An “Italian” Evening–Two

My daughter and grandson arrived shortly after six.  First course included nuts, cheeses, crackers, blue corn chips and salsa–I know, not Italian.  For the adults, Stella Rosa Black from Italy.  For the non-adults organic apple juice.

While we snacked on the first course, we created two versions of Pasta alla Carbonara, one for my vegetarian grandson and one without much parmesan cheese for everyone else.  Traditionally, this dish requires parmesan cheese; however, my daughter is lactose intolerant so we created the other one for her.  The rest of us just topped off our dish with grated parmesan at the dinner table.

We used conchiglie from Monastero di Montebello in Italy for the pasta and for version two, pancetta cut into cubes.  For the vegetarian version we used Morning Star bacon.  Here is the basic recipe for pasta alla carbonara:

cooked pasta

bacon or ham, cut in cubes or small pieces

whipped eggs, approximately one egg for every two people

finely chopped onions sautéed in olive oil–we used one large onion for four

grated parmesan cheese–1/8 to 1/4 cup per person (you can use half parmesan and half pecorino)

Saute onions until translucent.  If you are using any bacon except pancetta, cook it first but not until too crispy.  Add the bacon and heat through.  Add the cooked pasta and the whipped egg/cheese to the onion/bacon mixture.  Continually stir until thoroughly combined and the eggs are cooked.

When to start cooking the pasta so it is cooked and ready to combine with the other ingredients depends on the type of pasta you use.

We served this with a large salad:  leaf lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, chopped red bell peppers, onions, chopped carrots,  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  We concluded the evening with three different ice cream choices for dessert.




In case you are wondering why the Christmas tree is still there, well, Martina and I like the lights so we keep procrastinating taking it down.  I keep telling myself today it will be dismantled and then it is not.  Tonight it will come down–maybe.





Argentinian Adventure–Cafayate in the Calchaqui Valley

One of the highest wine growing regions in the world exists in northern Argentina in the Calchaqui Valley.  This lovely hotel where we spent the night reminded me of New Mexico.


The hotel garden.


The ceiling above the walkway.


The walkway from the garden to the front of the hotel.  Spanish colonial architecture and design seem much the same everywhere.

Cafayate is small and lovely.  Like every other city, it too has a square with a church on one side. We went there instead of Mendoza, the city most people in the US associate with Argentinian wine, because Hugo, Gaston’s dad, prefers the wine from there over that from Mendoza.


The church on the square in Cafayate.


Many trees were in bloom there.  Gaston’s mom and I collected some seeds from this one and I have two plants growing in pots at my house.


More colonial architecture.

Although most of this valley is filled with vineyards from one mountain range to the other, I did see fields as well.


Behind the hotel where we parked the truck, the guy was raising fighting cocks.  I never had the chance to take of photo of them.


After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we needed to the oldest winery in the valley.



The Fly, Wine, and Fennel

I look .

The fly floats in my glass of Seven Deadly Zins,

full to two golden flowers half way up the rim.

What kind of flowers?

I look.

Unsure, I watch the fly struggle, floundering around

in the deep red, the color that turns tongues

purple drunk.

I look.

Dead.  It floats.

Not poor, frugal.  I debate.

Should I throw the wine out?  Drink it?

I take the silver teaspoon–from the six piece

set Father gave Mother in 1946 on their

first anniversary–dip it in the dark, remove

fly, throw it down the antique copper sink drain.

I pick up the glass.

I look,

swirl the wine around in the bowl, take a sip.

Surely 15 percent alcohol kills germs.




It was past seven, time to fix dinner.  Since I live a lone, I often fix dinner for two, save half, and have dinner ready for a hectic evening after work.  Just warm in the microwave.

Cod with Fennel, Mint, and Lemon

Two cod loins–one if extra large

1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic

Olive oil

1/2 to 1 cup finely sliced small carrots

1/2 large poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

several cauliflower florets thinly sliced

crushed dried mint

essential oil of lemon and fennel (if you do not use essential oils,

you can use 1 tsp. ground fennel and lemon juice to taste)


Pour enough olive oil in a ten inch skillet to totally cover the bottom.  Saute garlic and carrots in the olive oil until carrots are almost tender.  Sprinkle a small handful of mint over the garlic and carrot mixture.  Add cauliflower and poblano pepper.  When poblano peppers are about to change color, add the cod.  Sprinkle drops of lemon and fennel essential oil over the cod–or the ground fennel and lemon juice.  Cook until the cod flakes.    Serve over rice.  I use basmati.







Sunday Haiku

McPherson Cellars, Llano Winery, Caprock Vineyards

red, white, sweet, dry

Lubbock, Texas, wine country beckons.

Last Wednesday Kornpanod (Mink) Stiensape, my grandson, and I went on a field trip to Lubbock to visit three wineries.  Mink, my second daughter (in my heart), lived with me as an exchange student six years ago and came back this past month to visit.  First, we stopped at McPherson.  The tasting room, located in downtown Lubbock, not only has various wines to taste but also sells unique and fun items from candles to napkins to T-shirts.  McPherson specializes in dry white wines although they do produce a nice sangiovese as well. Next we drove south of town to Llano.  The current tasting room is small.  The staff is friendly; tasting and tours are totally free unlike McPherson which charges a small fee for tasting.

The tours did not seem to be on an exactly strict schedule so we had to relax and wait a bit.



This photo shows the tasting room at Llano Winery.  I think Mink and I tasted at least half of the red wines, ending with the port which included chocolate to go along with the port. My grandson took photos of the giant stainless steel vats.  Personally, I enjoyed the oak barrels much more.


The tour guide explained the difference between the effects of newer barrels and the older ones, e.g. 35 years old, urged us to touch the surface of the barrels, and explained the varied effects.  The newer the barrel the rougher the surface of the wood.  Newer barrels “breathe” differently than older ones which, of course, alters the effects as well.

Next we drove a short distance farther south to Caprock Vineyards.  The lady at McPherson told us Caprock was getting out of the wine business and planned only to host events.  Absolutely not true according to the young woman at Caprock.  The new owners plan to extend not curtail the wine aspect of their business.  This includes surrounding the beautiful central building with vineyards from which they eventually plan to make wine.  This is already in progress.  Caprock is beautiful, full of elegant ambience which probably explains what others perceive to be an emphasis on events which they do intend to continue. Caprock charges five dollars for five tastings.  The labels of at least one of their wines is very misleading.  I like dry, red wine.  The young lady convinced me to try the Sweet Tempranillo.  It is not sweet; it mystifies me why they call it sweet.  I do not like sweet red wine, but I liked this tempranillo.  It is light enough for summer but dry enough for those who like dry wine. For those unfamiliar with Texas wines, tempranillo has become the go to grape for at least this part of Texas.


The front of the main building walking from the parking lot to the right.


On the path that leads into the malbec vineyard.  There is a pathway that winds through the vineyard and an empty area in the middle where an event could be held.


These photos are also in the malbec vineyard looking toward the main building.


Note:  I know this is Monday, not Sunday.  However, a big electric storm came through just as I started to write this on the computer.  Given that lightning strikes have injured or ruined my TV twice, I got off the computer and shut down the TV.