Biking in the backyard

People visit Italy for many reasons, the food, the history, architecture, scenery, the people and culture, but, one of my favorite things to do when we visit is biking through the streets of Cremona and the surrounding farm land. I enjoy the views, the exercise, and gentle pace of an Italian style bike ride. It’s popular to ride the streets of Italy, and so it seems that the drivers respect the bicyclists in the roads.

I’m also impressed each time we go to Italy with the varied ages riding their bicycles. It is common to see folks in their 80’s and 90’s pedaling along the city streets, running their errands. These same older adults walk to the store, climb stairs, and keep moving to carry out the daily tasks of their lives.

As you know, I read a lot on healthy aging. One of the best things is to keep moving. It’s good for heart health, it’s proven to aid memory, it’s  great for improving mood, it helps improve sleep, and it’s even recommended recently to manage chronic pain. 

Biking in Italy inspired us to begin biking right here, in our own back yard. Fortunately, our back yard has the scenes pictured in today’s post. We have a loop that brings us out to Winter Island in Salem, around a park called The Willows, and through bike paths along Collins Cove, and back to the downtown. Our City promises more bike paths to move people safely from place to place without coping with the congestion of car traffic. Last weekend, Marco and I took the bike path through conservation woods to Marblehead, and then along the coast and back to the wooded path.

Enjoy the photos of the views along the way. . . and enjoy your own backyards!

Buon movimento!

Home-canned tomato sauce

Last Sunday we canned 60 pounds of tomatoes from a local farm (click here for the process and a 3 minute cooking video). It was a nice day for it, the only raw rainy day of the long Labor Day weekend, so a nice day to have the house warmed by the boiling of tomatoes and jars! Matteo and Marco did all the cooking work, and I got to have my party too. . . following along, doing the cleanup!

We timed it pretty well, as we used the final jar of last season in the very same weekend. We made spaghetti al pomodoro. This is a simple sauce made by sautéing some shallots in olive oil. Then, once the shallots are tender, add the home-canned tomato sauce and simmering for a good 15-20 minutes. Add some salt, QB (quanto basta – to taste) and, if desired, a touch of heavy cream at the end. 

Another way we use this sauce throughout the year is for a simple pizza margherita. We start with Matteo’s pizza crust (click hear for the short cooking video and recipe). Then, spread the dough out on the pan and coat with a thin layer of the tomato sauce. Top with fresh mozzarella, salt, a drizzle of EVOO, and a sprinkle of oregano. Marco reminds me that, in Italy, the tomato sauce for pizza is always a simple tomato sauce like the one from our home-canned jars.

One more idea for your tomato sauce is the polo alla pizzaiola (click here for more details). The is like a stove top chicken parmigiana. Again, you begin with the shallots sautéed in EVOO.  Then, add the tomato sauce, salt and simmer for 15-20 minutes. In another pan, chicken cutlets are lightly floured and sautéed in olive oil. Salt and pepper them, once browned, and then spoon the sauce over and around the cutlets simmering gently over low heat until the chicken is cooked. Near the end, place fresh mozzarella slices over each cutlet and top with oregano. The cutlets can sit like this till you’re ready to serve and simply heat them up again.

Buon appetito!

A summery risotto

As summer slips away in Salem, a chill fills the air. The sun still warms at times of the day and can tease late July heat, but soon enough a slight breeze tells a different story. It’s a time of year to savor the last bits of summer and begin preparing for autumn. 

Marco and I don’t like the chill, and we love the summer warmth. As we wondered what to cook last weekend, Marco began searching the web for a risotto idea, something to warm us up a bit. We’ve also been enjoying fresh, local, ripe, tomatoes and want to hold on to the remnants of summer. So, Marco created this simple risotto that brings the ingredients of a caprese salad with the chicken broth body warming elixir of risotto.

 Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • half of a yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups carnaroli rice (or arborio)
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 4-5 cups of chicken broth
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 ounces of grape or cherry tomatoes cut in halves
  • 1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Process:

  1. sauté chopped onions in olive oil until soft, but not brown (8 minutes)
  2. add rice and sauté for 5 more minutes stirring often
  3. add wine and let it boil off
  4. add 1 ladle of chicken stock and cook the rice slowly
  5. as the chicken stock dries out, add more broth until rice is cooked (about 10-15 minutes)
  6. add one more ladle of broth with the mozzarella and let simmer until it evaporates
  7. add the butter and stir
  8. spoon onto serving plates and cover with tomatoes and basil

Buon appetito!