As I listen to Die Moldau by Bedrich Smetana, I inevitably think about rivers. That is what this music is about: at first, the pizzicato of the violins and the flutes evoke the sparkling water, dripping down from its fresh spring. The spring turns into a stream, and the stream starts running faster. That is when the orchestra bursts in. During its course, the river bumps into rocks, overflows, passes under the bridges of the city, goes faster, slows down. But it keeps going towards its destiny.
As I listen, I think of the several things that started off this new year which are not resolutions but things that I have already been mulling over for a while, and that make me feel exactly like that flowing river.
I have been getting rid of unnecessary things: clothes, books, contacts, icons on my desktop, weight, tasks, calls, ingredients in recipes. Even elements of styling in my photography, wherever I can. I just prepared a few bags to sort stuff that I can recycle, sell or just plain trash, and got busy sorting. It is a way of letting go of attachments – both emotional and physical. Let it all go. I know my peace of mind does not need that extra shirt I haven’t been wearing for a while. It is kind of like saying that everything that is not music is noise. I let my feelings and needs dictate what music is. Otherwise, I embrace silence.
I am trying to manage to grow something. After visiting Podere Stuard in Parma, an incredible place where they sell all sorts of heirloom and forgotten varieties of Italian fruits and vegetables from local farmers, I was gifted seeds for two kinds of yellow heirloom tomatoes. I have always been passionate about Medieval gardens and was even more inspired to take advantage of the vegetable garden that is already outside my home – the ‘Hortus’ this blog takes its name from, and actually plant some of those veggie wonders. Aside the tomatoes, I got bear garlic, vineyard garlic, heirloom purple carrots, black strawberries, and a plethora of wild herbs and flowers that should pretty much grow on their own. I plowed the earth and got rid of all the weeds, and are now slowly but steadily learning about assembling an organic garden. I consumed Eva’s article on starting your own seeds, and hopefully will actually be able to be consistent and follow through with my garden commitment.
I love the metaphor of having to take care of something to see it bear fruit. I will keep it as a reminder for all things in life – not only the garden.
(And speaking of, would you like to see posts related to my garden? It would be even more doable if we do this together!)
I am exploring photography more thoroughly. I will be teaching several workshops this year (calendar coming soon) and the more I teach, the more I learn. It is a wonderful process and I am definitely not done in finding my own voice. This new background in these photos are shelves from a piece of furniture that was in my home.
Ashley Rodriguez, who taught the part about finding our visual voice in our Online Workshop (you can still sign up!) said that everyone should find three adjectives to describe the feeling we would want our work to convey. I would say that I’d want my photos to feel elegant, yet rustic, and timeless. I would want you to feel the heart-filling sensation of my love for all things that sprout from the earth, and that I feel when I forage wild herbs or flowers. I love botanicals and I love those rustic, countryside feels, and I hope my photos can convey just that.
I rediscovered ‘offline’ things: I am setting aside a little time each day to read or draw, two lost and found loves of my life.
I realize now that I could hardly finish a drawing because I was scared to get some lines and shades wrong. There’s no Ctrl+z in the analog world, and I felt like I needed to remember that.
I feel the need to reconnect with the history and the customs of my own land. Today, I have the power to to the same things and think of the same goals, often using the same tools they used 100 years ago – wether is is cultivating the garden or making pasta. It’s the same gestures, the same proceedings, the same looking at the moon phases on the calendar. Hundreds of years later, it is still the same, but with a new mind I dig my hands into the land that belonged to my great-grandfathers.
I take several minutes each day for writing. Ten minutes a day of anything can literally change your life. It is one of those things that I want to grow into a habit – those that therapeutically shield the noise I mentioned above. In the meantime, I listen to lots of music. I love classical and opera.
I plan to show you as much of Italy as I can, and I hope we can embark in this journey together. I want to be like the flowing river. Hitting the rocks or sliding by gently, but ever going, until, calmly, it disperses into the sea.
This recipe for creamy, luscious, bright yellow saffron taglierini embellished with poppy seeds was inspired by two things: one, the work of the guys from Vallescuria, a group of young countryside lovers who started a small saffron cultivation in Brianza, Italy. I strongly admire their work and am happy to help their business with this recipe. Two, a trip I recently took to the coast of Marche, one of the most beautiful places ever, which I will talk about more thoroughly soon.
Saffron and taglierini are two things that are very common in Le Marche’s cuisine: saffron from Marche and Lombardy is famous and precious. Taglierini, like chitarre and capellini, are long, thin pasta formats that are especially local to the area I visited, and the addition of poppy seeds is something I read in the back of a box of Filotea pasta, which is produced in le Marche.
You can make this vegan and gluten-free, too! And, of course, if you fancy making your own pasta, follow the instructions in these posts.
Put on Die Moldau when making this pasta, and be like the flowing river. It feels good.
- 1 cup full fat milk
- A pinch saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons / 30 g butter
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tablespoon rice flour or starch
- 160g taglierini, tagliolini or angel hair pasta
- ½ cup grated parmigiano cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus coarse salt for the boiling water
- Some of the pasta cooking water
- Poppy seeds, to finish
- (For vegan variation, see description below)
- In a small pot, warm the milk, but to not bring to a boil. Add the saffron threads, and stir them into the warm milk. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Keep the milk warm but do not boil it.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add coarse salt (about a scant tablespoon every 4 cups).
- In the meantime, melt the butter and oil in a pan. When the butter starts to bubble, take the pan off the fire and add the flour. Stir well to melt it and create a paste with the butter.
- Add the warm saffron milk a little at a time, stirring to incorporate it. When it is completely incorporated, bring the pan back on a medium-low flame, add salt, and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. It will look sort of loose and might feel too watery, but it will thicken up later with the pasta starch and cheese.
- Boil the pasta. If you made them at home, they will take about 3 minutes. If store-bought, cook as indicated in the package, but drain them a minute or two before indicated. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the pan along with a couple tablespoons of the pasta water and the grated cheese, and stir to form a cream. If too thick, add a little extra pasta water until you reach the desired consistency.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkling of poppy seeds on top.
- If you do not want to use coconut milk, use half cup cashews, soaked for several hours, blended with half cup water.
- For a gluten free version, use gluten free pasta.