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Travel Photographs from Tuscany 3

Travel Photographs- Tuscany 2

Travel Photographs- Tuscany

This gallery contains 7 photos.

2013 Travel Dates

2013 Travel Dates 
*Tuscany – Throughout May, October
*Provence – Throughout May, September
*Spanish Catalonia & Barcelona - September 10-16

We’re pleased to announce our 2013 trip schedule for Friends and Food International. Our guided trips are designed to provide an insider’s perspective of the beautiful regions we visit.  We invite you to be part of a group, staying at historic villas and country inns with hosts who are experts in cuisine, history, culture, and the fine art of living well.

Our fall & spring travel dates coincide with the best seasons for exploring scenic villages, vineyards and regional markets. People and their food are the keystones of culture. Knowing how and where it is produced, and its place in history and celebrations, provides a delicious guide to learning about other people and their communities.
Our philosophy is that the joy of travel and learning are as important as the actual places that we visit. We hope that you can join us this coming year and appreciate and love these wonderful regions as we do.
2013 Travel Dates 
*Tuscany – Throughout May, October
*Provence – Throughout May, September
*Spanish Catalonia & Barcelona - September 10-16
We can also schedule trips at anytime throughout the year for groups of 6 to 10 people upon request. In addition to our European adventures, we also organize trips to South India and in the USA to New Mexico, New Orleans and the Oregon wine country.
The land price is $3250 per person. This cost includes: all meals & wines, restaurants, accommodations & service, group travel, guided tours, cooking classes, and entrance fees.  Does not include air fare.
Thank you and please contact me for more detailed materials, information, itineraries and photos.  I’ll be glad to hear from you, and I’m always happy to discuss travel to beautiful places.

Tomato Water

Tomato “Water”

When you get a glut of tomatoes, make Tomato “Water” which is actually clear tomato juice and somehow tastes more like tomatoes than the flesh itself.
Take the very best summer tomatoes, and chop with a sharp knife (clean cuts are best, do not crush nor bludgeon them), or quick pulse in a food processor, but leave in chunks or large dice. Place in cheese cloth, or wide knit cloth, tie at the top and hang over a bowl to collect the liquid, let hang for 6-12, or even 24 hours. DO NOT SQUEEZE! You just want the clearest liquid, all the red in tomato juice is from the squeezed pulp. The clear liquid is the essence of the flavor in
tomatoes. The left over tomato flesh can be used for a sauce or paste.
You can use it cold for a summer soup, or heat slightly and whisk in a little cream or butter and some fresh marjoram or tarragon, add salt & pepper for a sauce for pasta, fish or chicken.

Summer Panzanella Salad

Summer Panzanella Salad

Like many Italian recipes, this is not a technically difficult recipe, but does depend on the best, very freshest ingredients – straight out of the garden. It’s cheap and easy, very healthy and fast, and can be changed to suit your taste. Italians also say its colors represent their flag (red, white & green), so it’s patriotic to eat this salad.

This salad is great with lightly grilled or poached meat or fish, some cold cuts or cheese, hummus, white beans or, all by itself. You can also add some sliced chile peppers to spice up the salad or some sweet peppers.

* Tomatoes cut into bit sized pieces or cubes
* Cucumbers peeled & seeded, cut into bite sized pieces
* Red Onions, sliced
* Toasted Bread (or day old), baguettes, cut into bite sized cubes
* Dress with: Olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar, lightly salt, add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with Basil leaves.

Take equal amounts of Tomatoes, Cucumbers, sliced Onions and Bread and mix together in a bowl, add some Basil leaves. Toss with olive oil & vinegar (just enough to coat the vegetables and soften the bread slightly), then sprinkle with salt & pepper and let it sit for a few minutes to let the ingredients “marry”, or mix the tastes together.

Then taste again, and see if more salt, pepper, oil or vinegar is needed – but do not add too much. The vegetables will continue to give up their juices, and you want to taste the fresh vegetables mainly. If you don’t want to add more salt, add a pinch of sugar or honey and it will bring up the salty tastes more. Both savory & sweet, crunchy & soft, this salad has wonderful balanced flavors, and the olive oil gives it a hint of richness.

Spring Risotto with Fresh Peas

Spring Risotto with fresh peas and vegetable broth from seasonal greens.
Most items will be at the spring farm market except, rice, olive oil & wine.

* 3 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil

* 1/3 cup New Onions diced & herbs as desired
(onion green tops and herb steams for stock, some fennel stalks are also good)

* 1/3 cup Cured or smoked pork/bacon/swine product, diced. Use for flavor not volume. Guanciale, proscuitto, pork belly, pancetta, etc. If you don’t eat meat its fine to omit.

* 1 cup Italian Risotto Rice, Nano Vialone is traditional for Rissi & Bisi
(or use a grain like spelt, fresh wheat, barley)

* ¾ cup White wine or Verjus (fresh wine grape juice)

* 1 pound (or more) Green Peas (shells & shots reserved for stock)

* 5-8 spears Asparagus (optional, if still available), peeled and sliced on the bias, ½ inch pieces.

* 1/3 cup grated/crumbled Cheese & 3 tablespoons Butter to finish and enrich

*Salt, White Pepper to taste

1. First shell peas, top & clean onions, clean herbs (using the stalks for stock) and make a vegetable stock covering with water, or clear chicken stock – but not too string, you want the flavor of the pea pods. Cover with liquid, a few cracked white peppercorns, add a little white wine if desire. Simmer ½ hour, strain, keep warm over low heat for making risotto.

2. Use a 2-3 pan, and wooden spoon, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until soft, not brown, add diced pork for about 3-5 minutes, render some of their fat.

3. Add risotto and gently stir rice until coated with oil and translucent & clear, about 2-3 minutes. Up to this stage rice can be stopped cooking, and then finished later with stock & wine.

4. Add white wine and stirred until nearly evaporated, alcohol cooked off.

5. Then add 1/3 of warm stock, stir a few times, keep heat to a simmer, not a boil, until liquid is absorbed by rice. Repeat with rest of stock. Add water if too dry, or rice is still hard. This risotto should be soupy, not dry.

6. When rice is almost cooked, about 12-15 minutes, add asparagus and then peas. Don’t overcook, really just to warm (they will continue to cook when served in hot risotto)

7. Then just before serving, add butter, incorporate and thicken (along with the rice starch), add cheese, fresh herbs add some water if not soupy enough. Ladle into bowls, decorate with pea shoots, serve warm.

Note: you want to taste the fresh peas, spring herbs and stock from the pea pods – don’t overwhelm with too much butter, cheese or pork, salt & pepper


Mark has taught New American, Tuscan, Provencal, and Low-Country cooking classes in Washington, DC, and other locations in the United States & Europe. In addition, he is a chef/creative consultant for Restaurant Equinox, and previously at Butterfield 9 restaurant, New Heights and Red Sage restaurants. In the 1970′s Mr. Haskell cooked in restaurants in France, Italy, Nepal and South America.

He offers cooking classes, cooking demonstrations and more.


Dining With Lulu

Nouvelle cuisine had no effect on LuLu’s cooking. The Mediterranean diet of olive oil and garlic, red wine and ratatouille was bonded into her genetic make-up. It was simply her duty as a Provençal farmer to produce the ingredients of which it was composed.

However, when it came to entertaining and feeding guests, she went back to the old northern French traditions: sauces, butter,

and cream, as well, of course, as multiple–no, millions–of courses, as well as loads of animal protein: meat, meat, and more meat.

Most Provencaux today, those younger than LuLu’s generation, don’t eat as their elders did: not as much butter, cream, bread, or wine, although they do eat meat more often and many more processed foods.

Our invitations to LuLu and Marcel’s house always came in the same form, as invitations for un pétit aperitif, for a quick drink, then off we’d go for dinner at home. We’d all agree to be firm: one drink, maybe two. That would be it. We absolutely meant it!

But, we’d walk in and the house would be filled with delicious smells. LuLu would be rushing around in a starched apron, while Marcel rubbed his hands, arching his eyebrows like a mad scientist eager to begin an experiment.

Before you knew it, there’d be a glass of champagne in one hand, with a large platter of several hors d’ouerves zooming in for a landing in the other: tapanades, pissaladieres, stuffed anchovies. One glance around the kitchen and dining room revealed

this was going to be no quick drink! The table and sideboards were groaning with food and many bottles of wine already opened to let it breathe.

And that was just the beginning! At some point we’d be seated and at another, much later, I’d start to think I was about to fade from consciousness– surely there couldn’t be any more coming! But I was always wrong.

Aperitifs, hors d’ouerves, charcuterie,  fromage de tete with rillettes d’oie, paté de foie gras, truffle omelette, brochettes of mussels with zablignone, salad, braised leeks with gruyere, grilled pigeon with toasts,  foie blond, sweet breads with crème de champignon, and zucchini/tomates/onions with sausage farci, Barone d’Agneau with a gratin dauphinois, plateaux des fromages, ile flotant, fruit cloufoutis and sweet creme fraiche, Cavillon melon with Beaumes-de-Venise, chocolates, petits fours, coffee, and, almost laughably, digestifs.

But digestifs or not, it would take a couple of days to fully recover from one of LuLu’s decadent, delicious, exhausting, multi-hourrepasts. Surely this is why the famous French expression crise de foie, ‘crisis of the liver,’ was invented. But also why in France the liver is considered to be the center of one’s soul.

Carrots and Potatoes