Liguria and Tuscany Culinary Expedition May 2015

 

If  you sign up in the next 48 hours, by January 25, 2015, you will receive a $200 discount. Deposit is also required by January 25, 2015. : http://www.culinarianexpeditions.com/#!tuscany-2015/c215e
 

Dear Friends,

Travel changes us. It's a journey that enriches us and enables us to better understand people in the way they live, the way they think, and the way they eat. If the travel is meaningful, we're never the same again, and the place we've traveled to will have something of us left behind. The bonds and the good will are there forever.
We strive to provide our expeditioners the understanding of the 'back-story' of the place they visit. We travel in small groups and stay out of the tourist mainstream, learning the history, art, and gastronomy of the places. We support the idea of the basic, true, and traditional cuisine of a place, and believe that cooking should be a simple affair with the best ingredients grown locally. And food, after all, is the common language we all speak, with a good glass of wine to enhance communication.
So, get your comfortable walking shoes, 'set sail from the safe harbor', and join us in 2015 for a dazzling expedition to Tuscany and Liguria, Italy. Those of you who have mentioned you would like to join us, please don't delay in booking, the groups are small. Here are just a few of the highlights with links:
 
 Tuscany and Liguria, 7 nights, May 2 - 9, 2015
Includes a cooking class with a chef, and a walk through the seaside mountain paths that connect the ancient seaside towns of Cinque Terre.
·        A visit to the walled cities of San Gimignano and Siena
·        A walk through historic Lucca
·        A drive through the Chianti countryside
·        A visit to Florence
·        A tour of a famous local Renaissance Villa Torrigiani and the Villa Gardoni gardens
 
Date: May 2 – 9
Price: $3,500 plus $300 single supplement
Lodging: Casale de Pasquinelli: http://www.casaledepasquinelli.it
Link: http://www.culinarianexpeditions.com/#!tuscany-2015/c215e

 

La Befana, a Traditional Italian Holiday on January 6




 
La Befena

Different than many other countries around the world, Christmas time in Italy is celebrated until January 6th, Epiphany day. Epiphany honors the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. It’s the last celebration that brings the Christmas period to an end. 
Panettone

In Italy, the legend of La Befana (The witch) is one that is traditionally told during the time of Epiphany. According to legend, on the night before the feast of the Epiphany, Befana flies around on her broom, delivering gifts. She leaves candy, fruit, and small gifts in the stockings of children who are well-behaved throughout the year. If a child is naughty, he or she believes to find a lump of coal left behind by La Befana. The children look forward to Epiphany with a sense of anxiety and enthusiastic anticipation. According to legend, on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, while the children are asleep, an old good woman, called “Befana” flies in the sky on her broom with a special bag full of packages. She comes into their home and brings them special gifts, so when they wake up in the morning they find a surprise.
 
Fig cake
On this day, the children wake up very early in the morning excited to find their gifts. The Italian custom also says that the Befana leaves her gifts not just at one house, but she also visits relatives such as grandparents’, aunts, uncles and other relatives’ homes.  Epiphany day in Italian homes are always full of people visiting and of children unwrapping gifts. Tables are filled with cakes, candy, Italian liqueurs, and everything is encompassed by a happy atmosphere or peace and harmony.

By the way growing up, in the many years we celebrated La Befana, I never received coal by la Befana. I miss this holiday because it was about the children.  The adults brought it together and we celebrated together at the table to finalize the last day of the Christmas holiday.  I love tradition!

Middle Eastern Pastries in Melbourne



 
Kangaroo Chillin

When it comes to an end of 2014 year, I realize that everything has moved so fast that I remember very little of everything that passed. I do remember well the support and love of my family, my doggies, and the people who to this day are still here with me on this journey. 

2015 must begin with new hope for all. Hope of a less hectic year, the re-beginning of taking better care of ourselves, spending more time with people we love, and continue to explore new possibilities to enrich our life’s. 

Good food starts with good basics. This year I will take more time to make my blogs more personal.  Select recipes that are still easy to make, with simple explanations, handy tips, and more photos.  I will show basic techniques to make superlative cuisine.  


My Trip to Melbourne, Australia
I had a magnificent time on our visit to see my in-laws in Melbourne, Australia during 2014 Thanksgiving season. I visited beaches, the animal sanctuary, water falls, vineries, and much more.  I savored incredible new Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish foods. I had delicious and remarkable saganaki, spanakopita, moussaka, and other delicious Greek favorites. The entire trip was magical. I visited lots of grocery stores and markets in search of new spices, salts and new recipes. While having many cappuccinos, I indulged in many pastries which were impossible to resist.  

Here are some photos of pastries I enjoyed during my trip which I would like to share with you. I will write the recipes, probably teach them in my cooking classes this year, and share them on my blog.

Basma Pastry
BASMA: Pronounced [bas-mah], it comes from the Lebanese word for “a smile”. Well, when you take your first bite, it will put a smile on your face.

Basma is made from Knafeh dough, then multiple layers of dough and nuts are stacked and baked. Basma is served as a dessert. It is usually served as part of Baklava assortments. Basma is mostly popular in Lebanon.
 
Namoura Pastry


Namoura is a traditional dessert, easy and yummy. Dense cake with Middle Eastern flavors like rose water and orange blossom water, and soaked with simple syrup. It's sweet, sticky, and delicious. Good for every occasion, great after a meal, or with tea or coffee.



 
Almond Birdnest Pastry



These “ birdnest” are pastry sweets, filled with almonds, usually given on holidays such as Eid and Ramadan and at other celebrations.



These Pyramid pastries can be made with many types of nut fillings. They are all in the baklava family. Each have their individual look and special flavor.  

Hazelnut Pyramid Pastry
 
Walnut Pyramid Pastry