Wednesday, October 28, 2009


For some reason I have always thought that I didn't really like beans. We never ate beans at home while I was growing up, I'm not sure why my mom never made them. I guess I just assumed that I didn't like them. Well, as with many things from my past as a picky eater, that has changed. This isn't a brand new discovery, because I have been eating beans for a few years now, but here in Tuscany, beans are always present on the menu. Tuscans are bean eaters, and I have become one too now. I cannot get enough cannellini beans, I have made them twice already this week and I bought 2 more bags today at the grocery store. They are so easy to make and SO GOOD. I thought I would share my bean secrets with everyone on here, so in case you might think you don't like beans, just trust me and try these.

Fagioli all'olio
Start by soaking the cannellini beans in water for at least 5-6 hours. They will expand quite a bit, so you probably need less than what you think. Cannellini beans are just a dried white bean, I have seen them in the grocery stores at home.
Next, in a pot, heat a swirl of olive oil and add 2 slices of prosciutto, one branch of sage, and 3 whole cloves of garlic (peeled, but still whole). Just heat this up enough so it starts to smell wonderful and then add the beans (drained of their water). Add enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches. Turn the heat down very low (you barely want even a simmer, turn it down so you barely have a flame) and let them cook nice and slow. Your kitchen will start to smell very good, and you might want to turn up the heat so they will cook faster and you can eat them, but resist that urge and let them cook slow! This is the trick! I let them cook for at least 3 hours. If the water level gets too low you can add a little bit more. When they are done, serve over nice toasted crunchy bread with a drizzle of a nice olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.
You will enjoy this, I promise.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tartufi d'Alba!

Hi Friends! Here are some pictures of Alba and the truffle festival. Last weekend, Justin and I rented a car and drove to Alba, which is a small city in Piemonte, not too far from Torino, where the last winter olympics were held.
For those of you who don't know about truffles, they are these things in the pictures, they grow wild underground in certain parts of the world and are highly prized in the culinary world. Truffles cannot be cultivated and are very rare. They have a very distinctive smell and flavor. I don't really know how to describe it, because it is nothing like you have every tried. The closest thing that a truffle can be compared to is a mushroom, but I wouldn't really say it's a mushroom. It is hard for me to describe. A truffle is truffly, that's the best I can do. There are white truffles and black truffles, white being more expensive and rare. The best white truffles in the world come from Alba, and they hold a truffle festival every year to celebrate the truffle season. And of course, going to this was one of the things on the top of my list to do while living in Italy.
For me, coming to Italy has been an excuse to expand my food knowledge and experience real italian food. Going to the truffle festival was definitly a huge part of that experience for me. It was so cool. We got there are were walking down the city streets and there were vendors along the street selling their truffles. Everywhere we went you could smell truffle. Wow, that smell. I feel like I am rambling on a little about the truffles, but it was just indescribable and incredible.
I really enjoyed Alba, beside the truffles. It was fun for us to be able to drive around Italy on our own and explore. The people of Alba were very friendly. I think I would like to go back to Piemonte.
Next weekend, chocolate festival in Perugia? Maybe!

Ciao amici!

Finally, internet!

As you might have noticed, I haven't written anything on here in quite a while, but that is about to change. Since we arrived in Italy, it has been a struggle to get online. At first, we had a USB key card that would only let us connect for a few hours a day, sometimes not at all, and always at a VERY slow connection. Then at the beginning of October, that stopped working altogether and the only way we could get online was to steal someone's wireless. But it was a very poor connection that worked less than half the time even slower than the USB key. But today, finally, after almost 2 months, we got our own wireless connection!! This is great in so many ways for us! We will now have internet (DUH), but also we will have a phone through the internet. This is an american phone number 580-749-9252 (580-pizzala: isn't justin clever ;) so that means I can receive phone calls (hint, hint) here just the same as if you were calling me in California! Also, before we had an internet connection here, Justin had to spend 40 hours a week in an internet cafe working. Now he will be able to work from home, which will save us quite a bit of money and we will actually be able to see each other now! As you might be able to tell, I am quite happy about being connected to the world again.
So, now that we have internet, I will hopefully be blogging more regularly. :) I will write more tonight including a recap and photos of Alba and the truffle festival.

PS. here are some pics of our new apartment. Definitly a bathroom upgrade!

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Our last trip anywhere around here was Pisa about a week and a half ago. Here are some pictures from that trip. We took the train to Pisa from Siena and spent the day there. It was a nice day. Pisa is a different city because of the tourism. Obviously there are a lot of tourists everywhere in Italy, but in the Piazza dei Miracoli, where the leaning tower is, is crowded with tourists. There are people all over posing like they are holding the tower up. People get off the train and just head right to the tower to take their picture. Living here has taught me a lot about being a tourist in other places. It seems like so many people here are just here to take their pictures. Sometimes I wonder how much they are really experiencing the city. They see it through their cameras, not with their eyes. I mean I am all for taking pictures, but I think you have to be there for the experience, not the pictures. Ok, sorry for that tanget. anyways, Pisa.
Yeah, we went to Pisa a couple of weeks ago. It was nice. and I took some pictures. We also went into the baptistry and the cathederal, both of which were nice.
Next weekend, well, actually Saturday, we are renting a car and driving to Alba, in Piedmonte, for a truffle festival. Alba is near Torino, where the winter olympics were held in 2004. I am excited for this, and am looking forward to having some truffles right from the source. YUM!! They say that truffles loose their freshness almost right away, and the ones that I tried that were a few days old in LA were pretty amazing, so I am interested to see what they will be like in Alba. New post next week to report on the truffles.

Photos from the wine tasting a couple of weeks back

San Gimiangio
San Gimiangio
Chianti Winery
grapes, soon to be wine!

Some random pictures from Siena

This is where the sunset pictures were taken from, the unfinished facade. You can climb to the top
Santa Maria dei Servi, another church in the city.

Tuscan sunset

I took these pictures a few weeks ago, but haven't been able to upload them. Finally my internet is being somewhat cooperative! These are from the Duomo museum. The church was originally meant to be at least twice the size that it is now, but construction was stopped when Siena was hit by the plague in the 14th century. If the church had been finished, it would have been one of the largest churches in the world. The unfinished part is where the museum is now, and you can climb up to the top of the facade. That's where I took these pictures. And I think I have to say that a sunset over Tuscany was just as pretty as any that I have seen over the Pacific Ocean, or even Lake Superior.