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Inis Meáin and Pasta Al Ferreto

July 1, 2012

So, the school year ended with a hurricane of work. Managing to get my 70 research papers/projects, and the narrative report cards which follow, done, we jumped on a plane and went to the mother country, Ireland. A student of mine is Irish, and we stayed at his family cottage in the Aran Islands. Although I have been to Ireland several times before, this trip was special because we were getting a chance to live in a retreat and share the experience with our daughter, who’s first name is in honor of her Irish relations in Connacht (Serafina, which I use on the blog, is her middle name in honor my mother’s Italian mother). Connacht is the region to the West which encompass the Aran Islands and my father’s family home of Sligo.

A remote retreat, the Aran islands are an hour drive and an additional 40 minute boat ride from Galway. Although the Celts moved to the islands about 2,000 years ago, the islands are still a challenging place to live. Sitting at the opening of Galway Bay, the chilly winds whip through the remote island all year, which make it an interesting place to farm, the choice of many who live there. The pastures are a complex grid system of beautiful stone walls, created with the limestone that covers the island. The animals are moved into different pastures, alternating use to help the shallow soil, and then the walls are rebuilt. The terrain and vegetation is gorgeous, and makes this probably the most beautiful place we have ever been. We stayed on Inis Meáin, where Gaelic is the primary language, and has only 150 residents year round. At three miles long, the island is largely walkable, and wonderful place to hike daily. With Serafina’s obsession with animals and the general walkability, the island turned out to be a perfect fit for this stage in her development.

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Inis Meáin having only a small market, we needed to bring all supplies onto the island. While in Dublin, we visited Carluccio’s an Italian market for some fresh pastas, bread, and olive oil. On the way to the ferry, we stopped in the Galway farmer’s market before it closed. Gathering fresh local goat and cheddar cheeses, tomatoes, veggies, tea and bread, then stopping for water and milk, we loaded our duffle bags to the brim and headed to the ferry. When we arrived, I noticed we weren’t the only people shopping in Galway that day. Other people waiting had boxes of provisions, from groceries and beer to annual plants. Her first boat ride, Serafina showed no fear of the swiftly moving vehicle, and climbed to the roof with AAM, where they watched their journey in a storm of wind. Once we arrived, I noticed that lowtide had us 8 feet below the dock.  Residents of the islands leaned down, while people stretched upwards, helping hoist our bags over on to the dock. After a battle between cab drivers, we found our driver and headed to the house.

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Our first night of dinner was a simple pasta, but it tasted brilliant. I imagine part of the taste had to do with the quality of ingredients. If you are traveling, and still need to prepare your food at a cabin or beach house, I highly recommend going to an Italian grocer and getting high end ingredients. The only other element that matters is that you use whole peeled tomatoes, not crushed or diced. There is a specific texture and flavor that come from whole peeled that are hard to replace. The special care in ingredients will make the simplest meal feel like a treat.

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PASTA AL FERRETO AND A BASIC TOMATO SAUCE

  • 500 g bag of Pasta Al Ferreto
  • 1 can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes (preferably truly Italian and/or organic)
  • 1 tb freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1tsp Sea Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, preferably a high quality one
  • Farmhouse bread

1. Boil water.

2. Hand squeeze the whole peeled tomatoes into a sauce pan, until they are broken into small pieces. Stir in the sea salt, pepper, and 3 tb of fine olive oil. Turn the sauce pan up to medium, and let the sauce simmer.

3. When the water has boiled, add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain.

4. Serve the pasta in bowls, then carefully ladle the sauce on top of each. Give a touch more of olive oil on each bowl, as well as ground pepper, to taste. Serve with fresh bread to sop up the sauce.

 

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