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Valentina Solfrini

Cooking & photo blog from an Italian garden. ‘NaturallyVegetarian’ author ✒ hortuscuisine@gmail.com | hortuscuisine.com

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‘*This* generation are a bunch of uneducated good-for-nothings. At least we were in the military, eh?’ said totally RANDOMLY a man to the shop assistant at the supermarket, nodding his head towards me, as I was standing in line next to him at the deli counter and minding my own business. I was appalled. I looked at the shop assistant, befuddled and wide eyed, as he answered my gaze with a shocked expression. 
And then I left. Because if I were truly uneducated I would have answered back.
But then I thought of this photo that I wanted to post and couldn’t find a caption for, and I remembered that ‘my generation’ (I guess he referred to anyone younger than 30 and older than 15?) is the one that can start a business with a photo like this alone. We’re the ones who can start a venture with a camera, or a website, as the only investment. And we’re not having it easy, and Italy knows - all of southern Europe knows - we’re not. We grew up with HIS generation telling us that the future was bleak and there would be no jobs and aspirations were meant to stay just that, and that love and people and chances weren’t equal. 
I was sitting at dinner with some friends yesterday and we talked politics, and philosophy, and how these things repeated themselves, and I realized that the line of history doesn’t have to be a circle. My generation inherited it all tangled. But each line is born straight, and no matter how tangled it gets, it was always a straight line to begin with. And even though we have to untangle it, at least the thread is in our hands.
So go f*** your guts, random man at the supermarket. I’m just sorry your kid was with you and had to hear your BS. Photo taken with @moodsnfood of a delicious wild blackberry, basil & peach smoothie ✨ . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #lifeandthyme #verilymoment #tnchustler #socialgnock #faidellordinariounapoesia #momentidipausa #igersitalia #igersitaly #smoothie #breakfast #merenda

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Cheeseboard loaded with local stuff - plums and wild plums from our trees, melon from a neighbor, cheeses from a nearby farm - save for the round one which is ricotta salata (seasoned salty ricotta) I got in Puglia with @emilianopicciolo . Bakery sourdough. AKA a perfect summer dinner. It was hot and now it’s raining buckets. Summers are unpredictable. This year, we’re having lots of butterflies, lots of fruit, strange, unusual winds, a restless sea, and awkward planet alignments. But the scenery is lush. Corelli’s ‘La Follia’ is playing in the background. God bless the rain. . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #lifeandthyme #aperitivo #cheeseboard #rincorrerelabellezza #faidellordinariounapoesia #italianfood #italianfoodblogger

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RECIPE for this sort of Hugo/Spritz-like refresher! MAKE A HERBAL SYRUP: pack a cup and a half with mint, lemon balm and chamomile flowers, and combine in a pot with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, simmer for 1 minute, let rest until cool, filter and bottle up.
Use two parts soda or sparkling water, two parts prosecco, and one part herbal syrup. Serve in iced glasses with ice, fresh mint, and a lemon wedge. You can substitute the herbal syrup with other syrups - my favorite being basil, sage (!!!), elderflower, and rose (!!!!!!). Ever tried a Hugo (which is usually made with elderflower syrup)?
——— PS: Se ho cannato la ricetta, fatemelo gentilmente sapere. Io ho trovato queste dosi e il risultato mi è piaciuto. Poi vabbè, il cocktail è fatto col @bole_wine che è già una garanzia! Grazie @mercuricesare e #leserredeigiardinimargherita per l’ispirazione <3
Lo sciroppo è fatto con parti uguali di zucchero e acqua, e una parte e mezzo di erbe aromatiche tenere (menta spicata, melissa, camomilla), ma si possono usare erbe e petali di ogni tipo. Risultato di una breve passeggiata con @moodsnfood andata al meglio. . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #flowerstagram #cocktail #syrup #cocktailrecipe #lifeandthyme #verilymoment #rincorrerelabellezza #chiaroscuro #foodphotography #igersitalia #igersitaly #summer4igers #naturalliving #faidellordinariounapoesia

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Visiting baroque churches made me think once again about the way we tell stories with images. Take churches - they were designed to act like books: in a time when most people could not read and paper was expensive, everyone who entered a building needed to know what all the images meant. That is why frescoes are always in a logic sequence - above the crucifix, there is the story of the assumption, and then the resurrection, and then angels line the upper domes to open the way to Heaven. It is the same with the images we create. I like to think that food photos can tell the story of the dish or of the food itself: instead of just peaches, you can have a whole peach and then a cut one and one with spots; a green leaf and then a crumpled and a brown one, or one blooming flower and one that is starting to dry and wilt next to it. It is the story of life told through images. I could talk about the story and symbols behind old paintings for hours.
In this photo there is the peach, which in renaissance/baroque art is a symbol of immortality, but there is also a dead butterfly (which was given to me). I wonder if this photo can make its beauty last a little longer… . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #lifeandthyme #rincorrerelabellezza #flowerstagram #igersitalia #igersitaly #chiaroscuro #naturalliving #summer4igers #esercizidibellezza #faidellordinariounapoesia

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I saw bunches of these flowers and weeds growing in the most unlikely places: among the Roman smog, through the cracks in the asphalt, and in Apulian land. They let them grow wild until the sun will scorch them or, more simply, time will end their life cycle. It is amazing that there was a seed that somehow found soil in the cracks of the asphalt, or on a ground that is darkened by fires and torrid heat, and still made good use of it, and managed to make its home there, its roots holding tight, under the worst conditions.
And still, these flowers wilt within minutes of being picked, as if they were not meant to be forced out of their context. Wild carrot just bends its heads down and Oleander is to be picked with care as it is poisonous. There are things that are just meant to stay where they thrive until their time is over. So bloom where you are planted, but, although they might step on you, bend you, or crush you, don’t be swept off your ground. . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #esercizidibellezza #summer4igers #flowersofig #faidellordinariounapoesia #verilymoment #lifeandthyme #bloomwhereyouareplanted

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Meet: the best bread I have ever had. Altamura, a town in Puglia, is called the city of bread for a reason. There is hardly a better meal here than a slice of this crusty bread with fresh extra virgin olive oil, crushed tomatoes, and basil. Sourdough is made to be broken with hands and dipped into things, make a mess, let the crumbs fall on the tablecloth, end the meal in summer days playing cards among leftover crumbs and plates. This shot was taken during a private workshop with @francesca.zaccaria - thanks Carlotta for the pouring act 🍅🍃 . . #thisisitaly #stilllifephotography #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #esercizidibellezza #summer4igers #verilymoment #lifeandthyme #faidellordinariounapoesia

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Caprese has everything to do with those childhood summer days when mom worked in hotels and having fresh produce from the garden was also the luxury of not having to cook. She’d pick and dress the tomatoes early in the morning, so by lunchtime they would have released all their juices and she could dip bread in the mixture of tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and basil. These days the streets smell the same - sun lotion and tomato sauce boiling away in somebody’s home, fried seafood coming from restaurants and the saline air from The Riviera. Tomatoes in our garden are late, but I’ll trust those from someone else’s garden, along with some fresh burrata from Puglia. To make this: get a good amount of mixed tomatoes. Cut and dress them with a Jamie Oliver amount of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find, a sprinkling of any vinegar, salt, and copious amounts of torn basil. Top with buffalo mozzarella. Serve cold. . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #igersitalia #lifeandthyme #igersitaly #verilymoment #esercizidibellezza #summer4igers #onthetable #italianrecipes #capresesalad #thehappynow #rincorrerelabellezza #darlingmovement #foodstyling #foodphotography

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As I walked through Rome, reading menus, I realized how much our regional cuisine reflects our nature and our cities: Roman cooking is based on very few simple, fresh ingredients, and yet, in order to succeed in making a simple cacio e pepe or amatriciana, all you need is timing and measure: the right timing in adding the cheese in the right amount of water, and the right timing in boiling down the tomato sauce to the perfect consistency. Cooking could be, to an extent, the art of measuring, but I will be keeping it simpler with a caprese salad where timing is not an issue. And still, tell me if this measure + timing thing isn’t a perfect metaphor of life. — La cucina romana è spesso una questione di tempismo, oltre che di misura: pochi ingredienti semplici, esaltati solo ed unicamente dall’abilità del cuoco di saperli aggiungere a tempo debito. La crema della cacio e pepe, o quella della carbonara, o l’amatriciana, sono una questione di tempismo nel rendere i grassi, aggiungere acqua, mescolare 10 volte e non 11. E’ un riflesso della nostra natura, del come camminiamo nelle nostre città, del come ne guardiamo i muri. 
Per oggi la faccio semplice con una caprese, ma ditemi se non è questa una buona metafora della vita. . . #chasingharshlight #thewayweliveinthecountry #stilllifephotography #igersitalia #lifeandthyme #igersitaly #summer4igers #rincorrerelabellezza #portrait #35mm #verilymoment #thehappynow #faidellordinariounapoesia

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More apricots. I know it’s nothing new but I’ve been working, and photographing, and thinking. Mostly about things to keep vs. Things to let go. Among the keepers, there are some kinds of secrets: a handful of things that are so yours that the very act of speaking a word would destroy them. Maybe a piece of poetry, or a photograph. Having something that is 100% yours and undisclosed is a luxury and a privilege. Among the goners, things you forgot in your closet: open the doors and throw away everything that doesn’t belong to the closet of the current you. I found that cherishing space as much as I cherish time and money is linked to fine-tuning yourself to who you currently are. Make room (space) and find moments (time) to invest (money) in pieces that really fit you. As you change, keepers and goners change. It’s all about staying in the flow. Then I also understood what this whole baroque style means to me. But that’s a story for another time. . . . #apricots #foodphotography #chiaroscuro #spring4igers #faidellordinariounapoesia #naturalliving #foodstyling #stilllifephotography #thewayweliveinthecountry #igersitalia #igersitaly #summer4igers #lifeandthyme #verilymoment #thehappynow #darlingmovement

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A Triumph of apricots. ‘It’s the season of sticky hands, fresh, juicy pink-to-red-to-orange hues. Summer, the very paragon of how warmth can pull sweetness from everything. Along with the elderflower juice you see on the little glass on the right (a homemade gift from @veronicaazzinari ✨) they’re going to turn into some dessert - possibly another clafoutis, but a bunds cake would be awesome as well. Last year, I made the most delicious semifreddo and jam out of this flavor combo. What else would you make? Have you ever tried this flavor combo? What do you usually pair apricots with? 🤔 (also: find some close up details of this shot in stories!) . . . #thewayweliveinthecountry #igersitalia #lifeandthyme #fiorineifiori #naturalliving #igersitaly #stilllifephotography #summer4igers #faidellordinariounapoesia #chasingharshlight #foodphotography #foodstyling

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I Made this large cherry lemon-thyme clafoutis, plus two smaller ones. As you might have seen from stories, I flew off the stairs and broke everything and these are the scraps put together - real life right there. But it tasted delicious and it was actually a rather funny scene! I used the classic @750grammes recipe and tweaked some ingredients - see the ingredient list on stories. There’s just one caveat: I’m the daughter of a hotel restaurant line cook, started pastry chef, and someone like that will always tell you to cook the fruit that goes into sweets beforehand. I know that the point of clafoutis are raw fruits. But sorry, my mom is right. And now I’m taking the day off because today’s a holiday in Italy and I’ll go and make myself tomato and basil spaghetti. See you on Monday and have a great weekend, folks. . . #thewayweliveinthecountry #igersitalia #lifeandthyme #naturalliving #igersitaly #cherryclafoutis #clafoutis #frenchcooking #dessert #onthetable #spring4igers #foodphotography #foodstyling #simplepleasure

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I’m planning to turn some of the cherries from our trees into a clafoutis, and it is obscure to me what flavor could go well with cherries. I’m thinking of steeping herbs into milk + cream…what would you pair with cherries? If I go out for a forage walk, I can find: lemon thyme (the best candidate to go with cherries yet), chamomile (which I’ll pair later with apricots), honeysuckle, elderflower, spearmint (which I’m not a fan of), basil, roses (which I prefer to pair with strawberries or raspberries), lemon balm / melissa (another good candidate with cherries), basil / marjoram / thyme / sage (would a sage syrup or cream go well with cherries?), and maybe some other thing I am forgetting right now. I once read on several french blogs that you can also make a syrup out of poppy petals (don’t you wish there was a skirt shaped like those gorgeous petals?💃) I’d love it if you would share your fruit + herb + spices pairing experiences! . . . #cherries #clafoutis #lifeandthyme #dessert #stillife #stillifewithflowers #thewayweliveinthecountry #foodphotography #countryliving #naturalliving #igersitaly #igersitalia #fiorineifiori #faidellordinariounapoesia #esercizidibellezza #spring4igers #frenchfood

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