthday, we had daughter and her bf for lunch……………..

They gave hubby one bottle of “grappa” because they knew he would have appreciated….

A busy month, full of family, love, joy and good food! What’s more to ask?

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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – September

Another busy one….it started the first day of the month with mom’s birthday…..my daughter boyfriend contributed to the celebration dinner with this sooooo good appetizer, canapes with cannellini beans and bacon

my daughter with her famous zucchini and speck pie

I baked some mini pizzas….

a lasagna pan….

and some tasty asparagus

My mom baked her favourite cake, with pineapple and rhum.

One of my collegue, after years of partnership, decided to marry, so one day we had lunch all together to celebrate her…..for once, no problems, no resentment, no hierarchy, just happy faces….

The second-last day of this so very beautiful, unusual and interesting exhibition, my daughter and I hurried to visit, and I’m so glad we did! “A tea with Queen Elizabeth II” at the Glauco Lombardi Museum in Parma, is an idea of Marina Minelli, journalist and historian, with a true passion for crowned heads around the world. In the two ground floor halls of the Riserva Palace, more than three hundred pieces of ceramics (created by companies such as Wedgwood, Spode, Burleigh, Royal Albert, Mason’s, Churchill, Royal Doulton, Aynsley) tell the story of the royal family starting with Queen Victoria, Elizabeth II’s great-grandmother, whose long reign not only coincides with the exponential growth of manufactories in the famous Staffordshire district, but it also paves the way for the great celebrations both political and familiar of an ever-popular and beloved dynasty.
Memorials, or as they call it overseas, ceramic commemoratives are one of the key elements of this relationship. Mugs, cups and teapots decorated with symbols of the monarchy or with the faces of real royal characters favor the popular sharing of events related to the dynasty because through these objects the subjects can symbolically take part in a celebration and do it through the English rite for excellence: the afternoon tea.

On display there are objects dedicated to Edoardo VII, Prince of Wales for all his life, but king only for nine years, and then to his son Giorgio V, celebrated in potteries along with his very royal wife Mary, at the coronation in 1911 and later for the Silver Jubilee in 1935. By the end of 1936 his heir Edward VIII decided to abdicate to marry the woman who has been dating for years and abdication not only deeply marks British history but also risks sending the ceramic factories to bankruptcy. The production of coronation items has already begun and hundreds of manufactures must suddenly head back, store mugs and cups with the face of the former king and create new ones with the reassuring image of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

(below, Marina, exceptionally present for the day, explaining to us what we were admiring)

Young Elizabeth II continues the heritage of the royal family after his father’s death on February 6, 1952, and his coronation on June 2, 1953 represents not only the beginning of a new kingdom, but the rebirth of a country that bravely endured Hitler’s bombs but still carries the heavy signs of a devastating war. The amount of memorabilia produced for the occasion is directly proportional to the popular enthusiasm for the new kingdom and it attests not only to the importance of the Westminster ceremony, whose ritual is unchanged from the Middle Ages, but also to the economic and social recovery of England and its industries after the nightmare of the conflict and the restrictions on rationing. Other items will be produced in the years to come for the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, for the birth of their children and grandchildren, for the jubilees of the queen and for her nineteenth birthday celebrated in 2016.

There are also postcards, newspapers and magazines in English, French and Italian from the 1950s to the present, which help to rebuild the events of the period. In addition, some special services for the Coronation of 1953 and the Silver Jubilee of 1977 have been used to set up vintage tea tables and dining tables.
For this event – notes Francesca Sandrini, the museum curator – there is also some contribution coming from the collections of the Museo Lombardi, that made available two of its pieces, never exposed to the public and yet consistent with the exhibition proposed, such as a beautiful desk service decorated with jasperware medallions and a great print of Queen Victoria’s crowning in 1838.

(below, Marina explaining how to set up a true english tea table)

After the visit, all the presents were invited to have a real english tea, equipped with all the options….cakes, muffins, scones, biscuits and two classics, battenberg cake and clotted cream….

It really was an amazing experience, loving all that’s english as we do!

And then it was my birthday…..I celebrated it first having lunch with two of my collegues/friends at our favourite vegan restaurant…..

That night I had dinner with my family….and I got some gifts…..

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Six – June

June, where summer really begins….

Near the river Po, there’s a village called Zibello, known all around the world for a culinary excellence, culatello….every year, the first week-end of june all the area celebrates it with dinner, concerts, games, markets and debates with italian top chefs…….could we miss the chance to eat something so good?

However, the best part of the dinner was the company, as always…….

The village was full of people, all the shops and tourists’ attractions were open………

and I just couldn’t pass the chance to visit the local main church…….

Following the foundation of the marquisate of Zibello, Giovan Francesco Pallavicino, the first gentleman of the small state, before his death expressed the desire to complete the construction of the Dominican convent, which he started in 1494, and a church in the village that served as a family chapel; it was only in the middle of the sixteenth century that the work for the church was started, on the initiative of the Marquis Uberto Pallavicino, before he was forced to surrender the marquisate to the Rangoni of Modena.

The work was concluded around 1580 but the church was consecrated only in 1620; elevated to parish, assumed the functions of the church of the Blessed Virgin of Graces , until then it was dedicated to the saints Gervasio and Protasio. In 1673 the rectory was erected attached to the church, while the bell tower was built in 1677, at the wish of the parish priest don Gardini.

The imposing church develops on a three-nave plant, with three chapels in the absidial area and a baptistery beside the entrance. The symmetrical salient facade , made of red brick in Gothic-Lombard style, is marked in three parts by buttresses surmounted by high tented roofs; in the middle there is a large rose window framed by terracotta tiles made by Jacopo de Stavolis around 1484. On the left side of the façade, the baptistery rises with Renaissance tracts, on which an octagonal dome rises. 

Inside, the three aisles are subdivided by a high colonnade whose decorated capitals support elegant arched bows, whose solemnity is accentuated by ornamental motifs that frame them, and from high vaulted ceiling, repeated in the same shapes even in the lower aisles.

To the left is the baptistery, covered by an octagonal, featuring 19th century decorations by Girolamo Magnani, a scenographer.

The left chapel houses a particular relic of the patron saint of the country, Saint Carlo Borromeo, a piece of the robe he wore on the day when he was extraordinarily saved by an attack. 

The next day we had another culinary date in the city center…..the second edition of Gola Gola Festival, the first after Parma was nominated Unesco City of Gastronomy, so this year the foods stands were even more…

our friend A with two new friends….lol…

For dinner we opted for a very much loved abruzzo excellence, arrosticini

and obviously a little dancing was mandatory!

The night of June 23 is the magic night for excellence. There are, in fact, very ancient popular traditions and profound esoteric and religious meanings that Saint John’s recurrence is linked to the summer solstice that corresponds to the winter one that is remembered at Christmas. In conjunction with the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its maximum positive declination and then resumes the winter walk, begins the summer, so St. John is the supreme solar festival, the overwhelming victory of light on darkness, good on bad. But the most clear and eloquent explanation on the important and significant astral situation is provided by Maria Castelli Zanzucchi, a writer, a scholar of traditions and author of interesting publications: “The sun reaches the highest point on 23 June: it is common knowledge that the night of St. John is the best time for planets and zodiacal signs to give stones and herbs their virtues. It is a magical night, the night of the impossible, of wonders, deceit, evil influences and witches. “

In Parma and around, the traditions of the “rozáda äd San Zvan” (dialect for dew of Saint John) are countless: from the best known, such as the gastronomic dish “tortelli di erbetta” (chard ravioli), to those less well-known, whose origins are lost in the night of time. Preferably the “tortelli” are made to be enjoyed with the feet under the outdoor table, but inside is allowed too, as long as you leave the door and windows open to favor the benefits of dewy influences……better if with dear friends and surrounded by flowers and herbs collected the year before…

Another month gone, leaving great memories of food, places and dear faces……..

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Mushroom Pie

  • ½ lb short pastry
  • lb mushrooms
  • 3 oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup bechamel
  • 1 ¾ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • onion
  • garlic
  • pepper
Butter a metal oven-dish with wavy edges of about 8 inches in diameter; line with the sheet of dough to a thickness of about 0,2 inch, prick all over, cover with some thin white paper, fill with dried peas, and put into a moderate oven. Remove after 15-20 minutes (it should be barely colored), remove the peas and the sheet of paper, leaving the crust in the oven-dish. Brush with beaten egg and leave in the oven doorway for a couple of minutes to dry the pastry. After this procedure, the crust may be filled. Cut the mushrooms into thick slices, sauté them in the butter for some seconds, add the chopped mixture of onion and garlic, mix, and as soon as the mixture is lightly golden, douse with Marsala wine. Allow to evaporate and reduce the mixture. At this point, pour in the cream, season with salt and pepper, continue cooking over high heat for 5 minutes, taking care to mix often, and then mix in the light béchamel. Cook for some seconds, then fill the crust with this mixture, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan and melted butter. Put into a hot oven. Serve when the surface has become nicely golden.
 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Two cheeses

Per 4 servings:

  • ¾ lb ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz Provolone cheese
  • 3 ½ oz ham
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • frying oil
  • salt and pepper

FOR PASTA

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  • egg
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
Prepare the filling by mixing together the ricotta, egg yolks, prosciutto and cubed provolone in a bowl. Add chopped parsley, salt and a pinch of pepper. Mix well, until smooth. On a cutting board, form a well with the flour. Add the eggs, lard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Mix together with a fork, and then knead by hand for 15 minutes until you have a smooth, firm dough. Stretch our the dough, making a thin sheet. Place balls of filling across half of the dough. Make sure that they are not too close together. Cover with the other half of the sheet of dough and press down around each ball to seal. Cut out the “fritters” using a round pasta-cutter. Fry in boiling oil, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve hot. (My personal variation is adding some smoked ham….a touch of taste more spicy)…
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Leek? Yes, better than onions….

INGREDIENTS (per 4 servings)
  • ¾ lb reginette pasta
  • ¾ lb prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), cut into 2 slices
  • 2 leeks
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup bechamel
  • 1 ½ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
PREPARATION:

Clean the leeks by removing the green part.
Cut them in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/10-inch strips.
Then, cut the ham into ½-inch cubes. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a fairly large pan and saute the leeks for a minute.
Add the diced ham and fry for 3 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the wine and let evaporate over high heat for 3 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is smooth.

Reduce heat and cook for 3 minutes.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente: reserve a cup of cooking water.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce pan. Also add a couple tbsp of cooking water.
Cook over medium heat: add the beschamel, stirring for a few moments, and finally add the Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serve hot.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Tuna for summer

Serving 4:

  • ¾ lb spaghetti
  • lb fresh tuna fillets
  • salt to taste
  • 2 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Fry the fresh tuna fish in olive oil until it becomes golden, then drain it and salt it. Prepare a tomato sauce and when it is cooked to perfection, add the fried tuna cut into small pieces, along with a generous helping of chopped parsley. Cook together for 10 minutes, over a low heat, and then dress the spaghetti taking care to put on every plate some sauce and tuna fish.

To make it more “siclian style” you can add on top of each plate some chopeed pistacchio….

FOOD HISTORY

Tuna is one of the most characteristic fish of the Mediterranean. Fished for thousands of years, the methods for catching the fish have developed over the centuries. The traditional “tonnara”, of tuna hunting with large nets, has been repaced with museums, restaurants and tourist attractions.
In Sicily, however, there are still two tuna hunts near Trapani: one in Bonagia and the other in Favignana.
Here, you can witness the “mattanza”,  the ancient passage of the large from the Atlantic to the Mediteranean at the end of spring.
Over 300 kilos of fish are caught in the large nets attached to boats with out motors. The chief, or “rais”, sings ancient Sicilian songs, giving the fishermen his orders. Leftover from an archaic world, the tuna hunts are almost impossible to understand. They are a combination of tradition and superstition, a fight for survival and desire for wealth. A tragic, one-of-a-kind show.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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