Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From August to November, So Many Chances to Be a Part of the Harvest!

While most of Italy is still savoring the last beach days of summer, the grapes in the valleys and mountains are hard at work. Grapes are grown throughout Italy from the volcanic slopes in Sicily to the cool limestone of northern Alto Adige. With such variations in microclimates and soil profiles, the ripening time of grapes also differ. Now in late-August, native white grape varieties such as Pignoletto grown in central Emilia-Romagna are ready for the picking. While in the north the Nebbiolo di'Alba needs another few weeks before heading to the press.

With every harvest there are also festivals. Most take place in October, the peak of the season, but if you happen to be in Tuscany from September 6 to 11th stop by the 42nd annual Chianti Classico festival in Greve. The week hosts a variety of events including tastings from the region's best producers.
Can't make it over until November? Not a problem, in South Tyrol from November 10-12 you'll be able to sample Italian-Austrian influenced food and wine at the Merano Wine Festival. From strudel and knodel to fresh pasta and biscotti all served with a glass of wine of course!

Don't miss out; with such a long season there's many opportunities to be a part of the action! From north to south, whether one to six days, Cooking Vacations has plenty of wine tours to satisfy the palate. Make your wine harvest vacation dreams come true!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Ferragosto, to Everyone from Cooking Vacations!

Ferragosto! Non si tocca! ~ Ferragosto! Don't touch it!

Ferragosto is THE Summer holiday in Italy and it's a day that is sacredly observed from the florist to the butcher.

Originally a holiday for Emperor Augustus, along with most of the month, Feriae Augusti commemorated the gods and the hard work of the harvest season. August 15 also holds a special meaning in the Catholic Church, reserved to honor the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Often times the date even coincides with the Perseid meteor shower.

With so many reasons to celebrate there area also many ways. Each town has its own events such as a parade, concert, or firework show. Many Italians chose to leave the city all together to enjoy a big family meal al fresco in the countryside or spend a day sunbathing on the beach.

While not everyone is lucky to be off Ferragosto most can take a little time to raise a glass to the last weeks of summer and perhaps catch a glimpse of a lucky shooting star.

Try those peak-of-the-summer peaches in this perfectly peachy sweet in honor of Ferragosto!

Semifreddo Alla Pesca E Menta ~ Peach & Mint Semifreddo

3 Eggs
1 cup Sugar
1 1/4 cups Mascarpone Cheese
2 1/2 cups  Whipped Cream, soft peaks
2 large Peaches, peeled and remove pit
10 Mint leaves
1/2 cup Vodka (optional)

Separate egg whites from the yolks. Reserve egg whites for later use. Whip the yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar. When creamy and light in color, add the mascarpone and beat for 10 seconds or until combined.

With a food processor puree the peaches with the mint leaves and vodka until smooth.

Add peach and mint puree to the mascarpone mixture, then fold in the whipped cream carefully so to not deflate.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining sugar (2/3 cup) until stiff peaks. Add this to the mascarpone mixture, folding in gently so to not deflate.

Place in molds and chill in the freezer for a least 1 day. Unmold when ready to serve and drizzle with honey and garnish with a sliced peach.