Thursday, January 22, 2009

So, now Inge and I have left Germany and France and moved on to the lakes region in Northern Italy, specifically Lake Como. As I've said before, I was so thrilled to find out I was part Italian instead of 100% Scot! When Inge and I were planning our trip I talked her into driving down into Italy so I could see where my ancestors lived. All I knew was they were from the Lake Como area. We decided to stay in Bellagio. Great old hotel, fabulous shopping and amazing food. Here are a few of my favorite Northern Italian recipes. Remember, Southern Italy means tomatoes, therefore tomato sauce. On the other hand, Northern Italy means dairy cattle...CREAM... three favorite food groups! Enjoy!

Salsa di Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola Sauce with White Wine and Mascarpone

1 cup Somerset Ridge Chardonnay

8 ounces Gorgonzola

1/2 cup mascarpone

Freshly cracked pepper

Bring the Chardonnay to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat, simmering until wine is reduced to 3/4 cup. Lower the heat and add the Gorgonzola and mascarpone cheeses, gently whisking and simmering until cheeses have melted and sauce is creamy and smooth. Add 4 generous turns of the peppermill, then serve the sauce very warm over some tortellini or better yet, a big, juicy grilled Rib Eye Steak. Serve it with lots of crusty bread so you don't miss any of the Gorgonzola sauce or the steak juices!

Cheese Tortellini with Nut and Herb Sauce

serves 4

1 pound cheese filled tortellini

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

2/3 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons chopped Italian (flat-leaf ) parsley

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pan.

To make the sauce, in a heavy saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the walnuts and pine nuts and saute, stirring for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the parsley and thyme, then season with salt and pepper to your taste.

Beat the ricotta and the cream.

Add the nut sauce to the pan of tortellini, tossing to coat pasta well. Top each serving with a dallop of ricotta cream.

Serve immediately.

Creamy Shrimp with Fettucine

1 pound fettucine

1 pound raw large shrimp

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 green onions or scallions, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped Italian (flat-leaf ) parsley, for garnish

Cook the fettucine according to package directions. Drain and return to pan.

Peel the shrimp and remove the dark vein.

Heat the butter and oil in skillet, adding the chopped scallions and garlic. Stir over low heat for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp begin to turn pink.

Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. Add cream to the skillet and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer until sauce begins to thicken.

Return shrimp to pan, season to taste and simmer for 1 minute.

Add the shrimp and sauce to pan of fettucine, toss gently to coat pasta well.

Serve immediately sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Well I am pretty sure I gained 5 pounds just typing the recipes! I was going to add my favorite Tiramisu recipe, but maybe I'd better wait and include it on a day i send you recipes for salads!
Two Old Broads Abroad

part 3

Lake Como is at the base of the Swiss Alps, just over the border in Italy. I love the idea that I have ancestors from that part of the world! I am probably 90% Scottish, but never felt even 1% Scottish! Maybe it is the “chef” in me, But the thought of being 10% Italian turned me on! Of course my ancestor, who came to America in the early 1800s, probably left when his country was owned by the French or the Austrian! But it is Italian now!

The drive into Como was uneventful, also fairly ugly. But I knew we were going to be seeing heaven soon! Our destination was Bellagio. Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y, Bellagio is situated right where the two legs meet the base. Being the navigator, I directed Inge to drive up the right side of the left branch of the lake, sounds simple, right? WRONG! Every little ancient village between Como and Bellagio is on that tiny, narrow, winding, hilly, rocky, darn near impossible mountain road! And I do mean “on it”! A PT Cruiser isn’t a huge car, but it needed to be a lot smaller to navigate on that road! I was looking for bottles of olive oil to oil down the sides of that brand new shiny black car! We squeezed through some unbelievably tight spots where the front of a house was suddenly half way out in the road. You could see where chunks of the houses had been knocked off by passing cars or trucks! And you should have heard the on coming cars and the line of cars behind us blowing their horns! What should have taken us 30 minutes at the most distance-wise, took us 1 ½ hours to drive! I thought of all of the wonderful things I’d read about Bellagio, what a great trip it was! Those people must have been nuts! Never was there one mention of that road!
Sweating profusely, white as sheets, we finally arrived in Bellagio. We came down off the mountain road and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by beautifully landscaped villas, 300 year old buildings in the softest colors, the lake lapping at the sea wall, and twisting stone steps leading up to the second tier of designer shops and elegant restaurants. We parked the car right next to a hotel called the Metropole that was in an ancient old building, 4 stories high and painted a delicious golden apricot color. You could tell she had been a grand hotel in her day! The Metropole was charming inside and out! Luckily, most of the employees spoke English because all of my ability in speaking Italian came from reading menus and cookbooks!
We got a room with a lake view, a darling little balcony, and twin beds. Getting our luggage up to the 4th floor was a challenge, we discovered the elevator and the shower were less than adequate in size. I think a medium priced coffin would probably be more spacious! Have you ever taken a shower with your arms straight up over your head? Have you ever had to take each suitcase up on the elevator with you standing on top of it? I’m telling you, it was a challenge. But it was oh so worth it! What a view! We sat out on the balcony for 15 minutes, then grabbed our credit cards and cameras and headed out. We wandered up and down the narrow streets, taking the stone steps from one level to the next. I took several rolls of film
and between Inge and I, we melted down several credit cards. I wouldn’t have to worry about Christmas shopping this year! Everyone was getting something Italian!
We picked out a restaurant with an outdoor dining area that served fabulous food. And of course, we had to try the wine, after all Inge was traveling with a well-known grape grower from the states! We talked about how perfect the evening was as we stumbled back to the hotel. We hadn’t noticed the fog rolling in as we were dining, but by the time we got down to the lake we could see only a few feet ahead of us. It was like the lake had disappeared!
We didn’t have any trouble finding the hotel, but it sure made seeing across the lake very difficult! Out on our balcony we could look straight down a see the lake, but that was it. We left the door open all night so we could hear the waves lapping at the seawall below. It was all sort of mysterious and whispy.
I loved it! I slept like a baby that night!
The fog was still with us the next morning, but we didn’t care. We had four days to go and lots to see, we weren’t about to let a little fog stop us. Once again we cruised the shops, ate pizza, drank wine, and tried every flavor of gelato we could find. We completed our Christmas shopping and it was only October! Of course, getting our packages in the elevator with us was once again a slight problem.

On our last full day in Bellagio, still snuggled in with the fog, we decided it was time to see the rest of the lake. For $6.00 we each bought a circle pass on one of the ferries. This allowed us to take the ferry to as many ports, as often as we wanted during that day. What a bargain! We jumped on board and for the next 8 hours we enjoyed 6 different little villages around the lake. It was a wonderful day. At one point it rained like cats and dogs, but we didn’t care. As long as we found pizza, wine and gelato every few hours, we were as happy as can be.

While we were waiting for a ferry early in the day, we found out that everyone who knows anything knows that you don’t drive to Bellagio on the mountain road! NO, instead, you drive on the opposite side of the lake to one of the beautiful little ports we were seeing that day, then for an additional $6.00, they put your car on the ferry and you drive off the ferry right in the heart of Bellagio! So, here is my question…..why hadn’t any of the travel books told us that? People were amazed we had survived the drive! Inge had been dreading the drive back to Como, we figured by the time we rode our luggage one piece at a time down the elevator and loaded up the old PT Cruiser, we’d be too tired to make the drive! This was wonderful news! And such a simple change to make.
Later in the afternoon, we were chatting with a couple from Australia about the ferry ride with the car. The gentleman very casually said “Well you know, the entire country of Italy is going on strike tomorrow. There will be no ferry service after 9:00am.” Sure enough, the transportation workers of Italy were going on strike. We realized if we waited to take the last ferry, we
might not get on board, we figured there would be a line of cars waiting to go. We got the schedule and decided it would be smart to leave at 5:55am! We did the luggage number late that night, and got the car loaded in the rain.

Our wake up call was right on time, I stepped out onto the balcony to tell the lake goodbye. Absolutely clear! A million stars! And I could see the lights of tiny villages across the lake, way up in the hills, twinkling like little stars! The fog was gone, and it was 5:00 in the morning and dark as pitch! Oh well. We splashed water on our faces, brushed our teeth and off we went. There was a line of cars to board the ferry, we were number 2 out of the three in line!
The road on the opposite side was flat, fairly wide and fairly straight. We made it to Como in 30 minutes. I kept thinking about all of the beautiful things I didn’t get to see, then remembered all of the amazing things I did see. It had been a very good leg of our journey.

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

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Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

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Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker