Monday, October 29, 2012

Autumn Risotto with Pumpkin and Saffron flavors




If anyone has been wondering where I went lately...I smile a little wistful smile...and say, "...far away."

In my mind's eye, I  went far far away...to a dreamy little farm tucked into the undulating hills of Tuscany, Italy.

Rarely have I been so transported by a new cookbook find than "A Family Farm in Tuscany" by Sarah Fioroni.






At times, as I became lost in the pages of this wonderful Italian cookbook...I forgot that it was a cookbook.

Sarah has a literary voice that whispers family stories and weaves them into the spring, fall, and winter seasons of their every day farm life. 

I was absolutely transported to the very beginnings of the family's farming history as they toiled and tilled the soil trying to scrape by and make a life for themselves and their children as the Germans swept through during World War II.



Photo courtesy of Oriano Stefan




I cheered for the family when their grapevines finally yielded a good selection of grapes and they began to produce high quality wines.

I imagined being at their big wooden kitchen table, at the end of a long hard day out in the fields, in front of their enormous fireplace while being served platters of pasta made from the durum wheat that they process in their mill.

Through the pages of this cookbook and Sarah's family stories, I could easily imagine standing on their hillside, peering off into the distance and seeing San Gimignano nestled on the horizon.  Perhaps if I were at the farm, we would need to take a little car trip down there for provisions and then to meander the ancient stone streets of this little Italian village with its striking towers silhouetted against the horizon.







Risotto has been on my list of Italian dishes that I wanted to attempt and when I flipped to page 207, lost in the every day tasks on the farm,  and saw her "Autumn Risotto with Pumpkin and Saffron", I knew that this was the inspiration that I needed to make it.

I longingly studied the photos of Sarah's Italian farm life during the autumn months.  This is when the saffron flowers begin to send up their blossoms.  I would love to slip into a wooden chair at Sarah's table full of workers, perhaps with a little cup of espresso nearby, and pluck the petite threads of saffron from the pretty purple flowers.





I winced and frowned when I read the passage about the family losing their centuries old olive trees in the 1920's and then again in the 1950's.  The family painstakingly planted and waited for more trees to grow and finally flourish enough to produce olives.

I would hold one of their olive bottles in my hand and sense the history, pain, and work that went into producing this wonderful cooking oil.



Cookbook Cover photo courtesy of Oriano Stefan



In my imaginative trip through Sarah's alluring cookbook, through her rambling farm, called Fattoria Poggio Alloro, I would visit in the month of September to see the olives ripen and turn from a green to a dark purple.

This would be when the vineyards would be full of leaves all turning reds and golds as the gusty winds begin to blow over the Tuscan hillsides.  Seeing San Gimignano over the undulating fields full of leafy vines would be a beautiful sight.





December would also be a fascinating time see the changes happening on the farm.  Sarah's family and staff  busily prepare gift baskets filled with the fruits of their labor.  How incredible to hold a gift basket full of bottles of olive oil, honey, bags of pasta, and bottles of wine, all coming from the farm.

Sarah moves on to describe their dreamy Italian Christmas traditions.  The family's holiday menu sounds delicious, steeped in tradition, and quite different from the  American menu.  The "chicken liver crostinis" sound wonderful and rich.  I would also be so intrigued to sample their  "homemade tortellini in capon broth".





Late in the day, bellies full of homemade dishes, the visions of the family all hunkering down and nestling together in front of their voluminous fireplace, sipping "vin santo" (of course, made on the farm) and dipping into it "biscotti di Prato" makes my heart go pitter patter as I realize how steeped in history these occasions are for the Fioroni family.






Speaking of sweet treats and small gifts, I enjoyed reading through this cookbook so much that I would like to gift a copy of "A Family Farm in Tuscany" to one of the lovely friends who comment here on "thyme".


If any of you are thinking of Christmas ideas for loved ones, perhaps this cookbook would be a good option.  If you think so, either leave a comment below, or it can be purchased here.







One Christmas activity so foreign to many Americans is the "roasting of chestnuts".  Sarah talks about the wonderful smoky aroma of the chestnuts as they crack open from the heat of the fire.  

I've never grown up eating roasted chestnuts and have certainly never tried one right off of the fire!  Just reading through her descriptions of delight in this annual activity made me want to give it a try.





So I hope you will leave a comment below to be selected for this cookbook gift.  Perhaps, you could tell me if you have ever stayed at a family farm in Italy or anywhere else in the world!  

I will collect all of your adventures and dream of what they must have been like.

But, the holiday spirit has crept up on me and I sure would love to gift this sweet little cookbook to a reader who enjoys my southern spot called "thyme".

Also, there is a World Blog Tour that is also smitten with Sarah's cookbook.  If you would like to see what other bloggers have sampled from her kitchen, Visit Cooking With Chopin, Living With Elmo October 29th through November 2nd for a World Tour Blog Hop featuring recipes from A Family Farm in Tuscany.

Autumn Pumpkin Risotto with Saffron
(made by Sarah Fioroni's cookbook)

(Serves 4-6)
2 Tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion (35g) red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups (225g) pumpkin, peeled and cubed)
or
1/2 of a 15 oz  can of pumpkin purée (210 g)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon (1/2 g) minced fresh rosemary
2 cups (500L) hot water
2 cups (500L) vegetable broth (have extra handy)
2 cups (380 g) Arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon (0.05g) saffron
1 tablespoon (7.5g) unsalted butter
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, 14-inch (35 cm) saute pan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is wilted and transparent, about 5 minutes.  

Add the pumpkin (if uncooked) and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 15-20 minutes.  If the pumpkin starts to stick to the pot, add some of the hot water.  Add the rosemary and sauté until the pumpkin begins to soften.

While the pumpkin mixture is cooking, combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the water with the vegetable broth and saffron in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan;  cook over medium heat about 10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Add the rice to the pumpkin mixture and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes.  Add one-third of the vegetable broth mixture, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until rice absorbs the broth.

Now add 1/2  cup (120 ml) of water, and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed.

Continue to add broth and water alternatively, cooking and stirring, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid between each addition.

When the rice becomes creamy, add the broth and water more sparingly, or the rice will become mushy.

Cook until rice is creamy but still al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes total).  Stir in the butter and scatter a little Parmesan cheese over the top.  






65 comments:

  1. Sarah, thank you for transporting me to Tuscany with your luscious post! What wonderful pictures. I too want to make this autumn risotto now... Bellissimo!!!

    Carmen

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    1. I am so glad I could whisk you away for a moment. It's embedded in my mental wish list to visit Poggio Alloro someday!

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  2. I see how you could get swept away in her stories...they sound magnificent. I'd love to have such stories to tell. I can only imagine how delicious her recipes are. I love risotto and your recipe will be put on the refrigerator for our own family dinner this weekend.

    Your photos are beautiful...as always. I always look at them over and over. XO
    Sarah

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    1. Sarah, couldn't you just imagine a cookbook story like this one being made into a movie. It would take "Julia and Julie" to a whole new level.

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  3. Oh, Sarah. This is incredible. I love every word, every photo. Sarah F. is going to be blessed beyond imagine when she reads this. What a beautiful tribute to her family's labor and to the hard work Sarah put forth to write the book.

    Gratefully,
    Ginny

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    1. What a gift Sarah F. has to bestow on her family tree. I can't imagine how proud she must feel to have brought her family's story full circle. I look forward to meeting her and giving her a warm welcome to Houston on Saturday.

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  4. This is ... simply ... gorgeous. I feel the same way reading the book, but you have put it into such a loving post and incredible work with this beautiful risotto.

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  5. Loved this beautiful post. I have been obsessed with risotto since I learned to make it on an episode of Cooking With Madeline in the 80's. It is a thing of beauty when done correctly, and I have found few places (outside of my home) where it is cooked properly. Not too hard, not too soft, and full of flavor. Looking forward to trying this!

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    1. I, too, can't wait to try it again. I think it will take several attempts to determine if I am getting the risotto just right. I've never heard of the show Cooking with Madeline. I'm going to check it out!

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  6. Oh my dear, my heart soared seeing the photos and reading your post. Three weeks in Tuscany at exactly this time of year came flooding back. Just thinking of the beauty takes my breath away. From arriving at Lake Como late and tasting my first real risotto (swoon) to the amazing sunsets in Venice, to the misty beauty of the vineyards and Soave countryside, eating the best salumi on earth in Greve in Chianti, finally culminating with a week in Lucca at a cooking school set in an old villa, it was an experience I'll never forget. Sigh.... If I don't win this book, I shall be forced to buy it. The sweetness of Italy and it's people is forever etched upon me.

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    1. Swoon indeed Christine! What a lifetime experience. We stayed years ago on a family farm outside of Florence. It has almost become mythical in our memories it was so wonderful. There was this GIANT rosemary bush right outside our window. We just laughed at the scent in the air and the rustic beauty of everything. It was indeed surreal.

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  7. Sarah, I know Sarah Fioroni will be so pleased when she reads your blog. Your writing as well as your photography are simply beautiful.Thank you so much for taking the "thyme" to cook something and write about Sarah's book.

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    1. Poor Sarah F. She doesn't even know me and I will probably swoon at her table all starry eyed and tongue tied. I become a blubbering teenager when I meet people that I admire.

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  8. Wow...I almost feel like I've been, too! I've never been to Tuscany, but it sounds wonderful! The only family farm I've ever been on is a Hoosier family farm (part of my family) in Indiana. Good, simple, home cooking around the round farm table in the dining room. Home made chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, and milk fresh from the cows there. :) I don't think they even knew what risotto was back then. :) Still charming, though, and a nice childhood memory!

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    1. I have the same respect and admiration now for our American farms too, Betsy. My husband comes from the Midwest (MO) and I love to see the traditional dishes unfold around his family table. I think for the Italians, etc. it is just as quaint and charming to come to a U.S. farm too. Imagine their delight with our red barns, hay rounds, apple pies, meatloaf, rootbeer floats, etc.

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  9. First, I must say how much I absolutely adore your blog. Your writing is wonderfully descriptive though not laborious and your photography is fantastic. This post was especially touching to me as it really did make me think back to my all too brief time studying in Rome and the few times during that period when I could take time from my studies to train up to parts of Toscana. Plus, you provided a recipe that will not only fuel my fond memories even more, it involves some of my favorite ingredients. Thank you for this. It was a wonderful way to end my Monday :)

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    1. You will have memories to last a lifetime by the description of that trip. Just the romantic notion of taking trains all over Italy is so different for us here in the U.S. Food just takes us straight back to those wonderful memories that fill our lives with happiness!

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  10. I love Tuscany and you have captured the best of that area with this post. I am going to try out the pumpkin risotto recipe tonight and I can't wait!

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    1. Put some comfy slippers on, enjoy the saffron and rosemary scents!

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  11. Great post and the photos are so inviting!

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  12. Looks like a wonderful cookbook full of great stories. I love saffron, especially in risotto. I've never tried roasted chestnuts, though you could see (and smell) vendors doing it on the street in Paris. I wish I had. I wanna hear about it if you do!

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    1. I remember smelling them too, in Italy. They were in the corners of the piazza, but we never tried any!

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  13. There are so many great cookbooks out this fall, but I can't believe this one hasn't shown up on my radar until now! My dream is to one day have my own farm. There's a farm school in Massachusetts and part of their year long program is a 3 week trip to farms in Tuscany - now there's something to daydream about!

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    1. Indeed that is something to dream about! The farm school sounds like a great idea and I'm surprised I haven't heard more about something like that. Wouldn't it be wonderful to do some sort of "exchange" program with the Italian farms?

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  14. Ahhh, I felt transported to Tuscany just by reading this post! Your risotto looks creamy and comforting and just the thing for Halloween night.

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  15. How wonderful a cookbook this must be, to weave exquisite recipes into such a stunning family history. And how beautiful it must be there. And how lovely your saffron is - can you believe there is none to be had in our town's grocery store?

    My favorite Italian memory is my mum sneakily eating out of a bag of "Teenagers" brand chips:) So silly. Runner up would maybe be staying in Orvieto, and visiting the Civita di Bagnoregio. That's as Italian as I got though - - no farms, and no rural Tuscany.... not yet, anyway!

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    1. I can relate to you Mum...been there...hoarding the "Digestif" type cookies to myself in Ireland. What I tell my family is...no dining out, no expensive clothing, no knicknacks...only PLANE TICKETS!

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  16. Oh my goodness! My famiglia used to roast chestnuts during holidays! A tradition I'm carrying over into my boyfriend's family and we are both hoping someday to visit Italy, where both our families are from. I would very much love to win this cookbook and try the risotto (I happen to have some saffron on hand!!) Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing!

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  17. Oh my goodness! My famiglia used to roast chestnuts during holidays! A tradition I'm carrying over into my boyfriend's family and we are both hoping someday to visit Italy, where both our families are from. I would very much love to win this cookbook and try the risotto (I happen to have some saffron on hand!!) Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing!

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    1. I'd love to hear how your risotto comes out. And do begin those traditions now, you'll be amazed how much your loved ones appreciate them over the years...it may not show right away but my family clearly looks forward to odd little traditions as they get older.

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  18. I love Risotto and it's so perfect for the season. Love the gorgeous color of the dish and you just know how to style it. Love it!
    Wish I could go to that farm. I am planning a trip to Italy, a very short one and would be in Rome. Hope fully someday I can visit Tuscany too :) Keeping my fingers and toes crossed. I wish to win the cook!

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    1. Kankana! A trip to Rome. I can't wait to visit you site and see what kind of experience you have visiting that incredible city.

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  19. This sounds like one cookbook that I would enjoy reading. San Gimignano is beautiful - truly a place where you step back in time. I wrote a post about it around 3 years ago when we had just returned from our visit. I would love to go there again. I was enchanted.

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    1. Anywhere that earns the description "enchanted" is a place I would love to see.

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  20. All I can say is, "wow"! My dad was in the Navy and I moved to Naples when I was 9. I had many maels at rustic Italian farms. They were always filled wiht a lovely chaos of children's laughter, animals, and the animated conversation of adults. Everyone drank the family wine - the children's was half water. It was so lovely.

    When I was 12, I moved to Rome where we lived for 3 more years. Your writing took me right back to the Italian countryside! I truly think the author shoudl include your review in the next edition of her book.

    Thank you for taking us with you on your lovely wandering. I would adore this cookbook!

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  21. Sarah thank you so much for your lovely words and your amazing post.I love it and I follow you, I really really like your blog.Can't wait to meet you in person and hopefully at the farm!Ciao

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    1. Sarah, it was my pleasure. I really did get carried away moving through the pages of your book. I wish you and your family all the success you deserve with the book as well as with your U.S. tour. I really hope to see you this Saturday!

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  22. it is a life dream to travel to Tuscan!!! wonderfull post! and the recipe

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  23. I'm so impressed with your review and your amazing photos! Well done! I'm not entering the drawing as I have my own copy but just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your post. What did you think of the risotto? Was it everything you hoped for?

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    1. I will definitely be making the risotto again. I think it is the kind of dish that teaches you something new each time you make it. I ended up adding more liquid that what was called for and cooking it a bit longer than the 30 minutes cook time. I might have needed each liquid addition to soak up more into the rice before adding the next liquid addition. The family loved the dish.

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  24. Molto bello ed interessante
    complimenti ciao
    Stefania

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  25. What gorgeous photography!! And this risotto looks just perfect.

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  26. Love this post! Every time I read and see articles and photos about Italy, something tugs at my heart strings. I am Italian by heritage but have yet to visit there. Someday soon hopefully!

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  27. Beautiful post Sarah and love your pictures and look delicious:)

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  28. What a great description! I would like to get this book. I did stay at my grandfather's family farm on the Aegean side of Turkey. It was a great experience. I will make this soon. I love saffron :)

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    1. Ilke, the "Aegean Side of Turkey" sounds so utterly exotic to us Americans...

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  29. Great, evocative review, Sarah. I was brought up on a farm and ate at several Italian farms over the years I lived in Italy. There is nothing quite like their love of food, wine, conversation and chaos. Anglo-saxons are so reserved in comparison. This book looks gorgeous and I would love to win it but if the postage to New Zealand is a problem (given I was lucky enough to win it), then pass it on to the next person. I agree with everyone above, you have a beautiful blog.

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    1. I can only imagine the experiences you've had in Italy...especially with an Italian husband! Such insight into the culture of a country when you can stay with relatives and get first hand accounts of the "whys" and "hows" of cultural nuances that outsiders can only guess.

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  30. I was oh so close to going to Italy this year (literally within miles) but an accident prevented us from going. I'll gladly dream alongside you and travel through my imagination

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    1. oooooh. But, if you were that close then you were in possibly 2 other GORGEOUS countries!

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  31. What an absolutely magical journey you describe here - both in words and images. Both mouth-watering and absolutely stunning!

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  32. Sarah,

    Goodness, gracious Sarah, your work is as emotionally fulfilling as a day at an art museum. The pictures allow ones mind to escape into them. Thank you for blessing us with the beauty of God's gifts to us...

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  33. Gorgeous risotto!
    I like everything - Arborio rice,pumpkin,saffron.
    I love Tuscany.
    Magical post...
    Cheers.

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  34. I have never been out of the country but yours and Sarah's story is almost as good. You can see in your mind all the good and even the bad times vividly. I am going to try this recipe. I have butternut squash risotto once many years ago and really enjoyed it, but haven't had the nerve to try to make it myself. Thank you for this wonderful post. Ruth Cobb email: ruthcobbnov1956@yahoo.com

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  35. My dear...another transporting post...my ellis was just telling us today about chestnut roasting in Torino... I can't wait to try them next week! It has been so amazing meeting up with her and Elliott here in London. They are sleeping on the floor beside me as I write...as our hotel floor was a palace next to the hostel! To meet up with one's child as an adult in a foreign country....such a a sweet, sweet experience!

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    1. I think it is one of life's sweetest gifts to meet up with your child as an adult and watch your relationship transform into one of confidante, mother, and mentor. I didn't expect my M. would come to me so willingly and really want me to give her advice. Sweet indeed.

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  36. I don't even know what to say. Your skills leave me breathless.

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  37. This post blew my mind. Your photos and writing style are impeccable. I am truly in awe.

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  38. Sarah, your words and photographs transported me straight to the Italian countryside. I am lusting over your rustic props. I am now on a hunt to find my own, LOL. I am so happy to be part of this wonderful blogger book tour with you!

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  39. Hi Sarah, I love your writing - it transports me to such a wonderful place. So nice to take a respite from all the heartbreaking news about Sandy and the election tomorrow!

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  40. Oops - this is Michelle at mgoodrich00@gmail.com

    Hi Sarah, I love your writing - it transports me to such a wonderful place. So nice to take a respite from all the heartbreaking news about Sandy and the election tomorrow!

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  41. Sarah one more time let me tell you how much I love your blog! It was very nice to meet you! can't wait to see you at the farm!


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  42. Sarah, A gorgeous post…that risotto looks and sounds incredibly delicious! Your description of being transported to that farm in Tuscany took me along with you!! Will definitely be making the risotto! Perfect for this time of the year!

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  43. I'm spending the morning catching up on blog reading and yours is my first stop. What a fantastic post Sarah, and how exciting to meet the author herself! Your risotto has the most glorious color, I can't wait to try it.

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  44. Ciao Sara,
    ho trovato il tuo blog per caso navigando sul web :-)
    Io sono italiana e adoro cucinare! Volevo farti tantissimi complimenti per il tuo risotto e per le meravigliose foto che lo rappresentano.
    Un abbraccio

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How wonderful to hear from new friends...