Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The great thing about living in the north of Italy is that we are near other countries, and so that makes life twice as good!  Croatia, Slovenia and Austria are within a few hours drive and so they make for a fun weekend.
Slovenia on right, Austria left, Italy Below
This past weekend a friend, who is a complete expert in beer suggested we meet at a big beer festival in Slovenia.  Knowing the tasty food, the scenery and the beer would be great we signed on.  Unfortunately our friend encountered a problem and could not go.   We decided to skip the beerfest and explore the area around Gorizia.  This is the area of the battle lines for the First World War,  "The Great War "as Italians call it. 

Buildings Are Also Different
The scenery changes a bit when you enter Slovenia.  We  both agreed that it is more green and open, seemingly less crowded.  Even though the countries are neighbors, and their foods seem close, they are a bit different.  There is less pasta and more meat in Slovenia with recipes like those found in Austria and Germany.  

I promised several of my friends that I would write about and  list recipes of some things we tasted this weekend.  These are not difficult to make and I recommend trying them.   The photos are from our table, not professional, but clear enough to show them well.   
Potatoes With Onion, Beef With Mushroom Sauce
                     Slovenian Potatoes With Onion
  • 5 tbsp lard, yes cooking with lard (not corn oil)
  • You could use butter as a substitute
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped small
  • 100-200ml liquid beef broth  (important part of recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Boil the peeled potatoes in salted water until just tender - about 20 minutes. Drain, cool and slice.  The photo shows them a bit mashed, but not completely mashed.
Cook the onions in the lard at a low to medium heat, until soft and translucent. 
Add the sliced potatoes to the pan and cook for another fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little  hot beef broth every few minutes.  

Present the potatoes on the plate in one big round ball much like a dumpling. 

This Pasta Had Three Different Sauces
                           Slovenia Stuffed Pasta With Potato Filling

Ingredients Needed

  • 100 g Wheat flour (patent)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 200 g potato
  • 3 Bacon slices
  • 1 Spinach or other lettuce
  • 1 White Onion
  • 20 ml  Olive oil
  • 5 mL apple cider vinegar

  • Mix the flour, eggs and vegetable oil until obtaining a smooth and elastic dough.  You can use a dough hook for this or knead by hand.
  • While the dough rests, cook the peeled potatoes in water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir-fry the chopped onion and the bacon in a frying pan.
  • Mash the potatoes  and mix with the onion and bacon.
  • Roll the dough out thinly and cut into 8 cm wide strips.
  • Place knobs of filling in a straight line, at regular intervals, on the upper half of each pasta strip. Leave space between.
  • Fold the lower half of the strip over the filling.
  • Cut out the ravioli obtained then, using your fingers, press the 3 edges together firmly to seal.  Try to remove air pockets.
  • Cook the ravioli for 4 to 6 minutes in salted boiling water.
  • Meanwhile, mixi the olive oil with cider vinegar and season the salad.
  • Serve the potato ravioli along with the green salad.
  • A cabbage salad can also be used.

  • If you try these, drop me a line and let me know how it was accepted by your guests/family.  Ciao.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Lasagna in the Veneto

Lasagna in the Veneto

Lasagna, Venetian Style
When I first moved to the Veneto I was invited to a dinner where I could watch the food preparation, something of which I am always interested.  I saw sheets of pasta hand rolled using a long pole, quite like a cut off broom stick.  It was amazing to see how the pasta could be rolled up around and around and then laid back out on the floured work surface.  Over and over it was being worked and flattened into a sheet for lasagna.  This is the original old way of doing a lasagna sheet and I have to admit it was a lot of work.  When I make this I use an attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer.  

Very Heavy Metal Attachments
My three attachments for pasta are the roller sheet, the fettuccine and the spaghetti cutter.  If you have a Kitchen Aid, look into purchasing these handy attachments that are so easy to use.   Below is the recipe I use.

300 grams of 00 flour
3 egg yolks
1 Tbl Ex. V. oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl water

(You may have to add a bit more water and maybe  a touch more salt.  I refrain from too much salt due to health reasons.)

But it wasn’t the talent with the pole that got my attention it was the lack of tomato sauce in this lasagna.  I kept waiting to see a pot of tasty red sauce appear, but it wasn’t to happen.  The lasagna used La besciamella, Italian for bechamel sauce.  This white sauce is made with 50 grams of butter, 50 grams of flour, 1/2 litre of mi, salt and nutmeg.  I was  also surprised to find that no meat was used!  At the end of layering the lasagna was topped off by  laying a full size sheet on top as a covering.  She did not have to use foil.

So I was questioning myself if I would like this new kind of lasagna.  I was willing to give it a go and it turned out great.  I learned something new in Italian cooking that I never expected.  This past weekend we were in the hills outside of Padova and we had, as an appetizer, this same lasagna but made with onions.  When you see the photo you can see that the pasta layers are so thin, which is really nice.  You can see a layer of thinly sliced porcini mushrooms near the bottom and a nice pile of parmeggiano cheese on top.  You taste that and you want more, trust me.  

Dangerous Box
Those pasta attachments come with a funny story.  I brought them to Italy in my carry on and when going through the  metal detector  my suitcase set off detector alarm bells etc.   Three workers suddenly surrounded me as if they had caught some sneaky terrorist.  (Do I look like one?)  They told me to open my carry on and they all stood back.  I reached in and pulled out this box which held my three very heavy attachments for pasta.  They did not trust the box and ordered me to pull the attachments out one at a time.  Evidently they thought I had a bomb or ????  I had a good laugh.  
I had packed my heaviest items in my carry on so that I could get more items in my checked luggage as at that time carry ons were not weighed like they are now.   You should have seen their faces when they realized that they had only nabbed some old guy who likes to cook.  

Lot of Work To Use
Not Uniformly Placed Strings
I would like to introduce you to my guitara, which uses an old fashioned way of making spaghetti.  It is a slanted wooden box with metal guitar strings with which you push the pasta through to your spaghetti.  Funny thing is I did not buy this in Italy, I purchased it in Philadelphia of all places.  After trying it one time, I decided that it should become a knick knack on the wall.  Some of my Italian friends have never seen one, which is another smile.  I cropped a shot for you to see the wires up close.  

I hope that if you travel to the Veneto area you will have the chance to try onion lasagna, and  also spaghetti with onions another specialty of this area.  
Until next time, Ciao!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

People in Turkey Can Buy
Ripe Tomatoes
Still waiting for just one person in Germany  to respond.  Every day I receive 25 hits from Germany on my blog.  I would like to know who is looking  at my blog. Why every day the same 25?    If you are one of the 25, please make a comment or write me at 

If you are not one of the 25, please leave a comment.

Pink Olives?

Thank you,
D. Lester

Monday, June 17, 2019

Escaping the Veneto heat

Covered Awnings Keep Tourists Cool

Suddenly Summer arrived and it is hot here in the Veneto.  Mornings are quite nice, but by 11:00 the sun is cooking the pavement and the humidity keeps clothes sticking to body parts.  I begin to miss living in New Mexico where the weather is dry, and even when it is hot, it is bearable.  People here scheme to escape the heat, my friends go to the beach nearby and lie on beach chairs under an umbrella during the weekend.  My neighbors stay inside and serenade us with their air conditioners.  We scheme and plan our own getaway.

We, quite often, escape to Croatia, the country just across the Adriatic from Venice.  Three hours from our village, along the shores are huge huge campgrounds with restaurants along the beach and lots of trees and grass.  The place near where we go actually has 3 restaurants and a huge pool for those folks not wanting to swim in the  sea.  If you walk to the south end of this campground you will find those folks sunning themselves suitless.  Throughout this campground I have also found two markets, several snack stands, and a tattoo artist.

We don’t stay there, but instead just walk through to get to the beach.  We stay 10 minutes walk further away in a small two bedroom cabin.  

The porch is covered, perfect for me to sit and paint watercolors.  Lots of  birds are found and serenade us during the day.  It is much cooler there than home, but that is not the only “escape” part.  It has to do with the food.

Beef Tartar
Yes, it  is safe to eat raw beef,
prepared correctly

No Teeth Needed!

The restaurant in our campsite is exceptional.  Who would think that in a campground one would find such a place.  You cannot find a burger on the menu.  You will not find pizza or spaghetti with meat sauce.  What you will find is a taste out of this world, honestly!  Here are a few photos of what we have eaten there.  We have been going there for three years, and it just keeps getting better.  

Smoked Sea Bream Mousse
My Favorite
They have a menu that features cuisine we cannot find in Italy.  Here are a few more specialties.

In case you are wondering this favorite restaurant is in Rovinj, and is called Barba Danilo.  I highly recommend you call for reservations before arriving.  

Your Stomach Will Be Happy In
Other Parts of Croatia, too.
Noodles and Goulash 
We have another escape to a beer hotel just across the mountains in Austria.  They make award winning beer and the food is quite different from Croatia, and quite different, of course, than Italian.   This will be another mention soon to come   Until then, ciao!  Stay cool.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Serious About Italian Food

Celebration of Italian Cuisine
Arriving in Italy with a mind to taste the sauce, the pasta and those meatballs, you are shocked that spaghetti and meatballs is not offered in almost any menus except a few tourist catered restaurants.  From then on you will either choose to eat a lot of pizza or venture into a new tasting adventure that will make good memories when you are back home.  What to try? Here are a few suggestions.
Marinated Sardines
The menus feature what Italians call "antipasti".  These will be choices of appetizers.  There will be cold cuts of choice meats, some cheeses,  specially prepared vegetables or fish delicacies.  I promise you that these sardines won't taste like the sardines that come from a can or jar.


You might find bruschetta on the menu, be assured that they will use those tasty ripe tomatoes we hardly find anymore in big grocery stores.  They will have added extra virgin olive oil and some spices on toasted bread.  You cannot beat the flavor!

Ultimate Taste!

Another specialty to try would be these shellfish that are called St. Johns.  They are cooked in an oven with butter and just a touch of spices.  This dish is more expensive but really worth it.

A primi that is offered more in the south is cannelloni.  Pasta filled with mozzarella swimming in a rich tomato sauce, this is one of my favorite looked for items when we are south of Firenze.

My Spaghetti With More Sauce
Bigoli With White Sauce
In the north, particularly in the
Veneto area (Venice), you will see featured on a menu a pasta called bigoli.  This is a larger type of spaghetti.  If you like pasta I recommend you try this as restaurants that have bigoli usually make their own.   Nothing beats fresh pasta and the Italians present it with less sauce than foreigners are used to.   Don't worry it is not  impolite to ask the waiter to add more sauce before bringing it to the table.

Musso With Gnocchi
In some restaurants in the Veneto you will find musso, donkey, with a red sauce.  Cooked long for a better flavor, it is known as a comfort food.  On a cold and rainy evening, it works for me.   In the volcanic hills outside  Padova you can find this dish with gnocchi, potato dumplings made by hand.  Paired with a red wine from this area famous for the volcanic soil wine production... PERFETTO!

Lastly, you may not find any vegetables on the menu, and if you wish, you can ask for contorni (side dishes).  The restaurant may have cooked seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, spinach, zucchini or roasted potatoes.  The locals know to ask, don't be ashamed to inquire when ordering.

I hope that you can visit Italy and enjoy some of these tastes.  Wishing you a sunny day.  Buona Giornata!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Super Market Challenge

I go grocery shopping once a week.  I try to go early and on a weekday.  Saturday shopping in a large grocery store can be frustrating.  It will be crowded and people are in a hurry.  Most of the time,  even on weekdays I feel a bit stressed by the time I reach my car to unload my cart.

It all starts when I lock my car and take my two large plastic bags over to where I stick in a euro into the cart lock.  The market makes sure that they don't lose any carts to homeless people.  I don't know why they do this as there are no homeless people in my area.  Italy does not have the kind of homeless situation such as found in America.  I will get my euro back when I return the cart, it is just kind of a free rental situation.

I head into the market and my first stop is the vegetable area.  Italy has fairly good produce and where it came from is stated above the item.  Cabbage from Germany, apples from Spain, you will know what country it came from.   Even in the fish market we find listings of where the fish originated.

I will find 4 types of tomatoes, and right now the little round ones are the best tasting, while the big ones have no taste at all.  You pay more for the little ones, of course.  There will be 6 choices of apples, 3 lemons, 3 strawberries, 2 bananas, and your basic selection of vegetables such as broccoli, green and white cauliflower, and 3 choices of potatoes from different areas. 

What I find missing that I would like to see are small potatoes, berries, limes, and small carrots.  I will almost never find chili peppers that are hot.  Sometimes in August I can find them if I am lucky.  This is why I grow my own.

Leaving the veggie area is when it gets a bit maddening.  Italian shoppers drive their carts like southern Italians drive.  They have no concern for others, it is a "me first" world for them.  They cut in front, make turns immediately which cause a person to stop and not bang into their cart. They block the aisle, stopping to make a choice, or most maddening, they block the aisle while talking to another Italian.  I will wait and wait and hope they will notice that I cannot go forward, but mostly they don't have a clue.  It is just their way of shopping.  Sometimes there will be a line of folks wanting to go forward, but grandma has found an old friend and be damned with everyone else.   Beware of Grandma and Grandpa shopping together!

One also has to deal with the speed shoppers.  These are the people who are shopping alone and are pulling a overloaded small plastic cart behind them.  Someone shot off a starter gun and they are hustling through the store, making everyone else wait while they cut across the aisles without any concern for the direction most people are going.  These people never look you in the eye, its head down, full speed ahead.   I think they learned how to drive in Naples, a city famous for horrendous drivers.

Fish Anyone?
Between the vegetable area and the specialty meats in my store one will find a person cooking fried fish items.  I hurry quickly on to the milk area holding my breath.  The smell is not one I could get attached to.  Even my Italian wife hates that stinky fish stand. 

Not To Be Found
Italy is beginning to catch up with world flavors.  When I first moved to the Veneto I had to hunt to find anything with hot spicy flavor.  I could not find anything Mexican, and not much from Asia.   I began to fill my suitcase like a smuggler when I came back from visiting the states.  Avocados were hard to find, limes I could find in one big market called Iperlando.  But now these things are beginning to show up.  In my market, Ali, there is an area of shelves 4 feet wide which has world food items.  This is still small in comparison to the one area I found last weekend in Scotland shown here.
This Is Only Half Found In Scotland

                                    GB American Supermarkets

If you want to know a little about Italians, I can tell you, as I have written before,  that most of them do not appreciate hot spicy food.  When I have guests and we have Mexican food, I put several bottles of different types of hot sauce on the table.  My Italian friends have to be bugged to try them.  Hardly none like the taste.  In fact, in Chinese restaurants here, the usual Chinese hot spicy items are not to be found.  The Chinese folks know not to serve spicy.  We have to ask for it when we go.  You will not find hot chili oil on the table, you have to ask.  In a sushi restaurant they usually give a small dab of wasabi, we have to ask for more.  This is how it is in Italy.  It is sad to me that Italians never really get to taste the real thing.  (BTW Italians eat a lot of pizza when visiting foreign countries.  Seriously!)

We buy our drinking water in the market.  The cost is around 30 cents for a liter and a half bottle.  We buy it by the 6 pack.  You can have plain or fizzy.  Our tap water at home is clean and okay to drink but I like the taste of fizzy.  When we were in California last summer I noticed that water there was hugely expensive.  That is strange to me after 10 years in Italy. 

After battling the other shoppers aisle after aisle it is time to check out.  This is the most frustrating part for me.  Here is what happens.
The moving belt area where you place your items is way too small.  My plan is to get my stuff onto that belt and move quickly past the checker and begin loading my bags.  This does not always work out well as I have a week's worth of food.  Finally when I get to the bagging area (checkers do not help bag, you are on your own) I begin throwing things into my plastic shopping bag. I try to put the heavy stuff on the bottom, but as I am bagging the lady is pushing my items down and they are piling up.  I try NOT to look at the shoppers behind me waiting as they will always have the look as if to say, "MG why can't this guy go faster we are in a hurry!"
I am throwing things into my bags as fast as I can, but I never beat the checker who seems pleased to announce how much the total is.  Then she sits and stares at me while I finish.  It is always a frustrated stare.  I have discussed this with my Italian friends and they tell me that this is normal, this horse race to the finish.  I will never get used to it, actually remembering when stores used to have a bagger and a checker.  Now they even have a do it yourself checking stand.  I refuse to use those because they have eliminated a person's job.  One of the "modern" things I really hate!

Apple Cider Not Found Here
Finally my bags are full and back in my cart, I pull out my wallet and fish out my euros.  I look at  the checker but she is too busy to look at me, her customer.   She pulls out the change and the receipt, placing both on a small plastic area.  Italians don't like to put the change in your hand.  Usually she won't look at me, and instead turns to greet the next customer.  I sure miss the "How are  you today" and the "Have a nice day". 

Now I am on my way to my car, pushing my wandering cart.  I say wandering because shopping carts in Italy do not  go straight.  Any dip in the road, any non level place will send my cart in another direction.  By this time I am spotted by an African and he is headed my way.  These fellows hang out in market parking areas and try to "help" people with their groceries.  Even when I tell them I don't need help, then still follow me to my car.  I intentionally park in the furtherest spot for exercise, they will go all the way with me.  It is their hope that I will relinquish my cart to them and they can collect the euro rental fee when returning the cart.  Sometimes they get lucky, but usually not as I support a guy from Nigeria that lives in my village.

This is my typical shopping day in Italy.  I wish you a happy day and a world of peace.  Ciao!

Friday, April 5, 2019

I have spent several unsuccessful hours attempting to upload a  video from the Jimmy Dore Youtube site.   This video showed what happened when Guiado decided to visit a barrio in Caracas.  Those Venezuelans don't seem too happy to see him.   He was lucky to have some bodyguards, and he was never able to get out of his car.

                                 part of the whole video

You can see the entire video and more at:
It was taken from a show by Jimmy Dore.

Why won't  CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other main steam media not show us this video?

Do you  know that:
There are more people in poverty in the United States than there are people in Venezuela.
Will regime change benefit the Venezuelan people?  Or?
The Koch Brothers need heavy Venezuelan oil for their refineries on the east coast of the U.S.  Apparently they cannot use Texas oil.  The media will not tell you that.
Did you know that Venezuela has more oil than Saudi Arabia.
Up until a few weeks ago the huge majority of Venezuelans did not know who Guiado was.  Imagine this regime change happening in America.

Elliot Abrams is leading the United States involvement with Guiado.  Older people remember Abrams  for his involvement in the Iran/Contra scandal during Reagan’s second term.  Senior administration officials secretly sold arms (without the knowledge of Reagan) to Iran.  The proceeds was to be used to fund the Contras in Nicaragua despite a law, the Boland Amendment, which blocked such a transaction.
14 individuals were indicted, Abrams and 10 others were convicted.   Abrams is also well known as a key architect in the Iraq War.  We all know how that turned out!

I don’t think we are being told the truth.