Saturday, August 27, 2016

Italy: Praiano town

Ronin needed some more quiet time this morning before fully waking up so he has his "Stuffy" 
and his eye patch. What else does one need for an extra snooze?

 I enjoyed the peaceful Mediterranean with my morning coffee.

Breakfast this morning was pan fried wholewheat baguette with sardines and onions. Fresh peaches and a hot cup of coffee was all we needed. Sounds weird to eat sardines for breakfast but if you are Guyanese, this is quite normal - in fact, more normal than a bowl of corn flakes (which I do not eat).

Sunita and I walked into Praiano village to get some things we saw a few days ago. The heat is so intense that we were glad for the shady reprieve of a tunnel where visibility is not the greatest when sharing the tunnel with suicidal motor cyclists and cars and even larger SITA buses that run up and down the coast every 30 minutes. It was worth the trip though. We got some great stuff on our shopping expedition!
Praiano is famous for lemons so of course we had to get some lemony things. She got some limoncello and lemon preserves and of course there was lemon soap. Olive oil is great here so some of that too. I got two types of balsamic vinegar and the very cutest container that can hold olive oil and balsamic vinegar in separate compartments. I also got a ceramic olive oil dispenser with a ceramic pourer. I also got some salad tongs with ceramic handles.
They will all be a daily reminder in my kitchen of my precious Italian summer villa vacation. I just have to figure out how I'll get them home without breaking them. Very carefully, I think.

Lemon soap

Oh my, I forgot to mention that I also got a really great bottle of Amarone wine for Robin. This was recommended by our new friend Peter Wiklund who we met in Mexico in February. I was sure Robin would not buy a bottle for himself so I got it for him as a surprise. It cost about $50 - not hugely expensive - but more than a $15 bottle of good wine in Winnipeg. Since I am not a drinker, he'll have the pleasure of enjoying the whole bottle.

If I was a romance novelist, this would be the perfect setting to sit and write my fantastic romance novel. Instead, I am sitting in my lounger under a citrus arbor, surrounded by the lush red of hibiscuses and bougainvilleas, the air redolent with the sweet smell of oleander as I look out over the calm waters of the Mediterranean.
The gentle chirping of crickets are lulling me to sleeeeeepp........

With no idea what dinner was going to turn out to be, we started with a few ingredients including boneless chicken fillets and finished with another first. Don't know what to call it so I'll just use 5 simple words: mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmmmmm! (emphasis on the last mmmmm).

Praiano deserves a cookbook of it's own. That should be my next one. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Italy: Praiano, Marina Di Pria

Walked up 68 stairs to the street then a 2 minute walk to the municipal office and another 200 stairs to the pharmacy to buy some bus tickets, then down the street to the corner store for some fruits, veggies, seafood and cheese, and back to the villa for lunch.
What was lunch today? Roasted chicken, marinated olives, the creamiest and freshest, full fat ricotta cheese, spiced marinated eggplant, EVOO and balsamic vinegar and wholewheat bread for dipping.
Sounds huge but it was just the right amount of a lovely Mediterranean lunch to be wonderfully healthy.

We took the local bus to Positano for the afternoon. The stop in Priano was literally up the 69 stairs to the road and a few steps to the bus stop. Positano was overrun with people and quite noisy. We wanted to check out where we'd have to get to the docks when we go to Capri on Sunday. I watched Giada (TV cook) doing her cooking show from Pose-ee-tano (the way she sometimes uses her Italian accent which can be quite annoying. Not the accent but the way she inserts a periodic word in an Italian accent when she is speaking in her American accent). 

The scenery looked very nice but the town was too crowded to be enjoyable. Give me my little villa retreat in Praiano. Glad I'll be heading back soon.

Me and my Belle waiting at the bus stop on our way back to Praiano.

Our dinner tonight (after a shower to cool down from an overly hot day in Positano) was gnocchi pasta (not gnocchi but gnocchi shaped pasta) with another delicious sauce I made up of sautéed onions, garlic, and red peppers with shrimp, and calamari. I added some anchovies and a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese.

It's so easy to whip up a great meal when I am cooking with fresh ingredients. 

Ronin made dessert. It was tiramisu ice cream, slightly frozen fresh bananas, yogurt, crushed cookies and a dollop of hazelnut, chocolate spread. These kids are going to be gourmet chefs for sure.

Bell had a great idea. She suggested that each year, we rent a villa in another country and spend the time cooking using local ingredients. Then we can write a cookbook featuring all the foods we cooked from the places we visited. This would complement my first cookbook which was released earlier this year. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Italy: Praiano Day 2

Arose at about 6:00am to view the sun come up over the mountain. It was so quiet and peaceful, that I got my cup off coffee and soaked in the stillness before the others started to stir. 

Breakfast after sun up was eggs, sausages, pan fried crusty Italian bread and fruit. Of course, the kids had some swank (not really a breakfast drink but it's their vacation). 

We headed off to the world famous Il Gusto Della Costa limoncello maker to buy some gift packages.Tasted some limoncello at the local producer. It is very HOT right now. It was 11 minute walk downhill; not bad; of course it was uphill on the way back. I must be getting used to it because it didn't seem hard. I thought I'd be achy from all the uphill walking and the 1000 stairs yesterday but so far, so good.

We had lunch in Praiano -  pizza (none for me b/c I wasn't hungry) at Che Bonta . It had good reviews on Trip Advisor but honestly, I am not sure what people are used to eating but it was very, very average.  

On the way back, the temperature was 29C with a UV index of 8. Glad to get back to an air conditioned villa. Time for a cool shower and siesta.

Dinner was delish. Belle made the caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil which she drizzled in EVOO and local balsamic vinegar. I did gnocchi with red bell peppers and a creamy pesto sauce. We had that with roasted chicken.

For dessert, Ronin (he is only 9 but loves to cook) made a parfait with bananas and vanilla yogurt topped with hazelnut spread. We finished off the evening on the terrace with a hot cup of tea. 

We found out that the villa we are staying at is owned by the poet Natale Porritiello. He was visiting upstairs yesterday where he stays when he is visiting at the villa.  He came down to our terrace yesterday to replace an umbrella but we had no idea it was him. He looked different from the cover picture of his books. I looked at one of the books but it was in Italian - mostly poetry.

We have all concluded that the food from our kitchen is outstanding! No need to dine out. We also decided that we'd like to return to Praiano some day. I hope it's some day soon. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Italy: Praiano

What a glorious morning to wake up with the Mediterranean right outside my bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room or terrace. Anywhere in the villa is a perfect view. After the busyness of the last week, this is quite peaceful and relaxing. I love it here. Makes me feel like I want to write a book or two.   

I feel like such a regular small town Italian. People here are super friendly (unlike Rome where no one is even slightly interested in offering even the smallest amount of assistance) and the view from anywhere is stunning.

Upper and lower terrace

View of the Mediterranean


Made a scrumptious breakfast of eggs with yolks so orange that I know they were fresh from the source. Some asiago cheese melted on top, fresh crusty bread and a hot cup of coffee topped off the meal. All cooked in my cute kitchen.

I introduced Belle and Ronin to "swank." I picked fresh limes hanging right above my head on the terrace. For all you Guyanese, no explanation is needed. For non-Guyanese, it's limeade (similar to lemonade but better because it's homemade with "just off the tree" limes. Ronin and Belle thought it was pretty cool so I had to make some more.

We had an antipasti lunch of fresh baked whole wheat bread sliced into thick chunks, marinated olives, pickled eggplant and olives, thin slices of mortadella, creamy Asiago cheese, and some balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for dipping our bread. A cool bottle of Peroni beer and some lemonade made for refreshing beverages.
We were heading to the beach which was a 10 minute walk along a footpath but turned back because Ronin had a nose bleed along the way. Will try again later.

Just back from the market. Sitting on the terrace shaded by an arbor of lime (loaded with fruit) and pretty dark pink bougainvillea. This is perfect.

This afternoon we walked to the beach. It was an easy downhill walk along many footpaths and on a very narrow highway where we had to share the road with motorists and tourist buses. Some of it was scenic; some precarious and feeling like we were taking our lives in our hands.

On the way back, it was footpaths, all the way uphill, and mostly stairs. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. My Fitbit clocked 65 flights of stairs and at 13 stairs per set, that was about 1000 stairs. Phew!!! A few more days of this and I'll be ready for a half marathon. It is so pretty though, that I really don't mind 

Foot path of stairs

View from the narrow highway we were walking

Tunnel we walked through high above

Roadway that we descended on the way to the beach

Brigde we walked over

Boats on the beach we visited
We keep planning to go out for dinner but Belle and I made dinner tonight. we made pasta pomodoro with seafood, garnished with fresh basil (the grocer ran over to his backyard and picked some for us), cherry tomatoes and olives. I also made a caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and EVOO.

For dessert, Ronin and I served tiramisu ice cream topped with crushed cookies and hazelnut spread (Nutella). We are so satisfied!!! Everything tastes good when you are eating on the terrace of a villa on the Italian coast overlooking the Mediterranean.

A quiet evening on the terrace with a glass of limoncello and a cup of tea rounded off the evening. Perfect end to a perfect day.