Naples, Go to Give

Ron Martin (upper left) with  IVHQ volunteers.

Ron Martin (upper left) with IVHQ volunteers in Naples.

Ron Martin is a community guy. He advocates for small businesses and his firm, RMG Insurance, hosts an annual Ladies Golf & Gourmet fundraiser to support the Freddy Awards for high school musical theater.

Ron Martin is also a guy who adores Italian food and culture. Always has. So when Martin pondered a recent trip to Italy, he embarked on a plan that satisfied both his Inner Italian and his community guy.

Martin volunteered for the month of October in an International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) program. Working with the Piedi per la Terra nonprofit, Martin helped refurbish the Vigna di San Martino.

The 17-acre UNESCO world heritage site clings to the Vomero hillside in the heart of the city. Atop the hill is the former Charterhouse of San Martino, which is now a museum, and Castel Sant’Elmo.

In exchange for a $1,000 fee, Martin received hostel lodging, modest meals, and at age 51, the honor of being the senior volunteer in the group. Among his colleagues were Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians.

Martin labored–clearing land of undergrowth, harvesting olives, and turning compost piles–but he also fell into the rhythm of southern Italian life. Rainy day naps, a weekend on the Amalfi coast, the famous pie at Antica Pizzeria Michele. Walking to and from work each day through a living tapestry of ancient street culture.

He summed up his experience on his parting Facebook post:

“Tonight I leave Napoli. I have spent a whole month here. I will miss it incredibly. I have lost two notches on my belt working in the vineyard. I have not watched TV at all. I have connected with its people and its rhythm. It’s not the prettiest city but the people here make it feel like home. My fellow volunteers are all awesome and deserve all of the praise in the world. Love them all! I’ll be back!”

Have you volunteered to work in Italy or are you considering it?

Share your thoughts with us.

Peach Sorbetto

peach sorbettoFarm to table sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Take the peach sorbetto pictured above. It started at an orchard and ended up on my table.

I bought perfect peaches from Hausman’s Fruit Farm at the Emmaus Farmers’ Market on a recent fine Sunday morning. I froze a tray of peeled and sliced ripe fruit (click here for directions) then pureed the frozen slices in a food processor with simple syrup and lemon juice.

Easy peasey. And easily, the best peach sorbetto ever.

But to make those peaches, ah, not so easy.

For the peach grower, patience, skill, and luck are essential.

Patience is needed to nurture the tree for three to four years before it can produce blossoms that grow into fruit.

Skill is needed in feeding the tree, watering the tree, protecting the tree from pests and diseases, and harvesting the delicate fruit.

Luck is needed when Nature’s dealing out her early frosts, hail storms, wind gusts, and droughts.

As a fortunate peach eater, I thank the farmers for making it so (seem) easy to make this divine peach sorbetto.

Peach Sorbetto
Recipe type: dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 2 cups
This frosty fruit sorbet is guaranteed to take the steam heat out of August.
  • 1 pound frozen, peeled sliced peaches
  • 6 tablespoons cold simple syrup (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Remove the peaches from the freezer and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse to chop coarsely.
  2. Run the machine, scraping down the sides of the bowl, for about 3 minutes, adding the syrup and lemon juice through the feed tube. Process until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Serve right away or ripen in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Note: Make simple syrup by boiling 1 cup water with 1 cup granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool and transfer to a jar. Store in the refrigerator.


Fall Tuscany Tour on Sale

Come to Tuscany this October for the Sangiovese grape harvest.

Come to Tuscany this October for the Sangiovese grape harvest.

SimpleItaly is happy to share some great news–and great savings–with you.

The dollar value increase versus the Euro means NOW is the time to travel to Tuscany with SimpleItaly. Our week-long October adventures in Tuscany are perfect for self-formed groups of family or friends.

It’s a funny price: $2,486. But it’s a serious offer. The dollar has strengthened by 17% versus the Euro the Tuscany Tour was priced last year. SimpleItaly is passing those savings on to you. SimpleItaly is taking 17% off $2,995 per person/double occupancy so you save $509 per person.

Our unique, seven-day adventure in an exquisite private villa south of Siena includes:

• Splendida! Luxurious Private Villa Pipistrelli
• Sapore! All meals included, all prepared by private chefs
• Blog Heaven! Visits with leading travel writers and authors
• Arte! Painting Class
• Palio! Stunning insiders look at a Contrada in Siena with best-selling author Dario Castagno
• Vino! Private winery tour and lunch with best-selling author Jennifer Criswell
• Festa! Harvest festival
• Vita! Food, vino, art and beauty
• Celebrazione! Celebrate with cookbook author, Cooking Up an Italian Life, Sharon Sanders

Book Now! Two departures Tuscan Harvest Celebration departures: October 3-10, 2015 or October 10-17, 2015. Save $509 per person/double occupancy!

Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp

11709415_10153362464781357_5099074015839789754_n (1)We were atop a ridge in eastern Pennsylvania but felt as if we were in northern Lombardy or Alto Adige. The 360-degree view of trellised grape vines and distant forests from Galen Glen Winery‘s tasting room is stunning.

Last weekend, the folks at the award-winning Andreas, Pa., winery hosted a cookbook signing and tasting of SimpleItaly’s Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp paired with its crisp Grüner Veltliner 2014 Stone Cellar Dry White wine. The wine’s notes of grapefruit, mandarin orange, and honeysuckle embraced and softened the grassiness of the asparagus. What a match.

Owned by Galen Troxell (the grape grower) and Sarah Troxell (the wine maker who was awarded “Best Woman Winemaker” in 2014’s International Women’s Wine Competition in California ), Galen Glen was recently named the Best Winery in Pennsylvania in the New York International Wine Competition.


Galen and Sarah Troxell (right) of Galen Glen Winery. On the left are Galen’s forbears who originally farmed the land in Andreas, Pa.

Philadelphia food writer, Craig LaBan, wrote, “they have pioneered the growth in this region of aromatic Northern European grapes — edgy Austrian Grünner Veltliner, exotic Alsatian Gewürztraminer, minerally Riesling — well-suited to the cold climate, and well-drained, stony soils.”

Family-owned, dedicated to excellence from the earth . . . Galen Glen may not be in Italy but it sure feels like it is.

Recipe for Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus

Grillo White Wine From Sicily

P1090982Browsing in my local wine shop, a bottle of white caught my eye.

It came from Tenuta Regaleali, a name I recognized as the much lauded estate and cooking school in Sicily. It was founded by the late Anna Tasca Lanza, who did so much to bring Sicilian country cooking to wide acclaim. Tasca Lanza’s daughter Fabrizia has taken over the school. (This is off topic, but David Lebovitz published this gorgeous post about the estate.)

I also had never encountered the varietal Grillo, which means cricket in Italian, so I was doubly intrigued.

Golden in color, this vino is aromatic with hints of citrus. It’s a sumptuous dry Italian white for summer times.

I learned the back story of this indigenous Sicilian grape on The Wine Hub blog. Once the primary varietal used to produce fortified Marsala wine, it has largely been replaced by the higher yielding Catarratto. Happily, it’s being revived by modern vintners.

Cin Cin!

Tenuta Regaleali
Cavallo Delle Fate
Sicilia DOC 2013

$13.99 for 750 ml. bottle in Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits Store

Do you know of an Italian white that veers from the standard pours list? Share it here!