The variety of landscapes in the region of Abruzzo, Italy, in November are filled with subdued colors. Close to the sea, the fields that once were overflowing with grapevines and olives are now scraggly fields and make silhouettes against the oft gray skies. The new winter frosts have dimmed the once cheerful giardini (gardens). Sunflowers have closed and gone to sleep for most of the winter. The cold harsh winds drive the rains against terra cotta roofs. In the mountains, off in the distance the snow capped mountain tops , can be seen as a sign of things to come to the valley below.
The sheep still graze outside on the muddy hills with a sheepdog, known as an Abruzzese shepherd minds them under a watchful eye.
Truffle and mushroom hunters roam the mountainsides. The open air markets provide a point of color on the brown landscapes, filled with colorful apples, oranges, pears, kiwi, pomegranates on display.
Vino Novello, the new wine that has just been produced from the ‘vendemmia’ in October can be found everywhere as people begin to prepare to gather items for the Holiday table.
As November wears on the harsh rains halt and I wake up to crisp morning skies with a sun as brilliant as the sun of August, so harsh it hurts your eyes. It provides the perfect setting for local farmers to cut and cord the wood for fireplaces everywhere. Especially the kitchen fireplaces that will be used to grill meats and cheese or roast chestnuts for the Holiday meals to come.
Fall signals the time for certain foods ,especially pears in wine, and roasted chestnuts. Jars of white -flesh, preserved pears, now make a stark contrast next to the bright red jarred tomatoes from summer’s end. that decorate many wine cellars or cantinas usually in home basements or separate small attached buildings. But it is time to think of the Holiday meals.
Although Thanksgiving is not officially celebrated here, meals leading up to the Holidays rival any Thanksgiving celebration. Panetone and Pan D’oro the sweet dessert breads of the winter Holidays line the windows of local bakeries and aisles of the supermarkets.
One of my favorite,elegant yet simple appetizers to make for Holiday soirees or to start off a Holiday meal are these mushroom appetizers since mushrooms are in abundance.
An online culinary arts education is what some people pursue when they want to become a chef.
Tortini ai Funghi
- 2 scallions
- ¾ pound fresh mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Pinch of salt and black pepper
- 1 large puff pastry strip, or 4 small strips
- 2 eggs
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 ounces grated Comté cheese
- 3 finely chopped leeks
- 4 small ceramic or glass baking cups; should be about four inches in diameter
Peel and finely chop the scallions. Carefully wash, clean, and thinly slice the mushrooms. Place 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan and sauté the scallions over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and let cool.
Use the remaining butter to butter the baking cups. Place puff pastry in baking cups and cover the bottom and sides of cups with pastry. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt, and grated Comté cheese.
Cover bottom of each baking cup with mushroom slices, then cover with chopped leeks. Pour egg mixture on top.
Cook in oven preheated to 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then for an additional 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
Best served hot.
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