Thursday, January 26, 2012

Venezia in gondola

I really really really love Venice, I have written a few posts about it (here is one), and my dream is to live there for a year (or more, or less... whatever time I am allowed!). Usually we do day trips as Venice is only 85 km from my Mum's town, but this time we spent three nights in the city, in the lovely and quiet area of Cannaregio. We stayed in a lovely B&B, but I will tell you more about it in the future, today I only have the time to post a few photos, mostly from a gondola (yes I admit it, I love gondolas too!) as we are off traveling again, slowly towards home... So I'll see you soon, and sorry again if I don't have enough internet connection these days to visit you all!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Trieste in the evening and night

It is unfair to write a proper post about the city of Trieste after such a short visit, but the city is truly lovely and I wanted to share a few images. I always wanted to visit Trieste, but it seems a bit out of my usual routes, so this time we decided for a detour on our way to Venice, even if for just one night! This is the view from our hotel room's window.

We arrived in the afternoon, which quickly turned into evening, softened by what we were told was an unusual fog. The city is elegant, and the evening stroll was great because the walks by the sea, the main square Piazza Unità d'Italia, the Roman theatre, and all the historic centre, have a beautiful and well thought lighting system. 

Trieste is also famous for his historic cafes (and its coffee), and I wanted to visit at least one! I referred to this beautiful and informative post by blogger Chiara, and seeing that we were quite close to the Caffè Tommaseo, (Piazza Tommaseo 4/c), I dragged my family in. Also after reading Chiara's post about the different ways Triestini call their coffees (like nero for espresso, and nero in B for an espresso in a glass, not so common in other parts of Italy) I was keen to ask for a Goccia in B (a macchiato with hot milk in a glass). The kids had hot chocolate in B (glass). 

And to top the great experience I called an old friend of mine who lives in Trieste to tell her where I was, and she came over to meet us. It was quite incredible for the kids to realize that I hadn't seen this friend for over 25 years!!!!! Bentrovata Milena!!!!

Meeting Milena at the Tommaseo Cafe

The morning after we visited the Miramare Castle, which was fun for the kids who enjoyed all those royal portraits, lavish wallpapers and elaborated furniture! Photos are not allowed inside, but have a look at the link for a virtual tour, quite decadent and eclectic! The park is also lovely, as is the view, and we promised ourselves to come back in Summer one day.

So for now...

Arrivederci Trieste!

Castello di Miramare

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

after many problems connecting I decided to get one of those internet cards that you can use in cafes, and this is my first post written in a cafe! Wonderful, I wished I did this before, I think that I will drink lots of coffees in the next few days in Italy (leaving on the 27th).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beans, gas, and embroidery

 The most famous borlotti beans are from the village of Lamon (not far from my Mum's place).

Fagioli in Padella

Soak the borlotti beans overnight, rinse and then cook with plenty of water and a bay leaf. Usually I add salt only at the end of cooking, then I keep the broth and a few beans for soup, and drain the rest to cook separately or use them in salads. Here I made them 'in padella' (in a skillet).

Sauté a shallot (sliced) or a couple of peeled garlic cloves with two tbsp of olive oil. Add the cooked borlotti beans, then about one cup of Italian tomato sauce (passata) and one cup of bean broth (or vegetable broth). Simmer on low for about 20 minutes, when the sauce thickens add half a tsp of smoked paprika (or some black pepper), adjust for salt and then finish everything with some more olive oil and plenty of fresh chopped parsley. 

In the past I didn't use chopped parsley with the paprika, but I do now, if I can: I find that parsley makes the beans easier to digest without... gas! Do you use parsley agains the 'effects' of beans? I also know that kombu seaweed, and bay leaves, are supposed to help, but if you know any other trick do let me know :-).

And now for something completely different!

A while ago I wrote a post about embroidery, i.e. what I used to do before blogging! Well, I didn't have much time for my own project, but in the meantime my Mum managed to finish the embroidery that I designed for her, and had it framed (you can see the pictures of the 'working process' here). She is quite happy with it, and it looks great (better that my photos that are not so good, sorry, but I hope that you get the idea :-).

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Afternoon treats in a Northern Italian Patisserie

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Taken and edited with an iPhone for Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. Actually, this has been over-edited... I like to see my pastries and mini cakes all nice and colourful and inviting, so what to do with Black and White for those lovely raspberries, luscious chocolate, creamy ricotta cake and brilliant meringues??? Maybe make them look like they have been draw with a pencil?? Or photographed a long time ago, with a daguerreotype!

I am putting the Wikipedia link above, bud did you know that today it is on 'Strike'?
Have a look!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AAA: Aunt Alice's Artichokes

I have to say that the ingredients and cooking method are very similar to mine (and my mother's). We call it Roman style, possibly because both my Mum and my Aunt learned to make this in Rome (and I learned from them). But there are two main differences between my usual recipe which I always make in New Zealand (recipe here) and this one, simply due to ... availability!!! In NZ artichokes are still rare and quite expensive, so when I get a few I cook them with all the hard outer leaves (to be scraped with teeth at the table until you reach the heart) while here in Italy artichokes abound and so we can discard the outer leaves and cook only the tender hearts. 

The other difference is that while I cooked the whole artichokes "flower side up", the artichokes hearts with stalks are cooked "flower side down", and in this way you can leave a bit of the stalk in too, they are yummy and tender!

All you need to do is to:

Clean very well the artichokes discarding all the hard outer leaves. Also peel the stalks and keep up to 5 cm attached to the floret. As soon as one artichoke is cleaned drop it immediately in a bowl full of water and lemon juice or lemon slices. Keep the artichokes in the lemon water until cooking time. 

Finely chopped Italian parsley with garlic and salt, and then use this mixture to fill the centre of the artichokes (so far the recipe is like for the upside up artichokes) but then place the artichokes upside down into the pot (like in the photos, I only turned one up to show you what the inside would look like at the end of cooking), add a little extra virgin olive oil, a few more slices of garlic (if you like), another  pinch of salt, and a couple of fingers of water. Place on the stove on low, cover with a lid and simmer for about two hours, adding water from time to time, if needed.

Now there is one last thing to be said here: Aunt Alice had a wood fire stove (stufa, a bit like an Aga, I should remember to take a photo sometimes!) and in this way you can cook the artichokes (and many other dishes) really slowly, all they long... so the ones that she makes always have a special taste. Plus she has the patience to clean over 15 artichokes!

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini and Aunt Alice ©

Monday, January 16, 2012

From Canazei to Trento with an apple break

Skiing together

Our week in Canazei ended nicely, I was very happy to have done a 5 days ski course, and so were the kids. The five days course consisted in a 3 hours' lesson in the morning for the first 4 days, and then a whole day with the teacher on Friday. We moved to a different ski area and had a great day. The kids also went with their teachers and other kids to different parts of the mountains (they already ski much better than me) and we all returned tired but happy.

Then yesterday we travelled back to Feltre via Trento. We entered Alto Adige/Südtirol and stopped in one of the many apple selling huts that can be found on the road sides (which are lined with apple orchards) to buy the local apples, some apple juice and some super yummy dried apples (the best I ever had, in fact!). 

Apples in Alto Adige


This was my second visit to Trento (the first was when I was only about 19 years old), we only spent a few hours there, visiting the city centre and having lunch (pizza with radicchio for me). Trento is interesting, eclectic I would say: the architecture is from so many different time periods and styles all compressed together into a walkable city centre. In fact you just need to turn your head to move from Romanesque-Gothic to frescoed Renaissance buildings to Late Baroque and then back to Late-Medieval, perhaps with some Germanic influences. Below is my "photo collage" of the city, I hope that it gives you an idea of what I mean!


Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Skiing in Canazei


Arantxa and Max

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Today our ski instructor asked us if we prefer the mountains or the sea. What to say, I love them both, in different ways, but my heart belongs to the mountains... in fact Arantxa and I are dreaming up our very own chalet and, in our fantasies, we are filling it up with red and white tablecloths and Südtirol style wooden furniture :-)!  

And you? What do you prefer: the mountains or the sea?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Canazei via Agordo and Moena


Last Saturday we left Feltre for a week in Canazei, via Agordo and Moena. It has been almost two years since we had a skiing holiday (in Bormio), and we are loving it! This time I am also doing a 5 days course, 3 hours every morning, and for the last day, tomorrow, a whole day on the slopes with the teacher and the other students. There are six of us, three Italians, two Russians and one Serbian, all keen to improve!! I will post some more photos during the rest of the week, and so far I greatly recommend this place as there are a lot of slopes for beginners and also for advance skiers, and the mountains are stunning!


From top left clockwise: on the slopes, Canazei, coffee break, Alba di Canazei

From top left clockwise: getting ready for a steep descent, Canazei, hot chocolate with cream, on the slopes.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Walnuts in black and white

Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

We saw these big bags of walnuts in a supermarket in Feltre, walnuts are common here, there is even a noce feltrina (Feltre walnut). I don't think that these were the Feltre ones, but they were local, and we bough a few just to have after dinner.

And today's photo for Black and White Wednesday, organized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, is entitled: walnuts!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Castagnaccio: the easiest cake ever for Sweet New Zealand???

This month Sweet New Zealand is hosted by Arfi of HomeMadeS (click here to enter), and because Arfi is gluten free I am offering a typical Italian treat from my childhood: castagnaccio.

First of all I have to inform you that I was raised on chestnuts, and chestnut flour. We made many things with the flour, mostly fritters (you can find the recipe here) and castagnaccio. There are so many versions of castagnaccio, the main being just chestnut flour and water, with a pinch of salt (optional) and a sprig of rosemary on the top. The best thing is that chestnut flour is naturally sweet, and that you just need water to mix it, making it the perfect low fat (chestnuts are the only low fat nuts) high protein, gluten free and vegan treat!

I mixed chestnut flour with enough water to make a batter, and this time I added 2 tbsp of cocoa (cocoa also go well with chestnuts) and a very small pinch of salt. No sugar needed. Pour the batter into a large baking pan lined with baking paper and bake everything at 180°C until the cake is ready (about 20 minutes, check with a toothpick). Let it cool down before serving. Unfortunately I forgot to take the photo on the first day, so this was the morning after and the top of the castagnaccio had cracked like a dry desert... but it was still great for breakfast :-).

Photos and Recipe by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Frances sent me some photos of the article on Your Home and Garden

This month I am in the magazine Your Home & Garden, and since I am in Italy my friend and food blogger Frances from The Bake Club has sent me some images of the 9 pages (plus cover and index - so I know that I am on page 15!). Thank you Frances, it is lovely to see the magazine before coming back to New Zealand!

There are a couple of photos with Arantxa too, working in the kitchen with me, and the photographer, Melanie Jenkins, was a pleasure to work with.

And of course there are a few extracts from the book Party Food for Girls (here the link for Amazon Italy, ecco il link per Amazon Italia!!!) with the photos by Shaun Cato-Symonds.

Photos of the magazine pages by Frances Chan ©

Monday, January 9, 2012


Photo by Alessandra Zecchini ©

I have already written about Belluno here, it was Summer then (still, have a look, it is a very charming city!), and as I did post quite a few photos already, today I will just post one single photo, one that expresses how cold it was!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cortina D'Ampezzo

This is not a post about the recent Blitz in Cortina (in the news in Italy, fraud office - guardia di finanza - looking for riches who don't pay taxes), but just a few photos from a recent visit.

Cortina is beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, some of the houses are charming, and some of the tourists are ... interesting. Anyway, this must be the first place where I saw the greengrocer selling Champagne!

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini ©


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