Ciao! It’s been awhile since I’ve had a full-chatty post, and tomorrow I leave Pino’s for Milan, and then head back to Paolo’s. So, I need to give a full update since the next few days are going to be too hectic! This is going to be a long one, so maybe try and conquer a bit at a time, while taking coffee breaks. I don’t mind. You know I love lists, so here goes:
1. Last week, we took a bunch of old things that Pino found in the house when he bought it, to the recycling/trash/receptacle areas. Demijohns were some of the old things that we were throwing away. If you don’t know what a demijohn is (and don’t worry, I didn’t either beforehand) please google image it. The image is important for this story. So we arrive at the recycling place, and a strict Italian woman starts directing us. They are very organized. Pino and I hop in the bed of his truck, and start throwing old wine bottles into the glass receptacle (which could fit two of the trucks, bumper to bumper). The he points at a demijohn and says, “You put this in there”, directing me to throw it in the glass receptacle. I’m all “WHAT?!” because these are HUGE glass jugs that we’re just going to smash by throwing them on top of other wine bottles. And they’re beautiful. (I checked on eBay afterward, these things can cost up to $285 each.) But, it’s always best to just follow Pino’s directions, even though he is a madman, because things usually turn out the best this way. So, I toss the demijohn, no easy feat, and it smashes into a thousand pieces. Like I said, demijohns are beautiful. But they are just as beautiful, if not more so, when they are exploding into all of these tiny little pieces of blue or green glass, which glitter like diamonds in the bright Piemontese sun. It was thrilling to smash them to smithereens, even if I regret how much money they were worth. When in Rome!
2. We made real Italian minestrone soup on Saturday. I was a bit worried, because the last time I had “minestrone soup” (Campbell’s style) I vomited it all over Mom’s white carpet while she was busy with a Pampered Chef meeting. (Remember this mom??!? Of course you do ;)) And it’s one of those things, I’m sure you all have that something, that once you’ve thrown it up, you can NEVER eat it again. EVER. And if you can’t think of one, don’t worry, it will happen someday. And then you’ll understand. So I’ve completely sworn off minestrone soup and Hawaiian punch. I won’t even talk about the Hawaiian punch story. Although it was quite epic. Anyway, I’m sorry, this is probably TMI but you really need to grasp my utter fear of the minestrone to understand my complete delight later on. Back to my story. It’s after lunch on Saturday and Pino says “Tonight we have vegetable soup! We start preparations NOW. I will get the vegetables.” I happily head into the kitchen to decimate some carrots, potatoes, and onions for the soup (I LOVE wielding a chef’s knife, best gift ever, thanks Grammy and Pop-pop!). Pino comes in half an hour later with arm fulls of bok choy, swiss chard, rainbow chard, fennel, green cabbage, tomatoes, onions, spigarello, zucchini, bitter greens, chili peppers, etc. I pulled some celery and cinderella squash out of the fridge after I saw all of this because it occurred to me that this was a ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ type minestrone. This is not the least bit surprising knowing Pino. He was very excited to see the squash since it topped his last minestrone from 19 ingredients to 20. Later on, when we wrote it all down, it was actually 25 ingredients, but I think we used about 21 vegetables. I can’t even tell you what they all were. We chopped everything up into tiny pieces and threw them in two giant pots with some water, sale de mare (sea salt!), and pepe nero (black pepper). Oh, there was also a roast beast of some sort. We brought it all to a boil and let it simmer until the potatoes and carrots were soft. I was responsible for the stirring. I cooked-up some dried red beans and barley in a separate pot, and added them when they were soft. While all of the bits were stewing together, Michael and I went on a lovely walk around the property. Along this walk are several fruit trees so we grabbed some apples as I had gotten the idea to make apple crisp for dessert. (I’m not domesticated, I’m just a hungry lady.) I also picked (stole, or foraged) a persimmon in hopes it would ripen some more and I could eat it. The apple crisp was REALLY good for winging it and not having all of the proper ingredients (vanilla gelato). This is both Michael and Rebi talking, although I whole-heartedly agree. Also, everyone should know that it is nerve-wracking cooking for Italians. They are SO SO SO SO picky about how things are done and what you eat with what, yada yada yada. Salt the water, add olive oil to everything, etc etc. Eat your salad after your main meal. Scary. But I’ve never been a ninny when it comes to eating/cooking. All in all, everyone enjoyed it. I think it was mild enough for the Italians to handle. Oh yes, EVOO in everything, but add butter to a dessert and suddenly it’s too rich/heavy. Really. This is coming from people who eat pasta for every meal. I think we have different definitions for heavy.
I forgot to talk about the minestrone! It was amazing and delicious. The broth was perfect: peppery and salty with a really nice hint of sweetness. I think the sweetness might have been the carrots and the squash. All I truly know is it will never be replicated again. Sure, I can throw twenty ingredients into a pot with water, but it will never be the same minestrone twice, even with the same twenty ingredients. That’s the beautiful thing about vegetables from your own organic garden: they are full of nutrition and minerals from the soil, all of which ends up in your broth. Ok, sorry to soapbox you. I will happily try, for the rest of my life, to replicate this minestrone. Also, FORGET YOU CAMPBELL’S!!!!!! YOUR MINESTRONE IS AN ABOMINATION.
3. Am I at three now? I’ve been rambling so long, I’ve forgotten where I am. Too far down to scroll to find the number situation. Oh well, three it is. Sunday we went hiking in the mountains north of Turin. Valchiusella is the name of the region, and I believe we began our hike in the tiny village of Traversella. It took us about 45 minutes to hike from the car park to the first Rifugio: Rifugio Bruno Piazza. You can see this in my slideshow in the last post – but check out the website too :). I think we were in the Italian Alps. I wish I could say for sure, but I can’t find anything saying so. Even our trail map just lists the name of the town and rifugios. We watched Pino and a large group of people mountain climb for a bit, and then went on our own adventure. We hiked to the top of this one trail on our way to the next rifugio, when Michael felt the need to climb the tallest peak in view. It was craggly rocks and tall grass the whole way up the steep incline, and my asics were not the proper footware. They were all I had, and since my feet are so tiny, Pino didn’t have boots to fit them. Michael and Rebi had been able to borrow some boots, though, so I withdrew my efforts and told them to keep going without me. Seriously, though, it was quite dangerous and steep and slippery and I would 100% have broken an ankle if I went further. They made it to the top (all of the pictures in the slideshow of Michael, sans shirt and so ridiculous, are from the top). Then you can see pictures of us making our way back down, which was even harder than going up. I kept thinking of attempting a double black diamond as a kid only to sit on my bum and slide the whole way down like a ninny. You can bet your bums I sat right down and slid the entire way to the base. This sounds silly, but if you saw how fast I was going you would have a bit of a panic. I almost took Michael out at one point but was able to come to a stop right before hitting him. I mean, wow, it was like Hedding hill (for you Jersey folks) covered in ice on a flexible flyer. Afterwards, we made our way back down through a couple of alpine farms, a forest of birch trees, and some really pretty trails, ending up at our original rifugio. There we sat and drank wine and this insane liquor which include a ton of black currents steeping in grappa. We also ate mountain polenta, tagliare, and bread waiting for the mountain climbing gang to get back. We met some really amazing people, who were a part of the climbing gang, that we shared a final glass of wine with. Fast-forward and I’m fast asleep in the car ride home. What a breathtaking day.
5. We sanded the doors down and I think we left them in pretty good shape for the next WWOOFer to finish. And for Rebi to finish as well. I always get sad leaving my fellow WWOOFers and I’m especially not looking forward to saying goodbye to Rebi, but I know we’ll cross paths again someday and I can’t wait for those adventures. Here are some pictures of the wood and doors.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of things, but that’s it for now. I must sleep!