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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pizza with Grilled Vegetables, Pesto & Goat Cheese

I had some friends over to look at photos of my European trip. I figured if I had to get their attention for over 1000 photos I should probably entice them with some food. I figured pizza was a classic thing to have since I was featuring some photos from Italy. It was also nice because I could pre-make the pizza and then just throw it in the oven when it came time to eat. To make the pizza more Italian I used my homemade pesto and tomato sauce as the base and topped it with grilled vegetables and goat cheese. Grilling the vegetables adds so much more flavour to the pizza. You can also roast the vegetables (if you do not have a grill) to intensify the taste of the veggies.

1 cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
4 tsp honey
2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
add herbs if desired (oregano, basil, chili flakes)

Place the yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl and pour the heated water over the mixture, stirring until well blended. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes until foamy. Add the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour and salt and stir with a fork until a coarse dough forms

Continue to mix by hand until a dough ball forms and all the flour is well blended. Cover the bowl and place it in a sink with about 4 inches of hot water in the bottom. The heat from the warm water will help the dough rise. The dough will double in size in about 40 minutes.

Punch it a few times with your fingers and let it rise another 30 minutes. Remove from the bowl and cut the ball into four equal pieces or 2 pieces. Can refridgerate unused dough for a day or two.

Pizza Sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1 clove garlic minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 can (5oz) tomato paste
2 T dried oregano
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Add salt, pepper, chili flakes, italian seasoning as desired to kick it up a bit. Cook onions and garlic in saucepan for 3min until softened. Add the rest of the ingredient and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 min. Cool before using. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a food processor combine the basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper. Pulse in a the food processor. While pulsing slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream. Add more salt and pepper if needed.Makes 1 cup.

Pizza Toppings

1 yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini
tomatoes (orange, yellow, red)
red peppers
goat cheese
optional (Italian sausage)

Slice the vegetables to ½” thickness (lengthwise for zucchini and red pepper and in rounds for eggplant). Brush with olive oil and grill on each side over med heat (only a few minutes per side). Let cool before placing on the pizza or will be soggy.
Cook pizza crust slightly before adding the pesto, tomato sauce and vegetables. Crumble with goat cheese and cook for 20 min at 400F. Usually broil it for a couple minutes after it is cooked. Watch the pizza and check it at 15 min to ensure not burning as all ovens differ.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MBT Stage 5: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bertone (and back)

MBT Stage 5: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bertone (and back)

Stage V was not a full day for us, as we would be going back to Chamonix the following day. We did a short day hike up to Refugio Bertone (1,980')and back. The round trip took as about 3hrs.
At Refuge Bertone we relaxed sipping our espresso’s and gazed at the Mont Blanc and the Aiguille Noire. We descended back into town and spent the day enjoying Courmayeur’s pastry shops, cafes and bars. The following day we watched the start of one of the ultra marathon races and then bused it back to Chamonix. In Chamonix we were able to watch the end of the race and further relax in the hot tub at Hotel Alpina.

Enjoying espresso.

Sipping on more espresso in Courmayeur quaint streets.
Mountains in the backdrop

Enjoying the view from our hotel patio.
More pizza that night!

Getting ready to head back to Chamonix.

Start of the Ultra Marathon in Courmayeur.

MBT Stage 4: Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur

Much like Stage III we awoke to a cloudy sky which cleared as we approached our destination. Again we were sad to leave the cozy and welcoming abode of Elisabetta (seen above) but we were also excited to see some more mountains and to get to the town of Courmayeur.

Knowing this was almost our final stage in the Alps we took our time gazing at the mountain ranges and glaciers, and prolonging the inevitable end of this amazing trek. Stage IV took us 18km from Refuge Elisabetta to Courmayeur and past the wall of moraine and the Glacier de Miage. We were originally going to trek via Rifugio Monte Bianco, but at the last minute we decided views from the main route might be more intense. After meeting some trekkers on route, I was i nformed that the trek to Monte Bianco offers its own beauty and seeing the refugio that night on a tv special about the region, showed its powerful position on the mountain, pretty impressive. When in the Alps I can't imagine a bad view.

Mont Blanc covered by cloud.

Trekking away from Elisabetta with Glacier Miage in the background.

As we climbed the slopes of the L’Arp Vieille I was more than impressed by the views of first the Glacier de Miage and then the entire face of the Mont Blanc Range (southern side) with the Val Veni down below.

Great Deuter backpack!

As we climbed up towards the highest point of Stage IV, Mont Favre Spur, 7,970’ we were fortunate enough to see a helicopter delivering loads for the upcoming ultra marathon. In fact, the helicopter flew right over us and dropped its cargo almost directly in front of us. It was an impressive site and sound and gave some notion to what mountain rescue might be like in these vast mountains.

The high point of the stage.

Great views of the Mont Blanc range.

Finally a photo of the two of us, thanks to the Cape Town girls.
After spending some time gazing at the Mont Blanc range we began our descent down towards Col Checrouit, and then down a very steep ski slope towards the beautiful town of Dolonne.

Once in Dolonne we had to navigate our way through the narrow stone alleys towards the village of Courmayeur. Here we found our accommodations – Hotel Wasler – where we’d stay for 2 nights. We went with a slightly higher scale hotel because we'd be there for 2 nights, and we were not doing any more strenuous hiking, so it was more like a vacation style for us, not to mention the hot tub. But there are plenty of affordable and lower end hotels/refuges to stay in if you are continuing on the 11 day trek.

Noteworthy is to mention that this place had the best breakfast. Each morning we'd awake to freshly baked croissants. The scent seriously filled the hotel and was amazing. Breakfast included coffee, tea, juice, croissants, cereals, fruit, cheese, deli meats, pastries, toast/bread, yogurt. It was an amazing spread.

View from Hotel Wasler.

Hotel Wasler

We decided it was cheaper and fun to go find some authentic Italian pizza and buy some Chianti at the groceria and chill out in our room. Padella’s made an amazing pizza that we could not get enough of, it had delicious thin crust, with flavorful tomato sauce, thinly sliced spicy sausage, grilled eggplant, red onion and mozzarella.
Tomorrow would be our last small trek to Bertone and back and then we'd have the afternoon to check out Courmayeur.
Stage IV Summary

Route: Main
Total Hours: 7hrs very slow pace this time to soak it all in
Total Kilometers: 18km
Accommodations: Hotel Walser
Accommodations Cost: 100€
Dinner: Pizza from Padella's and a bottle of Chianti
Breakfast: Everything and amazing freshly baked croissants.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

French Cheese Cellar - Villes des Glaciers

The following is an exert about my trek in the French Alps posted on my other site Uberfit.

"At the Ville des Glaciers I noticed a small sign stating ‘Vente Fromage et Beurre’ posted outside of the farmhouse. I poked my head into the farm door where I saw a farmer sporting large green rubber boots stoking a fire under a gigantic pot of what I could only conclude to be cheese in the making. I asked him, in French of course, if he sold cheese. After he finished his fire stoking he brought me into his cheese cellar where he cut a large wedge of old Beaufort cheese for me (1 lbs for only 5€). It was an amazing bold tasting cheese that we enjoyed eating for the next two days of our hike."

For the full version of Stage 3 of the hike visit UberFit. You can also check out the other stages of this hike, among other hikes and travel photos.

Stage 1 Chamonix to Les Contamines
Stage 2 Les Contamines to Refuge Croix de la Bonhomme

Enjoyed this cheese during the trek with red wine, crackers, bread, tomatoes and chorizo sausage.

Me after buying my cheese

Friday, November 13, 2009

MBT Stage 3: Croix du Bonhomme to Refugio Elisabetta

Last night it apparently stormed, but exhaustion allowed me to sleep right through it all. We awoke to the clouds hovering in the valley and the mountain peaks poking through. Despite the cloudiness we were pleased that the sky never opened up anymore than to allow a few drops of rain.
In addition, after being burnt for the first two days cloud cover was a welcome change. Before heading out we slurped down large sums of coffee and ate homemade bread with either honey or nutella spread. Then we set out for a 16 km hike into Italy and towards Refuge Elisabetta.

Mt. Pourri at 7am, the clouds were lingering in the valley, providing an mystical atmosphere.

I sadly left the Croix du Bonhomme’s picturesque seclusion in the midst of the Alps, but knew I would soon see more intense scenery as today we’d get closer to glaciers. Once we reached the Col des Fours the highest point of the trek at 8743’ (35 minutes from the refuge) we began a long descent down towards the Ville des Glaciers. It is at this point where the Glaciers of the Glaciers came into sight.

Marc at Tete Nords des Fours

Villes des Glaciers

At the Ville des Glaciers I noticed a small sign stating ‘Vente Fromage et Beurre’ posted outside of the farmhouse. I poked my head into the farm door where I saw a farmer sporting large green rubber boots stoking a fire under a gigantic pot of what I could only conclude to be cheese in the making. I asked him, in French of course, if he sold cheese. After he finished his fire stoking he brought me into his cheese cellar where he cut a large wedge of old Beaufort cheese for me (1 lbs for only 5€). It was an amazing bold tasting cheese that we enjoyed eating for the next two days of our hike.

Cheese Cellar

Stoking the fire.

We continued on past Refuge Les Mottets and began a gradual ascent up towards the Col de La Seigne at 8252’ towards the Mont Blanc Massif and the French-Italian Border. The backdrop as we approached the Col de La Seigne was immense and the colors of the glacier became more prominent with whites, blues and red hues.

We stopped for lunch near a water fall to enjoy our Beaufort cheese, cherry tomatoes, homemade bread, chorizo sausage and wine. We sat there and relaxed while enjoying the views.

Beaufort cheese, crackers, homemade bread, tomatoes, chorizo sausage and red wine.

Cloud cover started to get more dramatic as we approached the Col de la Seigne making for a gloomy yet mystical sort of feeling. At the Col de la Seigne unfortunately the cloud cover was a bit too intense to see the supposedly outstanding view in all directions.

Hiking towards Col de la Seigne.
We then descended into Italy’s Val Veni towards our final destination Refugio Elisabetta at an elevation of 7544’ (2195m).

The official 'TMB' sign of the trail.

Rifugio Elisabetta
Refugio Elisabetta is an old stone refuge which lies less than 90 min below the Col de la Seigne on the Italian side of the Alps. The backdrop of Elisabetta is the Glacier d’Estellette and Glacier de la Lee Blanche and the view from the covered porch is the Vallon de la Lee Blanche leading into Courmayeur.
The refuge was welcoming and cozy. After a very quick shower in the coin operated facilities, we ordered some large pints of Birra Morretti and reviewed what we’d completed in Stage III and prepped for Stage IV.
All the while we could smell the delicious food being prepared in the kitchen. Dinner was delicious and hearty consisting of bean soup, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, mixed salad, bread, peaches and a nice liter of red wine. We were pleased when the trekkers we dined with also indulged in some delicious red wine. Conversation about the trek and travel was shared between us and many of the other trekkers including a funny Scottish couple and trekkers from Germany, South Africa, France and Italy.

Stage III Summary
Route: Alternative
Total Hours: ~ 6hrs
Total Kilometers: 16-18km
Accommodations: Refuge Elisabetta
Cost: 88€ (for 2 demi-pension)
Dinner: Bean Soup, Homemade Bread
Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Mixed Salad,
Red wine (Chianti).
Breakfast: Coffee, Bread with nutella/honey/jam and cereal.