The Cinque Terre or The Italian Riviera

October 11th, 2015

Cinque Terre 1

The Cinque Terre region of Italy is not usually on people’s top 10 list of places to visit.  It is a string of five centuries old villages on the rugged coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  The colorful houses and ancient terraced vineyards provide awe inspiring vistas. Fishing boats bob in the harbor.  Historically, fishing was the livelihood of the residents of this region.  The colorful houses originated because fishermen out in the water liked to look back and spot their own dwellings by their distinctive colors.

Cinque Terre 2

The roads into the villages are winding and scenic.  This is a perfect drive on a motorcycle or in a convertible, although the roads do not always go directly into the villages.  There are parking areas outside of each village.  Walking trails bring you into the hub of towns.  The whole area is connected to the country by way of railroads and a ferry system.

Cinque Terre

The local people have cultivated the terraced mountainous terrain for centuries.  The main crops are grapes and olives.  But the region is also the birthplace of pesto.  Basil, which thrives in the temperate Ligurian climate is mixed with Parmigiano and/or Pecorino, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts to make the pungent and delicious emulsion.  Served on spaghetti or bruschetta, it is popular the world over.

Cinque Terre Tulin and Me

Tulin and I sat at a bistro overlooking the sea, perusing the limited menu.  One of the best things on the menu was a tomato and basil topped large toasted bruschetta.  Unfortunately I did not get a picture of it.  It was delicious and I am attempting to duplicate it here.

Cinque Terre T and P

The views from the village of Manarola were breathtaking.

Cinque Terre 4

We were in Manarola on Monday.  It was wash day.  What was so charming about these small villages is the lack of pretension.  Real people live here, going about their daily lives.  It is so different from the posh French Riviera.

Cinque Terre village scene

It is the time of year to harvest what is left of the basil plants here at home.  My basil has become leggy and much too tall.


With thoughts of the lunch that I had in Manarola in the Cinque Terre, I made pesto and a bruschetta similar to what I had experienced there.  It made a delicious lunch here at home.

IMG_6609 (1)


Here are some general recipes and instructions.

BASIL PESTO FROM LIGURIA (The Four Seasons of Pasta)

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups
2 packed cup0s whole, tender young basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus more to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino sardo or pecorino toscano
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed and minced

Working delicately, rinse and thoroughly dry the basil leaves and set aside.  In the bowl of the food processor, combine the rinsed and dried basil, the pine nuts, and salt.  Pulse until the mixture is coarse and grainy.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream.  Add the parmigiano and pecorino, processing just enough to mix well.  If the sauce is too dry, add a little more oil; if it’s too liquid, stir in a little more cheese and/or pine nuts.  Finally, add the garlic and process briefly, just to mix.  Taste and add more cheese or salt, if desired.


Brush sliced Italian bread with olive oil.  Bake until lightly browned.  Smear the tops with basil pesto.  Pile on diced tomatoes, more dollops of pesto, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and sliced fresh basil leaves.

Printable Recipe

Thanks to Laurent of Ride in Tours for several of the photos

The Four Seasons of Pasta

October 7th, 2015


Tuscany Countryside


Before we left for Italy I was sent an advance proof from the publisher of a new cookbook called The Four Seasons of Pasta by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins.  It was released this week.  Acclaimed food writer Nancy Jenkins (The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook ) teams up with her Master Chef daughter Sara, owner of two NY City restaurants (Porsena and Porchetta), to publish this unique book on pasta.  It focuses on fresh ingredients from the four seasons.  Dressing pasta with fresh ingredients results in dishes that celebrate this humble and readily available product.

Four Seasons of Pasta

When Nancy Jenkins first moved to Tuscany in the early 1970’s, she quickly embraced pasta.  Over the years, she and her daughter, while cooking in their Tuscan farmhouse, have been inspired by this “queen of the table” as described by true Italians.  Because it is Autumn, I decided to concentrate on that section of the cookbook.  It includes combinations like Pumpkin and Pumpkin Seed Maccheroncini, Pasta with Crumbled Sausage, Sage, and Winter Squash and Chestnut Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, and Fennel.  I chose to make their Zuppa di Pasta e Ceci (Rich Chicken Soup with Pasta and Chickpeas).  It also includes Tuscan kale, which is a great Fall green.


For this Autumn recipe, it would be wise to make a rich, flavorful chicken stock.  But if you are short on time, a boxed chicken stock will also work.  The authors recommend dried chickpeas, but frankly, I used a can of chickpeas because time is limited right now.  And I am still suffering from jet lag. They also recommend adding diced chicken to the soup.  I roasted a chicken when we returned home yesterday because I was anxious to be cooking in my own kitchen again.  So the rest of that chicken went into the soup.


We will be enjoying this soup tonight.  The weather has cooled.  We are glad to be home.  But Italy is an amazing country with inspiring cuisine.  There will be more posts about Italy soon.  I highly recommend this well researched cookbook from two  Italian authorities on all that Italy has to offer.  It was a treat to come home and make this easy authentic dish.


6 cups Rich Chicken Stock
1 to 2 bunches fresh greens (I used kale)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon finely diced pancetta or thick, country-style bacon
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed with the flat blade of a knife
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas, well drained (I used one can of chickpeas, drained)
1 cup pasta (small shapes are best, I used mini wheels)
1 dried red chili pepper, if desired
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino sardo, or other firm cheese

Bring the chicken stock slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat.

While the stock is heating, prepare the greens, stripping away the tough center stalks where necessary and slivering the leaves.  You will have 7 to 8 cups trimmed and slivered greens.

Combine the oil and pancetta in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat.  Cook until the pancetta fat starts to run and the the little cubes begin to brown and  crisp.  Add the garlic and continue cooking, raising the heat slightly, until the garlic has browned on all sides.  Remove the garlic and set aside.  Add the greens to the pan with the water clinging to their leaves. (You may not be able to get all the greens in at once; let the early ones cook down a bit, then add another handful, and keep doing that until all the greens are in the pan.)  You may wish to add about 1/2 inch of boiling water to the pan to keep the greens from scorching.  Cook the greens until they are thoroughly limp, adding salt and pepper to taste.

By now the stock should be simmering.  Add the greens and pancetta to the stock.  You may add a tablespoon or so of liquid left in the bottom of the greens pan, but don’t add a lot more because it may darken the clear, rich color of the stock.  If your wish, chop the reserved garlic  clove and add it to the stock.  Stir in the chickpeas and pasta, along with as much or as little or the dried red chili as you wish. (Add the diced cooked chicken, if available, at this point.)  Let simmer until the pasta is done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Serve immediately, while the soup is hot.  Pass the grated parmigiano at the table.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Nancy Harmon Jenkins and Sara Jenkins, 2015.

Printable Recipe

Italy So Far

October 2nd, 2015


Duomo MilanOne of the beautiful sights in Milan is the famous Duomo or Cathedral.  It was one of the first things that we saw after getting settled into our first lodging place.  There are five of us traveling together.  Our French friend Laurent is acting as our travel guide.  The other couple with us is our daughter-in-law’s Father, Dave and her step-mother, Tulin.  We chose to stay in houses this time while abroad.  Each home or villa was within easy reach of each of our destinations and we settled into each for at least two nights, sometimes up to four nights.  Our chosen itinerary included Milan, Lake Como, The Dolomites, Venice, Tuscany including Florence and Pisa, and a side trip into the Cinque Terre (The Italian Riviera), and finally Rome.

Milan Arcade

Next to the Duomo in Milan is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  It is a mall housed in a glass-covered 19th century arcade with many upscale shops.  We did a lot of window shopping.

Milan, Arcade L

The glass enclosure lets in a lot of light.


Prada Prices

The prices of the items in the Prada window display kept us from even entering the store.

Prada Window display

Do you think those gold heels will become the next fashion statement?

Milan, Scala Opera House


The La Scala Opera House is also in Milan.

Lake Como, Long View

After leaving Milan, we headed north and east to beautiful Lake Como.  Because we live on a lake, this was a special place for us to visit.  Friends who have been here before told us that Lake Lure is a mini version of Lake Como.

Lake Como View from BDRM

This was the view from our bedroom in the villa that we rented.  Although it was a lovely place, getting to it was a real challenge as the roads were narrow and the curves were hairpin.  It was easier on the bikes, but we also have a car with us and we girls were in charge of driving the car.  Tulin did an exemplary job of negotiating the curves in the road.  We are finding Italian traffic challenging.  That is all for now.  Our internet service is not always perfect.  More later.  Ciao!  Several of the picture were supplied by our riding friend Laurent, who runs the very successful tour company called Ride in Tours.

Arrivederci for a Few Weeks

September 13th, 2015



Italy, Milan 2


We are on our way to Italy this week.  It has been a whirlwind of activity proceeding our departure.  I have had little time to plan ahead.  But much of our itinerary is already in place.  We will be doing another motorcycle tour with our French friends in charge and the other couple from the states who have accompanied us on many of our trips.  We will fly into Milan and spend two days acclimating ourselves to the time zone.  While there we will view Da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, visit the Duomo, and do a little shopping.  Since Milan is the Fashion Capital of Italy, that is a necessity.

Italy, Lake Como

From Milan we will travel to beautiful Lake Como.  We have reserved a lovely 3 bedroom house on the lake (Not the one pictured above) for 3 days.  I am hoping to take a cooking class at Ristorante Il Caminetto.

Italy, Stelvio-Pass

David and the other guys are looking forward to riding the Stelvio Pass.  It is a winding road in the Italian Alps that is popular with motorcycle enthusiasts. We girls will probably find something else to do.  One of the advantages of the trip this year is that we are staying put in one place for a few days at a time, which allows the guys to do day trips around the area.  We also have a van at our disposal.

Italy, VeniceVenice will be a lovely experience I am sure.  My friend Penny told me about a wonderful restaurant, Poste Vecie, off the beaten path that I am looking forward to finding.

Italy, Tuscany

From Venice we will travel west into the region of Tuscany. It should be wine harvest season and all of us are looking forward to the beauty of the region.

Tuscany Kitchen

The Tuscan farmhouse that we have rented appears charming.  It is an easy bus ride into Florence.

Italy, Florence

There is so much to do in Florence.  It is nice to have the luxury of a few days spent there.

Italy Rome

Our last stop will be Rome.  I will do my best to chronicle our trip either on The Lake Lure Kitchen Facebook page or my personal Facebook page.  I will also try to post our adventures here on the blog.  I will see you back here soon.

Exciting News

September 9th, 2015


I have been hesitant to say anything about the visitors I have had at the cottage this week.  I was afraid that something would happen to jinx the visit.  But right on schedule (or close to it), the photography team of Gridley and Graves showed up for a photo shoot of my house for French Country Style Magazine.  We are still in the midst of it all, but it has been a very interesting, exciting, and scary experience.  Scary because of my obsessive worry about everything being perfect; not possible.  Exciting because I never dreamed that my house would be in a magazine.  Interesting because the process of professional photograph is amazing.  Anne Gridley and Gary Graves are real pros and very easy to work with.  Their equipment is massive as you can see by the above photo.


In preparation for their visit, I made a Walnut Gateau Breton and baked my Garlic Rosemary Baguettes for props.  They spent most of their time in the kitchen yesterday.  Today they have moved on to the rest of the house.  IMG_6564

I’m not sure when, or if, our Lake Lure Cottage will be in French Country Style Magazine, but I feel honored to have been considered and will be one happy lady when I see it all in print.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.