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Ernesto’s Onion Soup Recipe

There’s something satisfying about a low-and-slow dinner that pairs perfectly with crisp autumn weather. So while we’re getting into sweater weather here in D.C., we’re outsourcing dinner ideas from our Italian friends in Cannara—this hands-off onion soup is a minimalist masterpiece that transforms the humble onion into a creamy and rich soup that’s perfect for when you want something warm and simple to fill you up.

ERNESTO’S ONION SOUP
INGREDIENTS

White onions

Water

Olive oil

Salt

Garnish (pink peppercorn, black olives, celery, herbs, etc.)
     DIRECTIONS

– Start with 3 or 4 white onions and slice into thin strips. Add them to a wide pot and pour in a 50/50 mix of water and olive oil until onions are half submerged.

– Add salt, then cook for about 30-40 minutes on medium-low heat, until onions are translucent and soft.

– Blend mixture, adding about 1/2 cup of olive oil to emulsify. Texture should be smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste.

– Garnish as desired. Serve.

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There's something satisfying about a low-and-slow dinner that pairs perfectly with crisp autumn weather. So while we're getting into sweater weather here ...

Teddy’s Cannara

The small town of Cannara, my temporary home during my 3 month Italian sojourn, is undeniably small. And this is a great thing! The 10 or so minute stroll from the idyllic countryside farmhouse to town center brings you past the single supermarket, the pizzeria, the bank, the hardware/convenience store, the town monument, then plops you down at the bar. I’m using the definite (the) rather than indefinite (a/an) article here because, well you can be sure it’s the bar because it’s the only one in town. While on one hand this means fewer options, you don’t need anything else when you arrive to Bar Blue Sky and the baristas know how you take your coffee, or you start to pick up the rules of the card game that seemingly every male over the age of 60 in the town congregates to play in the late afternoon every day. For two weeks each year, however, this small town becomes the center of Italian cultural and culinary fascination during the Festa della Cipolla.
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Cannara is known throughout Italy, and to some extent even throughout Europe, as the place where the best onions are grown. The onion is the agricultural legacy of Cannara, and this two-week long festival celebrates the bulb by opening pop-up restaurants throughout the town with onion themed menus. All the cooking sends out the smell of onion through the town and beyond, drawing visitors in on the scent streams from far and wide. And a crazy thing happens – this small town suddenly becomes absolutely bustling! An estimate of visitors over the two weeks I received from every Umbrian I know was between 60,000 and 70,000. This is for a town that my own estimate would say has about 1,000 residents, so you can imagine the change of scenery!

 

At nights during the festa, the town is alive with dangling lights, live music, local artisan vendors selling their wares, and, of course, innumerable onion dishes from which to choose at the various temporary restaurants. Hiring a staff to work for only two weeks is likely a tall task, so they skip it altogether – the employees are composed of town locals, coming in pretty much any age imaginable (I’ve seen some 7 year old-waiters and some 70 year old-waiters) who volunteer when they can throughout the course of the celebration. And because everyone is excited to try the once-a-year food options, the lines are huge. Arriving late on the last night of the festival, Cal and I had no time to wait and instead pulled the real clever move of eating at the best actual restaurant in Cannara – Perbacco – with the talented chef Ernesto and his delightful wife and host Simona.
We ate roasted onion; we ate onion soup; we ate onion pizza; we ate onion cream; we ate onion ice cream (shockingly good). It was a full meal and a satisfying meal, and Ernesto made the perfect wine recommendation for two novice drinkers – he so casually explained that the bottle of wine satisfied all of the specific areas of our interest (from Umbria, dry, not heavy but with enough body, spontaneous fermentation) without us even giving him any criteria. And, lo and behold, two novice drinkers finishing a whole bottle of wine together (and a digestivo) led to a pretty fun evening! We stayed at the restaurant for about three hours, taking up conversation with the Dutch spouses seated next to us and reveling in the fashion choices of the visiting population ambling our typically sleepy streets.
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To end the night, we made our way to the Onion Disco Pub. To my knowledge, this outdoor bar and venue is closed for all but these two weeks of the year, so you have to know that folks make the most of its brief opening. The music bumps from here across town most nights of the festival, and it is where people gather after having dined on their onions and need to start – or keep – drinking. It was the largest – and youngest – crowd I’ve ever seen in Cannara, singing along to the band’s covers of classic Italian pop hits. Once tired, we left the scene and headed home, thankful for the short walk from the center of our small town.

 

A dopo,

 

Teddy

The small town of Cannara, my temporary home during my 3 month Italian sojourn, is undeniably small. And this is a great thing! ...

Meet Our New Sommelier!

Many of you may have noticed our new wine tasting series happening every Friday at 6 PM. Even though we introduced it just a few weeks ago, we’ve had a ton of interest from our wine-loving regulars here at Via Umbria. To make sure no one misses out on the wine-fueled fun and hands-on learning at our weekly tastings, we thought we’d ask our sommelier, Will Moriarty, to write a blog post introducing himself.

The next step? Reserve a spot at an upcoming wine tasting to meet Will (and our wines!) for yourself.


I began my restaurant career as a teenager, eventually and working my way from barback to sommelier. After a few years as the wine director for The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, I moved on to become the floor sommelier at Fiola Mare in Georgetown. I’ve always tried to take the pretention out of wine. In my opinion, wine is meant to be fun and engaging rather than stuffy and unapproachable. Luckily for everyone, Bill & Suzy feel the same way. I joined the team here as our in-house sommelier to make sure every customer has the opportunity to try incredible wines without feeling intimidated—after all, wine is meant to be enjoyed!

We structure our tastings as a simulated wine tour through Italy. Depending on the day, I choose 4-6 different wines that I think best highlight some of our favorite Italian regions. They’re fun and energetic; less like a formal guided wine tasting and more like a casual happy hour (that just so happens to be led by a sommelier).

The communal tasting covers each wine in depth, from its beginnings in the winemaking process to deep-dives in varietals, terroir, palette and pairings. And don’t worry, there’s a sampling of special small bites and snacks from the kitchen.

See you on Friday!

—Will

Many of you may have noticed our new wine tasting series happening every Friday at 6 PM. Even though we introduced it just ...

Lemon-Ricotta Ravioli

These ravioli stuffed with a zesty lemon-ricotta mixture are going to be your new favorite meal. All you need is patience and a bit of confidence—your reward will be a plate full of citrus-y, creamy deliciousness.

PASTA DOUGH 
INGREDIENTS

200 g semolina flour

200 g type 00 flour

4 eggs

     DIRECTIONS

On a large wooden cutting board, make a well with the flour. Crack eggs into the well. Using a fork, slowly beat the eggs and mix in the flour, being careful not to break the walls of the well.

After most of the egg and flour is incorporated, begin to knead the dough. Knead for at least 10 minutes, until very smooth.

Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for 15-30 minutes
before rolling.

LEMON-RICOTTA RAVIOLI
INGREDIENTS

2 c ricotta

Zest of 1 lemon

1 c ground pecorino or parmigiano

1 egg yolk

Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta dough (above)

     DIRECTIONS

Combine ricotta, lemon zest, pecorino/parmigiano and egg yolk. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Roll out pasta dough until paper thin. Dollop the ricotta mixture onto your pasta sheets. Cover the mixture with another sheet of pasta, sealing around each dollop to encase the ricotta tightly.
Cook in boiling water 2-3 minutes until ravioli rises
to the top of the pot.

 

These ravioli stuffed with a zesty lemon-ricotta mixture are going to be your new favorite meal. All you need is patience and ...

Grape Harvest 2018

Our friend Federico, owner and vintner behind Terre Margaritelli in Umbria, wrote us last week to tell us about this year’s grape harvest.


Good harvest, but not for all.

2018 has been a very hard season because of the continuous rain that we had during the spring. We spent a lot of time in the vines to be sure to there that was no mold or fungus attacking the grapes. The last month has been hot and dry so the maturation is going quickly.

We have just begun to harvest, 10 days earlier that usual due to the quick maturation and so far we are seeing very good quality. Thanks to all our efforts made in the spring the season is safe. Unfortunately, many of our neighboring producers have lost a good part of their production.

In agriculture, especially in organic farming, the timing makes the difference, and watching carefully over the vineyards throughout the season has helped us to avoid major difficulties.

We hope to continue with this quality for the rest of the harvest and pour some wonderful wine into your glasses in 2018.  And we will also have some nice new bubbles as well!

Our friend Federico, owner and vintner behind Terre Margaritelli in Umbria, wrote us last week to tell us about this year's grape harvest. Good harvest, but not for ...

Jennifer’s Sausage with Grapes

This recipe for sausage with grapes from Chef Jennifer embodies the humble (but delicious!) cooking style of Umbria. Though it has just four ingredients, it’s a remarkably well-balanced dish that packs a flavor punch. Make it as a simple dinner when you’re too tired to cook but want something satisfying on the table.

SAUSAGE WITH GRAPES
INGREDIENTS

8 sausage links

Fresh wine grapes, cut in half (can substitute raisins)

White wine

Italian parsley (or other herb of choice)

     DIRECTIONS

Brown the sausages in a pan until well caramelized. Add the grapes (or raisins). Follow with the white wine, pouring into pan until about 1/3 of the way up the sausages. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Add parsley leaves and cover, simmering over low heat until sausages are cooked.

Slice the sausages in half on the bias and let them sit in the sauce for at least 10 minutes.

** If desired, reduce the sauce further (with sausages in it) by cooking a little further.

 

This recipe for sausage with grapes from Chef Jennifer embodies the humble (but delicious!) cooking style of Umbria. Though it has just four ingredients, it's a ...

Teddy’s Cannellini Semplice and Radicchio Brasato

Here’s a meal I prepared recently: fagioli cannellini semplice e radicchio brasato. This meal combines a staple of my Italian cooking experience and a new recipe that is applied from the techniques and approach I’ve come to learn in my time cooking in Umbria.

 
FAGIOLI CANNELLINI SEMPLICE
INGREDIENTS

1 can/jar cannellini beans
1 yellow onion
1-2 carrots
1-2 stalks of celery
Parmigiano reggiano
Salt
Pepper
Fresh herbs/seasoning
Optional:
white wine, chicken/vegetable stock &
lemon zest
     DIRECTIONS

Start by preparing a classic soffrito: dice your onion, carrot, and celery, and let them sweat on low heat with a bit of oil, butter, or both. Cook until translucent.

Once the onions and carrots are soft, you can add a pinch of salt and the rest of your aromatics (typically I’ll go for some crushed red pepper to give the dish some heat, or you can add herbs like rosemary and thyme).

Once the pan is smelling fragrant, add your rinsed beans. Cook until you’re satisfied—if you want the dish to be dry, cook until the beans are warm and you’re done! If you want a stew-like quality, keep the temperature low and add some white wine, chicken/vegetable stock, or even just some water. Option to toss in more butter to get a rich, velvety texture.

Once you have the consistency you’d like, pull the beans from the heat and top with some parmigiano and, if you’d like, some lemon zest. This is the dish I always cook for myself on the elusive rainy day in Los Angeles.

radicchio

In Umbria, radicchio is typically roasted over a fire then finished with salt and oil, maybe some lemon juice, and it is a delight. I hadn’t been using the oven recently, however, and wanted to put it to use:


RADICCHIO BRASATO 
INGREDIENTS

1 whole head of radicchio
1 yellow onion
Red wine
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
     DIRECTIONS

Preheat to 450-500—you just want it to be hot.

Quarter your radicchio lengthwise. Put a pan on medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil and a small pat of butter. Place the radicchio into the pan to sear its outside—it should brown and even start to blacken before you flip it, about 2-3 minutes a side.

Once the radicchio is seared, transfer the quarters into a baking dish. Slice the onion and add into the baking dish.

Take your bottle of red wine and pour into the dish until the radicchio is about 1/4 submerged, then add just a bit of water to bring the liquid level to just under 1/2 of the radicchio.

Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once it’s out of the oven, feel free to drizzle with some good olive oil!

Here's a meal I prepared recently: fagioli cannellini semplice e radicchio brasato. This meal combines a staple of my Italian cooking experience ...

Tommaso Collins Recipe

We’re celebrating Suzy’s birthday with one of her favorite drinks to sip on—the Tom Collins. In the Italian spirit, we’ve renamed ours Tommaso and used our favorite Italian sparkling water. Here’s why we love it: it’s a simple (and quick!) blend of gin, lemon juice, seltzer and simple syrup which, when combined, is a citrus-y sour cocktail thats deliciously refreshing. Perfect for the sweltering heat of late August!

TOMMASO COLLINS
INGREDIENTS

Ice

Juice of ½ a lemon

½ oz. simple syrup

Seltzer

Lemon wedge, for garnish.

     DIRECTIONS

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in gin, lemon juice and simple syrup.

Top with seltzer water. Taste and adjust as needed.

Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

We're celebrating Suzy's birthday with one of her favorite drinks to sip on—the Tom Collins. In the Italian spirit, we've renamed ours ...

Fig Crostata Recipe

This is our favorite way to handle an overabundance of produce—depending on the season you can make a filling with mixed berries, apples and cinnamon or ricotta and marmalade. Here Liam uses a mix of ripe figs, honey and a dash of vincotto. The wine (vincotto translates to “cooked wine”) deepens the flavor and rounds out the sweetness of the figs, leaving you with a balanced and elegant dessert. Enjoy!

FIG CROSTATA RECIPE
INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

300g flour + more for dusting

140g butter, room temperature

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

1 ½ Tbs baking powder (or 1 packet of Italian bkg powder w vanilla)

pinch salt

For the filling:

6 cups of fresh ripe and plump figs

¾ cup honey

1 T a.p. Flour

3 T butter, cubed into small pieces

1 T vin cotto

 

     DIRECTIONS

Roll the dough to about ½” thickness.  Place in a 10” pie pan.

Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the filling and put in the pie pan. Fold the outer edges of the dough around the perimeter of the fig filling. Brush the dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Put in refrigerator for 1 hour before baking at 375 for 30-45 minutes.  

Serve warm.  

This is our favorite way to handle an overabundance of produce—depending on the season you can make a filling with mixed berries, ...

Marinated Pecorino

To continue with our celebration of cheeses, we’re enjoying one of Italy’s finest formaggi in a simple but decadent way. Almost perfect on its own, pecorino gets a boost from a generous drizzle of good olive oil and cracked black pepper. Buon appetito!

MARINATED PECORINO
INGREDIENTS

1 lb pecorino

1/2 c olive oil

Black pepper, ground coarsly

     DIRECTIONS

-Break or cut the cheese into small bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch.

-Toss with the olive oil and black pepper. Put in a serving bowl and cover.

-Let the cheese marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving. Can be made ahead but should be served at room temperature.

To continue with our celebration of cheeses, we're enjoying one of Italy's finest formaggi in a simple but decadent way. Almost perfect ...

Liam’s Panettone French Toast

If (for some inexplicable reason) you ever find yourself with leftover panettone, we highly recommend turning it into french toast. While we always gobble ours up immediately, we’ve found that buying a second loaf just for this recipe works equally well. Chef Liam’s french toast includes almond extract, cinnamon and nutmeg in the egg custard, which gives each plate of french (italian?) toast touch of warmth.

You can pre-order your holiday panettone here.

PANETTONE FRENCH TOAST
INGREDIENTS

 

6 whole eggs

1 quart of whole milk

1 T vanilla extract

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground nutmeg

1 T almond extract

     DIRECTIONS

Whisk eggs. Add the remaining ingredients. Whisk until combined.

-Slice your panettone into 1.5” thick slices and soak in the mixture for about 30 seconds.  Meanwhile, heat a non stick skillet, add butter and a little oil and place the slices of panettone onto skillet to brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and place on a sheet tray and finish in oven for 5 minutes at 375.

-Serve with fresh berries, and real VT maple syrup.

 

If (for some inexplicable reason) you ever find yourself with leftover panettone, we highly recommend turning it into french toast. While we ...

Panettone aPlenty

This past April on a trip to VinItaly, Suzy and I snuck off for a day to indulge our sweet tooths with a tour with two of our favorite Panettone producers—Loison and Filippi. One step (or really one sniff) inside the baking facility at Loison and we knew we had made the right choice. Even during their off season, a time when there are no ovens on, no cakes baking, and no ingredients in sight, the entire factory smelled like sugar, butter, and fluffy, decadent cake. We wandered around the production line—looking at the giant (seriously huge) stand mixers where they carefully mix the panettone dough, coaxing the ingredients to combine together in just the right way to create the light, airy cakes, the enormous ovens that bake hundreds of carefully handcrafted cakes at a time, and the inventive machines that flip those cakes upside-down straight from the oven to keep their shape. If you’ve never seen the process I definitely encourage you to take a look—it’s pretty incredible. And for those of you who have ever had any doubts about whether or not the Italians are some of the most thoughtful, patient, and purposeful people on the planet take my word for it- one bite of a perfectly baked Panettone is all you need to change your mind.

In addition to the attention to detail during the baking process two other aspects of the production of the Panettone really stood out to me. The first being the pride that emanated from the bakers at both facilities as they walked us through each flavor of Panettone they were preparing to make for this holiday season (between 20-35 each) and exactly where every single ingredient in each of those cakes was sourced. Single origin chocolate drops from Domori, untreated Madagascar vanilla beans (and never any artificial flavors), free range eggs, figs from Calabria, Lemons from Sicily and fresh milk delivered every day during the baking season; each ingredient is carefully selected for it’s quality of production and taste to create the perfect marriage of flavors for each cake. As the Pastry Chefs at Filippi say “Just as in an orchestra, to create a symphony, every instrument has to be in harmony with the whole, so it does not suffice that every ingredient is good on its own. Each ingredient has to amalgamate well with all the others…” Each year they revisit the flavors of the year prior, sampling dozens of varieties of fruits, nuts, and honeys, ensuring that their cakes are always created using the just the ideal balance of flavors and ingredients.

The second aspect that the Pastry Chefs at both Loison and Filippi were quick and proud to point out is that each one of their cakes is hand wrapped in paper and tied with a bow. Out of context that may not seem like a big deal but when you think about the thousands of cakes being produced every Christmas and the intricate and precise wrapping each of these cakes is adorned with you really start to get a sense of the magnitude of this process. And the result is spectacular—3as they said at Loison “The result is a product that is more than just a baked good: it’s also a gift, a furnishing item and a piece of art.” It’s clear in speaking with them that there is no detail of the panettone making process that is overlooked and the result of all of that effort and attention to detail is the essential (and most delicious) emblem of the Christmas holiday.

Don’t just take my word for it though- come see and sample for yourself! On July 25th we’ll be celebrating Christmas in July- we’re so looking forward to the holiday season that we can’t possibly wait any longer. Stop by our market and taste samples of this year’s spectacular concoctions, see that intricate and delicate paperwork and ribbons adorning these beautiful parcels and pre-order some of your favorites.

This past April on a trip to VinItaly, Suzy and I snuck off for a day to indulge our sweet tooths with ...