Author Archives: Francesca

Portrait of a lady: Marella Agnelli – The Last Swan

Marella Agnelli - The Last Swan

Lately Stefano has been traveling a lot for work and, as a result, I have been cooking much less. No complaint there because I have had more time to dedicate to one of my passions: books. Right now, I’m devouring the four books of “The Brilliant Friend” series written by the extraordinary Italian author Elena Ferrante (this is a pen name – we don’t even know whether the writer is a woman or a man). The series is about the lives and the beautiful and yet very complicated 60-year long friendship of two women who were born and raised in a poor neighborhood in the Neapolitan suburbs. These books are one of the best things I have laid my hands and eyes on in the last couple of years and I loved every hour spent reading them. However, lately I have also been spending a lot of time in the company of another very special Italian woman: Marella Agnelli.

The Agnellis are for Italians by and large what the Kennedys are for Americans. One of the richest and most powerful Italian families living a life that not even celebrities will ever experience because – let’s be honest here – there is a huge difference between making money and be born and raised in a family that made and still makes history. Unfortunately, as was the case for the Kennedys, the Agnelli’s fairy tale has been spoiled and its members have been scarred by gossip, scandals and tragic and painful events. Doesn’t that invariably happen?

Gianni Agnelli was the head of the family. Known as the “Avvocato” (which means “the Lawyer”, although the nickname was largely inaccurate as he had graduated out of law school but had never taken the bar exam), he was a tycoon and the largest shareholder of the worldwide known car maker FIAT. Marella was his wife and now his widow (he died of cancer in 2003).

Born Princess Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, she was the daughter of the Neapolitan Prince and diplomat Filippo Caracciolo and the American cosmopolitan Margaret Clarke. Before becoming an Agnelli, she was an art student in Paris, a model in New York working with the famous photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, a photographer herself and a Condé Nast contributor. She has been immortalized by the most celebrated photographers of the last decades – Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Robert Doisneau, who was sent by Vogue to take the photos of her wedding. – She was an icon of style and elegance and all the designers wanted her to wear their creations: her wedding dress was a Balenciaga, just to name one.

Marella Agnelli - The Last SwanThe book “Marella Agnelli: Ho coltivato il mio giardino” is the latest accomplishment of Marella and her niece Marella Caracciolo Chia. The English title of the book “Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan” makes reference to Marella’s neck as captured in her iconic portrait by Richard Avedon. Funny enough, also Truman Capote, once one of her best friends, used to include her in his famous circles of “swans”, stylish and wealthy women he loved so much to hang out with.

The book is so much more than a beautiful collection of photographs of Marella’s residences and gardens in Italy (Turin, Milan and Rome), France, Switzerland, New York and Morocco. It is so much more than a glimpse at a lifestyle which is simply unattainable by mere mortals. Marella, with her simple and yet elegant prose, takes the reader by the hand and brings her into her own life, rooms and memories, from her childhood in Florence to the marriage with Gianni, from her friendships with legendary characters (John and Jacqueline Kennedy and Truman Capote, just to name a few) to her interactions with some of the most famous architects, interior decorators and landscapers of the century (Stephane Boudin, Russel Page, Gae Aulenti, Renzo Mongiardino, Peter Marino and Madison Cox, just to name a few) who helped her realize her vision.

That’s right! Her vision! Marella and Gianni were avid and eclectic art collectors of the greatest masters and every room of their residences has been furnished and decorated having a masterpiece and its distinctive colors in mind as a starting and focal point of the whole room, thus achieving the result of making that particular work of art stand out even more, if at all possible. She even designed some unbelievably beautiful fabrics and wallpapers to surround and enhance their amazing artwork. And she is the only one in my book who has decorated all her residences with some wicker furniture and succeeded in making it look effortless and elegant at the same time.

Her gardens are enchanted to say the least, but not in any artificial way. She has always respected the natural beauty of the places and worked with those plants and flowers that would be more congenial to the local landscapes. Some of her green creations are “manicured” in an extraordinary way so as to look totally natural. She even managed to build a swimming pool whose colors are those of the surrounding trees: a dream come true!

Marella Agnelli - The Last Swan

Although the book starts from her childhood and ends with the photographs of her beloved Marrakesh home, where she has been spending most of her time now that she is in her eighties and where her beloved granddaughter Ginevra got married, the book is not a biography – at least not in the strict meaning of the term. Sure, her life is the subtle common thread to all the chapters (which are divided by decades), but she does not reveal anything about her most intimate self. Her disappointments and sufferings are just briefly touched upon, without going into any detail. Her gardens and homes along with the interactions with those who collaborated with her to create those beauties are the central theme of the book and every room, garden, vision and project is described simply and concisely without any triviality or show off to impress the reader. She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t need that. She is a princess – a real one, and she knows that. Everybody with taste knows that.

This book is a little treasure and I enjoyed it immensely. If you have a special person in your life, someone who is chic and sophisticated, who is in love with beauty, art, elegance and understatement and who has the sensibility to appreciate a book like this one, The Last Swan is the perfect gift and a great way to say “I think you are special” to that person!

I wish you all a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Francesca Xx

PS: Of course, The Last Swan was a gift from the most elegant woman I have ever met… my mother! 😋

When conversations get surreal: potato and saffron soup with pancetta croutons

Potato, saffron and pancetta soup

A couple of days ago Stefano was getting ready to go to work and he told me that I must have done something wrong with the laundry because his pants felt tighter.

Now, you can tell me anything (because any human being is entitled to their opinion!), you can even offend me but you cannot, and I underline “cannot”, tell me that I did something wrong with my laundry!!!

I modestly like to think of myself as the “Pavlova of the Laundry”! 😉 Let’s not even talk about the time it took me to find just the right detergents that would satisfy me. I can spend hours in the detergent and cleaners aisle and every time I see a new product I get pretty much as excited as when I see a designer’s new collection!

Let’s talk about the process: every stain is pre-treated, loads are divided by fabric and color, every washer cycle is carefully selected, the dryer is reluctantly used (we do not use dryers in Italy and I wouldn’t dream of putting an item that I bought in my country in the dryer – it simply wouldn’t survive) and everything gets ironed. Yes! Everything including sheets, towels, underwear and socks. That’s how Italian houses roll (or should roll) and mine is no exception. 😉

Potato, saffron and pancetta soup

Now you see what I mean when I say that there can’t possibly be anything wrong with my laundry? The ugly truth? Stefano has put some weight on and he is in total denial!

And what do you do when someone is in denial? Desperate times call for desperate measures! I cut all the fatty dishes out and I declared soup season open! Soups are fantastic and when you want to lose some weight, they really can do magic. They are low on calories yet healthy, very satisfying to your stomach and, above all, delicious!

Last night Stefano was particularly famished, so I decided to make some potato soup with a twist. I played with some saffron and the result was fantastic. The saffron really complements the potatoes and the pancetta croutons are really the cherry on the cake! 🙂

So that’s how I did it! 😉

Ingredients:

6 Potatoes, cut into cubes
1/4 Cup, extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup, chopped pancetta
1/3 Cup, finely chopped spring onion
2 Cups, vegetable stock
1 and 1/2 Sachet, powdered saffron
2 Tbsp, Mascarpone cheese
1 Cup, Milk
Salt
Ground white pepper

Directions:

Potato, saffron and pancetta soupIn a non-stick medium/large pot, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta gets golden and crispy.
Remove the pancetta from the pot and place it on some paper towel so it can lose the excess oil.

In the same olive oil where you fried the pancetta, place the spring onion and cook until it softens. Add the potatoes, the stock, some salt and white pepper (to taste) and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Eventually, the potatoes will turn kind of mushy and the stock will almost completely evaporate. Add 1 sachet of saffron and toss to coat until the mixture gets a vibrant yellow color.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or a blender. Add the mascarpone, the rest of the olive oil and the milk and blend until it is smooth and creamy.

Return the soup to the pot and, on low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Pour the soup into two serving bowls or plates, add some fried pancetta on top and garnish with some powdered saffron.

Will Stefano manage to lose some weight? Only time will tell! 😉

When celebrity chefs feel the need to reinvent the wheel: Carlo Cracco and his infamous garlicky Amatriciana

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

Last month, the Italian culinary world has been shocked by the Amatriciana recipe suggested by one of our superstar chefs: Carlo Cracco.

While attending an Italian TV show, the famous chef listed a garlic clover as one of the ingredients of the worldwide known pasta dish!  Anyone who is only vaguely familiar with (authentic) Italian cuisine knows that garlic does not belong in the Amatriciana (for reference, check out our recipe for an authentic Amatriciana)!

As if the first slap in the face of Italian culinary tradition wasn’t enough, during an episode of the Italian edition of Masterchef, first Joe Bastianich and then Cracco himself suggested that one of the contestants use some onion when making “pasta alla Gricia”, the famous ancestor of the Amatriciana which doesn’t call for tomatoes and… most certainly does not call for onions either!!!

Enough was enough, so much so that specialized media, social networks, restaurant owners and even the Mayor of Amatrice “took the field” ready to crucify Cracco and his garlicky dish in defense of the one and only recipe. The Amatrice Culinary School went as far as to publicly invite Cracco to visit them so he can finally taste the real thing! Ouch!

I think one of the commentators hit the nail on the head: nobody can dispute that you can get creative in the kitchen and experiment as much as you like, but when you decide to add garlic to the Amatriciana, don’t call it that – because it’s not! As good as it may be with the addition of the extra ingredient, it’s simply another dish!

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

My reaction to all this fuss? One of kind of sadness and disappointment. Both Italian and non-Italian gourmands who happen not to be experts in my country’s cuisine often look up at celebrity chefs like Cracco to learn the Italian food gospel. I think that people who enjoy all that notoriety have the moral responsibility to… spread the word, and spread it right. How can I go on happily complaining about the oh so many restaurants in my adopted country that serve me Amatriciana with garlic and/or onion when one of our star chefs is teaching exactly that? 😉

Anyone who knows me a bit is well aware of my aversion toward social networks. However, in this case, I truly hope their popularity will help to set the record straight!

Curious about a third slap in the already bruised face of Italian culinary tradition? Another Italian hugely popular chef, Davide Oldani, recently declared that butter can be used in making pesto!!! I mean, butter. Seriously? I believe people from Genoa (including Stefano!) and the Liguria region in general must be incessantly calling the food police! Such an affront.

I’m telling you: if another Italian celebrity chef comes along suggesting that heavy cream can be used in making Carbonara, I’ll consider giving up my Italian citizenship!!!

Hope you enjoyed this little foodgate!

F. Xx

Those little "goodfellas": Brussels Sprouts and Hot Sausage Tortiglioni…

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

2 Servings

Brussels sprouts are not very popular in my country and they certainly weren’t on my family’s table. I don’t think I can recollect one time that I ate them in my house or anywhere else in Italy.

Things started changing a couple of years ago when I decided to host my first Thanksgiving’s dinner. During my “due diligence” period, in my quest for dishes traditionally served in the US for that holiday, I found out that Brussels sprouts were a must as a side dish, stir-fried or roasted, preferably with bacon or pancetta and even with raisins.

Little by little my acquaintance with these little guys turned into a beautiful friendship and now I’m totally in love with them for several different reasons.

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

First, their appearance – because no matter what they say, appearances still count! 🙂 Their vibrant green has the magical power to put me in a good mood and their shape reminds me of a mini peony bud, one of my favorite flowers. I wouldn’t mind arranging them in a vase. I’m sure they would look lovely on any table! 😉

Second, they are really good for our health: they are an excellent source of vitamins, essential minerals and fiber. Since I’m on a perennial diet, they are a winner in my book!

Third, these buds are super versatile. They complement meat or fish wonderfully, they can been thrown in any salad and they go beautifully with pasta.

Needless to say, pasta is always one of my first picks 🙂 especially on weeknights! “Dressing up” some pasta with healthy vegetables and a little flavor is very easy and requires very little time, with the additional benefit that your conscience is virtually clean because, after all, you are eating your veggies!

For this recipe, I decide to use some hot sausage to go with the Brussels sprouts. If you decide to cook it for your kids, you may replace it with some non-spicy sausage. Her Majesty is not into spicy food and your kid may not be either…

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup, Extravirgin olive oil
1 Carrot, finely chopped
1 Celery, finely chopped
1/3 Cup, finely chopped onion
2 Hot sausages (about 7 ounces), loose
About 10 ounces, small Brussels sprouts, rinsed and cut in halves
1/2 Cup, beef or vegetable stock
About 7 ounces, Tortiglioni
2Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt

Directions:

In a non-stick medium pot, pour the olive oil and add the carrot, the celery and the onion (in Italian, we called this mixture “soffritto“) and cook until the onion softens and becomes translucent.

Add the sausage and some salt (to taste) and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp. Using a strainer, transfer the sausage mixture to a bowl to drain. Put the sausage mixture aside, and return the drained olive oil to the pot.

Add the Brussels sprouts, some salt (to taste) and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the stock is almost completely evaporated. Transfer the sausage mixture back to the pot, toss to coat and let the rest of the stock completely evaporate.

In the meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook it until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and put it in the pot with the Brussels sprouts and the sausage and toss to coat.

Put the pasta into the serving plates/bowls and dust the top of each plate with some Parmigiano cheese.

I dedicate these little green buds to all the people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Hopefully the leprechaun will love them! 😉

Talk to you soon!

F. Xx

Glass statuette and flower composition with Brussel sprout backdrop

Lately… Inside Chanel

Assortment of Chanel items

When I really like something, I tend to get obsessed with it. One of my latest obsessions? The latest CHANEL N°5 commercial – The One That I Want.

It’s a short film once again directed by the super-talented Baz Luhrmaan, starring Gisele Bundchen and Michiel Huisman. Needless to say, Gisele is insanely gorgeous and looks like a goddess even without any make-up on. However, the one who really struck me was Michiel Huisman. Beside being too handsome to be true (have you seen him in season 4 of Game of Thrones? No? You don’t know what you have missed – check out this YouTube clip!), he is very expressive and can really act! Kind of important for an actor, don’t you think? 😜

Coco Chanel perfume bottle

I adore everything about this film: the cast, the clothing (including his light blue suit – of course only someone that beautiful can wear a light blue suit and look divine. Any other man would look ridiculous! Sorry guys!), the soundtrack (the extraordinary adaptation of the Grease song, You’re The One That I Want, so brilliantly interpreted by Lo-Fang), the locations (Fiji, Montauk and New York) and the story of the powerful and independent Chanel N°5 woman that in the end chooses love, including the utterly unrealistic detail that she opens the letter that the love of her life left for her before walking out on her only after the photo shoot. There is no woman on earth that would have waited that long!

Anyway, I read every article and watched every video that I could find about the making of this precious film and, following my little obsession, I stumbled upon Inside Chanel, 12 online chapters that tell the story of Mademoiselle Chanel and her iconic creations in a way that simply blew me away.

Chanel tag

The charming and unbelievably chic voice of Madame Hélène Famin brings you on a wonderful fairy tale journey through the House of Chanel, from the creation of her magical perfume and its hidden symbolism to her revolutionary and one-of-a-kind 1932 Bijoux de Diamantscollection, from the creation of her timeless and iconic jacket inspired by mensware to the meaning behind the recurrent presence of the king of the animal kingdom (it was her zodiac sign and constellation) and the use of five emblematic colors.

The Chanel log

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 focus on Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, from her humble origins and childhood to the encouter of Boy Capel, the love of her life, who inspired her but tragically died in a car accident, from the way she revolutionized the fashion world and became one of the most famous couturière of her times to her stay in Venice and the meeting of friends and lovers whose different styles and cultures influenced her sense of fashion. The chapters go on to tell about her temporary retirement to Switzerland during WWII and her return to fashion when she was in her early seventies, to be first humiliated and then praised as a genius by the whole world for creating the legendary Chanel suit. The series then comes to an end focusing on her latest creations until her death that happened at the Ritz in Paris on a Sunday of 1971, the only day of the week when Mademoiselle Chanel never worked.

I enjoyed these short films immensely. There is no other way to describe it. I truly hope you will love them as much as I did because after all… “Once upon a time, there was Chanel”.

F. Xx

Assortment of Chanel items

My Savory Valentines: Heart-Shaped Mini Frittata

Heart-shaped mini frittataAs some of you may know already, my beloved husband and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’ve never been good in the romance department and the reason why there must be a specific day to celebrate your loved ones simply escapes me. What’s wrong with any other day of the year? Isn’t it better to show your love and affection in a totally unexpected way and whenever you feel like it?

Anyway, things have changed since Her Majesty has started celebrating Valentine’s Day and decided that we had to celebrate too. Instead of crushing her feelings (we are not that brutal! 😉 ), we decided to play along and celebrate it as a family holiday. Stefano makes sure that we have a card and a little gift for Her Majesty and, since last year, for Sofia too 🙂 and, on Valentine’s Day, we exchange cards and small presents.

When God decided to put me on this planet, he forgot to give me the sweet gene. That gene went directly from my mother to Her Majesty. That’s the reason why I always come up with some good excuse to take the savory path rather than the sweet path. I know that if I make a savory dish, I’ll be partying too as opposed to a sweet dish where, most of the time, I’ll be just watching other people to party. 🙂

Valentine’s Day is no exception to me! Last night, Her Majesty was making her valentines for her classmates. She asked me to make her favorite frittata and I decided to give it a hearty twist!

This frittata is very basic – exactly the way Her Majesty likes it! However, you can use your own recipe or spice mine up the way you want adding the vegetables and/or the spices and/or the meat you love the most. It’s all up to your creativity or, sometimes, whatever you have left in your pantry and refrigerator!

I have an additional reason why I like this recipe. I don’t have to flip! Yup! Flipping frittata is not one of my strongest skills as I confessed in one of my previous posts! Oh well! This frittata is entirely baked in the oven. Such a relief for me! 😉

Heart-shaped mini frittata

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup, Extravirgin Olive Oil
4 or 5, Golden Potatoes
10, Eggs
6 Tbsp, Grated Parmigiano Cheese
1/2, Smoked Mozzarella
2 or 3 slices, Prosciutto
Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Cut the potatoes into small bits.

Pre-heat oven at 325F.

In a non-stick medium skillet, put the olive oil and the potatoes. Add some salt (to taste), toss to coat and start cooking on a low/medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked.

Meanwhile, put the eggs, the Parmigiano cheese and some salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl and whisk it until you obtain a smooth mixture. When the potatoes are cooked, add them to the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture into a greased non-stick 9×13 inch rectangular sheet pan.

Let the frittata cook in the oven for about 20/25 minutes or until it gets that beautiful golden color.

Remove the frittata from the oven and let it cool for a while.

In the meantime, raise the oven temperature to 400F.

With a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut the frittata into hearts.

Cut the smoked mozzarella into thick slices.

Place one slice of mozzarella on top of one frittata heart and another frittata heart on top of the mozzarella slice. Do the same with the rest of the frittata hearts.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Put the sandwiched frittata hearts on the baking sheet and bake them in the oven until the mozzarella melts.

Remove the sandwiched frittata hearts from the oven and garnish them with some prosciutto and creative toothpicks. Serve them warm.

Heart-shaped mini frittata

I wish everyone who celebrates Valentine’s Day a “super-lovely” one!

F. Xx

Have I been chopped? Speck, Pea Shoots and Marsala Meatballs

Speck and pea shoot meatballs

Don’t you get tired to always cook the same dishes? During the last years, I have mastered some recipes that have become my signature dishes. I always have the essential ingredients for them in my refrigerator and I can cook them with my eyes closed. And, of course, I always shoot for one of those dishes for a weeknight meal.

Unfortunately, Her Majesty does not always agree upon my… menu choices. She is starting going through that phase where changes are exciting and routines are boring and she always wants to experiment something new. So, to put an end to her complaints, I decided to change my basic meatball recipe and give it a twist.

The version that I cooked for Her Majesty did not have any Marsala. Nonetheless, her critique was quite brutal. She told me that the taste was not that great and that the meatballs were… kind of chewy! Seriously!!! Not the feedback that I was expecting!

Since I thought that this dish was quite delicious, I decided not to give up and to test the other “mouth” of the house. My beloved husband is never eager to pay me a compliment. He says that he does not sugarcoat his comments for my own sake so that I keep pushing myself striving to always get better at what I do. Lucky me!!! 😉

Anyway, instead of crucifying me like her Majesty, the oracle’s response was positive and flattering so I will keep making these meatballs for me and Stefano over and over. Who knows? Changing her mind is a girl’s prerogative. Maybe Her Majesty will learn to appreciate this recipe when she gets older. At least, that’s what happened to me with some of my family’s recipes.

Speck and pea shoot meatballs

Ingredients:

1 lb, Ground Meat of your choice
1 slice, Speck (¼ inch thick)
2 eggs
6 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
2 slices, White Bread
2 Tbsp, Milk
Some leaves of Pea Shoots, chopped
3 Tbsp, Flour
2 Tbsp, Extravirgin Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 Tbsp, butter
Juice, half lemon
2 Tbsp, Marsala wine
Salt
Ground black pepper

Directions:

Speck and pea shoot meatballsCut the speck into cubes and set aside.

In a bowl, pour the milk and soak the bread into the milk.

In a large mixing bowl, using your hands combine the ground beef, the eggs, the chopped pea shoots’ leaves, the speck cubes and the Parmesan cheese. With your hands, squeeze the bread and add it to the meat mixture. Add some salt and pepper (to taste) and combine with your hands. Shape the mixture into meatballs.

In a large non-stick skillet, pour the olive oil and add 1 Tbsp of butter. When the butter is completely melted, add the meatballs and cook them until they brown. Add the lemon juice and cook for a couple of minutes. Pour the Marsala wine and keep cooking until the Marsala evaporates. Remove from the stove and add 1/2 Tbsp of butter. Toss to coat until the butter is completely melted. Serve immediately.

Have a wonderful weekend!

F. Xx

PS: In case you are wondering what Pea Shoots are, they are the young leaves and tendrils of pea plants. I didn’t even know they existed before using them for this recipe. They are delicious and their scent is so delicate. The perfect addition to many, many dishes. 😋

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I know… long time no talk, but sometimes life gets in the way and distracts us from life’s pleasures.

Anyhoo… hopefully we will soon go back to more regular posting, recipes and wine reviews, so don’t lose faith! 😉

Apologies to our many blogging friends for not being as present and engaged as usual in reading and participating in your wonderful blogs – hopefully that will also go back to normal soon.

Finally, we wish you all the best for a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year! Eat well, drink good wine, celebrate with your loved ones and… may your dreams come true! 🙂

Stefano & Francesca

There are witches in the air: purple cauliflower soup

Purple cauliflower soup

2 Servings

Looking at Her Majesty’s Halloween menu, I had the impression that something was missing. What was it? We had the bats and the skeleton and the ghost … so? But some witches of course!

Purple cauliflower soupOver the last few days, I have been thinking about a dish which would be reminiscent of witches and when I saw a purple cauliflower at the grocery store, the idea struck me like a thunder. Isn’t purple a typical witch color? How about a purple soup to be served after the bat eyes and before the skeleton stake? 🙂

I decided to use very few ingredients – kind of a basic soup recipe, because I didn’t want the color of the other ingredients to alter the purple color of the cauliflower. And since witches are always a little bit sinister, I thought that a touch of yellow was a must, beside contrasting nicely with the deep purple (no, not the band…). So I sprinkled some olive oil and added some lemon strips on top of the soup. I was very pleased to find out how beautifully the citrus flavor contrasts with that of the cauliflower.

Purple cauliflower soupHer Majesty was so excited by the purple color that for the first time ever she ate some soup without making any fuss. Actually, I couldn’t believe my eyes! 🙂 And I’m pretty sure that if you serve this dish for a dinner party, your guests will be really surprised and amazed at the same time. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 shallot, chopped
2 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
2 potatoes, diced
1 purple cauliflower
1 1/2 Cups, vegetable stock
1 lemon
Salt
Ground white pepper

Directions:

Wash the cauliflower and cut the florets off. Set them aside.

In a medium/large pot, place 1 Tbsp of olive oil, the shallot and a couple of tablespoons of water and cook, on low heat, until the shallot softens.

Purple cauliflower soupAdd the cauliflower florets, the potatoes, some salt and pepper (to taste) and the vegetable stock and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, for about 20/25 minutes. Eventually, the florets and the potatoes will turn kind of mushy and the stock will almost completely evaporate.

In the meantime, using a citrus zester, cut some strips out of the lemon peel. Set them aside.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or a blender and blend until it is smooth and creamy.

Return the soup to the pot and, on a very low heat, cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Pour the soup into two serving bowls or plates and add some olive oil and lemon strips on top of each.

We wish you all a super fun and sweet Halloween!

Francesca Xx

Sofia’s first birthday and a pinch of Halloween

Sofia in the Fall

This post is way overdue. After I terrified half of the blogosphere last January telling my blogger friends stories about my neurosis during the first weeks of my life with Sofia, I haven’t written another post to let you know how things have been working out in the following months (well, except Stefano’s very quick note back in April). I thought it was time for me to break the silence.

People say that puppies are like babies. They are absolutely right. After Sofia turned 6 months (about 3 years old in human terms), my domestic life got much easier and quite enjoyable.

Sofia in the Fall

Sofia is a sweet, cheerful and happy dog. She is great at playing with children and other dogs and everybody ends up liking her and petting her. Some chewing is still there, but it is getting better and better. Is she the most disciplined dog? Of course not! I find myself being less strict with Sofia than I am with Her Majesty. Every time I am about to put her in timeout, she looks at me with those begging eyes as if she wanted to ask me “are you seriously considering to put me in timeout?…” Well, that look is too adorable to resist, even for me! 😉

What I really learned and discovered during the past months can be summarized in two words: unconditional love. Unconditional love is such an unattainable feeling. It is the purest kind of love. I believe it is what Sofia feels for the members of her family. She is happy for me and with me when I’m in a good mood and she is sad when my day is not so great and I feel kind of blue. She tries to comfort me: she licks me and lays down with one of her paws on my foot as if she was telling me “don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine. I’m here for you”. Sometimes I feel that she can read my soul. All this without saying a word. Only with her body language. And most importantly, without asking anything in return.

Sofia in the Fall

When did I find out that I had fallen in love with Sofia? It happened this summer. One afternoon, I was home by myself (Stefano was on a business trip). She started feeling very sick and I had to rush her to an emergency hospital. Thank goodness my friend and neighbor was home and she was kind enough to drive me and Sofia to the hospital. I’m a very bad driver and, under the circumstances, I couldn’t think straight. When the doctor told me that she had no idea why Sofia was sick and that it would have been better to hospitalize her for the night, my heart missed a beat. I cried all my way home, I barely slept a couple of hours that night and I found some peace again only the next morning, when I got a phone call from the same doctor telling me that Sofia was much better and I could go to pick her up. You see, that night I realized that I cannot imagine my life without Sofia.

So the message that I would like to send to those who dislike dogs (like the previous version of myself) and those who are undecided whether or not to join the dog lover camp is simple. Sure, a dog is a huge commitment. Sure, a dog can be messy and the cleaning is virtually endless. Sure, life with a little puppy is a nightmare. However, if you are patient enough and willing to surround your dog with love, tenderness and care (yes, and the right amount of discipline!), it is only a question of time before this wonderful furry creature starts to fill your heart with infinite love and joy.

Banana and Nutella sandwich

Enough with this! It simply does not sound like me and people can get scared. 🙂 Only a few more words on the photographs of this post.

Her Majesty was really excited about Sofia’s first birthday. She made one of her own favorite treats – a banana and nutella sandwich – and prepared the shooting set for Stefano taking care of every single detail. The last photograph was taken by Her Majesty herself and Stefano is really proud of his pupil! 🙂

Halloween decorations

As you can see from the image below, she also decided to give you a sneak peek of her Halloween dinner menu: who could ever resist bat eyes, skeleton stake and ghost gloup? If you are wondering what ghost gloup is, Her Majesty told me that it is a new ice-cream in her fantasy world. Maybe a variant of glop?… Care to join us for dinner that night? Anyone? 😉

Francesca Xx

Halloween decorations