Dear One and I spent a day in the country yesterday--enjoying friends and fresh air and flowers and clearing our heads from a pretty intense week.
We started at the small garden antiques fair at Blumen Gardens in Sycamore. We met up with four friends and moved on to a delish breakfast nearby. How do you say omlettes the size of hubcaps at Eggsclusive Cafe?? Hey--this is farm country and you need your energy. We yucked it up with Bob and Jan and Frank and Richard-- two couples with many stories to tell and always happy to hear ours. We are all antiques dealers and there are always a million stories.
Then--on to the best kept secret in western Illinois. DerbyLine Greenhouse in Genoa Illinois--located on--wait for it-- Derby Line Road.
Run--do not walk here. Last year--our plants did not stop blooming from April to frost. The healthiest, biggest and I might add So Incredibly Reasonably Priced Plants in the western suburbs area. We bought geraniums, grasses, about 6 varieties of coleus, etc etc-- healthy great plants. This year we loaded up the truck. I will not shop for annuals any other place. Huge zonal geraniums in many colors for $3.00 a pot. Does that say enough??
People of a certain age will remember the American television advertisement campaign of the last part of the 1960s-- Two usually very blonde and very lovely young women had identical bubble bouffant hairdos. They were pictured on out of sight swivel chairs and they spun around while the announcer asked "which twin has the toni?" Toni being the name of a permanent wave solution--supposedly you would not be able to tell who had the professional salon perm and who had the home wave done with the stinkie juice with her head over the basement laundry tubs.
My version of "Which Twin Has the Toni" Behold--pictures of two fabulous fabulous fabulous blood orange sicilian salads.
Dear One and I ordered one for a lunch on a beautiful sunny day in Siracusa Sicily. Slight variations abound--but the one we ordered (and in the bottom picture) had oranges, olives, red onions, capers, mozzerella and sort of bacon on the top. It is tossed in a citrus light dressing. It MUST have blood oranges. I found real blood oranges from Italy at Caputos in South Elgin. Yeehaw!!
My version made for my recent luncheon of friends. We call ourselves "A Collection of Interesting Women." and we meet regularly to share lives, stories, girl chat and recipes. My version--the top picture, is blood oranges, chopped celery (the fennel looked wiltie--but the celery was fabulous crunchie). toasted pistachios, capers, red onion, olive oil and orange juice. Serious good. It doesn't hurt to serve it in my great grandmother's cut glass bowl.
I am now convinced that Dear One and I have brought home just about everything from our travels.
NO--NOT the above pictured lemon. I do not want to be responsible for the failing of the entire State of California citrus crop. The US customs website specifically says that citrus and citrus leaves are a no-no to bring back from travels. This one stayed in the hotel room at Gatwick airport after following us around Sicily.
Ok--the above lemon from Sicily was not as big as a basketball--but it WAS as big as the 16 inch softball I used to play as a teenager. Sicily is serious about its citrus.
But the aforementioned customs website DOES say that ketchup is ok. Ketchup in American English, but in Italian it is "estratto." (very very loose, not even close comparison)
One of our hosts owns the most amazing food shop in the Via Benedictus daily market in Ortigia Sicily. He is pictured here holding a giant blob of estratto, and the locals shorten it to 'strattu. How to describe--?? Perfectly fabulous tomato paste the consistency of tomato clay. A huge big wad of tomatoes, salt and time.
Time means time. Score of kilos of fresh tomatoes are mixed with salt and slowly dried--3 to 4 days or sometimes almost a week or more. You think you have had tomato paste? Maybe in your cooking you have graduated from the small can to the tube of more expensive stuff at your specialty store? It ain't even in the same conversation.
Dear One and I purchased a blob. I speak no Italian but smiles--and I ended up with a giant brick that was then packaged in a vacuum bag. Yessirree--this is KETCHUP Mr. Customs Man. Right there on your website--right there--KETCHUP!!
I brought home my brick of sunshine and parceled it up in mini pots and froze it. Next week--Pasta Ala Norma made with the paste. I'll give you a report.
It occurred to me that traveling to various parts of Italy can remind one of vintage Hollywood actresses.
Tuscany in all its beauty resembles Lauren Bacall. Cool, beautiful, well dressed, many facets and movie set perfect. Bone structure--it is all about the bones.
Capri resembles Audrey Hepburn. Gorgeous beyond words, fun loving, classy, ever present scarf and sunglasses. Timeless, always sunshine. Monied. Ageless.
Sicily? Now that is Bette Davis. Never a facelift, outspoken, and in your face. Great beauty and quirky. Think designer clothes, but with a run in her stocking. Wrinkled face, classic, but with a cigarette hanging from her lips. Wearing St. John's knits--but the hem is falling and a bit of slip is showing.
Seeing parts of Sicily for a week with Pam Mercer and Sam Hilt was a real treat for Dear One and me. www.tuscanytours.com "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night." Just the way we like to travel. But traveling with Pam and Sam gives you the great ride-- but without any of the bumps.
Dear One and I have just returned from a beautiful spring trip to Sicily.
My next few posts will highlight some aspects of our travel--but because this is Easter weekend, I wanted to post first about a treasure in Palermo that we were able to see-- San Guiseppe dei Teatini or the Church of St. Joseph of Teatini Palermo.
This church, built in 1612 by Giacomo Bosio is one of the most significant baroque churches in Sicily.
As with all Roman Catholic churches, images of Mary and Jesus are central and primary throughout.
But what about the Forgotten Man?
This is an unusual ( I have never seen one before) sculpture of the angel visiting Joseph. Actually--the story of the visitation by the angel to Joseph is in the Bible--but totally overshadowed by the millions of paintings and images of Gabriel visiting Mary. But the angel appears to Joseph to tell him of the the role he will play in the birth of Jesus. ( Matthew 2:13)