Artichokes as art

This post has nothing to do with lake life. I just wanted to share a few photos I took while on a recent work trip to Italy. We were soooo incredibly busy the entire time there was barely a moment to do anything non-work related. One day in between meetings I attempted to find my way back to a shoe store we’d passed on our way to dinner the night before, but that turned out to be an exercise in futility. Between my completely pathetic lack of direction, the illegible street signs, the crazy street formations and the lunatic Milanese drivers, I had no hope whatsoever of making it before they closed.

The only shopping I ended up doing was at Eataly, an upscale Italian market where we were having an event. I bought a few token items (pasta, of course, and chocolates) and took a few pictures. This one was my favorite. I especially like it because we were practically running out of the store on our way to the next meeting and I just snapped this on the fly.

If you ever get a chance to visit an Eataly market, I highly suggest you take an hour or so to stop in. You don’t even need to cross the ocean, because they have locations in New York and Chicago too. I doubt they’re coming to Michigan anytime soon, but you never know!

Eataly produce
Just one view of the incredibly lush produce section. I wish I’d taken more close-ups.

Here are a few more photos to give you an idea:

Pasta, as far as the eye can see.

Wine, as far as the eye can see!

I love pasta

I love pasta. Man, do I love pasta. But at the beginning of 2014 I was feeling a bit… ahem… chunky, and in an effort to shed a few pounds, decided to swear off my beloved carb of choice for a while. I had a work trip to Italy scheduled for March, so I told myself I could have pasta as a reward when I was there. In the meantime I jumped on the spaghetti squash bandwagon, which at first was disappointing but has actually grown on me. And I did manage to drop at least a few of those pounds (although I’d still like to lose a few more).

Anyway, summers are problematic because I spend every weekend sitting on a boat all day eating and drinking, as opposed to the rest of the year when I work out every weekend fairly consistently. However, I recently discovered outdoor Zumba near our lake house so now I can at least get one good workout in every weekend. Therefore I feel I can occasionally indulge in some special treats. The local farmers market had some early tomatoes, and they inspired me to make a Caprese salad. The indulgent addition to the traditional Caprese was pasta. It turned out to be delish – Caprese, which is practically perfect on its own, but with the addition of pasta.

Here’s the recipe, tweaked slightly from one I found on Annie’s Eats:

Caprese Pasta Salad

1 lb. pasta (we used gemelli)
6 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 lb. grape tomatoes, mix of yellow and red, halved or quartered
1 lb. fresh mozzarella (I used bocconcini cut in half)
½ C fresh basil, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. While pasta is cooling, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat and add the garlic and red pepper. Warm the oil slowly until you smell the garlic, then remove from heat and let the pepper and garlic infuse the oil, about 5-10 minutes. Add the pasta to a large bowl. Add the oil and basil and combine. Add in the mozzarella and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Caprese3