Mr. Italicano and I have just arrived in the USA! Over the next two weeks we’ll be in Chicago and New York City, doing a variety of “Ancient Grain Farro Cooking Shows” with Smeg USAat Williams-Sonoma, Eataly, Bloomingdales and the IHA trade show. For complete details you can check out my event calendar.I would love to see you there! I look forward to teaching you how to make nutritious meals with this superfood grain. I’ll show you how easy and quick my recipes are to prepare, with Smeg USA’s practical and beautiful 1950’s style appliances.
Every since moving to Italy, I have adapted a Mediterranean lifestyle.I cook simple recipes made with natural and fresh ingredients that explode with flavors. During my last cooking shows, many complaints by the audience was that they are passionate about cooking but don’t have the time to get in the kitchen. I disagree. With the right recipes and kitchen tools,making homemade meals takes less time than going to a restaurant, let alone the meal will cost a fraction of the price! I talk more about this topic in an earlier post.
The art of eating well and feeling good is simplicity. When I got this basic principal down, I didn’t mind getting in the kitchen to cook because it wasn’t a strenuous task, but a way to have fun, relax, slow down and be mindful about what I was putting into my and Mr. Italicano’s bodies. Simplicity also means having a few tricks up my sleeves for our modern lives. Just like I wouldn’t go to the nearest river stream to wash my clothes (thank goodness for washing machine’s!), I also don’t waste my time mashing, kneading, rolling out, chopping and cooking every day. In fact, to keep my life simple, these are recipes that you can make once and enjoy them the following days. I also use use a blender, stand mixer, and a variety of attachments that do a lot of the work for me in rapid time. I heart technology that supports my mission to eat healthy and homemade.
1. Farro Beet Soup with Greek Yogurt and Pistachios
2. Homemade Matcha Pasta with Spinach, Zucchini and Lemons
3. Beet Crepes with Ricotta, Arugula, Blood Oranges and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
4. Spring Farro Salad with a Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
In the meantime, you can follow along on YouTube!We’ll be posting frequent episodes of our day preparing and cooking at these events (and hopefully discovering some good restaurants as well!) I would really appreciate your feedback and support. Please leave us a comment on youtube! Thanks so much!
This post is in collaboration withSmeg USA, but all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.
Mr. Italicano and I visited the Winter Fancy Food Show (or FFS) in San Francisco in January. FFS is a trade show held twice a year in America: the winter edition is held in San Francisco and the summer edition is held in New York City.
At the San Francisco FFS, over 33,000 companies from around the world operating in the food and beverage sectors exhibited their novelty products, while industry professionals (generally buyers, distributors, journalists, other producers in the sector) got a chance to learn more about these products and new food trends.
The fair was held over the course of three days, from January 20th to the 22nd. We were there the 21st and 22nd (the 20th we were doing a cooking show.)We had press passes which allowed us to also listen to private talks/interviews about the food scene.
In this article and through these short video interviews, I want to highlight for you the most interesting companies and products I discovered at FFS. I also mention briefly what I didn’t find that shocked me. Without further ado, let’s take a look at my rankings!
# 10 PINK HIMALAYAN SALT
Pink Himalayan salt is certainly not a novelty … then why did I insert it in my list? There are two reasons. I believe that many do not know why pink Himalayan salt is different from common salt, and why the cost for it is so high. Salt is probably one of the most widely used ingredients in the kitchen, but not all salts are the same. Pink Himalayan salt is extremely natural due to its extraction process which, unlike common table salt, does not use any chemicals (bleach) or additives ( anti-caking agents). In this video, I interview Himalayan Chef who talks more about Pink Himalayan Salt and its benefits. I hope you find it useful. You can find more information on the Himalayan Chef’s Website.
# 9 ALOE VERA DRINKS
In addition to its remedial properties for the treatment of burns, Aloe Vera is becoming a trend in the food industry, thanks to its vitamins and beneficial properties for the immune system and digestion. Keep in mind though that scientific research around the benefits for humans is still ongoing and conclusions on whether it provides significant health benefits without negative side effects is still not clear cut. Another aspect that I noticed by examining the products seen at the trade show was that unfortunately many of the ingredients contained many refined sugars. In my opinion, if scientific research doesn’t uncover problems with ingesting aloe vera, these drinks will become even more increasingly popular and spread throughout the world. However, I invite you to always double check what you are buying and to always check the ingredient list to make sure there aren’t additives.
# 8 BARREL-AGED MAPLE SYRUP
Organic maple syrup, aged like a scotch. Although not alcoholic, it has a strong distinctive flavor depending on which type of barrel it was aged in. Barrel aging is only one method, this producer also has infused and smoked maple syrups that are perfect for the preparation of desserts, sweets, ice cream and even cocktails! These small artisans are gaining international success with their extremely innovative and interesting line of products. Find out more on RUNAMOK MAPLE.
# 7 VEGETABLE CHIPS
Last year I posted a recipe for homemade kale chips . I’m glad to have seen several companies offering these kind of “chips” in their line of products. Although a variety of vegetables were used for chips, the common theme among producers were kale chips, beet chips (I’ve already bought beets to try them at home) and broccoli chips (on my list as well). Strangely I didn’t see many pumpkin chips. I like the idea that many food producers are moving more and more towards the discovery of how to use vegetables in delicious ways, although, honestly, I read the backs of some of the packages and was surprised to find ingredients that weren’t natural. I think we are on track but there is still some steps to be done to get to have a very natural product and as little processed as possible. Surely this has an effect on producers’ pockets, but we consumers have to make our voice heard to protect ourselves and our children against harmful products. So, until I find a good brand I like, I suggest to make you own at home! Check out the recipe above, and more to come!
# 6 APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
I already knew about apple cider vinegar and some of it’s health benefits. However, I had never tasted one quite so flavorful and complex like I did at FFS. When I took a sip from a sample at the Fire Cider booth an explosion of flavors invaded my mouth. Sharp, sweet, tangy and spicy…all in one sip. It’s packed with a variety of ingredients that you typically don’t find in regular apple cider vinegar: honey, oranges, lemons, onions, ginger, horseradish, garlic, turmeric and habanero pepper. I felt an instant energy charge. I watched Mr. Italicano with glowing eyes and said, “we have to interview them.”
Not only does this apple cider vinegar taste good, it also has great digestive benefits. The ingredients are all natural and organic with no added sugar. It’s fantastic to drink a shot in the morning to start your day or you can add it into cocktails, dressing for salads or marinades. Find out more about on Fire Cider’s website.
# 5 BEETROOT KETCHUP
Ketchup has always been my weakness. With Italicana Kitchen, very day I am committed to testing and promoting healthy foods made with fresh products, no preservatives and alternatives to white sugar. I try to always cook healthy at home because that is where we eat the majority of the time and I want to feed Mr. Italicano and I with good wholesome foods. On the occasions we do eat out, it’s a treat where I try any dish I want (whether it be healthy or on the unhealthy side). So, when there is a plate of fries in front of me, I often can’t resist adding a mound of ketchup next to them. (Mr. Italicano says I often eat more ketchup than fries! Which is probably quite accurate.)
The problem with ketchup is that it is usually loaded with white sugar and additives. So, when I noticed this natural beet ketchup by Foraging Fox I got super excited like a child in front of an ice cream stand. Using beets and apples to naturally sweeten the ketchup, it contains no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners and is perfect for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free diets. I’m so glad to have discovered this small manufacturer from England who produces this delicious natural ketchup. I hope that this company starts a movement and that we’ll soon find these products on restaurant table tops. Good luck! Here is the link to the manufacturer.
# 4 MATCHA TEA
Another important product that is already definitely an ever growing trend in the United States is Matcha Tea. This is a Japanese green tea, originally used for ceremonies. Unlike the green tea leaves that are infused, Matcha is a fine vibrant green powder. As Sugimoto Americashowed me, to prepare, simply mix the powder with hot water. The fact that it is in powder form, gives way to a variety of uses in the kitchen; for example, in the preparation of baked goods, fresh pasta, drinks (hot or cold) or cocktails. If you want to color your dishes, and add antioxidant properties of green tea, check it out!
# 3 CAULIFLOWER PIZZA CRUST
It was so fun to meet these two lovely Californian ladies at Outer Aisle Gourmet who created these truly innovative products! Their cauliflower pizza crust and sandwich thins are made with fresh cauliflower and cage-free eggs. They offer an alternative to regular flour crusts and bread. You can use them as a pizza or a sandwich base. They are perfect for those who have celiac disease or simply want to reduce carbohydrates without sacrificing a bread(like) base. Just pop them in the microwave or oven to warm them up, then load them with your favorite toppings and spreads. I think the idea is brilliant and I’m sure they will soon be well distributed in supermarkets and restaurants. I am also looking forward to preparing some dishes at home with these products! More information at Outer Aisle Gourmet.
# 2 ANCIENT GRAIN MEALS
I believe in this product a lot. More frequently, attentive consumers are trying “new” products in order to eat healthier foods that are simple to prepare. The answer to a “new” food in this case lies in the past: in an ancient grain called farro. There are three types of farro: einkorn, farro (also called emmer) and spelt. I love farro and it’s the grain I use most in my kitchen. Here are some of my favorite farro recipes. Let me also give you a preview of the next two- three months: I want to dedicate myself entirely to the creation and promotion of recipes made with this ancient grain. I also want to write a small book ( I just have to find the time! 🙂 ). So what farro products did I find at Fancy Food? There were various producers and importers with farro flours, grains and packaged goods from colossal names like Bob’s Red Mill to a representative from a small Tuscan producer, Poggio del Farro with whom I started a fantastic collaboration with.
# 1 NATURALLY FLAVORED HUMMUS
I love hummus. Those who follow my recipes and my cooking classes are well aware. So far I’ve only created a perfect blender hummus, olive hummus, white bean hummusand beet hummus. What did I like here at FFS? I found many other innovative flavors! Spicy avocado hummus, kale pesto hummus, Thai coconut curry hummus, black garlic hummus and more! I stopped by a particular company called Hope Foods that is revolutionizing the market with innovative organic recipes and a new process of conservation. Fun fact: Hope Foods was created by one of the founders’ Robbie Rech, fiance’ of my childhood friend, Ashley Paul, who also grew up in the small town of Davenport, WA. She is the Manager of Events and Field Marketing at Hope Foods and it was a pleasure to see her and to finally be able to try their products and learn about the company. Ashley and Robbie live in Colorado. Since Hope Foods opened its doors six years ago, the company has now grown to over 65 people. They started out selling their products at farmer’s markets and now are present in some of the most important American supermarkets. What an amazing feat! I’m really happy for them and they are quite an example of how to succeed in the crowded food industry with delicious, novel and high quality products. Now let’s talk hummus. To date they have 12 organic hummus flavors that are made with all natural products and preserved through an avant-guarde process of cold pasteurization called High Pressure Processing (HPP). This process prolongs the shelf life substantially, without the addition of preservatives and without having to heat the product (which alters the taste and properties).These naturally flavored hummus products are so delicious. I am hoping that they’ll be shipping internationally soon! You can get more info at Hope Foods.
WHAT I DIDN’T FIND AT FFS: ITALY!
I was a little disappointed by how little the Italian section had to offer. It was quite absurd, given that it was the largest section of all. I was quite let down, because I’m often on the front line promoting the excellence of Italian products. I’m fascinated by traditional Italian products, they are the strength of Italy, and I came to FFS in hopes that my same passion was perceived by all participants who toured the Italian stands. I didn’t expect innovative products from the Italian exhibitors, but rather exciting events promoting traditional products and how foreigners could use them to prepare delicious and simple dishes. Living in Italy for the past 8 years has given me the opportunity to find out what this land has to offer, and to see how much passion Italians have in making high quality products that are easy to use in everyday meals. The effortlessness to incorporate these high quality products into daily meals is not always so obvious; I believe the vast majority of American consumers view many Italian products as delicious, but also complicated to use, and certainly not for everyday dishes.
My personal opinion: Italians need to do more to promote their high quality ingredients in ways that show how easy it is to incorporate their products in anyone’s daily diet.
I was expecting for example to meet some famous chefs or food bloggers at these demonstrations to help producers educate consumers and buyers how to use their ingredients. I expected that there would have been more talk about the enormous quantities of organic products that are available in Italy, that are ready to be imported into America (or around the world) and consumed daily, with ease. I expected to find a crowd of buyers and journalists with goose bumps while watching these shows. Simply put, I expected more emotion. Italy is one of the most famous rock stars in the world of food, but it is as if he didn’t want to put on a concert because he thinks that his music tracks will sell themselves. Come on Italy, show the world how special you really are!
First we need to talk about the hotel’s remarkable location. I’ve been to Tuscany several times and I’m well acquainted with the soft rolling hills dotted with vineyards and lined with Cyprus trees. If you haven’t been to Tuscany, well then, you’ve at least probablyREAD MORE
In Florence there are a.l.o.t. of restaurants, and a.l.o.t. of tourist traps. How do you spot the difference? This isn’t a proven theory, but in my experience if there are signs offering a “tourist menu” with pictures of the food, it’s not a good bet. The restaurants :: ristoranti I usually look for are ones that are off the beaten path. Take the restaurantIl Santo Graal, for instance. To get to this holy grail (literally, that is the name translated in English) just leave the center of Florence at your back and head across the Ponte Vecchio and continue down Via Romana for 10 minutes until you find the restaurant on your right. Don’t expect to drink from a cup that grants you everlasting youth, but don’t be surprised either to have an experience you’ll never forget.
I immediately found myself at home in the rustic and elegant atmosphere, designed by owner and architect, Emanuele Canonico. I absolutely loved theCONTINUE READING
Don’t get me wrong, Rome, Florence and Venice are three cities not to be missed on a first time trip :: viaggio to Italy. Yet, for returning tourists or nature lovers, I recommend a peaceful getaway to the region of Umbria, nicknamed the “green heart of Italy” for it’s rich vegetation.
Umbria’s landscape consists of endless rolling hills, forests, meadows, valleys and vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see with castles, borghi and medieval farm houses scattered along the way. Many of these farm houses and stables have been been restored and converted into “agriturismi” or farm vacations. Mr. Italicano and I had the opportunity to spend a relaxing weekend at the lovely Agriturismo L’Elmo which is found in the peaceful countryside only 15 miles from the medieval town of Orvieto.
Like everything in Italy, it all starts with a story. In 1788 the farm, stables and servant houses for the prince of the area was built using local materials like stones, sand, and oak trees. The property belonged to the Ruspoli family until the late 1970’s when the Agneni family acquired it, introducing the cultivation of organic hazelnuts ::noccioli bio. Mr. Italicano and I had never seen hazelnut trees up close before. Come to find out, prestige truffles spontaneously grow near the trunks of the trees which are often used in the agriturismo’s dinner menus. Yes, please!
Throughout the years the farmhouse and stable :: stalla were restored and created into an agriturismo which opened its doors in 2000. The rustic quaint room that we stayed was absolutely delightful. Country sleeping is so peaceful. There was no noise of cars passing by, just the nighttime sounds through the open window: the chirping of the crickets and rustle of the wind through the nearby trees that rocked us to sleep.
I had strolled around the agriturismo, but hadn’t appreciated the well maintained gardens until Marina gave me a private tour of her family property pointing out the various plants, flowers, trees and shrubs ::cespugli. When we stayed, there still wasn’t any fruit so I hadn’t realized that many of the trees were fruit trees like kiwis, cherries and walnuts or that the shrub I had passed was really a laurel where she got her bay leafs for cooking. And, how did I not see the large lavender plants that lined the walkway? There was so much for me to discover thanks to Marina.
Shortly after, Marina showed me her large organic vegetable garden :: orto bio where in the summer she grows over seven varieties of tomatoes, various types of salads, celery, peppers, artichokes and cucumbers, just to name a few. In the winter, you’ll find broccoli Romanesco, brussel sprouts, cime di rapa and other winter vegetables. Breakfast and dinners are prepared by Marina ultilizing these organic fruit and vegetables, as well as sheep and chickens raised on the farm. You’ll also find organic products produced by Argriturismo L’Elmo, like extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut spreads and jams. If you are looking for a true farm to table experience, this is the place to go.
As for activities, you can head to nearby wineries for local wine tastings :: degustazioni di vini, make the short drive to see the beautiful town of Orvieto where there is a remarkable cathedral or simply relax poolside at the agriturismo with a good book and a glass of white wine. The views are breathtaking.
Or, if you want to do something more active, how about a guided horseback ride through the beautiful countryside? There is a stable with a variety of trained horses for beginners and experts. Mr. Italicano and I are taking horseback riding lessons in a closed ring near where we live, but it was a whole other experience to trot through the open field and dirt trails :: sentieri di terra.
We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing weekend. If you are looking for a place to unwind and to enjoy the nature, homemade food and incredible views, I would highly suggest booking a stay at the Argiturismo L’Elmo.
I have a confession to make. Before traveling, my geographical knowledge of Italy was limited to four cities: Rome, Florence,Venice and Milan, and one region: Tuscany. I knew these cities and region thanks to Hollywood movies, fashion or art, but had no idea of the paradise :: paradiso waiting for me in other areas of Italy…like Umbria.
Umbria? Where is Umbria?, you may be asking yourself. It is a region in central Italy bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the East and Lazio to the South. Still to this day, the most famous city, Assisi, often times gets more press then the actual region of Umbria as a whole, which has countless historic sites, great gastronomy and wine and infinite options for nature lovers.
I discovered thiscuore verde d’italia, or “green heart of Italy” as it’s often called, last week when I was invited by La Strada dei Vini del Cantico and Terre dei Bulgarelli, along with six other wine/food/travel bloggers on an educational tour based on sustainable tourism and food and wine.
Photo Credit: Giusi Carai
We were picked up at the train stations in electric cars from Umbria Green Card.I’ve never been in an electric car :: macchina electric, but I’ve always appreciated the idea of traveling without polluting the air. The first thing I noticed when we took off was the silence. In the backseat I lost myself in a trance watching the forests, valleys, rolling hills, meadows, vineyards and castles pass me by. The silence made everything much more intense and all of the vibrant colors melded together like a Claude Monet painting.
Just as the panorama flew by while driving in the car, our weekend as well passed in a hurry. What is the phrase? Oh, yes. “Time flies when you are having fun.” So true. Yet, the magic thing about traveling is that you can always bring with you the memorable moments and emotions you experienced. I will always remember my first sip of Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG del 2007 that was tannic and intense with a rich bouquet of red fruits, cinnamon and soil. I won’t ever forget our trip in an electric jeep on a day that was almost 80°F; sunshine kissed our faces as we drove through the vineyards and olive groves :: oliveti that were over 400 years old! The first bite of “scafata”, a traditional stew made with fava beans, left such an impression that I couldn’t help but make the recipe when I returned. Then, of course, there were all the wonderful conversations with the other bloggers and event organizers who I connected with and shared the same thoughts and values.
Exploring the lands, getting to know the locals, discovering their traditions and history :: storia and enjoying yourself during every moment is what traveling is all about. Umbria left me with great emotions and I invite you to go there to understand why!
Here’s a few websites that can help you organize your next trip to Umbria and a few places not to miss!